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Dividend Spring 2013 : Page 40

Carla Freitas, MBA ’11, is a rising star in Citi’s Global Engagement Management Associate Program Far Reaching in the Far East S he probably doesn’t own a wide-brimmed bonnet and cer-tainly doesn’t have a Conestoga wagon. But Carla Freitas, MBA ’11 , is blazing a trail in Asia that caused her to be dubbed “the pioneer” in the Korean press. Last fall, the country’s 10 Magazine named her one of 20 expats to know. Freitas is part of a hand-picked group in Citi’s Global Engagement Management Associate (GEMA) Program, tailored to develop the future leadership of the company through cross-business and cross-country rotations. Her pioneer label stems from being a woman in the male-dominated Asian financial sector, and from bringing fresh ideas to the business. “When I arrive in a new country or start working in a new department, I spend time understanding the business,” she says. “But I’m also in a good position to question the status quo. Outsider views promote innovation.” The GEMA Program affords Freitas an outsider’s look at many aspects of Citi’s business during her rota-tions. As part of nine months working with the cards business in Seoul, she contributed to the launch of the company’s Facebook page and the opening of new benefits programs for cardholders. The role gave her a lot of independence and helped her make many connections inside and outside Citi. “I was energized by the nature of my projects, and because of the buy-in they required, I gained exposure to top execu-tives. It was an eye-opening experience,” Freitas says. She also acquired firsthand knowledge of working across cultural boundaries, especially through developing a process for Citi to cre-ate more credit card benefits partnerships worldwide. “Negotiating discounts over the phone and via email with a partner abroad can be very different from negotiating with a partner who’s in front of you in Korea,” she says, in terms of both the contract and cultural nuances. “Last year, we improved how we developed overseas partnerships, making the process even more efficient. As a result, we’ve been able to see a lot of growth in our partnerships.” Part of Freitas’ success came from the cross-cultural communication training she received during a pre-rotation stint at Citi’s New York headquarters. One takeaway for the up-front Freitas was that she should adapt her style in Asia, where communication is less straightforward and workplace hierarchy is more important. She also learned the value of developing trust to be successful in that environment. Fortunately, Freitas already is comfortable boundary hopping. During the Brazil native’s two years in American business school, she studied for a semester in Switzerland and spent seven weeks in China through the Multidisciplinary Action Projects (MAP) course. It was then that she saw her future career path. “MAP was my first time in Asia, and I was fascinated. That experience changed my whole outlook.” Freitas’ current GEMA Program rotation helps her bridge her love of Asia and her Brazilian roots. She has embraced a new challenge lead-ing the Latin America desk for Citi’s trade business in Shanghai, acting on behalf of the bank as the intermediary for imports and exports between the two regions. She’s excited for what the coming year will bring. “When I first started my post-MBA job search, I envisioned doing business between Brazil and China. Now I have the chance. I can contribute to Citi’s growth in China while making progress toward my long-term goal of doing international business.” The opportunity to experience so many aspects of Citi’s business now is positioning her to be a global leader later. “The learning experience I gain when I switch from one country to another or from one part of the banking business to another is immense,” she says. “I look forward to leveraging what I’m learning throughout my career.” —Amy Spooner PHOTO COURTESY OF CITI CHINA 40 DIVIDEND SPRING 2013

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