Growing into a Global Leader
The world fascinates me. My greatest joys in life come from traveling; embracing cultures through food, drink, and dance; and meeting people from all over the world. I may be a cultural anthropologist at heart, but I studied business; combining the two creates my perfect career.
On the surface, culture is what you see. It’s what people wear, what they like to do, and even how they treat each other. Culture is so deeply rooted in each one of us that it creates our norms. Only when we interact with people from other cultures do we realize that our norms are not necessarily shared by the rest of the world.
Americans believe time is within our control. We plan, schedule, and practice time management. Many other cultures, on the other hand, believe factors beyond their control impact time and call for flexible schedules (e.g. traffic). When I arrived in Brazil for my MBA internship, I dedicated large amounts of time to planning my travel within Rio. Just because I didn’t speak the language or know anything about the bus system didn’t give me the right to be late for meetings!
I giggle now when I think about that young woman in Rio. I traveled pretty extensively prior to living abroad for the first time, but there is no substitute for the experience of actually living in another culture. I studied the cultural norms in books, and prepared to adapt my behaviors to suit the Brazilian workplace. However, the experience of actually being there: living, working, and playing, brought the learning to life, and elevated my understanding of what it takes to succeed in global business.
When you come to the US for your MBA, you will make mistakes; I once sat for an hour waiting to meet someone in Brazil after leaving 2 hours early to make sure I was on time. Give yourself grace. Research the cultural norms, identify how they manifest in US business, and adapt your behaviors to suit. Then, go about your life. The growth you will experience over the two years will be invaluable for your development as a global leader.