By Iqra Razzaq
Kelly Sullivan, a native of the D.C. area, is currently a rising second year at Darden. After graduating in 2011 from UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce, Kelly worked for Booz Allen Hamilton for five years before applying to Darden. She ultimately decided to pursue an MBA at Darden because it embodies all the qualities she values in an MBA program – a tight-knit community whose students somehow strike the perfect balance between relentless ambition and unwavering support and collaboration, as well as exceptionally engaged and invested professors.
This past May, Kelly traveled to Japan on a Darden Worldwide Global Immersion Course. She spent a week and a half traveling to across Japan, exploring technological innovation, and observing business practices specific to Japan. “I knew I definitely wanted to do one of the Darden Worldwide Courses. I really like traveling and I’m also interested in international business,” Kelly stated regarding her decision on the course. Kelly ultimately decided on Japan because it focused heavily on innovation and technology, an industry she plans to pursue after graduation.
Kelly chose to further develop her international business experiences by accepting an internship with Beverage Analytics™ by WeissBeerger in Tel Aviv, Israel. This summer, Kelly has incorporated lessons learned from her course in Japan into her current internship work. “One of the key themes from the Japan course I found was that business norms are very subjective to [the local] culture,” Kelly stated as one her major takeaways. She learned firsthand that the Japanese business culture and U.S. business culture are different from one another. For example, Japanese culture focuses more on consensus and agreement than what Kelly has seen and experienced in the U.S. “Having that perspective coming into my internship in Israel already had me in that mindset of thinking, ‘What’s the culture? How does it tie into the workstyle here? And how may it be different from the U.S.?’” Kelly explained.
Kelly reflected on the importance and need for having such global experiences incorporated in an MBA program. “I think as much as professors can teach concepts in the classroom about nuances of other countries and the value of cross-cultural leadership, you really don’t understand it until you see it for yourself. All of that is resonating with me now,” Kelly explained regarding her global experiences during her time at Darden so far. Kelly found the differences between the classroom and working abroad quite distinctive and eye-opening. She explained, “You really get to see how things actually get done [working abroad]. I’m working in a startup and things change every day. Also, how you get things done one day can change the next. It’s important to see and understand the limitations and capabilities companies have in different environments and cultures.” She further stressed how this experience can sometimes be lost in a classroom where everything is slightly more idealistic, controlled, and different from actually drafting a plan and executing it in a foreign country.
Kelly spoke about her transition to a different lifestyle in Tel Aviv. She connected to a few people in Israel before she even arrived; however, she found herself pleasantly surprised at her own ability to navigate independently and integrate into the new culture. “People in Israel are really warm and very inclusive. From the very first day, colleagues in my office were inviting me to get dinner with their friends and setting up a girls’ trip to go see Wonder Woman.” Although Israel quickly felt familiar and comfortable for Kelly, she did notice some differences that made her internship experience distinct. Although most of the company speaks English and language didn’t hold Kelly back, she quickly realized that you miss the opportunity to learn from the conversations and debates happening around her when people spoke in their native tongue, Hebrew. It is a learning opportunity she took for granted previously. Another unique aspect of the work culture in Israel is that the work week is Sunday through Thursday, due to Shabbat (Sabbath) being celebrated Friday evening through Saturday evening. These and other nuances of the Israeli culture reinforced the message she had taken away from Japan – the local culture has a huge impact on the business norms and values of any country.
Kelly maintains her commitment to global experiences as a CGI Ambassador for Darden. She took on this role to encourage more students to enroll in global experiences – whether through Darden courses or international internships/careers.
Post-Darden, Kelly hopes to pursue her interests in both technology and international business by joining a U.S.-based technology product company with a global footprint. She would love to continue to travel to international locations, gain an understanding of their unique cultures, and use that understanding to shape and develop products for diverse market audiences.