TRIUM Global EMBA Alumni Profiles: A truly global cohort
TRIUM Global Executive MBA students are among the most qualified and insightful in the international business world today. They are experienced executives and successful entrepreneurs who have excelled in their careers but thirst for more.
Students come from all corners of the globe and every type of business endeavor. Their varied backgrounds, perspectives and areas of expertise make the TRIUM educational experience-both in and out of class-one of the richest and most rewarding of any executive MBA program.
Given the diversity of the class, the people I was meeting were unbelievable - PhDs, other CEOs and CFOs - all of whom provided unique perspectives through which to see the world.
The founder of Module 7 on the strengths of belonging to the alumni community
Miguel de Almeida (Portugal), Class of 2011Founding Partner at Gávea North
The concept of a “Module 7” is probably in the head of almost every student… They don’t want the programme to end, Class of 2011 alumni Miguel de Almeida says of his original motivations for launching the module designed to give TRIUM alumni the opportunity to continue their experience beyond graduation. Launched in 2012, Module 7 remains a key part of the alumni calendar, offering the opportunity to re-connect and attend an additional module in a different global location each year.
Aside from playing a key role in the TRIUM alumni community, Miguel currently heads up Gávea North, a new business in wealth management designed to help high net worth families protect their wealth for future generations by developing long term strategies. His busy schedule also includes being a Partner in a real estate consulting company, Blue Buffalo Capital, that helps investors enter the Portuguese market; a Board Member at a family-owned real estate development company; and a Partner in a boutique business consulting company called Clover Venture Partners. With prior experience across several industries, from shipping and banking to renewable energy and real estate Miguel notes “I haven’t had a traditional career by any stretch of the imagination… I am not one to stay put for long and thoroughly enjoy changing environments and challenges”
Miguel’s motivations for pursuing TRIUM stemmed from his time as managing director of a family-owned Real Estate Development company in Lisbon, a time which he describes as “a growth curve and incredibly enriching experience“. When faced with the financial crisis, Miguel was forced to rethink his position in the business, prompting him to use the period of instability to explore other opportunities. “I think TRIUM really helped me in making that decision, as I discovered other paths, realities and possibilities that I would otherwise not have been able to identify. In effect, TRIUM opened my horizons.”
Recognising the ongoing benefits of the TRIUM experience, Miguel has remained a key part of the alumni community, taking part in competitive TRIUM sporting teams, acting as a Capstone Project panel member, as well as founding and delivering the first Module 7. As we countdown to the upcoming Module 7 in South Africa, we caught up with Miguel to discover his inspiration for launching the module and to reflect on what he has learnt from his TRIUM experience so far:
Tell us about Module 7 and what inspired you to kick-start it?
The diversity and richness of TRIUM was something that really struck a chord with me and I felt it was a shame it all had to end after 18 incredibly enriching months. By the end of Module 6 in New York, I had put together a small presentation that pointed to an event, called “Module 7”, in Lisbon in 2012. My classmates loved the idea and were behind it from day one. Needless to say, a year later I was hosting the first Module 7 in Cascais, with about 75 people from all classes!
I had my wife, a friend and Todd Wade (Class of 2009) helping with the logistics and TRIUM was great in getting the word out and with having Professors Mick Cox and Saul Estrin attend as speakers. I was processing payments, booking restaurants, contacting speakers, receiving presentations, etc. It was a huge amount of work that really paid off in the end.
My classmate Reuven Hahn jumped on the band wagon after Lisbon and really helped to push the concept forward. He has been an active part of the organisation since the 2nd edition in Istanbul. Today, Module 7 is on its 6th edition in South Africa, 2017. Last year’s Module 7 had over 100 participants in Moscow. The idea is that each graduating year will now take on the mantle of organizing the event. This year’s event in South Africa is being completely organised by Class of 2016 and I’m already curious as to the location Class of 2017 will come up with.
In your opinion what makes Module 7 so special?
It’s a combination of factors and not only about having fun – which is also important.
Firstly, the possibility to be in a classroom again, listening to some world-class speakers in a TRIUM setting, where there is intellectual stimulation without the weight of assignments.
Secondly, the social interaction of being with other alumni that went through the same programme and know the hard work, long hours and stress that went into it. There is an unspoken bond that already exists and inevitably brings everyone together.
Thirdly, the diversity of the locations. We get to know and experience different cultures, people and realities all across the globe.
Finally, I think there is something about being with your classmates and other alumni that just brings out the mischievous, fun side of you!
What is your top advice for aspiring entrepreneurs in TRIUM?
Never give up. When you are knocked down again, have the strength to get up and carry on. I often evoke a famous phrase from Winston Churchill who said: Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm. Quite true!
Make the most of the contacts made at TRIUM. Networking is an immensely powerful tool – especially for entrepreneurs – and the TRIUM alumni network is incredibly rich.
I would say that people are the most important asset. This means you have to surround yourself not only by people you trust, but who will also challenge you (no ‘yes men or women’ on the team…) and find constructive solutions to the hundreds of problems that will undoubtedly appear.
What are your fondest memories of TRIUM?
The people. The diversity. The modules. The lectures. The friendships. It’s impossible to pick as the whole experience was unique and unforgettable.
There is one day that sticks out, among others. I organised a ‘rally-paper’, in Jouy-en-Josas, with clues followed by a quiz. I split everyone into teams and had t-shirts made with different colours. I have to say there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm at first, but when everyone got going they really got into the spirit of the event and were soon driving around the countryside like crazy looking for clues and picking up bits and pieces, like golf balls from a local golf club or strawberries from a nearby producer. The competitiveness that came up was incredible!
It was great fun, but most importantly it really helped bring the class together and cement the already existing friendships.
What would you say are the key benefits of being part of the TRIUM community?
I think it’s the possibility of being able to reach out to any corner of the world with the knowledge that someone from the TRIUM community will welcome you with open arms, whatever the reason may be. Whether it’s a cry for help, a business opportunity or just as a tourist, you are guaranteed to be well looked after.
What did you learn on TRIUM that has helped you the most in your career?
