By Kirk Kardashian
Published Nov 13, 2013
From learning expeditions to consulting projects and independent studies, Tuck students go global and transform their perspective.
TUCK GLOBAL CONSULTANCY
Location: South Africa
City Year South Africa was struggling. The office had auspicious beginnings, formed at the behest of Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton in 2005 to mentor school kids and establish habits for their positive personal development. But post-apartheid Johannesburg proved a difficult place to make a difference. Moreover, the leadership of the organization had shifted frequently, leaving it without a consistent strategy and vision. The operation needed advice on how to set priorities and achieve its goals—in essence, the kind of services a professional consulting firm would deliver.
Enter the Tuck Global Consultancy (TGC). Made up of second-year MBA students, the TGC provides valued consulting services for clients who are time or resource constrained, and where primary research on the ground in an international location is essential. Tuck Global Consultancy teams have worked with the likes of Walmart, Citibank, the Peruvian government, Alcoa, Nike, and Intel since the program’s founding in 1997.
“It’s as real-world as you can get,” said Kerry Laufer, director of the program. “Students are expected to apply, integrate, and focus skills learned at Tuck to an organization’s business challenge or opportunity. Our clients expect meaningful results comparable to those of a professional consulting team at a top tier consulting firm.”
City Year reached out to Tuck in the summer of 2012— Dean Paul Danos was exposed to City Year South Africa in 2005 when TGC first worked with the organization—and by the fall a six-student team of consultants was assigned to the project
The project is a full-credit elective course that provides students with the opportunity to lead, plan, and execute a real-world consulting engagement. In the first phase, students talk to the stakeholders, do research, and focus the scope of their work. Phase two is “in country,” where students visit the client’s office, conduct interviews and workshops, and shape the final deliverable—in this case a PowerPoint deck with 40-60 slides, plus appendices. The final phase involves incorporating feedback on the first draft of the PowerPoint presentation, and then presenting the final product to the client.
For Hana Hassan T’13, the project was more than an opportunity to do real consulting work for a good cause; it was a chance to visit the continent from which her parents emigrated. She’s first generation Somali-American, and visiting Africa was very important to her. At Tuck, she was able to go there twice: once with TGC and again on a Learning Expedition with accounting professor Phillip Stocken.
“I wanted a project where I would be stepping out of my comfort zone,” she explained, “something completely different from my project management experience at PricewaterhouseCoopers.” Advising a nonprofit in a foreign country provided that unique exposure and taught her to think differently about problem solving.
“It was a lesson in thinking outside the box,” she reflected. “At nonprofits, everyone is stretched and doing more than their job description. Yet they managed to tackle youth unemployment and help improve the primary education system. Just seeing that was really impactful for me.”
The trip wasn’t all work. The team also attended a championship soccer match and joined the U.S. ambassador to South Africa at his house for dinner to toast City Year’s accomplishments in the country. “At the end of the day, we had a love for the client’s mission and City Year just enveloped us and treated us as part of the family,” Hassan said.
Location: Israel and China
Intrigue has motivated travelers from time immemorial. It’s the craving to see foreign lands firsthand, to talk to strangers about their lives, to taste their food and experience their culture, to understand how they do business. When the pull is strong enough, books and case studies just won’t do.
That’s the way it was for Nishant Daruka T’13. The object of his desire was Israel. “The place captivated me,” he said. “To have a country that small, and per capita, it produces the highest number of companies listed on Nasdaq? To me, that was incredible.” So when he heard that professor Adam Kleinbaum and the Center for Global Business and Government were organizing a Learning Expedition to Israel in March of 2013, Daruka signed up right away. Tuck’s Learning Expeditions are half-term elective courses designed to put students into the business environment of a foreign country. Faculty, alumni, and local experts act as their guides on the ground, while students visit companies, governments, and nonprofits, along with cultural sites. The experience could be described as business tourism with VIP access. Learning Expeditions have taken students all over the world, from Brazil and India to South Africa and Japan.
What explains Israel’s high rate of innovation? Based on his visits to Intel, IBM, Teva Pharmaceuticals, and Better Place, Daruka sums it up in one Yiddish word: chutzpah. The Oxford American Dictionary defines it as “shameless audacity,” but for Daruka it was more about the will to succeed despite the obstacles. “Management depends a lot on the psyche of the people,” he said, “the culture of the place where you grew up or were educated. Western countries rely more on structure and system to get things done. In Israel, despite a lack of those systems in place, and even with its political struggles, people get things done by sheer chutzpah. From a management perspective, that was the No. 1 highlight for me.”
