In July I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the Iacocca Institute Global Village for future leaders of business and industry. I was lucky enough to receive scholarships from my university in Australia and Lehigh University in Bethlehem. The course is set in Bethlehem Pennsylvania, about a 2 hour bus trip from New York City. The university is considered one of the most beautiful in the USA, and did not disappoint. I was a little crazy and got up every morning before workshops to go running which meant I had plenty of opportunities to explore the beautiful campus. I recommend going to the old Library if you are ever in the area, it is very beautiful. Other than that there are many old buildings and nice views of Lehigh.
The course itself was fantastic in a way I didn’t expect. There was people from 45 different countries, making the conversation amazing with all of the stereotypes to talk about. There was a no judgement understanding which meant we could ask any ridiculous questions and break down assumptions. The course is in no way about the workshops that are attended, it is all about the people. The workshops can be dry and really need to encourage more of the cross cultural conversations that are the main benefit of the program, although some workshops did stand out as being especially valuable experiences. One workshop on Business and Human Rights sticks in my mind as bringing all of the opposing views and opening up everyone’s minds to how something judged as right in one country can negatively affect another country.
Villagers (the participants in GV) had the opportunity to conduct a session of their own. These were particularly valuable as they presented current issues from around the world, as well as showing the differences in social and business issues around the world. A villager from Ukraine led a particularly interesting session regarding issues in Ukraine which were of particular relevance at the time. Another villager led a session on people with disability in the workforce, which was interesting in the way that it revealed how different countries perceive disabilities. I was working in a government agency that provides funding to people with disability in Australia at the time, so discovered how different some country’s perception of people with disability are, particularly in the workforce.
We completed a consulting project in this course which has helped me in work projects and university assignments since. The reason for this is that we were not vying for anyone’s approval (such as a boss) and were not being marked. It was really up to us to get the best result for our client. The client we had was an Italian food manufacturer who is wishing to import their products to the USA. We had a great diverse team with representatives from Colombia, Israel, Philippines, Spain, Armenia, Australia and a mentor from Chile. Initially we had a few issues with personalities clashing. We all had some commerce qualification, except the psychologist. Having a psychologist in the mix turned out to be a huge strength of ours, however in the beginning we had a “smashing” stage of dramatically clashing. This ended up being benefit to us, as we got over this stage within 3 days whereas other groups stayed friendly for the first 3 weeks and only experienced this clashing stage at the most important time, just before we had to present to the clients. We learned to value everyone’s knowledge and adopted a “work smarter, not harder” mentality which served us well. We even had time for a team bonding shopping trip.
The program is not just workshops and consulting. We had 3 glorious trips to Washington, Philadelphia and New York. Washington and New York had a combination of workshops and free time, where Philadelphia was an optional trip and was all free time. It was great to get a glimpse of these powerful cities and experience workshops at many of the organisations which are so famous around the world. In New York I attended a workshop at a Chinese real estate developer. It was fantastic to discover how huge companies are entering the US market. In Washington I attended a workshop in the Ronald Reagan International Trade Centre, which was very interesting to see how a government building is combining a public space with a trading area.
While I spoke to everyone I wish I got to know more people’s story’s. Every person at GV was extremely intelligent and it became easy to take this for granted until I arrived back in Australia and remembered that this intelligence mixed with passion, compassion and determination is not how many people are. I would definitely recommend this course. I now have friends in 45 countries and plans to visit many of my European friends. I have also met up with fellow Global Villagers in Perth from previous years. The only problem with being surrounded by incredible, supportive, intelligent people is that the adjustment to your old life can be a little difficult.
One last thing is that I will be putting some business ideas in to practice. I am happy to learn and fail, however I no longer find it acceptable for myself to not try at all. I have 92 people to hold me accountable, including myself. The cultural differences will fuel me, as Australia does not have a very positive few of entrepreneurship and especially failure, so the alternative views will support me through my personal and professional journey.
Main lessons I learnt:
– Be yourself, it makes business sense and will make you happier.
– Do you what you LOVE. If you do what you love, money will come to you.
– Dream big and start now.
– Be grateful for everything, show your gratitude daily.
– Get lost, you will achieve a lot.
– Never think you are the best, as someone will overtake you while you are thinking they cannot.
If you are interested in being a part of this wonderful program, you can apply for the 2016 program at: http://www.iacocca-lehigh.org/Iacocca/globalvillage/apply.shtml