Category Archives: International Study Tour

Xin Chào from Vietnam!

Mikaela Houck, Assistant Director

I’m currently writing this post from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam where 22 Class 13 students have just kicked off their 10-day International Study Tour experience. Jet lag didn’t hold anyone back as we hit the ground running and began to explore this great city and all it has to offer.

Our first day of the tour acted as a great way for everyone to get our bearings – we started the day with a city tour of Ho Chi Minh City and explored the Presidential Palace and some beautiful French colonial buildings including the Notre Dame cathedral and city post office.

For the afternoon, we ventured out to the Mekong Delta and meandered through a maze of waterways. We had a couple stops along the way where we enjoyed local fruits and tea, music, and encountered a python (yes – I said a python). And a few folks were even brave enough to snap a few pictures with it. I was not one of them!

We capped the day with a celebratory welcome dinner to mark the beginning of an exciting tour to come. From a dynamic group of company visits that includes industries as such banking, technology, automotive, logistics, tax and inward investment, and market research and media (Ford, Cisco and Citi Bank to name a few companies) to unforgettable cultural experiences and phenomenal Vietnamese cuisine – the next 10-day will surely be a whirlwind that will not disappoint.

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About the TMMBA International Study Tour:
The International Study Tour experience is an optional tour for TMMBA students that occurs in the second year of study and gives students an opportunity to immerse themselves in a different cultural and business context than the one in which we all typically operate day-to-day.  Students who partake in the tour have the opportunity to visit companies, tour manufacturing facilities, and meet business leaders and government officials. Click here to view blog posts from past Study Tour experiences.

Lessons from the Desert – A Look Back on the 2013 International Study Tour

In March, a group of 22 students, alumni, staff, and faculty landed in Dubai for the beginning of the TMMBA International Study Tour.  We spent 10 days in the United Arab Emirates and had the opportunity to visit 11 companies and government agencies and to take in the local sites and culture.

Photo of company visit to e-Home Automation
Meeting with Founder & CEO of e-Home Automation in Dubai

This year an overarching theme for the trip was examining our “global mindset” regarding the way we live, and how we and our organizations do business in comparison to the geographical and cultural context of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.  Two definitions of global mindset shared by Bruce Avolio, our faculty for the trip, were:

“An expansive way of seeing and thinking that grasps the individual, team, and organizational challenges and opportunities triggered by operating in a complex global business environment.”
– http://virtualteamwork.blogspot.com/2011/08/defining-global-mindset.html

“The cognitive capabilities of senior managers in multinational companies”
– Source: What We Talk About When We Talk About “Global Mindset”: Managerial Cognition in Multinational Corporations

We explored this concept before we departed for the UAE through several reading assignments, videos, and an individual assessment that gave insight into our own abilities that contribute to the development of a global mindset.  We were asked to consider and explore a few questions during the trip and used our time on the bus between company visits to delve in more deeply. For example:

  • What are the challenges of working in a global cross-cultural context and in particular Dubai and Abu Dhabi?
  • What are the best companies doing to manage and lead in a global context?
  • How might technology facilitate or hinder working in a complex, global context?
  • What constitutes one’s global mindset and how is it developed?
  • How does one’s global mindset relate to leading and managing across different cultural contexts?
  • What are the implications of having a global mindset for performance?

There were great discussions during our time in the UAE and one student who went on the trip put together this video on the experience.

Interested in learning more about our takeaways from International Study Tour? Check out this blog post from student Anne-Marie Scollay and these final thoughts on Leadership in the Middle East from our faculty, Bruce Avolio.

In March 2014 TMMBA will take a group to visit another part of the world, Vietnam. Learn more about that trip and stay tuned for their takeaways from the experience abroad.

TMMBA heading to Vietnam in 2014

The TMMBA Program is pleased to announce that Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi) will be the 2014 TMMBA International Study Tour (IST) destination.  The Study Tour allows students, alumni, staff and faculty to experience business and culture a different world environment through personal meetings with executives and senior managers, entrepreneurs, company visits, government agencies and cultural excursions.  The IST allows students to apply what they have learned in the classroom to another business and cultural environment and to develop and grow the global mindset necessary to be successful in an international business environment. Participants also have a lot of fun as they learn more about each other and create friendships that will last a lifetime.

