Taking the Unicef flag to the top of the world is a way to raise awareness about the issues affecting children, says Marcelo de Santis of Mondelez International.Taking the Unicef flag to the top of the world is a way to raise awareness about the issues affecting children, says Marcelo de Santis of Mondelez International.Climbing Mount Everest has become a metaphor for leading difficult projects.
Executive teams can now attend a course that simulates the experience of scaling the world's highest peak — with the goal of transposing the lessons of teamwork and resilience back to the workplace.
For Marcelo De Santis, climbing Mount Everest is not part of a business school case study or an executive course.
The director, information systems and business process excellence for Asia Pacific at Mondelez International, will scale Mount Everest in April next year to raise funds for the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef).
The expedition, Climbing for the Children, aims to raise US$250,000 to support Unicef's campaign to help bring down the number of children who die from preventable causes to zero.
Every day, 19,000 children under five years of age die of things that can be prevented through a simple vaccine, access to clean water and protection from mosquitoes carrying deadly diseases, he says.
The seed for the expedition was planted during a trip to New Zealand five years ago, when De Santis joined his first alpine climbing course run by Adventure Consultants.
"Interestingly enough we did the training in the same area that Sir Edmund Hillary trained for his Everest expedition," says De Santis, who is based in Singapore. "The technical challenges of these mountains are a good training ground for Everest and you can learn without the need to face the oxygen deprivation that you find above 7000 metres."
"I loved the experience and came back to New Zealand two more times to climb other peaks before attempting Manaslu in 2012," he says, referring to the 8200 metre high mountain in the Himalayas, the eighth highest in the world (Mount Everest is 8850 metres high).
He admits it is a challenge to integrate his training and travel schedule with his work at Mondelez, the snacking and food brands of the former Kraft Foods, whose products include Cadbury and Oreo. He says Mondelez encourages employees to give back to their communities, and has been very supportive of this project.
"My travel schedule is very dynamic and days are long with evening conference calls with my colleagues in other regions. But I managed my schedule in a way that I can train almost every day either early in the morning or late at night," says De Santis.
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