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Get an International Perspective with an MBA

Cynthia Herrera Cárdenas

"My international experience in different roles has allowed me to grow as a person and as a professional."

General information:

  • Name: Cynthia Herrera Cárdenas 
  • Home Country: Mexico
  • Current Job Location: London, UK
  • Job Function: Principal Auditor, Corporate & Investment Banking
  • Industry of Work: Banking
  • Name of Company: BNP Paribas
  • Hobbies: Traveling, sports (swimming), dancing, learning languages
  • Degrees:
    • MBA in General Management, HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, Germany
    • Bachelor Degree in Financial Management, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Campus Ciudad de México, ITESM CCM
    • Master in International Business, Vlekho, Vlaamse Economishe Hogeschool

What did you do between undergrad and MBA?

I worked at Scotiabank Inverlat for three years in Mexico City as Basel Office Senior Manager in the Capital and Risk Management Department. I was responsible for the launch of the Basel Office department and the implementation of its respective projects. The Basel Office is responsible for ensuring the requirements of the Capital & Risk Management framework. This includes identifying and defining the necessary policy, business processes and systems requirements to meet the Basel Accord Regulation.

Why did you decide to pursue a Master/MBA degree? What was the “light bulb” moment you knew business school was in your future?

Before studying my MBA, I studied a master degree in Belgium and did an internship in the Netherlands. Following these enriching experiences, studying a MBA abroad again was one of my career and personal goals after having some work experience. I wanted to enhance my business skillset through new tools and management techniques to face organisation challenges and to get an international perspective on how businesses are handled in another country. Moreover, I was motivated to enlarge my international experience by studying in Germany which would allow me to broaden my cultural and intellectual horizon.

Please describe your current job and the skills you need.

In my current role as a Senior Auditor for Investment Banking activities, I am responsible for conducting audit credit assignments, making financial analysis and giving recommendations to different stakeholders of the Corporate & Investment Banking Divisions in order to improve efficiency and mitigate risks.

Some skills needed as an auditor are:

  • Organisation skills: Having the ability to multi task and being able to see the global picture, working within clearly defined and tight deadlines.
  • Goals set up: Being able to develop clear goals of what is required within the audit plan.
  • Continuous learning: being eager to cultivate a deep knowledge of banking regulatory changes, business strategy and competitive environment.
  • Affinity for problem solving: ability to exercise sound judgement for audit recommendations.
  • Communication and people skills: effective communication of business findings when presenting to the auditees. Ability to listen people, cultivate trust, being empathetic and adapt to a given situation. 

What did you learn or gain from business school that has allowed you to get where you are today (skills, internships, network, etc.)?

Studying at HHL helped me to develop a wider business perspective and a clearer understanding of the dynamics of doing business in Europe. In addition, it provided me with knowledge of international management and finance combined with practical consulting projects and internships which are an excellent complement to add valuable experience and that encourage to work in teams, apply strategic thinking that are essential in a changing and competitive work environment. 

What was your inspiration for pursuing your current job/career—why did you get into this particular line of work?

I have been always curious to understand how different cultures work and interact in doing business. For this reason, I wanted to complement my career working abroad. My international experience in different roles in the banking sector has allowed me to grow as a person and as a professional.  I get inspired of being part of supporting companies to finance big projects that promote economic growth complemented with internal controls and risk management and clear governance.

Your greatest takeaway from business school?

The greatest takeaways besides that I expanded my horizons in international business and that I got a good foundation of finance and business combined with a good mix of real case studies, and internship abroad is that I had the opportunity to develop my international mindset.

I really enjoyed being part of a dynamic and multicultural environment. Relationships with different nationalities taught me to understand about different cultures and values, and to interact with different working styles. When you work in a team, there are different ways of thinking on how to solve a problem, however the challenge is to put things into perspective and move forward as a team. In addition, the opportunity to learn another language enriched my personal development.

Is the job/industry how you expected it to be? If not, what’s the biggest difference?

I had previous experience working in the banking sector before I studied my MBA. The biggest difference is that after my MBA I transit my career from Risk Management (Mexico) to work abroad in Corporate Banking (Belgium), financing big companies in the Ports and Logistic sector and currently completing it with internal audit skills (London/Paris).

Every industry faces changes in a fast pace environment during its business cycle that is impacted with new regulations, technology and client needs. The curriculum of professors at HHL, come from the business world that allows to teach students with real business cases, including company´s visits that help them to understand the current business environment.

Describe any internships or other professional experiences you had while in business school and what you learned.

As part of the MBA, I participated in a consulting project where a team of 5 students recommended a strategic initiative to develop a joint-venture business model for a German film company. While doing the consulting project, I learnt how to prepare a business plan. In addition, I did an internship in Brussels at Fortis Bank in the Central Risk Management department. During my internship, I got experience on how to prepare credit assessments including financial analysis and calculation of profitability.

If applicable, what concerns did you have about going to business school and how did you overcome them?

When I decided to study my MBA abroad, I had several questions regarding the enrollment requirements (e.g., paperwork, pre-requisites) and the country´s lifestyle (e.g., housing, cost of living). I visited some MBA fairs and talked to some friends who already studied a MBA abroad in order to get their insights about my questions.

Did you take the GMAT exam and if yes, when do you think is the best time to take the exam (e.g. during the Bachelor or after practical experience etc.)?

Yes, it is important to take the GMAT exam after having some work experience.

Things you wish you had known when first starting to think about business school and a career in business?

Nothing in particular since I had a clear goal that I wanted to study a MBA and pursue my career in an international business environment. However, I would encourage people when they think about to study in a business school, to do research and to join the MBA career events. Don’t hesitate to contact the MBA career department and alumni to get to know about their experiences!

Where do you see your career taking you 10 years from now?

Life is a journey of full surprises with new personal and professional projects, however, it is important to direct your career goals. I would like to reshape my career in banking and get knowledge about a new business line in the future. After having experience in the European work market, I would like to set up a business related to export where there is an interaction between Latin America and Europe.