By Elizabeth June

Latin American Student Association (LASA) president Javier Trujillo (Class of 2021) grew up in Bogota, Colombia. As a rising Second Year Darden student, Javier spent some time with us sharing more about his background, global experiences at Darden and hopes for LASA in the coming year. In his words:

What led you to attend Darden?

Before coming to Darden, I worked for an e-commerce start-up called Linio, which is like the Amazon of Latin America. The tech industry fascinates me, and I knew that I wanted to work in this field. After working for Linio for two years, I recognized that pursuing my MBA was the logical next step to advance my career, as I wanted to develop new skills and improve my network beyond Latin America. In addition, I wanted to come to the U.S. and work for a large tech company and I knew that going to one of the top business schools would help get me there. I was eager to come to Darden and start working towards my goals.

How did you get involved in the Latin American Student Association (LASA)? What was your favorite part about LASA last year?

I joined LASA during my first few weeks as a Darden student. LASA has great name recognition at Darden and, as a Latin American student, I naturally wanted to check it out. Right before we started classes, the Class of 2020 LASA leadership hosted a barbeque for incoming Latin students. They welcomed us to Darden and made us feel comfortable, giving us some advice and telling us about their own experiences. I really enjoyed the events that LASA put on last year – there were a lot of fun barbeques and social events. My favorite event was the Carnival Party that featured great music and enthusiasm, in honor of the Carnival de Rio. It occurred in February, and it felt like the perfect timing as we all celebrated a successful end to the recruiting season.

You recently became the president of LASA. What led you to run for president of this club?

I had a great relationship with the 2020 board. As they were transitioning the leadership over to my class, I knew that I wanted to run for a leadership position. I wanted to be able to organize events and help maintain and grow the club that had been such a great part of my life at Darden.

What are your hopes for the club in the future? Given the uncertainty of how long the pandemic will last, how do you envision adapting club events this academic year?

We want to work with the Admissions team to help attract more Latin American students to Darden. Another one of LASA’s goals is to help create opportunities for students interested in interning or working with a Latin American company.

Traditionally, LASA has a strong social presence. We host lots of barbeques and social events. This year, we will probably have a few restrictions in place to enforce social distancing, and we will not be able to host any big gatherings, but we still hope to offer some great events, like outdoor barbeques. We have already been in touch virtually with LASA members and Latin American admitted students, and we are still working on adapting some of our events into a virtual or hybrid format. We would like to create more opportunities for virtual events, like when we partnered with the Darden Dance Club for a virtual Zumba party.

Why do you believe promoting Latin American culture and cultural diversity is important from a business standpoint?

Any top business school benefits from diversity. Latin America is in an interesting phase, as it is expanding into the world of technology and becoming a tech hub. There is increasing interest from investors and entrepreneurs, especially within the last five years. This growth, evidenced by the rise of unicorns in the region, creates many opportunities for business as Latin America becomes a major player in the global technology industry.

What has been your favorite experience at Darden?

I have had so many great experiences here at Darden, including meeting my classmates and making great friends. If I had to pick one favorite experience, though, it would be when my section (Section A) won the Darden Cup Talent Show. One of my classmates wrote a musical on the war between Excel and Google Sheets and we performed it during the Talent Show on the downtown mall. My section mates put so much effort into the performance – it was an awesome feeling when we won!

How have your global experiences affected your outlook on business? Your plans for the future?

Before coming to Darden, I did not have significant global experience. I worked in the Latin American region, but coming to Darden opened my eyes to a much more global perspective. I met people from many different countries with vast and varied experiences. I observed and navigated through cultural differences and variances firsthand, which is a critical skill in the business setting. Having such a diverse cohort of classmates helped me in my internship, too, as I am lucky enough to be working with people from a lot of different cultural backgrounds.

In the future, I hope to work for a big tech company in the U.S. and learn more about the tech industry. After a while, I think I would like to return to Latin America and lead a tech company or startup.

What advice do you have for future Darden students?

The incoming class is experiencing challenging times as we enter into an unprecedented situation for our generation. I would tell the Class of 2022 to do as much as they can to virtually meet their classmates and get to know them. It may be difficult, but it really is worth it. In general, I would also tell incoming First Years not to be too stressed about recruiting and networking. It is important to take time to work hard, but also to spend time with friends and classmates. There will always be time to work, but your time at Darden only lasts a couple years. Those moments spent with friends and classmates are the most memorable part of it.