Global Studies MBA Trip: Experiencing Dubai & Abu Dhabi

Q: Please tell us about yourself?

A: My name is Tim Hartnett. I am a second-year Part Time MBA student at the Smith School of Business, taking classes at the Baltimore campus. I have my sights set on graduating this August with a focus in marketing and data analytics. I work as a Service Sales Engineer for Eaton, a multinational power management company focusing heavily in Electrical Distribution equipment.  I’ve spent the last 7 years in various manufacturing roles with Eaton and have leveraged my MBA to transition into an outward facing role in sales and marketing.

Q: In which Global MBA Experience Course are you participating? What led you to enroll in the course?

A: Choosing the right study abroad location was difficult, but of all options, going to the Middle East was an opportunity that I felt I just could not pass up.  I also felt this region was not a likely choice to visit through work or personal vacation.  I saw this location as an incredible opportunity to grow culturally and increase my global acumen.   I am interested in global projects, particularly in Mega Projects, which are large scale projects which would typically cost over a billion USD and take multiple years to complete. This would involve global teams, enormous scopes, incredibly tight timelines, are first-of-kind, and require both intense people and project management skills. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are known for these types of projects – Palm Islands, Burj Khalifa, and Burj Al Arab to name a few.  To speak to the scale of construction, Dubai has been home to 25% of the world’s cranes, used to develop this city in the desert into one of the most popular destination in the world.  

Q: Tell us about your project?

A: The project we chose (two of my classmates and I) was strategic consulting for a water sport company looking to expand globally. HERO OdySEA is a small water sport company that is part of a larger customer entertainment/experience firm that focuses on high end cultural excursions like safaris and hot air balloon rides with falconry. The foundation backbone of the company is providing best-in-class customer experiences in unique ways that attract affluent customers who are hungry for more than the run-of-the-mill options. 

Our project was developing an entry plan with different models (partnership, sole-ownership, or franchise) in 3 new locations across the world.  We worked with the local team in Dubai on their current model, scalability, intellectual property, human resource structuring and ways to leverage their growing success in the region.  We met with the company 5 times while we were abroad and experienced their safari and boat tour offerings.  We also experienced their competitors’ tours which was a fun way to do competitor comparisons to highlight key differentiators to be captured in our project summary. Each team member provided different insights for the project and interestingly, none of us had ever done consulting work before.  This experience showed us the fun world of consulting and wide range of research that needs to be completed prior to making recommendations for the client.

Q: What challenges have you faced during your project? How have you overcome them?

A: We did not have a lot of typical challenges.  We had a great team; the company was well built and has a strong future.  Our biggest obstacles were gathering the needed information about the new locations and understanding the laws and regulations for opening a new business, particularly in water sports.  While researching a new location to visit for vacation can be exciting, researching regulations written in different languages (and translated) and trying to understand the underlying opportunities pushed our team to think strategically in the small details while keeping the big picture in mind. Our client was helpful in responding to questions, and we were cognizant of each other’s time zones (12-hour difference) and work week structure (Dubai’s weekend is Friday and Saturday).

Q: What part of the course are you most excited about?

A: I was most excited about experiencing the cultural hub in the Middle East.  We met people from all over the world and only a few people native to the region. We met people from all over the world and only a few people from the region.  We met with the chamber of commerce, the Abu Dhabi Airport construction team, and the planners for Dubai Expo 2020.  Each of these visits warrants its own blog post.  We learned a lot about the value of government censorship, catering to world cultures, and planning projects that millions of people will experience every year.  It was fascinating to see traditional customs meshing with new age technology and worldly views. 

Much of the work I do with Eaton relates to the construction landscape and how power is generated and distributed to power our world.  Much of that infrastructure is hidden and only thought about when there is an issue and the technology we depend on doesn’t work.  When everything is working properly, the underlying building is out of sight and mind.  Seeing the sheer number of cranes and buildings being constructed around the city was fascinating – how all the pieces come together to create beautiful buildings that are like no other buildings in the city or the world.

I connected with Eaton’s regional headquarters in the Dubai Free Trade Zone. I visited the location, met the plant manager, my service sales counterparts, and took a tour of the factory. It was impressive to see the similarities in our Eaton locations across the globe. While I understood the value of creating a global brand, creating a uniform and visible culture that transcends borders and time zones is a true feat.  Seeing how the business runs on the other side of the world increases my desire to leverage my MBA for more opportunities that put me in contact with other cultures and ways of doing business.

This was a trip of a life time and truly worth the time, money, and research it took to make it happen.  I would highly recommend the Dubai trip to anyone looking to expand their vision of Middle East culture, Mega Projects, and international business.

Tim Hartnett is a second-year Part Time MBA student at the Baltimore campus.