Mexico, with strong economic growth and a handful of quality business schools, is becoming an alluring option for international MBA students interested in regional opportunities.
"I wanted to get closer to the Mexican market, and see where the opportunities were," says Alain Rivet, a Canadian who is now finishing the Global Business Strategy MBA offered by EGADE in Monterrey and the University of North Carolina Charlotte Belk College of Business.
Just what kind of opportunities exist in Mexico these days? Take your pick from the growing IT and software companies in Guadalajara, to the steel and manufacturing in the north, to the growing construction, agriculture, and tourism industries throughout the country. As a whole, the Mexican services sector accounts for around 70 percent of the economy, which is more like Italy or France than other developing countries.
Other growth areas in Mexico include the aerospace industry, "new finance" services for low-income households, and the energy sector, which could benefit from untapped oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico or the country's huge wind power potential.
Only a handful of business schools in Mexico offer MBA programs in English, but those that do can be good stepping stones into the Mexican business world for international students.
"If you want to get to know Mexican business, it definitely helps because we study a lot of international companies, but also many Mexican companies," says Rivet. Of course, studying in a Mexican city also opens the door for many local networking possibilities.
Despite its location, however, students shouldn't expect to focus solely on Mexico. EGADE MBA Director Carlos Serrano says his program is designed for students, regardless of whether they are bound for management jobs in Mexico, elsewhere in Latin America, or indeed anywhere in the world.
"We have students that go right back to their countries, which are not necessarily in Latin America," says Serrano. "So, the program offers the regional business environment in Latin America, but the students are also fit to work in the global marketplace."
The "Mexican way"
At IPADE in Mexico City - which also offers a general MBA program - around 8-10 percent of students come from abroad. One of them is Alison Cassorla Steinman, who moved to Mexico four years ago from the United States.
Steinman applied to IPADE partly to sharpen her finance and managerial skills, and partly to make more local business connections.
"Even though I had moved to Mexico and worked with a lot of Mexicans, I wasn't really integrated into the Mexican business community, so to speak," says Steinman about her decision to apply to IPADE. "I thought going to a local school would help me."
Prior to starting business school this fall, Steinman has already picked up a few nuances of doing business in Mexico. One of them is the time and energy one needs to invest in cultivating personal relationships with business contacts.
"I know it sounds very cliché, but it is definitely true," says Steinman. "In Mexico, people really are very concerned about relationships when they are doing business with you. I don't think that is necessarily as true in the US."
"You cannot expect to go in and quickly sign a contract in Mexico; you have to go through a whole process and chat with a person," she adds. "It might take four hours."
For Rafael Gómez Nava, IPADE's MBA director, understanding the political, social, and economic context in Mexico is critical to grasping the "Mexican way" of doing business. This means that one needs to be aware of challenges like a lack of sound infrastructure in many parts of the country, as well as understanding the vast opportunities of new technologies in the emerging regional market.
"In Latin America, there is a huge population that is discovering new ways of satisfying their needs," says Gómez Nava. "And there is a huge amount of new products to be delivered in our countries."
Students headed to Mexico are advised to learn some Spanish, though for some programs - like EGADE and IPADE - it is not required. Language courses are usually available on campus.
For students that already speak fluent Spanish, the study opportunities broaden to include other Mexican universities, such as the Universidad de las Américas Puebla (UDLAP) and other MBA programs taught exclusively in Spanish.
For experienced managers, there are a few Executive MBA programs that provide a closer look at Mexican business. These include the Executive MBA in Mexico City offered by the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business; EGADE's Executive International MBA with the University of South Carolina's Moore School of Business; the ITAM EMBA with Tulane University; the OneMBA program; and the Global MBA for Latin American Managers offered by Thunderbird.
Photo: Martin Garcia / Flickr