Adventurous and ambitious, Maria Jose de la Calle moved thousands of miles away from her Mexican home to pursue an MBA at Sydney’s Australian Graduate School of Management.
After starting out studying industrial engineering, Maria embarked on a career in sales, joining Coca-Cola FEMSA, the drinks producer’s Mexican business, and worked her way up to consecutive managerial roles.
She went on to work as an account strategist at Google, before moving Down Under with her husband, who simultaneously studied for his MBA at another Australian business school.
Since graduating from AGSM earlier this year, Maria has moved back to Mexico and re-joined Google, this time as an account manager.
In the future, Maria hopes to start a family and to instil in her children the importance of studying and fighting for your dreams. With two high-flying MBA graduates as parents, this should be easily achieved.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?
I was at a stage in my career where I felt that I needed something more.
I wanted to develop my business acumen and gain the necessary skills to compete internationally. I wanted to learn to work with people from different cultures and backgrounds and get a broader perspective of how the world works.
Why did you choose to study at AGSM?
Location, ranking and the electives on offer were the big factors for me. AGSM delivered on all fronts.
Originally I wanted to go to the US. But, being from Mexico, I have been very close to the American culture my whole life. I wanted to experience something different and live somewhere where I could see the world from a different perspective.
What is it like working at big companies like Coca-Cola FEMSA and Google?
Working at Coca Cola FEMSA was a lot of fun. The consumer goods industry is very dynamic and challenging. I learnt a lot and made good friends.
Now, working at Google is completely different. It’s a lot of fun. It really is. But it’s a challenge as well. If you think the CPG [consumer packaged goods] industry is dynamic, the technology and internet industry is on another level. Everything moves so fast that you need to be at the top of your game every day.
Apart from the speed you need to have to keep up with the industry, you need to keep up with the rest of the Googlers. I think one of the greatest assets Google has is its people. Everyone is so intelligent and sharp, which challenges you to be better every day.
What was the hardest thing about the MBA application process?
The GMAT! It seriously was!
Someone once told me that the GMAT does not measure intelligence; it measures perseverance and how far you’re willing to go to get an MBA.
I remember getting home from work exhausted and then having to study for two hours. And at the weekends, I had to study all day long! It was just too much sometimes. But in the end, it’s worth it.
What was it like to live and study so far away from home in Australia?
Living that far away from home was hard at the beginning.
Latin culture tends to be very friendly and welcoming and sometimes we Latins have trouble adapting to cultures that are more serious. I was lucky because I had already lived in Melbourne for six months as an undergraduate exchange student, so I knew the Australian culture before I got there. And anyway, Australians are great people; very friendly and relaxed!
Australia is a wonderful country to live in, especially Sydney, where you can go to the beach every weekend. Now that I’ve been back in Mexico for three months I really miss Sydney. In fact, I now feel like Sydney is my home.
Why did you decide to leave Australia and return to work in Mexico after your MBA?
Coming back to Mexico was a very tough decision. My husband and I tried very hard to get good job offers in Australia, but we got a better response from the Mexican market.
We could have taken a lower position and sacrificed a few years to stay in Australia, but we felt that the best moment to gain traction and get the job you really want is right after an MBA. Now, we both have great positions and are doing what we love most.
Family was also a very important factor. We wanted to be close to them and we didn’t feel good raising a family so far from home.
How did you profit from your experience studying for an MBA?
Nothing compares to the opportunity for professional and personal growth that a full-time MBA gives you.
Living in another country, working and making friends with different people, learning from top professors from all over the world and forcing yourself to learn things you never thought of before gives you resilience, knowledge and experience.
This is now translating into more credibility at work, greater business sense and of course a higher salary.
Since I’m in sales, it allows me to take the conversations I have with my clients to a level that I could not have done before the MBA.
What are your plans for the future?
For now, I want to stay in Mexico working at Google. I am very happy where I am and I want to keep learning and challenging myself.
In the future, I would like to gain more responsibility in a managerial role. Although it is not in our plans for the next years, we would eventually like to live away from home one day. You never know where life takes you, right?
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