Meet Rui Francisco, a successful Nova SBE alumnus, in an exclusive interview where he talks about his journey and his different experiences with different cultures around the world and how that has been important for him professionally and personally.
What are you currently doing? And what is the most rewarding characteristic of your career?
I’m a Director of PepsiCo’s European eCommerce team. This means that I work every day with colleagues in key European markets to develop the strategy and implement the plans for PepsiCo to sell its products with online retailers and platforms. The most rewarding characteristic of my career has been the opportunity to work with different countries and learning from their people – how Americans communicate, how Germans are structured and fact-based, how Russians are straight to the point. The list goes on, and the great thing is that I can learn a bit from different cultures in my day-to-day job.
What encouraged you to live abroad? Why New York City first?
One of the things that I love the most is adventure. Adventure, for me, is something that is challenging but also beautiful, even magical. Living in a city like New York always felt to me like a great adventure. First of all, getting the opportunity to live there is a challenge of its own. And, once you get there, the city keeps bring you new challenges and opportunities if you’re up for it. I arrived in NYC during the economic crisis that started in 2008, and starting a career there, with a soft job market, was one of the challenges I had to endure. However, the city also has a beauty that is unique to it. The amalgamation of people, cultures, events, seasons, smells – the list is endless – can be overwhelming for some, but for me always felt like the defining trait of New York’s magical character. I’ve always loved that.
Who or what experiences had an impact on your career path?
Starting my professional career as a consultant with McKinsey was very defining for me. I learned a set of skills and developed “work muscles” that I still use every day. From problem-solving and modeling to frameworking and storylining, the consultative approach has always been with me and has proven to be very valuable in every professional experience I have had.
What do you know now that you would have liked to know when you were graduating?
I would have liked to know that there is a strong recognition of the value of not focusing only on the academic side of one’s studies in some countries. For instance, in Germany, it is very common for university students to also work in corporations. This approach is invaluable for students to solidify their learnings and get more clarity in which business areas they want to focus on at school. During my university time, students would just go to classes, do the assignments, and take the exams. There was not really a defined model in place to combine studies with work and get real-life experience. I encourage students to get out there and learn as much as they can from the real world and combine those learnings with their academic experience.
Why this area of expertise? What did you bring with you that helped you on this path?
Since 2015 that I’ve been focused on eCommerce at PepsiCo. Before moving into eCommerce, I was working in a Sales Strategy position, and not everyone in the company was on board with my objective of moving into eCommerce. At the time, online sales were still a small percentage of overall consumer goods sales, but I knew it was the future and that slowly but surely, more and more shoppers would start buying their food and beverage products online. I was one of them myself – we had to be ready. The unfortunate situation of the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly accelerated the importance of being present in the online market and shoppers will keep growing their interest in ordering food and beverages online.
Which skills have you acquired with your academic experience, and what skills have been vital for your career?
The most important skill I have acquired is the ability to continuously learn and regard myself as a learner. Learning should not stop once we graduate from school. Life and work will keep throwing opportunities at us that we’ll only be able to seize if we learn new capabilities and develop new muscles. It’s one of my fundamental and permanent objectives (not just a New Year resolution type of thing) always to have something new to learn.
How did you land your first job after graduating? What steps did you take, and what advice would you give to those starting out?
After graduating, I started working in consulting at McKinsey & Company in the Lisbon office. However, I had already had the opportunity to intern there the summer before graduating. I got that internship because I was proactive. I was proactive in reaching out to McKinsey (I didn’t wait for campus recruiting), and I was proactive in preparing for the case interviews. It’s a very simple thing but being proactive is one of the most important habits one can have. If you want to learn more about it, I recommend reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, where being proactive is the first habit.
What memories from your time as a Nova SBE student do you hold dear?
The memories that I hold dear are many, but they always have the same common element – my friends and colleagues. From many late nights doing group assignments and studying together for exams to great (and frequent!) parties, the great people I have met at Nova SBE are still part of my life today.
What advice can you give our current students?
You’re now studying in one of the most amazing university campi and most inspiring communities – use it and enjoy it as much as you can.