2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Adriano Pimentel Machado, INSEAD

Adriano Pimentel Machado


Age: 38

“Zestful-spirited individual, who easily sees the positive of an ordinary life.”

Hometown: Sao Paulo, Brazil

Family Members: Son (Caetano), daughter (Manuela) and wife (Christiane)

Fun fact about yourself: I love irony (British humor) and it is hard to keep me on serious conversation out of the workplace.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Mauá – Escola de Administracao (Brazil) and IBMEC (also in Brazil)

Where are you currently working? Company: Novartis Farmaceutica – Position Country CFO in Mexico

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Mentoring, which is something I have done frequently since graduation.
  • Sports in general, running being my number #1 option

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Not sure it qualifies as extracurricular activity, but having high quality (and sufficient) time with my family is my biggest achievement. During COVID times, life became more difficult, which was exacerbated by an intensive EMBA and demanding work requirements. Under this context, being able to be close to my both kids, which are at the amazing two and six years of age, is something I dearly value. Academically speaking, it is my ability to use the things from EMBA class to my day-to-day which speaks about the quality of Insead and my commitment to it.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am proud of many things in my career, with many angles to it:

  1. My dream, since very early age, was to live in different countries. As I got into graduate school, I added to that a desire to work abroad. As of today, I have had the privilege (and quite some luck) to work in five different countries including Brazil, which is something I am extremely proud of doing.
  2. From business performance angle, it was to manage the previous year in a successful way. The year of 2020 was the most challenging for any CFO (probably true to many functions). I managed high-risk situations due to low liquidity in the market where major customers went bankrupt, and new market dynamics that turned the healthcare sector upside down. Nevertheless, my company delivered strong results despite all this.
  3. From a leadership perspective, I managed and exported associates across Novartis worldwide and locally promote talented individuals consistently, which was my way of responding to how leaders have treated me so I can make a strong contribution to the future of my company.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? It feels almost unfair to make this judgement, as many professors were fantastic. However, having to pick one, it would be Philip Parker, our Marketing professor.

Being a Finance person, I always had a low energy for marketing classes. My experience was that Marketing was a lot of theory. Excluding specific areas such as Porter’s forces, it had low content behind to sustain any argument. With Phil, that went to a completely different direction.

From day one, we had down-to-earth marketing theory that could be understood by anyone (even finance folks like me. The cases enveloped a wide range of business topics, allowing students to reflect on how one’s company manage similar situations.

In addition, he made it possible to add to marketing theory and cases (including lots of AI concepts and logic) in such clear way that was hard not to enjoy every minute of it.

Last but not least, Phil’s way of presenting things (almost actor like) make it difficult not to be engage during the entire class, waiting for the next “DISASTER” (Sorry, inside joke).

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? It was recommendation. As I decided to start an EMBA, I shared this with several colleagues at work. Two of them were INSEAD graduates, and recommended it not because of the network and high caliber faculty. Their view was that INSEAD is not an academic experience, but a life-changing event that rocked one’s beliefs to the very core.

This feedback, combined with my interest of not joining a program that is 80% of local individuals (which is true for most Executive MBAs) made it an easy choice. I was so convinced about INSEAD EMBA that I had not applied to any other program.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I will highlight one that I used in my company and a second that is something I quite reflect for in my day-to-day decisions.

A) It would be how to implement a strategic review with real impact to the business, from creating the need for a change down to implementing it effectively. I had to use this with company in early 2021. Three big learnings from the Strategy class that I used: (1) If you do not have a competitive advantage, do not compete; (2) strategy is about tradeoffs; and (3) strategy cannot be a dog’s dinner goal, one must focus. This is all seems easy to say, but without proper framework it would be a nightmare to me.

B) Leaders are obsessed with controlling and monitoring results and paying bonuses based on it. However, in reality, we only control the process, so that is where management energy should be.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I really do not have many. What occurred many times to me, was the “fear of missing out”. There are several webinars and boot camps on amazing topics with top-notch professionals, but it is all about prioritization. One must understand that it is just not possible to have it all, if you understand it from the beginning, there are no regrets.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Prioritization, prioritization, repeat.

COVID, despite all the sad aspects of it, allowed me to have daily time with my kids — something I never had consistently. I promised myself that regardless of all the challenges, which were overwhelming in the last year-and-a-half, I would stick to this family time opportunity.

During the four initial months of 2021, I had to go through internal audit, run a throughout strategic review of my company, take an ad-interim position, all this combined with INSEAD.

My way to ensure I could stick to my promise of being close to my family and deliver on the company needs was a continuous exercise of prioritization and focus.

The day starts early around 5:30, with my two year old son saying “papa, papa.” We play Legos or train tracks (no electronics allowed), it is really about us. On the days, my wife is up early with him ,I do exercise, such a mood lifter to me.

As the work day unfolds with the Team calls, I realized that my attention span goes down after three to four hours. I take a “mandatory” 30 minutes break for a walk, most of the time not working. Just listing to music, podcast, of anything that gives my mental break

At 7 p.m., we have family time again, and would say that with 80% success rate I manage to stay with my kids to dinner and together with my wife take them to bed.

It is about prioritization. I must say that there is little “play time” in the sense that I had to give away the time that I would do things I like to in an individual manner. This decision was not difficult.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Do not apply for an executive MBA too young. I first considered starting an MBA five years ago and, for a variety of reasons, it did not work out. Although surely it would have been great, I am convinced the value for money would not be the same as of today. The main value out of it is not academic, it is about your inner life, leadership, and dealing with frustration — things that come with age.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school?

Myth: After a certain age, one cannot learn as fast as when young individuals.

Reality: That might be true from an academic perspective. Conversely, learning at approximately 40-50 years of age is broader and deeper. It touches your beliefs, your perspectives in life, and your dreams; there so much more than academics that probably at young age one would never be able to learn. In short, going back to school at a later stage of life gives one much value.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Aaron Estes. He is this brilliant person with a complete different background from all (or most) of the class. Still, he is able to make so many relevant reflections on business as if he was exposed to all kinds of positions and the traditional business environment. His openness for deep discussions about all walks of life and humbleness towards everyone is not something you see every day.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I just though part-time would be not as challenging from a personal sphere. As I mentioned before, the reason I chose INSEAD was that I knew it would not only be an academic program. I was not looking for theory; I was looking for something that balanced my beliefs to the core (as colleague’s suggested). In my view that hardly can be done in a part-time or online program.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I have two career dreams:

1) Continue to have a growing career that is inspiring and fun, being able to live in as many different countries as possible.

2) Found an ONG or Foundation that can have a lasting impact of people with disadvantaged backgrounds and / or minorities.

What made Adriano such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?

“Adriano Machado is currently the Country CFO for Novartis in Mexico. He joined Novartis in Brazil in 2008, and has had a stellar career within the pharmaceutical company since then, including roles in Chile and Switzerland ranging from Business and Analysis to global management. Before Novartis, he worked for Johnson and Johnson and Avon Cosmetics. Adriano demonstrated an impressive business acumen and a strong rationale to join the programme and perfect match with INSEAD.”

Teresa Peiro
Associate Director of Global Admissions, Degree Programmes at INSEAD


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