Cultural intrigue also held sway over Ellen Cory T’14. Unlike Daruka, however, Cory’s desire to travel with Tuck came from a demanding experience working with Chinese suppliers during her career with The Boston Consulting Group. The Learning Expedition to China with professor Peter Golder was a good chance to understand what drove the challenges and how best to address them.
The problem sounds benign: Small talk. Cory was frustrated by the amount of time her Chinese counterparts spent at the beginning of meetings just trading casual conversation. “I was facing a tough timeline for outsourcing,” she recalled, “so I wanted to focus on business right away.” The suppliers also wanted her team to visit them in China, but Cory thought it was unnecessary.
But during her trip to China with Tuck, she learned an important aspect of Chinese culture: guanxi. It’s the process of building a personal relationship as the basis for future business interaction. The small talk, the invitation for a visit—those weren’t a waste of time, but an important step in business negotiations. Cory gained this insight during a discussion at the industrial products company Hollingsworth & Vose, and from talking to the group’s guide, Li Na. “I now understand that by dedicating this time up front to build the relationship, I likely would have saved myself significant time down the line,” she reflected.
Cory learned something else on the expedition. Shanghai could be a fun place to work. Prior to the trip, she had little desire to live in China. Now she’s hoping that if she returns full time to her summer employer, Cargill, they will put her in its Shanghai office. “This global learning opportunity has put a business lens on all the travel I’ve done,” she said, “and opened me up to a few other places I’d like to work in the future.”
GLOBAL FIRST-YEAR PROJECTS
Location: Madagascar and Kosovo
Rashmi Khare T’14 came to Tuck expecting some meaningful exposure to international business. What she didn’t expect was to participate in a midnight sea cucumber harvest off the coast of Madagascar, equipped with not much more than a headlamp and basket.
Khare was there as part of a five-student team doing their First-Year Project (FYP) for Blue Ventures, a nonprofit specializing in economic development. In Madagascar, the mission was to help citizens build a sustainable aquaculture industry—a project that could really make a difference in the lives of Malagasies, many of whom live on less than $2 per day. “I came from a finance background,” Khare said about her choice to join this project, “and I appreciate the power of capital markets and business to empower people and move them forward.”
The FYP course, which takes place in the spring term, is the first chance Tuck students get to apply their MBA skills and previous experience to a real-world problem or opportunity, with the guidance of Tuck faculty. Many FYPs work with domestic clients, building business plans or providing consulting. A handful, however, happen overseas in foreign markets, for businesses and NGOs. For students eager to learn how business is done abroad, a global FYP is a safe yet substantive way to dig in.
The night harvest taught Khare more than how to handle sea cucumbers; it provided crucial context to the job she was asked to do—help local farmers create a stable livelihood through an efficient operation. For example, Khare better understood the farmers’ need for data collection when she saw them tallying their harvest on a piece of slate. She also saw firsthand the subsistence conditions that factored into their decision to sell a sea cucumber as soon as possible, instead of allowing it to grow and fetch a higher price.
“What I learned from this is that it’s great to see on a day-to-day level how other countries and societies handle business,” Khare said. “All sorts of things we see as standard operating procedure are not the same in other parts of the world.”
Andrew Miller T’14 took away a similar lesson during his FYP for the Ministry of Health in Kosovo. The team was dispatched to create a proof of concept for dental tourism for Kosovars who had fled the country during the civil war. But the country kept little data on dental visits and standard costs of care. “So we became a little more comfortable making assumptions, justifying them, and then running sensitivity analyses to see what degree does this assumption might impact things,” he said.
Ultimately, Miller’s team created a business plan and a PowerPoint presentation, along with a spreadsheet the ministry could use to model costs. The health minister was pleased. “He allocated 100,000 euros to start this enterprise,” Miller said, “and now they’re working to implement it.”
