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Career path

From driving cars to driving sustainable change

Published 9 September 2022 in Career path • 4 min read

Leaving a “dream job” as an automotive design and test engineer in 2005, to complete his MBA at IMD, was the start of a journey in a completely different direction for mechanical engineer Arturo Ania. 

 

“I was always a car nut. After completing my studies at the University of Toronto I went on to design and test drive cars all over the world for the likes of Chrysler and Mitsubishi. But after six incredible years, in which I successfully helped launch five vehicles, I realised that I needed a change,” explains Ania.  
 
Ania had always wanted to do an MBA to supplement his engineering background with business know-how. For him, IMD was an attractive proposition, given the opportunity to be exposed to new cultures and environments, and the fact that it could be completed in one year. 
 
Ania left his job at Mitsubishi and took the opportunity before his MBA commenced to backpack around the world, visiting China and India before heading to Europe. “During my travels I observed that the cities with the best quality of life were those with the least amount of cars. I realised that the world didn’t need me to design more cars and so my focus shifted.” 

For Ania, IMD was a life-changing experience.  

“From the friendships and relationships you develop, to the unique international experience it provides, IMD has given me the connection and support of so many people, which I continue to have to this day. I still have regular interactions with my IMD WhatsApp groups.  

“As an engineer, I really wanted to grow my business knowledge, from accounting to private equity, but what really stood out for me from my year at IMD was what I learnt about leadership:, especially the psycho-analytical aspect of it – the importance of understanding who you are as a person, and of challenging and reinforcing your values.” 

Leading the charge to plant-based alternatives 

After completing his MBA Arturo spent 12 years at DuPont: a specialized product and solutions company, where he put the leadership lessons he had learnt at IMD to work, holding leadership roles across the globe, including Head of  Plant-Based Ingredient business for EMEA. 

“This is where my work in the sustainable food space began. During my time at DuPont we achieved a number of industry firsts, especially in the alternative meat category,” explains Ania.  

He then went on to join DuPont Sustainable Solutions, the consulting arm of DuPont (which began operating as an independent firm in 2019), where he served as the Head of Agriculture, Food and Beverage. Here Ania took on the challenge of setting up the firms Private Equity and ESG practice.  

Mara Renewables Corporation, one of the world’s leading producers of sustainably-grown algae-based bio-products, was a natural next step for Ania. As CEO he was given the opportunity to lead a growing global team of over 100 people at the forefront of innovation in creating more sustainable food systems and improving human health. Under his leadership, Mara raised $39.5M in growth equity to rapidly expand its micro-algae based product portfolio. 

Mara Renewables Corporation (Mara), fermentation facility located in the UK.Mara Renewables Corporation's fermentation facility located in the UK.

For Ania, who joined Mara in May 2021, just as the company embarked on its fundraise, ensuring that the company clearly communicated what it was trying to achieve was very important. 
 
“Mara positioned itself as authentic plant-based food company. Yes, it is that, but it’s also more than that. What Mara is ultimately doing is trying to rewrite the food system at a time where the world desperately needs change in how we manage our natural resources.”  

Arturo is now working in his own capacity as an investor and advisor, focused on designing the future food system.  

What really stood out for me from my year at IMD was [...] the importance of understanding who you are as a person, and of challenging and reinforcing your values.
- Arturo Ania

Finding purpose in your life and career 

Ania’s advice to anyone wondering if perhaps what they thought was their dream job is not really what drives them, is to start by asking themselves some simple questions. 

“Is this your dream job? Why? Does this “why” really align with your values? Be honest with yourself.” 

Ania believes that to be a leader you need to create the building blocks early on.  

“Make sure you give yourself life experiences that really push you out of your comfort zone. Don’t take the first-class flight, backpack. Allow yourself to get goosebumps and butterflies. If what you are doing doesn’t give you that, you are not really pushing yourself. Build social equity, make friendships with people from across the world. Lastly, identify mentors, people that you can lean on to help give you clarity when you need it.” 

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