How did you connect with 3G?
In college, I got a scholarship from a foundation run by the 3G founders. The only agreement was, when you start working, you would pay back 5 percent of your annual salary until you could pay back the loan. There was no signing agreement, there was no debt. It was all about the shake of hands.
When I finished my M.B.A., I wrote them. At the time, Alex Behring [a founding partner of 3G] was going to southern Brazil to a railroad project, and he said, “Look, why don’t you come spend some days there and see what it’s all about?”
I remember asking him, “Alex, have you read my C.V.? Or my résumé?”
And he said, “Why?”
I said, “I know nothing about railroads.”
And he said, “Neither do I. This maybe is going to work.” So I went there.
How did that work out?
It was a broken railroad just being privatized in southern Brazil, with everything to be done. A turnaround case. I started as an analyst. Two years later I became the chief financial officer, and then, when Alex leaves to come to New York to plant the seeds of what 3G is today, I replaced him as the C.E.O.
You were pretty young to be a C.E.O. How did you deal with that?
We normally think of C.E.O.s as the people who have the answers, right? I think C.E.O.s are the ones that have the questions. If you can provide the right framework and questions, the consumers, clients, customers, factory managers, supply chain — they have the answers.
The important piece is to recognize and learn fast. New mistakes are welcome. But learn from the old ones. And try to not repeat the same mistakes. That means you are not learning, and that is a problem in any organization.