On a sunny May afternoon, 23 Washington State University students in the One Year Data Analytics MBA program conducted a scavenger hunt in the historic city of Prague. Separated into teams, the students worked together to decipher clues and find landmarks. The hunt was in lieu of a traditional guided tour. It encouraged teamwork and gave students an unforgettable mental map of the Czech Republic’s capital city.
The rest of their nine-day trip in Europe followed a similar pattern of collaboration and active learning. From May 12 to 21, the students took a cultural trip to Helsinki, Finland and Talinn, the capital of Estonia.. Caught up in a whirlwind of company tours and networking, the students got a first-hand look at how business is done in central Europe.
“Once the students learn more about business environments in the United States and abroad, they can see where they fit in,” said Program Director Mauricio Featherman, who traveled with the students. “Everything they’ve learned in class becomes real.”
Each day, the students visited two to three companies. They toured facilities, learned about products and business philosophy, and saw how business practices compared to those of the United States. Industries of the companies visited varied widely. They included communications technology, auto manufacturing, border security, banking, software security, and more.
Avast, an antivirus software company based in Prague, was among the students’ favorite visits. MBA student Mark Crabtree said he enjoyed learning about Avast’s “freemium” business plan. The base antivirus product is free, and customers can pay to upgrade to access more services and features.
In Estonia—a young country that earned its independence from Russia in 1991—many of the companies visited were start-ups. Estonia has become a world-renowned high-tech hub that some call the “next Silicon Valley.” In fact, the telecommunications company Skype was developed in Tallinn before Microsoft purchased it.
“It just inspires your entrepreneurial spirit,” said MBA student Mitch Peterson after visiting new business ventures in Estonia.
Many entrepreneurs are attracted to Estonia in part because of a new government initiative that makes it easy to start and conduct business. Called e-Estonia, it enables online management of most government services: health records, school grades, banking, legal and tax information, business registry, voting, car registration, and much more.
“It was cool to see a country that lives in the shadow of Russia embracing technology and creating something that no one else in the world has,” Crabtree said.
Crabtree and Peterson both studied abroad in Spain as undergraduates. Now they have seen how business is conducted in central Europe as well. It gives them a distinct advantage as they prepare to enter the workforce.
“If you don’t have an understanding of how different countries do business, you’re going to be left behind,” Crabtree said. “You can read all the books and articles you want, but at the end of the day, being there talking to people who are living it is the best way to get that experience.”
For more information about the One Year Data Analytics MBA, visit mba.wsu.edu.