Meet The Colombian MBA Returning Home To Help Deliver FARC Peace Deal
After over a decade’s service in the National Police, Edinburgh MBA Jose Eduardo Gonzalez, has unfinished business in his native Colombia
When MBA students graduate, many go into consulting or finance. Some join Silicon Valley’s tech giants. Some even start businesses of their own.
When Jose Eduardo Gonzalez completes his MBA at the University of Edinburgh Business School in 2017, he aims to end over 50 years of civil war and bring peace to his native Colombia.
The Government of Colombia has been in constant conflict with left-wing guerrilla group FARC - The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – since its formation in 1964. This August, both sides reached a landmark peace deal after nearly four years of negotiation. But on October 2nd, the Colombian public rejected the deal, 50.2% voting against peace in a referendum decided by less than 54,000 votes.
Even so, Jose thinks Colombia is closer to peace than ever before. Its president, Juan Manuel Santos, was recently awarded the Nobel Peace prize for his efforts. And after his MBA, Jose wants to return home, drive change in Colombia, and help bring decades of bombings, assassinations and kidnappings to an end.
It’s the culmination of a life-long career in the Colombian National Police. Jose joined at 19, he was recruited by the intelligence service at 23, and has worked towards the FARC peace talks ever since.
Now a senior ranking official, in 2015, he was sponsored by the Colombian government to relocate to the UK for his MBA. And despite his diverse career experiences, it’s the MBA at the University of Edinburgh Business School that’s changed him the most.
What stands out from your experience in the Colombian National Police?
Everything that I’ve been a part of has contributed towards the peace talks between the Government of Colombia and the guerrilla movement, FARC.
Being part of this process of change has been very difficult. I’ve worked with people in strategic places in the Ministry of Defense and the government. And I’ve worked trying to prevent terrorist attacks from happening, experiencing extreme situations where peoples’ lives are at stake.
I’ve learnt many lessons about myself, about human emotions, and the importance of being part of the righteous.
What are your hopes for the future?
After my MBA, I have a commitment, and a responsibility, to go back to Colombia and make a significant contribution.
The referendum polarized the country. But maybe the result was something necessary to reach a broader agreement. We have an exceptional opportunity to do so. And the Ministry of Defense is already preparing for post-conflict stage. I think it’s something that definitely needs to happen.
In the long-term, I would love to do a doctorate degree. I’m doing my MBA dissertation now. Most of my classmates don’t like it, but it’s something that I really enjoy. Then, I would like to work as a consultant. I go for anything that could represent a challenge.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?
An MBA can open up a new avenues and provide new skills in any career.
My background is unusual, but an MBA can be suitable for anyone no matter their background. More than the obvious management skills it offers, an MBA is an interdisciplinary degree drawing from the fields of economics, accounting, finance, even sociology.
Why did you choose to study at University of Edinburgh Business School in particular?
I liked the opportunity of going on an MBA exchange – with the chance to go to Australia, China, Mexico, Spain, France – and the possibility of an internship. I’d always worked for the government in my country and I wanted to test myself in a totally different environment.
I was also aware of the reputation of the university as a whole. It’s globally recognized for research, development and innovation, and over 430 years old. Plus, Edinburgh the city, is regularly voted as one of the most desirable places to live in the world.
What should applicants think about when deciding to do an MBA?
Understand that it’s a process unique to you. If you know what you want, and you put everything into it, the MBA is something that could change your life in a positive way.
I would say that if you have the opportunity, don’t hesitate to do it.
How has your experience in the Colombian police prepared you for a career in business?
The main role of an intelligence agent is to collect information and support the decision-making process of commanders and politicians.
The leadership, teamwork and interpersonal skills I learnt from working with people under my command have already been useful in the MBA. I worked in high-pressure situations, and my job required a lot of analytical and problem-solving skills.
How have you profited from your MBA experience so far?
The MBA was a journey of learning about myself. I’m now wiser than before. And I’ve discovered that I love academic research.
Before the MBA, I had a lot of preconceived ideas which played a huge role in my judgement and my decision-making. With the MBA, I learnt not to let myself use previous assumptions in judging people. I’ve made very good friends from the private sector and I’ve learnt a lot about their respective industries.
To say the MBA is a life changing experience is a cliché, but it’s true. From all the experiences that I’ve had in my life, this was the one that changed me the most.