The whole programme has been extremely beneficial in several aspects, both technical and otherwise and I constantly consult notes and slides on various topics. One thing that did stand out was the diversity of opinions on any one subject. Due to different backgrounds and experience, 65 people could look at the same problem and come up with 65 different answers. This taught me two very important lessons: (1) there is no one right answer to any problem; and (2) each problem has to be viewed from different angles and all possibilities have to be taken into account before deciding on the most viable solution.
Taking TRIUM in a new creative direction
Philippe Nacson (France), Class of 2012Designer and Founder at L.A.R.G.E
“I felt a simultaneous mix of fear, attraction and peacefulness. I instantly thought I needed to translate this experience somehow into something tangible, into something that would change our negative perception of AI in general into something positive”
Using this encounter as inspiration, Philippe set about using his creative talent to use art to develop the first act of the LOST ANDROIDS project. A line of LOST ANDROIDS merchandise, as well as a music album composed by industry artists who have worked with the likes of Madonna, Grace Jones, and Tribal Quest. Preparations are also in place to present a touring art exhibition, featuring projects by international artists, each offering their unique representation of a positive interaction between humans and new technologies. Each artist will be working closely with a robot lab or new tech lab depending on the nature of each creation.
LOST ANDROIDS has also created a new certification (“the LOST ANDROIDS Certification”), the first certification worldwide electing AI as well as being positive for humans. This certification will be focusing on different sectors: health, education, environment, workforce and entertainment. A Think Hub is being created in parallel with experts in each of these sectors as well as artists who are using technology in their work and provide them with a forum in which they can bring forward their vision of positive interactions between humans and new technologies.
We caught up with Philippe to hear more about the project, his thoughts on AI in business and his advice for fellow TRIUMers:
What inspired you to move from investment banking and private equity to design and entrepreneurship?
I have always wanted to create my own business and I knew I wanted to explore other areas, ideally in something, which implied creating objects and had something to do with technology. I had been working in the finance industry – from the corporate world to investment banking and then to private equity – for 20 years. I was not learning much anymore, and I felt the need to come out of this comfort zone. It felt right at that point in my life to take on new challenges.
What did you learn from the TRIUM Global EMBA Program that has helped you most in your career / personal development?
Meeting a cohort of people with a wide range of experiences. Most of them were/are entrepreneurs. Spending almost two years with people bringing that energy made a big difference in my decision – when the right time came – to follow the same path.
What have been the most challenging and rewarding aspects of establishing your own business?
For my design activity, I was very lucky as I already had feedback about the interest people had about my designs before I left my finance job. From there on, it was more about teaming up with the right people and not wasting time and money. Also not coming from a design background or even trained as a designer, I had to very quickly learn the codes and create my own network in this industry. But if you approach people with humility and with a quest to learn from others, it puts you in a completely different energy. And things happen. It is then easier to impose your own vision even when people tell you it is impossible to achieve.
The same would apply to LOST ANDROIDS. Everyone has great ideas: it is more about how you bring people together to adhere to that vision which makes a big difference at the end of the day.
Being able to create emotions and make people think, whether through my designs or via LOST ANDROIDS, from different generations or cultures is the best reward for me.
What are your top 3 tips to TRIUMers who want to transition into launching their own business?
Take time to team up with the right people. Creating a business is never a one person venture.
Do not create a venture with a goal to become a millionaire as it will lead you to take the wrong decisions.
Do not be afraid to be ambitious but always be humble.
If you could design a TRIUM module which city/ country would you host it in and what would your topic focus be?
San Francisco, Artificial Intelligence
Transforming Capstone from concept to reality
Peter McFadyen (Australia), Class of 2016President and CEO at C&B Agricultural Products
Peter was first attracted to TRIUM by the diversity of the content (global), network of colleagues and professors, all inspired by his goal to prepare himself for new opportunities and refine new ideas for a business though the Capstone Project. In particular the corporate strategy and entrepreneurship components struck an important chord for Peter by expanding his knowledge base significantly and informing the development of his team’s capstone project. Peter states that:
“Capstone was a large drawcard for me. It allowed for a structured way to approach a new business with progressive feedback but also required forming a group of different professionals to deliver a succinct project. Coaching associated with developing a minimum viable product was very useful in iterative development of the project.”
The Capstone Project grew to be Peter’s Premium Cocoa business with two fellow graduates continuing to provide ongoing advice and help with sample distribution in Europe.
For Peter, TRIUM provided a launch-pad to his business idea and Peter is a great example of how TRIUM can help bring such ideas to life. We asked what his three take ways from the TRIUM experience were, he says:
- The world is and continues to evolve in terms of globalisation presenting new opportunities and reducing others – i.e. comparative analysis of regional demographics and economy can identify great opportunities,
- A new found appreciation for marketing nuance and alternative business models,
- The value of peer review
And finally as an Australian living in Central America where in the world would Peter hold a TRIUM module and what would be the topic?
Nicaragua of course – Doing business in a developing country where:
- – a demographic dividend is just starting to take off
- – making the most of investor incentives
- – location relevance to market
Today Peter is busier than even he imagined with his business, fast tracking infrastructure for his cocoa and harvesting trials before tropical low otto hit. His pilot facility has evolved to facilitate fermentation trials and a boutique drying facility for his product and he has doubled the size over three months to expand the R&D component. To further enhance the key R&D component of the cocoa, Peter commences a part time PhD in Cocoa with key cocoa and cattle universities in 2017 in Latin America.
Building business relationships across cultures
Nicole Schillinger (Germany), Class of 2008Director, Pan European Equities Sales at Barclays Capital
Nicole Schillinger (Class of 2008) worked as a Director in the Pan European Equities Sales team of Barclays Capital, having started her career in 1998 at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell as an equity analyst covering utilities and capital goods stocks. Based in Frankfurt and Munich, she advised German institutional investors on their equity holdings as well as on strategic asset and sector allocation. Her expertise lies in company valuation. Nicole was inspired by what she heard at TRIUM and this formed the foundation of her current role. Nicole is an expert in reputation and business ethics and holds seminars and keynote speeches on business ethics and corporate sustainability.
What first attracted you to TRIUM and what were you most looking forward to and hoping to achieve?
