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Meet The MBA Class Of 2020: Profiles in Courage

Alexandra Herrera Flores

Fuqua School of Business, Duke University

Passionate economist and soccer player, highly energetic on gender equality and making things happen”

Hometown: Lima, Peru

Fun Fact About Yourself: I love being surrounded by people since I highly recharge from people’s energy and good vibes. That is the reason why, each birthday, I throw a huge party and sing a couple of catchy fast-paced Latin songs. Everyone has a great time and cheers me on even though I am a terrible singer.

Undergraduate School and Major: Universidad del Pacifico, Economics (Lima, Peru)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:

  • Etex Group Peru (Eternit) – Product Manager, and
  • Ligas Femeninas Futbol 7 – Co-Founder and Director

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Having worked five years in strategic consulting, I gained experience solving all kinds of problems and seeking for opportunities in various fields, ranging from telecommunication and energy projects to go-to-market and marketing strategies. That is how, along with a friend, we solved a huge problem in Peruvian society that had affected us all our lives: women were not able to play amateur soccer in Peru because of gender inequality and violence towards women (For example, my parents grounded me whenever I played soccer because “It is not for a girl”). This situation happened even though it is the most popular sport in Peru and almost a religion (after our World Cup classification after 36 years, the President gave a national holiday)!

Using all my consulting experience, I set up a plan to encourage women to play soccer, create a women’s soccer market, and set up a social enterprise (now on its way to becoming an NGO). This has produced an all-around women’s soccer value proposition that fights gender inequality and boosts women empowerment: Ligas Femeninas Futbol 7 (LF7). Nowadays, LF7 is the biggest women’s soccer circuit in Peru, with more than 3,500 players (one of our biggest tournaments unite more than a thousand women playing, even bigger than the National Soccer Federation)! We even have programs with Telefonica and the United States and Australia Embassies in Peru. Moreover, LF7’s profits fund “Social Academies” for unprivileged girls that boost their self-esteem and confidence through a self-designed coaching and soccer methodology. For that matter, we are UN ambassadors for gender equality in Peru. Finally, in LF7 we also invest part of the income in non-stop communicational campaigns that boost the players’ confidence and change social paradigms through our fan page with 52,000 fans.

I am very proud on having set up a social enterprise model that is sustainable, efficient, and helps to eliminate gender inequality and limiting paradigms regarding women’s roles in society, both on and off the soccer field.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? I would say their real passion is to be a team player. They are the “extra mile” team players. I am aware that Fuqua is known for having a team player vision and that’s totally true, but I think the way everyone lives that is what really matters. It is not only that people just help each other and listen to the group ideas; it is that they are passionate about doing it and always looking out for new opportunities for getting things done. More important, they are always working as a family. Everyone is actively proposing activities, helping each other, listening to new ideas, and collectively enforcing them.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? Duke’s sports spirit was one of my main drivers. I am a true believer that sports (especially collective sports) give you a different vision of the world. You have to learn to win and to lose; you have to listen to your teammates; and (most important) you have to help each other. Fuqua breathes sports from its curricula (highly intensive in group assignments) to its motto #TeamFuqua.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? The Association of Women in Business club, Consulting Club and, last but not least, the Soccer Club.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I worked fivev years in consulting and then worked 2 years as a product manager in a construction materials distribution company, all in Peru and, mostly, at a local level. However, I decided I wanted not only to move forward in my career, but play in the big leagues. My plan is to either get a consulting job abroad with regional projects or work in a big transnational in the strategy area. So, if I really wanted to play in the “big leagues”, I needed to go back to school to learn new concepts and analyze more business cases outside the Peruvian ones. Also, I wanted to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone and learn how to make the best out of every business opportunity. For that matter, I knew the only way to push myself beyond my boundaries and pursue my dreams was to get into a top business school and learn from both exceptional teachers and brilliant classmates.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? Besides the experience of living abroad with a diverse class and having updated business education, I looked up the employment report of every business school I applied to and calculated if it was a clever investment-return decision. Also, I looked-up to the top-employers and found out if the MBA was going to be a springboard to my dream job.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? London Business School, Kellogg (Northwestern) and Anderson (UCLA).

How did you determine your fit at various schools? The first and most important was to talk to as many as alumni from different MBAs I could. When having long conversations with alumni, it is easy to sense how they perceive not only their MBA but other MBAs, from both their own alumni network and what their friends have told them about other MBAs. Talking with alumni helps you shape the culture and activities, as well as the efficiency, helpfulness and resources of the career centers. Also, alumni give you a clear view on what their expectations were and what the reality was – and also on the city characteristics (especially important for internationals, like me). Also, talking to the admissions team helps you understand what is beyond the brochure of each program. I analyzed five dimensions of each of the top MBAs. That way, I decided if I fit (or not). The dimensions were: i) Academic rigor and electives, ii) Collaborative environment and classmates, iii) School spirit / characteristics, iv) Career Management Center efficiency for my career goals, and v) City life.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I would say that the thing that most defines me is that I am really passionate about projects and that I actually make things happen, no matter the problems and no matter if everyone says it is impossible.

My defining moment was quite a long time ago during my first days at elementary school back in Peru. There, at about 6 years old, I wanted to play soccer, my favorite sport, with my classmates. However, there were only boys playing and I asked if I could play. However, they would not let me because they said, “Girls don’t play soccer.” Because I felt insulted, I remember going to the teacher’s office to accuse these boys. There, the teacher tried to convince me that, in fact, “It is impossible because soccer is too rude for a delicate little girl” and that “It is better if you play with dolls or something similar so you won’t get hurt.” After that terrible day at school, I remember being really mad and willing to accuse everyone in talking with my mother. However, when I told her, I only heard “Your teacher is totally right, you shouldn’t be doing boy’s things, so you better obey.”

So, from a young age, I learned the rough way that society had several limiting paradigms for women to be successful and happy. After that, I remember always fighting with passion for any dream I had -especially regarding women’s rights, no matter if everyone tells me it is impossible. After all, I managed to play a little bit of soccer in my childhood – even though I got grounded every week for that – and ended up creating the biggest women’s amateur soccer league in Peru, where my mother (the one who used to ground me for that) now plays the “master’s tournament,” and actually perceives women’s roles in Peruvian society differently.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I want to pursue a career in strategic consulting doing regional or worldwide projects or working in the strategy division of a big transnational company (probably a retailer). Basically, I would somehow be doing consulting but inside a company. I want to work with cross-cultural and worldwide teams creating value for businesses and challenging the status-quo.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I see myself being a director in a top international consulting firm or in a retail transnational, working with worldwide teams in challenging projects finding creative ways to improve businesses and making people’s lives better.