2022 MBA To Watch: Juan Carlos Cerdas Del Río, ESADE Business School

Juan Carlos Cerdas Del Río              

ESADE Business School                        

“An ambitious person who strives to have a positive impact on the world.”

Hometown: San José, Costa Rica

Fun fact about yourself: I am taking DJ lessons.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Universidad Latina de Costa Rica – Bachelor’s in Economics

Universidad Latina de Costa Rica – Bachelor’s in Journalism

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? LAFISE Bank as an investment analyst

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? BBVA, Madrid

Where will you be working after graduation? BBVA, Global MBA Programme

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

VP of the Finance Club – Asset Management

Honourable mention – In-company project ‘Scaling an NGO: Acción por la Música’

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am proud to have been one of the founders of the WeMBA organisation, which aims to connect students from the world’s best MBA programmes. In 2021, we brought together more than 400 students from LBS, IESE, Esade, Oxford, INSEAD, and HEC for an event in Malta and received very positive feedback from the attendees.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? As an investment analyst in the Private Wealth Management Department at LAFISE Bank I implemented a sustainable investment strategy by applying ESG ratings to the stock-screening process and banning investment in the oil, weapons and gambling industries. It allowed us to outperform benchmarks, attract more clients and have a positive impact on the world.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Esade because it offers students the knowledge you need to apply an entrepreneurial mindset whilst working at any organisation. It provides the opportunity to learn how to have a positive impact, regardless of the size or type of corporation.

Who was your favourite MBA professor? Jan Hohberger, of Corporate Strategy. He was really engaging, encouraged class debate, and effectively summarised how to analyse and interpret the cultural, financial and operational aspects of every M&A operation.

What was your favourite MBA event or tradition at your business school? I really enjoyed the Indian Diwali festival. It was one of the first post-lockdown events, so it was very emotional and had a special meaning. Most of the cohort was there, and we really enjoyed learning about Indian cuisine and dress and dancing to the beats of Bollywood songs.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Whenever I had a heavy academic load, I would focus more on the courses on topics I know less about. That way I could have maximised my learning experience.

What is the biggest myth about your school? That it offers a friendly and welcoming environment: that description falls short! It went far beyond that: all the MBA staff treat any question or problem in a very warm and understandable way, and the whole student body feels like one big family. You can feel the ‘collaborative spirit’ between students in the hallways, how they support each other in terms of academics and internship/full-time job seeking.

What surprised you the most about business school? That you can learn more not from the brightest or most talented students, but the different cultures and opinions found on each team.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? The Esade representative at the MBA fair I went to was extremely helpful and easy to talk to. He explained all the programme’s benefits in detail and showed interest in my profile and post-MBA ambitions. He made sure to explain how the programme aligned with my professional goals.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Maximilian Mrosek. He embodied the values of hard work, commitment and effort. He was first in the class, and I will never forget how much his friendship meant to me and how much I learned from him.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mother. She always encourages me to strive for more and realise my full potential. She taught me that studying and hard work are the only ways to grow in life; there are no shortcuts.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  • Lead the sustainability programme at one of the world’s biggest banks.
  • Help my teammates and co-workers realise their full personal and professional potential.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? Decision making, innovation and adaptability to change are now the most important skills you should have.

What made Juan Carlos such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Born in Colombia but raised in Costa Rica, Juan Carlos is the only child of a doctor and a nutritionist, both of whom have dedicated their whole lives to social welfare in Costa Rica. Because of his upbringing, he understands the importance of hard work and having a positive influence on society and embraces Esade’s ideology of sustainability goals and aspirations: Do Good, Do Better.

He has a proven track record of social impact throughout his academic and professional career. From 2015 to 2017, he headed the Social Responsibility Committee at Moody’s, where he managed and coordinated partnerships with Latin American NGOs such as Junior Achievement, which provides personal finance tutoring to young people in high-risk areas. In his next position, as an investment analyst for the Central American corporation LAFISE Bank, he redesigned and implemented a sustainability strategy for a $120 million fund, incorporating companies’ ESG scores into the stock-selection process and banning investments in industries such as oil, weaponry and gambling.

During his time in the MBA programme, he further applied his entrepreneurial skills as VP of ESADE’s Finance Club, where he co-managed and rebranded the club’s fund as the ‘Do Good Fund’. Amongst other contributions, he led an initiative to redesign the fund’s standards to guarantee a professional investment framework, highly encouraged building positions in companies with positive ESG rankings, and promoted student, teacher and alumni participation in the Investment Committee.

During his final master’s degree project, which he did in collaboration with Deloitte, Juan Carlos led his team to an honourable mention, helping the Madrid-based NGO Acción por la Música scale up its operations to have a broader national presence in Spain. He remains an active volunteer and advocate for this NGO and maintains a strong relationship with it one year on.

At the start of his second year of the MBA, right off the bat Juan Carlos was selected from a handful of candidates by BBVA Madrid for their Global MBA Programme, the first year it was ever offered to Esade students. Given his previous experience, he was responsible for performing financial modelling and analysis of the bank’s operations in Latin America. In light of his dedication and strong performance, he was offered a full-time position at the company immediately after graduation. Juan Carlos was also selected as a candidate to participate in a semester-long exchange at the prestigious Georgetown McDonough Business School in Washington DC, where he is focusing his studies in private equity and sustainability.

Juan Carlos has consistently demonstrated leadership, a sense of community, and a collaborative spirit with the rest of his cohort throughout the year, making sure everyone is heard and included, especially during one of the most difficult waves of Covid in 2020/2021. His excellency is also apparent in his strong social skills; he was a key collaborator and backer of all the main social events at ESADE. He understood that one of the most important aspects of the MBA experience is the long-lasting connections built along the way and thus made sure to boost participation in and provide logistical support for all the events organised by clubs and the programme management.

His talents were again on display in the WeMBA project. In collaboration with his new network of colleagues from London Business School, Juan Carlos identified a unique niche in the international MBA student community and was able to organise an event in Malta that brought together over 400 MBA students from all over the world and featured internationally renowned DJs, galas and island tours, all subject to the necessary health and safety measures. In the lead-up to the event, they also organised social and networking events in various European cities. Because of its great initial success and the positive feedback received from all the participants, the WeMBA project will soon become an annual event open to more and more prestigious business schools.

We look forward to having Juan Carlos as a strategic alumnus for ESADE in the coming years.”

Laura Bonavia
Programme Director
Full-Time MBA at ESADE Business & Law School


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