Approximately one month before the annual Latin America (LATAM) Residency that is part of the Global Executive OneMBA Program was to begin, Mexico City suffered a devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake. With the residency scheduled to start in that city on Oct 21, 2017, those of us who reside outside of Mexico were concerned about our cohorts who live in and around Mexico City, and about whether the residency would have to move to a different location.

The night of the earthquake our global WhatsApp group buzzed with tension and concern. One of our classmate who lives and works in Brazil could not reach his mother in Mexico. I was terrified for him since I had lost my mom only 4 months earlier. Eventually, after hours of several persons calling and searching, he finally got a hold of her. I was relieved that this story had a happy ending.


When I reached the JW Marriott late Saturday afternoon, most of the pre-residency activities were completed. Organized by the very capable Luzma Rojas, a OneMBA alumni, these activities included a hot air balloon ride and a visit to the pyramids in Mexico City, among other things. I could tell that the outings were successful from the elation on the faces of my classmates when I met them in the hotel’s lobby.

The following day after breakfast at the hotel we headed to The Escuela de Graduados en Administración y Dirección de Empresas – EGADE Business School in Monterrey for presentations by faculty members and leaders of Mexico’s business community.

One such presenter was Alejandro Dieck, VP Human Resources, PEMEX, and a top economist in Mexico. As a Canadian I was especially interested in hearing Mexico’s candid view on the current NAFTA negotiations. At the end of his presentation, I asked for his opinion on what stipulations would make Mexico walk away from the negotiations, and the possible political consequences if such a decision was made. He opined that the “sunset clause” and the tariffs were likely scenarios that would be deal breakers for Mexico.

On day 2 in Mexico we had an engaging presentation by Adan Ramos, country manager of Rappi – an e-commerce company based in Mexico. During his presentation he used the Rappi app to order Starbucks coffee for several participants of the OneMBA program. The coffee was delivered in the middle of his speech. The Rappi employee who brought the coffee was a little startled when we all applauded when he entered the room.

On our final day in Mexico, we had two spectacular activities – a visit to the Museo de Anthropologia (The National Museum of Anthropology) and Kidzania Cuicuilco’s location.

The concept of Kidzania is truly an amazing one. It is essentially a simulation of the adult world which allow kids to create the world they want. This fascinating experience let kids learn how to act like adults in the most literal sense. They have their own currency, language, and ‘work’ in different industries based on their preference. There were miniature businesses and government agencies typically found in the real world – a bank, immigration office, recruitment office, retail stores, hospital, a theatre, and firehouse, to name a few. Most of the businesses are corporate sponsored, so there is an actual Sears store etc.

It’s marketed as experiential learning, but one of my colleagues pointed out that the kids are essentially being taught to mimic adult behavior and actions, there is no innovative or creative aspect to the learning.

For me, I wondered about the psychological effect that this may have on the kids since in that setting they are exposed only to the brands that sponsor businesses within Kidzania.
Kidzania’s website

The Museo de Anthropologia offered a wealth of information on Mexico’s rich history and heritage. We only had a few hours to visit the museum, so we were only able to cover a small section of this vast museum, but it was well spent.




…and then we were off to Brazil. Vibrant, culturally diverse Brazil.

The pulsating beat of the Samba drums on opening night, Pão de Queijo at breakfast, a visit to Mercado Municipal in downtown São Paulo as part of the cultural immersion event, riding through narrow, twisty roads and frustrating traffic for a company visit at Voith Industries, taking photos in Ibirapuera Park – these and more made for an exciting second half of the LATAM residency.

Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo

Brazil is a study in contrast, and this was evident in the city of São Paulo, Brazil’s financial center where our residency was held.

We stayed at the Grand Hyatt hotel which is close to the domestic airport, restaurants, shopping malls and businesses. Some of us also got the opportunity to see the favelas (slum housing) while on our way on a company visit to Voith. Almost a third of São Paulo’s (the city) 11 million people live in these favelas.
I also saw how Sao Paulo’s wealthy live when I was invited, along with several others,  to the home of one of our cohorts at the breathtakingly beautiful “Fazenda da Grama,” – a golf and country club within a residential estate about an hour’s drive from downtown São Paulo.

Thank you, my dear friend, for a wonderful experience!

While the social aspect of this residency was fantastic, the classroom sessions provided a sobering reminder about some of the perils we could potentially face when doing business in Brazil. Nepotism, bribery and corruption, defined gender roles, and the low level of education of a significant portion of the population, are just a few.

I especially appreciated the frankness of the presenters as they spoke about these issues in Brazil. For instance, they detailed the effects of operation ‘car wash’ – an extremely powerful anti-corruption movement targeting politicians, executives, and major corporations. I could tell that they are hopeful that programs like ‘car wash’ and others will have long lasting results – especially in the business environment.

The presentation by Silvio Meira, Chairman of Porto Digital was also enlightening. Porto Digital is an initiative to foster technological innovation in the northern region of Brazil – a cool initiative shared by an engaging speaker. I was happy to present Mr. Meira with a token of appreciation on behalf of the OneMBA 2018 class.

As I prepared to leave the Grand Hyatt exactly one week after beginning this residency, I could not help but reflect on the new insights I had gained about these two developing countries in LATAM.  For us global executives who may one day have to do business in either of these countries, it was a great opportunity to learn from industry experts and faculty members alike.



Abina Gilbert

Canadian. "Live your life as if you KNOW it's going to have a happy ending. Carry on as if it were a GIVEN that all will turn out ridiculously well."

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