My Starting Point

Post from María Florencia Kraus, SABF Ambassador 2018.


I find myself once again in front of a computer writing about topics I am passionate about. This time, I am honored to tell all of the world (or at least try to) what three days of SABF account for. I’d like to tell you what my personal journey looked like prior to the event, at the event itself and after the GREATEST INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE EVER (all caps intended). That is why I will try to put into words what three of the most intense days of my life were like.

Everything was dull and ordinary. I had been seeking to apply to something new, an event I could apply to. I had abandoned the search when, all of a sudden, while having breakfast before heading to work, I saw one of SABF’s ambassadors on TV. She was explaining what SABF was and what I needed to do in order to be able to take part. Without giving it a second thought, I entered the event’s website and registered without analyzing too much what it was really about.

I arrived at my business and, as I fought boredom, I started reflecting aiming to fully understand what I had signed up for. At that point I felt a mixture of panic and joy, which lead to the obvious question: “Florencia, what have you gotten yourself into?”

Many times we face situations that make us feel awkward, that allow our fears and (self-imposed) limitations to pierce through our comfort zone. Questions such as “will I be the kind of person they are looking for?” or “will I be good enough?” arise and prevent us from putting our skills and talent to good use. SABF allowed me to, among other things, face the “other me” that held me back and to prove myself that there’s nothing that could possibly stop us when the time to go after our dreams arrives.

So, hesitantly and full of doubts, I started writing my essay, trying to put into words everything the chosen topics had triggered in my mind. After reading it several times and having put every last word and thought I could, I clicked “submit essay”. All I had to do was wait. I must confess that each week seemed like a year. When I least expected it, there it was: the long-awaited e-mail was there, sitting in my inbox, congratulating me on having been selected. After that, it was all joy and anticipation for me. Having been selected, you get in touch with the “students’” team, you get to know the rest of the participants, and after packing and sorting out issues regarding transportation and accommodation, you are on your own, travelling to Buenos Aires. Once again, questions race through your mind, only now you’re not afraid anymore: you have become a part of something bigger.

On the conference’s first day, I couldn’t believe I was there. Right from the start I got to know people whom I had gotten in touch with over the internet. The personal stories, as well as the speakers’ presentations, triggered all sorts of ideas, the implementation of which I just couldn’t get out of my mind. The second and third days of the conference were crowded with knowledge, emotions and dreams. Even though I knew it would all eventually come to an end, I wished it would have lasted forever as I knew there were hugs I wouldn’t enjoy again for some time. At the end of the event, you will no longer be sabfers, you will be friends no matter what.

It is very hard for me to pick one single thing that changed in me after SABF. It made me understand that us, youngsters, are the change and that can only be accomplished by working together towards our shared purpose, which is none other than a better world. Also, I understood that although everyone is different in terms of nationality, culture, languages and personality, we are all the same as humans. There are no excuses not to look in each other’s eyes and work together, respecting our differing ideas but building a better world.

Change cannot be accomplished by complaining, it has to be the result of action. It is that idea that drew me to applying for SABF and still guides me today. Any journey starts with one step and taking part in the South American Business Forum was that first step for me, my starting point. It could be yours, too. Do not hesitate to apply.

#SABFCorner: Dalia Mogahed

Muslims are not only victimized by ISIS,

but at the same time blamed for ISIS.

Dalia Mogahed – TED.


In SABF 2016 Dalia Mogahed gave the participants and all the listeners a reading of the political, economic, social and cultural reality that acted as a trigger to provoke an introspective in-depth analysis of each one’s acting individual, but also in acting as a society against the events that occur in the world.

From an original point of view, she told in the first person her life experience, and how it was marked by certain events that also marked the future of the world.

More than a year after her participation in the SABF, from the Blog Team we considered it necessary to reconnect with her in order to understand what her reading of reality is. Dalia, answered a couple of questions that help us to analyse how the world changed in the last year. We focus on different topics to be able to touch a little the questions left by her participation and doubts that we all have when it comes to watching the news.

Who is Dalia Mogahed? Dalia is the Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) in Washington D.C. Also, she is President and CEO of an executive coaching and consulting firm Mogahed Consulting, specializing in the Middle East and Muslim societies. She was selected by President Barack Obama as an adviser on the White House, which made her the first Muslim American woman to hold that position. She chaired the Gallup Centre for Muslim Studies. She is a chemical engineer from the University of Wisconsin with an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh.

Without further introduction, I give you: Dalia Mogahed.


Jonatán Carné: Since your participation in SABF 2016, there have been important changes in the international context. What do you think are the main changes in international politics? What are the issues that are dominating international agenda and social interest this year?

