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2020 MBAs To Watch: Pablo Nazé, University of Toronto (Rotman)

Pablo Nazé

University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

“Always learning something new, never too busy to go to the theater.”

Hometown: Belém, PA, Brazil

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a tap dancer with 8+ years of experience.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor’s in economics, University of São Paulo (USP).

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Product Manager at 99 (Brazilian mobile ride-sharing company acquired by Chinese Didi Chuxing)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? IBM, Markham (ON, Canada)

Where will you be working after graduation? Currently scouting positions in the ethical AI space

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: 1st year representative of The Letters Club (LGBTQ2+ club at Rotman); VP Operations at The Letters Club; MBA Fellow at GATE (Institute for Gender and the Economy); Dean’s List, 2019.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As one of the MBA fellows at Rotman’s Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE), I led a project on the best practices to mitigate gender bias in Artificial Intelligence systems. I could not think of a better way to end my MBA than making a real impact in the world. Many AI systems go unchecked by users, especially given how ubiquitous this technology has become. For the past months, I investigated how minority groups, such as women, are treated under these systems, in a space where they are often underrepresented.

Many practitioners do not have the time to dive into concepts that intersect computer science, business, law, and philosophy. Hence the importance of the project, which dissects these concepts to a broader audience. Even if just one person who I interviewed or who will read the final results learn something new, I will feel honored and fulfilled.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Hiring the first data team for my previous company, 99. I hired my first intern when I was 22 years old, slowly expanding my direct reports to three people. My biggest challenge was to deal with 99’s exponential growth, tripling its size in just a year. With the help of my team, I implemented agile practices in a business intelligence context and also scaled our infrastructure to handle hyper-growth. At Rotman, we use to say that “Leadership work is people work”. Now, when I look back and see how each direct report grew and developed in their path, this phrase makes more sense than ever. For me, there’s no greater honor than serving a team and help them flourish, and 99 gave me this exact opportunity.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Sarah Kaplan is my favorite professor. She is always engaging during her classes, drawing insights not only from her extensive academic background and experience but also from the students’ experiences. In one class, for example, she helped us to unlock our own stories about organizational transformation, where I could learn from my colleagues how different industries and cultures dealt with change.

Outside of the classroom, Sarah’s work for gender equality is tremendously inspiring. As a director for the Institute for Gender and Economy (GATE), she brought many speakers and activities to school, providing students with virtually an elective course on this subject. If it was not for GATE, it’d taken me longer to reflect upon pressing societal issues, such as why we classify people by gender and where to go after the #metoo movement. For those reasons, I have to say that, even with many excellent professors, Sarah Kaplan shaped my MBA experience.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? O-Camp is an offsite event held during the incoming class reception. I participated in O-Camp both as an incoming student and as a volunteer in my second year. For me, this event reflects Rotman’s efforts in building community and strengthening bonds among students. O-camp’s design is such that students have the opportunity to engage with each other in multiple ways.

One of my favorites games is one in which each student is facing each other, separated by a curtain. Once the curtain falls, the student who guesses their friend’s name first wins. It may sound silly, but this activity is relevant especially in the beginning of the program. These team-building-exercises helps us to bond, develop trust, and get to know our colleagues. In a challenging program such as Rotman, having the support of friends makes a complete difference. O-camp was one of the activities that helped in just that.

Why did you choose this business school? Canada is very friendly towards immigrants, making adaption much easier. Toronto is one of the most cosmopolite cities in the world, with over half of its population being born outside of Canada. Further, the city has established an excellent reputation in the technology industry, being home to many start-ups, innovation hubs, and venture capital firms. As a result, the number of tech jobs created in Toronto is outpacing other known tech centers, ideal for recent grads like me. Finally, Rotman is consistently ranked as one of the best business schools in Canada. Its location in downtown Toronto makes networking very convenient, and its research focus is genuinely appealing to me, as I believe that access to cutting-edge research gives an advantage to MBAs. Hence, Rotman had everything that I was looking for: rigorous teaching, a great network, and many opportunities after graduation.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? I’d advise applicants to be authentic, clearly articulating for admissions how they plan to leverage Canada’s and Rotman’s strengths. Candidates who go through this introspection process will not only sound more convincing but also will know how to make most out of their Rotman and MBA experience. It’s a good situation for everyone, as admissions will have a clear understanding of a candidate, and candidates will learn how to direct their energy to what they believe will be the most fulfilling opportunities during the MBA.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Rotman is famous for having a strong finance program. Even though this is true, it is a myth that we can be reduced only to finance. Rotman offers many perspectives to its students, either by leading start-up strategy thinking with the Creative Destruction Lab, leveraging behavioral economics, or shedding light in gender inequality. As a non-finance professional, I also benefited from the school’s strong financial curriculum. It was a glimpse of the financial world, making it easier for me to understand and dialogue with bankers, controllers, and accountants, who I will always find going forward in my career.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Although I had a great time at Rotman, I’d probably engage in more international opportunities. For me, having a global perspective is more relevant than ever, given that supply chains are becoming more connected than ever and distributed teams are becoming the norm in the modern corporation. An MBA program is a time in our lives when we have a flexible schedule, making traveling easier and more affordable than when working full time. Rotman has great study tours and exchange opportunities, but my personal schedule made it hard to take full advantage of them. Nonetheless, I learned a lot from colleagues all over the world – including incoming exchange students – during our day-to-day and academic interactions.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Maria Kristina Roderos. Kristina inspires me every day with her work ethic and list of accomplishments, which I will do my best to cite below. She successfully navigated Rotman’s academic rigor and Toronto’s capital markets scenes, securing successful internships and full-time positions in banking. She also accumulated many extra-curricular activities during her time at school, including club executive positions, teaching assistant roles, and a fellowship at the Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE). I seriously don’t know how she has time to do everything, achieve remarkable results, and still be a good and present friend. Whenever I feel short on time and needing to go the extra mile, I feel inspired by Kristina’s example and dedication.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father. After spending years around the world working onboard ships, he immigrated from Belgium to Brazil in the 1980s. He established a new life in my hometown, Belém, and was able to start businesses without knowing to speak Portuguese or without proper managerial training. It was his trajectory as an immigrant and entrepreneur that shaped my interest in business and in attending management school.

