In July 2003, I put college on hold and moved to Brazil to serve my church as a full-time missionary for two years. Brazil was my assignment. If I’d been permitted to choose a location, I would’ve ended up in Central America or Spanish-speaking South America. Spanish is useful, right? A lawyer in my family, in all seriousness, even told me that it was too bad that I’d be learning Portuguese.
I walked the streets in towns most American tourists and business people will never see: Lençóis Paulista, Dourados, Maringá, Presidente Prudente, and Bauru. Take a look on Google and you’ll see that these cities range in population from 70-350 thousand, way off the 11 million municipal residents of São Paulo, or the 20 million in its metro area. Nevertheless, I met some of my best friends and the world’s kindest people. When my time as a missionary was up, I realized that I had developed a deep appreciation for Brazil, its culture and people, despite never visiting its most popular tourist destinations or experiencing its most vibrant entertainment.
As an undergraduate at Brigham Young University, I studied International Relations and worked as a Portuguese instructor. I set a goal to attend the very best full-time MBA program I could get in to and took a job upon graduation that I decided would help me achieve that goal. Isolated in Utah, Brazil was becoming less relevant in my professional life.
Everything changed in 2011 when I left my job to enroll in the Wharton MBA/Lauder MA dual degree program. A two-month summer immersion took me back to Brazil where I witnessed what seemed like 50 years of progress in under 10. In 2005 there was a popular drama airing in Brazil called America counting the tales of numerous Brazilians that would do whatever it took to emigrate to the United States for a better way of life; that show was no longer on TV; the very concept had expired. Employers in Brazil are searching for qualified talent like never before. With the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016, serious momentum promises to continue for many more years. Not only is Brazil home to the best opportunities for Brazilians, it’s home to the best opportunities for young talent anywhere!
The requirement: Portuguese. Relax, we’re not talking about Mandarin here.
Brazil is widely regarded as the most livable of the emerging economies. It’s got its challenges, but it is home to people of many ethnicities and embraces capitalism and democracy. When it’s afternoon in the United States, it’s afternoon in Brazil. And the opportunities are widely available if you know where to look. The next time you and 100 friends apply to a single analyst position in California, remember there’s plenty of Brazil to go around.