Cultures. Different cultures, a plethora of them actually. We know they exist; we think we know about ours. We know some better than others, and there are just some we do not know anything about. In today´s global world, it is increasingly important to know about world cultures so that we can better understand how to interact with them. Cass knows to what degree this is important and incorporates into its MBA programs modules that expose its students to the global way of doing business. The London Symposium, The International Consultancy Week in Iceland and the diverse International Electives are explicit examples. I mention the London Symposium because cultural interaction is a two-way avenue. It is therefore equally valuable for those coming from abroad to understand “Londoners” culture, as it is for Cockneys to grasp each and everyone of intercontinental customs.
In today´s digitally literate and proficient world, competition it tough. This hinders the possibilities of having open access to the wide range of opportunities out there. A professional assignment in Iceland, a foreign land synonymous to the arctic, is not only unique but priceless. We had access to a wide range of companies to choose for whom to work for during that week, addressing all of the cohort´s backgrounds. Yes, it could always be better, but what was offered to us was a great choice that required ample planning, research, outreach, and liaising. Personally, having the chance to work with an entrepreneurial set of minds in Iceland, and above all, have them openly share their experiences was of immense value. And, yes, you do obtain as much as you invest in.
I am currently planning my entrepreneurial venture and as a risk averse person it is not so easy to take the leap. It is so refreshing to hear from legacy entrepreneurs “yes, you go bankrupt, so what? It’s some more work and then you move on. Which is the next opportunity?” There is so much pressure to get every step right and we forget that many of the processes are iterative with learning from mistakes. In my native Colombia we say perder por aprender es ganar, which means: losing for learning is winning. It is true. Looking at things in hindsight always seems straight forward and obvious. Nevertheless, it would not be so, had we not undergone those so-called mistakes. While in Reykjavik, not only did we have the chance to get our hands on a real life challenge that a start-up´s future depends on, but we also got to struggle with it, dissect it, get frustrated at it – viscerally adopting it as our own problem – and reach a point where our colleagues
(yes, by colleagues I mean the entrepreneurs, our fellow MBA students and the faculty members) could remind us of our strengths, point out learned methodologies, and help us reinforce the resilience to find the light at the end of the tunnel.
That experience shows you how it can be done despite tough circumstances. For sure, we were in a cradled environment. The real world may perhaps be slightly more difficult, but we should not forget the same tools and resources are there. It is just a matter of finding them and negotiating how to put them to use in our direction.
One last thing I would like to end on is a story… about storytelling. Ever since I was a boy I much enjoyed listening to stories. This may well be what alienated me from enjoying to read. We used to be able to sit in a park or public transportation and simply exchange a few story lines with strangers. All that has now been substituted by social media. Rather than wailing for times that have gone just like the Sony Walkman or VHS’, I would like to encourage you, whichever means you use, to tell stories. Position yourself as you need to. I was pleased to find this in Iceland. In every corner.
Be it Icelandair´s advertisement, the rotten shark or Hákarl restaurant, the junction pub, or Efstdalur the organic – watch walking meat while you eat – cow farm, Icelanders always had a story to tell and a joke to crack. Is it about their culture? Never would I have thought that this far away icy nation would have such things in common with Latin American culture. This nests a million and one opportunities to network, find something in common and soon enough the sky is the limit and you could be on your way to being the next financial ‘Unicorn’. I am looking forward to the Elective about this subject. I will leave you with this proverb:
He who ignores he is unenlightened is asleep, wake him up. He who ignores he is shrewd is blind, open his eyes. He who knows he is unenlightened is lost, guide him. He who knows he is shrewd is wise, follow him.
I saw in these successful Iceland entrepreneurs those who, knowing they are shrewd, are a step ahead of where I am – where I would like to be. Find those individuals for your specific career aspirations and follow them always keeping current on cultural etiquette and an open eye.
Until next time.
Alejandro Leano, Full-time MBA 2015