Yale Curriculum: International Experience
International Experience 2008 Read posts by other SOM students on the International Experience and life at SOM on the SOM Community Blog.
Student Report: Russia & Romania
by Roberto Jimenez '09
In any trip, the real fun starts when something unexpected happens. Our international experience trip began with a 20-year snowstorm blanketing Bucharest, Romania’s capital. Only three of the twenty students in our group arrived on the first day. While the snow slowed us down a bit, it was great to see everyone supporting each other. Everyone erupted in joy each time a new classmate finally arrived and joined the group.
The trip to Romania and Russia was an eye-opening experience for me. Prior to SOM, I worked as an environmental consultant, a job that sent me around the world. Most of my classmates on the trip also had traveled extensively. However, this trip was different from previous business trips for two main reasons. The first reason is access. As representatives of Yale, we could meet with leaders at the highest levels of government and business. In Romania, we met with the CEOs of the nation’s stock exchange and one of the largest conglomerates in the country. We also met with government ministers and economic advisors to the prime minister. In Russia, we met with the senior-most executives at TNK-BP, Deutsche Bank and Mars Snackfoods. The second aspect that made the trip special for me was that we were able to put into practice many of the lessons from our recent classes. We were able to engage leaders in lively, frank and meaningful conversations centered on the topics from the core curriculum.
At SOM we’re taught to approach business problems from a variety of angles, taking into account not just the variety of constituencies but how different cultures shape the type of solutions we can implement. During our visit to the Bucharest Stock Exchange, the organization’s CEO spoke about how he’d like to raise the listing standards as a way to increase confidence in the marketplace and grow the exchange. But to companies interested in listing on the exchange, the changes would present a major hurdle. What should he do? For the entrepreneur in an emerging market, there are no simple solutions.
Another interesting concept we explored was the idea of “innovation blowback.” In the context of emerging economies, it’s when technologies developed and proven in the developing world end up creating value in the developed world. We looked at how after French automotive giant Renault purchased the Romanian company Dacia, it did more than just use the acquisition to enter the eastern European market. Renault was able to take a Romanian-designed car back to Western Europe and capture large shares of the discount car market.
In some ways, it was the Romanian and Russian leaders themselves who were the most revealing. Romania, which recently joined the European Union, has one of the hottest economies in all of Europe. Many of the country’s top political leaders are in their mid-thirties and big supporters of market-based reforms. Russia is an awakening giant that will play a major global role in the 21st century with its stockpile of weapons, timber, oil, and gas. In both countries, we spoke candidly with leaders about their perspectives on operating in highly-dynamic economies. It was interesting to see how they reflected on complex and difficult topics like corruption vs. transparency, energy vs. environment, education and healthcare, employment, inflation, foreign investments, and infrastructure.
Read posts by other SOM students on the International Experience and life at SOM on the SOM Community Blog.