What are they
Field Vice President, McDonald’s
What were your early years like?
I grew up in Brazil. My mother was an educator, my stepfather was a judge, and my father worked for Nestlé for 38 years, retiring as the vice president of supply chain for Brazil. I studied industrial engineering as an undergrad and then got my postgraduate degree in business administration, with a specialization in marketing, at Fundação Getulio Vargas.
What was your first job?
During my undergrad years, I worked as an intern at Nestlé, rotating every six months through a different area: human resources, finance, most of the factories, distribution, sales, marketing, and so on. It really helped me understand how a company works.
How did you go from chocolate to consulting?
I started my consulting career at Bain & Company in Brazil, focusing on Internet startups in the late 1990s. The long hours were tough, but I liked the fast pace of the work and the different challenges that arose.
What drew you to Strategy&?
The people. I met some great people from the firm while I was doing my MBA at Kellogg School of Management. But when I interviewed, I was honest about my intentions: I said, from the start, that I only planned to be in consulting for two or three more years, learn a lot, and leave. They said that was fine. But of course, I ended up liking the work more than I expected and I stayed at Strategy& for almost seven years.
Why did you leave?
It was a tough decision, because I loved the company, I loved the people, and I was still learning so much. I’m very proud of my time there, and I never want to lose my ties to the firm. But I had to think about my long-term ambition, which was to manage a business and to one day become the CEO of a big company. When an opportunity arose at Walmart, to be the senior director and the head of strategy for Latin America, I decided to take it.
You’ve worked with some major brands, among them Nestlé, Walmart, LATAM Airlines, and McDonald’s. What do you like most about working with big companies?
There are great opportunities for transformation. If you make a real significant change at McDonald’s, for example, you don’t just change the company; you change the industry. I’m really proud to be a part of the innovation and transformation happening at McDonald’s right now. I only started my position as the field vice president for the Dallas office a few weeks ago, after training for six months in the field, but now I oversee about 1,600 restaurants — across most of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, and the northwestern region of Arkansas. By 2020, we plan to update every restaurant with a new look and feel. It’s what we call the Experience of the Future. We’re improving operations — being more efficient, being faster, and, most important, bringing people better food. I’m really excited to lead my team and try to bring such an established brand into its next level of success.
Are there any lasting lessons from Strategy& that apply to your work today?
Yes, definitely. I learned how to understand a business really fast — how to understand what levers you can pull and push to change things. I learned how to influence change management, by really focusing on three or four things that can move the needle. I also learned how to make fast decisions that are based on good data without suffering through “paralysis by analysis.”
What’s your leadership style?
I try to bring purpose to what we’re doing. I really think people should believe in not just what they’re doing, but why they’re doing it. Once we’ve got that, I trust and rely on my team. I want people to push back on me, ask me tough questions, and bring up their own ideas. I can’t count how many times I had an idea and somebody pushed back, so I rethought it and changed my mind [for the better]. Most important, I think of my team as my family. Work should be challenging, but it doesn’t need to be painful. It should be fun.
Who or what do you admire?
Ayrton Senna, a Brazilian Formula One racer who died in 1994, was a leader who has always inspired me. He was successful not only because of his talent, but because of his effort and his principles and his character. He was a great pilot and a true team player.
Outside work, when and where are you happiest?
With my wife, who’s a prosthodontist, and our 4-year-old son. He has changed our life, and it’s fantastic. I also play competitive poker. Last year, I got second place in the World Series of Poker circuit event in São Paulo, and I was ranked number 12 in the Brazilian Series of Poker.
How does poker apply to business?
Among other things, poker teaches you the concept of taking real calculated risks and thinking about the long-term value as well as the expected value of your decisions. But there’s so much to learn. I’m actually co-writing a book on how lessons from poker apply to business strategy with Andre Akkari, a world champion from Brazil.
How would the people closest to you describe you?
People usually say I have a lot of energy. I’m very passionate about the stuff that I do. I think that’s because I really want to make a difference. At the same time, people say I’m a down-to-earth kind of guy. I make jokes. I want you to knock on my door, walk in, and talk to me. You don’t need to be careful with me. You can tell me I’m wrong.
What’s your motto?
If it’s not challenging, it’s not fun — and it’s probably not for me.
This interview was conducted and edited by Jen Swetzoff, founder of Closeup, a content strategy and creative studio. She was formerly the deputy managing editor at strategy+business magazine.