“It’s always impossible until it is done”, the Lisbon Trek 2019

“No, there’s no way we can make it!”

It is the 2nd of September 2019. Excitement is overflowing in the Portuguese WhatsApp group! It is the first day of orientation week and the all-time high of seven Portuguese students in IESE MBA class of 2021 meet for the first time. Among all the enthusiasm of getting to know our respective teams and sections, our first look at the academic year calendar spurts a bold idea:

“The WebSummit 2019 dates perfectly coincide with the week that IESE has reserved for different treks! Let’s organize a trek to show our colleagues what Lisbon and Portugal can offer and attend the WebSummit!”

Put simply, the first reaction was not very encouraging! Though the idea was recognized as very promising, it was initially decided it was not compatible with the demanding first term calendar. Some of the doubts that arose were, “We have no time to prepare”, “How are we even going to get WebSummit tickets?”, “Which companies are we even going to visit?”, “Impossible! Maybe next year?”. The 2019 treks were to be pitched in 1 month and if anything was going to happen, it had to be arranged swiftly. At that point, it seemed impossible… only until it was done!

After many rejections, delays, setbacks and negotiations, we managed to secure visits to 3 amazing companies in Lisbon: Galp, McKinsey & Co. and the AGEAS group as well as a dinner with a Partner Account Executive of Microsoft Portugal. Moreover, with the important support of IESE Business School, we were able to secure 10 Partner Tickets to WebSummit 2019 and to participate in a IESE sponsored networking night! After successfully pitching the Lisbon Trek plans to our fellow colleagues, we were overwhelmed at the overall excitement and buzz around the action-packed plan we created. After a tough selection, a group of 10 IESE MBA students from 7 different countries and different career aspirations set out to join us in this adventure.

WebSummit 2019: the FOMO is real!

WebSummit was an intense, thrilling and inspirational experience. With more than 70000 attendees, 1200 speakers, 11000 CEOs, 1200 investors and over 600 different start-ups presenting each day, opportunities were always just around the corner. We got the chance to meet and network with executives from very different sectors and to show how IESE MBA students can help their businesses grow even further. Indeed, we obtained leads in established industry leaders such as Microsoft and Booking.com, up and coming enterprises such as Domo or Bidroom and very promising start-ups. This will surely prove very valuable in our job searches. With so many networking opportunities and exciting speakers around – Tony Blair, Werner Vogels (Amazon’s CTO), Brad Smith (Microsoft’s President), Guo Ping (Huawei Chairman) or Edward Snowden –, choosing which sessions and conferences to attend was really the hardest part of the event! From using AI to fight cancer to flying cars as a reality, the offer was very diverse and insightful. We allowed each participant the opportunity to build their own schedule and to be responsible for creating their own networking opportunities during the event, based on their own career goals. Overall, we left the WebSummit with refreshed perspectives on the future of technology and valuable insights to takeaway!

Truly amazing to be at Web Summit!

The company visits

After 2 intense and fulfilling days at WebSummit 2019, we had high expectations for our visits to Galp, McKinsey & Co. and AGEAS Group in Lisbon. Judging from the feedback we got from the trek participants and the companies themselves, our mutual expectations were widely exceeded. At Galp, Marta Geraldes, Head of the Corporate Finance Department, gave us an inspirational speech on how a traditional oil & gas company like Galp is strongly investing into transitioning into sustainable energy and challenged the group to actively participate in this endeavour. According to participant Sweta Desai “Maria Marta is incredible and an inspirational person to hear from. I had low expectations considering the my perception of oil and gas being a stagnant (and evil) industry and she completely blew them away.

Our visit to Galp was very fruitful and eye opening.

At McKinsey, we were welcomed by a team of consultants, managers and recruiters who took the time and effort to explain in detail what McKinsey’s value proposition and culture is all about, to answer, with no strings attached, any and all of our questions and who challenged us to apply and contribute to the way they help business’ grow and embrace digital transformation. We had the opportunity to discuss in depth their experiences, McKinsey’s values and recruitment perspectives. For those who are doing the consulting preparation, McKinsey was a particularly relevant company to visit. A special thanks to our classmate Said Abouali and alumna Rita Calvão, who took an important role in organizing this visit.

Finally, we had a memorable time at the AGEAS group, where we were received in an informal breakfast with the CEO of Life and Pensions – Nelson Machado – as well as Valdemar Duarte (General Manager of Pensions department) and Pedro Esperto (Senior Manager at AGEAS group). After this we continued our visit with the Strategy, Innovation and HR Departments, who provided valuable insights on the current challenges in the insurance industry and demonstrated how AGEAS is promoting intrapreneurship beyond insurance to motivate its employees and find new ideas for sustainable development. The cherry on top of the cake was a very inspirational talk with AGEAS’ CEO for Portugal, Steven Braekeveldt, who shared his very particular view on leadership styles and how to adapt to local cultures in driving business forward. According to participant Ana Paula Abreu, Steven’s approach was “inspiring as he walked us through his secret of reading fiction books as a way to better understand people.

Meeting with senior leaders at Ageas

Key takeaways

Overall, the Lisbon Trek experience wildly exceeded our expectations. In 3 days, we found the time to attend the WebSummit, visit interesting companies from different industries but also to tour around Lisbon and eat the local specialty (pastéis de nata), go to a Fado dinner and have cocktails with local IESE Alumni. When asked “What surprised you the most?”, the feedback we received from participants illustrates mutual learnings and take-home actions:

Talking to big companies with AGEAS and GALP and see what are their challenges. I had regular expectations about what they were doing and they surprised me quite a lot.” – Jaime Silva

I connected with founders, recruiters and companies that don’t recruit on campus. I learned alot about some companies that I would not have considered applying to before the Trek.” – Guilherme Klein

What surprised me the most was the extensive scope of innovation activities planned and/or executed by conservative industry players and their willingness to disrupt traditional industries. (…) I will also be applying to the companies I visited during the trek.” – Jiwon Lee

The collective feedback and score we received from the participants (8,59 out of 10) reassures us that the Trek was a success and that it deserves to be repeated. Indeed, we are confident that, next year, with more time and more opportunities for adding networking content to the trek, we will be able to put together an even better Lisbon Trek.

Looking back, when the idea first came up, the Lisbon Trek was just a mirage. Today it is a reality that has opened a new market and new opportunities for IESE students – a Trek where you can explore different industries always with innovation in mind and that makes you responsible for your own path and success. What was once impossible is now possible.

Great wrap up to our first ever Lisbon trek!

Hope to see you next year!

Sónia Vaz and André Dias (MBA Class of 21)

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Camille Chow View more

Associate Director, Admissions (MBA '16)

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