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Leadership is not only about driving people to reach organizational goals, but also about helping individuals to become their best possible version. Sometimes it’s required for a leader to be compassionate and connect with team members on a more personal level to help them grow.

I still remember the inner satisfaction I felt when I helped a colleague who was going through a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). Failure to make improvements during this period would result in termination. I was shocked to see that no one came to her immediate aid or even encouraged her.  In fact, many bet that she would quit. Rather than giving up on her, I decided to step up and explore the possible root causes of her performance. From spending time outside of the work environment, I learned that she had just moved to the city and initially it took her a while to settle down. The work culture was different here and she was finding it difficult to adjust. The lack of prior experience in the security domain didn’t help her cause either. I began to invite her to lunch meetings with peers which made her more comfortable with the team.  She began to feel more encouraged to speak up about her initiatives and spoke more confidently in group meetings. Meanwhile, I also initiated a product training program to help her build stronger fundamentals. After few weeks of mentorship, I saw her confidence and quality of work improve. After several months, she received recognition for outstanding performance and was promoted within the group.

From this experience, I learned the importance of being sensitive to everyone’s individual situations and tailoring my mentorship style to bring out the best in every team member. I also realized that it just takes a small step to make a significant impact on one’s life.

The best piece of advice I’ve received is to always believe in my abilities and to never give up. I joined ______ as an intern and did not know any members of the team. My inexperience and minimal available supervision were already getting the better of me. But things started going downhill a month into the internship. I was informed my family that my father had to go through a major heart surgery.  To further compound the situation, my family had to rely on me financially as he was recovering. The familial responsibilities were taking a toll on my work. I thought of giving up and decided to share these thoughts with my father. He advised me that I must show perseverance in the face of adversities as these situations are part of life. His words struck a chord with me and I resolved myself to not let these situations affect my work or my responsibility towards my family. With the belief that this too shall pass, I set out to push beyond my physical and mental limits. I spent many days working relentlessly at the office while also spending nights at the hospital by my father’s bedside. My efforts materialized as my manager applauded my commitment. With hard work, I became the first intern in my class to obtain a full-time employment.

Subsequently, that advice has become bedrock of my life ethos and a guiding principle in achieving my goals. Through this daunting experience, I learned the importance of being patient and developed a “never quit” attitude.  In sharing these experiences, I hope to encourage my peers at Emory persevere in the face of adversities in the organizations we will join.

Along with the more than 1.5M people who have left Venezuela in the past decade, I never wanted to leave my home. Unfortunately, the social, economic and political circumstances have made it impossible to stay for anyone with an option to leave. However, I left Venezuela with a plan to return one day, better educated and more prepared.

I am passionate about rebuilding my country, ravaged by the Chavez-Maduro regime.

A country blessed with abundant resources, Venezuela has the potential of becoming one of the strongest economies in the world. I believe that a regime change is imminent, and I am positive that, with it, the economy will thrive as it once did.

With the business and multi-cultural knowledge I have acquired until this point in my life, and will continue to develop during my MBA, I am confident I will be able to help rebuild The Land of Bolivar. In the short term, I could shift production of the family business’ products back into the country, thus creating employment while improving margins. As a business owner, I plan to work with key political figures in a new regime to unleash the massive potential of the local economy. Ultimately, I dream of founding a Venezuelan stock market that would encourage foreign investment and increase investor confidence.

I don’t see myself living anywhere else in the long-term. I envision my (future) kids studying at the schools I attended and watching the Leones del Caracas baseball games with me, as I did with my father.

In late 2016, the owner of _____ decided to merge all his financial services companies into one conglomerate. The CEO asked me to be the operations manager for the entire group. The operations department was going to triple in size, which meant that six new team members would be joining three that I had trained myself.

Each team member was accustomed to certain platforms, work hours, financial products, methodologies and managers.

It was my goal – first and foremost – to unify the group and align procedures and expectations. I held personal talks outside the office with each member, where I explained the new department’s functions and Key Performance Indicators. I asked everyone to share their concerns and expectations and to tell me about their areas of expertise. Following these sessions, I spoke to the whole team, providing a vision for the department and motivating them to give me their best as we formed a new, cohesive team.

My second challenge was to ensure that all nine team members achieved competency in new areas of responsibility. To encourage knowledge sharing, I set up a system in which “experts” on the team would work with “novices” in order to bring everyone to high functionality in a variety of financial services, software, trading platforms and payment service provider workflows.

After only a month, our team went from 35% universal competency in all tasks to 70-80%, an achievement recognized by the CEO.

From this experience, I learned how important transparency and effective communication are when managing others. When corporations are reorganized, it is especially important to empower employees. Perhaps more importantly, the success of our team taught me the potential of business to facilitate cooperation and understanding across cultures.

