I was so convinced about the INSEAD Executive MBA that I didn't apply to any other programme.
Adriano Pimentel Machado

Adriano Pimentel Machado

Nationality/Passport: Brazilian Year of graduation: 2022 Current Role: Country CFO, Novartis

Fun fact about yourself: 

I love irony (British humour) and out of the workplace it is hard to keep me on a serious conversation.

Undergraduate School and Degree: 

Mauá – Escola de Administracao (Brazil) and IBMEC (also in Brazil)

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Mentoring, which is something I have done frequently since graduation
  • Sports in general, running being my number #1 option

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? 

Not sure it qualifies as extracurricular activity, but having high-quality (and sufficient) time with my family is my biggest achievement. During COVID times, life became more difficult, which was exacerbated by an intensive Executive MBA and demanding work requirements. 

Under these circumstances, being able to be close to both my kids, who are at the amazing ages of two and six years, is something I dearly value. 

Academically speaking, it is my ability to use the things from the EMBA classes in my day-to-day work which speaks about the quality of INSEAD and my commitment to it.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?

I am proud of many things in my career, with many angles to it:

  1. My dream, since a very early age, was to live in different countries. As I got into graduate school, I added to that a desire to work abroad. As of today, I have had the privilege (and quite some luck) to work in five different countries including Brazil, which is something I am extremely proud of.
  2. From a business performance angle, it was to manage the previous year in a successful way. The year of 2020 was the most challenging for any CFO (probably true to many functions). I managed high-risk situations due to low liquidity in the market where major customers went bankrupt, and new market dynamics that turned the healthcare sector upside down. Nevertheless, my company delivered strong results despite all of this.
  3. From a leadership perspective, I managed associates across Novartis worldwide and locally promoted talented individuals consistently, which was my way of responding to how leaders have treated me, so I can make a strong contribution to the future of my company.

Who was your favourite professor at INSEAD? 

It feels almost unfair to make this judgement, as many professors were fantastic. However, having to pick one, it would be Philip Parker, our Marketing professor.

Being a finance person, I always had a low energy for marketing classes. My experience was that marketing was a lot of theory. Excluding specific areas such as Porter’s forces, it seemed to have low substance behind to sustain any argument. With Phil, that went to in completely different direction.

From day one, we had down-to-earth marketing theory that could be understood by anyone (even finance folks like me). The cases covered a wide range of business topics, allowing students to reflect on how one’s company manages similar situations.

In addition, he made it possible to add marketing theory and cases (including lots of AI concepts and logic) in such a clear way that I enjoyed every minute of it.

Last but not least, Phil’s way of presenting things (almost actor-like) makes it difficult not to be engaged during the entire class, waiting for the next “DISASTER” (sorry, inside joke).

Why did you choose this school’s Executive MBA programme?

It was a recommendation. As I decided to embark on an EMBA, I shared this with several colleagues at work. Two of them were INSEAD graduates, and recommended it because of the network and high-calibre faculty.

Their view was that INSEAD is not an academic experience, but a life-changing event that rocks one’s beliefs to the very core.

This feedback, combined with my interest joining a truly international programme that does not consist of 80% local individuals (which is true for most Executive MBAs) made it an easy choice. I was so convinced about the INSEAD EMBA that I didn't apply to any other programme.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your EMBA and how did you apply it at work? 

I will highlight one that I used in my company and a second one that is something I reflect on quite a lot for in my day-to-day decisions.

A) It would be how to implement a strategic review with real impact to the business, from creating the need for a change down to implementing it effectively. I had to use this with my company in early 2021. 

Three big learnings from the Strategy class that I used: (1) If you do not have a competitive advantage, do not compete; (2) Strategy is about tradeoffs; and (3) Strategy cannot be a "dog’s dinner", one must focus. This is all seems easy to say, but without a proper framework it would be a nightmare to me.

B) Leaders are obsessed with controlling and monitoring results and paying bonuses based on it. However, in reality, we only control the process, so that is where the management energy should be.

Give us a story during your time as an Executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? 

Prioritisation, prioritisation, repeat.

COVID, despite all the sad aspects of it, allowed me to have daily time with my kids — something I never had consistently. I promised myself that regardless of all the challenges, which were overwhelming in the last year-and-a-half, I would stick to this family time opportunity.

During the four initial months of 2021, I had to go through an internal audit, run a strategic review of my company, and take an ad-interim position. All of this combined with INSEAD. My way to ensure that I could stick to my promise of being close to my family and deliver on the company needs was a continuous exercise of prioritisation and focus.

My day usually starts early around 5:30am, with my two-year old son saying “Papa, Papa.” We will play Lego or train tracks (no electronics allowed), it is really just about us. On the days that my wife is up early with him, I will exercise which is such a mood lifter to me.

As the work day unfolds with team calls, I often realise that my attention span goes down after three to four hours. That's when I take a “mandatory” 30 minutes break for a walk, just listening to music, a podcast, or anything that gives me a mental break. 

At 7pm we have family time again, and I would say that with 80% success rate I manage to stay with my kids during dinner and put them to bed together with my wife.

It is about prioritisation. I must say that there is little “play time” in the sense that I had to give away the time where I would do things I like to do on my own. But this decision was not difficult.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an Executive MBA programme? 

Do not apply for an Executive MBA without sufficient experience. I first considered doing an MBA five years ago and, for a variety of reasons, it did not work out. 

Although surely it would have been great, I am convinced the value for money would not be the same as it is today. The main value of the programme is not academic, but about your inner life, leadership, and dealing with frustration — things that come with maturity.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school?

Myth: After a certain age, one cannot learn as fast as young individuals.

Reality: That might be true from an academic perspective. Conversely, learning at approximately 40-50 years of age is broader and deeper. It touches your beliefs, your perspectives in life, and your dreams; there so much more than academics that probably at a young age one would never be able to learn. 

In short, going back to school at a later stage of life gives one much more value.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? 

Aaron Estes. He is this brilliant person with a completely different background from all (or most) of the class. Still, he is able to make so many relevant reflections on business as if he was exposed to all kinds of positions and the traditional business environment. His openness for deep discussions about all walks of life and humbleness towards everyone is not something you see every day.

What was the main reason you chose an Executive MBA programme over part-time or online alternatives?

I just thought part-time would be not as challenging from a personal perspective. As I mentioned before, the reason I chose INSEAD was that I knew it would not only be an academic programme. I was not looking for theory; I was looking for something that would challenge my beliefs to the core (as colleague had suggested). In my view that hardly can be done in a part-time or online programme.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? 

I have two career dreams:

1) Continue to have a growing career that is inspiring and fun, being able to live in as many different countries as possible.

2) Start an NGO or foundation that can have a lasting impact on people with disadvantaged backgrounds and/or minorities.

Testimonial originally published on P&Q.