It’s been a long time since I’ve traveled to South America. Almost ten years. I’m not sure why it worked out that way. I suppose I simply got caught in the life of a young adult. Traveling back to a place I’d been so many times seemed like something that could always wait. As a child I grew up traveling to Ecuador constantly in order to visit and stay with family. Having spent so much time in South America growing up, I was excited to travel to the neighboring country of Peru as an adult to take in the culture from a fresh perspective, with classmates from the WSB, and especially after such a long hiatus. The MBA program’s global course that is offered every year allows students to gain firsthand experience of business in an international market and culture. An experience that is invaluable in today’s global economy.
Upon landing in Lima, I walked out into the morning sun and was immediately slapped by the humid sea air. The traffic and chaos at this scale was something that I’ve never seen in the United States. The family selling fruit on the side of an interstate, motorcycles and buses driving so close to each other that you could touch the person in the vehicle across from you, so many hands eager to help with your bags in the hopes they get some small tip, and the daily hustle. Everyone working as hard as they can to simply survive. So many people starting some sort of business, all in the name of surviving for one more day. Watching these people go about their lives was one of the most interesting things for me during my travels.
However, a close second was our trips to visit various companies in Lima as well as getting to work with GE Healthcare on our consulting project. Being able to visit the offices of Accenture, GE, Ferreyros Caterpillar, and P&G while learning about operating and addressing challenges in these South American markets was fascinating. For example, distribution of everyday household products must take place at a much more micro scale for companies like P&G since the average income in these markets is so much lower than in North America. That has led to a proliferation of convenience store businesses that carry a small amount of inventory and have no formal computer system. Getting these thousands of “Mom and Pop” stores the inventory they need, when they need it, and assuring that P&G has the market penetration they require is a huge challenge. One that involves using a multi-disciplinary quiver of solutions. As an MBA it was a remarkably stark example of how our education across many different business function areas will be applied in the real world.
As the trip came to an end and I began to reflect on the course, there were so many things that stood out in my mind. Some were purely experiential. Getting to swim with sea lions near a remote island off the coast, meeting professionals at some the world’s top companies, eating amazing exotic food every day, and of course getting to explore Machu Picchu. Other parts were more nuanced; getting to know my classmates and professor’s better, reflecting on what the developed world’s role is in a country like Peru, and what it would be like visiting this country years from now. The global course, like my entire MBA experience here at Wisconsin, proved to be well worth the investment.