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Fabio Nunes Dos Santos, '12

Latin America & Caribbean Leader - Senior Vice President for Consulting Services, Marsh & McLennan


Nationality: Latin American

"When you're in the office as the boss, people might have to accommodate your schedule and your ideas. But in the MBA program, no one is the boss, so we really learned to work with people on the same level."

A Thirst for Global Knowledge

In March 2006, I had my first experience as a global leader. I went overseas for a 45-day business trip across Seoul, Shanghai, Hamburg, and Paris. My mission was to find suppliers for a new shipyard in northeast Brazil. To be successful, I knew I'd have to look beyond the business transactions, and try to understand the countries, cultures, and habits of my contacts. I did research on conducting business in each country and learned about basic etiquette and traditions. I also learned a few words in the local languages. I found that this made the business dealings a little more personal, effective, and even enjoyable.

I continued to gain international exposure and understanding through both successful and unsuccessful interactions. I learned that success is dependent on more than just meeting strict business needs. I wanted to continue to expand my knowledge of international business, which is why I chose Fuqua's Global Executive MBA program. I wanted to learn to lead across borders. The Global Executive program went beyond just providing the tools and knowledge that you would expect from any traditional MBA. The program includes worldly perspectives, and not just a Western perspective. We learned on the ground by visiting local and multinational businesses. We heard directly from business leaders who not only talked about business standards that were built on culture and history, but they also showed us real-world applications of it.

An Emerging Leader

Before the Global Executive program, I didn't give much thought to my leadership style or effectiveness. During the first week of the program, in the leadership class taught by Professor Allan Lind, I discovered that I should have paid more attention to myself as a leader, and there was a lot I could learn. I believe it's important for a leader to recognize his weaknesses and have the humility to work on it, because his team will reflect those weaknesses. I regularly apply lessons from the program to my daily leadership activities. In my wallet, I carry a card that we received in our leadership course. It outlines the leadership domains that we studied and it reminds me of the type of leader I am, and the type of leader I want to be.

Teamwork in Modern-day Business

When we started the teamwork assignments in the program, I thought, "This will be easy, we're not kids here!" But there were challenges. My team was a very diverse group from different places, and we lived in different areas of the world. Planning times to meet and have calls was very difficult because we were in different time zones and had different schedules. When you're in the office as the boss, people might have to accommodate your schedule and your ideas. But in the MBA program, no one is the boss, so we really learned to work with people on the same level. It was great practice for the modern business world because more and more work teams are geographically dispersed. As leaders, we have to extend our influence across different levels of management, and it is important to influence and lead people positively, rather than just telling them what to do.

Travel Time

I traveled for work, and with 45-50 days of travel for the Global Executive program, I was away from home about 170 days while I was a student. It required a lot of dedication and discipline on my part, as well as understanding from my professional colleagues and my wife. I communicated regularly with my office about my availability and my MBA commitments. I luckily had a very supportive team at work, and various members stepped up to manage things while I was away. To help set expectations at home, I communicated as much as I could with my wife. At the beginning of the program, Duke sent a letter to all of our partners explaining how tough the next several months would be. It highlighted the importance of taking advantage of our time together when we had it, and it really helped my wife to better understand what I'd experience as an MBA student and how our family could be affected.