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‘I was always inspired by successful stories of how people and companies were changing the world.’
Carlos works in the finance sector in the US focusing on social and sustainable projects in emerging markets. In his spare time, he’s a proficient mixed martial artist who won a national championship in Portugal. He says English has always been a big part of his life and feels you won’t get very far in management finance without it.
I’m from Lisbon in Portugal and I was always drawn to social sciences as a young kid. At secondary school, I did economics and then later in life went on to university to study business administration in Portugal and finally a master’s degree in Finance. I was always inspired by successful stories of how people and companies were changing the world, such as how Inditex revolutionised high street fashion and how Apple disrupted the phone industry. Another inspiration was the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the work they have done on bringing clean water to emerging countries.
Early on, I realised that English is a requirement for success in business, not just a competitive advantage, but a limitation if you don’t have it. It was clear to me that you won’t be able to get very far in management and finance without it.
Growing up in Lisbon was a real advantage as you always have English in schools. In terms of my personal English journey, I felt blessed for two reasons. Firstly, in Portugal, English is incorporated into everything we do. Not just in school but culture too, as we hear English music and we watch lots of movies in English with subtitles. Secondly, I felt blessed by the support of my family who were very much concerned with my learning curve in languages.
I felt blessed because in Portugal, English is incorporated into everything we do.
Languages don’t come naturally to me and I complemented my schooling with extra English language classes and worked towards a B2 First certificate which became my foundation in English. I then achieved a C1 Advanced that not only helped get me into university in Portugal but also helped me with presentations and writing case studies throughout my career.
Although exams can be challenging it’s important to keep strong and keep the faith, as exams can help you get ready for anything ahead. The reality is bit by bit, when you’re practising the language you will get better. I’ve applied this approach more recently as I’m currently trying to develop my French, which will be my fourth language.
English has always been there and has helped me in lots of situations including being interviewed for university, settling into university life and giving presentations at work across all levels. I’m currently based in Washington DC working for the IFC, which is the private sector arm of the World Bank Group. We invest in emerging markets whilst trying to have a social and sustainable impact.
My work focuses on Latin America and in my day-to-day role, I find being able to express yourself is key. I’m working with the most diverse set of people and whether it’s emails, conversations, or creating documents, English is the key to everything. My career and hobbies have also given me lots of opportunity to travel and a highlight for me was a Thailand trip to develop my martial arts skills.
I don’t like to think about where I’ll be too far into the long-term future, like 15–30 years, but in terms of learning languages I would never have guessed that I would have progressed to the next level each time.
And one thing that has always been with me is English – because without it I wouldn’t be able to achieve almost anything.
About Carlos Festas Henriques
Carlos has taken B2 First and C1 Advanced, part of our Cambridge English Qualifications.
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