As recently as a few years ago, the INSEAD Alumni Association Brazil (IAAB) was not what you might expect to find in São Paulo, a bustling business centre, the main hub of Latin America and the third largest city in the world. Only a handful of scattered alumni were members, a few events were held annually and the INSEAD spirit was confined to small social circles made up of friends from ‘back in those days’ in Fontainebleau or Singapore.
Since INSEAD is about building new bridges, a profound transformation began. From 15 members, the IAAB grew to nearly 500 in only three years and despite a temporary crisis (alumni migrating to other countries), there is no sign it will stop there: with a steady increase in the number of Brazilian students joining INSEAD, IAAB is shooting for the stars. Another chapter of the Association started in Rio de Janeiro, the second most important business centre in the country and home to many alumni, to help create a stronger footprint in the country.
A team that has grown to 30 volunteers comprising directors in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, club leaders and supervisory board members, has all together made this dream come true.
The new IAAB
When it comes to a Business School such as INSEAD, students have contact with colleagues from their own promotion and two others – one before and one after. All of that happens very, very fast, during 10 intense months of what can only be described as the discovery of a much more interesting world, before transitioning into the post-MBA life.
Which means there is another way to look at it: the time spent at INSEAD might well be the first part of this amazing journey. The Alumni Associations worldwide can provide the environment for people to keep on connecting and building those bridges with other promotions, both professionally and on a personal level.
Fundamentally, the INSEAD Alumni Association Brazil has focused on bringing alumni together with stronger cross-generation networking while keeping the INSEAD spirit alive and serving as an important source of interesting information and an environment where people with similar professional interests can meet. This helps to market INSEAD as the most active alumni association in the country among all elite business schools, and leads to more candidates applying. These new students will contribute to an even stronger network, creating a virtuous circle.
The professional angle
Once a month or so, the IAAB hosts a Speaker Lunch, with important guests who range from successful alumni, to INSEAD professors such as Horacio Falcão, thought leaders, business leaders and even politicians. These events average 100 attendees of alumni and their guests and are held in elegant restaurants in the heart of São Paulo.
Another interesting initiative is the Private Equity group, which holds regular meetings – typically afterhours on weekdays – a few times a year, bringing both domestic and international speakers from the PE market and creating a setting where people can meet, share and learn.
The Entrepreneurship Group also provides an active community for those interested in the subject, such as founders, investors and potential business partners. They organised and hosted their first bootcamp led by INSEAD Professor Mike Van Cleave in 2014.
Finally, another very important initiative is the Career Services group, which helps to collect and market job opportunities to the local INSEAD alumni network. They also help bring valuable insights from the market for those going through or planning a career transition. Just recently, a webinar brought together leaders of top executive search firms in the country to address the current job market in Brazil. The speakers also provided advice on how to plan and execute a career transition as well as expounded the benefits and potential pitfalls of different strategies.
The social part of life
The INSEAD spirit lives strong in Brazil, with frequent social events in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro bringing alumni together in a relaxed and fun environment. Our alumni not only meet old friends but also make new ones, living up to the INSEAD tradition of turning life into a constant celebration of itself.
The Wine Club gets together several times a year to host superb wine tasting events at a specialised bistro guided by a professional sommelier – resulting in the perfect combination of good wine, good food and good friends.
Random dinners, a tradition at INSEAD are now being organised once again in Brazil, bringing back those moments of getting to know others across the table and sharing an evening together, either by hosting or attending a dinner at someone’s home.
The Informal Events Club organises happy hours and other social gatherings with drinks, food and music, and is responsible for the Global INSEAD Day (GID) celebration. GID 2015 was a huge success, bringing over 100 people from all generations and different countries together for a delightful afternoon in São Paulo with authentic Brazilian food, drinks, music and even a “live wall”, displaying in real time pictures from all over the world posted on social networks with the #globalinseadday tag.
What is next?
The INSEAD Alumni Association Brazil wants to bring together every single alumni; participants from the MBA, EMBA and other degree and executive programmes as well as joint courses with Schools such as Fundação Dom Cabral, creating an even stronger INSEAD network in the country.
MBA and EMBA candidates should also become familiar with the Alumni Association even before their year at INSEAD, which will help them understand what to expect when and if they return to Brazil. They could even stay in touch with the Association during the programme.
Finally, it is by building a stronger INSEAD community with both the local and the global components in mind that we believe we can deliver greater impact on whatever we do and become that one place where anyone who ever sat in an INSEAD class can feel at home.