MBA World Summit 2018
Our names are Margarita Chamorro and Sleiman Sleiman, and we would like to share our once-in-a-lifetime experience at this year’s MBA World Summit.
It is March 2018 and we are stepping on African soil for the first time in our lives. We traveled all the way to Cape Town, South Africa for an ecstatic reason: we are attending the MBA World Summit 2018. For the first time, the McGill Desautels MBA program is represented by 2 delegates among this cohort of 100 most inspiring MBA students worldwide, after being selected from a record 2000 applicants! The journey began by McGill MBA’18 Parul Chawla’s inspirational advice and experience at the 2017 Summit held in Berlin. The two-round selection process included a questionnaire about our career trajectory, aspiration, and a video pitch about our leadership. After more than a month of expectation, we got the desired email: Congratulations – You Made It! Learning that the two of us were selected from our MBA cohort to represent McGill on a global platform was a great honor. It is clearly a tangible reflection of how the Desautels brand is expanding its international reach, offering MBA students exposure to world-class initiatives and to the global MBA community.
The Summit was an unmatched experience. The destination of the event, Cape Town, could not be more inspiring, not only because of the breathtaking landscapes, but also due to the strife this vibrant city is currently immersed in regards of its water crisis and social challenges. The theme of the Summit was social responsibility, and the motto #thepowerofme was a mighty reminder of the responsibility that we, as future business leaders, all have in spearheading sustainability and social initiatives in our different spheres of action. During the three days of the Summit, the organizers offered engaging activities to promote a collaborative environment and a better understanding of the local culture, as well as the main challenges that the South African community faces. From social expeditions to laboratory sessions, these events worked as forums to discuss innovative ideas and global challenges with other remarkably smart and motivated MBA students representing the world’s finest institutions. It was an unparalleled opportunity to learn more about each other, about other top business schools’ initiatives, and about the needs of the African continent and how to contribute to its development as we are all citizens of the world.
Summit Laboratory Session
By Margarita Chamorro
Held on the second day of the Summit, the Laboratory Sessions, the centerpiece of the conference, took place at Philippi Campus, of Cape Town Graduate School of Business. Out of the 100 attendees, 25 students were selected to shape this year’s sessions’ agenda.
I had the opportunity of being chosen to facilitate a workshop on two of my favorite topics: women empowerment and entrepreneurship. I had two main goals: to bring awareness of the main challenges that women around the world face when building a startup, and to incentivize the audience to think about their own business ideas. Who knows? This event could be the perfect opportunity to find a business partner and build a new initiative. I have to confess that before the Summit, I was biased and I was expecting that only women would attend my workshop. Nevertheless, I was happily surprised when I saw that half of my audience were men. The balance of the attendees helped to also debate ways on how to achieve gender equality in this field and how men can contribute by becoming allies. Lastly, we had an enriching discussion on two business ideas: one on a social initiative to empower women and another one on personal finance counseling. Conducting a laboratory session was definitely one of the highlights of my Summit experience: I learned a lot from the process and I was very thrilled by the enthusiasm of the participants and the quality of the discussion. At times, it seemed an intimidating task, and it certainly required to pull a lot of work on an already tight schedule, but the experience was totally worth the effort.
After my participation, I also had the opportunity to attend other incredibly inspiring sessions. In particular, I greatly enjoyed the interventions of two MBA’s from UC Berkeley- Haas. One of them, Sunny Nguyen, shared her experience as an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, and the other one, Hejar Oncel, tapped on the controversial issue of sustainable water usage initiatives. In the last case, the workshop helped us to better understand how we could make a big difference by leading this kind of initiatives at our workplace. As mentioned before, as future business leaders, we will have the responsibility and the power to enact these changes and generate true impact.
My last thought about the sessions is that the possibilities for meaningful exchanges are limitless at the conference. From Hejar, I also learned about the efforts that students at his business school have put into creating the ‘Manbassador’ group to support gender equality initiatives. A few hours later, I was discussing similar programs held at Harvard Business School and other prestigious MBA programs with fellow Summit attendees. As President of the McGill MBA Women Association, I was inspired by these efforts and now, my team and I are mulling on how to bring these different learnings to Desautels.
Social Impact Day
By Sleiman Sleiman
The second day of the summit was the one that connected us with our host city the most: Social Impact Day. Entrepreneurs from nearby South African townships joined us to share their experiences and challenges of starting a business in that unique setting. One of the entrepreneurs I got to meet is the owner of a food truck who hopes to open a restaurant one day so the community members can experience the pleasure of ordering at a restaurant. It was a humbling experience for us to realize that social impact does not necessarily equate with bringing a resource or service to a community, but rather extending the opportunity for people to enjoy the pleasures of life we take for granted, such as ordering at a sit-in restaurant. After meeting the entrepreneurs, our groups were assigned to one of them to provide a business consultation. Mondé, an ambitious young man who runs an upholstery workshop, came to our team with a problem; he did not know how to keep track of the business money. Although profitable, the business was living hand-to-mouth, and no money was being allocated to re-invest for growth. My team composed of MBA’s from Europe, North America, and Australia was able to provide Mondé with business insights on how to create business processes and document them. I even created an excel file that tracks all of his revenues and expenses. The most rewarding part of the experience came the following week with Mondé’s email expressing joy about the new system. #Thepowerofme did not make Mondé’s business profitable, he did. As an MBA group, we only helped Mondé see what he can, or rather what he already had been achieving. This ties to the biggest takeaway from social impact day: Africa needs empowerment more than it needs aid, and as MBA leaders of the world, #thepowerofus lies in enabling those who need it.
Overall, our time at the Summit was exceptional. We are deeply touched by the learnings acquired and by all the experiences we accumulated, and are thankful to the McGill Desautels MBA Program that made this all possible. We are certainly looking forward to attend future conferences and to promote the event to current and future Desautels MBA students. We want to enlarge the number of participants from Desautels! Our program was recently named #1 MBA Program in Canada, and as such, our goal must be to become a powerful force at the Summit!
To the future Desautels MBA’s: Do not hesitate to apply for next year’s conference and please feel free to reach us if you have any questions about our experience or the application process, we will be happy to help!
About the Authors:
Originally from Mexico, Margarita Chamorro (MBA’19) worked for 10 years in the finance industry in Mexico, in risk management, multi-asset trade and portfolio management. In 2017, she joined the McGill Class of 2019 and became the President of the McGill MBA Women’s Association (WMMA) and Team Lead at the McGill Not-for-Profit Consulting (MNFPC) She will be doing an internship in Toronto at CIBC as a Graduate Management Rotational Program Summer Associate.
Originally from Lebanon, Sleiman Sleiman (MBA’19) worked for 6 years as an Engineer and Business Development Manager in Lebanon. In 2017, he joined the McGill Class of 2019 and became the President of PreReq, a student organization that bridges the gap between immigrants and the Canadian job market. He is also VP of the Consulting Club and is a partner of the McGill Business Consulting Group. You can read another post by Sleiman here.