Carlos Pena grew up in The Bronx, New York City, speaking only Spanish, in a single-mother household where he was raised to grab every opportunity made available to him.
His humble origins have led him to where he is today—as a client service associate for JP Morgan and a current Global Executive MBA student at Copenhagen Business School.
Seeing his mother’s drive, he says, kept him focused and motivated not just for himself, but for her. “It was a blessing I was in New York, and able to have these opportunities,” he adds, “and I wanted to not only embrace my education but my heritage and background.”
From the US Postal Service to Wall Street
Carlos began his career at the US Postal Service as a letter carrier. He battled all the elements during his time there and recalls, one year, trudging through a good few feet of snow.
“I always knew that I wanted more for myself, so I quickly graduated to supervisor, and I ended up leaving the Post Office after 11 years as an area manager overseeing over 100 employees,” he explains.
But Carlos wanted more, and when the idea of moving to a job at JP Morgan came up, he didn’t hesitate. He wanted to use more of his personal and language skills—Carlos explains that his thirst for knowledge has led him to speak English, French, Italian and Portuguese, on top of his native Spanish.
“I feel languages are a barrier to entry to experiences, to culture, and business, and the more languages I can learn the more barriers I can break down,” he says.
Carlos explains that an MBA was always on the horizon, as a natural next step in his personal and professional development—with his extensive work experience, an Executive MBA was the logical choice.
Initially, he researched business schools primarily in New York—NYU Stern, and Columbia, for example—but there was something missing, he says. A global outlook extended his search to Europe, to Frankfurt School of Management and Stockholm School of Economics, to no avail.
Alas, when he encountered Copenhagen Business School, he explains, the choice was made for him.
“After my first phone interview, they were able to see something within my simple resumé that no one else had been able to see before,” Carlos says.
“[They] understood my struggle, desire, and drive in a way I can’t even describe, and we clicked from that very second […] I knew Copenhagen Business School was the school for me.”
What is the value of the Global Executive MBA?
Carlos—who started the Global Executive MBA program in September 2018, and is set to graduate in 2020—says the expertise at Copenhagen Business School feels like a secret, in a sense.
“They have so much great content, incredible professors, and respected leaders in their professional field, and I got to meet [them] in the first week.
“I was amazed at the level of content I was receiving, and it was applicable to my current job. I find myself adapting my leadership skills at work and viewing things through a different lens and perspective. It’s really helped me evolve in these [past] few months.”
The 20-month program consists of 11 one-week modules, which take students to four continents as they study in Copenhagen, London, Chicago, Shanghai, and Kampala.
That international diversity is evident in the classroom, too. Carlos says that out of his cohort, nine students fly in from around the globe for their modules.
“Everyone is a dynamic, respected leader in their field,” he adds. “We engage in conversations, challenge each other, motivate each other—we are committed to each other’s success.
“If it wasn’t for my classmates, I probably wouldn’t be able to complete some of my assignments—when they are due, we are in constant communication even though we’re not on campus.”
He says that’s the real value of the Global Executive MBA, adding that he’s developed a close relationship with each of his classmates. That experience, he explains, has fulfilled his desire for personal growth.
“CBS is a fantastic school. We had a week in Shanghai studying supply chain, and I recently finished a module in Chicago at Kellogg School of Management—these are very important aspects.
“I hope I can promote it more to my American colleagues and American friends, and push more people to the school, which I see as the top school in Scandinavia and in the Ivy Leagues of Europe.”