Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tips for Doing Business in Myanmar from Kelley Online MBA Students Who Consulted There

“We board a plane for 20 hours and wake up in a world that is completely different from what we are used to. The language, the way business is conducted is different (and frankly so is the food), and you have no choice but to produce a result. Talk about learning; Talk about being uncomfortable. 
I quickly learned that a combination of instinct, experience, luck, and appetite for risk was enough to make it work. As a business leader I need to take risks because there isn’t always a clearly defined right answer. Honing my instinct through AGILE was nothing short of cool; I was hooked and I was in.”

That is how Josh Mitchell, a Kelley Direct online MBA student, describes his feelings after completing two global immersion trips through our AGILE program. AGILE, which stands for Accelerating Global Immersion Leadership Education, sends Kelley Direct MBA students to emerging markets around the globe once every quarter to develop leadership skills and cultural intelligence.
Josh’s last trip was in spring of 2014, when he joined a group of other online MBA students in Myanmar (formerly Burma) to sharpen his business analysis, marketing, finance and management consulting skills while working with small businesses there.

The students who went on this Myanmar trip were divided into four groups; each group consulted one of four local businesses who had partnered with our program. There was a logistics and supply chain company, an accounting and financial services firm, a chemical and flavorings company, and a mapping and environmental assessment company.

Our MBA Students Were Pleasantly Surprised By What They Experienced in Myanmar

From 1962 until 2011, Burma was tightly ruled by a military dictatorship. It was a closed economy—meaning they had almost no interaction with the outside world—particularly the democratic West. Given the country’s history, students expected to see a struggling economy. Quazi Fawad, one of the other students on the same trip thought he would encounter runaway poverty and crime, a bureaucratic system and a lack of infrastructure and optimism before he arrived in Myanmar. What he found instead was a polite and helpful people who were optimistic about business in their country. There were no obvious signs of crime, but the signs of wealth were plentiful.

Spending time with the business owners further dispelled some of the students’ preconceived notions about Myanmar and often surprised them. Quazi had this to say about the business owners he worked with:

“The amazing degree of sophistication and their willingness to follow along academic models and ask detailed questions surprised me. One of the biggest challenges was that our client was already using many of the tools that we wanted to propose. So we had to find a real gap in their capabilities to provide real value.

Their willingness to share information and help each other was also surprising.  Our client and others were very close to their employees. The hierarchy was present, but it was not visible.”


Tips for Conducting Business in Myanmar

The week-long immersion in Myanmar enabled the students who went with them to internalize what they read and heard about the country in the weeks preceding the trip.  Here are some of Quazi and Josh’s takeaways from this AGILE trip about doing business in Myanmar:

1.    A strong relationship matters more than formal agreements. Taking an interest in their culture is the best place to start. Exchange gifts.

2.    Banking and international transfer of money is still antiquated. Many local businesses operate a branch in Singapore to avoid the problems.

3.    The workforce is loyal and respectful; they should be treated as a family rather than as a commodity.

4.    Partner with a local – relationships and local knowledge win here.

5.    Be wary: Contracts and agreements are based on personal word of honor and are hard to enforce in courts.

6.    Many ‘standard’ items in the West will be new to the Burmese – gaining acceptance of ‘foreign practices’ is a challenge and an opportunity. A perfect example is that there are four types of financial statements per company there.

7.    Be patient. Myanmar is a ‘soft sell’ culture (i.e. slower to act) and westerners who are used to getting to quick results can be frustrated. 

AGILE Rewards MBA Students With Global Connections and Professional Growth

Although the majority of the trip was focused on the consulting and presentations the students gave to the business owners at the end of the week, they came away with much more. Josh was able to make real connections with the people he met in Myanmar and had this to say about his experience:

“The most rewarding part of the experience is when I was able to let go of everything I was taught about ‘bucketing people’.  As Americans, we take cultural sensitivity courses on how we should act. Scrapping all this training on what I ‘ought to do’ with people freed me to just listen; that’s how you connect to another human whether American, Asian, African, or European.  Let go of the need of listening to respond but rather listened to learn.
When I was able to sit in front of the client and see her as a human being who desperately wants to see her business succeed, I quickly realized this common goal was enough for a connection.  This commonality allowed for a flight to authenticity which is where leadership lives.  Leadership is meeting people where they are and focusing on a goal bigger than any of us as individuals.  This is rewarding for me because my connection to the client and the project became something that was deeply emotional and less transactional.”  

