Twenty-four years ago, my parents made a bold decision to leave Romania and relocate to Germany, their home country.
At the age of 11, I was ready to start a new life outside of the iron curtain.
There, I was exposed to a totally new environment. I rapidly realized that my new country provided unique opportunities. Embracing change is something I’ve continued to do throughout my education and professional career. In high school I spent 6 months in Bloomfield, Michigan, where I quickly understood that being exposed to the triangle of Eastern, Western European and US culture is a priceless gift that I wanted to leverage further.
At 20, I was asked to join a German branch of Philip Morris International, a multinational company operating in 180 countries. This provided me with a tremendous opportunity to embark on a global journey. Now, 14 years later, I have changed jobs on an average every 2.5 years, relocating within Germany multiple times, from Hamburg to Munich, Düsseldorf to Stuttgart, before starting my first international assignment in Oslo, Norway 2012.
My time in Norway triggered my final decision to enroll in a global executive MBA program. In Norway, I worked with a cross-functional team with colleagues from Greece, Lithuania, Sweden and Finland. This gave me the confidence to take the next step in applying for a global program such as Kellogg.
Vallendar and Düsseldorf
Taking up studies at WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management in Düsseldorf and Vallendar is utterly different from studying in Chicago or Toronto. Vallendar, with less than 10,000 inhabitants, is a minuscule city in comparison with a metropolis such as Hong Kong.
Perhaps it is the beauty and reserved charm of Vallendar – awarded UNESCO world heritage status many years ago – combined with the great community spirit among the locals that makes us multicultural WHU students feel at home. It is a thrilling experience to meet Asian or African folks in Vallendar who are thousands of miles away from their home countries, and instantly feel connected with them.
Overall, coming to Vallendar was an unforgettable time. The academics were stimulating and the surroundings beautiful. The Luxury Brand class was ideal for those looking into premium brands. Outside the classroom, the Rhine valley and the ship tour were breathtaking experiences.
Business practices in the US and Germany
To my mind, the biggest differences in business practices of the United States versus Europe is the competitive environment. Entrepreneurship, disruption and self-confidence are part of the US business culture. Because they value short-term gains and risk-taking, failure is a part of the process. Uber, Google and Facebook would probably not exist without the risk-taking attitude of their founders. Assessing risks can be learnt, but taking risks without fearing failure is an attitude, which in my belief is a part of the American culture.
Famed for punctuality, clear responsibilities and working in well-structured systems, Germans have every reason to be proud of such intrinsic values. Germany has more of a structured, process-driven business environment, seeking stability and continuity in a rapidly changing world. As a whole, the EU values heritage: building something that will last for centuries. Typically, they avoid mistakes & failures, choosing to analyze and plan before acting.
From personal experience, I can’t stress the point enough that living abroad accelerates both one’s professional and personal growth. All the challenges that you face should not be seen as threats or insurmountable obstacles. They should be seen as opportunities.