IBD Project Client Interview: Sandro Valeri, Director of Innovation Strategy at Embraer
Written by Danner Doud-Martin
In the spring of 2019, the Berkeley Haas IBD program and a team of five of its MBA students worked with one of Brazil’s most well known companies, Embraer. The IBD project team consisted of Full Time MBA students Brian Bell, Swamit Mehta, Erlangga Renggana, Kylie Sale, and Quinn Sure. From January to early May 2019, the IBD student team worked on their project while here at Berkeley Haas, partnering with Embraer’s Innovation team, led by Sandro Valeri, Director of Innovation Strategy. In mid-May the IBD student team traveled to Embraer’s facilities in São José dos Campos and São Paulo, Brazil, to work for three weeks on-site with Sandro and his team. The IBD students had an incredible learning experience working on this project, and they felt it was a privilege and a pleasure to work with Embraer and the Innovation team. Writing in their in-country blog during the project, the student team said that their “IBD project came at a fascinating turning point in the company’s history. Embraer recently sold its commercial division to Boeing and is being split down the middle, renamed, and re-envisioned. As the new Embraer emerges with its remaining defense, executive jets, and services divisions, leadership determined that innovation is critical for the company’s future ability to grow, especially in the competitive and rapidly changing global aviation industry.” To read more of the IBD student team’s blog, click here.
Meet the Client: Sandro Valeri, Embraer
At the conclusion of the 2019 IBD program year, IBD had the opportunity to interview Sandro Valeri about the recent Embraer IBD project, including what it was like to collaborate with the IBD program and our Berkeley Haas MBA students. Please enjoy the interview with Sandro Valeri below.
IBD Interviewer: How do you view your relationship with Berkeley Haas, including your relationship with the Berkeley Innovation Forum (BIF)? Why did you engage with MBA students at Berkeley Haas?
Sandro Valeri: This is the first year that we engaged in this type of relationship with Berkeley Haas and the IBD program. You (the IBD team) understand our needs, our problems, and you understand that we are a corporation. You understand that we don’t speak English very well – and this is good! And what I’m looking for in this relationship with Haas? Im looking for a management practice, and business practice, that is on the edge of all the practice in the world. And that’s why we started this relationship with the Berkeley Innovation Forum (BIF) – that has been great so far. They’re really good with not only making us question our processes, but good results as well. And why MBA students? I like to work with MBA students in all the various universities in the US, and this year was the first experiment with Haas. I already had some work with Harvard, Stanford, and MIT. Especially the IBD team in Brazil, they were great! They were outstanding professionals. They had serious conversations about changing management services, and how we can advance different processes in big companies like us, and how we can be on the edge with our practices. You (the IBD team) refresh the way we think, so for us it is very important to have such students here, because for us, it refreshes our minds, and we trust once you come from the best universities.
IBD Interviewer: You’ve worked with all MBA students from these other universities, is there a difference that you can see in the Berkeley Haas student or do they all kind of blend together?
Sandro Valeri: No no, they’re different. Each university has a kind of… not talent, but a vocation. There are some things that are common. They are all hard workers, and they are all very smart. This is common. If I compare Berkeley to the others, I see you are more open to new ideas. You explore more, and I see that you explore more with a broader view. It seems like you provide them [the IBD students] the background, that they have a broad background so the discussion came with different perspectives and points of view, so this is much different than the others. The others, they are more straight.
IBD Interviewer: How was it comparing MBA students with professional management consulting firms like McKinsey and Company?
Sandro Valeri: I don’t like big consulting firms because they have everything preset. They have that knowledge base and they try to say this is the way it works and you should do it like I say. And when I came to IBD, you adapt to the problem, and you understand the problem. They [the IBD student team] asked a lot of different questions and they presented a lot of different options. They didn’t have this rush to solve the problem. If this was on behavior, they behave like McKinsey, exactly like that. They did the hard work, they worked a lot, and all materials were very professional and very deep. Even the discussions they had in Brazil were great with the executives. We went to talk to two of my bosses and to the other VPs, and they had exactly the same kind of conversation. I can say even a little bit better because they were not trying to stay with one position. They tried to understand the problem. Very valuable for me.
IBD Interviewer: You mentioned that Embraer is taking some of the IBD student team’s recommendations and incorporating them in your strategy moving forward. Is that correct?
Sandro Valeri: Yes, that is a correct statement.
IBD Interviewer: And what is on the horizon for this approach in regards to innovation for Embraer?
Sandro Valeri: The proposal they (the IBD student team) did was composed by two drivers. One, how we should set the portfolio and the criteria; and then the second one, how we should manage the portfolio. We used something like half of their proposals and it was great. Next year we are going to implement the portfolio management so we still have some cushion when we start the project from January on. So we defined the project and the criteria; we analyzed the project using the criteria and the idea now is to implement.
IBD Interviewer: Now that you have had this experience with the IBD student team, do you think others in your department would be convinced that student consultants are valuable?
Sandro Valeri: Yes, I think our department, Embraer X, loved the experience working with IBD. So they start explaining this to the Information Team, my colleagues, and special people in the Technology Development..they like it a lot.
IBD Interviewer: Is there anything else you want to share?
Sandro Valeri: Perhaps it is important to say that we are in a turnaround phase right now and we need new strategies and new ways of thinking to revamp ourselves. Due to this process, IBD was great to help us to get there.
This concludes our interview with Sandro Valeri, Director of Innovation Strategy at Embraer. The IBD program is grateful for the opportunity to work with Embraer and Sandro’s Innovation team, and we hope to continue our partnership in the future.