Lessons from Greece

My name is Patrick Van Brunt and I’m a 2nd year MBA concentrating in marketing and strategic management. I’d like to take this opportunity to write about how the project we did last semester for our European trip has already helped me in my day-to-day life.
When my team first started working on the project for our Greece trip, I wasn’t much help. It was mainly a financing project and my background was in marketing. To give you a little more background, my group was tasked with funding a €1.5 billion wind farm project in the Aegean Sea for a Greek company called Rokas —an especially difficult task considering Greece’s financial status at the time. I’ll admit, I was a little frustrated at first because I thought I couldn’t contribute very much.
As it turns out, this project proved to be an extremely valuable learning experience. This semester, almost every one of my classes involves some form of consulting project for a real business. Prior to this, the projects we had done in school were purely academic and, coming from a purely marketing background, I hadn’t done any consulting before starting my MBA.
My clients (and projects) this semester couldn’t be more different from each other—from a small, local business (corporate valuation/acquisition) to an Argentinian NGO (marketing/operations) to the Freeman Graduate Admissions Office itself (marketing research). Although the projects don’t share many similarities, my experience in Greece proved invaluable in all three situations.
inFront
  • inFront is local software company, specializing in human resources management. The situation with inFront is changing rapidly, and as a result, the scope of our project has changed, too. Originally, we were tasked with finding an appropriate licensing agreement between inFront and their sister company. Now, we are providing a valuation and set of negotiation tactics for inFront, to help sell themselves to a larger company.
  • The political and economic environment in Greece at the time of our project was…volatile, to say the least. But, it gave me valuable experience in dealing with rapidly-changing project landscape—something which has certainly been useful when working with inFront.
ACIJ
  • ACIJ is an Argentinian NGO focusing on fighting corruption and preserving the rights of the underprivileged population. They are undergoing a large organizational change, and are unsure how to make a smooth transition. In addition, they are not well-known in Argentina (or abroad) and are looking for new ways to spread their message and seek funding from sources domestic and foreign.
  • Although they are on different continents, working with the Greek company got me accustomed to dealing with clients who live in different time zones and speak different languages—a skill which will no doubt come in handy in my future endeavors.
  • Most importantly, I learned how to work in a financial context that was less than ideal.
Freeman Graduate Admissions Office
  • Our graduate admission office is looking to refine their marketing materials in order to attract more students to apply and matriculate into the Tulane MBA program. My team is working closely with the office to develop a survey which will uncover the key differences between students who attend Tulane, students who were accepted but did not matriculate, and students who showed an early interest but did not apply. From there, we will use our findings to develop a refined marketing program to better target these groups and turn a higher percentage into matriculants.
  • So far, this project has been more straight-forward than the other two—we were given a clear objective and are currently working towards it. But, it is still in the early stages of development and, if my previous experience tells me anything, it’s that change is the only constant in life. When something changes in this project, my experience in Greece will be there to help me.
Had I not done the Greek project last semester, I would feel completely overwhelmed right now. But, with the experience I gained from working with Rokas, I feel much more comfortable working with my clients and handling their tasks (even if they are outside my area of expertise). So, I guess the moral of the story is: always be open to new learning opportunities, even (or, maybe especially) if they initially seem fruitless.
Patrick Van Brunt