Location: Haiti and India
Even before a massive earthquake devastated Haiti in January of 2010, dependable electricity in the country was hard to come by. Then the ground rumbled violently and power became scarcer still. Ian Warthin T’12 has experienced both sides of the rift. Before Tuck, he worked in the central plateau with Partners in Health. He went back in March of 2012 on a research travel trip to study a product called Solar Puff, a lightweight, solar-powered inflatable lamp. Warthin’s motivation to return to Haiti came, in part, from the country’s acute need for innovative solutions to basic problems such as the lack of light. But also because he knew the strong Tuck network in Haiti would enable an instructive and meaningful experience.
Warthin’s trip was part of the Research Travel program sponsored by the Center for Business & Society. Each year, the program provides travel expenses for a number of environmentally or socially focused independent study and elective course projects. Students choosing to do a project using program support gather data directly on the ground and then work closely with a faculty member to craft a research project that’s both practical and academically rigorous. The program is also a chance to use Tuck’s international network and dive into an industry or issue that students are passionate about.
On the ground in rural Haiti, Warthin set out to learn if Solar Puff lights were the right application for the environment. Would the fragile lamps survive the wear and tear of daily life? Would local merchants be willing to stock the lamps on their shelves, and would they be affordable for the consumers? “Another goal was to get consumer feedback on whether they would use this product,” Warthin said. To help understand these and other questions, Warthin worked with Tuck professor Punam Keller, an expert in social marketing and adjunct professor John Vogel about the complexities of enterprises with a social mission.
A year prior to Warthin’s trip, Nicole Dotts-Wright T’11 was working on her own international independent study on the other side of the world, in southern India. A far cry from marketing in impoverished shanty towns, Dotts-Wright was doing market research for a collective of conservation tourism resorts. In this case, that included not only the typical data gathering and interviewing, but going on hikes to see tigers and raft trips to spy elephants. “One of the most rewarding parts about the project is that we were deployed to go out there and fully embrace the culture and the consumers and experience these properties as tourists and give our recommendations,” she said.
Dotts-Wright partnered on the project with Lindsay Wilner T’11, and worked with Tuck marketing professor Kevin Keller to put together a branding and operational strategy presentation for the resort developer which would build respect for the local environment and culture. They also recommended a name for the as yet unnamed resort, which the developer ended up using (Raxa Collective).
This wasn’t the first time Dotts-Wright traveled with Tuck. Eager to incorporate international experiences into her MBA, she went to Machu Picchu, Peru, with the Tuck Global Consultancy, and to Brazil on a Learning Expedition. The Research Travel project was different in one important way: it was just her and Wilner. As a pair, they could draw more deeply on each other’s strengths and have more ownership of the final product. “It was the perfect way to end two years,” she said. “I learned so much so fast and got to leave my mark in an area I’m really passionate about.”
For Ian Warthin, the research project in Haiti was memorable for its divergence from the charitable approach of a organization like Partners in Health. Haiti is famously overabundant in one resource: nongovernmental organizations. The criticism is that they don’t act in a coordinated way with a long-term goal in mind. By contrast, the Solar Puff team envisioned the product being manufactured in Haiti, providing jobs and economic development. “The opportunity to look differently at a place where I had spent a number of years was really good,” Warthin said. “It opened my eyes to the possibilities and benefits of markets.”
GOING MORE PLACES
Tuck at COP 18
Every year, most of the world’s nations convene for a week to talk about how they can collaborate to address climate change. The event, organized by the United Nations, is called the Conference of the Parties (COP), and it takes place in a different country each year. For three of the past four years, Tuck finance professor Anant Sundaram, who teaches the Business and Climate Change elective, has attended the conference with a group of Tuck students. In 2012, at COP 18 in Doha, Qatar, Sundaram, NGO, and corporate colleagues organized a panel discussion entitled “The Role of Corporations in Moving the Climate Needle.”
Tuck was the only business school represented at the conference in Doha, something Sundaram finds curious given the impact climate change is having on businesses. “I come at climate change from a very hard-nosed finance lens,” he says. “Today’s MBAs will see the consequences of climate change in their lifetimes and they’re going to have to address what it means for their industry, for their business, and see how they can get in front of it.”
For Pat Palmiotto, who, as executive director at the Center for Business & Society, organizes the trip every year and accompanies the delegation, Tuck’s attendance at the conferences is an indication of a strong understanding at Tuck of the deep connections between business and the health of the human and natural environments.” says Palmiotto. “The students who attend the COP hear directly from delegates, corporate officials, and NGO representatives about these issues then bring those perspectives and their own observations back to share with their classmates, giving them the most up-to-date information on international views and the status of negotiations.”
