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Paulo Leone

Building global brands and experiences

Each academic year, Seneca welcomes the world through its doors. With more than 5,500 international students from 140 countries, it is one of the most diverse postsecondary institutions in Canada. Ambitious, skilled and often multilingual, international students represent a robust talent pool ready to invigorate the Canadian economy by bringing global perspectives and helping to open new markets.

One such student, Paulo Leone, chose to come to Canada from his native Brazil after completing a marketing degree at the Universidade Catolica de Salvador. Paulo’s drive to continue his studies was inspired by the sacrifices made by his own parents, who, despite modest means, made sure he had access to the best schools possible. And he knew that to distinguish himself in the highly competitive job market in Brazil, he would need to further his education and expand his horizons.

“In Brazil, employers really value experience from abroad,” says Paulo.

International admission trends reflect this. Brazil was among the countries with the fastest growing number of international students in Canada between 2013-2014, after Nigeria and Vietnam.

Paulo enrolled in Seneca’s Marketing Management graduate certificate program, which offers specialized training that was not available in Brazil at the time. However, making the choice to study abroad comes with sacrifice; it means leaving the familiarity of home, dealing with extra stress and adapting to a new culture, and, often, a new language.

“Language was the hardest barrier to overcome”, says Paulo. “If I did not focus my attention on following the lips of my professors as they spoke, I was not able to absorb what they were saying. My classmates thought I was the most un-social person in the program.”

Seventeen years later, it is clear Paulo made the right decision. He loved Canada, and decided to stay. Now a Canadian citizen, he serves as Vice President of Strategy at Community Agency in Toronto, with clients like Perrier Global and Bacardi North America. Throughout his career, Paulo has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, including McDonald’s, Rogers, Chrysler, Labatt, Unilever and Unicef.

Along with Paulo’s career success, his experience as an international student set off an enduring thirst for exploration. In 2014, he embarked on a year-long sabbatical through South-East Asia to reflect and chart his future.

“They say ‘the longest journey is the journey inwards,” says Paulo. “Having worked for years on others’ brands, it was time to take a long break and work on my own.”