When it comes time to look back at my University of Florida online MBA experience, one of the highlights will undoubtedly be my Global Immersion Experience (GIE) in Shanghai, China. Over the course of four jammed-packed days, a group of 40 UF MBA students representing a variety of cohorts had the unparalleled opportunity to visit a variety of innovative companies from cross-section of industries, including enterprise software, travel and high-tech manufacturing.
The MBA staff did a great job choosing a diverse mix of industries and companies. We visited large, global companies that produced traditional products, as well as thriving entrepreneurial organizations that focused on service outputs. During this experience, there were a few common themes that emerged, including:
- Nurturing young talent is key – Several of the companies we visited emphasized the importance of coaching and supporting new grads through corporate “seed” programs that help young talent grow and generate innovation. A few shared the average age of their employees, which was only about 25 or 26 years old.
- Work is a major part of life. Make it enjoyable and show the impact– In America, we constantly hear about the importance of work/life balance. During our visits, leaders emphasized how it was crucial for companies to create an environment where employees want to be because work is a major part of life. Several companies shared details about programs to boost employee engagement, including volunteer incentives, open work spaces and fun activities to enhance morale. Also, tying what the day-to-day business does for the end-user was another common theme because it helps employees focus on delivering quality work and seeing the value of what they do.
- The growing urban middle class will have a significant impact on companies around the world – China is seeing an influx of growth in major cities and an increasing urban middle class, which will affect economies across world as this segment begins to travel and spend more. The changing demographics in modern China is something that every global professional should be aware of, and it was extremely valuable to get first-hand insight on how China is evolving.
While learning more about international business was a key focus of the trip, the program did allow for free time to students to experience the culture first-hand including trying the food and taking in the sights of Shanghai. During our bus rides to and from the companies, our helpful tour guide provided great color about local customs and tips about navigating the city. This helped enhance the experience as we learned more about modern life in China.
Overall, from a professional and personal perspective, this trip broadened my awareness of the key economic and social issues that face China and its relationship to the rest of the world. Learning more about China through first-hand interactions was an incredible and engaging experience that I will always remember.