Ole Rodland’s view from the Fornebu area of Oslo, Norway, frames a cold expanse with a whiff of snow in the air. The Nordic scene at Accenture’s Norwegian base is a long way from Lyon, the city in eastern France where Ole mustered ambitions to broaden his horizons. The strategist will be hoping for a white Christmas.
“I have never worked in Norway before and I am a new hire at Accenture, so there is still a lot to learn,” says Ole, a graduate of EMLYON, the French business school. “Our cohort was a diverse group with 17 nationalities and even more professions,” he adds. “Their insights and experiences enriched the learning experience.”
Ole is one of a growing number of MBA students who are looking abroad for their post-graduation careers.
The US, UK and Europe were long the first-choice education destinations for business students but Nordic regions such as Norway, Asian cities Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai, and the Middle East and countries in Africa are increasingly appealing to MBA graduates.
By taking a risk and moving abroad, they can gain employment opportunities in fast-growing markets and regions which offer greater leadership roles. In big European cities job markets are crowded and living expenses high. But further afield, managers are often lacking and business offers unique cultural challenges.
It is something that many students have ambitions to do, but which sometimes get lost in transition from one career path to the next.
But they are finding a value in overcoming obstacles by living overseas. "Yet it is precisely such skills that are increasingly required by global companies competing in a rapidly changing environment.”
No longer the preserve of a few, international MBA recruiting is being seen across a wide array of industries and global regions.
Bain & Company, the management consultancy, hires MBAs for its Asia Pacific offices in Japan, Korea and China, to name but a few locations.
General Electric, the American conglomerate, has rotational programs across regions including southeast Asia.
Financial services companies such as American Express and technology groups Amazon and Infosys also offer global mobility to MBA students.
“The world’s your oyster at Infosys. We have offices all over the world,” says Julia McDonald, head of talent acquisition for EMEA.
In Mexico, Sandra Valdes is working for Sensata Technologies in the global automotive industry. She began an MBA at MIP Politecnico di Milano in Italy but soon realized she wanted to launch an international career. “It was time for an update,” she says.
“The atmosphere was perfect to learn in – an international class and a mix of professional backgrounds,” says Sandra.
A growing number of HR managers in the Asia Pacific region, Latin America and the Middle East are now informed about MBA education. This is particularly true of businesses in the Gulf.
“They are always looking for managers that do not just have technical abilities but also all-round leadership, and professional soft skills,” says Michael Lu, global vice president at Hult International Business School, which has a campus in Dubai.
“This is especially true for a place like Dubai, where there is a large percentage of expats mixed with locals in the private sector,” Michael says.
Like many business schools, Hult has established campuses abroad to develop closer ties between its students and businesses overseas.
Others have moved into China, such as Audencia Nantes of Europe, which teaches an MBA and other courses with two Beijing-based universities – the Beijing Institute of Technology and Tsinghua University.
Global employment opportunities are also the product of new clusters of business schools in regions including Africa and Latin America, which are growing in popularity.
In 2002 only four Latin American business schools were internationally accredited, for example – but today there are 17, says María de Lourdes Dieck Assad, dean of Mexico’s EGADE Business School.
Philip Kotler, professor of international marketing at Kellogg School of Management in the US, says: “Emerging market economies are showing a higher rate of growth that the mature markets of the west and Japan.
“A maxim in marketing says: go where the growth is. If you don't choose to work in China or India, chose one of the 10 ASEAN countries which are showing very high growth and opportunity.”
For Ole in Norway, EMLYON made sense for pursuing a global career. Among other reasons, he chose the French business school for an MBA because of its wide international network. “The group had a great dynamic and the atmosphere was electric at times,” he says.
On landing a job at Accenture in Oslo, he adds: “The MBA was a door opener for me.”