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Mondelez head of IS Marcelo de Santis on a mission: Climb Mount Everest

Divina Paredes | Dec. 17, 2013
The seed for the expedition was planted during a trip to New Zealand five years ago, when he joined his first alpine climbing course.

"I save my vacations to do climbing trips plus have a wife that understands and support this effort."

"After dealing with several life challenges; my wife and I decided not to have children," he says, on how he got involved with Unicef. "We felt that despite those challenges, we should give back our energy and love to a cause close to our hearts.

"Taking the Unicef flag to the top of the world is a way to raise awareness about the issues affecting children," says De Santis. "These children deserve to have an opportunity and the solutions are not complex; we just need to believe and work hard to make zero [deaths from preventable diseases] a reality."

The undertaking is not entirely divorced from his work as regional CIO.

"Climbing Everest to support a charity is about planning, flawless execution and engaging people with your dream," he says. "As a business technology executive, you are used to planning large business transformational efforts and executing these under tight business conditions. You also are required to engage support from different business colleagues across the company to deliver change that ultimately impacts positively business results.

"Nobody can lead large business transformations without the right support," he says. "As well, you cannot climb a mountain like Everest by yourself or fundraise US$250,000 just talking to your neighbours."

De Santis learned how Unicef programs helped reduce the number of deaths from preventable diseases for children under five years of age by nearly 50 per cent — from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012.

This figure demonstrates it is possible to radically reduce child mortality, even bring it down to zero, says de Santis, who is paying for all the expedition related expenses.

All funds raised by his team will go to Unicef.

So how can CIOs undertake a similar project?

"When you have a leadership position in a company; you are gifted," he says.

"You have decision making power, you naturally become the reference for many people in your organisation and that gives you one opportunity to lead above and beyond your job," he states. "Engage your colleagues and partners in something bigger than delivering revenue and profits; you can actually change the world."

You will be amazed at how much you and your teams will learn from it, says De Santis. "Delivering business results will become easier since you have connected yourself and your colleagues with a higher, larger purpose. As a leader and business executive you should give it a shot; it is truly transformational."


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