Each year over winter break, the Wisconsin MBA Program offers students the opportunity to participate in an international trip. In addition to providing students with global business experience and opportunities to network with leaders from multinational companies, students also get the chance to work with a company on a real consulting project. I had an amazing experience participating in the 2019 trip to Peru, so I jumped on the opportunity to participate in the January 2020 trip to Croatia and Germany.
The first city we visited during the 2020 trip was Zagreb, where we were able to learn about the history of Croatia, enjoy the local cuisine, and visit several companies. For our first company visit, the General Manager of Roche Croatia led a discussion on how his team is using the management principles from the books Reinventing Organizations and Team of Teams to transform Roche’s business in Croatia. Hearing about the struggles and early successes associated with shifting away from a traditional hierarchical management model gave us all valuable insights we can take with us as we look to shape and improve our future organizations.
In contrast to Roche which has been around since 1896, our next visit was to a company founded in 2009 by a Croatian entrepreneur named Mate Rimac. With a vision to create the sports car of the 21st century, Rimac Automobili quickly rose to prominence with the release of their first vehicle (the “Concept One”), which claimed the title of the world’s fastest electric car upon its release. Our group toured the Rimac production facilities and learned about their manufacturing process, and even got a sneak peek at their next vehicle, the C_Two (priced at €1.8 million Euros)!
After an exciting few days in Croatia, we traveled to Munich for the second leg of the trip. Even though we were a few months late for Oktoberfest, we still made sure to sample a wide variety of traditional German foods (and had a few liters of beer along the way). We also had the chance to meet up for a traditional German meal with a Nicholas Center alum—Papi Valmond—who currently works at Daimler in Stuttgart as a Global Risk Manager. It was cool to learn about Papi’s experiences working in Germany, and great to hear that he still stays in the loop on the latest happenings in the Nicholas Center! The commitment and reach of our alums truly stretches not just from coast-to-coast in the US, but across the globe as well.
When it came time to get down to business in Munich, we had two more company visits. At IBM’s worldwide Watson IoT Headquarters in Munich, we got to see cutting-edge use cases of artificial intelligence that IBM has developed. As the technology continues to develop rapidly, it will be interesting to see how AI impacts both business and everyday life in the coming years.
The last company we visited, Siemens, was the sponsor of our consulting projects this year. We were hosted by Markus Strangmüller, the global head of sustainability for the company. Markus talked through how Siemens is currently using the UN’s “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” as a blueprint for the company’s sustainability efforts. I found it very interesting to learn about how the German “Stakeholder” model of corporate governance influences how the company manages the trade offs associated with balancing “People, Planet, and Profit.” Markus explained the key challenge questions for our consulting projects, which ask us to propose bold new ideas for how the company can improve their position in current markets, expand into new frontiers, and be a catalyst for positive global change through their sustainability efforts. We are currently hard at work preparing to report our recommendations to Markus and his team at the end of this month.
Overall, visiting Zagreb and Munich has been one of the highlights of the MBA program thus far. You can only learn so much about international business from afar—to really understand the global business environment on a deeper level, you need in-country experiences to better appreciate the way business gets done in different cultures. Interacting face-to-face with company leaders in Germany and Croatia during the 2020 global trip provided exactly this opportunity. Suffice to say, I am very grateful that the Wisconsin MBA Program organized another excellent global trip this year!