Alumni / April 26, 2021

Learning to Appreciate the Commonalities As Well As the Differences

Alejandro Prada , MBA '18

As the business world is growing more global, recognizing cultural differences and values is an ever-important skill. For Principal Advisor for Strategy and Corporate Affairs at IDB Invest, Alejandro Prada, not only celebrating our differences, but also recognizing what we have in common, is what truly fosters respect and open-mindedness and is the key to developing a global mindset. “Be mindful that there isn’t just one subset of cultural value, so that means being cognizant of differences. At the same time, there's an old German expression that says that ‘everyone cooks their eggs with boiling water’: so the moment that we recognize that there are differences, we also need to recognize that there are commonalities, mutual interests and things that bring us together” Prada states.

Prada started his career in the legal field in Colombia and traveled quite a bit before transitioning to international business in the U.S. “I started my career as an attorney in Colombia, working for an international company in Bogotá and Madrid. After that I worked for the government in Colombia, then I worked in Hamburg and Munich for a couple of years, before coming to the U.S. to work for an international organization. My focus has always been Latin America and the Caribbean in terms of countries I work with,” he states. At IDB Invest, the main private-sector multilateral development bank for the Americas, Prada's main role is managing relationships between IDB Invest and key partners and stakeholders in the development community. He states this job requires adaptability and a high tolerance for ambiguity. “I work in a multinational organization, there are many aspects that cannot be homogenized or centralized. There is a need to allow the teams and the people great latitude in the how. Meaning how to implement things. When you work in such an environment, you also need to be flexible. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions. You need to accept that there’s not a lot of black and white orders but a lot of shades of gray in how you shape your goals,” Prada explains.

Prada states one of the biggest challenges in working in such a multinational organization is that you need to be aware that you're dealing with regulations and values everywhere and that even smaller countries have autonomy in how they organize things. He recalls a story when he had to adapt to meet the cultural demands of a project in Haiti. “Our main negotiator went out of the picture for personal reasons. Understanding how important relationships and dealing with people that you understand and trust is to the Caribbean people, we changed the lineup of our team to better connect with the client…. Specifically, I took a greater role in the final negotiation, which was not the usual case, but it was based on learning how the client in this particular culture closed deals,” Prada recalls.

Prada was attracted to Maryland Smith because of its focus on leadership skills. He feels that building the global reach of Smith is a huge area of opportunity that he is excited to be a part of. Prada advises students and fellow alumni to always read and learn about different countries. “Pick up an international newspaper once a week, know what is happening in the global economy, even in countries that you don't know where they're located, and then get your geography straight. Try to expand your horizons, reading about several cultures because if you only think about the U.S., China, and Europe, you're missing a lot of nuances. There are booming opportunities in Africa. There is a lot of opportunity in Latin America. Southeast Asia has a thriving business network.”

The mission of the Center for Global Business is to connect the diverse members of the Smith School community to the world and the world to the Smith School. Through these global alumni stories, the center connects the Maryland Smith community with alumni who have successfully utilized a global mindset in their careers.

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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