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Study Abroad Course Connects Students with Alumnus

It’s the “Where’s Waldo?” part of life at the Merrick School of Business: Where in the world will our students go to next?

This past winter break, the destination was Santiago, Chile, where a group of 20 marketing students, led by Prof. Dennis Pitta, took their Global Field Study course to its logical end. And they didn’t go just to sightsee: One of the unique aspects of the trip was the opportunity to meet Daniel Lazo Varas, CFO of Sodimac—a home improvement store that rivals Home Depot. Lazo is a 2001 University of Baltimore graduate of the M.B.A. program. 

Greta Stetson, B.S. ’12, M.B.A.'14, talked to The Merrick Exchange about the Chile trip and her impressions of her fellow alumnus and his monumentally successful company, which generated 5.3 million (U.S) dollars in 2012 via its 135 stores and more than 33,000 employees across four countries.

Merrick Exchange: What did you find most interesting about Daniel Lazo’s position as CFO of Sodimac?

Greta Stetson: I think that what I find most interesting is that Mr. Lazo approaches his role in a non-traditional way. He spends more time out of the office than in his office. He exudes the active leadership culture entrenched at Sodimac.

M.E.: What was your reaction when you learned that the U.S. home improvement giant Home Depot failed to profit in Chile, and that Sodimac ultimately benefited from Home Depot’s inability to break through culturally?

G.S.: American-centric thinking isn’t always a proven equation in any other culture. I was taken aback by the power that Sodimac wielded. In the end, the customer spoke and their preference was Sodimac’s ability to be customer friendly and culturally relevant. Home Depot’s expansion into Chile failed because they did not adjust their business practices to what the Chilean people wanted or needed.

M.E.: Tell us how Lazos’ M.B.A. experience and your M.B.A. experience are alike.

G.S.: It was funny -- we have had some of the same professors. It was interesting to learn that he wanted to stay in Chile and pursue his M.B.A. He chose UB because it was online, it was American and it was [accredited by] AACSB. From what I understand, UB had the first online AACSB-accredited M.B.A. program in the world. He also mentioned that the program helped him develop stronger leadership and managerial skills. In many ways, I agree with him in terms of my experience. I find that the M.B.A. has empowered me to lead others while providing the advanced skill to understand a business’s infrastructure.

M.E.: What was your biggest takeaway from your visit with Daniel Lazo and Sodimac?

G.S.: “Leadership by example,” not “leadership by decree.” I envision, when I move up in an organization, emulating his management style. It is a great way to motivate others to be on board with the company culture.

M.E.: What thoughts can you share about your overall experience with the Global Field Study to Chile?

G.S.: Studying abroad is a worthwhile experience. You learn to put education in perspective and as an American you learn to value the things you take for granted every day.





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