2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Pablo Che León Sarmiento, CEIBS

Pablo Che León Sarmiento


“A son, a brother, a friend, I am very curious, I easily smile around people.”

Hometown: Ilo, Peru

Fun fact about yourself: When I text message, I tend to use too many emojis.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Universidad de Lima, Industrial Engineer

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Ericsson as Sourcing Business Partner at Dublin, Ireland

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? FreshFresh 两鲜, Shanghai

Where will you be working after graduation? VTEX as Solution Engineer & Co Country Head

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:


Fellowship Award

Most-Question-in-Class Award, awarded from CEIBS Class 2019

Leadership Roles in Business School:

Section Representative Term 1 & 2

President INNOVATEChina 2018, Business Proposal Competition

Vice-President CEIBS Student Ambassador Program

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of leading the INNOVATEChina 2018 team. Because it was my first ¨work experience¨ in China, it allowed me to work on one of my weaknesses. Along with the team, I learned to push through adversity and solve the various issues and challenges that came along the way. I had an incredible team. I owe the success of INNOVATEChina to them. The team was composed of 11 members from 5 different nationalities, with more than 50% made up of female classmates. For the first time since INNOVATEChina started in 2008, we organized a full day event from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., increased the number of participants and provided lunch for all of them. We received 60+ business proposal submissions from competing teams and added new features to the competition such as product showcase done by Mobike and DJI. We even provided team mentoring provided by McKinsey consultants to all 6 finalist teams selected for the final round. The result was great satisfaction from the participating teams, assisting the public, organizing team members and school community. Being involved in the event’s organization proved to me that, despite it being a big challenge that pushed me beyond my comfort zone, I was able to deliver.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am very proud to have been able to work in multiple countries. This has enabled me to interact with people from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and cultures. I had this silly habit of counting the different passports present in the same room, it would not get below 5 or 7 at a time. Back when I worked for Ericsson Peru, my favorite part of the day was when colleagues from across the region called asking me for help or advice. This is where I discovered my passion for helping people. Afterward, I was provided the opportunity to relocate to Buenos Aires. During my almost four years there, we expanded the managed service contract to approximately 50% of the country market share, up from an initial 10%. I recall the challenge as a fun one since I got adapted to the Argentine work ethic fairly quickly. I was very fortunate to have a manager, Rodolfo, who later became my mentor and friend. Later on, I took another opportunity to relocate and moved to Dublin. This was the first time I was taking a country-specific position. Working in Ireland turned out to be a big challenge. I had to get accustomed to the Irish accent and adapt to a very different telecom market and dynamics. I was very fortunate to have been exposed to change before. I learned fast, made friends and created relationships at the Dublin office, and I am still in touch with some of these people even today. Overall I am most proud that all these international experiences taught me to be flexible, to say yes to opportunities that come my way and to take any chance possible to learn from people around me – you never know what amazing life story the person next to you has.

Why did you choose this business school? There were several factors that got aligned before choosing CEIBS as my business school. The first was that I wanted to do something different for my MBA. I wanted to learn a third language while in business school, to be exposed to a different environment and culture, and to gain a unique perspective of doing global business. Second, when I would watch Bloomberg Tech every morning, most of the news was related to tech and innovation from China. I also noticed how most guests on the show demonstrated a keen interest in understanding what was happening in China. This drew my interest as well. And third, I knew any top business school would have a week or two-week study trip to China. However, I understood that the only way to truly get insight of what was going on in China and learn from China´s culture and mindset was to go all in; I had to move and live there. So after all those three factors aligned, that is what I did. It seemed a natural decision. The decision to ONLY apply to CEIBS for my MBA was the easiest one I have made in a very long time.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? I would tell any applicant two things. First, before heading to China, make sure you are comfortable in ambiguous, uncertain situations. In China, you will be exposed to multiple situations and countless occurrences when you won’t be able to know what the outcome may be or not have a direct answer to your questions.

Second, know how CEIBS will help you position yourself compared to other MBA students, and have a plan of how you will transition to that desired position after the MBA. Make this a centerpiece of your application and later remember it during your MBA journey at CEIBS. Your initial plan may change. However, your goal must always be to position yourself to have a unique value proposition.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Manage your debt. Most of us take hefty loans to cover our MBA tuition, accommodation, living expenses, social gatherings, trips, etc. I have seen some friends turn down with a lot of disappointment some amazing Post MBA opportunities just because the salary was not up to their expectations or accepted a high paying job which they were not that passionate about.

