Category Archives: Global Business

Global study: Looking at Cyprus & Greece through different cultural lenses

Guest blog post by Aspasia Bartell, UW Foster School of Business MBA student

Selected from a nationwide candidate pool, second-year Foster MBA student Aspasia Bartell traveled to Cyprus and Greece this summer with the American Hellenic Institute Foundation, a Washington, DC-based, Greek-American think tank. During the trip she had the opportunity to study current foreign policy issues and the business environments in Greece and Cyprus. The delegation met with the President of Greece, ambassadors, Greek and Greek-American business leaders and other dignitaries.

We began our trip in Cyprus, a divided country since the 1974 conflict between Turkey and Greece. Northern Cyprus remains under the control of Turkish military forces, a situation regarded as an illegal occupation denounced in several United Nations Security Council resolutions. The Greek-Cypriot government in the south wants to reunify the island, but attempts to reach a solution to the dispute have so far been unsuccessful. This situation has created hardships for the Cypriot people; for example, thousands have lost their homes and businesses as a result of the occupation and continued division.

Despite the division, the Cypriot economy is doing quite well. Over the past decade Cyprus has become a magnet for Foreign Direct Investment. The Greek-Cypriot government has taken specific measures to help drive investment including putting in place a low 10% corporate tax rate and a no withholding tax policy as a means to make investing in Cyprus as simple as possible.

UW Foster School MBA student Aspasia Bartell in Athens, Greece
UW Foster School MBA student Aspasia Bartell in Athens, Greece

Next, we visited Greece in the midst of its worst financial crisis in history.

In Athens we met with Dr. Miranda Xafa, Alternate Executive Director at the Board of the International Monetary Fund, who explained the economic crisis in greater depth. She discussed how Greece has taken out the largest loan in the history of humanity. Its debt has been downgraded to junk status. Greece is more than likely to default.

Xafa then spoke about actions Greece needs to take to make progress. She spoke on how Greece needs foreign direct investment and that this investment should be from private capital. She spoke further on how the country needs to focus on its tourism and shipping industries, which make up approximately 30% of its GDP. She also believes that officials should take a thorough look at the size of its public sector.

One of the business leaders we met with was Dennys S. Plessas, Vice President of Business Development Initiatives for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. He told us that Greece needs to isolate and to focus on its competitive advantage moving forward. He says the country needs to focus on exports of certain products as well as expanding its education system.

The political turmoil that accompanies this economic crisis has made addressing policy issues in Greece more difficult.

Greek officials are also dealing with an ongoing diplomatic dispute with their northern neighbor, the former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), over the name “Macedonia” itself. The Greek government maintains that the Republic of Macedonia should include a qualification such as “northern” to differentiate itself from the neighboring Greek region also called Macedonia.  While Greek and Macedonian officials continue to debate the issue, the UN has agreed to accept any final agreement the two countries are able to reach.

Also, relations with Turkey still remain strained due to an increasing number of Turkish flyovers in Greek airspace. As a result, Greece finds it necessary to continue to spend a large amount of its GDP on its military, while those funds are badly needed elsewhere.

UW Foster School MBA student Aspasia Bartell meets Greek President Karolos Papoulias
UW Foster School MBA student Aspasia Bartell meets Greek President Karolos Papoulias

We were fortunate to meet with Dr. Karolos Papoulias, the President of Greece.  President Papoulias used our visit as opportunity to thank President Obama for his political help with the financial crisis. He ended our meeting with a powerful message that the Greek people possess an incredible amount of strength and ambition and they will emerge from this crisis.

This trip was a phenomenal experience that illustrated how the world is becoming increasingly interconnected and that the business leaders of both today and tomorrow need to have an international view. During this trip I saw how leaders from different countries often view situations through their own cultural lens. The ability to recognize this and to attempt to see issues from the cultural viewpoint of another leader is an important skill when working in the international sphere.

Woodworth International Scholar Award

Hoss_WoodworthCertificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) student Jennifer Hoss was happily surprised when she was called into Faculty Director Debra Glassman’s office one afternoon in spring quarter 2011. There, she found out she had been selected to receive the inaugural Woodworth International Scholar Award.

Funded by Bob Woodworth, emeritus faculty member in Management and Organization and former CISB Faculty Director, the $1,000 award, which comes with a globe-themed trophy, goes to a high-achieving student who excels academically, demonstrates bilingual/bicultural skills and has high potential to contribute to the U.S. balance of trade.

