From emerging capital markets in Sao Paulo to high-tech startups in Tel Aviv, the Global Business Experience (GBE) at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business sees hundreds of Full-time and Evening MBA students embark on international consulting projects abroad each year.
In 2017, students worked on 73 projects across four continents—in countries like China, India, Italy, Spain, and the UAE—in areas including market entry, global growth strategy, and innovation.
Set up in small teams, McDonough MBA students spend several months preparing for the project in Washington DC before travelling to the country where their company is located to implement real, actionable change.
The idea is that MBA students become ‘global-ready’ leaders, with first-hand experience of dealing with business challenges abroad.
Standing out from the crowd
A Venezuelan born to Polish and Austrian parents, Ricardo Ernst—director of Georgetown’s Global Business Initiative—more than lives up to his role. For Ricardo, the GBE is about helping McDonough grads differentiate themselves in a crowded jobs market.
“The United States throws 195,000 MBAs into the world every year,” he says. “It’s very difficult to stand out.
“But, if you can go into an interview and talk first-hand about your experience solving a problem for a company in China, or India, or the UAE, then you’re not telling them ‘I read nine case studies from Harvard,’ you’re telling them that you’ve been there and done it.
“Most MBAs very good at talking the talk. We’re helping our MBAs walk the walk.”
Last year, McDonough created an online opening module for the GBE—Global Business in Practice— which combines academic lessons with the perspectives of prominent business leaders across industries. Through this enhanced course, students gain the flexibility of self-paced content and a customized experience through supplementary resources that offer a deep-dive into each content area.
Participating executives—also members of Georgetown’s Global Business Initiative Advisory Board—include Fabrizio Freda, CEO of The Estée Lauder Companies, Joseph Baratta, Global Head of Private Equity at Blackstone, and Franck Moison, Vice Chairman at Colgate-Palmolive.
Selected content from Global Business in Practice also contributed to Georgetown McDonough’s first massively open online course (MOOC), which is available on the edX platform. Last year, more than 5,000 users in 160 countries participated in the MOOC.
During the GBE, MBA students rub shoulders with some of the leading figures in global business. After it, they take the first step on the road to becoming a global business leader themselves.
BusinessBecause caught up with four McDonough MBAs to find out more:
Shreya Adiraju, FT MBA ‘17
A musician and a classical vocalist, Shreya took a non-traditional path to business school. After a stint in financial services in Chicago, she moved to Chennai, India to spend time with her music teacher and mentor.
Where Shreya lived in India, she only had two hours of internet access per day. That limited the number of b-school applications she could make. Even so, she got offers from a variety of top-ranked US business schools, joining McDonough in 2015.
On the GBE, Shreya worked with one of the world’s largest stock exchanges—Sao-Paulo-based B3, formerly BM&FBOVESPA—looking to strengthen the corporate debt market in Brazil. She graduated in May this year, and is about to move to New York to start a new job at Fortune 500 investment management firm BlackRock.
On choosing McDonough… I needed a way to thread my professional experiences with my personal goals and passions. I wanted an environment to explore my career options. Georgetown had the right diversity of options available.
On the GBE… We had two extensive meetings and gave presentations to around 20 top executives. Because of the relationships Georgetown has fostered with its overseas partners, it made it easy for us to work on our project, and we could bring something to our client that they could meaningfully implement.
On her post-MBA career… The biggest thing about the GBE is that it re-invigorated my interest in capital markets.
The lead woman brokered the merger between BM and FBOVESPA—which fostered what is Brazil’s major capital market now. To have the opportunity to interact with her—to understand what kind of structured products work and what are the motivations of different investors—clarified for me that I wanted to pursue a career in the capital markets space.
Allison Palmer, EP MBA ‘18
Allison combines an Evening MBA program at McDonough with a campaign manager role at the Ad Council in Washington DC. This past summer, she travelled to Tel Aviv to work with a Venture Capital (VC) firm and startup accelerator in Israel’s chief startup hub.
On choosing McDonough… I had a colleague who was in her second year of the McDonough Evening MBA Program when I started. As we worked closely together, I saw first-hand the value of pursuing an advanced degree while working.
Along with the GBE—a driving factor in my decision to apply to Georgetown—the program appealed to me for several reasons: Evening and Full-time students take the same classes; classes are on-campus, so there is still a strong sense of community among evening students; and there are a wide variety of courses on offer.
On the GBE… When I attended Georgetown's orientation in July 2015, every student panelist said the highlight from their three years at Georgetown was GBE. Now that I'm done, I absolutely understand why. The experience mirrored a short-term consulting engagement and served as a crash course in efficient client and project management.
For our final presentation, our client invited several startup founders participating in the accelerator program to attend, which led to a lively discussion around several of our findings and recommendations in real-time.
We also had the opportunity to tour the significant historical sites in the area, including Jerusalem, Masada, and the Dead Sea, and supplement that education with visits to local businesses and universities.
Patrick Liu, FT MBA ‘17
Patrick’s work for the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) has taken him from Beijing to Dubai, Milan, and now, New York. After completing his MBA at McDonough, he was promoted to lead the ICBC’s trade finance team in NYC. He started work in May, right after graduation.
In his new role, he covers the Brazilian market where, during the GBE, he worked to come up with a market entry strategy for an investment firm specializing in non-performing loans.
On choosing McDonough… A lot of Chinese companies are going overseas. The ICBC supports them a lot, but there’s still a gap between them and the local business environments. To help them, they need someone who understands local environments but also Chinese companies.
So, I thought I should get an MBA at Georgetown to get ‘global-ready.’ The school has a great reputation in China, and the GBE is a shining example of the MBA program as a whole—not every MBA program offers that kind of opportunity.
On the GBE… At the end of the project, we had a presentation that was only supposed to last for 45 minutes. It lasted three-and-a-half hours! They had so many questions for us.
We worked on the project for almost four months, meeting twice or three times a week. We put in a lot of effort but, as a student, I was afraid that they wouldn’t take us seriously. In the end, we found they were very serious about our recommendations and they loved our ideas—that made the whole thing so meaningful to me.
During our week in Sao Paulo, we also visited Natura—the biggest cosmetics company in Brazil—and the airplane manufacturer Embraer—the third largest in the world—which were both very impressive!
On his post-MBA career… Before business school, I’d worked in the Middle East, Europe and Asia, but the GBE was the first time I’d worked in Latin America. I learned a lot from the GBE experience about the Brazilian market and people that help me in my work now.
This was also my first real experience of consulting. Now, I understand what being a consultant is really like. If, in five years’ time, I decide to go back to China, I might start to think about consulting as a career option—to help Chinese banks go overseas. The GBE will definitely help me in job interviews.
Bhargav Shankar, FT MBA ‘17
Bhargav worked for the London 2012 Olympics before relocating to Washington DC for an MBA at McDonough. He did his GBE with Embraer, flying out to Sao Paulo, Brazil with his team to deliver his findings.
On choosing McDonough… I was keen to join a program that provided a well-rounded ‘global’ curriculum. This was not just limited to the GBE program. It was important that the program offered classes that focused on global business problems as that was going to be a focus of my post-MBA career.
On the GBE… My team worked on a market entry project for a global aviation client based in Brazil. We were required to assess the feasibility of expanding the firm's core services and assess which markets would be best to expand into.
The GBE gave me a first-hand perspective on conducting business across different cultures. While many programs offer global projects, only a limited number offer a class that is built on experiential learning where we actually have to deliver tangible outcomes to a client.
When framing our recommendation, we had to consider financial, social, and geopolitical issues—something that would not have been as effective if taught solely in the classroom. The experience crystallized my choice to enter into a career as a management consultant.