Tag: Global Moment

Angela Lu, MBA

Angela Lu, MBA ’19, is president of Olin’s Graduate Business Student Association. She wrote this post for the Olin Blog.

What I remember most about Barcelona is the crush of bodies, pressed against me from all sides, holding me up, rendering me immobile and rigid—stable enough to sustain the five or six additional levels of the “human castle” above me.

Castellers demonstrate an unsurpassed level of teamwork when constructing and assembling towering castell structures—literally, a castle constructed with people. This is the very definition of “tight-knit.”

I lived in Barcelona for a year before joining Olin for my MBA. It was actually in Barcelona that I took my GRE and wrote my application essays (and participated in castell-building). It seemed particularly fitting that, six weeks before graduation, I found myself once again in Barcelona as part of Olin’s pilot for the new global curriculum.

How would the city testify to my growth over the last two years?

Student pile into a jeep during a tour and discussion of marketing needs at Barcelona's Gramona Winery.
Students pile into a jeep during a tour and discussion of marketing needs at Barcelona’s Gramona Winery.

Ask any local what makes Barcelona a special city, and you’ll likely hear something about the thriving and integrated diversity of the city. We experienced this warm, inclusive welcome during our week, both at ESADE Business School and at the family wineries that opened their doors to allow us to learn about their craft and business operations.

While we turned our classroom knowledge into actionable insights for our hosts, I realized something else was knitting itself into existence: deeper bonds between two-year colleagues.

Here we were, thinking we knew each other well enough, yet discovering commonalities never uncovered before and having philosophical discussions and intimate reflections previously unimagined. The coursework was intense: We had long days with much work to accomplish, and just as much desire to explore the city and take advantage of being in this Spanish metropolis.

At the Gramona Winery, where second-year MBA students gathered data for a project to help the winery enter the US market.

Every one of us had different goals and expectations of this trip. Instead of pulling in different directions, however, we came together to support each other—in a way that fully resembled forming a base of a castell.

The demanding pace of our week-long course forged stronger friendships and created bonds between previously congenial but distant classmates. Once again, Barcelona revealed to me how precious it is to be part of a tight-knit group.

We call ourselves a family at Olin. Like all families, we have our squabbles and disagreements. Like all families, we come together despite our differences because we fundamentally respect and care for each other.

Looking forward to this coming academic year, I am hopeful that the newest recruits to our Olin family will—over the course of their multi-week trip to Washington, DC, Barcelona and Shanghai—build genuine, lasting and enviable relationships with each other and commence their core curriculum in St Louis with an unmatched commitment to each other’s success.

Sharon Mazimba at the Yu Garden in Shanghai.

Sharon Mazimba, MBA ’19, wrote this for the Olin Blog.

After what seemed like months of preparation, two flight delays, and the longest 16-hour flight later, we landed in Shanghai, China, a group of about 70 first- and second-year MBAs, exhausted but intact and ready for the intense week ahead. They were all part of a spring break overseas intensive designed to provide globally based education for the students and pilot the expanded global MBA experience for the incoming class of 2021 MBA students.

The next morning, we dove straight into our operations course, eager to understand how strategy is implemented through operations, specifically looking at the retail industry. The course would occur over the week, a mix of talks from retail industry experts, practical excursions—including visits to Zara, Uniqlo and H&M stores in the busy Pudong shopping area—a factory visit to Mudoo (a sports apparel factory) and the newly built Adidas distribution center in Suzhou.

Both the talks and excursions were an eye-opening look into the retail process from end to end, as well as the nature of business in China and how different it is from the US or other western countries. There is a highly relational and perception-based approach in the Chinese market, aspects of which I observed throughout the week. Two experiences in particular drive this home for me.

« of 10 »

The first was a talk by Olin EMBA student Salem Cibani, who attends the program in Shanghai’s Fudan University, who shared key insights about the fashion industry. He spoke about Ports 1961, a luxury brand launched in Canada, which then moved to China to take advantage of opportunities there.

The move required the brand to completely shift their strategy in China; their products were priced significantly higher in the Chinese market because of the perception that a higher price and a distinctly Chinese aesthetic equated higher quality.

The second was how long it took to plan and build the Adidas distribution center—a three-year endeavor that involved significant pre-planning and relationship building to accomplish. This was the example most salient to me; other speakers and our Shanghai located mentors also gave a number of anecdotes about how you had to know people and be well-connected to truly establish yourself in the Chinese market and get things done.

While we learned a lot, we also had a chance to explore small but extremely cool areas of Shanghai. The city is vast and one week is not nearly enough to see it all. The Bund had amazing views of Shanghai Tower, the Yu Garden was a beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, and the Tianzifang area had amazing souvenirs, quaint tea shops, and my favorite—lots of street food!

Looking back on this trip, one of my most significant takeaways (and something I will be carrying into my career moving forward) was how critical it is to tailor your strategy to different cultures; especially if you are looking to be a global player. Most businesses fail at this. The second was how incredibly unique China is. The country’s manufacturing capabilities have allowed the country to become a hotspot for major retailers to go for their apparel needs while still maintaining a distinctly Chinese way of conducting business. It was a fascinating phenomenon to observe and be a part of.

Angela Lu, MBA ’19, was one of 35 full-time MBA students who spent their spring break in Barcelona, Spain, March 9-16, 2019, experiencing the country’s global wine distribution model first hand.

Lu and other students took an intensive week-long course with Olin professor Sam Chun, assistant dean and director of executive education, then applied those lessons to a series of branding challenges posed by local wineries Gramona and Pere Ventura.

For Lu, the experience was a crash course in combining application and education and applying her professor’s lessons immediately and with consequence.

