Financial Post: Global experience looks good on resumé

Mar 30, 2012

The following article was published by the Financial Post on March 27, 2012 as part of their MBA issue.


As a long-time entrepreneur, Ward Black is a firm believer that international exposure is a good thing in an MBA program.

“It’s just a bad decision not to have international experience on your resumé,” he says. “The fact is you will either be working with a company operating overseas or competing against them. So when I decided to go back to do an MBA, I wanted as much international exposure as possible.”

Mr. Black is in the International Strategy & Global Operations MBA program at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo. Part of his studies included a recent 12-day field trip to Turkey and Dubai.

“It was all focused around the notion of how business is done in these countries and how that fits into a Canadian perspective,” he explains.

International studies have been a big part of Executive MBA and full-time MBA programs for a number of years. But it’s clear given the economic trends that things have changed in terms of focus and direction.

Whereas China and India were the default destinations for study tours, for example, more and more programs are incorporating South America and the Middle East into their curriculums.

But it’s not just about destinations. It’s about integration of international education into the curriculum, educators say. One of the biggest changes is that programs used to offer specific, discrete courses in international business, says Wilfrid Laurier’s associate dean, Kim Morouney.

“Now virtually any course an MBA student takes is expected to have an international dimension, whether it’s strategy, organizational behaviour, marketing, financing or economics. From our perspective it’s a matter of internationalizing every course.”

Programs have also evolved beyond simply bringing in international experts to developing partnership agreements to explore international exchange and joint project opportunities, she adds. “Connections are much deeper and broader than they used to be. It’s much more than study tours and exchanges abroad. There is a proliferation of international opportunities and options for both students and faculty.”

Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business, for example, has introduced an Americas component to its Executive MBA program in partnership with graduate business schools in the U.S. (Vanderbilt University), Mexico (ITAM – Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México) and Brazil (FIA – Fundação Instituto De Administração). According to Colleen Collins, associate dean of graduate programs at SFU, “this program is helping students talk about international issues and tackle those hard topics that don’t always get discussed.”

Each school has a cohort of up to 15 students that get together four times a year (once per each destination) for up to nine days of intensive collaboration.

Topics covered include ethics, international competitiveness, cross-cultural management, innovation, new ventures and bottom-ofthe-pyramid markets.

“Executive MBAs can learn as much from the people in the room as they can with any professor,” Ms. Collins says. “What we’ve created with this program is a really cool room of people.”

With a wealth of international study options, Rick Robertson, of Managerial Accounting and Control at Richard Ivey School of Business in London says it’s important for students to stop and think about what they want to get out of an international program.

“You need to decide where you want to take your career, and what industries interest you,” he says. “Where are the right opportunities for you? For example, China is a great destination for anyone interested in manufacturing processes and skill sets. A fascinating sector in India is health care.”

A person with a strong interest in the mining sector could opt for a South America tour (a new addition to the Ivey MBA program).

“Chile is huge in this area,” Mr. Robertson says. “And Petrobras in Brazil is the world leader in deepwater drilling. Learning the nuances of these countries is an important part of the education process. Many companies there have close ties to Canada.”

Mr. Black notes that since Canada is an exporting nation, “It doesn’t make sense not to gain international exposure. That perspective is of great value to companies looking to initiatives like outsourcing and exportation.”

Click here to read the article in its entirety at the Financial Post.