Mar 02, 2023

GIX UAE: Economic and Cultural Diversification

By Nick Lovinger T’23 & Sarah Martzloff T’23

Nick Lovinger T’23 & Sarah Martzloff T’23 reflect on the UAE’s strategic location, embrace of international tourists and businesses, and reinvention.

Sarah Martzloff

Sarah Martzloff T’23

What interested you about the GIX location and topic?
My pre-MBA background was slightly atypical: my undergraduate degree was from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland where I studied the history of art. I wrote my dissertation on nation branding through national and international museums in Qatar and the UAE. So, one attraction of this trip was the occasion to visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi, one of the places I had researched.

Additionally, I lived in and worked in Europe before Tuck, so the Middle East was a completely new region for me to visit. The GIX provided the perfect opportunity for me to expand my horizons and gain a wider context for business practices.

What was your first impression of your host location?
The cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi presented themselves as quite hospitable to international tourists and businesses alike to coexist with Emirati culture. It was interesting to experience cities that have developed so recently while pursuing economic and cultural diversification.

It was fascinating to see first-hand the way the UAE attracts foreign talent and is open to foreign cultures while bolstering its own talent pipeline and culture. Being in-country was eye-opening in terms of focusing on the strategic geographic location, connecting east and west through infrastructure and business relationships which reflects Dubai’s heritage as a historical trading post.

What site visits, tours, meetings, and/or people were most impactful for you during the GIX?
Starting with a cultural immersion experience which included a walk through the old town, spice souk and a visit to the Centre for Emirati Culture provided a fantastic introduction to Dubai/the UAE. We were able to ask questions about the culture, stereotypes, and customs, and discuss our initial impressions.

Over the course of the following days, I enjoyed visiting the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and learning more about how a free zone operates and what benefits it provides. This presentation made clear that the strategic vision for Dubai is to present the Emirate as a hub of the future. It hopes to promote relevance by opening itself up to the international business community—this emerged as a major theme during our GIX.

My background in brand management and marketing made our visit to Vogue Arabia especially interesting for me. It was a unique opportunity to discuss the challenges of adapting global campaigns to fit the taste of a more conservative regional consumer within the wider scope of a Western brand such as Vogue with its CEO and Publisher, Shashi Menon.

What is a key takeaway from this experience? What have you learned?
This experience reinforced how global the world is in terms of business initiatives and projects, and how interconnected we all are. The GIX also showed me the importance of spending time with classmates outside of the cocoon of the Upper Valley. As a small group, we were all from a variety of social constellations within Tuck’s fabric. Spending time together in a new location created new bonds and an unforgettable social and academic experience. I can highly recommend it.

What should prospective students know about the GIX and/or TuckGO requirement?
I’ve now completed the GIX and I’m currently on a term exchange, and while TuckGO is a requirement, it has absolutely been one of my favorite parts of my MBA. The two-year Tuck academic period is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but getting to travel with Tuck mates helps us savor the time we have in Hanover and create closer friendships. The GIX has been invaluable for making new connections and bridging what we learn in the classroom with the real world.

Originally from Montana, Sarah’s spent the past eleven years living and working in Europe. She graduated with a Master’s in art history from the University of St Andrews in Scotland before working in brand strategy consulting in London. Sarah then found brand management to be the perfect combination of strategic thinking and her appreciation for aesthetics and visual communications. This led her to Gothenburg, Sweden where she managed brand campaigns and digital marketing for the luxury camera company, Hasselblad. 

For her summer internship at Tuck, she led brand strategy development consulting at AKQA for Volvo Group and IKEA across London and Sweden. Sarah’s been spending her second year at Tuck figuring out how to spend more time abroad, from the Global Insight Expedition in the UAE to her winter term exchange at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.

Nick Lovinger

Nick Lovinger T’23

Despite living only 40 minutes away from the best ski mountains on the east coast, 24 Tuck classmates and I decided to participate in a GIX to the only place in the world (other than New Jersey) with an indoor ski mountain: the UAE.

We were incredibly lucky to have our GIX coincide with the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which was being held in nearby Qatar. Along with two of my classmates, Will Ahlum T’23 and Salil Kelkar T’23 I flew out a few days early to watch Japan upset Spain in the opening round of the tournament. Having joined Tuck with a professional background in the sports industry, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience “the beautiful game” at the highest level.

Our trip kicked off in Dubai with a visit to the spice souk. We learned that prior to the discovery of oil in 1966, Dubai’s biggest industries were pearl diving and spice trading. In the following days, we visited leaders from several organizations that are driving Dubai’s economy into the future. A few highlights included Shashi Menon, CEO of Vogue Arabia, and Bart Cornelissen (T’04), Head of Deloitte’s Energy and Industrial Sector.

In addition to visiting businesses, we had plenty of opportunities for fun! Along with several classmates, I joined a “desert safari” where we had the opportunity to go dune bashing, camel riding, and sand boarding. The safari ended with a traditional Emirati barbeque followed by a fire and dance show. Later in the week, we toured the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

Abu Dhabi was equally fascinating. We visited several businesses, including Jio Bank, run by CEO Jayesh Patel T’05, and the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. We also stopped by beautiful landmarks including the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. The trip ended with a memorable visit to Saadiyat Beach Club and a special farewell dinner at the Emirates Palace.

The GIX was an incredible trip. I left with a newfound appreciation of the business opportunities and culture in the United Arab Emirates. Our hosts were incredibly friendly and the country’s transformation from a largely Bedouin society to one of the world’s most important economies is impressive. Additionally, this was a special opportunity to travel and get outside of my comfort zone with my classmates. Although we are close here at Tuck to begin with, I always leave a Tuck trip with several new friends!

Nick grew up in Westchester, New York. He attended Vanderbilt University, where he majored in economics and history. Prior to Tuck, he lived in New York City and was a corporate strategy manager at World Wrestling Entertainment. He interned at Bain & Company last summer and will be returning full-time upon graduation. Nick is the Co-President of Tuck’s Men as Allies Club, Entertainment Sports & Media Club, and a Tuck Winter Carnival Co-Chair. Outside of work, he enjoys running, making homemade pasta, and yelling about the Yankees with his three younger brothers.

Global Insight Expeditions (GIXs) help students develop cultural awareness, empathy for the thoughts and attitudes of local people, and agility to adapt their behavior to successfully navigate different business environments through structured reflection. Each course begins with classroom sessions on Tuck’s campus. Students then travel with one or two faculty members where they engage with corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, community leaders, government officials, and local people from different walks of life.