"Throw yourself out there and go find out what really motivates you. And don’t be afraid of spreading yourself too thin: the more things you get involved in, the closer you will get to finding your true passion."
Felipe Lima, Brazil
Vice President of the IE Out & Allies Club
- Program studied
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a proud Brazilian and Spanish national, and even prouder EU citizen. I was born in Brazil and grew up in Vitória, a small coastal island town to the north of Rio and capital of the Brazilian State of Espírito Santo. I graduated from an American/Brazilian High School back in my hometown and went on to Law School for five years in Brazil. After that, I did a Master’s degree in international law in the Sorbonne University in France and in Columbia Law School in New York.
I am passionate about learning, working out, sailing, step dancing, video games and tv shows. Being an islander, I am fascinated with the ocean and the water, and you’ll often find me in a swimming pool or at the beach when the weather allows it!
Can you tell us a bit more about your professional experience, job positions and accomplishments?
After my Master’s in international law, I went on to train in two international law firms in Paris: Shearman & Sterling and Herbert Smith Freehills. After two years there, I got a job offer here in Spain for a boutique firm called Arias (now integrated into Herbert Smith Freehills Madrid), where I worked as an associate dealing with international arbitration and litigation for almost four years. I think my biggest accomplishment so far was qualifying to practice law in three different countries: I am a lawyer in Brazil, France and Spain! It was no easy task and involved learning everything again in a very short time frame. But I love challenges and, most importantly, the sense of accomplishment you get once you achieve what seemed to be the impossible.
What brought you to pursue an MBA at IE? How and why did you decide to shift careers?
Although I really like law, working with a legal system that uses a language other than your native one is constraining, since realistically you are probably only going to be hired by an international law firm to work with international litigation. Over the years, I came to realize that I wanted more than fighting over who is right and who is wrong. When you are litigating, your mindset is adversarial. You are not trying to create value for your client, you are simply trying to salvage whatever value you can from an ongoing dispute.
Although my cases were very interesting (I once worked on a case where we represented a Middle Eastern state in a dispute against American investors over the bombing of the investors’ gas pipelines by terrorists), I strived for more. I want to be an agent of change and to create value to my clients or customers and to the world. Hence my decision to do an MBA to develop my skillset and to study the fascinating world of businesses and how they operate.
What are some of the challenges you are facing due to this shift? How is IE helping you in that?
I believe one of the main challenges I face is convincing future employers that my experience as a disputes’ attorney is relevant and has taught me a lot in terms of attention to detail, stress management, client management, communication, pitching, etc.
I believe lawyers are at a disadvantage when it comes to proving our worth, since we are often seen as very conventional, non-creative and terrible with numbers. But if you think about it, lawyers have been one of the first professionals to analyze a huge amount of data (case law) in order to extract insights and convince decision-makers (judges).
IE has added so much value to me in showing that I can overcome these obstacles. I learned so much about who I am and what I can do. I found out that I do really well in finance, I developed my presentation and other soft skills and, most importantly, I learned how to work in teams of very different people. I realized that there is no obstacle I can’t overcome if I put in the work. I started my MBA without knowing what a KPI was and finished the core period ranking #1 in my section and #7 in the whole intake of 400 people.
What do you value the most at IE?
What I most value about IE is the diversity of its students, faculty and staff. I consider myself a citizen of the world – I’ve been living abroad for 8 years now and it was really a relief seeing all the different profiles of my fellow MBAs. We were 400 people from more than 70 different nationalities, coming from every imaginable background. I have learned so much from them: each and every one of them collaborated with a different point of view and helped me understand the full picture of how the world and international businesses operate.
What would you say to students that are thinking about shifting their career?
I would strongly encourage them to do so. It is scary: yes. You have a career, a good salary, security. You are set to keep growing, but you are not happy. Can you imagine doing this for the rest of your life? As the Americans say, you only live once (YOLO).
Throw yourself out there and go find out what really motivates you. And don’t be afraid of spreading yourself too thin: the more things you get involved in, the closer you will get to finding your true passion. In my case, I realized that I love finance, strategy and big data. Three fields I had very little knowledge about prior to starting my MBA.
Tell us more about the IE Out and Allies Club experience. How and why did you become VP of this club? What are your responsibilities as VP?
Growing up in a conservative environment in Brazil, I was never able to be myself and pursue my true happiness. It wasn’t until I moved to Madrid in 2015 that I started to accept my sexuality. With the help of friends and a very liberal city, I found my purpose in helping other LGBT+ people to overcome their fears. I joined the IE Out & Allies Club as a coordinator, but I knew I wanted to be in a leadership position. During this time I got really close to Ellis Lanaux, who is currently the Club’s President. We decided to run for President and Vice President and are now collaborating successfully in these roles.
