ASSISTANT MARKETING MANAGER
Jose Quijada was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. He worked at a small software company as a Java developer for four years. "It's a good skill," he noted. "You learn to be patient, and you develop a process-oriented way of thinking." But, he said, "I got bored. It's very lonely -- just you and your computer."
He moved into project management and enjoyed being "closer to the customer." Then the CEO moved him into sales. "For the first two years, I didn't sell anything," he said. After that, the doors opened and he gained 14 new customers in 18 months. "I discovered I wanted to do marketing and sales. I had the skills-but I didn't have the knowledge," Quijada said. He decided an MBA was his next step. He and his then-girlfriend both applied to St. Thomas. When they were accepted, they quit their jobs, sold their car, got married and moved to Minneapolis.
His summer internship at a Twin Cities-based Fortune 400 company led to a full-time job after graduation. His wife also graduated in the Class of 2011 and got a full-time job in the Twin Cities. In a two-career family, Quijada knows that it's hard to predict where opportunity will beckon. For now, having worked his way through college as an usher, he's finding the theater-rich Twin Cities to be an excellent cultural fit.
Why did you choose to get your MBA in the United States?
An MBA from the U.S. or England is really valued because it shows that you're truly bilingual. I knew that if I couldn't get a job here after graduation, I could always go home.
What's the biggest difference between the business culture in Venezuela and the U.S.?
In Venezuela, networking is not such a big deal. To apply for a job, you just submitted your résumé, and if it was a good fit, you got the job. I applied online for an internship here, and nobody called. When I talked to Career Services at St. Thomas, they said, "Who do you know inside the company?" I gave my résumé to the husband of a friend who worked there, and they called back.
What are some other differences you've had to adjust to?
Latin America is not very punctual. We gave a party and we said, "Arrive at seven," and people arrived at seven. We weren't ready for them! In Latin America, lunch is our big meal. Here, people bring a sandwich and a bag of carrots. I have three pieces of Tupperware. If someone invites me to lunch, I say, "Are we going to a place that actually has food?" I take my full hour for lunch, and I get away from my desk. I take a mental break.
What are the main things that U.S. business culture has in common with Latin America?
Both in Caracas and here in the Twin Cities, I'm surrounded by hard-working people. Nobody is waiting for 5 p.m. to go home. We work hard and try to get results.
What advice would you have for someone moving into a different culture -- either from the U.S. or to the U.S.?
When you go to a new country, get used to their rules. Try to embrace the culture of where you are. I'm not going to change the essence of who I am. But if you can't open your eyes to what's around you, you should go home.
Poll: Would you let someone turn your yard into an edible landscape?