Mexican Gerardo Aranda Claussen studied engineering in America, did his MBA at EMLYON in France and has now returned to Mexico to launch a career in the rapid-growth markets of Latin America. How did French business school inspire him?
Gerardo, 27 was born in Hermosillo, Sonora, in northwest Mexico. He grew up in Mexico before studying abroad at a military school in the United States with the aim of learning English and finishing high school. After the one-year immersion Gerardo decided to continue with his university education in the USA.
Gerardo majored in Industrial Engineering at St. Mary’s University, graduating Cum Laude in 2007. During his studies he undertook two internship opportunities with Grupo BIMBO in two different countries: “the first in the corporate affairs in Mexico City and the second in the Bimbo Bakeries USA (BBU) subsidiary in San Antonio, Texas.”
Grupo BIMBO are the world’s largest producers of bread, for Gerardo the company was an example of a responsible, successful company. The brand is iconic in Mexico and Latin America, and is a company “showing that great firms can also be created in this part of the world under the right leadership and with the right vision.”
The chance to work in Mexico City was a wonderful opportunity to learn how business was conducted in this huge metropolis and Gerardo found it useful to contrast it to what he was learning in the US. “I was assigned an eight-week long project that evaluated five production facilities all over Mexico, with the aim of improving the quality of the products by refocusing the efforts of the production supervisors nationwide.”
After graduation Gerardo was hired as a Business Analyst at Labatt Food Service, one of the Top 10 food distributors in the US, based in San Antonio. As part of the meat production division Gerardo’s assignment was to seek the constant improvement of all the processes leading to meat sales: procurement, production, inventory management, and distribution. “I would identify problems, analyse it to find the root cause of the problem using solid data, provide all the necessary data that upper management needed to make an informed decision and provide suggestions for them to consider as potential solutions.” Gerardo would then be in charge of implementing the necessary steps to reach the solution.
Gerardo found his job at Labatt Food Service to be a great experience, “I had the pleasure of working with, and learning from, very inspiring people through all the levels of the company: employees in the production floor, knowledgeable salesman, smart computer programmers, experienced engineers, and impressive upper management.”
The major challenge for the highly-competitive food industry is how to stay profitable while staying price-competitive and still ensuring that the customer only gets the best quality products. “Innovation is the key: both in your processes and your products. Constant improvement must be sought: in your distribution networks, your production processes, your product line, and your customer service approach.”
The most challenging is having a relationship with your customer, “if you have an honest relationship with your customer, and the customer likes you and how you treat him or her, the price of your product goes to the second place in importance, which impedes your competitor from showing up with a slightly cheaper price than yours to steal your key accounts.”
Whilst working as an engineer Gerardo quickly realised that he “was only seeing half the picture of what it takes to make a business successful. For example, I knew how to make a production line run efficiently, but I was completely ignorant about how to analyse a potential market or interpret an income statement.” Gerardo would use the MBA as an opportunity to complement his process-oriented skills with a set of powerful business tools and ideas that would take his “mindset and vision to the next level."
Gerardo looked at schools in the US and in Europe including UT Austin, HEC Paris, Thunderbird School of Management and EMLYON. “The decision process was very difficult, but I am certain that EMLYON was the perfect choice for me.”
EMLYON attracted Gerardo due to it being a small, focused, well-planned and well-ranked international program located in a very nice part of the world. “It was almost impossible to disregard it. And the opportunity cost of the EMLYON MBA is very low, only a one year investment!”
The concept of an entrepreneurial MBA offered at EMLYON “really caught my eye and I thought even if I don’t start my own business this mindset is always useful in today’s corporate world.” The entrepreneurial mentality fascinates Gerardo, “because it forces people to thrive in adverse situations by finding creative solutions to the problems they encounter.”
Gerardo got involved in the entrepreneurial side of EMLYON by participating in two Business Plan Competitions: “Venture Labs Investment Competition” at the University of Texas in Austin, US, and the “European Business Plan Competition of the Year” at the University of Cranfield in the UK.
EMLYON’s MBA cohort was made up of 31 people from 13 different nationalities “which made the intellectual and cultural exchanges in and out of the classroom ever so interesting.” It also ultimately proved to be an enriching experience not only on an academic level but on a personal level.
So what has it been like for a Mexican living in France? “It was a great, challenging experience. I chose a French MBA because I wanted both an academic and cultural challenge that would complement the “idea of life” I had developed in the USA and Mexico. I was certainly able to contrast both lifestyles and mentalities, which have helped be better understand this world.”
Having returned to Mexico Gerardo finds that his French MBA translates well in Mexico; “Its value is recognised and understood by most leaders in the private sector. Plus, doing an MBA abroad gives you an edge over the rest because of what it entails to live and learn in a foreign country.”
Gerardo wants to launch his initial post-MBA career in Mexico as he sees the great potential for development for Latin America in these coming years whilst Europe and the US experience a period of economic uncertainty. He is now involved in a “very interesting job search process” and continues to study by going deeper into topics that were touched on during the MBA. He is moulding his own professional plan by meeting new people in Mexico City and learning about what they do and how they do it.
Ideally Gerardo would like to work for a large organisation with presence in several countries, “in the area of strategy, expansion, or corporate operations, where I could apply to the maximum the cross-cultural experiences I lived at EMLYON, and combine my engineering problem-solving skills with the solid business insights I learned during my MBA.”