I had also been admitted to several of the established, already ranked EMBA programs and had to choose between newcomer TRIUM and the usual suspects where I would basically repeat my business administration studies. TRIUM’s high average experience and age, the spectacular unconventional CVs of TRIUM’s alumni and the (then) unique exotic locations like Shanghai or Mumbai just thrilled me. I did not hesitate and skipped the other school’s admissions so get well prepared for issues of the globalized world at TRIUM.
How has TRIUM influenced your perspective on business and life in general?
Since TRIUM, I will never ever struggle in Business to get along with any kind of nationality. The intense group work and projects with people from all over the globe taught me that my German precision is not the only possible approach to a task or problem. Understanding cultural differences and relax about certain habits is the key to establishing a good business relationship. Prof. Larry Zicklin’s ethics course as part of the NY module actually triggered my interest in what I am doing today.
If you could design a TRIUM module which city / country would you host it in and what would be the main topic focus?
I would host an Arctic module on a research vessel. Surrounded by the melting “eternal” ice a sustainability focus would suit best: Why ESG (environmental social governance) measures are rather a blessing than a curse for modern companies.
If you could book any guest speaker for an event, who would you choose and why?
Tough question. Depending on their respective availability I would love to meet Elon Musk to hear more about to his entrepreneurial inspiration, but also to learn about his motivation to revolt the fossil fuel industry. In case he cannot make it I would invite Donald Trump, being the latest result of voters’ anger against the establishment. I would love to have him interviewed with out-of-the-box-thinking questions by our liberal, visionary, and thoughtful TRIUM alumni cohort.
TRIUM is known for having a connected alumni community. In your opinion what makes the TRIUM community special?
All kinds of nationalities, races, ages, professions, characters. It couldn’t be more heterogeneous. This is what makes the TRIUM community particularly exciting.
What inspired you to step out of a career in banking onto this new path?
Shrinking margins and increased regulation make the industry a less fun place to work. But, I have to admit, having a little kid increased the wish to have more flexibility and also to do something which is more constructive and more meaningful.
You are an expert in reputation and business ethics and have your very own website dedicated to this. Tell us more about that?
The speed at which news spread around the globe has increased tremendously, forcing corporates to react on bad news within a steadily decreasing time window. Business ethics or the values a company lives up to are one of the most important drivers of corporate reputation. Warren Buffett once said: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” To me, reputation management should be implemented across the whole value chain and not only within the communications department, as reputation can make up to more than half of a company’s value.
As an expert in reputation and business ethics what are your top 3 pieces of advice for TRIUMers?
1. Hands off of toxic managers.
2. It is all about managing and exceeding expectations.
3. Never act against your values.
Creating enterprises and jobs to create sustainable communities
Kalpana Sankar (India), Class of 2012Chairperson and Managing Trustee at Hand In Hand (HiH).
TRIUM’s global network builds strong connections across the world and one such connection is with the vibrant city of Chennai, where our Class of 2012 alumna Dr Kalpana Sankar, continues to be the guiding light as Chairperson and managing trustee for the Chennai-based NGO Hand In Hand (HiH).
HiH work for the economic and social empowerment of women and society at large by creating enterprises and jobs to create sustainable communities.
After the module, which will be TRIUM’s last trip to Chennai, we caught up with Kalpana to discover more about her experiences with Hand in Hand, her advice for aspiring social-entrepreneurs and her initial motivations for pursuing the TRIUM program:
Your journey to grassroots activism is not the most conventional career path for most trained physicists. What inspired this journey?
My association with the Government of Tamil Nadu where I was the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for an IFAD-funded women’s development project motivated me to continue in this sector. The project introduced for the first time in India, the concept of self-help groups and back-end subsidy. This helped the cause of social, economic and political empowerment of women. I worked with the Government and oversaw such projects on a very large scale for over ten years. After this, I got the opportunity to lead a local organization, Hand in Hand based out of Kanchipuram with Dr Percy Barnevik as an adviser and mentor. I wanted grassroot exposure and hence, I took a break from my Government job and gladly accepted this role.
As a key part of their recent Module 5 in Chennai, our Class of 2017 had the opportunity to experience the work of this inspiring NGO first-hand with a visit to HiH project sites. Chennai is typical of a TRIUM module with its mix of lectures from leading TRIUM Faculty combined with ‘out-of-classroom’ experiences which often inspire ideas that come to life.
For the diverse global cohort from various industry backgrounds, the visit proved to be a transformational experience and left a lasting impression, with Grant Chamberlain describing the trip as ‘very insightful and moving. It was excellent to see how this charity is transforming the lives of not only the youth in India, but also how the team works to provide adults with the tools, training a education necessary to lift themselves out of poverty and sustain themselves for the long term.’
What aspects of being the Co-Founder of Hand in Hand do you find the most challenging and the most rewarding?
Sustaining and attracting talented human resources is always a challenge! As a co-founder, you can’t just give up, your role could change but your passion and commitment are eternal. It is impossible to find staff who match the passion. For them, it is a short-term engagement or a cause that appeals to them. To find people with integrity, passion and ownership to work at the grassroots is the biggest challenge.
The smiles on the faces of people whose lives we touch, be it in India, Africa, Afghanistan, Cambodia or Brazil, make you feel very humble. I feel I am a small instrument who has this opportunity to alleviate the sufferings of the poor and marginalized with support from Government, donors and bilateral institutions. Recognition from reputed academic institutions is also rewarding, as I have a strong academic background with two doctorates and a TRIUM MBA.
What are Hand in Hand’s biggest achievements so far?
Running a grassroots NGO like a corporate and having developed a scalable model that has yielded very positive results across ten countries are big achievements. Having been able to touch the lives of 1.5 million women and through them, bringing positive changes in the lives of 7.5 million individuals is a true feat! Creating jobs in the BoP segment by empowering them and taking them through a process of savings, training and capacity building, access to affordable credit and providing linkages to the market using their collective bargaining power, which is the biggest strength of a poor person – these are just a few of our achievements. None of these achievements would be possible without the support of my team and solid mentorship for the Board of Trustees!
In your opinion, why is education key to overcoming social and gender inequality issues?
