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June 24, 2008

Working Abroad, Staying Connected

Jose Maria Urquiza Gonzalez '83
Managing Director, Global Commercial Bank, Citi
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When I graduated from Columbia Business School 25 years ago, I interviewed with a number of international banks and chose to work at Citi. I’ve been with the company ever since, and now I’m running the Global Commercial Bank in Latin America. I took the job because I wanted to work in different parts of the world: I spent 1 year in New York and then was in Spain, where I’m from, for 12 years. For the past 12 years, I’ve been in Mexico.

I cover 22 countries, and of course, every market has some differences. For me, the most important thing about working internationally is to be flexible: Respect the people and the differences between countries and cultures, and adapt to each country’s way of doing business, rather than expecting the country to adapt to you. Spend time understanding the local market and getting to know the people, and then you can become effective.

A common mistake some people make is thinking that because they know the language they can do business in that country. Language, although relevant, is not the critical ingredient. Many other things are even more critical, such as understanding the legal system, the key players and what moves the country or its people.

I think it’s important to keep learning. I was only at CBS for two years but the experience gave me a new perspective on international business. Since then, I’ve benefited from interacting with people from various industries and backgrounds, and the people I’ve met through CBS’s Alumni Club of Mexico have played a big part in expanding my world.

I’ve always thought that what happens at universities is important and that business education should not be confined to the two years you pursue your MBA. In business, it’s easy to get so focused on what’s going on around you that it’s easy to lose track of other things. That’s why it’s refreshing to hear about other methods and practices, including ideas from the world of academia, and then to try to apply some of those ideas to my work.

Jose Maria Uriquiza Gonzalez is the club leader of the Alumni Club of Mexico.

Comments

by Todd Rubsamen | June 25, 2008 at 10:37 AM

Jose, good to see you comments and I agree whole heartedly we are students for 2 years but its the lifetime of activity and learning from fellow alum that sets CBS apart from other business programs. It was good seeing you at the leadership summit and i look forward to seeing you again next year.

by paulina yick | June 25, 2008 at 1:30 PM

Jose, It was good sitting between you & Marcos in the summit. I also believe in continuous learning. Did u finish reading the books that you bought at the Columbia bookstore when you were in town I look forward to seeing you & him in the Pan Asia reunion Paulina

by Ricardo Ortiz de Montellano | June 25, 2008 at 3:36 PM

José María, congratulations for the article and thank you for your enthusiasm and support to the Alumni Club

by Roni Plotkin | June 25, 2008 at 3:56 PM

Jose, THX for sharing your thoughts in this blog. I agree about the importance of understanding local legal settings and key players. It was great seeing you again at the summit. Hope to meet again soon, perhaps in Mexico...

by Woo Taik Kim | June 25, 2008 at 7:21 PM

Your writing is impressive, very easy to ready following rhythem of words. I agreed on many of the points you mentioned such as understanding of host country's legal system, and human relation, etc. One thing that I would like to add is the factor of New York life that we all enjoyed and learning during CBS courses.

by Rich Selverian | June 25, 2008 at 8:25 PM

José , thanks for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate the fact that CBS is providing resources such as Public Offering to keep us connected and learning from each other Hopefully, we can come up with even more ways to keep us learning from the best B-school around (like the web access to on-campus lectures). See you at next year's summit.

by Jose Maria Urquiza | June 30, 2008 at 8:39 PM

Todd thanks for your comment. The New York Club is a reference and a guide for the rest of the clubs. So keep up the good work so we can always look into the next stage.

by Jose M Urquiza | June 30, 2008 at 8:47 PM

Comment for Paulina and the rest I did finish to read both books. They are both amazing and highly recommendable. So run to the bookstore before they get out of print. Mindset and The How of Happiness. They helped me a lot to understand many things which I sort of knew but was not absolutely sure. The How of Happiness talks about 12 behaviours or actions you can easily implement. Jose M.

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