Not only do our students gain cultural awareness and international connections, but they have consistently shown that they are able to apply what they learn in their AGILE trips to the workplace. Quazi has already received tangible benefits in his career:

“This experience has taught me to be comfortable with ambiguity, welcome the unexpected and improve my communication skills – especially in business settings. What I learned during my Myanmar trip was instrumental to my recent promotion from an engineering role to a Technology Strategy Leadership role at Cummins.”
We’ll conclude this post with final thoughts from Josh and some pictures from Quazi:

“The AGILE experiences have changed me; I was uncomfortable and vulnerable. Watching the human spirit unleash unlimited creativity and potential through economic systems that literally raise millions out of poverty every year is what AGILE is about. AGILE puts you on fertile soil to see the seeds being planted with your own eyes.  Your MBA training provides the tools needed to plant the seeds but it is your spirit that allows you to dig the first hole. The first step is believing in yourself and boarding that plane.”


About Josh Mitchell

Josh Mitchell was recently promoted to an Associate Director role of Culture and Communications at a biotech company in New York City.  Over the last 11 years of his professional experience, he has worked in Banking in Learning and Development, sales, M&A, and strategy.  His roles have been global and he has lived internationally multiple times. He lives and loves working in New York City, and is an avid fan of the beach, cars, and investing in real estate. 


About Quazi Fawad 

Quazi Fawad is a Tech Strategy and Innovation Project Leader at Cummins Inc. who has 12 year experience in a variety of customer facing and problem solving roles. His basic training (Bachelors and Masters) is in Mechanical engineering. Engineering – according to Quazi – is a social sport, so making the transition into a business facing role and earning an MBA was the logical next step for him.



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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Kelley Direct Prepares Online MBA Students for the Free Agent Economy

Kelley Online MBA’s Learn Importance of Personal Branding & Adaptability
We Teach Our MBA Students How to Manage Their Professional Development

MBA programs used to be designed to help students land their dream jobs after graduation. At Kelley Direct, we prepare students for dream careers.
In today’s global economy, people are changing jobs more rapidly due to technological advances and globalization. On average, employees in Silicon Valley switch positions every 15 months. We call this type of environment the “free agent economy,” and it changes the way students look for jobs and promotions.

We recognize that most of our students are somewhere in the middle regarding the new and old job search models. We want to help you navigate this fog of confusion. So we prepare you for the new model, which encompasses everything you need for the old method, too.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

How My Kelley Online MBA Helped Me Transition from Accounting Support to Business Analyst

Quiana Edmond, a current online MBA student, was recently promoted to a Business Analyst position at Xerox Corporation. She reached out to us to share how her online MBA experiences and classes helped her secure the position:

My undergraduate education was in arts & entertainment management, but all of my full-time work experience has been in various accounting functions. Because I didn’t have an accounting or finance degree, it was always hard for me to advance that part of my career.  I ultimately want to transition into entertainment management full-time and I felt that getting an MBA would help put me in a position to do that.  It was a win-win situation for me because I felt like even if I decided to continue working in accounting roles, an MBA would put me in a position to propel my career and avoid further stagnation.

Deciding Between Traditional Part-time and Online MBA Programs

When I was trying to decide between MBA programs I was apprehensive about both online and in-person part-time programs. As far as online, I was concerned about what my learning experience would be like. I wanted to make sure that I would be able to keep up with everything that was going on online because I knew that there would be a lot of moving parts.  I was concerned about selecting an in-person program because I wasn’t sure that I could commit to being in class at a certain day and time.

I ultimately selected the online MBA from Kelley because I felt that the curriculum would challenge me and give me the general management skills that I was looking for with my busy life. Kelley also provides me with much needed credibility and allows me to set myself apart from others with arts backgrounds.

The Kelley Direct Online MBA Was Right for Me

After being in the program for a year, I am convinced that I made the right decision. I absolutely love taking classes online!  I can watch class sessions and do my work based on my own schedule. It has made going back to school easier for me and my lifestyle. Another aspect of Kelley’s online MBA that is amazing is the networking opportunities. I’ve seen the Kelley faculty in Chicago three times over the past year and there are various student clubs where I can participate. This is great because when I show up in Bloomington for Kelley Connect Week, I don’t feel like I’m seeing strangers.  It’s always like I’m just catching up because I stay in contact and attend the Kelley networking events in my city.

If it were not for working on my MBA, Xerox would not have promoted me to Business Analyst. Because this role was part of an analytics team, the hiring managers wanted to know about my knowledge and ability to do analyses in Excel. I was able to provide concrete examples that demonstrated an advanced understanding of Excel based solely on things that I learned in my Quantitative Analysis course.  I was also asked to describe something that I can do in Excel that the average person would not know how to do. I described the process of running multiple regression analyses in StatTools and using Solver in Excel.  These are all things that I was unfamiliar with before I started my MBA. This is why I believe that had I not chosen to pursue my online MBA with Kelley Direct, I would not have been in a position to become my department’s newest Business Analyst so soon.

About Quiana Edmond

Quiana Edmond currently works for Xerox Corporation as the Business Analyst for the Managed Services Billing Center of Excellence in the Chicago area. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Arts, Entertainment & Media Management, and is currently pursuing her online MBA at the Kelley School of Business. She expects to graduate in May 2015.

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