The trip was part of an Olin initiative piloting its new, revised MBA program, featuring a monthlong global immersion in Washington, DC, Barcelona and Shanghai.

Students in the global operations course in Shanghai over spring break 2019 evaluating fashion retailers on Nanjing Road.

In the corner of a fluorescent room humming with sewing machines and dappled in shocks of orange, yellow, black and green fabric, Hyrum Palmer spoke to the operations manager of a Shanghai company that connects the New Zealand native’s favorite rugby teams to the process of supplying sportswear to the world.

Meanwhile, 6,100 miles and seven time zones away, Jose Reynoso strolled among columns of oak barrels and regiments of knotted grapevines on a cool Barcelona afternoon to learn about the billion-dollar wine industry and work on strategies to better connect producers and consumers.

Palmer and Reynoso, both MBA ’19, were among more than 100 first- and second-year students dispatched for a week abroad, spending spring break immersed in new classes focused on global business and participating in a test run for a bigger global experience designed for the next class of Olin MBA students.

“It’s bizarre to be a New Zealander—studying a business education in St. Louis in the middle of the United States—to come to China as part of this program and to be in a factory that is all about New Zealand and our culture,” Palmer said. “It’s a surreal and tremendous opportunity.”

Palmer’s group of 35 students in Shanghai toured Mudoo Fashion Co., a sportswear manufacturer founded in 2004 by WashU alumna Judy Yu, EMBA ’16, who earned her degree in Olin’s program with Fudan University in Shanghai. And Palmer—a devout fan of rugby—wasn’t too shy to geek out over the brands Yu’s company supplies, including Pacha, Armani, Ezibuy and Canterbury of New Zealand, which sponsors the country’s national rugby team, the All Blacks.

While his group focused on global business operations in a class by Fuqiang Zhang, tracking the connections from production, distribution, marketing and retailing in the fashion industry, Daniel Elfenbein taught another Shanghai group of 35 MBA students focused on global business models. Their goal: understand the baked-goods market in the context of global demand and develop a recommendation for St. Louis-based Strange Donuts about how the company should enter China.

A continent away, another 35 students in Barcelona took Sam Chun’s class in general management practice, immersing themselves in the wine industry. Half the students focused on strategies to help luxury brands differentiate themselves in an international market while the rest focused on a distribution strategy for a wine brand anchored in a unique philosophy of “biodynamics.” As part of their week, the students visited the Gramona and Pere Ventura wineries and took coursework at Olin partner ESADE Business School.

Olin MBA students learn the process of biodynamic farming at Gramona winery in Barcelona during their March 9-16, 2019, global business immersion trip.
Students look on at Gramona winery as owners showcase their farming process.
Xavier Ybargüengoitia, former CEO of Moet Hennessey, provides context about the wine industry to students in Barcelona.
Students take part in an iPad-led scavenger hunt on their arrival in Barcelona as a way to get cultural and business acclimation in the city.
Farah Qureshi, MBA '19, pauses to take a photo of Spanish architecture during the iPad excursion in Barcelona.
Professor Sam Chun introduces the iPad activity before students get started on the excursion.
Rheanna Henson, MBA '19, orders at a Mister Donut shop in the People's Square subway station in Shanghai, part of her group's fact-finding at bakery/doughnut shops.
Students in Fuqiang Zhang's global operations course tour the Mudoo Fashion garment factory outside of Shanghai. The company was founded by Judy Yu, EMBA '16, in the WashU-Fudan program.
Students tour the famous Nanjing Road shopping district, where they compared retail strategies for a variety of garment retailers.
Salem Cibani, a student at the WashU-Fudan EMBA program and a consultant and longtime practitioner in the luxury fashion industry, speaks to the global operations students in Shanghai.
Students in the global operations course in Shanghai over spring break 2019 evaluating fashion retailers on Nanjing Road.
MBA students close their experience in Shanghai with a cooking class featuring authentic Chinese cuisine.
At the conclusion of their cooking, students enjoy their work at dinner on Friday night of the spring break global immersion trip.
Olin MBA students learn the process of biodynamic farming at Gramona winery in Barcelona during their March 9-16, 2019, global business immersion trip.

“Wine is a pleasure, but it’s also a business with a retail value above 200 billion euros,” Xavier Ybargüengoitia, former CEO of Moet Hennessey, told the students—one of many experts the students encountered during their week in Barcelona.

“The insights we received helped us look at the problems our wineries were facing with different perspectives, focusing on key ways they could leverage their competitive advantage to differentiate themselves from others,” Reynoso said.

All 100-plus students left St. Louis for their respective destinations on March 9, 2019. The Shanghai students arrived late the next evening, thanks to a late departure, a 15-hour flight from Dallas and a 13-hour time difference. After an evening departure, the Barcelona students arrived in time for a breakfast March 10 provided by ESADE and the hotel. Shanghai students returned March 16, while east coast storms delayed the Barcelona students’ return until the following day.

The dense, content-packed spring break immersion trip also served as a pilot run for the coming summer immersion semester aimed at incoming MBA students in the class of 2021. After spending two weeks in orientation and coursework in St. Louis, the entire MBA cohort will head for a round-the-world immersion into global business with a week at Washington, DC’s Brooking Institution, two weeks in Barcelona and 17 days in Shanghai.

“The pilot was extremely successful,” said Steve Malter, senior associate dean of undergraduate and graduate programs. “The student experience and global business education was impactful and it is clear Olin has an incredible new signature program for our MBA students.”

Students on the spring break trip seemed to agree that the experience, while intense, would be an amazing opportunity, showcasing WashU Olin’s strengths.

“It speaks volumes to the quality of the education at WashU and the opportunity it affords,” said Palmer while still in Shanghai. “But also to the quality of the connections and the network of Washington University.”