Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why AGILE Greece Has Been the Most Rewarding Experience in My Kelley Journey

By Astha Chouhan

My Kelley Direct Greece study abroad course was not an academic exercise. Our focus and motivation throughout the term came from the desire to make a difference for a real business in Greece, not to get an A in the class. This one-of-a-kind of experience could not have been delivered within the boundaries of a classroom. This project  enabled my fellow Kelleys and me to apply the knowledge we had gained from our Kelley online MBA courses.

Specifically, the AGILE (or Accelerating Global Immersion Leadership Education) study abroad course tested our ability to think outside the box to solve problems, pushed us to get emotionally involved with the client’s challenges and made us think strategically about the issues our client was facing from both an external and internal perspective. Developing a well-grounded and practical recommendation as acting international SME consultants required us to analyze political, economic, social, cultural and technological factors affecting the company along with research to help fill internal gaps in company’s finance, marketing, sales, operations and innovation projects. Our recommendation was firmly based on hard facts, empirical evidence, and strong case studies – largely thanks to Kelley’s rich library resources.

Key Takeaways about Business and Culture in Greece

Through online classroom instruction and research before we visited Athens, and via interactions with our clients and local Greeks, we learned a lot about – and experienced first-hand – what it’s like to do business in a high-context culture.

1) Greeks value building personal relationships before starting a business relationship. Decisions are made based on intuition and trust. Whereas we lean towards fact-finding to make business decision as much as possible in the U.S.

2) Unlike Americans, who quickly get to the point and are very efficiency driven, Greeks are more laid back. They take longer to make a point in discussion or before saying “no” to someone. It’s like the phrase “cut to the chase” does not exist in their culture. Formal, written communication also tends to be more personal and respectful, oftentimes with flowery, lengthy text.

3) The sense of time is not as important to Greeks as it is in United States. Flexibility is important. Arriving late to a scheduled event is not seen as disrespectful there.

4) Greeks have this great sense of pride in their culture. Everyone we interacted with during our weeklong stay, from the hotel staff to our client’s managers, was genuinely interested in hearing about our stay, what sites we had seen in Athens and what our plans were.

5) Greek hospitability is out of this world – not something that one can grasp without experiencing it in person. From CEO of the company down to employees that we interacted with at every level made sure that our stay was enjoyable and that we had everything we needed to make it a successful experience.

How Greek Businesses Can Grow

For this AGILE study abroad course, my teammates and I had the opportunity to develop an international expansion plan for Entersoft, our client for the term. Entersoft is a successful software company that develops world class, highly innovative and technologically advanced business solutions in the field of ERP, CRM, Sales Force Automation, and Retail. What made our project fascinating was the fact that client was determined to make headway into foreign markets while most Greek companies are struggling to stay afloat. Entersoft’s main struggle stemmed from the fact that they were a “Greece-based” software company, which came with an unfortunate negative stigma that many Greek businesses were dealing with due to the economy. Adding to that, Greece doesn’t have the established credibility that countries such as the U.S., U.K. and India do in the IT sector. This made it difficult to expand business beyond the geographic boundaries of Greece and Southeast Europe. 
Our recommendations for Entersoft focused on target countries in Eastern and Central Europe paired with market-entry strategies to use, potential partners and FMCG companies in each market, the potential risks involved, and a future sustainability plan.

The Rewards of Studying Abroad with Kelley

In more ways than I imagined, Kelley's AGILE Greece course prepared me to be a better consultant, better leader and a well-rounded team player. The experience of working with a real company, where the client’s challenges and our recommendations make a real world impact, was phenomenal. Making progress while trying not to get caught up in worrying the difficulties such as the lack of communication or face-time interaction with the client and colleagues made the project more challenging and the learning experience more rewarding.
AGILE Greece was fantastic in many ways, but I most appreciated the opportunity to network with extremely knowledgeable professors, classmates, MBA students from ALBA (top business school in Greece), and the Greek clients. There was something to be learned from every interaction in this course, whether it was faculty lectures, client meetings, but my favorite part was learning from my teammates. I couldn’t be more grateful that I got this incredible learning experience. Thank you Kelley!

About Astha Chouhan

Astha Chouhan works for Alliance Associates, a consumer products solutions company as Senior IT Analyst based out of their St. Louis, Missouri office. She has an undergrad in Computer Science and Engineering from India and packs 12 plus years of IT industry experience in various roles of increasing responsibility. At Kelley, she is a second year MBA student who is also pursuing a dual-degree in MS in Business Analytics.

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