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Vietnam:

 

  • Predicted to be one of the fastest-growing of the world’s emerging economies by 2025.
  • Manufacturing, IT and high-tech industries now form a large and fast-growing part of the national economy.
  • One of Asia’s most open economies. Economic reforms pushing toward a system of capitalism.
  • U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement opens up new markets for U.S. goods and services, and as Vietnam meets its WTO commitments, the Vietnam market represents the next great opportunity for all types of American companies.
  • Privately owned enterprises encouraged, and entrepreneurship has played a significant role in the country’s growth rate, in line just behind China and India.
  • Investment in infrastructure and tax incentives to stimulate the tech industry. Heavy investment in industry parks.

The IST is definitely a highlight of the program.  Read more about the TMMBA International Study tour by reading student, alumni, staff and faculty blogs from previous trips.

This year we have a record number of students participating and we’ll open up a few spots to alumni as well.  Should be another great International Study Tour!

TracyTracy Gojdics is the Director of the TMMBA Program and an alumna from the Class of 2007. Outside of the office you might find Tracy out hiking, running, reading, or spending quality time with her family. Tracy can be contacted at tracylt@uw.edu or via phone at 206-616-2610.

A Faculty Perspective on Leadership in the United Arab Emirates

Guest post by Bruce Avolio, Executive Director of the Foster School’s Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking and a faculty member in the Technology Management MBA program. Bruce traveled with TMMBA students to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in March on the International Study Tour. He wrote about his experience for FosterUnplugged and we’re sharing it here on TMMBATalk.

The vastness of the Middle East

I, like the students from Foster’s TMMBA program and staff, have visited many parts of the world. However, none of the staff or students had been to the Middle East. Of course, when we say Middle East, it’s like saying North America, in that the Middle East is made up of many different types of people, regions, climates and of course cultures. My goal for this trip was to develop our respective global mindsets as a basis for being a global leader—our assumptions, framing, perceptions and knowledge about other cultures. During our time in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, we certainly triggered A LOT of challenges to our respective global mindsets. Indeed, during our first corporate visit at Thompson Reuters, one of the top managers hosting us said, “Next time you hear the words—The Gulf—on CNN or Fox or where ever, I hope you consider how vast and diverse an area that reporter is referencing.” Boy was that ever an insight to retain in our global mindsets!

A controlled approach to leadership in Dubai and Abu Dhabi

There are several things that one cannot ignore when traveling in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. First, in 42 years since the founding of the United Arab Emirates, these global citizens have built massive cities with the most impressive and innovative architecture on earth. Second, you cannot find a more controlled society on earth that doesn’t appear to have any interest in overthrowing the ruling families. Indeed, what one sees in this part of the world are sheer opulence everywhere, and a largely satisfied group of indigenous citizens. The reason being is that the rulers in this part of the world, rule with an iron fist, but they also rule with tremendous generosity and smarts towards citizens. If you are a so-called Emirate and not living well, call your ruler because you are clearly missing out on all of the bennies, e.g., subsidized housing, utilities, car payments, healthcare, schooling, higher educational scholarships, or a new iPad!

Democratic versus authoritative leadership

Personally, I believe in more inclusive, transparent and democratic leadership, even at Universities for God’s sake. However, when you witness what has been created in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, there is something about tribal authoritative and authoritarian leadership that cannot be ignored.  Such leadership builds cities very quickly, efficiently and majestically…well, depending on your taste in architecture. Indeed, the parallels in the world that I could think of where similar leadership has had such positive impact are in places like Singapore and Chicago under the leadership of the Mayor Daley’s. When there is chaos to be controlled and a myriad of interests to be aligned, sometimes authoritarian coupled with authoritative leadership—if they know what they are doing, can be very effective. Yet, to sustain this model of society and leadership is tough, in that it oftentimes in the case of a Dubai or Abu Dhabi depends on the choice of the ‘right son’ or the ‘right brother’ in the succession plan.

Driving Porsches, Chevys, and camels?