I think it pays to be strategic; the key is to have flexibility. There is nothing wrong with going for a top-paying job post-MBA. This may be one reason why we do an MBA after all. However, I believe that the post-MBA job is about the dream job, the job you have the most passion for. My advice is to keep in mind that every decision you make during the MBA should bring you a step closer to that dream job.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Going to business school can be a very humbling experience. CEIBS MBA has allowed me to know what my personality and character are like, through the constant feedback I have received from professors and friends I made as I studied. This has enabled me to understand under what conditions I can strive, to keep focus on my strengths and to actively work on improving my weaknesses. As an example, I have incorporated in my daily vocabulary words I had not used before the MBA. This helps me remind myself to keep focus on my blind spots and to work actively towards my objectives.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I truly admire Janelle CHEN. She showed me anything is possible with balance. I met Janelle on our first week of class during orientation week. We were assigned to the same team for Term 1. She was a deferred student from the previous batch because she had recently given birth to Zizi, her daughter. I learned from Janelle what it is truly like to live in China, work, and have a family. While doing the MBA, Janelle had to go home to see Zizi after class. This propelled our team to be time efficient in our meetings after class. I was very humbled since I did not have to share my time other than go-to school. However, I saw how this was not the case for her and many other parents in our MBA.

We later partnered and led the organization together for INNOVATEChina 2018. I owe the success of the event to the team. However, Janelle was the key driver for their success. Janelle is bright. One of the brightest persons I know. She provided a unique perspective, close focus on detail and an immense amount of personal contacts and resources to bring high profile speakers, judges, and companies to INNOVATEChina. She was the first person I would go to, to talk and discuss the many different problems we faced along the way. She was always calm and took things in a very relaxed manner. I trust her and I will always consider her the best partner anyone could ever have. She is a role model I look up to. Throughout the time we worked together she kept focus and was committed to the organization while at the same time found time and energy to be with her daughter and husband. I know she will be immensely successful after the MBA, I would not hesitate for a second if another opportunity came to partner up with her. Thank you, Janelle.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I have been fortunate to have very supportive parents. However, my mother played a major role in my decision to pursue my MBA at CEIBS. For starters, she was the main influence I had to pursue an international career. She encouraged me to do an international exchange semester in Seoul at Korea University during undergrad studies. She was always supportive in my choices of countries and job roles, even supporting me when I got assigned to work in Argentina while capital controls were in place and the country was facing an economic downturn.

I remember a specific episode during my MBA journey. It was November of 2016 and she was visiting me in Dublin. I could not make up my mind on which school would be the best school for me for my MBA. Just before she headed out the door to the airport to fly back to Peru, she said goodbye, gave me a hug and told me to keep my options open, have faith, dare to discover different alternatives, and look for opportunities not only in Europe. Those words stuck in my mind. Until then, I was only considering an MBA in Europe. I recall I went back to my home, got my phone, and searched for MBAs in China. That was the day I found CEIBS.

What is your favorite movie about business? Margin Call – Do not over complicate things and communicate in the simplest way – the easiest manner for everyone that even grandma can understand.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? “AGILE” – it’s a way of working and achieving together, but I think the tech industry might just be too embedded in everyday life; small-to-medium enterprises are now called startups and working on co-working spaces now makes us innovative …

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…I would probably be in my previous job. On the personal side, I would be struggling to understand who I am, what I want and why, for the years to come. I would not have been able to take the time off to know what my strengths and weakness are.

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? If I have to give my MBA education a monetary value, I would say it is worth USD 888,888.88 (those are eight 8´s). However, I believe my MBA at CEIBS is invaluable. Often, I think I should pay CEIBS a second tuition (hope the MBA Office does not read this). I have taken so much value from the MBA at CEIBS. I was able to make many dear friends, meet amazing bright professors, and work alongside talented MBA Office professionals for the different activities I took part in. On the academic side, I have learned much more than I had expected and gained great insight from China and global business through the different courses I took. I was able to take courses on subjects related to Digital Business Strategy, Digital Marketing, and Chinese Industries. Also, I did study trips to Germany and Shenzhen and participated in a two-term overseas exchange at IESE. These experiences provided me an invaluable rounded view of business and geopolitics and a real opportunity to interact with people and students all over the world. On the professional side, CEIBS allowed me to be ready to work in a 100% Chinese environment during my summer internship at an e-commerce company based in Shanghai. My leadership skills were also put to the test when I was involved in leading extracurricular programs at CEIBS, such as the Student Ambassador program and organizing INNOVATEChina.

In conclusion, CEIBS has provided me a unique experience that will help me differentiate myself among other fellow MBAs. It has been a rich learning platform, a source for inspiration, and the reason why I will look back at CEIBS in the future with a great smile of what a beautiful journey these two years have been.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Getting a pilot´s license
  • Learning sign language

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as a friend they can always trust, always optimistic and willing to help them when they most need me.

Hobbies? I have a passion for cycling (I like doing climbs), I also enjoy cooking, although not everyone likes what I cook, I enjoy building Lego Technik sets, and reading (non-fiction and biographies).

What made Pablo such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Pablo is an inquisitive and hard-working member of the class. He came prepared for every class with infectious intellectual curiosity and would often apply ideas and frameworks that we were discussing to real-world examples.”

Dr. Jeffrey L. Sampler   

CEIBS Professor of Management Practice


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