Gabriela Galvano

Gabriela Galvano is an executive MBA graduate of IE Business School in Spain and team leader of Green Light, one of the teams shortlisted in this year’s FT MBA Challenge with UK charity World Child Cancer (WCC). For the challenge, her team needs to write a business plan that shows how WCC can enable Bangladesh become self-sustainable in treating childhood cancer. There are two MBA students from IE on her team, based in Bangladesh and the US, and one MBA student from Monash University in Australia.

Ms Galvano studied electronic engineering in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she grew up, and has participated in a course at Yale School of Management that focused on competition law for students in the Global Network of Advanced Management, a consortium of 27 business schools. She now works as a consultant for a Portuguese telecommunications regulator.

In her spare time, Ms Galvano enjoys inline skating and singing in a choir.

1. Why did you enter the FT MBA Challenge?

I think it is an excellent way of using my skills for a good cause. Additionally, it is a great opportunity to learn. We are a group of four, from different countries and backgrounds and we complement each other pretty well. One of the biggest difficulties we have is arranging a conference call due to the time zones: Australia, Bangladesh, Portugal and the US, but thanks to the group’s attitude and flexibility we are managing it. We have also fixed 11:00 GMT as the most suitable time slot to meet our mentor, so I can fit the calls during a lunch break.

2. What academic achievement are you most proud of?

To have won the dean’s recognition for the top student at the Yale School of Management course on competition law. This course was a big challenge for me for several reasons: it was a new area for me, it was online, my group-work mates were in China and the US, and because of several trips I ended up attending classes from Beijing, Buenos Aires, Düsseldorf, Madrid and Shanghai.

3. What would you do if you were dean for the day?

I would collect first-hand feedback from students, alumni, companies, professors and administrative personnel. I would like to have their views on the areas the school could improve on, as well as their proposals to prepare an action plan.

4. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?

To believe in yourself and build a strong self-esteem. I was given this piece of advice as a kid and as an adult, and although I think it is very important advice, I would like to add the importance of listening to others. I’ve seen many people with such a high self-esteem that they forget their listening skills.

5. What is your biggest lesson learnt?

I am a single child, I went to private schools and always followed the rules. I grew up in a protected environment, where many things were taken for granted and risk-taking attitudes were not promoted. Therefore, I consider that the biggest lesson I had to learn was that if you want to grow, you need to take risks.

6. What do you hope women in business will achieve?

I hope we achieve the point where we don’t need to talk about a gender gap.

7. How do you deal with male dominated environments?

When I studied electronic engineering, there were only two girls in a group of 60 students. When I started working at Siemens Argentina, I was selected for the annual young engineers programme and I was the only woman in a group of 35. Although, I am used to working in a so-called male dominated environment, I am tempted to say that I deal with it in a positive way. However, I also recognise that there are complicated work environments for women, even if I was lucky to work in open ones.

8. What is your favourite business book?

The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic by Dan Ariely. I read this book before doing my MBA and loved the mix of psychology and economics.

In 2010, my husband met Dan Ariely in Lisbon and he was so enthusiastic about his speech that I followed his advice and started reading his books. I first read The Upside of Irrationality and then Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. What I liked most about these books was that they opened up my mind to behavioural economics. In a very entertaining way, Dan Ariely showed me why human behaviour could be illogical. This has given me a sense of awareness about the impact that behavioural economics has on business and that many times we underestimate this science or simply forget about it.

9. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?

I would not enrol onto a PhD programme after five years of work experience in the corporate sector. In the end, it was a very theoretical subject - probably due to a combination of the topic and timing. Having had difficulties finding a practical application [for the PhD], I moved away from academia [before finishing]. Now I would do it differently, overall it was a very positive experience.

10. What are your future plans?

Reconnect to my network in Portugal, since I am moving there from Germany after being away a few years, and push forward a couple of new projects. I am in the middle of a career shift and while I reinvent my former job (by exploring areas where I can take advantage of the MBA), I am also working on the business plan for a new initiative.

Read about the other team leaders:

Onyanta Adama, an MBA student at Lagos Business School in Nigeria and team leader of Ripple

Ingrid Marchal-Gerez, an MBA graduate of London Business School and team leader of Cut out Cancer

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