Education gives a lot of confidence and enables you to deal with issues in a rational and pragmatic way. It helps you negotiate with different stakeholders and trains you to be good in whatever job you undertake. Education is very important, especially for women, as women leaders are still a very minuscule proportion. Though it is tough to balance work and personal life, some people have to be role models for others to emulate. We need to help and inspire other women to break traditional stereotypes and contribute in a meaningful way to society in whatever form or wherever they are engaged.
What is your advice to other TRIUMers who are aspiring to become social entrepreneurs?
You must be sure that you have commitment to the cause. You should resonate strongly with it. You need passion, patience and financial resources. Social entrepreneurship involves managing an enterprise or business, having the right people and processes in place that can be developed over a period of time after trying out a few pilots.
These days, running a social enterprise has become extremely scientific with social research and technology that guides you to make the right judgement / investment decision so that you are able to apply business principles.
What inspired you to study the TRIUM Global Executive MBA?
I was struggling to manage Hand in Hand at one point, though I knew my job and had the experience. The challenge was to bring financial sustainability and profitability in the for-profit entity that we had acquired. I felt that a management degree from a reputed institution like TRIUM would hone my skills to provide more informed leadership and make our institution sustainable.
What did you learn on TRIUM that has helped you most in your career / personal development?
TRIUM has given me a strong overview of finance, strategy and negotiation that proved extremely helpful for goal setting, vision building and enhancing productivity at the work place. Personally, TRIUM has given me immense self-confidence, I started imbibing best corporate practices from my peers in terms of creating shared value and governance. This helps me in my day to day functioning, making me more systematic and professional. It was also a wonderful opportunity to learn from different cultures.
TRIUM’s Great Strengths
Valerie Corradini (US), Class of 2014VP - Global Accounts, Commercial Strategy and Operations at Visa
“TRIUM helped me become a much more versatile executive, with global exposure I hadn’t previously had.”
For Valerie, who had spent most of her career in traditional sales and strategy roles at such financial services firms as BlackRock and Barclays Global Investors, her first months in the TRIUM program were a revelation. “I met such impressive people in my cohort; they had global experience, well-founded outlooks and were from industries I’d not had much exposure to, like consumer goods, government and manufacturing. It was captivating.”
So enthusiastic was she about the opportunities presenting themselves to her at TRIUM, Valerie soon quit her job at executive talent firm Egon Zehnder International to soak up all she could from the program and begin to explore her next career. “I was inspired by TRIUM,” she says.
Returning to the rigor of academia wasn’t easy, Valerie, a mother of two young boys, admits. “Calendaring their lessons and ball games during the program’s modules required some intricate strategizing,” she says. But being with her classmates in New York, London, Paris, Shanghai, and Chennai, India, was an experience she thoroughly enjoyed. “The structure, where you spend two weeks at a time together, is one of TRIUM’s strengths. Every evening there are people to go out to dinner with, and it quickly becomes comfortable and interesting because of the time you’ve spent together.” Classroom discussion was invigorated by the contributions of her classmates, who are respected experts in their own fields, she added. “What they add to the program can’t be replicated.”
As she grew increasingly immersed in TRIUM, Valerie stood for class representative, and she laughs that the job has continued beyond her degree. “I’m still in communication with the other two class reps and with other alumni. Some of us get together every other month.” The alumni-organized “Module 7” reunion, to be held this year in Moscow, “is a wonderful event to get to know previous years’ alumni and to reconnect with your own cohort.”
Valerie became interested in the payments industry early in the program and reached out to Visa as the TRIUM program progressed. “I found the industry to be a fascinating convergence of technology and finance,” she says. Starting as the Global VP of Human Resources, she has since transitioned into a strategy and operating role in Visa’s Commercial Business, building out the Global Accounts efforts in advance of the Visa Europe acquisition. She works closely with Visa’s Financial Inclusion team, who design and execute programs to bring people, largely in developing nations, into the financial system. “The opportunity to democratize access to capital around the world is challenging and tremendously interesting,” she says.
“TRIUM helped me become a much more versatile executive, with global exposure I hadn’t previously had. Moving from single industry sales and strategy into this role, which is essentially a strategic operating function, is a big change. TRIUM gave me a great foundation from which to expand my skillset and the benefit of a global network of experienced colleagues.”
Broadening horizons and the benefits for TRIUM women
Olga Jordao (Portugal/France), Class of 2013Global Relationship Executive at State Street
“Since I joined TRIUM I feel that I know much better what I want for my career and I communicate my aspirations more clearly.”
Although post-TRIUM Olga has remained a senior executive at her long-time employer, State Street, it’s fair to say the TRIUM experience helped her blossom professionally. Not just because her newfound confidence helped her garner a new role – Global Relationship Executive – in a new department or that she was recently asked to run a three-year, multimillion-dollar integration project for the financial services company. Rather, Olga says, “My horizon is much wider today. I know that I can learn complex new things that I never thought I would be able to do, and most of all I gained the belief that I can do anything if I set my mind to it.”
Born in Portugal, raised in Luxembourg, and now based in Paris, Olga personifies “global.” She speaks five languages, has vast expertise in business transformation and new business implementation, and excels at working with cross-border and cross-functional teams. Yet finance was a field she basically fell into, as the banking industry is one of Luxembourg’s biggest employers. After 18 years in it, she says, “I felt that I needed to expand my horizon and validate if that was really the industry in which I wanted to pursue my career.”
When she decided to pursue a global executive MBA, Olga chose the TRIUM program because it enrolled the most senior executives; promised a manageable two weeks out of every three months of class time; attracted a global cohort; and most important for Olga, “treated us like adults – no in-class exams.”
She found that TRIUM delivered on all that, plus more: she discovered an interest in entrepreneurship. For her capstone project, she joined a team that created a business plan to expand a fashion designer’s New York showroom to Latin America. “This experience taught me that I was able to get a totally new idea off the ground and confirmed how much I love working with people that are spread around the world: I learned that I could be an entrepreneur if I really wanted to.” And though Olga chose to return to corporate life, the entrepreneur bug is still biting: on the side, she is now working with a friend on a sustainable fashion startup. “I guess I must have missed that entrepreneurial creativity!” she laughs.
