Meet Inês Relvas, a successful Nova SBE alumna, in an exclusive interview where she shared the importance that her academic path had in her professional life, the most challenging decisions of her career, and what advice she has for current students so that they can seize the moments they will forever remember.
What are you currently doing? And what is the most rewarding characteristic of your career?
Currently, I am Head of Strategy at SONAE’s Financial Service. I joined in April of this year after working for eight years at BCG – Boston Consulting Group, where I worked in strategic consulting. The most rewarding characteristic of my career is continuous and significant involvement in strategic decision-making. I had the chance to specialize in financial services, and it is very inspiring for me to be part of a company’s transforming decisions.
What do you know now that you would have liked to know when you were graduating?
I would’ve liked to know that the decision on where you start your career is not that relevant. Back then, I was too stressed out about the decision I made, thinking it was almost a point of no return. I think students take themselves very seriously when thinking about where they want to go or where they want to start. I would’ve loved to know that you can revoke that decision as many times in your life as you like. My message to current students is, “don’t take yourself too seriously.”
Who or what experiences had an impact on your career path?
I managed to have an internship at BCG before I joined the company full-time. For me, this was very important because it made me realize which direction I wanted to take. Consulting is a relevant part of any future career, and I knew I wanted to try it to see if it made sense to me. This one-month internship experience was crucial for me to understand that I was going in the right direction. Trying it and learning from people within the industry helped me to comprehend if I wanted this for me or not, and this way of thinking has guided me ever since throughout my entire career.
Why this area of expertise? What did you bring with you that helped you on this path?
It was a bit of a coincidence that I ended up where I currently am. What attracted me most were all the changes this area was undergoing. My curiosity to understand things was vital. I am still learning a lot, and you need to feel comfortable with that. I like to feel like I’m still a student at heart. I think the willingness to learn and the humility that you don’t know everything is something that I learned in my university years and that I still carry with me to this day.
Which skills have you acquired with your academic experience, and what skills have been vital for your career?
One of the most important skills I would say is problem-solving. At the university, we had several courses that challenged us to go beyond the obvious, to challenge the problem behind the problem. The teamwork was also important. Back then, I complained that we had too many group assignments and presentations. But, in fact, my day-to-day job has always been about working with people, and the type of preparation I got at university was very important because it made me feel comfortable in my setting. We were quite lucky to be pushed to work in different teams, having presentations and discussions, because it really prepared us for real work.
How did you land your first job after graduating? What steps did you take, and what advice would you give to those starting out?
I think it started before my graduation when I did an internship at BCG while undertaking my undergraduate degree. It was quite a simple process as I had the chance to join an event that the company organized the previous year in their office, where I had the opportunity to meet employees and receive their advice. It was very important for me to have this first experience before deciding on a full-time job.
What memories from your time as a Nova SBE student do you hold dear?
I still have a lot of friends from my time at Nova SBE. From relaxing in the hall to discussing how to study for which exam and deciding which events the school was organizing we would attend – it’s the moments between classes that I hold dear. I also remember some specific classes. The best memory will always be the environment the university provided that allowed me to grow.
What advice can you give our current students?
People shouldn’t take their decisions too seriously and stress too much. The decisions you are making now won’t define what lies ahead. Think of what makes you happy and not about what’s expected from you. Think about what excites you. Don’t forget to prioritize your own happiness!