Jennifer was a sophomore entrant into the CISB program and served as Spanish Track Co-President in 2010-2011. She studied abroad in Granada, Spain in summer 2009, followed by a marketing internship at Cosmen and Keiless in Madrid in autumn 2009. After graduation in June, 2011, she traveled through New Zealand and Australia before beginning a job in the Product Marketing Department of Physio-Control, where she is Associate Product Manager.

Jennifer says, “This award was really a special surprise. The money allowed me to extend my travels and see even more of Australia and New Zealand. And the globe sits on my desk at my new job where I already have the opportunity to work on international projects. I can’t thank Mr. Woodworth enough for such an extraordinary honor.”

Learn more about the Certificate of International Studies in Business.

Students connect with professionals

Costco Field TripThe Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) tracks have been exploring out-of-classroom activities by organizing field trips to local internationally-focused businesses. Many of these trips have been set up by partnering with CISB alumni. Not only is this a great way for alumni to get involved, it also allows current students to see where a CISB certificate can take them, and is a great way for them to learn more about some exciting local companies. Here are a few highlights:

Spanish Track:
In February, 2011, the Spanish track went on a trip to the Starbucks headquarters, where they met with CISB Spanish Track alumna Julie Anderson, Ethical Sourcing Manager in the Department of Global Responsibility, along with a colleague of hers. After being given a tour of the office, students were taken to the tasting room where they learned about the process Starbucks uses when choosing coffee beans to be used in production. They even got to sample some different coffee roasts for themselves! Students were then shown a short presentation highlighting the C.A.F.E. program for Ethical Sourcing, which ensures an overall ethical cultivation, distribution, and selling process.

Japanese and Chinese Tracks:
In January 2011, the Japanese and Chinese tracks had the opportunity to tour the new Seattle Amazon.com campus and learn more about this internationally-focused company. Carson Chu, a CISB Japanese track honorary alumnus, has worked at Amazon for six years and is now manager of the Shares Services Asia Department. He showed the students around the facility and talked about the company’s current activities and future vision. The students heard about Amazon’s current developments in the China market and how skills learned as a CISB student can be applied in the workplace.

After the trip, Carson invited two of the Japanese track members, both candidates for Amazon Financial Analyst positions, to meet with him and do mock interviews to prepare for the official job interviews.

The Japanese track also met informally with Costco CEO Jim Sinegal during a field trip to the company in May, 2011.

German Track:
Bob Vollbracht, Regional Director, UPS Supply Chain Solutions, hosted the German track at the Auburn, Washington facility in October, 2010. The students witnessed cross-dock transloading operations, got an up-close look at various trucks, containers, cargo and equipment, and received an explanation on warehouse inventory management.

Students Ashley Matsumoto and Darcy Lloyd said, “We are grateful for the many benefits that CISB provides, not only in preparation for international business jobs and careers but in helping us connect with our amazing alumni and local international companies.”

Learn more about the Certificate of International Studies in Business.

Study Abroad: Personal Transformation

Foster alum Benjamin Wood participated in the UW Exchange program in Germany in 2007. This is his personal testimony.

Studying abroad in Germany in the spring of 2007 stands out as the most defining and life-transforming period that I have experienced during my time at the University of Washington.  From this experience I learned a lot about myself and about the people and cultures that I came in contact with. The lessons and life experiences that occurred during that time have played a pivotal role in making me into who I have become. Three specific areas that I grew in, and that I believe are of key importance for anyone who desires to achieve success in business or in any realm of life, were my interpersonal skills, my confidence and my problem-solving ability.

Regardless of one’s career goals, possessing strong interpersonal skills are essential to success in business and even happiness in life. Whether it involves communicating to co-workers or customers in the workplace or building relationships with people outside of work, being able to relate to others, understand their perspectives, and communicate one’s ideas is essential to successful interactions. Studying abroad provided me with the opportunity to meet other people from cultures that I had no previous interactions with and forced me to learn to adapt to these cultures and personalities. While in Germany I became good friends with students from all over the world, ranging from England, to Russia, to Palestine and Israel. Living in such a diverse environment changed the way I interacted with people and made me a much more effective communicator.

Probably the single greatest area of transformation in my life while studying abroad concerns how much confidence I gained from the experience. Living on my own in a foreign country, with no safety-net of people around me to help me make decisions forced me make tough choices and then live with whatever happened. Even when things did not turn out the way I would have hoped, this process taught me so much about myself and about what I truly value. Through this experience I became much more confident in myself and, consequently, much more confident in the way I interact with others and make every day decisions.

