Telefónica and college exchange expertise to benefit each other.

Through its offerings, the college’s Executive and Professional Education (EPE) office provides an array of programs that satisfies the needs of many different kinds of professionals and their organizations. And if a company has a particular requirement that the full complement of standard programs does not meet, faculty members can tweak a program or completely tailor one for it.

Telefónica participants in finance training on the Modesto A. Maidique Campus
Telefónica participants in finance training on the Modesto A. Maidique Campus

The latter was the case with Telefónica, which recently concluded a multi-part program created for it and delivered partially at its site in Puerto Rico and partially on the Modesto A. Maidique Campus of Florida International University.

The process began with interviews of senior executives—including Pete Pizarro, Telefónica CEO—led by David Weinstein, professor in the college’s International MBA (IMBA) program.

“Together, the principals looked at what the organization needed and came up with a series of courses to address those needs,” said Robert Garcia (EMBA ’97), EPE director. “Our faculty members got to know the company through surveys and interviews that could be translated into course content, and each one was validated with the correct people before it was offered.”

Interactive process creates appropriate offerings to achieve Telefónica ’s goals.

The result for Telefónica was four programs: the one in Puerto Rico, focused on management and education and led by Weinstein; and the three that took place in Miami—one on finance, led by Lewis Davidson, professor, School of Accounting; one on human resources, conducted by G. Ronald Gilbert, associate professor of management and international business; and the most recent, on leadership and communication, presented by Dana Farrow, professor in the Department of Management and International Business and a fellow in the university’s Center for Leadership.

“I had an idea when I got started, but in my conversations with Pizarro, I realized it wasn’t exactly right,” Farrow said. “For example, he wanted more material on coaching. So, together, he and I made changes to customize the material further.”

Having the dialogues with Telefónica and refining the content brought about a highly interactive two-day session on leadership and communication focused on the concept of transformational leadership—the idea that leaders who are inspirational, give individualized consideration, and offer employees intellectual stimulation have the ability to transform their organizations.

In addition to presenting the concepts, Farrow built in a number of small-group exercises, giving participants the chance to determine how to apply the concepts and report their observations back to the entire group. For example, they looked at what they could do to become more transformational, and they considered situations that promote or hinder transformational leadership.

Experience delivers strong impact.

“The program gave us a moment to reflect on what kind of leadership we have and what kind we need,” said Roberto Plazola, customer service director for global accounts. “The experience led us to have a discussion that enabled us to move forward as managers of the company. Also, I took immediate action on the behaviors I realized I needed to work on.”

Such commitment to change is part of the culture at Telefónica.

“We have a closed box into which we put two action items that we plan to work on right away,” Plazola said. “We get a reminder halfway through the year, and we look at our progress during our annual leadership conference the next year. After the leadership program, I knew the two action items to put into the box.”

Rosa Vento, purchasing director, enjoyed the interactive format and the personal revelations.

“Some of the exercises we did made us realize things we do on a daily basis that are weaknesses,” she said. “I was sort of aware of them, but I didn’t realize the impact they could have. For example, I am very self-directed and I lack patience. Based on what I learned, I am trying to be more patient, even though it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.”

EPE program is just one aspect of relationship between the college and Telefónica.

The EPE program at Telefónica illustrates the kind of relationship with corporate partners the college continues to build. From its side, the college is able to offer expertise by deploying professors to teach on a wide variety of subjects.

On the other side, the college benefits enormously from the input of members of the company. Pizarro sits on the college’s Dean’s Council, a group of distinguished business leaders who advise the college on business trends, opportunities, and needs, and also have become advocates within the business community. His then vice president of human resources, Martin Fischetti, sits on the Executive MBA advisory board. Advisory boards support the college’s academic programs by offering advice on the curriculum and other matters to ensure graduates are ready to meet the needs of the current work environment.

“It was Fischetti who originally approached me about the need in his organization,” said Natalia Echeverría Sol, the college’s director of corporate relations. “It is a wonderful thing that happens when our team is working on our external relationships in the community and our partners begin receiving the message on many levels. This is exactly the kind of synergy that happened with our friends at Telefónica.”

According to Echeverría Sol, “We were so permeated throughout their organization, it was a natural choice to reach out to us for this in-depth needs analysis and highly customized executive education program. I firmly believe that our advisory boards and external relations efforts play—and will continue to play—a major role in the development of strongly rooted relationships in our business community.”

To find out more about EPE’s menu of programs, visit

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