Some of my responsibilities as Vice President are assisting in planning and executing events, confirming the financial viability, promote awareness and analyze data to suggest future improvements. It has been an amazing experience. The Club has taught me that sometimes the smallest initiatives can have the biggest impact. I was actively involved in organizing company visits, recruiting meetups, fundraisings, LGBT health seminars and many other events. We are now about to launch our LGBT@Work event, which will be the third-largest and longest-running business school LGBT+ conference in the world. I was able to network with LGBT leaders in Madrid as well as my fellow coordinators, which taught me that when you unite for a cause and you believe in it, nothing can break you apart.
What is the Club’s purpose and mission?
IE Out and Allies Club is dedicated to creating a safe space for LGBT+ individuals on IE’s campus and aiding in the professional development and growth of our membership. We focus on both the personal development of LGBT+ students and professional networking with organizations with strong track records of LGBT+ support. We are committed to engaging with our partners to make a difference in the LGBT+ community.
Our vision is a world where the club will no longer be needed as a platform to advocate for equality and inclusion, but rather as a mutual support and common interest group for LGBT+ and our allies – but, unfortunately, I believe we are still decades away from this, at least from a global perspective. Bear in mind that IE students from many different nationalities and often from countries where LGBT rights are weak or non-existent and some of them never had contact with an openly LGBT person in their lives.
Will you keep supporting the Club once you graduate?
Of course! I think it is safe to say that being involved with IE Out has been the most rewarding experience I have had in my life. You come to love the Club as you love your child and you want to see it develop, grow and succeed. I believe graduation will be to me like seeing your kid going off to college: you will let them blossom and become independent, but you will always be there to give advice and make sure that they keep going in the right direction.
Tell us more about the LGBT @ Work event. Why did you decide to give life to this event?
Back in July 2018, I knew my life was about to change. I had already quit my job and was getting ready to start my MBA in IE in September. A friend who studied in IE told me there was this very nice LGBT conference organized by IE students that I needed to attend. I told myself: why not? It was magical. I had never seen so many interesting people gathered together defending a value that was so dear to me. It was mesmerizing and I remember telling myself: next year, I want to organize this and I want to make people feel what I am feeling now. That is why I started to get involved with the club from the first week and already planning the event.
What is the goal of the event?
The goal of LGBT@Work is to promote the free exchange of ideas and provide a unique networking platform for LGBT+ students, professionals, and allies. Speakers, sponsors, and attendees from all over the world join LGBT@Work, creating a truly diverse, international, and welcoming learning experience.
How did you gather so much momentum? You set a record for the most sponsorship financing raised by a student club ever.
I believe it was all about the team. We had really engaged coordinators who believed in what we were doing and were committed to securing the best and most diverse slate of speakers ever. As we speak, we have distributed almost 300 tickets among participants, speakers and sponsors, an all-time record for student-led events in IE, reaching the maximum capacity of the venue this year: 330 people!
Thanks to the support of previous coordinators who ensured the reputation of the event as the largest LGBT+ Business School conference in the world, we had so many pictures, videos and data, which allowed us to engage with sponsors and speakers and market the conference. We hope that next year’s coordinators will capitalize on this success even more.
How was your personal experience with the conference? What were your responsibilities?
I chaired LGBT@Work’s speakers committee, ensuring that the conference would secure the best available and diverse speakers. This meant coming up with a diversity strategy and interviewing candidates. Often it happened that certain speakers were great, but inviting them would have been detrimental to the conference’s diversity strategy. We were finally able to secure 11 guest speakers from 10 different nationalities, achieving gender parity and representativity.
This was a great responsibility and a full-time job, to ensure that speakers understand the value proposition and coordinate logistics to guarantee success, as well as marketing to leverage on their reputation and boost ticket sales. I was also involved in marketing and press, such as the conference’s social media strategy, tracking reach, engagement and conversions with Google Analytics. Finally, as VP I oversaw and coordinated the work of all committees
What is your next step after graduating from IE? Where do you see yourself in the future?
I have been very fortunate to have been selected by IE to the long-exchange unplugged program with the Foster Business School of the University of Washington in Seattle. I will be taking three more months of classes from September to December and hopefully find a job in California afterwards, where part of my family lives. I am interested in jobs in management consulting, finance, marketing and analytics, and especially interested in the video games, tech and entertainment sectors.
Where do I see myself in the future? That is a very good question. I want to be a leader and inspire people. I believe in the long run I’d like to form a family and have my own business, or perhaps be a senior executive/CEO of a multinational company. And, needless to say, one that promotes and encourages diversity and inclusion!