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Building a Brighter Future for Black Brazilians with Alberto

While developing new strategies and transforming clients’ businesses, Alberto has made the effort to change the future for Black Brazilians

In the Southeast of Brazil lies the country’s fifth-largest city, Belo Horizonte, or “Beautiful Horizon.” While it is widely known for being a hub for the mining and steel sectors, it is also where McKinsey engagement manager Alberto has been chasing his own horizon since he was a child.

Building a Brighter Future for Black Brazilians with Alberto
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“My childhood was all about playing sports and reading books,” he reflects. “When I was young, I didn’t have a very clear understanding about who I wanted to be, but the investment in my brother's and my education was the first priority for our parents.”

Alberto explained that, in Brazil, students around age 18 are encouraged to choose from a few university tracks they want to pursue. Though he had a passion for business from a young age, Alberto pursued law, primarily because he was proficient in Portuguese, philosophy, history, and geography, the four subjects that carried the biggest weight on the entry exam. Despite studying law, he never lost sight of his interest in business.

“I have an objective and tactical mind,” Alberto said. “I knew I liked business and I wanted to go abroad for the first time. So I asked ‘What should I do during law school to meet those two objectives?’"

Alberto made the decision to join a study group on international contracts in law school that required him to travel to Vienna, Austria for a competition with almost 200 universities. That one decision, he said, changed his life and perspective of his career.

After graduating in 2012, Alberto knew he wanted to continue his training and get his LLM abroad. He and his wife moved from Brazil to Chicago in 2012, where they both studied law and business at Northwestern University. 

Where luck meets hard work

In 2013, Alberto participated in a Northwestern University job fair with hopes of landing a major foreign associate position in New York City. He knew he needed to work hard to stand out among his peers – hundreds of other Brazilian students would be applying, many coming from São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro.

His hard work paid off – out of 600 Brazilian students, Alberto was the one selected for a coveted internship at the Manhattan law firm Proskauer Rose LLP.

“My whole life, I was competing against myself,” Alberto said. “When I went to law school, when I began mergers & acquisitions work, when I went abroad for my LLM... every time, I knew I was aiming to grow and do better – to be more.”

This mindset served Alberto well when he applied to McKinsey in July 2016. He began to realize consulting was an excellent transition into a more business-oriented career. “I always had in my mind that I didn't want to be a lawyer forever,” he said. “For me, being a lawyer was the first part of my career. Law would give me the skills for my second career in business. McKinsey was a perfect fit.”

Following a new path at McKinsey

Building a Brighter Future for Black Brazilians with Alberto
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Shortly before starting at McKinsey, Alberto received a call from a McKinsey business analyst asking if he “Considered himself to be Black?” The analyst sounded a bit nervous – in Brazil, he explained, that’s not an easy question to ask.

“Racial diversity is not a topic widely discussed in Brazil,” he said. “People used to say there wasn’t any racism because we are all mixed. Awareness — explaining to people that we do have a problem with racial diversity and the burden it causes Black students and professionals - is the biggest challenge with bringing inclusion and diversity to the corporate environment.

“The people who are Black - we see racism in Brazil all the time,” he continued. “When we go to a shopping mall and the security guard follows us around, when restaurants think we cannot afford dinner, when police stop us because they don't believe the car belongs to us. That's the minimum of micro-aggressions that Black people in Brazil have to deal with on a daily basis.”

So when that business analyst offered Alberto the opportunity to get involved with McKinsey Black Network in Brazil and Latin America, he said “Yes was the only answer.”

Less than six months after starting at the firm and joining the McKinsey Black Network, the Brazilian leadership team invited Alberto to become a leader in the group in Brazil.

“I was very happy to take the leadership role in the McKinsey Black Network - it was the perfect fit for my personal interests in racial diversity and my professional career,” he said. “Actually, I couldn't believe I received that invitation because that was everything I wanted to have in the corporate environment.”

Alberto immediately hit the ground running. A few months into his leadership role, Alberto pitched the idea of creating a conference to help Black Brazilians advance their careers. "The idea was extremely well received at the firm. At that time, we didn’t have another conference with the same purpose in Brazil,” he said. 

In November 2018, the inaugural Juntos Conference hosted an astonishing 500+ Black students and professionals. They even welcomed journalist Glória Maria as the keynote speaker, who Alberto said can be described as “the Brazilian Oprah.”

Entering its fourth year, Alberto continues to have high hopes for the Juntos Conference. “What makes me happiest during the year is when someone tells me the Juntos conference helped them get to know a specific company and now they are working for that company,” he said. “I don't care if it's McKinsey or not. All I care about is that we are giving opportunities to Black people. We are showing them it's possible for them to come to and thrive in the corporate environment.”When he’s not working hard for systemic change and accessible opportunities through the McKinsey Black Network, Alberto is committed to his role as engagement manager, which allows him to help companies achieve large-scale transformation and develop new strategies to face the dynamic times we live in.

“Having the opportunity to work for several industries and practices was exactly what I wanted when I joined the firm," he says. “Now I have the chance to work on the path that has always attracted me the most.” 

Family above all

It’s abundantly clear that Alberto’s focused, tenacious, and tactical in his approach to his career and that has gotten him far in life.

When he first became an engagement manager after working as an associate for two years, Alberto prepared himself mentally and physically by starting therapy and committing to a disciplined workout routine consisting of Thai boxing, swimming, and tennis.

His commitment to his well-being and that of his beautiful family reign supreme. Alberto’s number one priority is making time for his two daughters, Júlia and Beatriz, and his wife Gisely, who is currently an executive at a fast growing Brazilian fintech.  

“It’s a daily challenge,” he says, but he always tries to be present for his girls. “I like to do the daily routines: preparing breakfast, brushing their teeth, taking to school, telling stories at night. To work for me, it must work for them as well. My three girls are the most important things in my life." 

This piece was crafted by Made in Color, an Oakland-based creative agency dedicated to nurturing creatives of color and bringing captivating content to life.