We continue our feature of Global Client Projects (GCPs) today with Executive MBA Class of 2023 students Sarah Boschung (a nurse by training who is now the Director of Client Experience at Sakara, a health and wellness startup), Elizabeth Bianchi (software and sales background who is now focused on business process outsourcing) and Catherine Dry (over a decade with AIRBUS and is currently working to develop/manage satellite systems for U.S. Space and Defense).
For their project, the three students worked with Corning in France to evaluate new international markets for a product launch. Professor Tim Lasseter served as a mentor to the team during the duration of the three-quarter elective.
As part of the course, the students traveled to France, where they had the opportunity to visit manufacturing facilities, tour the innovation lab and meet with executives at Corning during their in-person client workshop. Among many takeaways from the experience, the group emphasized their great teamwork and deep friendship that was reinforced by the intensive elective.
GCPs are unique MBA electives that provide small teams of students the opportunity to consult with a company or organization (either international or domestic) while working closely with a Darden faculty member. View our previous post featuring the student team who consulted with Cero Market in Argentina.
Global Client Project
Combined with the group members’ love of travel and desire to be immersed in global business, the global client project offered a unique hands-on experience applying lessons from the classroom to a real-life challenge with an international organization. The group was not able to share specific details about the product or final deliverable however, they shared highlights of their experience and details about what their process looked like as they prepared for the in-person client workshop in France.
Sarah Boschung shared, “Consulting is an excellent leadership incubator that teaches good communication skills and how to think strategically on your feet. There are so many valuable lessons that can be learned from a consulting project which is why I was excited to sign up for a GCP. This course was an excellent way to complete my whole MBA experience and take what I had learned in the classroom and apply it to a real-life case.”
Challenge: The company had a new product they recently launched and were interested in how consumers across different international markets would respond.
Professor Tim Laseter and Marty Curran (MBA ’84), innovation officer and executive vice president at Corning, were instrumental in helping the group secure the project. Laseter teaches in the Technology and Operations Management academic area at Darden, and has expertise in operations strategy, supply chain management and consulting processes. He served as a guide for the team in the leadup to the group’s in-person client workshop with Corning.
Catherine Dry noted Laseter’s involvement in the group’s methodology, “Tim walked us through the steps of thinking through the project from a consultant perspective. We developed a hypothesis-driven approach to answering the questions our clients were trying to answer. The research methods we employed with his expertise included resources like using the Darden library to leverage databases we would not otherwise have had access to. Our group also created a ‘so what?’ chart, where we broke down the complex issue at hand and simplified it. When we presented the client with our workshop plan, we were able to bring real value to the table after having utilized these resources in our discovery phase. Although the clients were familiar with components of what we shared, our team was able to provide additional value through some of the data and policies that we uncovered.”
The team investigated marketing, surveys, pricing and consumer adoption of the new product in existing markets and then worked with Corning’s R&D team to make recommendations on which countries to launch the new product based on regulatory, competition and pricing factors. The students toured manufacturing facilities to see how variations of the product were made, and also had the opportunity to visit a facility where a joint venture product was being produced.
Elizabeth Bianchi commented on the unique opportunity to learn more about the joint venture, “We were able to see how the clients collaborate and partner and how/when they decide to do something as a joint venture versus on their own. We also toured Corning’s innovation lab and had the opportunity to see some of the other projects they’re working on outside of our scope.”
The students were also able to attend a sales pitch to a potential new customer, providing them with a behind-the-scenes look at the client strategy and how certain products might be marketed.
Boschung noted a few highlights from the experience, “It was such a highlight to do the in-person visit, see the manufacturing sites, and understand the process from start to finish. We spent months learning about the company and industry landscape through desktop research, so to see it all come together was incredible.”
“I walked away with so much appreciation for Corning as a company and the many ways their innovations have influenced and impacted our lives and the products we use every day. It started with glass encasement for Edison’s light bulb and we probably all had grandparents with the white dishes and blue corn flower pattern, and now, of course, we all are familiar with Pyrex, but it goes way beyond that.” Corning also has also developed products that have revolutionized science and technology, from their lab equipment to optical fiber for telecommunications to lightweight consumer electronics screens.
Dry emphasized the importance of a global business perspective, “The global client project gives you a feel for what it’s like to work internationally. Globalization is the way of the world, and companies are working with foreign manufacturers and suppliers every day. Learning how to engage with these parties, understanding what goes into their processes and learning about the equipment they use — I found it all very interesting.” Dry said, “I also loved being able to step outside the classroom and work with an actual client, we were helping with something real and tangible and meeting with their boards and executives. It’s exciting to know that the work that we did could become something bigger for the company.“
Bianchi also weighed in on the project standing out as a focal point of the program, “The Global Client Project was a highlight of my Darden experience. It was great to break out in a small group and get to spend so much time with Catherine and Sarah. It was also a unique opportunity to apply content that I’ve learned across so many classes and bring it together into a comprehensive project. This was a fantastic way for me to do something completely different outside of my current role, learn about a totally different industry and put skills learned in the MBA program to use.
Even More Global Experiences
Dry, Bianchi and Boschung also participated in global residencies as part of their Darden MBA programming. All Executive MBA students complete at least one global residency, and Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) option students complete four global residencies. Learn more about the GEMBA option on our web page.
The three students shared insights about their other global experiences with Darden:
Dry: “Although I grew up overseas and have traveled to Europe throughout my roles at Airbus, I wanted to expand my scope and understanding of global business. When I participated on the Argentina residency, it opened my eyes to the industries there. We went to a steel factory, visited the gauchos, explored the jungle and went to an automobile/manufacturing company. It was informative to understand how business skills translate across borders, see investment opportunities, understand the importance of the exchange rates and learn about the dynamics in the region.”
“I had such a great experience in Argentina that I signed up for another global residency in Vietnam. We visited Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and observed differences in business and culture in the northern and southern parts of the country. The socialist communist presence at some of the partially state-owned companies was evident, and those company visits were incredibly informative for our group. The other highlight of that residency was seeing VinFast, an electric vehicle manufacturer located on an island in the East China Sea. The Vietnamese were so kind, and it felt like the economy was booming there – it really opened my eyes to that part of Asia, which I had never been to before. “
Bianchi: “The Australia global residency was incredible. We traveled throughout Melbourne and Sydney learning about all kinds of businesses – from a soccer club to a surfing company and a winery. It was so interesting to hear about their regional strategies. For example, the winery was trying to increase their sales to Asian markets because there’s already so much shipping going on between the trade partners. Although the channels are there, they weren’t getting much traction with their product, so they thought maybe it was the marketing of the wine. It actually turned out the lack of interest was because of the payment method, and once they started accepting the preferred payment of the customers, their sales skyrocketed! It wasn’t a lesson I was expecting to learn from a visit to a vineyard, but that’s global business for you.”
Boschung: “Since I’m pursuing the GEMBA option, I completed four global residencies, which included a virtual China residency and three in-person residencies: Finland and Estonia, Australia and Morocco. These global residencies allow you to be exposed to different cultures and business, but it is also a unique opportunity to bond and get to know your classmates better. There were a few of us that traveled on our own prior to Finland and Estonia. We went to Rovaniemi, a city above the Arctic Circle, where we had a chance to meet the real Santa Claus and view the Arctic Circle. After the Australia residency, I added some time onto my trip and flew to New Zealand, where I spent about a week hiking around, which was amazing. These global residencies are absolutely one of the highlights of my Darden experience.”