Alejandra Caceres grew up in six different Latin American countries thanks to her father who was in the telecoms industry. Originally from Colombia, Alejandra, 32, has just completed her MBA at SDA Bocconi in Milan, Italy. She explains how her world view has expanded with her MBA.
After completing a Masters in Biomedical Engineering at Florida International University, Alejandra went to work for MedTronic CardioVascular, a medical device company in California. Her division focused on coronary stents for the heart and in her R&D role she was at the cutting edge of medical technology.
After six years Alejandra realised “I wanted to do a little bit more and extend my career options, so decided to do an MBA. It was a quick decision, once I had got the idea in my head I started doing research for schools. I was living in the San Francisco Bay area and was looking for schools around there and considered a part-time MBA. But because I had basically no business background I thought I would rather do a full-time MBA.”
The decision to do a full-time MBA was also because Alejandra “wanted an experience not just a degree. I wanted to do something in one year, most US MBAs are two years and as I had already been to grad school I started looking at Europe.”
Alejandra looked at the best business schools in Europe and chose SDA Bocconi because “I clicked with the Bocconi curriciulum, it was one year but you still had the summer internship and the opportunity to go abroad.”
Having met a contact from SDA Bocconi in San Francisco for coffee she thought “why not!” and headed to Italy which was also a big pull: “I thought if I am taking a year out to go to school I might as well do it somewhere I want to be.”
After a slightly nerve-wrecking first day with high expectations of business school and surrounded by people with business experience, Alejandra found she was not alone in having a non-business background. “There were engineers, lawyers and even a guy who had been working as a chef.”
Alejandra wanted a broad approach, something SDA Bocconi was able to offer to her, “I wanted an exposure to all different business areas, I wanted to increase my business acumen but also to understand marketing in depth.”
In the last term the cohorts are asked to specialise in either finance, marketing or strategy; “I chose finance, for me it was a bit more of a challenge as I had never taken finance courses. My rationale was even though I probably wont be working in finance it is still such an important part of business in any job. I also thought if I don’t learn it formally in a classroom I will probably never have the impetus to teach it to myself.”
Using the SDA Bocconi careers service, Alejandra landed an internship at Eli Lilly Italia. “I loved the experience, I learnt a lot and loved that it was an American company based in Italy. On the second day we were there we met the CEO who was over in Italy for a meeting.”
The one business plan competition that Alejandra entered she just happened to win: “it was a business case competition with Hult Business School and there were two teams from Bocconi. My team were initially meant to be going to Shanghai but last minute that didn’t work out and we followed the other team to Dubai. It was such a crazy mad dash that the few days before the competition we weren’t even sure if we were going to be able to make it.”
The winning business plan was polished on the morning of the competition. The idea was a solution to the challenge of increasing access to water and sanitation for 100 million people in five years. Alejandra says their success was because “our idea was simple and kept in mind the stakeholders.” Through partnerships with consumer goods companies and the advertising revenue they would be able to build toilets in the slums of big cities. The toilet users would be charged to use the toilet but they would get free sanitary products and water. It would also provide jobs for maintenance and service staff.
Alejandra has returned now to America and is in the process of interviewing for jobs within the medical device industry but for different roles from before, “I am looking at marketing manager and project manager roles.” The return to America is because for the industries she is targeting there are more jobs in America. “I am targeting big multinational companies because I definitely want the experience of going abroad again.”
The experience of SDA Bocconi was “challenging, rewarding and an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. In a way it is almost about the people that you meet and then it is also about getting more of a drive to think big. The world has got bigger, not just in terms of the people I have met but also the things that I am capable of.”