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Q&A with Antonio Faiola

MBA ’17 and Valedictorian to the Global Executive MBA class

After 18 months of travelling with the Global Executive MBA, Antonio says he has a deeper appreciation of the ‘connected world’. And yet it’s the small things that have stayed with him. Read the full story:

How does it feel to be chosen as the valedictorian of your class?

It’s quite a privilege. I’ve learned so much from each of my classmates, and they are all individuals that I admire. Being chosen as valedictorian of my class means that somehow throughout the program, I’ve made a positive impact with my peers. And that means a lot.

To be honest, I’m a bit nervous about writing my valedictorian speech because I want it to be memorable. It is an honour, and it’s something that really tops off my whole experience. What a terrific way to end my GEMBA journey.

The GEMBA program takes its students to different economic hubs around the world. Any highlights from that adventure?

There were so many great moments from our travels around the world. A highlight for me was the site visit at the Casa Marin winery, outside of Santiago, Chile. We learned about the challenges and successes of the winery, which is set in a beautiful location. We were treated to a wonderful meal and a lovely selection of wines; more importantly, we saw a dream come true. We had the opportunity to meet Maria Luz Marin, the first female winemaker in Chile and the founder of the winery. She shared with us her story and her passion shone through. Her dream was to establish a winery in Lo Abarca – an area of the country she had fond childhood memories of. Against the advice of industry experts and despite the unfavourable climate of the area, a winery was born.

Today, Casa Marin produces award-winning wines that are sold throughout the world. Obviously, there were struggles along the way, both personal and financial, but she kept going. It was a lesson that if you follow your heart and your passions, you will make the right decisions in life. The detours along the way are simply part of the journey.

“If you follow your heart and your passions, you will make the right decisions in life.”

Any other highlights from your journey?

There are so many highlights. There’s the time we spent in Maboneng, a district of Johannesburg, South Africa. Once a rundown area, known for its poverty and high crime rate, this has become a vibrant part of the city. Artists have established galleries, people are moving back, restaurants and cafes are bustling, and real estate is booming. All of this was possible because a community shared the vision for change.

Another highlight was the site visit at Li & Fung Limited in Hong Kong. In addition to going behind the scenes to look at the logistical complexities of operating on a worldwide scale, we were really impressed by the company’s corporate culture and focus on its people. It is a culture that empowers its employees.

Those are a few of the highlights from the places we visited. Having said that, what I cherish the most are the small moments we experienced together as a class. They will help keep us connected for life.

Why is it important to get immersed in the local business and cultural environment?

They say that travel is one of the best forms of education. I have worked in the airline industry for most of my career, so I’ve been fortunate to do a lot of travelling. The GEMBA program introduced me to parts of the world I’ve never experienced, and allowed me to see those places through a different lens.

The GEMBA program is built around the insight that we live in a connected world. It gives you a real sense of what it would be like to live and work in other places. It shows you the local practices, and the subtle differences between how business is done in one country versus another. To appreciate the program, one should approach it with an open mind and with a genuine sense of curiosity.

“The GEMBA program is built around the insight that we live in a connected world.”

Any advice for someone considering the program?

The journey is what makes the GEMBA program unique. My advice for someone considering the program is to jump right in and to get comfortable with discomfort.

Once in the program, the key is to focus on the relationships you’re building along the way - whether it’s with your classmates, your professors, the professionals at the networking events, the thought leaders invited as guest speakers, or just the people on the street.

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Convocation 2017
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