Dalia Mogahed: The biggest difference is that Donald Trump went from being an embarrassing presidential candidate to my country’s commander in chief and President, an outcome many of us didn’t think was possible. This reality points to a rising tide of reactionary identity politics where traditionally privileged communities fear that their advantage is under threat. They look to politicians that promise to restore said privilege. This trend is sweeping Europe as we saw with Brexit, and the relatively strong performance of right-wing and even “Alt-right” parties. As Chris Rock said though, “if you’re losing, then who’s winning?”.


JC: What do you think is the role of the media as an instrument of international politics?

DM: Media forms perceptions, and public perceptions provide consent for government policies.  When the media provides one candidate more attention than all others combined, this will inevitably help that candidate win. If the media tells us every day to be fearful of a group of people, then many of us will be and we will act on that fear by supporting more surveillance of this group, restrictions on their rights and even military interventions in countries that we have been taught “hate us”.


JC: Media generates images and stereotypes. Do you think that media reproduces a wrong image of Muslims or of who is different? How does this affect society?

DM: One study by an ISPU (Institute for Social Policy and Understanding) scholar named Muniba Salem and her colleagues found that exposure to negative media about Muslims made people more likely to support tighter security for Muslim-looking people at airports, military invasion of Muslim majority countries and even taking away the voting rights of Americans who are Muslim. The media has an enormous responsibility to report objectively because what they say and do matters to the health of our democracy.


JC: The advent of the Islamic State (ISIS) comes to revive that anti-Islamic feeling that was seen after 9/11? What do you think is the cause of increased ISIS adherence around the world and how to avoid it?

DM: I am not a military expert but all my readings indicate that ISIS is in fact in retreat and is shrinking, not growing. ISIS’s primary victims are Muslims, more than 95% in fact.ISIS is a cancer and Muslims are at the forefront of fighting this gang of deviants. The sad part is that despite these clear facts, Muslims are not only victimized by ISIS, but at the same time blamed for ISIS.

When I’m asked if ISIS is “Islamic” since they have this word in their name. I ask two simple questions: 1) Would a group like ISIS, with the same tactics and brutality? 2) Exist in this region if all else was exactly the same in terms of geopolitics, failed state, foreign invasion, torture and genocide, but no Islam? The answer is yes, they would exist because a group like ISIS has emerged everywhere in the world when the same conditions existed but by different names and appealing to different ideologies. When the surrounding community is communist, the terrorists use language that appeals to communist sentiments (Tamil Tigers), when the community is Buddhist, they use this rhetoric, when the people look to Christian beliefs to guide their thinking, the terrorist talk in terms of the Bible, God and the Ten Commandments (Lord’s Resistance Army), and the list goes on.  So, blaming Islam for ISIS is confusing the context for the cause.


JC: Precisely, from the West it seeks to understand Islam with bounded information. What is the role of women in Islam? What is the answer to the criticisms of the Western feminist movements denouncing the role of women in the Muslim world?

DM: ¡Oh, wow, such a big question with so much to discuss! Where to begin? Let’s start by stating the obvious: Muslims are sexist. Women don’t have their full equal rights in the Muslim community in many parts of the world.  Why? Because Muslims are guilty of being human beings sadly. Everyone is sexist, and women don’t have their full rights anywhere. But it’s worse for women in the Muslim world, I hear someone scream! In some parts yes, but not because of Islam.

In a study Gallup did on women’s rights in the Middle East, researchers found that men’s perceptions of women’s rights mattered a lot to how women fared in their societies. But men’s support for women’s rights did not correlate with their piety, or religious devotion. Instead, it correlated to their level of education, their own well-being and their country’s score on the UN Human Development Index.

What does this mean? Women do better when societies are better for everyone. Women do better when men feel better about their own situation, not when they are less religious, which has no impact empirically. Muslim women, according to all the research I lead at Gallup and ISPU, expect and want equal rights. They also cherish their faith, in many cases even more than men, and see their faith not as an obstacle to liberation, but as part of the solution. So, if feminists really want to help Muslim women they can start by listening to Muslim women rather than lecturing them or degrading their religion. They should also be cautious to not be used as instruments of Islamophobia.


JC: Academically, it reads increasingly the view that the Middle East is losing territorial borders and begins to draw a sectarian map in which the countries areas of influence are conceived by religious alliances. What is the role of religion in politics in the region? What is the difference with other regions like Europe or the American continent?

