“I went to Vlerick a skilled analyst. I came back as a confident entrepreneur – first in my corporation, and then launching my own business.”
After seven years as a successful supply chain analyst, Silvia Ferreira hit a ceiling. And she knew that to go further, she needed the broader perspective that an MBA would give her.
She says: “I knew I wanted to do more – but to create a new path for myself, I needed to gain new skills and refresh the ones I already had.”
From her home in Mozambique, Silvia checked out full-time MBAs at business schools across Australia, North America and Europe… but Vlerick stood out.
“Vlerick was a perfect fit. It has links to several large, well-known companies from all over the world. It ranks really well. I loved the fact that Vlerick’s teaching combines academic and hands-on learning. I also thought that if I’m going to be in Europe, it would be interesting to live in the country I first visited outside Africa. Brussels has a great location, with easy access to the rest of the continent,” she said.
She was also impressed with Vlerick’s selection process, adding: “It’s about the person, not just their grades and experience. They want to hear your story.”
Silvia joined classmates from 19 other nationalities – and formed a network that continues to support her today.
At Vlerick, she gained confidence as she increased her knowledge. And with study trips to China, the USA and Europe, she broadened her thinking and began to better understand different perspectives and approaches.
She says: “It was a great learning opportunity for me to see how different people – from different nationalities, backgrounds and disciplines – approached business.
“Vlerick did a fantastic job of not only giving us the academic components we needed, but the professional and social ability to take our careers to the next stage too. I learned how to apply global solutions to local problems.
“The MBA gave me a broad view, but it also went back to basics – it helped me to keep in mind what the ultimate aim was.
“My generation wants to create an impact. This is our non-monetary reward – because it can’t all just be about salary. We want to make the world a better place to live.”
When it was finally time to return to Mozambique and her company, Silvia couldn’t wait to put her new skills into action. She says: “I was full of energy and fresh ideas – and I was promoted.”
In fact, Silvia became the youngest manager in a company of over 5,000 people – and her first new challenge was delivering a $1bn infrastructure project, spanning two countries.
Silvia says: “It was a huge challenge for the company. If I had not had the Vlerick experience, I would have found it much more challenging. The MBA helped me to keep in mind what the ultimate aim was – even though I was managing hundreds of contracts.”
It also helped that she could call on her network of fellow alumni and Vlerick professors after she graduated. She says: “There were some unique challenges and it was great to be able to talk these things through with my mentor.”
About a year after Silvia returned to Mozambique, her company was acquired – and she took the opportunity to take another big leap – into founding her own company.
She says: “I had a dream to build my mum a house, but I didn’t have the money to hire a big company to do everything, so we had to do it ourselves. I put a group together, bricklayers, tilers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers… individual skills to work as a team.
“We organised it all ourselves - I think the project management course from Vlerick helped with that! And it went quite well.”
Silvia noticed that finishing houses was a big problem in the market. She says: “There’s a boom of middle-class people who are getting ready to own homes. They see nice, stylish houses on social media and they want that themselves. But the finishing of a house can be an issue, it can be expensive and time consuming.”
She continues: “So once we had the knowledge, the tools, a network of suppliers and workers, I thought, why don’t we do this for more people? And that’s how my company was founded.”
Silvia’s business – Cosini - isn’t simply about building Instagram-ready homes. They’re doing great things for communities and the environment too. She says: “Our vision is to take resources and materials and use them to create better living conditions in our communities.
“We look for innovative construction solutions to tackle the global warming risk posed by housing, reducing the carbon emitted in the construction process.” Running eco-friendly operations has been on Silvia’s radar since her time at Vlerick.
“All the organisations we visited shared their aims for becoming carbon neutral and using renewable energy. It was clear that this is where business is heading. Great organisations care about climate change and sustainability.
“We are looking for simple and innovative improvements. We want to become more and more green as we go along. We need to be prepared for the future.”
The company is currently trialling a brick that’s made from 90% sand and 10% concrete. It’s cheaper than traditional brick, reduces the need for rebar – and because it’s simpler to work with, it reduces construction time, helping to make the build more cost effective.
Silvia adds: “This new brick is also better at insulating, reducing the need for aircon. Manufacture requires at least 30% less carbon compared to traditional brick. Plus – it looks great, so there’s no need to paint it if you don’t want to.
“People don’t yet know how to build using this brick. That’s what we want to focus on next because it’s not just in the interest of our company, but in society’s interest too.”
For Silvia, Vlerick was so much more than a single experience. Instead, it’s a way of life and a way of doing business.
She says: “I go back to the things I learned at Vlerick on a daily basis. I’m also in touch with my professors and my classmates.
“I need to work out a model for simplifying our quoting process, for example, as we need to take currency fluctuation into account. There are many people I can reach out to – I feel very supported.”
And the most impactful aspect of learning at Vlerick? Silvia says: “At Vlerick I gained not only the experience I needed to run this business, but the confidence too.”