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INTERVIEW with "The Wall Street Journal"

(USA)

Full Interview by Teresa Bouza, WSJ Americas with ART's Managing Director.  Topic: Career Opportunities for Latin American Managers with MBA's


WSJ: It seems that the situation is going be pretty tough for the 2003 students here in the US. I would like to know how is the situation with Latin American students staying here in the US or going back to their countries after finishing an MBA here in the US. Does getting an MBA really helps you to get a job in Latin America once you go back. How is the demand of MBAs in Latin America now?

ART: "For people seeking positions in the US, things are definitely tough for everyone, including people with MBA's from the best business schools. There are fewer companies hiring, and many junior level employees are hoping not to lose their jobs in the next round of layoffs. In our opinion, however, opportunities may be better for Latin Americans who came to the US for their MBA's after already having several years' experience in industry or business in their countries. Our firm's Latin America Practice primarily is focused on the recruitment of fully bilingual general managers, sales and marketing managers, finance directors, manufacturing plant managers and others who have a very strong understanding of North American management styles. Our US, European and Asian clients look very favorably on US-trained Latin American managers who know immediately what is needed to run departments, factories, or divisions of foreign firms in Latin America. Multinational firms, as well as fast growing small- and medium-sized client-companies typically use ART to replace often monolingual English-speaking expatriate managers with fully bilingual and bicultural local managers. This year, our Latin American recruitment business has seen a good number of calls by companies seeking to expand or improve their Latin American business, especially for Mexico and Brazil, but also for Puerto Rico, Central America, and South America. Perhaps because the US market is so slow, many US companies are examining where there might be greater opportunities, and Latin America seems high on their agendas this year.

"As all Latin Americans in business know, learning English does not automatically cause one to know how to run a business according to US models. Usually, the person needs to have deep personal exposure to these models by either working at a well-run American company (preferably in the US), or via MBA studies in the US. The most requests that we typically get from clients seeking local managers in Latin America are for people who understand profit and loss and who are good mentors of junior level managers and staff within a team empowerment or work-cell approach (general managers/ plant managers); people who understand US GAAP and are fanatical about financial transparency (financial controllers); and people who are aggressive and who understand how to strategically plan and carry out a sales strategy built on well established sales training methods (sales and marketing directors). A typical common requirement is that the person be a 'hands on,' engaging, involved, results-oriented manager who is an excellent communicator. This is the kind of person who gains the respect and cooperation of one's employers and staff as a result of one's own hard, intelligent, exemplary work, not from one's job title.

"Latin American MBA graduates planning to return to their home countries, I think, will have great advantages over many managerial candidates back home, because when interviewing with US, Canadian, Asian and European employers wishing to develop their Latin American markets, these candidates will likely not only speak English more fluently than many of their compatriots, but they will be speaking the same language of business as the hiring managers. When a company is planning to invest in another country, they need to feel that the person they are entrusting their business to is someone who understands them and their company's business objectives. Training in the US with MBA's, at a minimum, offers some evidence of a person's openness and dedication to learning US business methods. In most cases, the North American, European, or Asian hiring managers will not understand Latin America as well as do the candidates whom they are interviewing, so the person who is to be the human bridge between headquarters and the staff in Latin America will be a very important person to that company. Hiring a Latin American manager with a US MBA is definitely perceived by employers as a less risky choice than other options, so we feel that the prospects of Latin Americans with MBA's are generally going to be good in the long term.

"MBA's with concentrations in industrial management, business management, marketing, or finance/ accounting are especially valuable. And as far as languages go, it is a very good investment for Latin Americans to not only take extra care to develop strong speaking and writing skills in English, but also to take the opportunity of properly learning the 'other' Latin American language, be it Portuguese or Spanish. Many Spanish and Portuguese speakers claim fluency in the other's language without ever having taken a formal course in the other language. But understanding what is said is different from being able to write a business proposal in the language or to deliver a correct and dignified speech before staff in the other language. Candidates who truly can speak fluent Spanish and Portuguese and English, can put themselves in a much stronger ranking when pan-Latin American posts arise. Such positions might be based anywhere in Latin America, or at headquarters cities in the US and around the world.

"We also recommend that candidates wishing to advance to pan-Latin American management roles consider postings outside their countries of origin. The tendency is for Brazilians to focus heavily on São Paulo and Rio, for Mexicans to concentrate on Mexico (or on their immediate region in Mexico), for Puerto Ricans and Venezuelans to concentrate on the Caribbean, for Argentines to focus on the Southern Cone, etc. But learning about the subtleties of all the Western Hemisphere's countries, markets and cultures can build career market value and cause one's candidacy to leap ahead of others due to the person being perceived as having a much more hemispheric outlook. I guess that I am saying that the Latin American manager with the US MBA should not just position himself or herself as a one-way bridge between the US and one's own country, but more properly, as a hub-and-spoke model of a manager, where s/he become the hub -- the 'go-to person' -- in a multi-country business organization serving a market of hundreds of millions of people."


 


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