It’s Thursday morning, 7 a.m. (EST), and time for another weekly call with my global MBA team. I’m joined by Dirk and Marco from the Netherlands, Luigi from Brazil, Alejandro and Antonio from Mexico City, and Grant from Washington, D.C. Our colleagues from Mexico always sound a little groggy, as the call starts at 6am local time for them. I think they had consumed a few tequilas when they agreed to that time, but they’ve been troupers and stuck with it. Managing time zones is always a challenge for weekly calls.
Although our global team only met in person for a few days back in March, our weekly calls and work together make it seem like we know each other much better. Sometimes between meetings with my local UNC team and weekly calls with my global team, I feel like I know more about what’s happening with my MBA colleagues than with my own wife! (That’s when I have to put the brakes on and arrange for some date time with my significant other, lest I gain an MBA and lose a spouse.)
So why the weekly (and sometimes bi-weekly calls) with my global team? Each module of the OneMBA program includes two significant projects and one smaller project with the global teams. The two large projects are comprehensive and require each team to choose one global company to focus on for the project. In addition to primary and secondary research, the project usually requires face-to-face interviews from individuals at the target company.
Last week I spent about two hours at the Volkswagen USA headquarters interviewing a retail communications manager and product manager for the Beetle – a fascinating interview where I got a behind the scenes glimpse of the marketing strategy that led to the release of the new Beetle in 2011. Our global weekly calls serve as the meetings to agree on project plans, and to discuss progress, issues, and challenges.
Recently, I had a chance to engage in a “real life” project as I traveled over 15,000 miles on a trip to the Middle East where I visited with my company’s distributors in four different countries. Although not part of my MBA program, this trip seemed to be just a continuation of the international experiences I’m having with my global colleagues. Visiting different cultures and countries was of course a learning experience, as I started out in a country governed by strict Islamic law, then visited more moderate Muslim countries, and then finished my trip by spending time in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
However, being involved in an MBA program that is truly global and that partners with business schools on four different continents connects me every week with different cultures and countries so when I actually travel to work outside the United States, it seems less foreign. An international MBA experience should give you more than a few classes with “International” in the name; it should create a learning environment that connects you with other business people in other cultures in a meaningful way.
Lee Lowder is an attorney who is pursuing his MBA at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler’s Business School. HIs previous posts: