Meet The MBA Class Of 2020: Profiles In Courage

Laura Botelho de Carvalho

The Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University

 Tirelessly passionate about life, unapologetically authentic, empathetic, avid backpacker, and brave enough to reinvent myself.”

Hometown: Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Fun Fact About Yourself: I used to live in a patch of tropical forest and had tamarin monkeys coming over every day looking for food. One year, I baked a pineapple pie for Christmas and caught one of them trying to steal it while it was cooling down on the kitchen table.

Undergraduate School and Major:

Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais (PUC Minas) – Bachelor of Biological Sciences

Dom Cabral Foundation (FDC) – Specialization Program in Management

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: P3N Projetos Ambientais (environmental consulting firm) – Founder/Entrepreneur

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment was to have actively supported BIOMA Meio Ambiente’s restructuring. BIOMA was a small environmental consulting company where I worked, and by acquiring its first large contract, it grew exponentially in just a few months. Noticing its management gap, I took the chance and established processes and deadlines that improved the company’s productivity and product quality. Later, while working within corporate governance, I supported BIOMA’s partners in creating its core ideology, headed its first social-responsibility report and code of ethics, and prepared and collaborated in its first strategic planning. The company I originally knew was completely different when I left. Such experiences showed me that I should face professional challenges bravely and boldly, and, if I lack any knowledge at first, I am fully capable of leveling up, researching and developing myself. These experiences also taught me so much about leadership and how to be assertive while handling people in an impartial and sensible way. Finally, I learned that I can work independently and feel confident about it.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? One word describes my MBA classmates: family. It may sound weird or unusual that in an MBA environment I have found people who I already consider my own family. Despite being a very diverse group, we have been meeting each other halfway and supporting one another. I feel that such an inclusive and collaborative environment will be a key factor in our development and success during and after the MBA program.

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? The main factor that made me choose Desautels’ program was McGill’s culture. McGill is very serious in its engagement and commitment to society. Also, from placing sustainability in the heart of the course to reducing the negative impact of its building on the environment, Desautels deeply impressed me with its hands-on approach concerning sustainable practices. Moreover, McGill’s unique welcoming and collaborating atmosphere couldn’t be more conducive to learning.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? The McGill MBA Women’s Association (MMWA). I expect to foster relationships with other female MBAs, using the Association as a safe space to promote women’s confidence and examine facets that are not always possible to be explored in men’s settings. Through MMWA, I intend to expand my network as a woman in business and support and be supported by other women during the program. I will also pursue a leadership position to represent and assist female MBAs by helping them to find placement and by raising awareness about gender gap.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I began my career in Biology as a Botanist Consultant, working in biodiversity studies for environmental licensing and compliance. Eventually, I realized that my work was being treated merely as a bureaucratic requirement. Furthermore, beyond the salary gap, being a woman in such a predominantly male environment meant fewer opportunities, limiting possibilities and career progression.

Therefore, I took the chance to focus my work on office-related tasks, writing reports and assessing data collected by other biologists in the field. I also experimented with several non-botanical activities. For all the improvements brought out by my engagement, I was trusted with more responsibilities, which inspired me to enroll in a management specialization course. That was a turning point in my career because, even though my biology degree educated me to recognize the world as a diverse and integrated being, I lacked the managerial training necessary to meet the complex demands of the corporate environment.

Later, I joined a program focused on corporate sustainability and, by heading some of its projects, I acquired significant hands-on experience. That was when I discovered how empowering and transformational management can be: I had finally found my place. From this moment on, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in corporate sustainability, so I decided to join an MBA program.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? Some might consider it a risky decision to pause your career and enroll in an MBA program. But here is what I think: an MBA program works as a “career incubator” in which, for two years, you are constantly challenging yourself, testing your limits – often out of your comfort zone – getting the most up-to-date information, networking and learning from people who have (very) diverse and impressive backgrounds. All of this effort and energy will lead you to be the best version of yourself, and the payoff will come naturally as a consequence of such large investment. Having said that, an MBA seems the perfect way to fast-track your career and help point you towards success.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I had four schools in mind, all in Canada. Besides Desautels, I applied to Rotman, Schulich, and Sauder; I was accepted in all four.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Before applying to the programs, I focused on who I am and what I expect from an MBA. After I had my objectives and profile clearly defined, I searched for schools that resonated with my values and personality, and that could effectively support me on my career switch. As for the schools’ evaluation, I looked up the rankings, researched their websites, watched as many videos as I could in their YouTube channels, attended an MBA fair for several one-on-one interviews, and connected with current and past students on LinkedIn, meeting many of them online. Talking to alumni and current students was by far the most important and defining step, as I received many pieces of advice and insight from people who knew the most and had an accurate perspectives about the schools’ realities and cultures.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I believe that we are shaped by many experiences, but thinking of more recent ones I would say my marriage has played an important role in influencing my personality. I have deeply learned about thinking more collectively, being more tolerant, and respecting other people’s limitations and opinions. Also, it has made me even more committed to my own life, happiness and dreams with no disregard for those that are not mine. Finally, and most importantly, I learned to love by love itself.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? Now that the Desautels MBA has become a reality in my life, I see a world of opportunities that I hope to seize with an open mind. On the other hand, I do aim to work as a manager or consultant in corporate social responsibility or corporate sustainability, creating a positive impact not only on the organization but also on its stakeholders.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I see myself working in a C-level position for a sustainability-driven company, having a fulfilling career that allows me to integrate environmental and social issues into corporate strategies.

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