Sunday, August 9, 2015

Learning from a Very Successful Isenberg MBA Alumnus

Last week I was in Bogota, Colombia, to give a plenary talk at an international congress. The experience was fabulous. It was my first time in Colombia and the themes of the conference with a focus on logistics and supply chain management very much resonated with me.

Another reason that I was very enthusiastic in accepting the invitation to speak in Bogota was that not only was I now collaborating on Internet research with Colombian colleagues, including a doctoral student, Luis Marentes, but one of my favorite former MBA students, Roberto Sanz de Santamaria, who received his MBA from the Isenberg School, lives and works in Bogota.  He and his family had visited me in Amherst a few years ago. His family traces its lineage in Bogota to the middle of the last millennium  and its members have included diplomats and civil engineers that have made a great impact on the country. For example, his grandfather, Carlos Sanz de Santamaria, not only twice served as Colombia's ambassador to the United Nations, and as the mayor of Bogota, but, as a civil engineer, was instrumental to some of the major building and other projects in Bogota.

The conference was over at noon last Thursday and I had the best private tour guide - my former student Roberto Sanz de Santamaria. He had also been my Research Assistant and we had worked on supercomputing applications of network equilibria using the Cornell University National Supercomputer Facility. When I was at Cornell for several weeks one summer he joined me for a visit.

Roberto is a walking encyclopedia on the history of Bogota and Colombia, its challenges and dreams for the future. Roberto showed me the dedicated bus lanes to reduce traffic congestion and I also heard about the ambitious project that Roberto is involved in to strategize about private public partnerships for a subway in Bogota.We had many discussions over a delicious lunch at the restaurant, Madre, which is in a converted warehouse and is very trendy, complete with a band.

The food was exquisite - featured below. A special treat was our drinks in cups with characters in them.

Roberto told me about magical realism and the writings of Colombia's Nobel laureate in literature - Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Coincidentally, he had studied at the National University of Colombia which was the site of the conference. The theme of magical reality surrounded our afternoon and evening.

After lunch, we walked through the Candelaria district, which is part of downtown Bogota and is actually the historic Old Town. During our explorations and the magnificent images of buildings, plazas, and the people, I continued to  feel a sense of wonder - what would be behind the metal or wooden doors of the various buildings? I got to see beautiful patios, historical homes, and even received a tour of one of the ministries of the government. Often Roberto would usher me into a building and I would gasp in awe. The symphony orchestra was rehearsing before its evening concert next to the palace on a grand plaza where there were many Colombian flags flying. Friday was a national holiday. We visited the cathedral and the Santa Clara museum, which is a converted church filled with gold in which fashion objects are also displayed.

In the second photo immediately above I captured (but not quite fast enough) a man walking his two burros, which thoroughly delighted me. And, speaking of burros (and since with my Colombian collaborators, we are working on Delay Tolerant Networks and the Internet for rural areas, which can include other modes of transport (even burros)), another plenary speaker at the conference, Jose Holquin-Veras, told me about the biblioburros, a very touching story about a man bringing library books to children in rural areas of Colombia, which was even featured on PBS.

One of the high points was seeing the house in Candelaria with a plaque in honor of his family.
It was great to meet several of Roberto's close friends whose creativity and energy are truly inspiring. I was even welcomed into a home of an entrepreneur and artists, which was one of the most beautiful homes that I have ever been in. The graciousness and hospitality that we were welcomed with were extraordinary.
Above is the garden of the home, which is a jungle. The view from the top of the home was a panorama of the city of Bogota with the Andes as a backdrop. That image I will never forget (I had left my camera downstairs in the living room and am still regretting that).

We ended the evening with a delicious dinner of Asian fusion cuisine - simply heavenly.

What could make a professor happier and prouder than learning so much from a former student, who has had a fabulous career in management consulting as well as in finance!

The day was exceptional and I will never, ever forget it.