Having been active in Europe’s PWN Global women’s network, after earning her EMBA degree Olga was looking for ways to remain connected to TRIUM and to bring value to the program. She currently serves on TRIUM’s alumni steering committee, which aims to connect alumni through various types of events and advance the interests of the TRIUM community across the alliance schools – for instance, through its popular Module 7 annual alumni reunion, a two- to three-day collegial gathering.
Olga believes more women could benefit from the TRIUM program and is interested in forming an informal network of women alumnae who would share their experiences with prospective women candidates. As she puts it: “Since I joined TRIUM I feel that I know much better what I want for my career and I communicate my aspirations more clearly. I now believe that the possibilities are endless; it’s up to me to seize them.”
Making a positive impact in Africa
Varcity Kariuki (Kenya/US), Class of 2014Managing Director, Institutional Fixed Income at JPMorgan Chase
In explaining what motivated her to attend TRIUM, Varcity, a Managing Director at JPMorgan Chase, says, “My career has been great in giving me access to the US financial markets, but I also had a strong desire to get broader exposure to successful professionals who are making a difference in a variety of fields across the globe.” Little did she know that by the end of the TRIUM program, one of those successful professionals would propose marriage to her at the top the Eiffel Tower. For Varcity, a member of the Kikuyu tribe from Kenya, that fateful meeting was yet another serendipitous event in a remarkable journey from her childhood in Nairobi.
Born to educated, middle-class parents, Varcity was schooled by German nuns at a boarding school in Kenya. Her good grades earned her a senior-year exchange program in Minnesota, where her host family helped her integrate into American culture, treated her like a member of the family, and encouraged her to attend Smith College, from which she graduated magna cum laude. “Their unwavering support and constant guidance throughout my undergraduate studies and through my career and life events has been the wind beneath my wings,” Varcity says.
Although she initially planned to teach math or economics, the fast-paced financial world she experienced as an intern at J.P. Morgan appealed to her, and Varcity’s ambition shifted toward making a positive economic impact on people’s lives through financial empowerment. At TRIUM, she continues, “I learned so much that it’s impossible to summarize, but one of the key takeaways for me that I apply in my job is always thinking about the ‘triple bottom line,’ not just the financial bottom line.” A large part of the program’s appeal for her was its emphasis on “doing global business in a socially responsible way without sacrificing long-term financial viability.”
Given her long-term interest in helping provide women in developing countries with access to financial resources, she is encouraged that several of her TRIUM classmates chose Africa-focused capstone projects and that the program has been successful in attracting students who hail from or work in Africa. A booster of TRIUM’s close and active alumni community, Varcity says she is impressed and very encouraged by a planned “Nigeria trek” that a group of students and alumni have scheduled for February 2016 to survey the business climate there. She notes there are increasingly stable investment opportunities in the developing world, for both multinationals and local entrepreneurs, which she also finds encouraging: “I hope I have the privilege to pursue my ambition to lend my expertise one day, as I now have a great global network of successful professionals whom I can leverage for support and advice.” And one of them happens to be her husband.
Refreshing your world view
Eva Kienle (Germany), Class of 2014Chief Financial Officer and member of the Executive Board of KWS SAAT SE
Eva was already a corporate veteran with extensive management experience when she decided it was time to refresh her view of the world. “Globalization had changed the world significantly since the beginning of the century, new markets were emerging, and innovation and product and service development were getting faster and faster; I wanted to better understand and get an insight into the roots and consequences – current and future – of these changes,” she says.
Eva, a native of Stuttgart, is Chief Financial Officer and member of the Executive Board of KWS SAAT SE, a global agricultural company headquartered in Einbeck, Germany, that breeds and produces seeds of many varieties. Her areas of responsibility cover the global leadership of finance, controlling, IT, HR, legal, procurement, and shared services. Previously, she worked for Unilever and Walmart.
After researching several EMBA programs that could potentially provide the experience she wanted, Eva chose TRIUM both because the time away from her job was minimal and high-quality and because “a program that was out of the ordinary was of higher interest to me than the classical Ivy League EMBAs.” Last but not least, she adds, the modules in China and India distinguished TRIUM from other two-site programs.
Upon meeting her cohort at TRIUM, Eva was instantly taken by her classmates. “Everyone was very open and had an eager-to-learn attitude,” she recalls. “We connected right away. We share the same set of values.” As the months passed and personalities, working styles, and attitudes emerged, her relationships deepened, especially with those with whom she worked closely. “It was very interesting to understand the thinking and working patterns, as well as the professional backgrounds, of my direct team members for the pre- and post-module work,” she says.
The work/life balance was challenging: Eva is a mother of three school-age children, and quality time with them became extra-special. “Having strong support, not only from your private surroundings, but also from your employer or your business partners is essential! My husband was literally taking care of everything regarding family life and logistics, and fortunately I had no really big topics or projects in my job.”
TRIUM has helped Eva sharpen her performance at work in several ways. For instance, “The insights gained from my personal ‘profile’ and leadership feedback helped me very much in setting up a clear action list for interacting with my direct reports,” she says. And TRIUM’s emphasis on strategic planning has strengthened her contribution as a member of KWS’s Executive Board.
Significantly, though Eva finished the program last year, the TRIUM community remains a part of her life. “I regularly talk or meet with a handful of former TRIUM classmates, plus I have a ‘travel list’ with the location of my classmates: if possible, I try to schedule a coffee or a dinner with them if I travel to their place – if time allows. Some TRIUM students from earlier or later classes have reached out to me for specific questions, so if I can, I help them with their issue, thus leveraging the TRIUM network.”
Strategic thinking and leadership
Gareth Gaston (UK/US), Class of 2014Executive Vice President, Omnichannel at U.S. Bank
As an undergraduate at the University of West Scotland, Gareth was a second lieutenant in the Army Officer Training Corps. In the years since, he’s held several senior executive positions at large corporations – he is currently executive vice president overseeing the Omnichannel banking division at U.S. Bank. Yet, he says the TRIUM program had a lot to teach him about taking command: “TRIUM’s leadership program – and TRIUM in general – helped me deconstruct my style, figure out what I stood for as a leader and ultimately solidify what sort of leader I wanted to be.”
