Pedro Lopez became part of the IE community when he did his Executive MBA here back in 2008. He has broad experience in business transformation related functions from external consulting, to IT transformation and is currently working at Novartis in Switzerland assessing potential to streamline functions and processes on a global scale. Prior to that he worked at the Global Fund, a major NGO. The largest share of his career he developed back at Accenture.
While his career is impressive in itself, one aspect that might be interesting to those creating their professional future is that he managed to change industries quite drastically over time and also changed locations. How so? The most striking lesson is that how big of a stretch a change in jobs is lies in the eyes of the beholder. While moving from management consulting to an NGO or from an NGO to a pharmaceutical giant seems like a big step at first, it is interesting to see how this perception changes if the story is right. And Pedro has apparently been very successful in telling his story very convincingly. When changing industries, he identified sweet spots within the industry and the companies he targeted and conveyed to them that in fact he was applying for almost the same job he already had.
Some advice when doing so: As always it starts with the right attitude. He urges people to be as authentic as possible. Know exactly what you want, not your friends, not your family, and keep trying. Don’t get desperate and don’t settle to soon. Having said that, you need to be open enough to find the right stepping-stones. If you change industry, you might want to consider jobs that are related to what you actually want and that you would be happy to do for a little while. Reflecting on his own experience, Pedro thinks that people are generally not self-confident enough. We are inclined to focus too quickly on hurdles and challenges and tend to forget what we can bring to table. Another important advice is to “scratch behind the surface” of job descriptions. In Pedro’s experience oftentimes it is unclear what a position actually entails once you see the posting. If you make an effort to find out more about the actual position you may find some “diamonds”. Some jobs are totally different to what you imagine if you read the description. Sometimes there is a wrong perception on your side, sometimes they job ads itself may just be poorly written. So it is valuable to screen a broad set of opportunities in the first place to increase your chances. He actually found one of his jobs on LinkedIn.
When changing countries, one of the biggest challenges sometimes overlooked in Pedro’s point of view is cultural adaptation. Even simply moving within Europe, from Spain to Switzerland, there are big differences in how people behave and act in a professional setting. It is important not to dismiss these differences but to learn to understand them. It also requires a lot of openness on your side to be willing to do things in a different way. “You might be used to do this or that but it is just not common where you go.”
For current business school students – as well as for anybody else who wants to actively develop his or her career – Pedro believes that it is important that you know where you are heading. He believes in creating 5-year plans, a vision, a guide that should lead your decisions. Once you have such a plan, you can think about a reasonable step-by-step approach to get where you want. For IE students, he believes that making use of the IE alumni network to get advice or even some form of mentoring is a powerful way to work on your career strategy and to put it into action. Like him, he is convinced; a lot of people are willing to share their experience and support students on their way.