From Amazon to INSEAD to McKinsey: Navigating your MBA career

In this episode of The Modern MBA podcast, in collaboration with MBAGRADSCHOOLS, we spoke with Alex Rosário. With a background in mechanical engineering, in 2020, Alex set off to pursue an MBA at INSEAD. He used his experience and degree to land an internship at Amazon and most recently a position with McKinsey. He talks about INSEAD’s incredible international program despite COVID-19, the professional and personal impact the MBA has had on his life, and managing your MBA career expectations.

In short

Please share your name, where you’re from, and where you did your MBA

My name is Alex Rosário. I was born and raised in Brazil, while my father’s family comes from Spain. I did my MBA at INSEAD. (0:54)

Would you walk us through your career to date?

It has been a long ride. I started working as soon as I turned 19. I interned at Bomix and worked in one of their production lines for six months. Then I decided to have an experience abroad and I went to Spain for three months. When I came back, one of my older brothers had just launched a fast-food business. He did not have the time to manage daily operations and everything that was related to the stores and he asked me to do so. It was a very interesting experience to have at such a young age. I would do basically everything from HR to marketing, sales, operations, payments… Anything that was needed, of course, on a very small scale. But my main takeaway from that one year and a half, I would say, is that putting your skin in the game makes a lot of difference. 

After that, I returned to Bomix where I progressed up the ranks. Before the MBA, I became Operations Director; it was the strategic part of my career. I was responsible for nine different departments and 500 people. I was leading very high-impact initiatives and after that, I went to the MBA and I recently started a new journey with McKinsey as an associate. In a nutshell, that’s my career. (01:20)

Why did you decide to do the MBA? And why did you choose INSEAD?

The MBA decision was nurtured for several years. Since my undergrad, I wanted to be in a place where ideas were discussed in a profound way, a place with very open-minded people and I would say where things would happen on a big scale. Also, during my second tenure at Bombix, I felt the need to keep developing myself, to be a better leader, and to gain deep business expertise. I was very focused in one industry, but I was not perceiving the whole business environment that was around me. So pursuing an MBA  was part of a bigger self-development journey. 

Why INSEAD? That’s an easy one. You’re exposed to so much diversity of thought and it’s a place extremely committed to making you a better person, a leader. I also felt extremely connected to the school when I visited in 2018. So I’m very glad the school chose me. (06:20)

INSEAD is known as the “International MBA.” How did that measure up, especially during COVID-19?

My batch started in January of 2020 and finished in December of 2020. I didn’t see COVID affecting the international exposure at all. We had the first building period and also some periods afterward, which allowed us to form personal connections with people from all around the globe. In my case, for example, my closest connections are from Switzerland, Pakistan, Malaysia, [and] Vietnam. My study group had people from five different regions of the world. So there are so many foundations in places at INSEAD to expose you to that diversity of thought and also more than that, I think you’ll learn about business ideas from everywhere. It is not one country-oriented. One day, you will study about a company in India; the next, you hear about public policies in Australia; then about business development in Africa; then about economic challenges in Europe. It goes on and on and on. 

Diversity goes far beyond business topics as well. I think it’s embedded in the daily discussions we have. For instance, one of my group mates led an amazing initiative last year called Cultural Exchange. Basically, Cultural Exchange every week would host people from a different country that would give a 20-minute presentation about their culture. This project lasted from April to December. So even [during] COVID, I think we were able to thrive and it allowed us to learn so much from each others’ perspectives. (07:46)

How was your MBA experience more generally?

I can divide it into three parts. The first one is academically: I think that they provided me with the business background that I needed, not only for my career in consulting, but to start building my skills and knowledge to one day become an entrepreneur or work with social impact. 

And on the professional side, I think the MBA exposed me to several different industries, which was particularly important to me. 

Personally, it was also a life-changer because [of] the relationships I made, the experiences I had, and how much they helped me become a better version of myself. I don’t recall one specific class or activity that was responsible for creating the most impact. I think it was the collection of these daily moments that I just mentioned, like bumping into people in the narrow streets of Fontainebleau, traveling around discussing controversial topics, listening to different opinions, challenging different opinions, and especially being open and verbal, to experience these moments in a very deep way. I think that’s the glue that made my year special. I don’t recall one specific moment that was a trigger. It is the daily collections of those small moments that made the year special. (11:40

How did you manage the recruitment and the job search process given all the COVID challenges?

It really depends on which companies you are targeting. I did an internship at Amazon and I was hired full-time from McKinsey. I can say that [the] big tech companies and especially consulting firms have a very organized recruiting process with dates, very clear steps. You know how the process will unfold. This helps a lot. 

I think the main advice I can give is: know how the recruiting process is at your target companies. If it’s decentralized and less organized, for example, reach out to people in these companies, introduce yourself and gain secret advice on how to navigate the recruiting process. Don’t expect every recruitment will be like MBB, because in the end, it won’t. If you want to recruit a specific geography, there’ll be several recruiting platforms tailored to that country or region. Don’t expect a courier service for any university to put you inside your dream job, because they’re just a resource.

In the end, I think it depends on you. There are also other general tips, which I believe are expected that an MBA student already knows, for example, doing your homework and understanding the business you’re interviewing for; researching about people you’re going to talk with; I think these are standard interview procedures which are expected to be mastered by an MBA. 

Regarding COVID, practice! Simulate your interviews as much as you can, but also not to a point that you become a robot because one very tricky part of the COVID interviews is that for remote interviews, communication skills are even more important. You need to check for your tone, you need to understand how you sit, how you smile, how you seek to really engage with the other person. But the process as a whole is still very similar. Identify those small differences and know where you want to land off an MBA. (14:33

You made a really important point about career services and that they’re there to advise you and help you, but ultimately, they’re not a placement agency. It is really up to us to put that work in.

I think it’s a matter of expectations, right? If we manage our expectations, knowing that our career [is] a long run and we don’t necessarily need to nail everything just to the MBA, and understanding that there are some other drivers in life that can also be very important during your career decision. Understand which of the three parts of the jump are more important to you and maybe focus on that one. (17:27)

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