Pablo Garcia Barnetche (MBA ’95) currently serves as director at Agrositio, an ag-tech company based in Argentina. He has grown with the company for over 20 years, and specializes in marketing, sales and strategic planning. Prior to earning his MBA at Darden in 1995, Pablo completed his undergraduate degree at Universidad de Buenos Aires.
After his experience at Darden, Pablo spent four years in Philadelphia with FMC Corp. working as an industry manager.
Barnetche, who is based in Buenos Aires, recently spoke about his background and professional journey.
Could you share a little bit about your background and journey to Darden?
After graduating as an agronomic engineer from the Universidad de Buenos Aires in 1989, I began working in the Agricultural Division of Dow Chemical, specifically, in the sales and marketing area. I soon realized that although I had a very sound technical background, I was lacking those tools that would help me succeed as a business manager. And so the idea of an MBA started bouncing around in my head for a while. I knew I wanted to attend a leading business school, and I knew I wanted it to be abroad, where I could gain an international and global perspective, and where I would also be able to contribute to a richly diverse environment.
I visited Charlottesville for my Admissions interview (No Zoom meetings back then!), and I simply fell in love with the town, the university and everything Darden had to offer. The case method, the multicultural student body, and a university town where everything revolved around culture and learning, yet a town which offered fun and entertainment as well, it all appealed to me and helped me decide Darden was it. And so my wife and I sold our furniture, left our apartment in Buenos Aires, and embarked on what turned out to be an adventure that went well beyond the actual lessons. We even had our first child in Charlottesville!
When you think about your time at Darden, what memories resonate with you the most today?
I still remember the pressure we felt to finish all the cases for the next day. There was never enough time to analyze each case as thoroughly as we wanted. So our study group developed a system where we would do a first reading together and then split the cases according to each member’s expertise. Then each member would present their case to the rest for discussion. Having to teach the case to your classmates forced you to seek understanding, to express ideas clearly and to select relevant evidence. Regardless of the case, these skills were always being exercised. As Spanish is my mother tongue, this was a double challenge for me at first. But, as Professor Robert Carraway had predicted in my first week, I was soon thinking and even dreaming in English.
Darden also opened up my eyes to the idea that good — or great — management is not restricted to the work or business environment. Those same strategies that were being discussed in class in the context of a case were being put to practice in the organization of a charity event, such as Christmas in April, a friendly get-together, such as [classmate] Conan Owen’s annual lobster party, or even a blood drive. If you wanted something done right, you had to use good management.
Time management, effective communication, team-building, knowing when to delegate; these are some of the skills I acquired at Darden which I still use daily both at work and at home.
How do you think your experience at Darden changed you?
My experience at Darden gave me the confidence to take on projects and initiatives which I might have otherwise ignored. Without this confidence, I am not sure I would have jumped on board a technological startup and the risk it would entail. I am glad I did. Agrositio is now a 20-year-old ag-tech business leader in Argentina.
When we started our company, there was much that reminded me of my first year at Darden: lots of decisions to make, and very little time for a thorough analysis of the many variables involved. There were times when I had to lead, propose and engage, and times when I was the one asking the questions. It was a challenging, but very exciting time, and the skills I had gained helped me map out both long and short-term objectives.
How did you first become interested in agricultural business?
Ag-business is at the core of Argentina’s economy. When I was in high school, I realized the agricultural industry would open up for me opportunities for work and business. That, and my frequent visits to a close friend’s farm during my teens, helped me decide to pursue a career in agronomic engineering.
What motivates you in your work today and what kind of impact do you aim to make through your work?
Being passionate about what you do is the biggest motivator there is. Passion pushes you to find solutions to the big and small problems a company must face daily, it keeps you looking for innovative projects, it makes you want to do your best and, hopefully, be the best in what you do. And there is passion in the celebration of achievements, too. It is an intrinsic part of my job to transmit this love for what we do to our team and to our customers in every project we embark on, and this shared passion has fostered our long-term, and mutually beneficial, relationship with our customers.
2020 was a challenging year for all. But our passion and commitment helped our team find creative solutions to the many problems our customers were facing. It helped us adapt to a new working environment and system. It resulted in the development and consolidation of new business areas in Agrositio, and a significant increase in our customer base.
How would you summarize your leadership philosophy?
I am a firm believer in teamwork. Knowing how to listen to other people’s opinions and ideas, knowing how to delegate and, most importantly, being ready to learn from the other team members are keys to achieving big goals.
My experience at Darden helped me understand that there is always much to learn from the people we work with. Everyone in the team has something valuable to teach, so we should listen. Always. I try to keep this in mind every day, at work, and at home.