Eric Maldonado (BBA '86) was a working-class kid from New York who came to Miami to study business at FIU. He made good money selling copiers in Hialeah after graduation, but something was missing. His New York friends were advancing in Wall Street careers, and he felt ... stuck.
"I loved Miami, and I made it my second home," he said, "but New York is the world's financial capital, and that's where my network was."
His connections landed him back in New York in 1990. He had risen through the ranks to an office with a prime view of the New York harbor when a visitor from FIU walked in and stared out his window in awe.
"He said, 'Wow! How did you get here?' " Maldonado recalled. "I hadn't thought much about it, but then he said, 'This would be a dream come true for a lot of kids at FIU's business school.' "
That conversation got Maldonado thinking. His New York network was an invaluable asset. How could he share it, and the unique career opportunities the city offers, with FIU Business students, many of whom had never even left Miami?
His wife Sandy, also an FIU graduate, shared the goal of reaching back to the university to provide opportunities. Their conversations evolved into the Eric and Sandra Maldonado Global Scholars Program, a game changer not only for participating students, but for a number of New York financial services firms seeking their talents.
Maldonado is now at IHS Markit, which delivers data-driven insights to leading global companies. As senior vice president and managing director of global sales for financial services, he oversees a team of 350 employees in sales and 50 in marketing. Every year, he welcomes a select group of 10 to 15 students from FIU Business for a five-day trip to New York City, funded by the Global Scholars program. They are accompanied by members of the college's Business Career Management team who serve as their coaches and guides.
In the months before they go, each Global Scholar participates in a tailored career-prep process, learning about the companies and executives they'll meet, and how to present professionally in the world's financial capital. While some have visited New York before, for others, it's their first trip — and even their first ride on an airplane.
"FIU Business students are unicorns – they're smart, they're multilingual, and they're ready to hustle."
Eric Maldonado (BBA '86)
Days are packed with appointments to visit financial giants like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, BlackRock and Morgan Stanley. They hear top Wall Street executives tell their stories, and meet with FIU Business alumni — some of them former Global Scholars — who built careers on Wall Street. Each year has its own set of experiences, such as visits to the NBA and Google, Times Square, Broadway shows and the NASDAQ opening bell.
"The Maldonado Scholars program changed my life," said Rhowan Ahmed (BBA '19), a 2018 Global Scholar. Her group met with Randy Robertson (BAcc '84), FIU alumnus and managing director of BlackRock, the world's largest mutual fund group and an IHS Markit client. They received an invitation to apply for one of the nation's most competitive internships personally delivered by an FIU alumnus, and Ahmed jumped on it, receiving both an internship and a subsequent offer for a full time job.
"I couldn't have done my internship without the program," she said. Maldonado is proud of the successes of the Global Scholars, but knows Wall Street is not for everyone.
"New York can be intimidating," said Maldonado. "Kids who come to work here need to have a real vision of what they want to do. But it's an easy place to leave," he said, "because wherever you go, life will be a lot easier."
Maldonado also sees the benefits of internship-focused Global Scholars for his own company. After building the company to 16,000 employees through acquisitions, IHS Markit recently shifted its emphasis to hiring and nurturing its own young talent. He actively seeks FIU students to join the company's training programs.
"FIU Business students are unicorns — they're smart, they're multilingual, and they're ready to hustle," he said. "It's not easy to find kids with these attributes, and they're going to make your business better."
"We recruit from Yale and Harvard and Brown, and these kids are as good as any we see from colleges in the Northeast." He advises other businesses: "Get involved, and get to know these FIU Business students. When you talk to them, you'll see how smart they are and you'll want to help them."