“You Have to Understand a Market Before You Enter It”

Shanghai module of the IESE Executive MBA

27/05/2013 Madrid

Ágata Lozano

Ágata Lozano’s life has always been linked to the business her family has run for four generations in the La Mancha region of Spain. Although she has always been at liberty to choose her own path, the Executive MBA ’13 student on IESE’s Madrid campus says that a sense of vocation, combined with sentimental attachment, led to her decision to carry on the family tradition.

"At first I planned to study industrial engineering but I realized that I didn’t want a purely technical career so I studied law and business studies in Madrid and Dublin with the idea of getting a broad and realistic picture of the business world. I could have chosen a career that had nothing to do with the family business but, given the massive international expansion under the third generation, it seemed the ideal environment in which to develop professionally. The family links did the rest."

As soon as she graduated, she worked in all the departments of the organization, seeing it from every angle, before ending up in the department of finance and exports in a business that now does 95 percent of its business overseas.

"The third generation did a great job once they became aware of the local market’s limitations. I had the good fortune to spend 10 years continuing this work. I also had the chance to extend my studies in San Diego (USA), which opened my eyes to other cultures. But after a decade in the company, I felt the need for something new. I said to myself: now what?"

IESE's EMBA: the best option

Lozano’s first contact with IESE came in 2010 when the school visited La Mancha to meet executives in the region. "After that first encounter, I continued to be very interested in IESE and kept in contact with various professors who recommended the EMBA program, given my profile and my knowledge about the sector."

"Before deciding to join the program I studied it in depth and what interested me was that, while I knew a lot about my sector, I knew practically nothing about other industries and I saw that the program could broaden my outlook and teach me about cases and problems similar to my own. The IESE EMBA offered me this perspective, as well as a huge number of tools, not to mention the prestige that comes from developing top executives over 50 years," she says.

Shanghai: a lesson in life

In March 2013, the EMBA program on the IESE Madrid campus held a one-week intensive module at CEIBS in Shanghai in order to give the participants a closer look at the Chinese business and socio-political context. For Lozano, the most interesting aspect of the module were the sessions and the contact with people. "We got some sense of the reality of the country, the geopolitical and economic aspects as well as the business milieu. I have a greater understanding now why they are different, why they approach work differently," Lozano says.

"Because of my job and our expansion in Asia, I’ve worked with China for many years but I now realize that I now have a better idea how they are, how they think and understand them better. In the West, we work in an active manner, we always try to anticipate. By contrast, in the East they are more reactive and reflexive. They have adapted progressively and carefully. Seeing and understanding these differences is a fundamental lesson in life for any executive who wants to expand their business. Understanding how things function in a given milieu, how they are done, how they breathe, all this is fundamental before moving into it yourself," she says. "It’s been a profoundly enriching experience which has given me a lot of food for thought and I’m sure that in future it will be extremely useful for our business."

"It has increased my self-confidence and I now believe that with hard work and enthusiasm anything is possible. Our short-term goal is to expand our product range in order to get closer to our clients and increase our international presence. There is scope for it and a great desire to achieve it."