Amidst the Bentleys, Mercedes, Porsches and the real fancy cars in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, all may not be as well as it appears on the surface. We learned that a very large percentage of Emiratis don’t graduate high school and many are functionally illiterate. Yet, when they do leave school – most can and do apply for a government job and of course get it – being paid $90,000, while also receiving 60 days vacation a year, housing and car allowance, all utilities paid for and many other benefits including healthcare. So why learn! As one Emirati entrepreneur told us, most Emiratis who want to be entrepreneurs, and they are few and far between, cannot compose an email or structure a sentence! On the other hand, there are Emiratis that you could compare to the best and brightest in the world. So as someone said, they have a ‘software’ problem not a ‘hardware’ problem that the governments’ rulers have to address to sustain this amazing growth over the next 100 years, let alone 50. In this regard, a most telling saying we heard about the past and future in this region goes as follows: My grandfather drove a camel, my father drove a Chevy, I drive a Porsche and my son drives a Bentley, but likely his son will drive a camel….again.

Takeaways from the 2013 International Study Tour

 
TMMBA Student Anne-Marie Scollay traveled to Dubai and Abu Dhabi this month on our International Study Tour.  Below are her takeaways and final thoughts from the trip. Read more about Anne-Marie’s journey on her personal study tour blog: http://outlookvfr.wordpress.com/

As I begin my journey home to Seattle, I find myself reflecting over the past two weeks in this beautiful and fascinating country. For so many reasons, this trip has been unlike any other international trip that I have taken previously – traveling with classmates, working with a knowledgeable guide, and having access to local businesses that were willing to share their time and transparently share information to a group of MBA students from the USA.

Depending on who you talk to, the UAE has a population of between 8-9 million people, of that only about 1 million are Emirati. What is so compelling about those figures is that the Emirati are the minority in their home country. While protective and proud of their own culture, they also recognize that in order to keep the country running with so many expats that there must be some concessions made. And so, despite the fact that this is an Islamic country, it is possible to drink alcohol, consume pork, and wear what one likes. In return, the expectation is that expats behave respectfully and follow the law (deportation is one very likely outcome for those expats that break the law).

The cities we visited clearly depicted contrasts: haves and have-nots, tradition and modernization, Emerati and expat, religion and commerce, and many more. And yet, somehow, it works here. The national leadership recognizes that to become a global player, the country must maintain both a stable economy and political environment. So while there is turmoil in the region, the UAE has maintained stability and as a result continues to attract expat workers and foreign investment to continue its economic advancement. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are cities under construction – neither of which is standing still. I am certain that in just 6 months the skyline will again look different and that there will be new marvels to behold.

At the close of this trip, I realize that as well-traveled as I had previously considered myself, there is still so much more about the world for me to learn. This trip has expanded my perspective in so many ways – about the world that I live in, my own perspectives and stereotypes, and the critical importance of truly listening and learning from each other. I leave the UAE humbled by how much I have learned in such a short time and hopeful that I will have the opportunity to return again soon.

Where In the World Will TMMBA Go – 2013 International Study Tour

Mikaela Houck, Manager of Academic & Student Services

The Destination
As part of the TMMBA Program, students have the unique opportunity to attend an optional international global immersion during their 2nd year of study. The TMMBA Program is pleased to announce that Dubai & Abu Dhabi will be the 2013 TMMBA International Study Tour (IST) destinations.  Bigger, brighter and better – the United Arab Emirates is fast expanding and offers a fascinating economic and cultural climate for our TMMBA students to explore.

The Details
The Study Tour, slated from March 10-18, 2013, allows students to experience business and culture in these two cities first-hand through personal meetings with executives and senior managers, entrepreneurs, company visits, academic institutions, government agencies and cultural excursions.

The Study Tour is a 2-credit C/NC course (TMMBA 549: International Business & Cultural Immersion) and participants are required to complete one pre-trip assignment, two-to-three IST course meetings during winter quarter 2013 and attend all required company and cultural visits.

The Reward
Often touted as a highlight of the TMMBA program, students have a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn the dynamics of international business while enjoying the rich historical, cultural, and aesthetic dimensions of two “world class” cities.

Students can utilize business concepts, skills and strategic insights in a new cultural context and market economy, and bring this new knowledge to their workplace. Lastly, it’s a great way to have fun and for students to deepen their TMMBA network!

“The experience really is one of the most fulfilling activities one can participate in during the TMMBA program.  The company visits, the strong relationships formed with classmates, and the cultural immersion is well worth it”  Matt Muoio, TMMBA Alum, Class of 2006

Read about past International Study Tours on TMMBA Talk 

International Study Tour – Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City

Guest post by Kathleen Helal, Class of 2012Tiananment Square

During our Beijing visit, a bizarre storm came in and blew out all the smog, dusted the city with snow, and cleared the skies for a picturesque visit to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The day began with a walk through one of the largest public squares in the world. Tiananmen Square is rooted in political history, from its origins as a monument to the Communist Party to a number of political events and protests. Many of us remember the protests of 1989, which resulted in the death of hundreds of protesters, bans on foreign press, economic sanctions, and widespread arrests.

