There comes a point in a professional’s career when the desire to make a bigger impact means setting her sights beyond her current borders.
But to bring that desire to fruition is no easy task. How can a local executive go global?
Wen Dombrowski, MD, MBA always wanted to make an impact on a global level. As a geriatrics physician with a dream to improve healthcare globally, “My interests have always been about social impact and championing the needs of elderly and disabled patients – which are even more pronounced globally.”
She enjoyed helping patients, “but there are problems in healthcare that are not at the one-on-one interaction level” she said. Dombrowski noted that insurance hassles, operational inefficiencies, and lack of informational flow (IT solutions) prevent patients from getting the best care they need.
As a physician at the crossroads of clinical knowledge and healthcare IT, Dombrowski knew that education would help bridge the gap between being a clinician and becoming a global healthcare executive. “My plan early on was to get my clinical training first, so that I would have a deep perspective on what are the healthcare problems that need to be solved while doing my business training.” she said. Before pursuing her masters at IE Business School’s Global Executive MBA Program, she recognized her business prowess would need to expand. “I knew bits and pieces but people would use jargon in meetings and I didn’t know what they were talking about. I realized it was a good time in my life to apply for an Executive MBA to get an overview of business topics and be able to ‘talk the talk’.”
The IE Global Executive MBA is a 15-month program with a blended approach to education. It offers a combination of face-to-face and online learning environments to executives around the globe. And a global program was particularly important to Dombrowski. She knew that outside of the US, other countries have different, innovative approaches to managing organizations due to different cultural, financial and regulatory scenarios. So, it was important to her to have classmates that were executives from different companies, industries, and countries. “My classmates included leaders overseeing revenue at Google, HR at Dubai Airport, PR at DHL, finance at a Russian TV network, operations at a mine in Kazakhstan, technology in Africa, and large banks in Europe – to name a few. When we were studying the different business concepts, we learned so much more than what is in a textbook. Every week we had phenomenal online or in-person discussions with classmates who are experts in their fields.”
IE’s program brings that global mindset into its program through international in-person/traveling modules.
The current program has 5 residential periods that take participants to Madrid, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo, Singapore and back to Madrid for 1-2 weeks at each location. Each of these face-to-face modules focuses on business innovation, global leadership and global business strategy. For example, in Brazil, Dombrowski’s class cohort met with executives from Unilever’s Head of Sustainability Initiatives, Maersk shipping company, Grupo Pao De Acucar retail grocery, Einstein Hospital, and Mapfre Insurance (read about her experience here). In addition to exposure to large corporations, Dombrowski enjoyed meeting with local social entrepreneurs and startups “these interactions were very rich because it’s one thing to learn online, but it’s another thing entirely to meet people face to face.”
Despite the packed schedule that IE offered, Dombrowski took advantage of each traveling/in-person module. “When our class went to Shanghai, I set up my own meetings to learn from local technology companies and entrepreneurs. It allowed me to imagine what life would be like if I worked there!”
In between international modules, Dombrowski enjoyed IE’s online learning approach.
It taught her and her classmates to adapt to working across time zones and cultures, in a collaborative way – as is required of a global executive. “The concept of asynchronous work and e-collaboration is really important for a global professional” observes Dombrowski. From Dombrowski’s perspective, being able to communicate and coordinate globally creates leaders who are adaptable in how they manage their work.
Dombrowski wanted a diverse and globally minded cohort of classmates and expert professors. 11% of IE’s current class profile come from Europe where the program is based, 52% from Asia and Eastern Europe, 7% from Africa and Middle East, and 30% from the Americas (15% North, 15% South). International classmates bring their own life experiences, which was important to Dombrowski.
Equally important was international and active professors. “I liked how the professors had current or recent industry experience in different countries.” She emphasized, “So much of business is about corporate culture and company dynamics that it is hard for me to imagine being taught by someone without that profound experience. We learn about the theory, but theory is only a starting point for richer discussions.”
Learning from her executive classmates and professors helped Dombrowski to acquire not only the mindset she would need to work on a global level, but also gave her the operational, management, marketing and communications, and finance knowledge she needed to transform her career from local physician to global healthcare executive.” Having a global group of people and professors showed us what can translate across geographies versus remain unique to a certain cultural environment or country. Being immersed in this learning experience was very valuable.”
Currently, Dombrowski consults to healthcare and technology CEO’s on their tech, business, policy and social innovation strategies through her company, Resonate Health.