Michelle de Arruda: Leveraging Cultural Awareness for Business Development

As a Brazilian, I come from a culture that strongly values family over individuality, relationships over competition, security over risk and living in the moment over planning for the future.  I come from a small but rather diverse family with Italian and Portuguese roots and was raised with great encouragement to always question my assumptions and look at things from a different perspective. I am a naturally curious person and I have always sought out opportunities to experience different cultures. While searching for my roots or just trying to fulfill my enthusiasm to explore new horizons, I have lived in or traveled to four continents and approximately 80 countries. Yet, there are still so many places I want to visit and re-visit that I believe my ideal job would combine my technical background and project management skills with my cultural adaptability.

My passion for making the world a better place first began during a 6-month AIESEC (Association des Étudiants de Sciences Economiques et Commerciales) project for the development of the Ternopil region in Ukraine. During my undergrad internship in Ukraine, I began to cultivate my cultural awareness and I was able to see first-hand the devastating impact of human negligence on our environment. For example, due to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, we had to use a Geiger radiation detector at the grocery store—the detector beeped once while I was shopping in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital.

In addition to my consulting experience, I served for four years as a voluntary teacher and two more years as a board director for an NGO focused on education in Brazil. During that time, I worked in some of the most disadvantaged communities in São Paulo. I think I learned more through that experience than I was ever able to teach my students. My visit to the township of Khayelitsha in Cape Town has reminded of the impact organizations are capable of having on people’s lives. I was especially touched by the work of the NGO Dance for All, whose work in tearing down post-apartheid walls through art has given many youths the opportunity for a better life. While in Cape Town, I had the unparalleled opportunity to tour Robben Island, guided by a former political prisoner. This reminded me that we should always question our assumptions and never believe that we’re doing enough of our share to help others.Later on, while doing my MBA at Darden, I consulted for a social healthcare venture with the Mediterranean School of Business team to address a lack of government assistance to Alzheimer patients in Tunis, Tunisia. I also traveled to South Africa where I learned about the challenges facing the region’s energy sector.

I believe that all of these experiences combined with my passion for building a better and more sustainable world has led me to where I am today—ready to fly to Mozambique as an MBA Without Borders Advisor. After my Mozambican adventure, I plan to continue my career as an agent for change through sustainable development and global engagement projects. To accomplish that, I intend to combine my background in Environmental Science and my MBA skills to join inspiring teams that are helping to create a more sustainable world. I imagine I will meet amazing people along my journey and hope that I am always perceived as trustworthy, fair and respectful. I hope to continuously build lasting relationships and go to work every day feeling like I’m making a difference by enriching lives.

As an MBAs Without Borders Advisor, I have the opportunity to leverage my skills to open the next door in fulfilling both my personal and career aspirations. I’m definitely anxious and of course a bit apprehensive to embark on this new chapter of my life – it will be my first time living in Africa, my first job after receiving my MBA, and I will be joining a brand new team, but I trust Nelson Mandela’s wise words will guide me on this new endeavor:

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.

Michelle de Arruda

Michelle de Arruda is a Supplier Development Advisor in Mozambique through the MBAs Without Borders program. She received her MBA from the Darden School of Business (UVA), where she focused on innovation for sustainability. Michelle seeks to utilize her business and environmental science background to work with local communities across the globe in fostering sustainable development. An intrepid traveler, she has lived and worked in Brazil, Ukraine, UK, US and visited around 80 countries on four different continents.

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