It is hard to capture in a photo how large the concrete square is, but I can say that there are no tall buildings to shield the cold wind! There is also an enormous flat screen in the middle of the square, evoking a tourist-like Times Square feeling. Vendors wander the square selling souvenirs and much needed earmuffs. As we huddled for numerous photos to stay warm, we walked over to the Forbidden City.

Luckily, commoners (such as MBA students!) are permitted to visit the Forbidden City. This vast complex of buildings is impossible to see in its entirety. It contains numerous palaces, halls, museums, galleries, temples, and gardens.  As the imperial palace and the home of emperors, it was also the political center of the Chinese government. In China, we learned quite a bit about harmony and balance in society and culture. The imperial family and those who resided within the walls enjoyed the life of luxury here, sheltered from the conditions of the common people. This would eventually cause their downfall. It is interesting to draw parallels between this and what we see in the corporate world today. When high-powered executives isolate themselves from their employees (physically and financially), the organization experiences an imbalance.  Speaking of imbalance, do you remember the Starbucks controversy here? They opened a store at this cultural site, and had to close it in 2007. Seeing all this historical architecture and centuries of tradition and a meticulously planned site makes one wonder what they were thinking in the first place when they decided to open a Western TMMBA Students at the Forbidden Citycoffee enterprise here! (I will admit that a hot cappuccino would have been nice to have that day…)

Although it was cold and crowded, we managed to get through a number of the sections and emerge in tact! No one got lost in the mix. At least we were not the tour group in the matching Burberry knock-off hats! I am proud to say that our group did just fine without that level of coordination.

China misunderstood

Guest post by Glen Jensen, Class of 2012

Before visiting China I generally believed what I’d been told by the US media. I was led to believe China was the great colossus untapped mega-market of 1.5 billion people. I was also led to believe the Chinese are generally unhappy and repressed by an oppressive government who wants to control their every move on the web.

We visited Motorola and this visit put the Chinese market into perspective. Using the cell phone market as a general indicator of the overall market size and strength. The total Chinese market is 1.5 billion the effective market is only 180 million as compared to the 200 million US market. This made the potential market for goods and services not seems so colossal.

What I found was the charter of the Chinese government is one of harmony, inclusiveness and stability. The safeguards put on the free speech and the internet are towards this aim. Although this is repressive to our sensibilities the motivation is not so “evil”. Because of this repression I have been led to believe that if the “Great Firewall of China” were knocked down the Chinese people would come knocking down the doors of Facebook, Twitter, Google and the like. However, from experience I found the great-firewall is more of a nuisance than a true blockade and any site can be viewed with only minor inconvenience. What was interesting is that nobody in the west mentions the following of Baidu and Sina-Weibo the Google/Twitter equivalents in the Chinese market. The Chinese people choose the product which is tailored to the local market and even when given the choice to adopt a US web-product they often prefer the local product.

If you are going to enter the Chinese market make sure understand the market and come with an compelling product tailored to the local tastes. If you come to the Chinese market with an incompatible product, don’t blame the Chinese government for your failure. I believe this is cause for the lack of adoption for Amazon.cn and the out and out failure Google in the Chinese market.

International Study Tour – The Great Wall, Jade Shop and Farewell Dinner

Guest post by Ananth Raghavan, Class of 2012

TMMBA Study Trip Excursion - The Great WallThe first of our cultural activities in Beijing was a trip to the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall was a fair bit of distance from the Novotel Hotel, which gave ample time for our guide Jack to tell us about the history of the Great Wall. The Great Wall, as we learnt, was actually built in several sections by several dynasties of Chinese emperors with a similar purpose of offering security against the tribes and warlords from the North West. The section of the wall, we were visiting, was the Mutianyu Great Wall.

After a sumptuous lunch, we arrived at the Great Wall. Jack had warned us that the vendors selling their wares at the foot of the Great Wall might try to outsmart us and hence we decided to interact with them in small groups instead of doing so one on one. As it was a lot colder than we had anticipated, many of us ended up buying hats and gloves.

