Colombian MBA Dreams of Helping Home Economy Prosper With Marketing Startup

Colombia's economic growth masks the civil unrest with the Government's economic policies. This Grenoble MBA is hoping to help her country prosper through a digital marketing startup!

Valentina Botero Marin’s dream is to bring prosperity to her home, Colombia. She is passionate about providing opportunities for her countrymen; to better the prospects of a nation that has raged in protest and strike against its economic policies for the past month.

Valentina has built a successful career in a country where up to 60 per cent of rural residents live in poverty; in a country where unemployment is tipping 10 per cent. She has spent the past seven years working with Microsoft, an undisputable giant of the technology sector.

While Valentina has just finished studying at one of Europe’s premium business schools, she decided to do an MBA after engineering at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Before transitioning from Latin America to study at Grenoble Ecole De Management in France, Valentina was an established engineer in Colombia. But in 2004 she decided to switch to marketing and got a job with Microsoft, initially on just a three-month contract. They ended up keeping her there for almost a decade. “It was difficult at the beginning,” she said.

“I just started on a short contract for three months. I had to go to more than six interviews to get on the position long-term. For me, Microsoft was my goal at that moment. I believed in the values and mission of the company, and their ambition to help people to realise their full potential.

“It was one of the greatest places to work. I met lots of talented professionals there and no one day that is the same. It’s a dynamic and changing environment, and I loved it.”

Getting a job at a tech giant like Microsoft was hard enough. But leaving it must have been even harder. During her career Valentina supported a 15 per cent sales growth in her marketing role, before being promoted to a managerial position. She supported huge company product launches, including Windows 7 and Office 2010, through the voice of the customer and Top Issues processes.

She shot up through the ranks at a quick pace, but the company was not as important to her as Colombia. While the country’s economy has outperformed expectations for the second quarter of the year, its 4.2 per cent GDP growth masks the civil unrest that has grown over the summer.

It has been reported that 50,000 soldiers would patrol the country’s major cities and highways to ensure that deliveries reach city markets, while up to 250 rural protestors were recently arrested. Striking Colombian farmers were joined by truck drivers, health workers, miners and students in protest at economic policies this month. In a clash with anti-riot police, two protests were killed.  

Valentina quit Microsoft to pursue her goal: to give back and contribute to Colombia. “After seven years I really learned a lot of things, but decided to come back to study,” she said. “We need leaders in Colombia to apply new technologies in useful ways, such as social responsibility, sustainability and environmental care. So I wanted to go back to school and study something more business orientated. The MBA program was the most complete choice.”

Valentina choose Grenoble so she could expand her multicultural experience in France, away from her home. It is all about bringing her new skills back to Colombia. "The Grenoble MBA is a serious, solid and high quality program, backed with the triple accreditation," she said. "It provided me with the essential background, networking opportunities, multicultural exposition and high standard education I was expecting from an MBA. It gave me the possibility to do the first year in London and the second in Grenoble, besides having classmates from more than 25 different nationalities". 

Valentina has used her MBA at Grenoble to develop a business plan for a digital marketing company and specialised in Marketing. “I learnt how to make a start-up, and it will be digital marketing company,” she said. “The goal is to advise other companies about digital marketing strategies that are key to succeed in a fast changing world where the use of internet, mobile communications, networking sites, and social media have changed the traditional channels to communicate with their customers.

"To enable them to do that, we will have a team of designers to build their websites and help with search engine optimization, among other strategies. If everything goes as planned I will be launching next year.”

She thinks Colombia is an exciting place to start-up a business. The Government has been developing initiatives to help businesses and Valentina is keen to take advantage. “In Colombia right now they are trying to project themselves to the rest of the world,” she said. “The Government has also been releasing a lot of free taxes, signing Free Trade Agreements and supporting new businesses and start-ups. I want to contribute so that society can continue to help the economic development.”

Valentina has developed the business plan with a fellow Grenoble MBA and has been “super happy” living in France and learning the language. Although finished with her studies at the b-school, she is still living in France and has been working on various projects in Geneva, Switzerland. But Grenoble has been the key to achieving her dreams. “The MBA brought me not only academic learning but a whole personal experience where you learn by doing, communicating with other people and networking,” she said.

“So for me it was to open my mind and apply my skills and knowledge. I hope to expand this digital business consulting idea into all of Latin America, and not only include digital marketing but digital technology as well: because it’s a fast changing industry and the idea is to help companies and other start ups to be up to date with technologies.”

Valentina took a risky step by leaving her Microsoft career behind and moving to France. But she realised her dream was to provide opportunities for the people of Colombia and give back to her home society. Through digital marketing, she hopes she can contribute to the economy’s steady growth.

But thanks to studying an MBA at Grenoble, she has the skills to apply her ambition in reality. Digital marketing is just Valentina’s pathway to prosperity in Colombia.

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