My short-term post-MBA goal is to become an investment banking associate focusing on Latin American or Emerging Markets at a financial services company such as JP Morgan or Wells Fargo or, thus enhancing my analytical, financial and regional knowledge.

Doing so will help prepare me for my longer-term goal, which is joining the family home-finishing business in Venezuela, initially in the financial department, and helping to expand it throughout Latin America. By joining the business in my area of expertise, I will be able to learn the ins and outs of the market directly from my father, eventually running the company, opening locations throughout the continent, and achieving stable growth.

By joining a financial services firm post-MBA, I will also be hedging against the possibility of Venezuela taking a turn for the worse by preparing alternative career options in the US.

The financial, analytical and managerial skills I developed during my time at ______ have prepared me to maximize my MBA experience and achieve my goals. Namely, I worked extensively in the financial analytics department, while my knowledge of the company’s processes and my contributions to its growth from 4 to over 100 employees eventually earned me a position as operations manager.

Consulting and observing my father’s business success led me to realize that I must develop and improve my own negotiation, sales and presentation skills, as well as my knowledge of the retail industry. I, therefore, joined _____ as Executive Assistant to the CEO. Here, I am gaining first-hand exposure to how business is done at the highest level in many industries and regions.

The uniquely customizable Emory MBA will provide the perfect blend of theoretical and practical business that will best prepare me to achieve my goals.

Two years ago, I decided to leave my home country of Italy and move to Uruguay to join a Leadership Development program at TATA Supermercados, Uruguay’s largest food retail chain.  This life-changing experience allowed me to understand how large retailers operate, and gain hands-on experience ranging from marketing, strategy, and business development, to serving customers in stores.  I enjoyed the problem-solving and creative thinking that went into dealing with daily challenges that arose in marketing, logistics or operations. Since then, I have grown to love the retail world, with its fast pace and ever-changing market dynamics.

In the future, according to the words founder of Walmart, “the best executives have passed through every area of the business”, I aspire to open my own consumer goods retail company building on my past experience, my MBA education from Emory, and my strong desire to create something new and watch it grow and flourish. I am also inspired the concept of retail as a service to the community: the benefits of economies of scale allow large retailers to not only provide costumers what they need, but also at low prices, thereby increasing their buying power and ability to save.

I believe that in today’s market it is important to have diverse experiences.  Therefore, my immediate post-MBA goal is to join a large retail company like Amazon or Walmart to learn how business is conducted on a global scale. Through the Emory Marketing Club and Retail Club, I hope to deepen my understanding of the retail world and create a professional network towards achieving my goals.

Throughout my life, I have been fascinated by the interplay between culture and business. To conduct business on a global scale, one has to bridge not only geographical distances, but also linguistic and cultural ones.

In 2014, I was finally given the chance I was waiting for, and it completely changed my life. I could finally learn the core elements of retail I had left all my possessions, friends and family behind in Italy for a chance to pursue professional growth and learn something new. I was nervous, but thrilled about what lay ahead.

I knew little about retail, I did not speak the language and I was struck by the poverty of the country. However I decided to push my boundaries and embrace the leadership opportunities offered by the rotational program I joined at TATA Supermercados. My environment changed drastically; the high-fashion streets of Florence were replaced by trash-filled streets where dogs walk freely, and poverty and crime are part of daily life. In retrospect, I feel that I have grown both professionally and personally through my ability to adapt to change.

I rolled up my sleeves and set out to learn how the business works, from the front lines at local supermarket stores to strategic decisions made at HQ. I didn’t mind loading trucks or stocking shelves – I saw everything as an opportunity to interact with employees and to learn about the business. Working in Uruguay has taught me much about the local business climate as well as my leadership style. I’ve learned how to gain the respect of my coworkers, and how tasks and responsibilities change in the corporate hierarchy. It has also taught me how to deal with increasing pressures and changing team dynamics.

The best piece of advice I’ve received came from my uncle, who once told me: “If you see that no one can make a reasonable decision, take one yourself and go for it”.  I have since applied this advice in many areas of my life, and not only has it proved vital, but also taught me to take responsibility for my decisions.

While negotiating a new contract with a major supplier, my team was unable to determine how to move forward. We were afraid that the supplier wouldn’t accept our conditions, forcing us back to the negotiating table and to potentially signing a bad deal.  I decided to take a bold move; working with my team and the operations team, I decided to remove the supplier’s products from all our 105 stores, and sent them to our logistics center. I also instructed the logistics center not to buy any product from the supplier. I reasoned that although we were negotiating with a large multinational company, creating the right leverage would prove effective. My decision was a risky one, but it worked – the supplier decided to accept our conditions, and the contract we signed is still an example today for the company’s commercial organization.

Our success improved the team’s morale and collaboration. In a difficult and uncertain market, we acted quickly and decisively, proving that if various detached areas work as one, great results can be achieved. This option was added to our negotiation arsenal in future negotiations

Goizueta Business School

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