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Economics Alumni Feature: Alvaro Espinel (BA, 2011)
After completing his undergraduate degree in economics at SFU in 2011, Alvaro Espinel returned to Peru and started working for an insurance company. He then went on to work in other industries such as banking, tourism and real estate. In 2018, he received his MBA from Barcelona's Esade Business School, which is one of the world's top MBA programs. He currently works as a Sales Manager at Gallagher, a global insurance brokerage, risk management, and consulting firm.
What would you like students to know about breaking into your industry/profession?
The good thing about sales is that anyone can work in any industry. It is always the same approach towards the clients and prospects.
If you want to get into sales, the most important thing to know is that you need to erase from your mind the stereotype that salespeople are just good with their negotiation and communications skills. Most scholars refer to this as the 'Mad Men' approach which is in reference to the famous TV show.
However nowadays, sales is becoming very analytical and technical. For example, every sales person has to know how to use CRMs, manage teams and portfolios, and in most cases sell your product to the CFOs of your prospect companies and also internally.
Also, most of the salespeople around the world are 'farmers'. That means that they rely their sales strategies based on the relationships and wait until it materializes. Contrary, what most companies are looking for is a ‘sales hunter’ approach. Indeed, getting comfortable with prospecting tools and cold-calling will determine your success in this area.
What were your favourite courses? Any professors that made a big impact on you?
My favorite course by far was ECON 490: Seminar in Public Choice. It was a fourth year course and my professor was Fernando Aragon who coincidentally is also a fellow Peruvian.
How did SFU Economics influence you and your career?
I first started in business and intended to finish my degree in it. However, I heard from several students that the Economics program at SFU was very practical. Because in order to succeed in this career, you have to develop a lot of teamwork so as to get it right. After doing several team projects with former classmates, it clearly helped in my professional endeavor since most companies are looking for professionals capable of working together as a team and not as a 'lone wolf'.
Looking back at your university experience, what is one piece of advice you would give to current students?
Don't worry too much about having the best grades in your class. At the end, what an employer looks for in an ideal candidate is your commitment, energy and honesty. Interact with your classmates, help them, and try to establish good relations (and also with the professors).
Anything else you would like to add?
SFU helped me as an international student, especially since my English was very rusty at the start of my degree. All the professors were very approachable and willing to give you a hand whenever you need it. As long as you give 100% of yourself, they will guide you towards success.