Leo Pozes had spent most of his career working in strategy in South America. A 2022 graduate of The LBS Sloan Masters in Leadership and Strategy programme, Leo describes how he reached a pivotal point in his career, and why that led him to take a year out to study at London Business School. Since graduating, his learnings throughout the programme and affinity for the city have led him to remain in London and take a position as Vice President at an international management consulting firm.
Until I joined the Sloan programme, my education and career were in South America. I graduated from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro with a degree in Industrial Engineering and then moved into a career in supply chain consulting. I grew in this role and developed close relationships with the Coca-Cola system of bottlers, developing several supply chain performance improvement projects in South America and Southeast Asia. The experience gave me a background in the beverage industry and because of that, I received an offer to join Coca-Cola Andina (South American bottler) to lead their strategic planning area in Brazil. This experience was a pivotal period in my career because, alongside strategy, I had the opportunity to lead other processes such as sales forecasting, revenue management, and go-to-market, widening my strategic and operational skillset. In 2020, I was promoted to the corporate area, leading the group's strategic projects, which exposed me to merger and acquisition (M&A) projects. Whilst my career, until that point, had focussed almost completely on working in South America, these international financial projects that were shaping the future of global business showed me that I wanted to position myself as a global executive in the M&A industry.
This was my main motivation for studying for a Masters, and how, after some deliberation, I chose London Business School. I knew that if I was going to become the kind of executive I wanted to be, I needed to be prepared to operate as a global professional. There were several reasons why LBS was my preferred choice. First of all, what I call the ‘London Factor’ was very important. This is such a metropolitan city and it was an obvious place to continue my career post-degree. Beyond the location, the School itself was also a huge draw. As part of my research, I spoke with three directors at Coca-Cola Andina, all LBS alumni, for their input on the community, courses, and recruitment process. I learned that the School is much more diverse than the alternatives I had considered and would encompass a far more senior cohort alongside whom I would be studying. Again, thinking beyond the programme, I knew that networking among these kinds of connections would be important for my future career.
The LBS Sloan Masters has been running for over fifty years and I often believe that those who join the programme do so intending to discover themselves. I’ll admit that this wasn’t my original aim. When I arrived, I had very specific goals – to work within mergers and acquisitions and poise myself as a global professional. I spent my first two months laser-focused on networking and driving myself towards these objectives. However gradually, I allowed myself to explore and experiment with new things. I worked on a business plan for a tech start-up with two friends and networked with people across several new sectors. I finally understood that my profile was well suited to value-creation initiatives in the consulting and private equity spaces because of my business background. These became formative experiences, and the insights about consulting I learned on the programme were influential factors in my decision to change industries and advance my career in London.
The programme gives you so much exposure to new industries and sectors that even without thinking, you widen your perspectives. The business plan I worked on was in a completely different industry to the ones I had spent my career working in, and without the Sloan programme, the idea would never have crossed my mind. It’s important to realise that the programme isn’t just about the theoretical and academic side of education, it also helps you to understand yourself better and teaches you how to position yourself for your future. An example, part of the Biography elective taught by Nigel Nicholson consisted in preparing your Pecha Kucha, a type of presentation in which you present 20 slides, each for 20 seconds of storytelling. You come away from these assignments with a deeper understanding of yourself and realising what you want from life. These were transformative and I now know myself much better, both as a person and as a professional.
The modules and electives throughout the programme were challenging and we all learned so many practical skills. This really is saying something when you consider the seniority and experience of the cohort. Unlike many other colleagues on the programme who focussed on increasing their strategy and leadership experience, I chose to deep dive into the finance electives. Although challenging, I really enjoyed them. Private Equity & Venture Capital with Florin Vasvari was a mind-blowing experience and in my top electives, alongside Mergers, Acquisitions and Alliances, Negotiation and Bargaining, and Paths to Power. The last two should be mandatory courses for every Sloan fellow. Another course that was important to me was Strategy with Jessica Spungin. Given my background in strategy, it was a joy to study my favourite subject with my favourite professor. She was also my supervisor on a summer project for a Corporate Finance Advisory boutique founded by a former Sloan Fellow. The objective was to develop a strategic analysis of the mergers and acquisitions industry in Europe, with the opportunity to receive guidance and feedback, both on the project and on your career trajectory. Jessica has become a true inspiration for me even beyond the classroom.
The programme, and LBS as a whole, play host to diversity unlike I’ve ever seen before. One factor that enriched the programme is that it intentionally creates groups that motivate diverse thinking. My very first group allowed me to work alongside fellow students from Japan, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, India, Kazakhstan, and Brazil – a wide range of nationalities, genders, and backgrounds. We all had different ways of thinking, and of course at first, this brought debates and disagreements. However, through sharing ideas and developing trust, these conflicts teach you how to work with different cultures and motivations, and how to understand differing commitments. The programme is also diverse in terms of seniority and I had the opportunity to observe the way different leaders behave. This exposure to people who have built their leadership styles from a variety of careers has made me feel more confident in my ability to sit at tables and have my input valued. Yes, the course has imbued me with a solid technical perspective, but I also feel more prepared to face new challenges and empowered to deal with risk and uncertainty.
Undoubtedly, the programme is one of the most intense but equally rewarding experiences I’ve been through. It’s this networking, not just within the programme, but also with those studying other programmes at LBS and the wider alumni network, which make the experience. Sloan fellows often just mingle amongst themselves, but I made a point to make the most of being around a group of dedicated professionals and I encourage anyone on the programme to do the same, as it’s such a unique opportunity to broaden one’s horizons. The education at the School is a collective experience and the pedigree of the Sloan, joined with the internationally renowned London Business School brand, has also helped me to create connections beyond the alumni network. Whether I’m speaking with old contacts or forging new relationships, having the backing of these two revered brands has opened many doors. They have helped me get in touch with new firms, and people have been excited to introduce me to their networks when they realise that I have bolstered my career by associating with Sloan at LBS.
I believe that facing the unknown is an important way to grow – and while I could have continued to climb the ladder at Coca-Cola, I knew I had reached a juncture that called for change. Taking a year out of work to focus on myself, to study and grow as a person and a professional, was undoubtedly the right choice for me as it has truly moved my career. Since graduating from the Sloan programme, I have landed an incredible job at an international management consulting firm that I am thrilled to bring value to with my technical and leadership background. And although I did not find the role through the programme unlike many other fellows, Sloan was still integral to becoming a successful candidate by improving how I pitch myself, exposing me to new industries and better networks, and creating a more direct path for how I want my career to continue. Every step of the way, LBS was preparing me for the next stage of my career. The skills and processes I learned on the Sloan programme are always at the front of my mind – either directly, as I make strategic, business decisions, or as part of a new intuition that is helping me to plan my next steps in life.