His story embodies many values that I hold dear to my professional journey: the courage to start over, perseverance to never quit, and a sense of adventure that makes life more enjoyable. As a new immigrant to Canada myself, his journey continues to inspire me every day.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I’d love to start filing patents. There’s something unique about working within a team to conceive an idea that is both novel, useful, and can be registered. I believe patents are a big incentive for innovation for organizations and I’d be happy to leave an everlasting contribution to our world before my career is over.

Besides becoming an inventor, I’d also love to start doing angel investments. I’m a supporter of new ventures and I believe investments are a great way to support entrepreneurs. Besides providing financial support, I see the work of an angel investor similar to as a mentor, giving insight and advice to people starting their own companies.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? “That helpful friend that once took me to a tap-dance show and explained to me how AI and ethics intersect on our way to the theatre.”

Hobbies? I love learning new languages, as it allows me to explore new cultures and worldviews. I am focused now on improving my French, inspired after a recent trip to the francophone province of Québec in Canada. I’m also very attracted to the arts in general. Whenever I can, I attend tap-dance classes and join jam sessions with other musicians. Tap appeals to me as it is not only dancing but also actively producing music with your feet, which requires not only coordination but also a sensible ear towards music. Finally, I love classical music, being a proud subscriber of the Canadian Opera Company and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra

What made Pablo such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Pablo is the type of individual who has a special combination of intelligence, empathy, and work ethic that makes for a true change maker. This year, Pablo was selected to be an MBA Fellow of the Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE), which I run. The competition for this fellowship is fierce and he was one of only five students selected this year. As part of the fellowship, each student must design and complete a project related to the GATE mission.

Pablo’s project looks at fairness and ethics in the emerging fields of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Pablo has approached this project with unrivaled energy and determination. He started the project with the idea of creating a checklist for programmers to assist them in thinking about gender bias when writing code and developing programs. Pablo went the extra mile to understand the current state of affairs in the technology field, reading the academic literature, and interviewing programmers and data scientists. As he delved further into this topic, he found that his intuitions were correct, and indeed several scholars in the field have been developing checklists with this purpose in mind. Looking to make a novel contribution, Pablo expanded his project to produce a nuanced and thoughtful discussion of the limitations, trade-offs, and constraints that developers face as they attempt to create technologies for the future that do not reproduce and amplify bias — in particular by drawing on insights from his coursework on strategic change and implementation.

Pablo has grown his project into a snapshot of a critical moment in time for a burgeoning industry, and the implications of actions taken or not taken. This project aptly demonstrates Pablo’s exceptional skill set. He has the ability and aptitude to analyze a topic at a very high level, but perhaps even more importantly, he is actively engaged in thinking about how to transfer academic and theoretical knowledge into real-world applications. It is a great example of a student fully integrating his curricular and co-curricular work in order to have an impact. This is the approach that we need to make effective change in our world today — unpacking the complex and nuanced causes of social phenomena, while also thinking about how to translate that understanding into practical and actionable applications. As such, I expect to see Pablo have a real impact through his GATE project and beyond. In addition, in his capacity as the VP of Operations with The Letters, Rotman’s LGBTQ+ Student Association, Pablo has helped initiate many important conversations at Rotman. He leads The Letters activities for the Day of Pink, the international celebration to combat bullying and homophobia. In 2019, Day of Pink activities included a talk from Professor Lee Airton titled, Gender: Your Guide. This event started an important discussion at Rotman about the changing landscape of gender norms and how we can support a culture of inclusion for people of all genders.

Pablo was instrumental in bringing this event to the Rotman community and fostering a conversation about inclusivity with his fellow students.”

Sarah Kaplan
Distinguished Professor of Gender and the Economy
Professor of Strategic Management
Director, Institute for Gender and the Economy

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE 2020 MBAS TO WATCH or THE BEST & BRIGHTEST MBAS OF 2020