2018 Best EMBAs: Cecilia Ines Gonzalez, IESE Business School

Cecilia Ines Gonzalez

IESE Business School

A hustler, who tries to find opportunities in the most unusual places.”

Age: 39

Hometown: Tucman, Argentina (and then Buenos Aires, Argentina, and then Panama City, Panama)

Family Members: Mom, two brothers, one sister, and a beautiful niece, and dad living in my heart.

Fun fact about yourself: I should have been a dancer.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Diplomat in Finance of Universidad Francisco Marroquin-Tulane; Bachelor degree in Political Science of Universidad del Salvador

Where are you currently working? Grupo Rey – Pharmacy Division Manager in charge of 77 points of sales in Panama.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Graduated with honors from Universidad del Salvador: Awarded a scholarship to finish my studies at the University of Manchester. Photography amateur, graduated from NYFA – it is my hidden pleasure. Love cycling, any type of sports; used to run marathons until I had an injury, but training to go back and run 42kms! I am a volunteer at a Cancer patient foundation. And try to get involved in any activity with startups, as mentor.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? During GEMBA at IESE, I am most proud of having been a key part of developing extracurricular activities and contributing to the strengthening of our bonds of friendship, and finally, being chosen as Class President. Also, in one of the classes, Managing Digital Innovation, our “designed company” was chosen as favorite by my classmates in terms of concept and presentation. There is a true idea there that should be pursued!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Starting my own company in a foreign country, and successfully selling it after six years, has been my biggest achievement. It was a great challenge, as a woman, to enter the pharmaceutical distribution business in Panama. I knew a little bit of the industry, but had to learn and understand technical details in order to be able to speak the language of my future clients. Starting in the public sector, participating in bids, was a great challenge. After year one, I was already “the girl that runs that company,” positioning the brands I managed at the top of public purchases. Later, selling my company to one of the largest pharmacy and supermarket chains in the country was the conclusion to a job well done.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? As we live in a digital age, with a rapidly changing environment, one of the classes that I enjoyed the most is Digital Transformation, where we learned the depth of how digital is affecting and will continue to affect every aspect of our lives and our business, and how thinking of new business models must include a digital side to it, with digital density being the key phrase of the present and future. If you don’t understand and accept that technology will disrupt your industry, you cannot create anything for future generations.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program?  I was looking for a school that would have a strong entrepreneurial approach, as that is what I love the most. Startups or projects are the areas where I feel more comfortable. Additionally, it had to be truly global! When comparing IESE’s curriculum to other schools, I found it thorough and up-to-date, with amazing locations, a real diverse group of classmates, and relatively smalls classes gave it a personal touch and closeness that was key.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The full immersion system was key from the beginning. In each module, we truly disconnected, from our routines. It was a safe haven to think, to create, and to imagine different scenarios for our daily work. Additionally, we were able to strengthen and update ourselves in the latest trends and industries. The school presents a very solid and wide curriculum, from technical subjects to more “personal” ones such as leadership and managing one’s self. Guest speakers and company visits were truly great, including highlights such as visiting West Point as part of our leadership development.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Developing my professional career away from “home” made it necessary to build a strong network, balanced between friends, mentors, sponsors, and allies. It is all about the people and creating meaningful relationships. You can be technically a master, but the emotional and social skills are the ones that will take you to a different level. Take time to get to know people!!

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? One story is not enough! During GEMBA, I learned that 5 a.m. is a great time to read and after 9 p.m. is even better to sit down to write and concentrate on assignments. The hardest moment – and where I put to the test all the time management and self-leadership tools I learned – was between module 5 and 6 when my dad got really sick and I had to travel back home to care for him. It was a challenge and extremely difficult time that would not have been possible without the amazing staff at IESE and my classmates. The support and care I received from the school has been key for me to having been able to graduate.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? You won’t have time to study and deal with life at the same time. Commitment is key and when you are committed and focused, suddenly time has a different dimension.

What was your biggest regret in business school? That I did not do it earlier in my career. And always, you desire more to time read, analyze and discuss with classmates and professors.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I have been honored to have an amazing group of classmates, each of them unique in their own way. Though I have to admit that I admire my classmate and friend Jesman Chonzi, who overcame so many obstacles in Zimbabwe to become a true leader, mother, community member in Kenya who helped change kids’ lives. Her strength and resilience and always lasting sense of humor are an inspiration to me.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…my thirst for knowledge was unbearable.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…still thinking that the playground is small… now I know it is immense!!”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to continue my path as a leader helping and shaping people’s life, preferably at a start up…I am an entrepreneur by heart! We have a social responsibility to carry on.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a passionate, team player and “let’s make it work” kind of person.

Favorite book: Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

Favorite movie or television show: House of Cards, Vikings, and for the kid inside me, any Disney/Pixar movie!

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Go see the northern lights and start a cancer foundation in my hometown.

What made Cecilia such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Cecilia’s strength of character, natural leadership qualities, and general positive outlook are the first things that stood out when we first evaluated her admission to IESE’s Global Executive MBA. Having started and successfully run her company for a few years, the enthusiasm she showed in her desire and determination to keep growing and learning so as to maximize her work’s impact in local communities were very contagious.

These are the same qualities that made Cecilia such an invaluable member of the Global Executive MBA class of 2018.  In spite of the very difficult circumstances she had to face in losing a parent during the program, Cecilia demonstrated tremendous resilience, determination and commitment to continue contributing earning her the respect and gratitude of her classmates.  The diligence with which she approached the assignments, her work ethic and continued class engagement ensured that she was able to transmit her experience and perspectives while extracting maximum value from the program. I was very pleased to see that, through all of this and leveraging the tools and skills acquired on the program, she was able to steer her company in joining forces with a much larger player to increase her impact in Panama.”

Ermias Mebrate Mengistu

Associate Director

Global Executive MBA


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