Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why MBA Students Should Work or Study Abroad - Kelley Direct Student Reflection

By Kash Faheem

Earlier this year, I was working as an engineer in the System Integration Laboratory at Raytheon where Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), EO/IR (Electro Optical/ Infrared) and SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) Sensors are engineered and developed. Because of my experience there, I was offered the opportunity to go to Japan as a Field Engineer Consultant supporting our overseas customers on UAV that Raytheon was subcontracted to. I was a technical engineering consultant in my new role and got to serve as the liaison between Raytheon, our customers and the end users of the UAV.

This opportunity came only a few months after I had already started my online MBA at the Kelley School of Business. Fortunately, I was able to accept this role because of the flexibility of the Kelley Direct program, and it has greatly enhanced my learning in the classroom and on the job.

As I have heard Faculty Chair Phil Powell say at one of my Kelley Connect Weeks, The greatest benefit of being in an online environment is that you don’t have to wait to apply what you learned in the classroom; instead, your job acts as a classroom laboratory.
Having this opportunity in Japan took the ‘classroom laboratory’ concept one step further, by adding a true international perspective to the learning curve.

International Perspectives Enhance the MBA Learning Experience

My international project has also enabled me to add a unique perspective to classroom discussions for the benefit of my peers and professors in the four MBA classes I have taken while abroad. I recall two instances from my “Game Theory” and “US in A Global Economy” classes that illustrate how being in Japan helped me discover and share relevant insights with my class.

About halfway through my Game Theory course, I realized that the fundamentals of Game Theory are the same, but the application and motivation could be vastly different in Japan when compared to America. This solidified a very important lesson of Game Theory for me: you should always strategize on how your opponent acts or how they are thinking rather than what you think they should be thinking.

The second learning point was related to how the cultural tendencies of personal financial savings between Japan and the Western countries were drastically different: the average Japanese person saves more than an American. That difference in savings rate will have a different macroeconomic effect on each of the respective countries. Understanding the culture and tendencies is a necessary first step for an outsider to completely understand a country’s economy – and more importantly – the motivation for its fiscal policy. Seeing how much the cultural tendencies, lifestyle, and everyday habits of the people who live there can influence the business climate was the biggest takeaway from my work experience in Japan.

Studying Abroad Provides Deeper Insights Into Local Business Climate

After this experience in Japan, I tell everyone to take any opportunity to travel abroad that they can get and are capable of doing! It’s a challenge with family, work, and finances, but the payoff is residual! I’ve never met a person that has come back from a study abroad, work abroad, or even travel abroad that regretted it.

Globalization has naturally helped countries, at a simple level, understand each other’s cultures and business environments.  The host appreciates when a business visitor has a deeper understanding of the business etiquette in the country. In Japan, a simple bow, using the correct tone, or knowing where to sit in a business or casual meeting can take you a long way in gaining the respect and trust of the host. When abroad, you’re often one of the few representing your country, your company, or your school, and the respect and trust you gain travels further than you would imagine.

Finally, as I mentioned earlier the business environment is shaped by the culture of the people. As difficult as it may have been, or as tired as I was, I’m very glad that I took the weekends available to travel the country, to take the road less traveled, and have the difficult conversations with the locals. This interaction with everyday people enhanced my knowledge of the business climate, and the cultural tendencies of the average person who creates that environment!


Kelley’s Online MBA Prepares You for Virtual Relationship Management

Reflecting back on my decision to attend the online MBA program that made this assignment in Japan possible, I remember the networking aspect was a huge apprehension. But a couple terms into the program, I learned that there is a reason online MBA programs are growing: the overall online environment and people’s interactions are changing. Never has it been so easy to tap into your six degrees of separation than now, especially with social media sites such as LinkedIn. With the correct mindset and motivation, this ability to connect with pretty much anyone (professors, celebrities, and executives included) has taken away the boundaries and limitations of what our traditional network is supposed to look like.

It’s an obvious fact that it’s more difficult for online MBA students to network face-to-face, but I also strongly believe that this obstacle has taught us how to build relationships more effectively for our future careers and life. I’ve learned invaluable lessons about how to build and maintain relationships through email, phone, LinkedIn – and when the opportunity allows itself – in person. The way the world communicates to overcome distance barriers is rapidly changing with its growing globalization and reliance on technology, and my project in Japan was a testament to that. As Kelley Direct students, we have been thrown into the fire and are learning quickly how to adapt to these communication changes!

When forming groups or picking teammates in my classes, I have tried to apply the same sense of adventure that took me abroad: I work with new people as often as possible. This has enabled me to expand my network, gain a diverse perspective, and most importantly, learn from more of my classmates. I’ve been most impressed with the quality, experiences, and intelligence of my classmates. Some of my Kelley Connect Week teammates and other classmates have inspired me and taught me more than I ever thought possible.

About Kash Faheem
Kash Faheem graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering from California Polytechnic University Pomona. After spending some time working with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he moved to Raytheon Aerospace where he was selected to take part in Raytheon’s Engineering Leadership Rotation Program. He was in Japan through mid-October and just returned home to Los Angeles. He joined Kelley Direct in the Fall 2013 and is pursuing a dual MBA and MS in Business Analytics. 


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