Teeja Boye (second from left) is a current executive MBA student in the Class of 2019 Rosslyn section. He participated in the Darden Worldwide Course to Brazil, which ran earlier this year and provided some thoughts about his experiences:
Could you share a little bit about your background and your perspectives on the importance of understanding global business?
I was born and grew up in Sierra Leone, West Africa and moved to London UK, where I lived for over a decade before relocating to the United States six years ago. I am an investment professional with 12-13 years’ experience analyzing businesses and investment opportunities across sectors and regions. Overall, I consider myself a global professional and citizen. As someone who was born in a developing economy, has lived in the developed world for the last two decades, and spent most of the last decade of my professional career focused mainly on emerging and frontier markets, I have a deeper appreciation of the nuances of cultural diversity and how that impacts business and investment outcomes. I believe this is essential for gaining useful context and valuable insights for business success in an increasingly globalized world.
What drew you to the Darden Worldwide Course to Brazil?
I was attracted by the opportunity to immerse myself much deeper into the everyday life of the average Brazilian, something that’s hard to do in a structured and time-constrained business trip. I have been fascinated with Brazil from an early age. As a young boy growing up in soccer-crazed West Africa, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that my earlier impressions of Brazil were colored by images of Pele, Zico/Socrates/Falcao and the “golden” team of the 1982 World Cup, and later generations of soccer talents. As I got older and my horizons expanded, I have come to appreciate that there is so much more about Brazil than soccer. I have learned more about Brazil’s political history, geography and natural endowments, and rich and diverse culture – a true melting pot, whose history has many similarities to that of the U.S. From a business perspective, Brazil offers a lot of opportunities as Latin America’s largest economy and about half its population. I thought the DWC to Brazil would help me gain a much deeper understanding of Brazil’s history, politics and culture, all of which I believe is critical for success in doing business in the country and finding great investment opportunities.
The course provided several opportunities to visit local companies and to hear from local business leaders. What key takeaways from the course are you or do you anticipate using the most?
These visits and meetings were important in the context of broadening our perspectives as global leaders. A high level takeaway for me is that politics matter and much more so for economies like Brazil that are operating significantly below their potential – in terms of GDP growth and per capita income. I was struck by the renewed sense of optimism from many of the business leaders we met, driven by recent political changes in Brazil ushering in a new government perceived as more determined to address Brazil’s long-term structural economic issues (such as pensions) and other business friendly reforms. At a business level, our visit to Embraer (Brazil’s leading aircraft manufacturer), was the best education I ever had on the global aircraft manufacturing sector. In one visit, I learned how aircrafts of various shapes and sizes are built (while touring aircraft assembly plants), gained deep insights on business strategy and competitive positioning for a relatively smaller player in an industry dominated by Boeing and Airbus, protecting valuable intellectual property in an industry where state related actors are increasingly more active, and managing the inherent conflicts of maximizing shareholder value for a business considered “strategic” by successive Brazilian governments.
Could you share about your experience travelling with other Darden students and Darden faculty? How does group travel enhance learning in the formal programming and beyond?
This DWC had almost perfect balance between formal learning – through class sessions, guest speakers, company visits – and group exploration. The group was large (15-20) but manageable, so we were able to do almost everything together, which enhanced the concept of teamwork and an opportunity to develop much deeper personal relationships. The result was, I believe, that most of us came back knowing other students in the group much better and appreciating the diverse perspectives/world view that we all bring to Darden and continued to be shaped by our classroom and experiential learnings at Darden so far. Highlights of team activities include visits to key historical and cultural landmarks in Sau Paulo (such as the old financial district and cultural center, art museums, etc.), the San Jose National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida on the way to Rio, and in Rio De Janeiro (Sugar Loaf mountain, Christ the Redeemer, Copacabana, etc.), went for casual walks in beautiful neighborhoods in Sao Paulo, enjoyed amazing dinners while taking in a bird’s eye view of the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio. An immersion into Brazil’s culture would not be complete without a samba dance session, and visit to a soccer club (Corinthians of Sao Paulo in this case). I didn’t get to meet my boyhood hero, Pele, but I got close.
Has/how has the Darden network been valuable to you?
Darden had people in the region that prepared the trip well in advance. This made for a well-organized and enjoyable trip.