I wish I could write this blog as a plan on what to expect from joining the Mannheim MBA program but the truth is that it is the unexpected that is the only certainty in the program, and trust me, that is a great thing! While there is obvious apprehension prior to commencing the program, leaving the professional world and embarking on a highly challenging journey, this feeling is soon put to bed once you understand that your teammates and soon to be lifelong friends all find themselves in the same situation. The mentality of all ‘being in it together’ is one that definitely lends itself to bringing the class close together from the very first meeting.
I’m writing this post three months into the program and looking back I really can’t understand where the time has gone. There has been induction, classes, exams, late night study sessions, projects, and the always entertaining group assignments! While I could give a run-down of the academic portion of the program it’s important to also describe another critical aspect of the program and that is the out of class experiences that are critical to our development as business leaders in a culturally diverse world. Two of these areas I would like to shed some light on is the social and sporting aspects on the program.
The question that is often posed to international managers is how to integrate a culturally diverse team? After three months of the MBA and being in a class that registers twenty three different nationalities out of sixty students, I think we may have discovered the formula and that includes equal parts sport, and as President Obama would describe it, equal parts ‘Beer Diplomacy’. You may question how important sports are during an MBA program but we quickly got this answer during the official introduction with Mannheim’s Business School President when he stated that our degree could only be guaranteed if we retained the Rowing Cup that last year’s group finally won after a long six year draught! To this point I still don’t know if it was a joke, but what is apparent is that the team is not taking any chances and we are all training like our graduation depends on it!
On the football field we have created a team that includes players from Europe, North American, South America, Asia, and Australia. After several days of arguing the true meaning of ‘football’ after lots of persuading of the American’s we are training hard for the annual indoor tournament held in Leipzig. What we have found really interesting in the team is that local sports from other cultures can come in very handy on the football field. We have an Indian that is using his cricket skills effectively as our goalie, and the American’s use their ‘American’ football skills to great effect in a defensive role. Again, no matter what the result, the training has continued to bond our group closer.The second part of the cultural journey is what can only be arguably the most fun part…. and that involves some beer drinking. While the cultural sensitivity and cultural diversity classes are extremely important, it is really amazing how an incredibly diverse group can find common interests and very lively conversation over a local German Bier or Glühwein! As a group we have taken trips to a variety of cities including Berlin, Heidelberg, Neustadt, Strasbourg, and Frankfurt, just to name a few. The traveling not only allows us to experience German culture first-hand (and practice our somewhat limited Deutsch skills) but it is a great way to get to know the cultures of our teammates, what makes them tick, and how they view the world.
Soon several us are going to be off to our exchange partner schools, therefore leaving our teammates for three months but the sports and socializing means that coming back together is something that we are all looking forward to with the assurance that the bonds we have developed on the playing field, in the bars, and on the road, will not be strained by distance. With the development of a ‘Culture and Sports’ club we have plans to try several new global sports, visit a variety of sporting events throughout Europe, and obviously part-take in some healthy competition during the World Cup.
Mannheim MBA Class of 2014