The team projects that are a hallmark of the TRIUM experience led Gareth to develop a style he considers particularly apt for the modern executive, he says. “I have long thought about and wrestled with the differences and similarities in military and business leadership. And I also think leadership styles in the West certainly have evolved a lot in the last 10 to 20 years. What I see in today’s world is less the CEO making the decision and more the management team aligning and making recommendations to the CEO. Therefore you have the same dynamics of equally smart senior people all trying to get to an outcome they can agree on while not compromising quality and speed to market.”
When he made the decision to go back to school for the first time since graduating from university in 1996, Gareth was executive vice president in charge of the global billion e-commerce business of the Wyndham Hotel Group. “I didn’t feel I had fully applied myself ever from an education perspective, so I really was curious to see what I was really made of academically,” he said. “More than that, I had and have ambitions to push further in my career and felt that an EMBA would give me another boost to the next level.”
Another reason for undertaking TRIUM, he continues, was to decide what to do with the rest of his career. “I was open to almost anything, but still hadn’t really considered anything in financial services.” Shortly before completing his TRIUM degree, Gareth was hired by U.S. Bank for his proven e-commerce skills and newly acquired finance savvy. “Ultimately what TRIUM gave me was the confidence and self-belief that I could make such a drastic switch and then the knowledge to follow through,” he says.
“In my current position I use what I learned in the program every single day because I am in unfamiliar territory. Both the academic frameworks from TRIUM as well as the case studies are invaluable, but most importantly TRIUM taught me how to think differently. So I didn’t learn a tick box framework for strategy – I learned how to truly think strategically. And I didn’t just learn how to calculate net present value – I learned about the true sources of economic value.”
While in the TRIUM program Gareth was elected class representative, and he remains very much in touch with his cohort and program administrators. “It certainly seems like class rep is a job for life,” he laughs. “Seriously, TRIUM has been a magical and very special time of my life, and I will always do what I can to help and nurture this amazing community.”
Making a difference
Saeed Al Muntafiq (UAE), Class of 2013Executive Chairman of Al Muntafiq Investments
When Saeed visited New York last summer, one of the TRIUM classmates with whom he keeps in touch organized a dinner for him along with two dozen other classmates – a few of whom flew in from as far away as Miami and Brazil. “This is why I spent those 18 months,” Saeed says, “for relationships of this quality. I find people I want to learn from, to share ideas that benefit us as human beings. After dinner I walked away a better and more informed human being.”
Saeed’s perspective has been shaped by his life’s mission: to make a difference. In 2010, he stepped down from the chairmanship of one of the largest Dubai state-owned companies after an accomplished career that included one decade with the Dubai national oil company and another with the Dubai Government, leading the state-owned company that was tasked with developing the healthcare, hospitality, leisure, oil trading, and real estate sectors in Dubai. Born in 1966 into a large, working-class family in Dubai, he had been working since age 14 and “needed a break.”
Motivated by a desire to learn the theory behind the practice he had employed throughout his career, Saeed set about researching EMBA programs around the world. After visiting several schools, he concluded that top-ranked TRIUM, with its roster of the three best-in-class schools – NYU Stern in finance, London School of Economics in global affairs , and HEC in marketing – and its multi-country classroom structure “far exceeded” any other program.
But earning an EMBA was only the first step in Saeed’s plan to launch a second career. Having mentored underprivileged children, he planned to follow TRIUM up with a PhD in law and then teach. “I want to help the youth in my part of the world,” he says. “I had caught the ‘making a difference’ bug.”
Saeed’s idealism was reflected in the TRIUM capstone project in which he participated: a plan for vertical farming. “I thought it was a fantastic idea,” he says. “If only I could replicate it in an urban, Arab environment.” The capstone team comprised seven students from six countries. “It started off well, then was terrible, fun, I hated it, and finally I loved it – like anything in life,” Saeed laughs. If the project gives rise to a going concern, he has offered to consult on a pro bono basis.
And post-TRIUM, Saeed has begun to make good on his life plan – aside from pursuing his hobby of race-car driving and raising his young son, he briefly led GEMS Education, one of the world’s largest K-12 education providers. He recruited a TRIUM classmate and GEMS colleague, Nadeem Zaman, to be CEO of his investment firm, Al Muntafiq Investments, and is closing a deal to acquire a medium-size, regional Middle East company in a specialized education field. “When I was analyzing that company’s numbers,” he says, “I realized that I was using skills I’d learned in my M&A class at Stern – somewhat like an unconscious competence, an intuitive knowledge that becomes a part of your life.”
KNOW, Who, Why, How
Felipe Padilla (Mexico/UK), Class of 2009CTO IoT and Analytics for Telco Industry (EMEA) at Hitachi Data Systems and Founder of SkipsoLabs
“Who you know does count if you want to succeed in business, but what’s also crucial is to know why the business landscape is changing and to knowhow to engage with these events to be as successful as you can be.”
Felipe Padilla came to TRIUM as a senior executive with extensive International experience in the ICT and Banking Industries including Citibank, Bank of Mexico and Cable and Wireless, having already led high performance teams in a number of business areas including marketing, product development, engineering and operations. Felipe’s ambitions lay in entrepreneurial enterprise and he joined TRIUM just as he was about to launch his own start-up company. In Felipe’s view this was the best way to test his idea and gain other expert perspectives. An insurance policy.
Seven years later Felipe’s business is established as a global company doing business in India, Greece, Spain, Switzerland, USA and Mexico to name a few. Felipe credits TRIUM with providing the global perspective, opening students’ eyes to look beyond their role, their company and even their industry to understand the economic, political and social dynamics at play. This he feels is even more important for entrepreneurs as heads of small companies competing on the world stage.
TRIUM encouraged Felipe to think more strategically and make the right choices for his business.
‘People think that entrepreneurs are risk takers, but actually your role as an entrepreneur is to remove the risk and uncertainty and give yourself the best chance of succeeding.’ ‘People who become entrepreneurs do so because they feel they are capable. They have the expertise, they understand their customers and they are technology savvy but why not maximize your chances.’
TRIUM gave Felipe the opportunity to work beside senior executives and successful entrepreneurs from across the world, to learn from them, to gain an insight into their industries and their markets. For many, the Capstone Project is the highlight of the TRIUM programme – a safe environment in which to test your business ideas, without leaving your company or reducing your commitments to other projects. Students can work alongside other experts in their fields and use the expertise and resources of all three schools to bring their idea to life.
