By Lauren Wallace
EJ Nisbeth is a second year residential MBA student from New Haven, Connecticut. He attended Amherst College where he earned his BA in Biology. EJ worked in the biotechnology field before attending Darden, and during his time here he has gotten involved in the EVC Club, Soccer Club, and Music Club. After graduating this month, EJ will work as a consultant at Bain & Company in Atlanta, GA.
Which global programs have you been involved with during your time at Darden? What interested you in these specific opportunities?
I attended the Brazil Darden Worldwide Course in the spring of my first year. This course piqued my interest given its project management theme. Project management is a very useful skill that will be especially helpful to me as a management consultant and future entrepreneur, and the mini-consulting project that we undertook as part of the course drew me to this course as well. Also, I had never traveled to South America and wanted to take the opportunity to check it off of my list. I had the chance to attend the India Darden Worldwide Course in January of my second year. I was drawn to this DWC given its focus on data science. As a scientist who is very interested in the application of technology and the future business implications, I saw this course as a great way to learn about a professional passion of mine. Furthermore, I was drawn to the Indian culture and knew I would enjoy a trip to South Asia.
I also took part of a Global Consulting Project in Uganda. This experience seemed like a great way to continue honing my consulting skills while taking the opportunity to visit Africa for the first time. Moreover, as someone who is passionate about entrepreneurship, I found the specific project I was involved in to be a great way to engage in the field while assisting budding entrepreneurs.
Did you know much about Darden’s global courses before coming to Darden? If so, were these opportunities a contributing factor in your decision to attend Darden?
Yes, I knew that Darden offered many global academic opportunities. That definitely factored into my decision to attend Darden. Managers who can think and perform in global contexts are becoming increasingly valuable. I chose to attend Darden because I wanted to refine my global perspective on business.
Expanding on your India DWC experience, what did you do while you were there? What was one lesson from this experience that impacted you the most?
During the India DWC, I visited and engaged with companies of varying industries and sizes (from tech startups to Walmart and Coca-Cola). We spoke to representatives (some of whom held very senior roles) and learned about specific strategies they employed in the Indian market. I think a lesson that impacted me the most is that business culture in one country can be extremely dissimilar to that of another. I came to this realization when speaking to companies about business ethics. I now feel that I am more equipped to understand and navigate important cultural differences when doing international business.
Please tell me more about your Global Consulting Project in Uganda. What was the project you worked on? How was your experience as a part of a GCP team leading up to and during your Uganda site visit?
For our Global Consulting Project in Uganda, we worked with Municipal Council of Mbarara on improving their entrepreneurial funding program. The government provides funds to eligible groups of entrepreneurs. The goal of the program is to help groups (mostly comprised of women or youth) create self-sustaining businesses. Our job was to do research and provide suggestions on how to improve the program.
Leading up to our site visit in Uganda, we had a couple of Skype calls with our contact from the Municipal Council to hone in on the scope of the project and start managing expectations. We also did research on entrepreneurial funding models used around the world. Once we arrived in Uganda, we interviewed groups who had received funding, to better understand their experience with the program. Towards the end of our site visit, we presented our findings to the Municipal Council, and conducted a brief training session with the entrepreneurs.
How have these global academic programs shaped your understanding of business around the world and how will you use what you’ve learned from these opportunities in your future career?
For me, these experiences have allowed me to navigate the similarities and the differences between American business culture and business culture abroad. In the future, I will have an easier time discerning important cultural differences where they exist. Instead of becoming surprised and frustrated, I will be able to adapt and get things done.
Would you recommend these global opportunities to prospective students? What advice do you have for students interested in Darden or Darden’s global academic programs?
I would highly recommend any of these global opportunities to Darden students. Not only do they provide a unique perspective while traveling abroad, but they allow you to travel with great people as well. As for advice, I would say that you should approach these opportunities to a way to step out of your comfort zone. The support and growth you will experience are invaluable.