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How Leadership Skills Helped Me Launch My Career At Meta

Valeria Cuevas achieved the coveted triple jump after her MBA at IMD, landing a senior product role at Meta—but how did she do it?


Fri Jun 30 2023

Valeria Cuevas had spent almost five years working in government policy when she abruptly realized she needed a career change.

After graduating in political science at UCLA, Valeria landed a job at the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations in New York.

“I was the human right and international law advisor for our mission, which meant I was the expert in these two topics representing the Mexican government at the United Nations,” Valeria explains. “And for a couple of years, I really loved it.”

Next came a move to Geneva, Switzerland with the Mission and a feeling that she wanted to do something else long-term. To accomplish a career change, though, Valeria needed the knowledge and leadership skills that come with an MBA.

Three key factors led Valeria to choose the MBA at IMD Business School: the diversity of classes, the focus on personal development, and experiential learning challenges.

“Those were the three expectations. And my expectations were exceeded,” Valeria adds.

Exploring personal development on the IMD MBA

Valeria points out that the IMD MBA leadership stream is actually woven into the entire program rather than a separate element. However, it’s not just about developing leadership skills but excelling as a person.

“It's about building this self-awareness of who you are as a person, who you are as a colleague, as a teammate, as a leader, and how to lead in different scenarios and with different personalities,” Valeria (pictured) notes.


The leadership stream incorporates experiential exercises, one-on-one coaching, peer learning, and other classroom activities to help students develop their leadership abilities.

On top of that, self-analysis helps MBA students understand what kind of leader they are so they can apply their skills correctly to every situation.

“A lot of us felt like we were the natural leaders,” Valeria says. “It was an interesting opportunity to find your role in a group—I think we all took on different roles.”

For example, Valeria recognized that she is a ‘connector’: someone who tries to bridge differences in diverse groups to move a project along.

By developing her self-awareness and practical leadership skills, Valeria says her role at Meta has been much more manageable.

“Normally, I'm in a decision-making role, and I have to work with my counterparts and product engineering and legal to influence whatever we're building,” Valeria explains. “And it’s insane to see the similarities in learning how to deal with different people from different backgrounds and expertise.

“That's something that's honestly helped because it can help you in any scenario.”

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Cementing leadership skills through real-world business experience

A critical part of the MBA program at IMD is experiential business challenges. The first of these was part of the entrepreneurship track when Valeria had the opportunity to work with real fintech startups in Zurich.

“It taught me a lot about myself, like who I am as a leader, who I am as a colleague, as a team worker. And it was amazing,” Valeria explains.

The second experiential project took Valeria to Denmark for six weeks to work in the food industry—an area she had no prior knowledge of.

Her team worked on building the company’s sustainability and corporate strategy and presented their work to the company CEO and other food industry leaders. Despite being an intense experience, Valeria says that it offered long-term rewards.

“The confidence that you build when you’re put in a very high-pressure, high-stakes situation and expected to deliver— that’s one of the biggest skills that I think I can also apply today,” asserts Valeria.

To round off her MBA experience, Valeria jumped at the chance to complete a six-week summer internship in the medical device industry in Tanzania alongside two MBA alumni.

“I thought I could do the safe option and do something in Switzerland—but I will never get this opportunity to go and be with IMD alumni and work in Tanzania. Why wouldn't I do it?”

Despite not leading to a full-time job, Valeria says the experience was a highlight of her MBA.

“It was really an opportunity for me to put myself out there. I wanted to be super open-minded with all the experiences.”

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Becoming a leader at Meta 

Valeria admits that she didn’t have any firm plans after her MBA except to pivot away from government work and into business. But she credits IMD’s alumni network with guiding her toward her eventual post-MBA career.

“We had previous alumni who were at Meta and other tech companies we connected with throughout the years. And with ongoing support from the Career Centre, I found this job.”

Valeria was initially hired as a Product Policy Manager in Meta’s international headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, before transferring to Meta’s headquarters in California.

“I help build all our products across a family of apps with safety, privacy, transparency, and expression in mind. So I work directly with the product teams, engineers, and product operations,” Valeria explains.

In such a diverse role, it’s essential that Valeria has the confidence and practical leadership skills to make big-picture decisions—something she credits IMD with giving her.

“I may not understand 100% of what you're telling me because it's super technical and you're an engineer, but I can synthesize and I can analyze. And these are the things that I need,” she says.