Gustavo Henrique Martins dos Santos

Gustavo Henrique Martins dos Santos
Class Year
São Paulo, Brazil
Areas of Interest
Community and Culture

Prior to starting, what were you expecting the program to be like? How was it different than your expectations?

Before coming to Columbia, I thought the MBA would focus around finance, and in mostly connecting the academic world with business practices. I believed I would learn from my professors and guest speakers, and discuss my learnings with my classmates. This was all true, however, there was much more than I was expecting. Not only did Columbia provide me with academic expertise, it also allowed me to put into practice my learning through clubs and professional events. Moreover, by being co-president of Pangea Advisors and CFO of Microlumbia, I was able to take advantage of faculty support and see the impact of my learnings in real companies. Finally, although finance is extremely strong in Columbia, there are many other interesting subjects. Among the many options, I dedicated my time at Columbia to improving my skills in social entrepreneurship and operations, and to discover more about healthcare and public health.

How did the cluster and team approach effect your experience?

Both the cluster and learning team experience were fantastic and challenging at the same time. There were more than 30 different nationalities, not mentioning the extremely diverse backgrounds of my classmates.

Being in a learning team with 4 different nationalities and people from 5 different career industries was challenging. We didn’t always agreed on the course of action and, sometimes our cultural behaviors were unexpected to other team members. But I believe this really contributed to my growing experience. Working in such a diverse environment improved my teamwork skills.

I made a lifetime of friends from my cluster. Not only from my cluster, but also from the whole class. We worked together, traveled together, and partied together.

When did you first feel the impact of the program?

Right on the first week, during the orientation. We spent one week having activities to prepare us for the MBA and to help us get to know each other. I remember the first day when I was walking to school at 8am. The Peer Advisors greeted us with air balloons, loud music, cheering, and dancing. The temperature was below 0 but they looked very happy in inviting us to this new experience.

How has your MBA experience translated into growth in your career?

I can divide this question in 2 parts; numbers and titles, and learning and experience.

First, my wage is twice as much it was before. My company gave me the opportunity to head one department and to develop and head a new business unit.

Second, I will be able to apply many of the learnings I got from school to my business. At the moment, I don’t know exactly how that is going to roll out, but I developed so much academic and professional knowledge during my MBA that I believe it will successfully drive my career.

What advice would you give to a new student coming into the MBA program at Columbia Business School?

There is no time to dedicate yourself fully to everything that is happening at Columbia. Between classes, clubs, professional events, recruiting, social activities, travels, etc., you will miss a lot of things. Don’t worry! Choose what you want to focus on and take advantage as much as you can from it. In addition, use all the resources Columbia has available for you. Faculty members are willing to guide you and to help you in your growth. Take advantage of that.

Which faculty members(s) influenced you the most, and how?

Columbia has many stars as faculties and I had an extremely positive experience with almost all my classes (there is always one class that is not exactly what we are expecting, but overall, the academic program was better than I was hoping for).

Although I had an impactful experience with most of my professors, three of them were particular helpful. Medini Singh (I took Operations Strategy, Supply Chain Management and Service Operations Management with him) guided his classes with deep discussion of supply chain and operations challenges. His approach required students to deeply understand the cases, work through the financial and operations numbers and think broadly of the impact each decision has on the overall market.

Bruce Usher (I took Finance and Sustainability, Climate Finance and Impact Investing Seminar) opened my eyes to new market opportunities. We discussed how to manage a business focused on both the return to investors and social and environmental issues. During our classes, Professor Usher used real company cases to demonstrate both successful and unsuccessful businesses, and deeply discussed their financials, including capital raising, international expansion, operational challenges, etc.

Finally, Daniel Guetta (I did Business Analytics II) is such a passionate and good professor, that I felt the desire to understand more about business analytics. His teaching encouraged me to pursue knowledge in a subject that I wasn’t really interested in before.

Which corporate visits helped enhance your experience?

I did many corporate visits during the MBA. Mostly on big companies such as Amazon and Itaú (one of the largest banks in South America). However, the most impactful visit was to Baan Dek Foundation, an NGO in northern Thailand that helps low income families to achieve a better life. I spent one week working onsite with this NGO and it improved myself in so many ways. First of all, I helped the organization develop a financial model and several social impact measurements as a guide for growth and expansion. Second, working with such a small company helped me understand challenges faced by business owners. Finally, I had first hand experience in understanding the needs of low income communities and how to work with them to improve their lives.

What has been your favorite part of the program?

Managing professional clubs. As co-president of Pangea (pro-bono consulting club focused on social enterprises in developing economies), I experienced the challenges of running a company. I was involved with strategic decisions and operational activities, such as sourcing clients (about 40 different companies per year), educating students about the projects, sourcing students (about 150 students per year), overviewing the projects and managing the team who worked with me. As CFO of Microlumbia (Impact Investing Fund), I had the opportunity to manage the daily finances, make investing decisions, recruit new members, and perform financial analyses and due diligences.

Running clubs are the same as running companies, but with less risk and more support from Columbia staff and faculty. Definitely the best learning experience.

What was the most challenging part of the program, and how did you handle it?

FOMO (Fear of missing out). There is so much going on at Columbia that we cannot participate at every single activity even if we want to. There were so many classes, guest lectures, travels, and social events that I wanted to attend but I missed. In my opinion, what was most helpful to deal with “overscheduling” is to talk to people and gauge other students’ views and experiences. Many students have taken the same classes or engage in the same activities I wanted to do, and they were very helpful in the process of prioritizing my experience at Columbia.

Did you take advantage of the Career Management services offered to all students? If so, how did the office help you?

I was sponsored by my company and I did not recruit while at Columbia. However, I did take advantage of CMC. I discussed with them long term career plans and how to build my network to achieve my long term plans.

Are there any other experiences you would like to share?

In addition to clubs, classes, and being a TA, I also helped Professor Carri Chan in writing a case. I worked with Professor Chan and Caseworks to write a case about a real business to be used in the Operations Management core class.