The value of gaining a global perspective on sustainability and strategy through the Global Executive MBA program

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With her recent job switch, Diana Nguyen (Global Executive MBA ’23) traded in her office wear for a safety vest and goggles.

As a manager of strategy and special projects at MilliporeSigma based in Danvers, Mass., she works at a manufacturing site where materials for pharmaceutical companies — including COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers — are produced.

“I loved my previous role as a project manager at this company, but I wanted to be closer to the people, products and processes at a manufacturing site,” says Nguyen, who began her new role in March 2022, just six months after starting the Rotman-SDA Bocconi Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) program.“Here, I get to work directly with the shippers, receivers and material handlers at the MilliporeSigma warehouse who are like the fuel of the company — they enable our manufacturing teams to make products that save lives.”

Right now, her team’s goal is to get back to the basics. After managing the effects of intense supply chain challenges over the last two years, Nguyen says they’re building on their strategies related to inventory, relationships with suppliers and emergency preparedness. Due to demand, the warehouse she manages is also shipping significantly more product than they had anticipated for the year.

“We’re nearing capacity, and we have other warehouses that are also filling up. I’m gathering ideas from the shippers and receivers because they truly understand the day-to-day needs and what can be improved,” she says.

“What we’re learning in the GEMBA program is so relevant to what I’m working on right now. The assignments from class are helping me to put together a framework for how to initiate change, and I’ve been learning so much from my classmates and their experiences in different fields."

Gaining a global perspective on business

Nguyen can pinpoint why the Rotman-SDA Bocconi program was the most enticing next step in her career and personal growth.

“There are many amazing schools here in the U.S., but none of them seemed to offer the global visibility I was looking for. With the international modules and the chance to meet people from all around the world, GEMBA was the program I knew I had to be part of,” she says.

So far, Nguyen and her classmates have met in Toronto, Milan, Copenhagen and São Paulo for week-long modules focusing on corporate finance, marketing, accounting, economics and personal development. Next, they’ll be off to San Francisco, followed by Toronto, Mumbai, Shanghai and Milan again.

The theme of their most recent module in São Paulo was sustainability and business ethics. As part of their first live case study, the class visited a favela where homes have deteriorated from high humidity and poor ventilation. The group collaborated with two companies as part of the case study, Comuta Arquitetura (an architecture and planning company) and Vedacit (a chemical manufacturing company), who are working towards renovating 1.6 million homes in Brazil by 2025.

Back in the classroom, teams presented ideas to the companies that could help to scale up their renovation efforts.

“It was eye-opening to think about business ethics in combination with sustainability — how can Comuta and Vedacit be profitable with what they’re doing and reinvest that into the communities they’re helping?” says Nguyen.

Other assignments during their module in Brazil centred around what participants can potentially improve in their own organizations from a sustainability and ethics perspective.

“Change management doesn’t happen overnight, and to be successful you need to make sure you’ve done your homework and built your following,” she says.

“How do we speak in the boardroom about projects that we believe are impactful, and communicate that in an effective way that relates to the business? That’s what I’m working on right now.”

Giving back to the global community

Nguyen recalls many of her classmates were close to tears as they walked through the favela during the case study.

“We saw how proud the people were of their homes after the renovations, and we were moved to contribute what we could,” she says.

Immediately after visiting the favelas during their case study, more than a dozen classmates reached out to Nguyen and her co-class representative, Oksana Kiryanova, with the same message: “We need to do something to help.”

They swiftly organized a fundraiser for the class, and as of April 20, the group had raised more than US$7850 in voluntary donations, with faculty members also pitching in. The funds will go directly towards the cost of home renovations in the favela.

As she thinks about the rest of her career, Nguyen says she feels optimistic.

“My success will be defined by the success of my team. Through the program I’m learning how to be an adaptable leader who thinks globally, which will be helpful as I progress in my career,” she says.

Written by Jessie Park
Source: Rotman School of Management - University of Toronto

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