It’s a conundrum for new university graduates: employers want to hire people with experience, but if you’re right out of college, you may have little real professional experience to offer. How do you get a professional position when you’ve never had experience in a professional position?
Students at Brazil’s University of Brasilia in the International Relations program solved the puzzle themselves by creating a consultancy business, called Domani Consulting International, as part of the junior enterprise movement, providing real world services to small and medium businesses.
“It impresses me how the concept of junior enterprises really empowers students to act and to become leaders,” says Bruno Suzart, a sales operations advisor for IBM in Brazil. “I believe it is important work because it generates great outcomes on two of the most important areas in an emerging country like Brazil—education and entrepreneurship.”
While working at IBM, Bruno takes classes at the University of Brasilia, located in the country’s capital city. Since 2012, he has volunteered at Domani as its director of projects—helping to revive the faltering student-run business.
Growing a business—learning by doing
The junior enterprise movement is a global initiative of young entrepreneurial students, created to supply university students with job experience and to teach them business and entrepreneurial skills and values. There are more than 200 junior enterprises in Brazil. Domani was originally formed in 1995 under a different name, and like many start-up companies, initially stumbled in product delivery and establishing partnerships.
“In 2011, some friends of mine were involved in re-establishing Domani,” says Bruno. “I was motivated to join because I thought my skills could help them thrive, and I saw it as a huge opportunity for me to also grow—by creating a business out of nothing, learning to work with new clients, developing new products.”
Using skills developed at IBM and influenced by his experience supporting IBM professionals, Bruno helped boost Domani’s staff to more than 30 members, while implementing a customer relationship management model.
“I have learned from watching and listening to my IBM managers and executives when it comes to project management, information management, team building and discipline,” says Bruno. “Learning from experienced people at IBM gave me confidence to make decisions and create a people management approach where I’m giving jobs and determining roles.”
The future looks bright
Domani—which means “tomorrow” in Italian and loosely points to the future business careers of its student consultants—is a not-for-profit association that offers both free and fee services. Any money collected is used for education and training courses, books, database subscriptions, office furniture—not for salaries.
Among the company’s clients is a small industrial design business planning an international expansion. Domani consultants are analyzing government and tax issues, labor costs, legal restrictions, market trends, product adaptations and language considerations. Domani is also helping an indigenous Brazilian community in the Amazonas region evaluate how to sell their locally made product in Europe. In addition, the business has numerous active external clients and several important partnerships including Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency in Brasilia, and Banco do Brasil.
“I’ve met hundreds of incredible people as a representative of Domani who have helped me learn a lot about international consultancy and foreign trade,” says Bruno. “It’s terrific to work with a team composed of people I admire and helped grow. I find the results of my team building efforts remarkably personally satisfying.”
In 2012, Bruno was awarded the National Junior Leader prize by Brasil Junior—the institution of junior enterprises in Brazil—and Fundação Estudar, an organization that supports the education of high potential Brazilian students; more than 8000 junior entrepreneurs competed for the prize. He also serves as the national business manager for Brasil Junior.
At IBM, employees are encouraged to grow their skills every year and Bruno’s volunteer experience at Domani appears to have done that. “I’ve learned the practical side of project management and how to build a social business,” says Bruno. “I’ve experienced team building from the leadership perspective, and the need to be adaptive and flexible—all things that will serve me well in my career at IBM.”
In thinking about advice for other volunteers, Bruno says, “Be open and ready, because everybody needs some help, if you are really willing to give it. I have to say, it is totally worth it.”