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Alumni Profile: Cecilia Maya

From Colombia to Boston and back again - making a global impact

Cecilia Maya

Cecilia Maya, MA '00, PhD '04
Medellín, Colombia

Current employment: Chief Financial Officer, XM (Grupo ISA)
Previous work experience: Banco de Bogotá, Banco Real

Though Cecilia Maya grew up in Medellín, Colombia and attended college there, she always dreamed of going to graduate school overseas. “I wanted to study abroad because I wanted to live in a place with a different culture and surround myself with people from other countries,” she says.

Her program at Brandeis International Business School (IBS) delivered just that—Maya’s fellow students hailed from all around the globe. “The international environment at Brandeis left a big impression on me,” she says. “It gave me new perspectives and different ways of seeing global issues. It was like traveling the world every day.”

Before attending Brandeis IBS, Maya trained as a lawyer at Universidad de Medellín. She then worked as a commercial banker—first at Banco de Bogotá and later at Banco Real. Her career in finance flourished, but Maya wanted her PhD.

She was drawn to Brandeis because it offered a combined program in finance and economics. The program prepares students for careers in global business, trade, and policy. “It is exactly what I wanted to study,” she says. “Plus, I love the city of Boston and Brandeis is an easy half-hour bus-ride away.”

Maya, who attended the school on a Fulbright scholarship, has fond memories of both the classroom and the campus. In particular, she recalls her courses with Blake LeBaron, Abram L. and Thelma Sachar Professor of International Economics, and an expert in high technology finance. “He made very difficult things very simple and interesting,” she recalls. “And he taught us how to really do research: starting with thinking process and ending with mastering the analysis.”

“I also remember going to hear lectures by all the important managers, politicians, and academics that came to the school,” she says. “I learned so much from them.” 

Today, Maya is the CFO and Market Operations Officer at XM, the independent power system operator of the Colombian electricity market. XM is a subsidiary of ISA Group, a multinational corporation that owns the largest transmission network in Latin America. She is also an adjunct professor at EAFIT University who teaches derivatives and risk management.

She uses the economic, financial, and analytical tools she learned at Brandeis every day on the job. Perhaps more importantly, though, she says she is reminded daily of the values the school ingrained in her. “Brandeis IBS emphasized tolerance and respect for diversity and instilled that philosophy into students. It has had a profoundly positive impact on my professional life.”