The ESSEC Business School Q&A
Ex-Citi employee Leonardo Banegas has lived in Central America, Taiwan and China. He joined the ESSEC Global MBA to learn a fourth language and build an international career!
Leonardo Banegas is on the ESSEC Business School Global MBA. The Honduran national, who has lived in Taiwan and China, plans to get business experience in Singapore, Dubai, Germany and South Africa this year!
We spoke to Leonardo to learn more about his experience so far at ESSEC and his post-MBA plans.
Leonardo has a BEng in Industrial Engineering from Universidad Catolica de Honduras and a Master in Industrial Engineering and Management from Yuan Ze University, Taiwan.
He’s also worked as a Regional Project Manager for Citi and in that time toured most of Latin America and North America.
How have you managed to live in so many places including the US, China, Taiwan, Panama, Costa Rica, El-Salvador, Honduras, and France?!
I grew up in Honduras and started to work for Citi when I graduated from university. My job at Citi required me to travel to different countries in Central America. I also had to live in New York and Miami. In 2010 I decided to leave Citi because I wanted more academic exposure. I still wanted to maintain that international experience so I chose to go to Taiwan.
I spent two years in Taiwan and during that time I lived in Shanghai for three months taking an intensive Chinese language course.
So, why did decide to go to business school in France? Why not a school in the US or Spain?
Most Hondurans go to the US or to Spain but I wanted something different, especially the chance to learn a new language. I had already practised my English from working at Citi, Spanish is my native language and I know Chinese from living in Taiwan, so this time I thought I could learn something new.
While I was in Taiwan, I had some French and German friends who got me interested in experiencing a third continent. I looked at programmes in France and Germany and I found ESSEC to me the best one.
What about the ESSEC Global MBA appealed to you the most?
I am someone who is pursuing an international career so I had to do something global. I want to do business in emerging countries and it’s important to be familiar with the local culture and to understand their behaviour.
In our MBA class, I have friends from 14 nationalities! There are people from Qatar, India, Mexico and China, people who have served in the military in Afghanistan, people who have PhDs. This all enriches the Global MBA experience and the discussions we have make it clear that cultural factors are important when doing business internationally.
What are your short-term objectives for when you graduate?
I'm looking for opportunities with international corporations in Europe or Asia. My long-term objective is to create my own company but I need to work on the idea and gather enough capital first.
Have you been involved in any MBA clubs or initiatives?
I’ve been working on a social enterprise with four other students. We will compete at the Hult Global Case Challenge in Dubai in March. We're working hard to turn the idea into a business venture with help from ESSEC professors and the business school’s Corporate Social Responsibility group.
What advice would you give to professionals about to experience new cultures?
Be open. You will experience culture shock but that’s the point of leaving your comfort zone. Be ready for new food, traditions, and different religions. Your preconceptions might also be wrong. For example, I was surprised at the level of infrastructure in Taiwan and China.
What do ESSEC Global MBAs do on the weekends?
At the moment we are doing a lot of group work. This is because we leave for Singapore in February so we are trying to do as much work as possible so that we can enjoy the time over there!
The most fun part of being on the Global MBA is all the places we get to spend time in. We’re also going to Germany in April and South Africa in May. This is incredible exposure to the different markets.
Read more stories about students, alumni, and programmes at ESSEC Business School, here. You can also read more about why students choose to go to business school in our Why MBA section.