By Sara Lettie

The importance of a global business and the challenges of effectively working across cultures and borders can best be seen on the ground. During Matt Krieg’s time as an undergraduate student he studied abroad sparking a desire to travel. Following graduation he also spent a year teaching English in Cambodia. These experiences inspired Krieg to learn about other cultures and impressed the importance of a global education, which he continued to pursue during his time at Darden.

Over the past two years, Krieg has taken advantage of numerous global academic programs at Darden including Global Business Experiences (GBE) to South Africa and Normandy and a Global Consulting Project (GCP) in Uganda. Each of these programs offered unique insights incomparable to a typical classroom setting or each other. The GBE in South Africa, for example, met for several class sessions before the group departed.  These meetings served as valuable preparation for departure by allowing the students to prepare a briefing book on South African history, geography, culture, economy, government, healthcare, and education. “Public-Private Partnerships was an interesting topic to study in South Africa because it highlighted important factors of managing a global business, the importance of understanding the historical backdrop and cultural norms, and why the culture is the way it is today from both a political and economic perspective” shared Krieg. “The Global Business Experience to South Africa provided firsthand insights into the culture and an in-depth history of the region through the extensive Darden itinerary. The Darden experience helped emphasize the significance of understanding the foreign environment.”

While in Normandy, students became teachers to develop leadership skills. The majority of the group was from the same Darden section, so the group was already close when they started the adventure and grew closer throughout. As Krieg reflected back on his Normandy experience he noted that the format gave even more insight than even the material itself. Students were each given a topic to talk about at one of the 12 stops that the class visited.  This challenged them to provide interesting and accurate information about the site and be prepared to answer questions from other students. Krieg noted that it was interesting to learn from his peers and to have the opportunity to able to teach them as well. “Any opportunity to lead is helpful” said Krieg.

During the GCP onsite visit to Uganda, Krieg observed the entrepreneurial spirit prevalent across the developing world.  While working with Nile Breweries he saw leaders making use of innovative techniques in order to make best use of limited resources. “The developing world is full of talented people in a business environment that they have little control over. This entrepreneurial spirit is important for business – there is incredible talent to be found in the developing world, not just new consumer markets” said Krieg. “The people in Africa will take advantage of opportunities to succeed given the chance.” The opportunity to work with a local company in Uganda allowed Krieg to experience firsthand the various challenges of running a business in a developing country, such as poor roads and unreliable communications infrastructure. “Understanding these challenges in advance will be incredibly useful as we begin careers as global business leaders” reflected Krieg.

These global experiences, all unique to each other, provide perspectives into managing a global business that cannot be learned without spending time on the ground. “Not unlike the Darden experience, the key takeaways were not just the content and course material, but the cultural diversity and the opportunity to practice good leadership throughout our studies.”