Somewhat as a result of the other two areas, my ability to problem-solve and look at issues from different angles increased dramatically. By interacting with people from all over the world I received fresh perspectives every day on how problems can be approached and solutions can be discovered. Furthermore, because I was living on my own, I had the opportunity to frequently practice the new problem solving methods that I observed. Overall, I became much more adept at facing complex problems and making confident decisions based on whatever information was available.

Going abroad has given me skills that I will carry with me and build upon for the rest of my life. Studying abroad, more than any other factor in college, has set me up for future success in business and in life. Not only that, but in addition to the great skills it gave me, studying abroad has provided me with an amazing global network of friends and future business associates who I continue to remain in contact with and visit. These relationships alone made the whole experience incredibly rewarding and worthwhile.

Canada wins 2011 Global Business Case Competition

GBCC2011April 16, 2011 was an eventful day as the Global Business Case Competition hosted its 13th annual undergraduate case competition.  We were proud to host the entire competition in Foster’s new building and show off our new state-of-the-art home to visiting teams.

Each of the twelve Global Business Case Competition teams presented their analysis on how to make a water purification business in Tanzania profitable and how to expand the business to other African cities.  After a competitive preliminary round, four teams were selected to move on to the final round: University of Washington, Western Ontario University (Canada), Thammasat University (Thailand) and the University of Auckland (New Zealand).

With over 200 people from around the world in attendance, the final round of presentations was exciting to watch. In the end, judges chose University of Western Ontario (Ivey School of Business) as this year’s champion.

Congratulations to Foster School students on the University of Washington team for landing a spot in the final round: Kyle Bartlow, Jessica Henrawidjaja, Venkat Rao, and Melanie.

Foreign market strategy project

Guest post by Mike Lawrence, Foster BA 2012 and Certificate of International Studies in Business Student Custom/Italian Track

2011 Forign Market StrategyBoeing Market Outlook Report was the focus of 2011 Foreign Market Strategy Project. Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) tracks competed in the fourth annual Foreign Market Strategy Project in winter 2011. Made possible by the Boeing Company with CISB alumna Ya-Han Brownlee-Chen as project manager, the project tasked students with examining Boeing’s Current Market Outlook Report and looking for both general and region-specific improvements that could be made to the report. In addition, it challenged students to improve the usefulness of the report to Boeing’s numerous supply chain partners around the world. CISB students had approximately five weeks to complete their research and then present their findings to a panel of judges which included Boeing Company representatives, Associate Dean Steve Sefcik and CISB alumni.

At the suggestion of Ya-Han, a coach from Boeing, Helly Hansen and Samskip IcePak were brought into the tracks to provide an industry perspective and guidance to the teams. Tracks got a lot of help and advice from the coaches. One student said, “Not only was our coach extremely helpful, but she invited us to tour her workplace this spring.”

All of the presentations were a delight to see, with each group bringing unique and often very creative ideas to the table. In the end, there were three awards distributed among the eight presenting groups. The Chinese team (Chinese Track) received the Grand Prize for Best Recommendation, while the Middle East (Custom Track) team received the reward for Best Presentation, and the Europe (German Track) team for Best Teamwork. In all, the project was an excellent experience for CISB students and Boeing alike, with Boeing receiving some quality ideas on how to improve their report.

The Chinese track presented their strategy to senior management and campus recruiters at Boeing on April 8. They also went on a VIP tour of the Everett facility,  met with recruiters at a networking lunch and had the privilege of meeting with Ian Chang, VP, China Operations and Business Development for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Have an idea for a future strategy project? If so, please contact CISB at cisb@uw.edu.
Learn more about the Certificate of International Studies in Business.

Part 2 of 2: MBA study tour in Peru – Machu Picchu, microfinance, stocks, adventure

Guest post by Oliver Huslid, Evening MBA student

peru2011Machu Picchu
We took a bus, a train, and then a bus again to reach the top of Machu Picchu Mountain where the ruins are. My headache left me, which is fortunate since the first thing I did upon arrival is sprint across the ruins to get my name on the list for the Huaynu Pichu hike. Only 300 visitors are allowed at a time and I wanted to catch up with my classmates who had taken earlier buses than I. The climb forces me to do a solid hour of stair-stepping but rewards me with a majestic view of the Machu Picchu ruins.
 
