Why Diplomats Need Business Skills
By Glenn Fong, Ph.D.
Thunderbird offers more than traditional international relations or MBA programs because the grand global challenges of the 21st century call for mixed mode, cross-sector solutions. In practice, the public, private, and nonprofit sectors are not demarcated from each other. No one company, NGO or country can solve issues such as sustainable development, human rights, conflict resolution or global economic recovery. We need organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, USAID, Dell and Microsoft.
The coordinated effort calls for global management across these sectors. We need leaders who not only can speak different languages, but who can talk business and international relations and understand the nature and dynamics of these other sectors.
Thunderbird has consistently been committed to the notion that global executives must understand culture, politics, and history. Our Master of Arts program is based upon the notion that diplomats need to understand business and management. It’s essential for modern diplomats to speak the business language because all of these industries intersect.
Why should students consider work in the developing world?
At Thunderbird we have a required global experience whereby students study or work in a foreign country. I believe that is so valuable, because it can be career changing. How can you pick a career if you only know what you’ve bumped into in your own culture? Once you’ve exposed yourself to other cultures, you expand your career options.
One of my priorities is encouraging students to consider working in the developing world. Developed metropolitan centers around the world are actually very similar. But in a developing country, you will see very different social and economic systems with expanded roles for the public, private, and non-profit sectors. One of the great things about Thunderbird is its entrepreneurial open-mindedness; students will find opportunities in areas most would overlook.
How can the Career Management Center help me?
For the last five to six years, Thunderbird has been running a program called Career TREKs. We get about 15 students, selected through a competitive process, and plan a trip to a particular city for a number of company and organizational visits. These are essentially high-level informational interviews with great representatives.
Our Career Management Staff has been involved in outreach directly in the government, nonprofit and social enterprise realms, and says it has been really refreshing to see the response from these organizations. Many don’t have a long tradition of hiring management-trained candidates, but see in our Thunderbird graduates the right mix of skills to make a difference.
What does it mean to be a Thunderbird?
The Thunderbird alumni network is integral to the institution. Our literature will tell you we have alumni in over 140 countries and that they are 40,000 strong, but what you can’t necessarily see on the page is what that means when you land on the ground somewhere. We have come to rely greatly on alumni for insight and assistance regarding career management. True to our global reputation, Thunderbirds land in many countries, and they go to many types of companies and organizations. Students know they can rely on strong allies in the marketplace when they are trying to connect.
Glenn Fong, Ph.D., is associate professor of Global Studies and academic director of the Master of Arts in Global Affairs and Management and Master of Science in Global Management programs at Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Arizona. His areas of expertise include technology, global trade and industrial policies of the U.S., Japan and China, government and business relations and international political economy. This article originally appeared in the April 18, 2011, issue of Foreign Affairs.