A Day in the Life
Few students know about the challenges of balancing work, life and school like Jess McCarthy, an executive in customer marketing for Mars Petcare. When she started in the Global Executive MBA-Americas MBA program, her husband was deployed in Afghanistan. Around 9 pm each night, after her young children went to bed, she sat down with her homework.
In Year Two (by that time, her husband was home), the opportunity to work with international teams reminded Jess of why she chose the Global Executive MBA-Americas. “Home for me is where the Army takes us, but I can still be a productive member of the business world. I wanted to understand better ways to work remotely. Your team is spread across different countries, and you work with them every week, not just during the immersions. We tried to meet every Wednesday or Sunday, using Skype or GoToMeeting.”
When Jess’ team was formed during the first international immersion, in Vancouver, she was the only American in a group that included two colleagues from Canada and one each from Mexico and Brazil. Their yearlong strategy project assignment: help an international company that makes packaging for food goods, discern the best market opportunities in various countries.
What was an international immersion like? While each country and culture was unique, the program format in each place was similar, Jess says. Here’s how she describes the typical routine in São Paulo, Brazil.
Some of us meet for breakfast at our hotel, where a bus picks us up and takes us to school. Even breakfast involves cultural learning. You can’t find takeout coffee shops. Brazilians slow down and have coffee in a mug.
We start in the classroom with a lecture about the Brazilian political situation. This is part of my second-year microeconomics class, with an emphasis on Brazilian business culture. (In Mexico, the focus was on family businesses, which are big, both there and in Brazil.)
Classroom instruction is usually all day. As part of our learning about microeconomics, there is a lot of emphasis on Carnaval. Brazil is also getting ready for the World Cup and the whole place is abuzz about these events which are both huge from a business perspective. We also learn how integral they are to the culture and the life of the people. I start to appreciate how important soccer is to Brazil’s identity.
We usually experience a local restaurant together—a lot of wonderful meat dishes. A very popular lemon-based drink we love is called caipirinhas. Most business in Brazil happens over these drinks!
The next night, our team’s Brazilian member, Fabio, has us to his home for dinner. Another evening, we visit a big dance hall where people are preparing for Carnaval parades. Men, women and children dress in these amazing costumes and practice their dance routines. The whole community gets involved. It’s really fun for them, but also business.
Since we have deliverables due in the morning, after dinner, we work as a team. Several times during the week we meet with Jeff, our group adviser.
Each team is paired with local people to give us fresh insights into the culture and business challenges as we work on our strategy project. One local, a teenager, gives us insights into how Brazil’s socioeconomic structure affects the packaging of beverages. The biggest problem for his peers, he tells us, is that most of them can’t afford to buy a soda. So we look at cheaper packaging to bring costs down.
Try to get some rest for the next day. In addition to the classroom work, we have a considerable amount of reading. Some people stay up to experience more of the city, and some stay a few extra days at the end of our immersion.
It is a very busy 10 days. But it never feels like a business trip where you don’t get to enjoy the destination. It is exciting.