One of the big draws to the USD MBA program for me was the opportunity to participate in an international practicum; a short-term consulting project abroad. In my undergraduate studies I had received degrees in both International Business and Asian Studies so the logical choice of destination for me was Bangkok, Thailand over our winter intersession break.
For those who aren’t familiar, the gist is this: as a team of 3-5 MBA students, you are assigned to a contact at a company in the country in question. USD faculty arrange the logistics, help set up the projects, and monitor your progress, but once you are on the ground in the country the project is strictly between you and your contact. The company we were working for focused on import/export and automobile modifications; for example, they have an exclusive contract with Ford to take Ford Rangers and modify them for use by the Afghan National Police. They have around 4000 employees, and are headquartered in Bangkok.
Once we arrived in Bangkok step one was to meet our contact to find out what exactly it was he wanted us to do. One important thing we learned in the process is that this was a real project. The company valued our presence and were willing to commit resources (chiefly our contact at the company’s time) to give us the greatest chance at success. When a company is rapidly growing as they are, they do not always have the time to thoroughly vet ideas for new projects. That is where we come in.
In the end this was primarily a market research project. They had a turnkey solution to sell; we were to explore where, why, and to who they would sell this solution. After the week we were given, we were to present our answers to these questions and give recommendations to the senior executive team at the company headquarters.
This project was a practical and meaningful learning opportunity. We experienced what it is like to work under severe time pressure: with more time we could have made more thorough recommendations, but part of what we had to learn was that you cannot always have the perfect answer. As one of my classmates astutely put it, “sometimes an 80% solution today is better than a 100% solution next week”. Beyond that presenting to a dozen senior managers was the perfect chance to practice presentation skills we spent our first semester honing. At the end of the day we must have convinced somebody: our contact at the company was later tasked with determining next steps for implementing our ideas. The practicum was fantastic; I would recommend it to anyone regardless of your interest in working internationally.
Dan McAllister is a first-year, Full-time MBA student. His background is in Finance and Accounting, and is interning in Jack in the Box’s Finance department this spring.