DM: I’m so relieved that America and Europe know nothing about war or killing each other over territory or ideology and can comfortably lecture the world about how to be civilized! The difference is America and Europe are stable countries, not failed states. Failed states, due to foreign invasion, genocidal dictators, or revolutions, create the conditions where people have to turn to tribe for protection, like human beings have done from the beginning of time. This occurs everywhere these conditions exist. When the state cannot protect you as an individual, we coalesce around a tribal identity for survival. This is why gangs exist in the inner city. This is why ethnic warfare occurs in places with a weak central authority.


JC: You had the opportunity to participate as an advisor to the Barack Obama’s administration. What are the lessons that political experience left you and what advice would you give to young people who are interested in politics?

DM: The single most important lesson I gleaned from this experience is this: Access does not equal influence. Being “in the room” and “at the table” is a necessary but insufficient condition to bring about real change. You need to be at that table with resources to offer or take away. If you don’t have actual resources in the form of organized people and money, you are warming a chair. So, for young people, build from the ground up. The real power is with the people on the ground. Organize them. Empower them. Educate them. Then when you are invited to sit at the table of power, be there representing those people, not your resume. This is how you can make real change.

I graduated… now what?

There are several types of crisis in this world and we all have experienced them at some point in our lives. Parents suffer when their kids grow and leave home, you can suffer a nervous crisis waiting for the grade of your last exam, we also have experienced as a society political, socioeconomic, financial and of course, existential crisis. But nobody anticipates the crisis that you are going to live when you have already passed half of your twenty decade … reaching your 30’s.

We are determined to follow an established pattern of stages to accomplish as we grow. We have a guide since our childhood that tells us what is the next phase that we must overcome. But what happens when you finish the cycle by which we are all immersed?

Knowing our path, that’s the importance

After a lot of effort, coffee cups and sleepless nights, you finish the major that you were forced to choose at your early 18s. You get a job, you become independent and you live your life day by day. It sounds like you’ve reached the top, but the truth is that you’re just starting to get to know yourself. There is no more pattern to follow. There’s only you. You and the decisions you make.

In my personal case, when I was 26 I suffered a strong stakeout in my life. I graduated and at 23, I came to live to Buenos Aires. Leaving your country makes you to live more intensely. Even though I was stable with a good job and a temporary department to live, I had my activities with friends and sometimes I got to travel, I felt deeply empty. That’s when the imminent question comes… where am I going? The end of the eternal adolescence hits you hard. According to Dr. Ricardo Rubinstein, Psychoanalyst of the Argentine Psychoanalytic Association, “we live in times that are characterized by burning stages with urgency. There is a social pressure to achieve everything right away”. After spending several weeks locked up and having finished almost the 10 seasons of Friends in just one night, I decided to make a change. That change was going to depend on me and only me.

The million dollar questions

Before any decision, you need to organize yourself: What am I passionate about? What is my talent? What am I investing both my money and my time? What makes me happy? These are some of the questions I asked myself to start this new path. It sounds very cliché, but if we do not start to question ourselves is difficult to reach a goal.

In my case I felt a strong need of learning new things and I realized that it was not as simple as it was in the past. I started ukulele classes that, even though I’m really bad at it, distracted me from my duties and I could expose my brain to activities that required different attention. At the end of each class I felt exhausted and is to be expected since playing music is for the brain the equivalent of a complete physical training.

In my innovation journey, I joined UX Design classes. I’m intrigued to learn how to program and I knew that to get to that, I had to start from the basics. I’m still in the process of reaching that goal, but setting small short-term goals makes it easy to not get lost on the road.

Since I’m always willing to help my community, I decided to get into the TED world. I  took the license to organize TEDxRecoleta and with a group of friends, we organize the first edition of this event. This kept me busy for seven months in an activity that was completely extraprogrammatic bringing something positive to my community . We were able to make an event for 100 people that was a success and the satisfaction you feel after having achieved it, is indescribable (watch the talks here!).

As I am passionate about traveling I decided to get to know at least 3 new places every year. They didn’t have to be far away from where I live, just destinations I had never visited before. In some journeys I was alone and in others accompanied, but I never left apart what makes me smile, traveling. At this stage I also quit my job and now I work in a completely different area from the one I was used to. I have constant challenges that test me in all my capacities and it has helped me to know myself in facets that I had never experienced before.

This month I went to the Vital Global Partnership Voice Mentoring Walk, which takes place simultaneously in more than 80 cities around the world. The initiative consists in couples conformed by young women with potential of leadership, in which both are involved in the reflection on the professional and personal challenges. This was an unique experience in which I had the chance to talk with my mentor about the problems and questions I currently have in every scope of my life. She was the one who insert in my mental hard drive a new question and that will be the 2017 question for me… for what I do the things that I do.

