The afternoon of March 27th had the Full-Time MBA cohort abuzz with excitement. Not only had we finished our last exam (Operations!) but we were all about to head off to Chile for our Global Experience Week.
We’re a tight-knit cohort and so many of us used the free time before the module started to travel in through Latin America. One of the best parts of the MBA experience has been the networking opportunities within our cohort, partly because people are coming from such diverse geographical and professional backgrounds. These pre-Chile trips gave us a great chance to cement these friendships as we enter the final phase of the MBA. Some groups chose to visit places like Patagonia, Machu Picchu, Colombia and Cuba. Meanwhile, my group decided to tour some of the major cities in South America including Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. All in all, it made for a fantastic reunion when all 78 of us congregated in Santiago for the start of the module.
The theme of the week was innovation and throughout our time, we heard from a number of prominent Chilean business people about how they were bringing innovative ideas to their industries. I found it particularly interesting to hear more about industries such as mining and forestry, which we hear less about in London, but make up some of Chile’s biggest industries. We heard from an Imperial alumnus, Gonzalo Ramirez, who now works at Codelco, a mining company in Chile and he discussed how he used the entrepreneurial mindset he fostered at Imperial to lead a new innovation unit in what has previously been a more traditional industry. One of my favourite visits was to Coaniquem, a charity that helps treat children who have suffered burns. Dr Jorge Rojas and his son spoke about how their social enterprise arm is bringing the first charity shops to Santiago after having studied the success of this model in the UK. We also had an illuminating talk from lawyers from Alessandri Abogados, who do a lot of corporate finance work and helped us understand the business climate in Chile for potential foreign investors and gave us more information about how business is conducted in the country. Other companies we heard from included Sodimac, a home improvement store, Britcham, the British Chilean Chamber of Commerce, Engie, a utility company, BBDO, an advertising company, Kross, a brewery, ASOEX, a fruit exporting association (Chile is one of the biggest blueberry exporters!) and Arauco, a forestry company.
Entrepreneurship is the hallmark of the Imperial MBA and, before heading out to Chile, we read a case about Start-Up Chile, a government start-up accelerator programme which is helping to cultivate an entrepreneurial environment in Chile. While in Santiago, we were lucky enough to attend a panel event which featured an alum from Start-Up Chile, América Silva, whose business takeaHand is selling better functioning prosthetic limbs for children. Other panellists included Allan Guillof, CEO of logistics company Shipit, and Cristián Cifuentes from Birus, a sustainable and socially conscious online marketplace.
During the week, we were split into teams and assigned Chilean industries for our project. Our brief was to devise an innovation that our chosen Chilean industry could adopt. My group was the NGO/charity group and we advocated for Edtech solutions to help bridge educational inequality in the country. Other groups had ideas such as the electrification of mining vehicles, genetic modification of trees for yield in cellulose (for paper production) and new cashless systems for online banking. It was a great way to consolidate our learning and apply some business-minded approaches to some of the challenges facing Chile today.
For most of us it was our first time in Chile and so, alongside our visits, we also enjoyed the chance to explore the city with a variety of walking tours and cultural activities. We’re lucky enough to have a Chilean in our cohort and he was a fantastic host, showing us some of the more hidden gems of the city. As well as Santiago, later that week we travelled to Valparaiso, a beautiful coastal town a couple of hours from Santiago. There we visited the port and heard about how the port is constantly evolving to anticipate trends in the shipping industries such as employing new technology for inspections and building new facilities to meet the ever-increasing size of ships.
The week culminated in a visit to Veramonte Vineyards. With Chile being the 4th largest wine exporter in the world, we definitely had to learn more about this industry! The vineyard offered a stunning landscape, flanked by the coastal mountain in the Casablanca region. Our speakers discussed how they were part of the movement to move Chilean wine into a more premium product and we were fortunate enough to sample some of their flagship wine offerings. The evening ended with a lovely farewell dinner, where we celebrated our time on the MBA thus far and celebrated our peers and programme team for making the week in Chile so incredible! Overall, it was an unforgettable trip and undoubtedly, one of the highlights of the MBA.