After a short but steep hike to the start of the wall, we took a cable car up to one of the higher sections of the wall. Unfortunately, there was a very thick fog that day that limited visibility to no more than a few yards. This was indeed disappointing as we had all hoped to see miles and miles of the Great Wall and instead had to be content with a few feet. Still, we could feel the presence and the grandeur of the magnificent structure around us and it was quite inspiring.

While we had the option of taking the cable car down to the start of the Great Wall, a few of us decided to climb down the steps of the Great Wall. The steps were pretty rough and jagged with some steps being extremely narrow and others being comfortably wide. However, we all reached down safely. Once, we got down, a few of us purchased souvenirs like magnets and mats from the vendors where we got a chance to exercise our bargaining skills.

Our next stop was a Jade Shop where we had one of the shop managers tell us about the different varieties of Jade and Jadeite. She also showed us how to distinguish between real and fake jade. Real jade is cooler, does not scratch unlike glass and has more richness when held against a light source. After the quick tour, we browsed their selections and purchased some jade jewelry for friends and family back home.

Two days later, we had our farewell dinner. Although we still had one more company to visit the next day, with most of us leaving back to the US the next day, this was our last dinner together as a team After a busy day in Tianjin, we returned to Beijing for sampling the world famous Peking Duck. Being a vegetarian, I did not partake in this. However, the other students and staff, who did, thoroughly enjoyed it. Personally, I was quite disappointed as a number of supposedly vegetarian dishes had meat in it and the waiters just did not seem to understand what “no meat” meant.

At the farewell dinner, Dan thanked our guide Jack for keeping us safe, helping us get to all of our appointments as well as entertaining and informing us about Beijing and China in general. Mikaela had earlier collected gratuity for Jack, which Dan then gave him along with a box of candy from the US to thank him for his efforts. This brought about an apt end to proceedings.

Singapore Slings, trishaws, and other adventures during city tour

Guest post by Marc Brown, Class of 2012

We kicked off our international adventure with a Singapore city tour. We met our tour guide Lin at the hotel restaurant Ah Hoi, for a quick lunch before heading out on the city.  Our first stop was a boat tour on the Singapore River where we saw the bright colored buildings and boardwalk bars of the Clarke Quay area, followed by the high-rises of the Singapore financial district, and ending at the Marina Bay Reservoir and the new $6.3 billion dollar Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino.  We found out a few days at our visit to GE Water the significance of the river and bay in providing fresh drinking water for Singapore Citizens.

A number of us came back later to explore the hotel and it’s amazing rooftop deck and pool, but during the tour we only got a chance to take a quick look in the mall (which has an ice rink). The mall is a symbol of the high-luxury shopping culture that exists in Singapore.  Almost every major luxury brand lives in this mall and in many other malls in this small city-state.  The Marina Bay Mall includes the world’s only floating Luis Vuitton store (one of the five in the city).  During our tour Lin explained the “The 5 C’s of Singapore: cash, car, credit card, condominium, and country club” and the cultural importance of making an impression – we heard similar stories later in Beijing.

The weather decided not to cooperate with us and we got caught up in a big rainstorm, so we made some last-minute adjustments to our tour and headed up to the Jewel Box lookout at Mount Faber for a great view of the city.  The skyline really is impressive.  We followed that stop with a visit to the famed Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel where the Singapore Sling was invented (Singapore Sling = Gin, Cherry Heering, Bénédictine, and fresh pineapple juice).  We all enjoyed one (and in some cases a couple) of the yummy drinks until the rain stopped.  After the Long Bar we proceeded outside for a trishaw (rickshaw) ride through the Arab Quarter and Little India areas of Singapore, both representative of the mixed population of Singapore.

We returned to the hotel to change and for a quick breather and then hoped back on the bus for our welcome dinner at Jumbo Seafood.  There was still rain in the air but it was in the high 70’s so sitting outside in a tent wasn’t too bad.  We had a great selection of seafood (at least for the meat eaters) which was served on a lazy susan, a great solution for large groups.  We got to try a Singapore specialty, peppered crab – it was a bit too peppery for my tastes but the other food was quite good.  A nice cap to a great first day in Singapore!

Photo of Singapore's Clarke Quay
Clarke Quay from the River Cruise
Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino
Singapore Slings
Singapore Slings at the Raffles Hotel
Trishaw Ride
Trishaw Ride