Alumni Spotlight: Mauricio Sosa
Mauricio graduated from the Urban Management and Development Master’s last year. He was part of the Urban Strategies and Planning specialisation, as well as the research team that collaborated with GIZ Ecuador. Born and raised in Mexico City, Mauricio worked as a researcher after graduating with an MA in Philosophy and volunteered as an activist for sustainable mobility. Currently, he is working as a strategic coordinator in the Mexico City Mobility Department.
What was your UMD study experience like?
My biggest challenge at UMD was adapting to a multidisciplinary and collaborative perspective. It was very intense and demanding, but at the same time, I had a lot of fun learning the craft of urban management. I also enjoyed the case studies and stories of urban development projects across the world. One of the best parts was sharing this with my classmates. Every module had its own challenge, but each step gave me more confidence to embrace my future as an urban manager and through this experience I learned a new approach to work and incorporated it into my own values and assets.
What happened after you graduated? How was the transition from studying to what you are currently doing?
The transition was quite intense. I had experience working in the public sector but nothing as demanding as this. The city government had to deliver priority projects upon the first one hundred days of government, which put big pressure on the entire team. I had to adapt quickly to the fast rhythm of project deadlines as well as the traditional bureaucracy.
Having a background in philosophy and cultural studies, complemented by the tools that UMD provided, makes my profile adaptable to different settings and scopes. This makes it easier for me to understand the importance of details, as well as the bigger picture in the Mexican government.
What is your current occupation? Did your study help and if yes, how?
My current job is as strategic coordinator in the Mobility Department of Mexico City. I work in an office created by the new administration focused on Strategic Projects. We focus mainly on the integration of the network of public transport systems. Our goal is to promote collaboration between the transport organisms through the standardisation of training, development of gender protocols and strategic plans to develop inclusion in public transport. Office work is a big part of my current functions, but this collaborative aspect plays a significant role in the new approach of the current administration, which was not implemented in previous years. This was one of the selling points when I did my interview and felt pretty similar to the approach that I experienced during the Urban Strategies and Planning specialisation module.
Why did you choose to do this job/activity?
Mexico has faced pollution-related issues with mobility for many years. The social aspect has recently been incorporated, adding to my passion for sustainable and inclusive mobility. Before studying at IHS, I participated in numerous seminars, interventions and forums, which led me to create a small network of friends and colleagues. I was determined to translate this into a professional profile. When I came back, this network supported my search for a job where I could be involved in urban planning, sustainable mobility, as well as social inclusion.
What was the biggest challenge after your graduation? How did you overcome it?
During my last few months in the Netherlands, I asked for advice from my professors and acquaintances in search of a job that could fit my profile and personal interests. I struggled to find such opportunity and came back to Mexico, convinced that this experience helped me understand better my strengths and shortcomings in order to develop my profile as an urban manager. The experience I gained in the UMD program has expanded my comprehension of urban issues as well as my set of skills. On the other hand, coming from an academic background, my engagement with activism for sustainable mobility allowed me to identify the organisms and working opportunities. The government transition in both the national and city level provided a huge opportunity to find a position within that field.
What is a cause/idea/project you believe in or would like to pursue?
I grew up very close to river Magdalena, the last living river in Mexico City. The rest of the canals were piped decades ago, and very few water bodies remain in the whole metropolitan area. I remember that every year the Magdalena shrunk little by little. Although I have no experience working on water management, I would love to promote an urban development approach in the city where sustainable water management was integrated beyond mere maintenance. Recovering the rivers of the city by promoting sustainability would lead to solving many issues, such as reducing heat islands, preventing flooding and pollution. In the end, this could change completely the relationship we have with our environment by making water bodies part of the public life of its inhabitants, in the way canals are part of life in the Netherlands.
What do you see yourself doing in the next few years?
My professional dream would be working in urban contexts across Latin America. Living and collaborating with people from South America made me realise the strong bond we share and how much we have in common. There is such a complex history of spatial injustice despite the profound cultural and ecological diversity of the continent. I would like to become a private consultant or join an international organisation where I can contribute to promoting spatial justice through research and strategic planning well beyond Mexico.
What would you advise the current UMD students and aspiring ones?
I would tell them to expand their network beyond IHS. There are many interesting regional projects and enterprises focusing on architecture, sustainability, circularity, and etcetera. Getting to know these projects and the people working on them could lead them to get a job or an internship in the Netherlands after the program. At the same time, it is very important to maintain your network at home; particularly if you plan to go back after the program, and especially in the case of someone who does not come from a background in architecture or urbanism.
For the aspiring students, there is one simple piece of advice I would like to share: always plan and follow through. Even though it gets scary at some moments, never be afraid to ask questions that may feel naïve and voice your passion. Knock on all the available doors; people usually will like to hear from someone as passionate as them on their area of expertise.