Deep Dives: From Hangzhou to Rio
One of my fondest memories of my time at Schwarzman College were the unofficial Deep Dives that Scholars organized. Modeled on the official Deep Dive organized by the College faculty, it was a unique opportunity to have an on-the-ground crash course of a certain city or region.The inspiration: 30 classmates and I submerged ourselves into the tech scene of Hangzhou, on a Deep Dive organized by the College team. We visited tech giants like Alibaba, NetEase and HIK Vision and mingled with top executives. We also learned about the government policies, research universities and venture capital scene nurturing and financing them. Every evening, the Scholars and Faculty engaged in nuanced discussions over dinner, nourished by the breadth of knowledge at the table and the local Dongpo-style pork belly, my favorite Chinese dish.
From there, a friend and I headed to Shenzhen for the first of many unofficial Deep Dives, and managed to secure visits, with the help of the Schwarzman Scholars Alumni network, with some of the fastest-growing Chinese companies Tencent, DJI, Sinovation Ventures, the tech accelerator HAX and the sprawling Huaqiangbei hardware markets.
I also had the opportunity to join three other deep dives to the beautiful provinces of Henan and Xinjiang, organized by fellow Scholars, and organized another to Manila where I worked for a tech startup prior to the Master’s Program.
Beyond the learnings, fun and excitement of these trips, little did I know how they would shape my life as I graduated. In my final job interview for Chinese bike-sharing unicorn Mobike, I was able to demonstrate my fluency, not in Chinese but in the corporate strategy of technology companies – and that insight sealed it for me. More than two years later and back in Brazil, I started a security tech company (Gabriel.com.br) and raised USD 1.75MM in seed funding – because of the knowledge and inspiration I gained in Hangzhou about how we can improve public security with artificial intelligence and smart devices.
I’m truly grateful for these opportunities and I’m glad the Alumni network continues to offer opportunities. Recent deep dives organized in Singapore, Mongolia and Hong Kong by former Scholars encouraged me to do the same: I organized a week-long deep dive in 2019 across three cities in Brazil – during the Carnaval celebration! – and welcomed Alumni from China, Mexico, USA, Nigeria, UK and France.
Like China, Brazil is a country of contrasts and contradictions. Exactly the features that attracted me to the Middle Kingdom was what I hoped to show, from the modern Congress building in Brasilia, prophesying a utopian Brazil that never was, to the tech startups in the skyscrapers of São Paulo, where the grandchildren of immigrants imagine a new idea of what Brazil should be. We visited the cartel-controlled impoverished slums of Rio during the day and at night attending the lavish and world-famous Carnaval parades, conceived, organized and manned by the very same people.
In times of turmoil and tension, building mutual understanding and lasting meaningful relationships is key for peace and prosperity — words we heard from Steve Schwarzman often. As I showed my colleagues at Ipanema beach, a caipirinha or two can bring people together and also be a way to build that understanding.