MIT Sloan Executive Education recently connected with a past participant of the Global Executive Academy, Alexei Gabler. Based in Brazil, Gabler is a senior manager in IT who came to MIT seeking an international, post-MBA course that would give him a unique opportunity for learning and growth in a multicultural setting. Here's what he had to say about his transformative GEA experience.
What is your current role, and where are you based?
"I am a Senior Manager at Pyxis Training based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where I manage software training projects and programs for clients including IBM, Microsoft, Hitachi, VMware, and Linux solutions. I’ve been working in IT for more than 20 years."
How did you hear about GEA? Were you looking at other business programs of this nature?
"In 2017, I was about to complete my MBA in Business Management in Brazil, so I started to search for an international post-MBA course. The University offered a few programs, but during the search process I got myself wondering, wouldn't it be awesome to go to MIT and do one of their programs? It might be a very long shot but who knows, won't hurt to check! So, I went to the MIT website to search for business programs and found the Global Executive Academy."
What were you hoping to get out of this program?
"When I read the course brochure, it became clear to me that GEA was not only offering a standard program of lecture-based classes and hands-on activities but also an awesome chance to share experiences with high level executives from different industries, business sizes, and cultures—all of that at the most prestigious business school of the world. You cannot miss an opportunity like this! I decided to apply. This was a personal project, by the way, for which I paid out of pocket.
Besides the lectures and all the knowledge to be acquired during the program, I was hoping to get a better understanding of what were the struggles that leaders from all around the globe were facing and put mine in perspective. I knew it would be a chance to be side by side with top minds and benchmark my challenges with theirs."
Were there other participants from Brazil in your program? Did you benefit from a translator?
"There were eight other Brazilians in the program, all with strong English skills, so we didn’t request the translation. However, I did see how beneficial that was to other groups, particularly those who spoke Mandarin and also Spanish. They said the synchronization was perfect."
What were the networking opportunities and conversations like, with so many people from around the world?
"The conversations were fantastic! Not only about business or management topics but a lot of them were about life, family, dreams and, of course, the great experience that we were all living at MIT.
During the program, we also talked about the particular challenges we face in our job. Most of the participants were senior managers with lots of responsibilities. We found that we have the same or similar challenges related to people development, innovation—about several of the GEA topics. For example, an executive from Canada shared some of the issues she was finding in her work related to engaging and motivating people, staying on top of budgets when you’re managing so many projects simultaneously, and having to multitask every day with so much at stake. Everyone could relate to these challenges. How to lead better with so many people and outcomes depending on us.
The networking was, and still is, great. At the end of the program, we created a WhatsApp group, just to stay in touch with each other. Over the year, job opportunities have emerged, business partnerships have happened, all through the connections we made at GEA."
What were some of your favorite takeaways from the program? Favorite topics or professors?
"All topics in GEA were great, but I found the negotiation program and MIT's 4 Leadership Capabilities Model to be especially useful to me. I always have to negotiate with different clients, for example, and these tools improved those conversations at work and elsewhere in life. The Capabilities model was a really great surprise—something you don’t read about in the brochure. All the professors were outstanding, it would be unfair to choose one!
By the way, the whole team involved in the GEA program was amazing! Colleen, Molly, Lyndi, the interpreters, the AV guys, the lunch team, they all put a lot of effort into making the program a huge success!"
Have you put anything into practice at your work? What are you looking forward to trying?
"You bet that I've put several things into practice, GEA was a life-changing experience for me!! I've worked almost my whole career at IT consulting companies and, prior to GEA, I was considering making a career change and quit IT for good. I used to have this constant feeling of frustration and of powerlessness when facing some of the management problems that I've been presented with in those companies.
GEA gave me the tools and the energy to face down those challenges ... it has been transformative in my career. The experience was so intense to me that I've decided to chase the Advanced Certificate for Executives. Since taking GEA last year I've already attended other four courses at MIT Sloan, including programs on macroeconomics and marketing; I'll do two more next month focused on operations and supply chain.
GEA is an extraordinary and very unique program. I would encourage anyone to make the trip and do it!"