Advanced Management Program Alumnus Juan Carlos Gaona Explains How Columbia's Holistic Approach Develops Present Leaders

Headshot of Juan Carlos Gaona.

Throughout his 25-year career, Juan Carlos Gaona has lived and worked around the world. Today, he resides in Brazil and serves as the General Manager of Brazil at the Swiss pharmaceutical company Galderma. His responsibilities include overseeing the company's Brazil market.

Gaona's diverse professional background and the breadth of his experience have not stopped him from seeking new perspectives on leadership and strategy. He studied on his own, staying current with management trends and paying close attention to insights shared by thought leaders. However, he ultimately wanted to broaden his perspective even further — preferably in a program that presented theory and practice creatively while promoting connection.

Gaona took the time to share more about why he chose Columbia Business School Executive Education's Advanced Management Program and how its holistic approach to leadership development helped him become a more engaged and present leader.

Why Did You Choose Columbia Business School Executive Education's Advanced Management Program?

I chose Columbia Business School first and foremost because I wanted to enroll in a program based in the U.S. to gain a different perspective. Columbia's program was interesting because it combined discussions about real-world business problems with the executive experiences Columbia offers, such as jazz and rowing excursions. Those were activities in which we could apply leadership skills in unique ways. I was looking for something different; I didn't want to see a lot of PowerPoints. I wanted to learn about the experiences of my colleagues and understand what everybody saw as effective leadership practices. That was the most important thing for me.

How Did Columbia's Program Shift Your Perspective on Leadership?

One of the things that I learned was to be very present when conducting meetings — whether one-on-one sessions or meetings with teams. I used to multitask a lot. That didn't help me be more effective or respectful of the audience or the other person in the meeting. The program helped me understand the power of being fully present, which helped me have more impactful interactions with my team, my boss, and many different stakeholders.

The Advanced Management Program also helped me structure and organize my time better. I started scheduling time each week to think and build a long-term vision of what we were trying to achieve. Business often operates at such a speed that you don't have time to do what is important. You only take care of what is urgent. The Advanced Management Program encourages you to step back and think strategically over the long term.

Putting that time in my calendar helped me come up with many different insights and ideas. I also made time to read more about leadership. That helped me change the structure that I had in my organization, which led to exciting results in terms of growth, not only for sales but also for profits in the year after I finished the program. That success was undoubtedly a result of everything I had learned put into practice, leading to a promotion.

In What Ways Did Your Peers in the Program Inspire You?

One of the essential parts of this program is the opportunity to interact with people from different backgrounds. Out of 30 participants, there were only three or four Americans. I expected to have half of the group from the United States, but it was very international. Many people were from Germany, Europe, Asia, Australia, etc. It was a multicultural group, making it very useful as a resource.

Were There Any Activities or Discussions That Stuck Out to You?

The program taught us how to manage ourselves better physically. It was very interesting. It's essential to understand how becoming healthier will help you be more mindful of what's going on and more capable of doing what is best. Health enhances your capacity to touch people's lives. That's why this holistic approach is so incredible. The program is very well crafted.

Who Is the Ideal Candidate for the Program?

An ideal candidate would be someone who has significant experience leading teams. That makes a difference when sharing your perspective and insight. Having experience leading large teams is ideal because you will take away more from the experiences of others, and you'll have more to contribute to discussions.

The program can also help people in transition periods or trying to understand the next stage of their careers. Thinking about what you want and learning to understand what is important to you can be helpful. A chapter in the Advanced Management Program helps you understand your values. The ideal candidate is here to accomplish much more than just being better at what they do professionally. The holistic personal dimension, I would say, is even more impactful than the business content.

Columbia Business School Executive Education's Advanced Management Program is a high-impact professional development pathway for senior executives. Program cohorts include CEOs, CFOs, executive directors, general managers, and senior vice presidents from finance and accounting, consulting, education, manufacturing, healthcare, government, and other sectors. Leaders become more present and influential through one-of-a-kind learning experiences, personalized executive coaching, peer support, and networking. They exit the program prepared to impact their organizations immediately.

Connect with an enrollment advisor to determine if you meet the Advanced Management Program requirements or start your application today.

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