Microfinance and women entrepreneurs
Our first company visit is with Credivision, a WorldVision-owned microfinance company focused on lending to women in Peru. They have medium-sized operations, having fewer than 200 active accounts but always expanding. A stringent application process ensures high-quality borrowers on their portfolio and a high repayment rate. A minimum of 10 women are required to apply for a loan together as a group—this is to encourage the borrowers to help each other out with their businesses, whether it’s giving advice or pooling funds. Because they’re on the hook together, they will often cover for each other’s payments should one borrower’s business fail and peer pressure the delinquent individual into solvency.

Peru_stocks_0971Peru stock exchange
We visit the stock exchange, a nondescript commercial building in one of the business districts of town. The presenter is regrettably too incoherent for me to learn anything, though I do recall from an earlier presentation that Peru’s stock market is over half mining capitalization. Their goal is to merge with Colombia’s stock exchange, which is dominated by textiles, and Argentina’s stock exchange, which is dominated by services, to create a unified and diversified stock market.
 
Paragliding over Peru
On my last day, I go paragliding off the cliffs of Lima by the shoreline. For the first time, I’m able to see across the endless city of Lima, home to 8 million, and I immediately forget all that’s on my mind. I look down the coast until the beach meets the horizon and begin to feel very relaxed. The paragliders and I head back to the hotel and meet up with our classmates, all of whom venture into the city for one last shopping adventure. Feeling tranquil, I instead opt to lay by the waterfall pool, dozing off to the sunset, waiting for the hour that I must board the plane to whisk me away from my Peruvian dream.

Oliver is one of many University of Washington Foster School of Business MBA students who studied abroad in 2011. Learn more about MBA study and work abroad opportunities.

Part 1 of 2: MBA study tour in Peru – Coffee, copper, economics

Guest post by Oliver Huslid, Evening MBA student

Peru_0097Silicon Valley of Peru
Microsoft Peru rents space from an unassuming office building in the heart of the city. Because this particular satellite branch only does Sales, it does not have the need for a sprawling complex like that in Redmond.  The immediate surrounding area has a new and modern feel to it. The architecture of the buildings showcases their glass and clean concrete. Because Microsoft’s neighbors include HP, Cisco, Oracle, and Google, it’s no wonder they call this area the “Silicon Valley of Peru.”

Coffee co-op
We visited Café Villa Rica, a co-op of coffee-growers in the Villa Rica region. Headquarters were located inside an unmarked office building in a sleepy residential area of Lima. Café Villa Rica is a privately owned and privately funded since local banks do not trust farmland as good collateral for loans.  They grow, pick, and process their own beans to ensure quality. Unfortunately, Peru does not yet have a big coffee-drinking culture, so most of their beans are exported to coffee-drinking nations like the United States. Café Villa Rica sells about 60% of its beans to Starbucks, where their acidic, earthy beans are mixed with Kenyan beans to balance out some flavors for Starbucks’ customers.

Copper mining
We walk around the corner to visit the headquarters of Southern Peru Copper Corporation, a copper mining corporation with extraction sites in Peru and Mexico. The copper industry enjoys high margins and an accelerating demand from developing countries like China. Year over year EBITDA is in the triple billions for this particular company despite issues with strikes, corrupt unions, and increasing environmental backlash.

Though recent demand slowed in 2009 due to lagging construction needs in the global sphere, demand has picked up pace again in 2010. As one of the largest mining companies in the world, Southern Peru Copper Corporation mines a diversity of minerals and metals, like molybdenum, zinc, and others.

Peru’s national economy
We began one day with a visit to the Ministry of Foreign Relations, where we are treated to an exposition on the strengths of Peru’s economy.

Many of the charts convey dramatic increases of key exports in the past decade, highlighting Peru’s rapid expansion and growing presence in the global trade arena. Peru’s modern approach to global economics has earned it crucial free trade agreements with a large number of countries, including the United States and much of Europe. The impact of these decisions has improved the standard of life for Peruvians substantially, as evidenced by the poverty level dropping from 50% to about 35% over the past decade.

One major weakness of Peru’s economy that they are trying to remedy is overreliance on exporting to the United States and other developed nations. The other major weakness of Peru’s economy is heavy saturation of mining companies. This trait of the Peruvian economy makes it vulnerable to fluctuating commodity prices for metals and minerals.

Oliver is one of many University of Washington Foster School of Business MBA students who studied abroad in 2011. Learn more about MBA study and work abroad opportunities.