Making a Difference at Work

Being almost thirty years into his finance career, Barry Wentworth felt his learning curve was flattening. He decided to get an MBA to put a framework around his experience. Wentworth, a senior executive, knew it would be difficult to carve out extensive periods of time to be away from the office. So with its combination of residencies and distance learning, Fuqua's Global Executive MBA program was especially appealing.

"I'm the type of person who is not happy if I'm not in a multicultural environment," Wentworth said. "So Fuqua's increasing focus on developing and exposing people to different global dynamics and frames of reference was important to me."

Wentworth had already worked or done business in more than 50 countries prior to entering the program. And while none of the locations the program visited were new to him, the business focus, teamwork and diversity of students offered new perspectives.

"I enjoyed sharing my knowledge and insights from my career with the younger students," Wentworth said. "Sometimes people think an MBA is the golden bullet or key to success. That's not true. But my MBA provided real, strong methodologies and approaches to address things I actually encounter in the working world. It augmented the skill sets I had already developed and offered new tools and techniques that I could use to improve my work."

Wentworth started his career at Bankers Trust Company, where he remained for 15 years. He transitioned from Citibank to the corporate sector at ABB Asea Brown Boveri, where he worked for 18 years.  His responsibilities included running finance for the multinational in Switzerland, multiple directorships and lastly Regional Treasurer for the Americas and Treasurer for ABB's US operations.
A few years after earning his MBA from Fuqua, ABB was undergoing big changes. There was a new CEO for its U.S. operations, and the company was aiming to relocate its US headquarters to North Carolina. Wentworth saw this time of transition at ABB as an opportunity to start a new chapter in his own career.

"When I saw the ad in The Economist for a Deputy Director of Finance, I immediately thought to myself, 'Finance is an enabler and how phenomenal it would be to apply my almost 33 years of experience in finance to an organization like UNICEF?'" Wentworth said. "I am adopted and have been incredibly blessed and fortunate in my life. I often think about how my life could have been very different had I ended up in a different home. So working for an organization benefitting women and children seemed like a great opportunity to give back."

But switching from the private sector to the nonprofit sector was a big change.

"To get things done in the nonprofit and public sector world, I find myself drawing on all my experience and education," Wentworth said. "There isn't always a well-defined path to accomplish what's required, so I have to figure out how to navigate  while ensuring  that I'm adding value. I'm using what I learned in my past and at Fuqua to develop frameworks and methodologies to make a difference."

At UNICEF, Wentworth faces challenges unique to the public sector, as UNICEF is part of the UN, which is ultimately the product of its 193 member countries, 36 of which make up UNICEF's Executive Board. As it is a super-consensus environment, to move forward with a project or action item, Wentworth must appeal to people of a wide variety of backgrounds who have very different perspectives and priorities.

"It takes an immense amount of patience and tenacity," Wentworth said. "I can't just tell people to do things, I have to convince them, which impacts the speed of execution."

UNICEF is a voluntarily funded organization with roughly 40% of its funding coming from private sector donations from over 36 countries and 60% coming from the public sector (i.e. governments and government agencies). As a result, UNICEF can only enter into programs and projects if they are fully funded prior to its engagement. This presents a number of challenges, which for Wentworth becomes the fun part.

"It forces us to find innovative ways to enable our programs to happen," Wentworth said. "We have to analyze how we can best accommodate the needs of a particular area without neglecting cultural,  geographical and political considerations."

Recently, Wentworth and UNICEF were able to put together a structure to provide anti-malarial bed nets in Zambia, prior to the fast-approaching malaria season. Normally it takes up to 44 weeks to finance, produce, procure and deliver bed nets when and where they are needed. By collaborating with several partners—the Pledge Guarantee for Health in partnership with the Zambian government, the World Bank, Stanbic Bank Zambia, the UN Foundation, and the African Leaders Malaria Alliance—UNICEF successfully fast-tracked the procurement and delivery of anti-malarial bed nets in just 11 weeks' time. The nets arrived well ahead of the deadly malaria season in Zambia, having a direct impact on the lives of 800,000 residents.

UNICEF is the world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, and Wentworth works with his colleagues to maximize the impact that the organization has in providing much needed vaccinations. Each year, 1.5 million children die from diseases that cause diarrhea.  Of these, roughly 450,000 deaths are caused by rotavirus. In partnership with the GAVI Alliance, in 2011 UNICEF contracted with the vaccine manufacturer to purchase a minimum quantity of rotavirus vaccine each year over a multi-year period. This extended agreement secured the vaccine in larger quantities and at prices a third lower than the organization had paid the previous year. This change in financial strategy for procuring rotavirus vaccine will result in 50 million additional children being vaccinated by 2015. Thanks to the long-term purchase agreement, the vaccines have a reduced purchase price that is projected to save roughly $415 million for UNICEF and the GAVI Alliance.

"The challenges I overcome with UNICEF are important to more than my professional success," Wentworth said. "At the end of the day, our successes are measurable by the number of children's lives saved and impacted by our collective efforts."