‘You don’t have to an MBA, there are plenty of example of extremely successful business people who have no formal education and rely on life experience but an executive education will save you years and help you maximize your skills,’ says Felipe. He draws on the analogy of a naturally gifted athlete who reaches their potential through structured training and diet and studies their competitors’ strengths and weaknesses so they can compete effectively against them.
There are tangible outcomes from each module which Felipe found empowering. Learning to evaluate a company during three intensive days with Professor Aswath Damodaran at NYU is an invaluable experience in Felipe’s experience.
Felipe’s view of ROI is not in monetary terms as it would be more direct route to invest money on the stock market if the sole objective is to make money. It’s about the long-term benefits. As a TRIUM graduate he feels that he has continued to benefit from the professional and personal associations he made with fellow alumni, the reputations of the three schools which he finds continually break down barriers when meeting potential business partners and the resources of these world class institutions, which are still available to him as he continues his journey. ‘You feel that you belong to big important family.’
Personal and Professional Growth
Kathleen Traynor Derose (USA), Class Of 2011Managing Director, Head Business Strategy & Solutions, Investment Strategy and Research, Private Banking Wealth Management Division, Credit Suisse Asset Management
Following an illustrious 20 year career in finance (Chase, Scudder Stevens & Clark, Deutsche Bank), in 2006, Kathleen DeRose sought a new opportunity, co-founding a hedge fund with investment guru Robert Hagin. Her fund performed relatively well, she says, but raising capital during the recession ultimately proved too great a challenge, and by 2010 the fund had disbanded. Enter TRIUM.
Says Kathleen: “Business school was a long-time dream, and I found I finally had the time and resources. In my personal life, my daughter was graduating from college. I wanted a program with global experience so that my next job could be in a more global managerial role. There’s no other program that offers the kind of global perspective that TRIUM does — that’s what’s so unique about it.” She points out that not only is TRIUM a triumvirate of three outstanding schools, but “it combines academic challenges with an international aspect and exceptional classmates, with an emphasis on personal and professional growth and global leadership skills.”
For Kathleen, one of the most rewarding aspects of TRIUM was the focus on global entrepreneurship. TRIUM executives identify a strategic global issue, form a team, and develop a complete business plan. “Working with my group on the term project has been incredibly inspiring. We began with an idea, applied everything we had learned, and created a business.”
A year into the TRIUM program, Kathleen moved to Zurich to start her current job: “I credit the TRIUM program with positioning me for this role and helping me believe I could do it,” she says.”
The Chilean Whirlwind
Henry Comber (Chile), Class of 2013CEO, EuroAmerica
Prior to joining EuroAmerica in 2005, Henry Comber, a native Chilean, spent 21 years with Citibank, serving as country CEO in Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Paraguay, and Venezuela. Currently, he is CEO of EuroAmerica SA Chile, a Santiago-based, privately held company offering a full array of financial products for individuals and corporations in Chile, including health and life insurance, investments, savings, and lending.
Although he began his career in engineering, Henry knew he would end up in business. He thrives on the energy of the constantly changing business environment and the ceaseless uncertainty. “There is a constant need to adapt strategies, resources, and tactics, and I like this constant change,” he says. With practical experience as substantial as this, it’s hard to imagine Henry would need an additional educational feather in his cap. Keen to compliment his background, he searched for a program that met all of his needs.
He choose TRIUM for a variety of reasons: valuable residential classroom learning modules, scheduled at roughly three-month intervals, present less of a burden to high-level executives than other global EMBA programs he had considered. “TRIUM is truly unique, you can do it while you work,” he says. “It certainly requires commitment, but it can be done. Other programs I checked required excessive and frequent travel and/or an excessively long stays.”
Henry adds that the TRIUM program’s intense global commitment was most appealing: “I found very interesting that the program is run by three different universities, which are the best universities of the US, France, and the UK. The idea of diverse locations, plus the fact that more than 30 nationalities are represented in the class, is truly unique.”
Never limit yourself
Tatiana Filippova (Kyrgyzstan), Class of 2012Business Adviser to the Board of Directors and Executive Board Member (2007-2012), Sekerbank T. A.S
Tatiana Filippova is not afraid of taking risks. Being the first Kyrgyzstan national to study at TRIUM makes Tatiana proud to represent her country. With over twenty years of diverse experience in finance, corporate governance, audit, risk, and management, most individuals would feel quite accomplished and content in their careers. This was not the case for Tatiana, who continuously seeks new challenges. In 2010, she decided to attend TRIUM.
At the time, she was a member of the Executive Board of Sekerbank T.A.S, which was ranked third among Turkey’s privately owned banks in terms of geographical coverage in Turkey. Despite her professional achievements, she still felt the need to challenge herself and grow. Tatiana’s limitless desire and determination made applying to TRIUM a natural career progression.
When looking at Executive MBA programs, Tatiana was attracted to TRIUM’s diverse student body, renowned global faculty from three premier universities, and the “world-wide” network of alumni, and, not to mention, its top ranking.
Post TRIUM, Tatiana says she experienced what most graduates refer to as the ‘TRIUM effect.’ “After TRIUM,” she states, “I had been changed, but the environment that you go back to has not. I had a lot of ideas and the biggest question I had was, what now? What would I like to do next?” One year after graduation, she decided to nourish her desire to explore more entrepreneurial endeavors and embrace the ‘TRIUM effect’ head on. In order to do this, she took on a new role as a business consultant to the Board of Directors at Sekerbank, which gave her more flexibility to explore entrepreneurial opportunities.
Bringing Theory Into Practice
Franck Dubarry (France), Class of 2012Entrepreneur and Investor, Founder of Technomarine
Before he had ever set foot in a TRIUM classroom, Franck Dubarry had experienced a level of success any business school graduate would envy. By age 45, he had already founded, managed, and sold three companies, including TechnoMarine, a luxury watch brand with operations in more than 100 countries. But, as Franck explains it, as accomplished as he was, in regard to the elements that make for a successful entrepreneur – vision, resourcefulness, energy, perseverance, assertiveness – he knew that his management skills could use improvement.