See the students’ blog about their experiences at COP 18 at http://tuckcop18.wordpress.com/
Council on Business and Society
The value of a global MBA experience is, first and foremost, the recognition that business doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Corporations today operate in a seamless sphere of cultures, governments, languages, and traditions. They compete across borders and time zones, and collaborate with each other and with regulatory bodies to solve global problems.
It was with this reality in mind that Tuck and five top global business schools—ESSEC Business School (France); FGV-EAESP (Brazil); Keio Business School (Japan); University of Mannheim Business School(Germany); and the School of Management Fudan University (China) —got together to form the Council on Business and Society. With the goal of combining the intellectual and professional resources of the schools to further management education and its positive effect on society, the council organizes forums to delve into specific topics. The inaugural forum, held in November of 2012 in Paris, focused on corporate governance and leadership, covering areas such as CEO power and accountability, trends in board leadership and shareholder engagement policies, and the challenge of doing business in the 21st century.
With the support of the Dean’s Office, Tuck Communications, and the Center for Business & Society, four students from the class of 2013 chosen as council fellows attended the forum with various Tuck staff members and Espen Eckbo, the Tuck Centennial Professor of Finance, and Pino Audia, a professor of management and organizations. Prior to the forum, the students worked closely with the professors in an independent study on an examination of gender on boards, and the effect of media scrutiny on CEO effectiveness. The next forum will be held in 2014 in Tokyo and focus on health care with four T’14s council fellows participating after completing their independent study work with senior associate dean Robert Hansen and marketing professor Punam Keller.
The Full Immersion
Nick Jameson’s Tuck experience was by no means sheltered—he went on Learning Expeditions to China and South Africa—but he wanted to go deeper into another country for an extended period of time. He yearned for a real sense of what life and business is like for the inhabitants of a foreign place. One of the best ways to do this at Tuck is to spend a term as a student at one of the school’s 19 partner institutions.
Jameson, who graduated in 2013, considered London Business School, but then realized it was too familiar. “I wanted to push my boundaries a bit,” he said. He pushed them all the way to Hyderabad, India, population 8 million, where he spent the winter term at the Indian School of Business.
It’s fair to say he got what he wanted. He took a class on startups and franchises and did a consulting project with a new technology company, seeing the nascent opportunities of an emerging market. He got invited to a traditional Indian wedding and spent two days partying with 500 people. “To be adopted like that was just so amazing,” he said.
With an NGO, he visited the slum featured in “Slumdog Millionaire” and learned about the economics of the gray market in the Third World. “You think of a slum as poor and unproductive,” he said, “but in reality they operate independent economies. That was really fascinating and it turned my existing understanding upside down.”
Today Jameson is a strategy consultant for Deloitte, which happens to have an office in Hyderabad. “I’d love to go back,” he said. “And my exchange experience shows I’m willing to take risks and push beyond the traditional experience.”
As soon as Kiera O’Brien T’14 got to Tuck, she was making plans to leave. It was nothing against Hanover—it’s just that she wanted to find a job in London and needed to start early. So she took charge and began organizing a career trek with other classmates who wanted to explore opportunities in the U.K’s capital.
Career treks are student-run trips to cities in the U.S. and around the world that allow first-year students to visit companies in a particular geographic region, make connections with alumni in the area, and narrow down their choices for internships. The Tuck network stretches across the globe, so students are only limited by their own preferences. Wherever students want to go, the Career Development Office stands ready to connect them with employers and alumni.
In the early fall, O’Brien—a globetrotter who has lived in Australia, Norway, and London—sent out a note on Chatter, the internal social media portal for the Tuck community, to gauge interest in a trip and determine which companies to visit. Then she sent out letters to about 10 firms and formed a schedule for the visit, which occurred over the Thanksgiving break.
O’Brien and three classmates visited companies such as Google, American Express, McKinsey, British Telecom, Bain & Company, and The Boston Consulting Group. She also organized a Tuck ’Tails event with alumni in London.
O’Brien went there thinking she would go into marketing, but the visit to McKinsey swayed her to try consulting and she was offered an internship in the London office. Five other members of the class of 2014 were in the city with her last summer. “Recruiting overseas is not as hard as it sounds,” she said. “You just need a compelling reason to go. For London, it’s easy. It’s a captivating city.”