EFMD behind the scenes: Conversation with Zulay Perez

Zulay Perez

For our 50th Anniversary, EFMD has created a new “Behind the Scenes” series so you can get to know us better. This conversation is with Zulay Perez, our EFMD Global Network Americas Manager in Miami, Florida.

So first of all, thank you very much for agreeing to do this, Zulay. Could you tell us about what you do for EFMD, where you’re located, and your role within the organisation?

Sure. So, I am the manager of the Americas Office for EFMD, based out of Miami, Florida. And the primary objective of our office is to drive membership. But in the process of driving membership and also being a point of contact for our members here in the region, we basically talk about most parts of the portfolio. So, we have to understand what’s going on in most departments most of the time to be able to communicate that to the region. And that’s what I do.

Are you originally from Miami, or did you move there for work?

I am. I was born and raised mostly in Miami. And my parents were immigrants from Cuba and Panama.

That’s interesting. I didn’t know that. And can you tell me, what do you like most about your work?

What I like the most about my job is when I have the opportunity to use my platform to highlight innovative work in the region. I know that often we highlight the most common cases, the most typical cases of how a decent school might run or function or be funded. But I think that even within our network, there’s such a variety of schools that do all kinds of amazing work in their communities. And when I have the opportunity to use my tiny platform out of the Americas Office through our Americas events to highlight that work, that is the most fulfilling part. To create a more diverse body of work, knowledge and communication about what management education is. That’s what I like the most, and it’s the most fulfilling.

Learn more about Zulay in the video with Eline Loux below.

So if you were describing your job to a child, what would you say?

I would say what my director, Friedemann, always says: “I help make business schools better”. And that’s such a simple, lovely way to talk about the portfolio of EFMD because when I first started, I would always try to talk about all the things EFMD does. So, it would take me five minutes to talk about, “so we do this, and we do accreditation, and we have conferences, and we have __, but we also have __”, and at the end of that, no one really understands what the point is yet. And so I think Friedemann summarises it really well when he just says that the goal is to improve business education.

Very simple and easy to understand. What are you most proud of in the Americas Global Network?

What makes me most proud about the Americas office is that we started it from scratch. It started from nothing. And so when Friedemann started, and I started, we were right at the beginning of the office. So we were the office for the longest time. And looking back almost eight years later, we can really see the impact our work has had on bringing our regions together, and creating an awareness of what EFMD does in the region. We’ve come quite a long way, I would say, from where we were eight years ago. And that’s great to see.

It definitely is. And what development or innovation do you think is now critical in management education?

The most important thing, I think, that’s coming out of our current discourse right now is the discourse around diversity, equity and inclusion. I think that DEI is intrinsic to one of EFMD’s pillars, which is ethics, sustainability and responsibility. I don’t think that we can live in an ethical, sustainable or responsible world if it’s not diverse, equitable and inclusive. So the fact that this conversation is coming to the forefront and everyone’s talking about it, everyone is talking about it also in terms of social impact – I think it’s not just crucial for management education going forward, but it is part of the larger picture of how management education is important to society at large and vice versa because it’s like a symbiotic relationship. I think that if we really want a society that works for the good of all and we want an education system that reflects that, diversity, equity and inclusion are an essential part of that conversation. And I’m glad that more and more people are becoming comfortable with having that conversation for an ethical, sustainable and responsible future.

Yes, me too. Can you tell me what book has impacted you the most personally?

I don’t necessarily have one book for my whole lifetime that has impacted me the most, but I want to talk about the one that impacts me the most right now, like in my late twenties, and it’s going to be Pachinko. And Pachinko is an intergenerational story about an immigrant family, and it humanises the different generations of each of the families so deeply that it has helped me also humanise my own family and see my family members as individuals that have a story apart from me before me and after me. And that has been just so transformative, in how I see people, how I see their stories, how I see my own family. And so, that book has had a great impact on me.

I can see that. I read that book. I really liked it as well. What small gesture from a stranger has made a big impact on you?

Back when I was in college, actually, I still often go by a pseudonym when I order something because my name is not something that people automatically know how to spell. And it’s easier if I’m just trying to get a coffee to give another name. And I used to do that often, like I rarely ever spoke my actual name out to a server or a cashier or anything. And one day, I made an order, and the cashier saw my name on the receipt because I paid with my credit card, and it came up on the receipt. And she turned to me and told me, “I cannot believe that this is your name. If this was my name, I would have people say it to me all the time. You have the most beautiful name I’ve ever seen.” And I don’t think I even realised in the moment what she did for me because I actually did start saying and using my actual name more often after that. So there’s that.

I think that’s awesome. I had a Turkish friend who also did that. Her name was Itir, but she would always give a name like Sarah when she was making an order. And I agree that you should use your real name because Zulay is beautiful and people should learn how to spell it if they don’t know how.

And say it. Like we’re all worth people knowing how to say our names, and there’s a dignity in that, I think.

Yes, I agree, definitely. If you could travel in the blink of an eye, where would you go?

I have two answers to that. If I was going for leisure or potentially just to live there, I would go back to Lisbon, Portugal. Ever since we went there for, I think, the last EFMD annual conference in person in 2019, ever since we went there… it’s just a dreamy place, a beautiful place, and I would go back there in a heartbeat.

But practically and more close to my heart right now. If I could go anywhere, I would go to Denver, Colorado, because one of my best friends lives there, and she just had a baby. And it’s one of those points in your life where you just wish you were closer so that you could see someone in that phase of life because they’re going to change so quickly, and the baby is going to grow up so quickly. And, you know, you have to observe from a distance through pictures. And I would give anything to every now and then just pop up immediately, just to see her and do normal stuff like go to the grocery store with her and things like that. Because when you visit a friend, when you live far away, you start doing touristy things. They treat you more like a visiting tourist, as opposed to when you live there, or you’re close, you do normal errands and things like that. And I would love to do that.

I understand. Long-distance friendships can be really difficult sometimes.


And the last question for you, what habit do you have now that you wish you had started earlier?

One habit that has meant a lot for me that I’m experimenting with is time blocking, time blocking using my calendar. So I mean, I probably manage my tasks like most people – just have a running to-do list, and then every day, I pick the most urgent things and scramble to do them or something. But I started assigning time blocks to tasks, and so I plan out my day, giving whatever block of time I assign a task. And so that helps me know more how long a task takes or maybe I’m allotting too much time or too little time. But it’s a more manageable way of managing a to-do list that never ends. It never ends. So I have really benefited from doing that.

That’s a good idea. Maybe I should try that. I feel like I have the same problem as well. Thanks so much, Zulay. I really enjoyed talking to you and getting to know you better.

See more of our staff interview series.