MBA Takes Argentine From Volkswagen Engineer To Female Business Leader

B-school with strong technical roots a "match made in heaven"

Ambitious Argentine Carla Buda wants to fly the flag for women in business with an MBA at MIP Politecnico di Milano.

Carla raised a few eyebrows when she decided to study engineering at high school. In 1990s Argentina, engineering was not considered a job suited for women.

Yet Carla went on to spend almost a decade working in project management for car manufacturing giant Volkswagen, breaking into the male-dominated automotive industry and earning the respect of her colleagues.

Keen to take her career to the international stage, the determined business protégé relocated to Italy for her MBA.

Her career success has not gone unnoticed. In November last year she was among the 150 women out of 1,300 applicants selected to attend Careers International’s Top Women event for future female business leaders.

Why do you think we are seeing increasing numbers of female MBAs?

Today, women are being increasingly encouraged to study and have a professional life together with a family life.

When I decided to study engineering, a lot of my high school classmates were amazed. They said engineering was for men! Shockingly, it was the girls, not the boys from the class that told me that.

Now, the world is changing and adapting. Female students want to be competitive and challenge themselves.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?

I wanted to study abroad and invest in my education.

These days it is imperative to go on studying to stay competitive and an MBA was the ideal next step. I decided to quit my job, leave my apartment, my friends and my family in Argentina to start an MBA.

Why did you choose to study at MIP in particular?

For me, MIP — an Italian school and one of the best technical universities in Europe — was a match made in heaven.

As an engineer, I preferred to be at a business school with a strong technical background. And both my parents are Italian. So living in Italy was always a dream.

Will top-level CEO jobs one day be occupied by as many women as men?

We’ve come a long way and we are on the right path.

A lot of companies are fostering equality programs, trying to have the same percentage of women in management roles as men. Every day, more women are going into higher positions.

How was your experience as a woman working for Volkswagen?

I won’t lie, it’s not easy being a woman in engineering working for a big automotive company.

In so-called “male industries” women face a lack of credibility just for their sex. It takes time and effort to achieve a level of credibility.

This can be really frustrating and discouraging. But it’s a nice challenge for women engineers to prove to others that we are capable of doing these kinds of jobs.

Fortunately, the people at VW were really kind and I learnt a lot. I would not change the experience for anything.

How hard has Volkswagen been hit by the recent emissions scandal?

Many companies have had huge scandals and managed to recover just fine. I don’t think VW will be the exception.

We cannot forget that companies are made up of people, and people make mistakes. The important thing is how the company reacts to the mistake and how they manage to learn from it.

How did you profit from the Careers International’s Top Women event in Brussels last year?

The event was really inspiring and it was an honor to be there. I was able to network with important women from all over the globe.

There were female managers from a diverse set of industries, from companies like Procter & Gamble, Ericson and the Dow Chemical Company. The one that stood the most for me was a manager from Dow, Amina Faham. She was a really exceptional woman who managed to combine a successful professional career with a family life.

How have you found your MBA experience at MIP so far?

It’s been amazing!

We are lucky to learn from professors that have both knowledge and practical experience in their field. We also have an amazing and culturally-diverse group. Every day you get to learn something new about another culture.

I am in love with Milan and [am] considering staying for a long time. It’s a small city, with an international environment. And you feel safe here — something most South Americans don’t take for granted.

What are your plans for the future?

My goal is to work as a project manager in a company that fits my values. I would like to stay in Milan, but I am open to other destinations.

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