Exploring new fields
IMD Impact Stories · Strategy

Exploring new fields

How oil industry CEO Marcelo Magalhaes benefited from BPSE
March 2015


Participants in IMD’s Breakthrough Program for Senior Executives (BPSE) normally work on one strategic breakthrough idea during the program.

Marcelo Magalhaes, the CEO of Brazilian oil and gas company PetroRecôncavo, had to wrestle with two.

Marcelo came into BPSE in November 2014 with a single goal. He wanted to continue generating value for PetroRecôncavo after leading it for seven successful years, in which it had become Brazil’s largest independent onshore oil and gas exploration and production company, focused on mature fields. And his vision was to help develop a Brazilian onshore oil industry in which several players would compete and state-run oil companies would no longer hold a near monopoly on oil production.

“Doing this requires a different set of capabilities,” Marcelo says. “I needed to learn more and do things outside my comfort zone by going into a very good senior executive program.”

That was a big enough project in itself. But soon after Marcelo started BPSE, along came challenge number two—a sudden and significant drop in the price of oil that threatened to transform his entire industry.

“I went into IMD managing a company that was going full speed ahead,” Marcelo says. “We were investing a tremendous amount of money and growing a lot in terms of headcount, production and revenue. During BPSE I had to figure out how to adapt to the new reality of lower oil prices.”

This was tough, but BPSE gave Marcelo the chance to discuss his goals and challenges with the other senior participants on the program. This high-level peer exchange was the main reason he chose BPSE over top executive programs at other leading business schools.

“BPSE offered a smaller, more selective group, and was very clearly positioned for top management,” Marcelo says. “What I was really looking for was interaction with peers.”

“It was great to spend time on BPSE with people like me,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if they’re from different countries or companies, because they’re facing similar challenges.”

The live games and group exercises during the program were instructive too.

“You’re used to not being challenged because you’re the boss, but when you have four or five bosses at the table playing a game, it’s interesting to see how people make decisions, listen to others and react to failure,” he says.

Marcelo also enjoyed his interaction with the IMD professors on the program, including BPSE program director Seán Meehan and fellow Brazilian Carlos Braga.

“Carlos was a very important part of that program for me, and Seán was extremely important to the whole experience,” Marcelo says. “I was very impressed with his skills and character.”

Marcelo has continued to work on his breakthrough ideas in the months following BPSE, and he’s glad he did the program at a time of change for his industry.

“I had a wonderful experience at IMD. The BPSE program was outstanding and completely fulfilled what I was looking for,” Marcelo says.

Breakthrough Program for Senior Executives (BPSE) caters to a carefully selected group of senior executives searching for game-changing moves in their business through high-impact strategy and leadership.

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