Breaking international barriers in business

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EMBA students travel to Amsterdam for International Field Study

This year’s International Field Study (IFS) saw 19 students from the University of Fredericton’s (UFred) Sandermoen School of Business (SSB) travel to Amsterdam in August to participate in seminars and workshops with some of the world’s top business leaders.

It included a visit to DutchBasecamp, an organization that aims to help startups become internationally successful. This year, the students were on-site at its Usabilla offices, where some employees joined the students’ teams for workshops. Students learned about the cultural differences in European countries and that, though it is tempting to view Europe as one big market, there are distinct differences that have an impact on market plans and how to conduct business. They were tasked with identifying these differences and creating a plan for navigating business culture with European countries.

Lisa Highfield, a student of the EMBA Global Leadership stream who attended the IFS, found this portion particularly eye-opening. She said it was very successful in conveying that international business opportunities and markets not only exist but are within reach.

“As Canadians, we often think to the United States and Mexico for our next logical expansion points. But as this course proved, expansion into the European market is very attainable. The IFS was able to build a pathway for business students to navigate expansion into the EU, breaking down barriers to trade. It allowed us to connect with government and industry experts who can assist in this process.”

The Growth Hacking session with GrowthTribe took everyone by surprise. Growth Hacking originated through startups that needed to accelerate but didn’t have the capital to spend on marketing campaigns. Instead, startups focus more on experimentation and getting a large volume of alternative advertisements out on the market, which enables them to identify quickly what works and what doesn’t. Then, they shift focus to where it needs to be rather than spending a lot of time and money on campaigns that may not have been successful. GrowthTribe was able to demonstrate how quickly a website can be set up or a survey distributed to test that the medium is viable.

The group also participated in a presentation by Kjetil Sandermoen, UFred’s Chair of the Board of Directors and the business school’s namesake. He helped the group pinpoint the difference between leadership and management, identify the personalities and traits of those within an entity that can help or hinder organizational shifts, and lessons from his years of management consulting experience.

Joshe Page, who is also a student of the EMBA Global Leadership stream, said meeting with industry leaders in a foreign setting was a highlight of his IFS experience.

“Seeing the similarities and differences in how we do business, and being able to apply what I’ve learned to both my personal and work life made a big impact.”

He appreciated the calibre of speakers and said that each one contributed to a relevant part of their learning.

The real win was that we left with a comprehensive plan that could be used to launch a real product in an overseas market.

He added that the topics covered were not only useful but interesting. In particular, he enjoyed a session that used virtual reality to apply its teachings in real-world settings and going to Yes!Delft, one of Europe’s leading tech incubators.

“To see what an innovative community think tank looks like and understand that it only works because the members believe in sharing and giving back to the establishment was insightful. There were so many great innovations to learn from,” he said.

Lisa says the IFS was an excellent bookend for the program. She believes that by removing themselves from their respective industries, it allowed for the exploration of new ideas and business opportunities.

“As professionals, we all devote ourselves entirely to our workplaces, families, school work, and the millions of other things that need to be done in a day. The beautiful setting of Amsterdam was a fantastic location to help students step out of our everyday lives. It allows for reflection on the MBA journey, our careers, and blue-sky thinking.”

For Lisa, meeting her online classmates offline made a lasting impact.

“The IFS is an excellent opportunity to collaborate and strengthen relationships among students. Nothing can compare to being able to spend 10 days with your colleagues in the program,” she said.

I see an incredible network blooming among UFred grads. Our support of one another will continue throughout our lives and careers.

Joshe shared that sentiment.

“One of the highlights of my experience was certainly meeting my peers in person getting a more in-depth understanding of their backgrounds and deepening connections that I can have for the long run,” he said.

He added that despite travelling to Amsterdam and having a good balance of downtime to enjoy the city, he values what he learned the most.

“The course itself and the amount of input it takes to create a good business plan was a huge takeaway. Even counting the hours spent on the course and attributing a monetary value was something I hadn’t considered until we started. Consultants would know, but it was new to me,” he said.

Lisa highly recommends attending the IFS to all SSB students.

While there will be challenges for students to make it work, such as getting the time off and the financial commitment, it is worth it.