Alba Adamo’s natural curiosity and desire to learn helped her grow from a hotel manager to a leader at Coca-Cola.
Alba Adamo always dreamed of being able to pursue an education. While growing up in Bucaramanga, Colombia, Alba’s mother — who was never able to finish high school — instilled a passion for education in her daughter. “My mom was always telling us that you could lose everything in life, but there were two things that nobody could ever take away from you: what you know and what you believe,” she said.
At the age of 18, Alba had the opportunity to achieve her dream when she moved to Miami, Florida, and enrolled in community college classes to learn English. Coming from a small town in Colombia, life in Miami was shocking at first, but being exposed to people from different nationalities was a life-changing experience for her.
In addition to her English classes, Alba began her first part-time job at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant where she was responsible for cleaning the salad bar. “I remember telling myself, ‘I need to learn English quickly so I can get a degree and won’t have to do this for the rest of my life,’” she joked. Her experience with the restaurant gave Alba the idea to transfer to Florida International University to pursue her bachelor’s degree in hospitality management.
She completed her degree and worked for the Miami Airport Hilton and the Fontainebleau Hilton where she planned conventions. “Those experiences exposed me to what teamwork is all about. I learned that everyone has a role and an impact. That has been a philosophy that has helped me in my career,” she said.
Alba’s career in hotel management eventually led her to Atlanta as part of a new management team for the Grand Hyatt hotel. Even as she was enjoying her experience with Hyatt, she began wondering what she could accomplish next.
It was around this time she received an offer to join the Strategic Events Department at Coca-Cola. “The only thing I knew about Atlanta before I arrived was that it was the home of Coca-Cola,” she said, “My mom always told me that the United States was a land of opportunities. She would reference Roberto Goizueta, a Cuban native who went to the United States and became the leader of the Coca-Cola Company, so from my childhood, I had always admired Coke.”
Alba accepted the position with Coke, which put her on a new career path. “I started at the bottom at Coke. I remember friends questioning my decision, but I believe if you work hard, you can achieve what you want. Once I had the chance to join the Coca-Cola family, I knew the opportunities were endless,” she said.
Georgia State University
Although she started in an entry-level position, Alba was determined to move up at The Coca-Cola Company. “One year, when I got my copy of the annual report and began to look through it, I realized I eventually wanted my contributions to be directly reflected in those numbers,” she said.
To achieve this, she decided it was time to go back to school and earn her MBA. “I met Ahmet Bozer, executive vice president and president of Coca-Cola International, and he was an alum of Georgia State’s business school, so I thought I should learn more. I found out about the professional MBA program there and realized it was ideal for what I was doing at the time,” she said.
During her time as a student in the Robinson College of Business, Alba took Financial Management with Professor Galen Sevcik, who taught her to analyze and leverage numbers in a completely new way. “I am a marketing person who became a finance person in his class, and it was one of the greatest gifts I could have received,” she said.
Alba is also grateful for her Global Competitive Strategy course, which provided her with a framework for establishing applicable strategic solutions. “I remember the framework we learned in that class, and I still carry it in my briefcase. When I’m working on a difficult business plan, I’ll use it to help put the plan into very simple terms,” she said.
Since completing her professional MBA, Alba has held numerous positions within The Coca-Cola Company and is currently the group director of Hispanic Marketing. Her life outside of Coke is shared with her two-year-old daughter Sofia, whom she calls the joy of her life. “It’s been fun to experience life through her eyes as she explores the world,” she said.
“When I am a mom, I’m focused on giving my daughter 100%, but when I’m work it’s all about the business and what I can contribute and achieve,” she said, “I always introduce myself as a daughter, sister, mother, and leader at The Coca-Cola Company.”
One thing that has not changed over the years is Alba’s curiosity and desire to learn as much as possible. “During my childhood in Colombia, our country went through very difficult times,” she said, “We did not have the means to education. My dream was always to be able to earn a secondary education and achieve what I want without limitations.” It is this perseverance, plus Alba’s hard work and infectious enthusiasm, that has made her life a dream come true.