Fe Mae Dawn Chico has 12 years of experience working in finance. Yet a seven-day trip to the Czech Republic as part of her MBA degree completely transformed her outlook on management.
Structured within Lancaster University Management School's International Business in Context module, Fe Mae Dawn travelled to Czech’s capital city with her class in May.
The aim of the trip was to learn first-hand about Prague’s economy and local business culture. Each day presented a new learning opportunity.
Prague has a unique history and socio-economic environment. It was controlled by communist leaders for just over 40 years in the 1900s and is now one of the fastest growing economies in the European Union.
Prague’s unique history remained a constant theme throughout the trip. Fe Mae Dawn and her peers were introduced to local speakers like Radek Spicar, the vice president of the Confederation of Industry, who discussed his experiences during the time of communism and how the nation transformed into a democracy.
They also visited the Museum of Communism and Terezin Little Fortress, a concentration camp during World War II.
“It was a very big eye opener,” says Fe Mae Dawn. “Seeing history unfolding in front of your eyes is very beneficial in your personal development, as well as your professional development.
“I really understood how the communist era had affected them and how World War II had affected their ideologies. For me, the most important takeaway is that our decisions have an effect on the welfare on everyone around us.”
Understanding a new market
Fe Mae Dawn has experience interacting with individuals from all over the world, having previously worked with AccorHotels in Singapore.
However, the way Czechoslovakian professionals operate wasn’t something she was familiar with.
80% of the companies in the Czech Republic have foreign ownership. During the trip, the MBA students toured these multinational companies including Skoda Auto and Coca Cola HBC.
The tours, and lecturers within them, focused on how these companies co-operate across various businesses worldwide. Students were also exposed to the relationships and dynamics between a parent company headquarters and its operations in the Czech Republic.
“In the Czech Republic, they’re more intuitive,” she says. “They don’t prepare for long term planning because they were not taught about that.
“In Skoda for example, the Germans do things according to plan. However, if things don’t work out according to these plans, they would most likely will panic.
“The Czech people, since they learned how to survive in whatever way possible during communism, were very talented and excelled in their workplace, even with no proper planning.
“It’s a good combination of skills between Germans and Czechs in Skoda because they complemented each other.”
The value of an international trip
On the last day of the trip, Fe Mae Dawn and her classmates had a debrief and reflection session.
She says the Prague trip provided a better understanding of international business than just sitting in a lecture hall would have. It’s an experience, she continues, that’s opened her mind to new ways of thinking.
“I learned that I should make it a habit to have a regular critical reflection to enhance my decision-making ability, and one of the biggest hindrances that I must overcome to become a successful leader is my personal attitudes,” Fe Mae Dawn explains.
“[When we graduate], we will be working with a multinational environment wherein our colleagues will be from different races and religious backgrounds. It’s essential for us to be open minded, so we can live in harmony amidst adversity.”