“At TechnoMarine, I suffered from not appointing a CEO,” he says. “I was flying around the world between our three offices in Geneva, Hong Kong, and Miami, doing it all myself, and I was burnt out within 10 years.”
Franck’s decision to apply to TRIUM was clear: “I was hungry to learn more, and I was impressed with the reputations of the three partner schools.” TRIUM has more than lived up to Franck’s expectations. “The program has the ability to gather professors and speakers who have accumulated an incredible wealth of knowledge” he says. “I had goose bumps listening to the professors, from the moment I sat in the first class at LSE.”
Following graduation, the benefits of his TRIUM education were clear. He reports that he is a more effective businessman, manager, entrepreneur, and investor: “I acquired the tools to evaluate potential investments more rapidly and effectively. Quantitative tools, corporate strategy, marketing strategy – all became much clearer,” he says. And another TRIUM class “changed my life,” he says: “Conflict resolution is no longer an issue that I try to avoid. That comes from what we learned about group dynamics and management skills.”
TRIUM “is a great place for entrepreneurs,” Franck says, “because not everybody there is an entrepreneur.” The diverse backgrounds of his cohort made for a culturally and intellectually rich experience, with peers from government, military, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals, to name a few. “You share a lot,” he adds. “TRIUM delivered the message I was looking for.”
Making a Difference in China's Future
Calvin Chin (USA/China), Class of 2007Co-Founder and CEO, Transist Impact Labs
The TRIUM program, which Chin first encountered at an MBA fair, seemed tailor-made to help him realize his then dream of helping Chinese students fund their education. He selected TRIUM from among other programs for three main reasons: the schedule and format of the courses, which he found “unique” and could fit his work schedule; the content on political economy and its relevance to global business leaders; and the international cohort and content. “I especially loved adding Europe and South America to my network after having studied and worked in the US, and now of course working in Asia,” he said. In addition, he’d “been thinking about the skills I’d need to be a successful CEO for a long time.”
TRIUM functioned as an entrepreneurial incubator for Chin: “Many of us were thinking about new ideas, and many of us were exploring new chapters in our professional lives and thinking about transitions. Working on the team project was a catalyst as well. After completing the last TRIUM module, Chin founded Qifang, a for-profit, microfinance Web service that uses social networking to help Chinese students find a way to pay for their education by connecting them with individuals, companies, and organizations willing to loan them tuition money. In Chinese, Qifang refers to flowers’ bursting into bloom seemingly simultaneously, an apt metaphor.
Building on Qifang’s success, Calvin has since co-founded and become CEO of Transist Impact Labs, an incubator and investor in impact-driven tech startups in China. He hopes that his two recent company endeavors will lay the groundwork for helping make innovation and startup companies more acceptable in China.
Creating Africa's Future
Dayo Forster (Gambia), Class of 2011Founder, Toghal
Dayo Forster is one of the strong, educated women making a difference in Africa. With a global executive MBA from TRIUM and a PhD and bachelor’s degree from the London School of Economics, Dayo is one of a new wave of ambitious Africans who are inching countries on the continent toward emerging economy status. Before beginning TRIUM, she was project leader in East Africa for the World Savings Bank Institute (WSBI) Gates Project, a project funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation aimed at doubling the number of savings accounts held by the poor. Since finishing the program, she has ventured into more entrepreneurial endeavors, launching Toghal, a homeware startup which reinterprets traditional designs from the continent to produce contemporary designs for the home.
On reflecting on the usefulness of her time at TRIUM, she points out that “the program has generally made me more curious, and it has widened my ability, or at least my confidence, in tackling new aspects of my work. I have been able to think through HR issues related to building a team, for example, considering the skills required and how to build a blend of abilities and personalities.” For her, when considering TRIUM versus other EMBA programs, a key deciding factor was the convenience of the schedule. “The way the resident modules were structured fit in closely with my children’s school terms, and meant my being away wasn’t that disruptive to family life,” she says.
One of TRIUM’s strengths is teaching students to understand the global economy from a larger perspective, and this was an especially important takeaway, Dayo says: “Getting insight into what China and India mean for the world – and for Africa – meant a great deal to me. I liked how the program tried to integrate some local content into the modules, so that I got a sense of what made business in China and India tick.” She has put theory to practice, with the recent launch of Toghal, as she starts to build what she hopes will be a business with global appeal.
Firing on All Cylinders
Dharmesh Arora (India), Class of 2011President and Chief Executive Officer, Schaeffler India
In a position as intense as any in the corporate world, Dharmesh Arora found the time to earn his global EMBA through the TRIUM program. A General Motors executive at the time, Dharmesh served that company in his native India, Thailand, Mexico, and the US, where he was global purchasing director for power train components. “What attracted me most about TRIUM was the global nature of the program, with its focus on international business that would leverage my global experience,” Dharmesh says.
At the time he applied to TRIUM, Dharmesh was based in Mexico. “Until that time I wasn’t very serious of pursuing an MBA but hearing of all that TRIUM was offering, I became very interested,” he recalls. “I was looking for a course that provided utmost flexibility, since my job at that time required lot of travel, and relocation to another place was always a possibility. I researched other programs, but I was so sold on TRIUM that I really didn’t seriously consider those options.”
The program fully lived up to Dharmesh’s expectations, he says: “The classroom sessions during the modules and interaction with cohorts were most valuable. All the modules were very well integrated and designed with each leading seamlessly to the next. Debates in the classroom and follow-through with the cohorts and the professors were engaging and stimulating. Cohorts brought varying perspective to an issue that was enlightening.”
Much of what Dharmesh learned at TRIUM has been of immediate practical use. “TRIUM has helped me shape up my skills in areas that I haven’t had much experience in, like accounting, corporate finance, and marketing/sales,” he says. “Experiences gained in the past combined with the analytical framework provided by a structured course like TRIUM has given me the skill sets necessary to come up with creative solutions.”
His time at TRIUM helped refine this worldview, he observes. “I have realized that there is no right answer to the complex problems we face in the global world today. Every person can come up with a different but perfectly acceptable solution to the same problem.”