It is important to know that there are years that ask questions and years that answer them. You only regain control if you start living more focused on your interests and values. The small goals that we propose define ourselves and we need to have that turning point to decide what course will be taken in our future. Do not be afraid of losing the guide we once had before and let’s take every opportunity to reinvent ourselves every day.

How the SABF helped me in studying and learning

The amazing thing about the SABF is its great community. Period. Everything is possible thanks to the hard work of many people. SABF also nucleates a large number of intellects, it’s a “magnet” that attracts those who have much to give and receive. It is a very nice experience. This entry also tried to adapt to the themes of previous posts (mentoring and the area of ​​learning and problem solving).

I was a member of the SABF 2016 organizing team. Something great is that one has a mentoring program, among other things, that is, a person dedicated exclusively to talk about everyday things in general. Something I noticed was not taking enough advantage of such program. I only met once with my mentor, and although I asked a lot of questions and learned a lot, not organizing myself during my course of faculty, made it impossible to continue the program. Having learned of the error, luckily, I had a second chance. In August of last year, during the conference, the three most important days of SABF, I met Esteban (Tibi), who was an organizer of SABF 2011. He was in the same department as I was, in Information Technology (IT). I told him that I was having trouble with programming, that I had trouble solving programming problems; Moving from the problem to the paper or to the computer was my biggest problem, not a question of syntax. Tibi told me that he wanted to do a mentoring program, in which he would code with another person and learn from it. And I wanted to participate. Along with Yemel (Yimi), one of the IT department’s inductees, who also wanted to organize this with Tibi, I started meeting once a week in Voltaire and learning more and more. This learning helped me remove the fear I had in solving problems related to programming and to deal with them more easily, as well as to pass the college programming course (where I got an average of 9.25 points out of 10). Voltaire is a coworking space where several people and start-ups work. But it is also a community, where I got help from many and had a good time!

One of Warren Buffett’s commandments is to surround yourself with those people you admire and who you want to be. I think Mentoring is one of the best things, since it is a feedback, in both directions. Also, the role of the university is important, as it seeks to facilitate the problem-solving environment (one of the most important fields for being an engineer) and once again, to strengthen ourselves intellectually and socially through these extraordinary communities (and also approaching them!) 😊

And you, what are you waiting for to join a student organization in your college or university? There are many universities that have in their checklist “to participate in an organization”.

Success and the power of mentorship


“And you ask any successful person how they got to where they are today, chances are they’ll tell you about a mentor they had somewhere along the way.”– Barack Obama[1]

People are complex but, in a great way, we are defined by our environment and ambitions.  Having clear objectives, is the first step towards success, because after that moment you can work towards them.

Today, looking backwards, having gone through university and some first professional experiences I’m convinced that a mentor can bring down obstacles.  The first time I came across a mentor formally was during my participation in the SABF team and I will always be grateful for her dedication.

A mentor gives you the means to improve personal and professional skills. It raises awareness of your strengths and weaknesses to better align yourself towards your goals. It inspires you and brings more confidence when facing challenges.  It´s important to be open minded to receive advice and be willing to work on it.

To find a mentor the most important thing is to learn to approach people for advice.  And to take the most out of the relationship, you have to be honest about your own personal and professional objectives.

Without doubt, if you seek for a mentor you will win opportunities to meet interesting people and enrich your experiences.  Always be open to give advise, people are amazing!

Motivation-manipulation: what makes a good executive?

Men act freely and voluntarily when possible. We do it in a more free way when we know the reason that brings us to action. To motivate, as we have mentioned in “The secret for survival in any organization”, is to show that reason to somebody so he can choose freely.

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The Entrepreneurs and Willpower

There is only one person capable of limiting your own growth: yourself

Every venture begins from a vision, a purpose, a dream, a desire. This is what motivates us, what put us in movement. But, what is the motivation? From the linguistic point of view it is an abstraction, it is not tangible at all but we can translate it by saying it is the fuel, the energy we need to cover the distance between your present and where you want to go, your journey toward that vision, dream or desire.

What do we need in addition to motivation to start this journey? WILL.

The will is closely related to the motivation.

The will is the capacity of human beings that makes us do things intentionally, in spite of the difficulties, setbacks and mood.

