Wal-Mart Brazil executive credits IMD experience

Marcelo Vienna of Brazil believes his Executive MBA at IMD earned back in 2001 served as the roadmap for career advancement with the world's leading retailer - Wal-Mart. He hasn't stopped utilizing IMD as a platform for knowledge. In June 2008 Vienna participated in the Orchestrating Winning Performance (OWP) program and he regularly engages in learning with colleagues from his Executive MBA class.

Vienna possessed a strong background in retailing, acquired in the start up of Wal-Mart operations in Brazil and in consulting with Accenture, prior to taking on his Executive MBA at IMD. But he wanted to take his career to a higher level and complete the circle of his development by working in an operational role. Upon completing his Executive MBA, Vienna was promoted to various managerial positions in Wal-Mart Brazil ranging from retail to human resources. He was recently promoted to Chief Operating Officer of the Wholesale Division. Vienna credits his Executive MBA at IMD for personal development and instilling in him the thirst for continuous learning. These two attributes have been pivotal for Vienna in his roles with Wal-Mart.

"The program helped me to better understand myself and my abilities," he said. "I was constantly challenged and exposed to different topics in the course of discussions with my peers and through the various assignments. Consequently, I was able to better learn how to learn. In a company like Wal-Mart, we need to always seek knowledge and new ideas, and IMD has been influential for me in this process."

Vienna was just 32 years of age when he started the Program for Executive Development (PED), a prerequisite for enrolling in the Executive MBA. The average Executive MBA participant is 38 years of age. Ironically, Vienna had the choice of enrolling in either the MBA or Executive MBA program at IMD. "As I had a newborn child at home, the Executive MBA gave me the flexibility that was necessary at that time in my life," he explained.

Discovery Expeditions to Ireland, China and Silicon Valley provided unique learning on global issues for Vienna. Seeing the successful Irish economic model up close through dialogue with stakeholders and visits to a range of companies in Dublin enabled Vienna to gain a perspective applicable to Brazil's current status as an emerging market. Vienna was able to see the importance of transferring company culture into a country culture in Shanghai. This correlates to Wal-Mart's recent strategy of allowing for localization of stores based on the country.

The Silicon Valley expedition was a source of career impact for Vienna through a deep dive into IDEO, one of the world's top product design firms. The deep dive focused on IDEO's methodology for brainstorming and rapid prototyping. Using the same process in his current role with Wal-Mart Brazil, Vienna developed the cash & carry, a type of operation within the wholesale sector in which goods are sold to professionals from a wholesale warehouse operated on a self-service basis. He is now exporting many ideas to the expansion of cash & carry in India.

"The hands-on assignments during the Executive MBA equipped me with tools that I could bring back home to Brazil and utilize at Wal-Mart immediately," he said. "Cash & carry is now in its third year. It has been important in fostering a culture of innovation for us at Wal-Mart. We need to grow it internally, but also venture into new challenges abroad, particularly as Brazil becomes more of a global player."

Running a model during the Executive MBA program based on low cost competition in which Vienna analyzed "profit or growth" and "cost or differentiation" dilemmas also offered deep insights. "My Executive MBA helped me understand how to run a cost efficient business that is relevant to the customer yet different than the competition."

From Discovery Expeditions to assignments and interaction with peers, Vienna feels the entire program gave him the tools to succeed in his current managerial role. In conclusion, he stated, "I would not have been able to take on the different challenges that I face everyday in my job had I not come to IMD."

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