MIT Sloan Executive Education innovation@work Blog

BBQ, WhatsApp, and MIT Sloan Executive Education

Chilean Executive MIT

Contributed by Margaret Regan, Director, Executive Programs

One of the most gratifying parts of my job is hearing our participants talk about how they apply MIT research and frameworks in their work and what they learn from one another in the classroom and beyond. Meet Felipe Torrejon, General Manager of Santiago-based InterlogChile. Like most people in our classrooms—both physical and virtual—Torrejon is an extremely busy executive. Yet he has invested his time into earning two Executive Certificates within a year! Turns out that one of the biggest reasons he enjoys our programs so much is the people he’s met here and with whom he has since formed a strong networking group back in Chile. They call themselves “Chilean Executive MIT.”

Image: “Where there are Latin men, there is BBQ!” says Torrejon. “Chilean Executive MIT” networking group members from left to right: Jaime Saez, Felipe Torrejon, Eduardo Valente, Nicolas Pearson.

It all began when Felipe and a university friend traveled to MIT in March 2018 to attend our executive education programs. A chance encounter with a friend of a friend in yet another MIT Sloan program made them realize that as fun as it was to meet at MIT, they could also support one another in between programs. Soon after, Eduardo Valente (another participant from Chile) started a WhatsApp group where all four members could share ideas, ask for advice, and propose get-togethers.

The group’s activities may be informal—a couple of BBQs, dinners, occasional coffees—but the benefits for members are significant. For example, Eduardo Valente, a senior executive at EY in Chile, is a generous mentor to his younger friends. Nicholas Pearson is an IT expert, so he keeps the group up to date on the latest tech developments. Felipe Torrejon is in operations and always willing to share his experience with the other guys. Jaime Saez’s understanding of design thinking and problem solving skills led to a new job on Valente’s team at EY. “So, you see those dynamics we get,” says Felipe. “The networking, the new business opportunities, a breakthrough in your career—all these things come up spontaneously. We don’t really look for it. We are meeting just for the sake of having a social group and then all these opportunities come up.”

Of course not everyone becomes fast friends in our programs, but the educational experience is designed purposefully to facilitate meaningful connections and exchanges among participants. Douglas Ready, a Senior Lecturer who leads several MIT Sloan Executive Education programs, including two that Felipe and friends have attended, points to a combination of program design and participant self-selection. “People come to MIT Sloan to learn how to lead, not just to be a better manager,” he says. “We are asking people to lead at every level. Even if they are currently in middle-manager roles, they have to take on more and more leadership responsibilities. What we do in our classroom experiences, in the structure of how we design and execute our programs, is make sure that we facilitate a great deal of interaction, experience sharing, and problem identification. The end result of that is that when people go through those passages together, they form stronger, more lasting bonds.”

MIT Sloan’s Executive Education programs are designed to spark curiosity and continuous learning to drive innovation and impact, but what happens outside the classroom and beyond is up to the individual. That’s another reason why this Chilean group is so important—members are not only helping each other, but they are sharing what they’ve learned at MIT in their companies and advising colleagues on what programs to take depending on their business challenges or career goals.

“Chilean Executive MIT” on campus in the fall of 2018.

Torrejon emphasizes the importance of keeping in touch and nurturing the network after a program has ended. In addition to the three other Chilean participants, he had built relationships with classmates from Mexico, Peru, and other countries he visits for business frequently. “The idea is to keep that alive,” he says. “I really encourage people to stay in touch, to participate. Also use the blogs, use any resources you have. Because you might need each other at some point. And even if you don’t need each other [professionally], you make a friend somewhere else.”

Image: “Chilean Executive MIT” on campus in the fall of 2018.

As for “Chilean Executive MIT,” most of the guys live in the central part of Chile, so meeting isn’t a problem. The group has expanded to six members now and is going strong! And they continue attending our programs. “The cool thing is that you leave and you’re already looking forward to the next time,” says Torrejon. With over fifty programs to choose from, I am sure we will be seeing Felipe and his friends again soon!

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