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Better the angel you don’t know than the devil you do

We had the opportunity to participate in the workshop “Innovation in companies” organized by the Unión Argentina de Jóvenes Empresarios [Argentinian Union of Young Businessmen] (UNAJE) given by Rolando Meyer, industrial engineer of the ITBA, Design Thinking teacher at Universidad de San Andrés and co-founder of the mobile shopping app Tobuy. We met Rolando in the tenth edition of the South American Business Forum (2014), and in this workshop he showed us the advantages of leaving our comfort zone and plunging into the wonderful world of innovation.

“To innovate is to transform knowledge”

The term “design thinking”, so in vogue nowadays in large and small organizations, refers to the designers’ way of thinking applied to business. To innovate is nothing else that to work on something that doesn’t exist, to work in the future. To do it, we must bear in mind certain maxims:

  • “Un-learning is as important as learning”.
  • “To innovate is to challenge the status quo”.
  • “Everything that exists today was once imagined”.

A starting point is not to have fixed limits in the creative process, to go beyond feasibility, since every innovation in its time was slightly feasible or viable. We may well say that the best part of learning from mistakes is having made them.

An innovator is someone who is after the novelty, without asking why but why not and what for.

We are all creative since childhood, but we unlearn it. We cease marvelling about the contingent of the reality and the world and we content ourselves with a superficial and comfortable look. Everything around us might not have been, but it is. And we take it for granted. We must again trust in our creative eye and marvel at our surroundings.

Those shooting stars called ideas…

Ideas come and go. They appear when we are not looking for them. At any time. They are untimely. Taking into account the untimeliness ideas may have in their origin, it is always advisable to write down, whether it is in paper or in screen, what our intellect creates. And not to fool ourselves by saying, “I’m going to remember it”. If we let them go we may not see them again since, in this sense, ideas resemble shooting stars.

“It is not about how good you are, but how good do you want to be”

While ideas are like shooting stars, the creative process and the act of thinking can be compared with a physical activity: it needs training. There is a series of steps and basic attitudes to give birth to ideas. These steps or “ingredients” are as follows: design thinking

  1. The collection of information, of the raw material we extract directly from information sources. It is determinant in our context and environment.
  2. The chewing of the information, the analysis. The tasting of the idea.
  3. Then, the incubation. An internal process in which our brain matures the processed information from our environment.
  4. This whole process can lead to the idea. It is important to write it down!
  5. The adaptation is important, because every idea is an anecdote of what it is going to be.

Once the idea generation process is known, we must highlight the mood and attitude that lead us to be a serial idea generator. Some proactive attitudes are:

  1. Confidence attitude, believing. There are opportunities everywhere, we just need other eyes. To readapt our look.
  2. Serendipity attitude. An induced causality. Attention to what is happening around us. Attentive and sharp mental predisposition. Predisposition to see.
  3. Exploratory attitude. Not only externally, but internally. To develop our sensitivity.
  4. “Doer” attitude, action oriented, always doing and trying, over and over again.
  5. A combined planning and improvising attitude. These two extremes are too rigid and too flexible at the same time but are important in any creative process.
  6. Stubborn attitude, always doing “trial and error”.
  7. “I ask for forgiveness but not for permission” attitude, disrespect for the status quo. Enough madness to think about changing the world, and being able to do so.
  8. Inspiring attitude. We live in this world and we are inspired by models. Copy-paste attitude: we take things from others.

Finally, it is difficult to think differently but to do so we must take into account how things were done in the past. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, for example, it was unthinkable that there was another continent in the world (America!). At the end of the twentieth century, the iPhone was almost unfeasible.

The creativity issue lies in inducing the unthinkable thinking. Every idea is a combination of old elements. We must go beyond. Urgency may be the mother of innovation.

Why being realistic if reality can be changed? Are you ready to innovate?

How SABF changed my life

When I made up my mind to write this article; at first, I thought of writing especifically about one of the talks that was given in last year´s SABF, and how this talk made me think again a lot of aspects regarding the direction my career was heading to.
But then, I realized that this single talk, as enlightening as it had been for me, not quite caught the great change in the way I now think my future and my career, that the SABF as a whole, made me experience.
At this point in my professional education I have no doubt, and who knows me, knows it: the SABF was the beginning of a new life and the source of new motivatión and enthusiasm for my studies. In this brief post, I will try to express why this conference has the potential of being a life changing experience and how it changed mine.

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13 Lessons learnt from World Business Dialogue ’13

  1. Family in Business. The most successful companies, and the most prone to survive crises are family owned. Treating the company as a part of your identity sparkles innovation and creativity; marvelous example is the Ferrero company ( where the founder Michele Ferrero designs almost all products. Moreover, when a company is hit by exogenous factors and economic hardships, the family as a whole acts as a catalyst in the survival of the firm due to the personal connection the members have established with its existence.

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