Brazilian MBAs Returning Home


A place in a venture capital or private equity firm has become the goal of many Brazilian MBAs. And in this traditionally difficult area, where MBAs often have to cold call the firms they are interested in, there is an unusual amount of interest on the other side of the table. Ted Rogers, general partner at Arpex Capital, a Brazil-based technology venture capital firm, is eager to recruit newly-minted MBAs. “At this moment in time, I can’t imagine a better place to do venture capital than Brazil,” says Rogers. “The market has all of the fundamentals – a surging middle class, increased broadband penetration, software development talent, etc. Well-trained entrepreneurs, especially with international education or experience, are relatively scarce and in very high demand. We actively look for MBAs with a connection to Brazil that either want to start a company there or want to join one of our portfolio companies.”

This interest from the market has not gone unnoticed by top B-Schools, many of which have increased the number of admits from Brazil. At Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, for example, 5% of the class of 2012 hails from Brazil, almost half of the school’s entire Latin American population. Kristine Laca, former director of admissions, now spends half of her time at Dartmouth’s campus in Hanover, New Hampshire, and the other half in South America, where she serves as key countries representative. She says that eight of 10 Brazilian members of the class of 2010 went back to Brazil upon graduation. “We also saw a number of non-Brazilians accept jobs in Brazil. This is a very different geographic job profile than past years. I foresee this trend continuing. For example, I just spoke with McKinsey in Latin America. Tuck students were offered the largest number of McKinsey summer jobs in Latin America this year. In the past, many of our Latin American students who were interested in consulting found the best opportunities in the U.S. and Europe.”

Brazilian MBA programs have also begun gaining in prominence. Two of the nation’s top B-schools, FGV and FIA are part of multi-site global MBAs. FGV is the South American partner in OneMBA. FIA, the business school of the University of São Paulo, has just begun its Americas MBA in partnership with Simon Fraser in Canada, ITAM in Mexico and Vanderbilt’s Owen School of Management. FIA also has the country’s only full time English-language MBA, a one-year program now in the middle of its fourth class. Students in the current class hail from the U.S., seven different European countries, India, Cameroon, and other parts of South America. According to Professor Alfredo Behrens, international students must learn that the management techniques that work in their country may not work in Brazil, and that products designed outside Brazil may not always be correct for the local market. He cites the example of Ford, which never did well in Brazil until introducing the Ka, a model that fit the size and price expectations of Brazilians.

The economic stars are aligning to make professional education an integral driver for a nation that has always called itself the country of the future. Until lately, that future was taking so long to get there that the phrase became a running joke. No more.

Daniel Corry is the general coordinator of MBA House-New York, a boutique consulting firm, with offices in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, New York, and Lisbon, that offers daily GMAT classes and private tutoring as well as admissions consulting.