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Feature Story

A Global Campus: Businesswoman Knows No Boundaries

Edith Varhelyi's (Cross Continent MBA ’02) thirst for knowledge & global competence lead to a successful international business.

Edith Varhelyi
Edith Varhelyi
January 31, 2012

By Dana Magliola — This article was originally published in the Team Fuqua alumni magazine.

Edith Varhelyi (Cross Continent MBA ’02) is a citizen of the world, first by chance and then by choice. Her family moved from their native Hungary to Sweden in the 1980s, emigrants during an especially tumultuous time. Facing the obstacles of learning a new language and adapting to a new home, Varhelyi proved a quick study. This was not simply a time of change for her family, but all over Europe, political, economic and social landscapes were shifting rapidly. Varhelyi embraced the opportunity to learn from these changes.

“I realized that my multicultural background could become an asset in this increasingly international, cross-border way of living,” she recalls. “By the time I graduated from university in Sweden, the country was a fully-fledged member of the European Union, a development that opened up a whole new world for me personally and professionally.”

Her drive to cross boundaries was not limited to geography. Varhelyi is an avid, thirsty student, and has become fluent in English, Swedish, and Hungarian. She also has basic proficiency in Spanish, German, and Russian, and she began studying Arabic and Hebrew. Language is no deterrent to building new connections and growing her international engagement.

“I am a very curious person,” says Varhelyi, who is also a self-diagnosed compulsive reader. “Before the Kindle came along, you could actually see me board a 55-minute flight with two bags full of all the newspapers and magazines the newsstand had that day. Learning something new every day is something I remind my son about all the time.”

Varhelyi began her career in international recruiting and human resources in 1996. Initially working for an established company, she soon developed entrepreneurial ambitions. She launched Chronos Systems in 2000. Debuting as an information technology staffing and software development firm in Hungary and Argentina, she then launched a similar business in Turkey, followed by a pan-European and South American human resources consulting firm. Serving on those groups’ corporate boards in Southeast Asia, India, and South America further expanded the scope of her interests. Though her résumé shows the tell-tale signs of a serial entrepreneur, the core driver in all of these endeavors is achievement.

“Any type or kind of achievement—it can be learning a new language, teaching my son to play golf, landing a new client or successfully completing a project at work,” she explains. “I am not the person who spends a long time celebrating a success, be it minor or major. After about five minutes, I am already thinking about what is next.”

When she began considering an MBA, Varhelyi weighed her responsibilities, and decided she could not pursue a traditional fulltime program because she couldn’t take two years away from her work and life. She ultimately decided to enroll in Fuqua’s Cross Continent MBA program in 2000 because she was attracted to the curriculum, which highlighted the importance of drawing on the strengths of the global cohort. The program’s team-based learning also paralleled the demands and challenges Varhelyi faced in meetings and boardrooms across the world.

“I believe in diverse teams at work; the more diverse, the better,” she says. “Because of the international nature of Cross Continent, we had many different nationalities—not to mention personalities—in our study and project groups. This was a great training ground for the international expansion that was to come for my company.”

Beyond graduation, Varhelyi remained engaged with Fuqua, and like all of her activities, did so with gusto. Whether supporting international MBA recruiting, admissions efforts or offering advice from the perspective of a successful global businesswoman, Varhelyi actively helps to build the Fuqua brand abroad, says Fuqua’s Erin Gasch, Director, Alumni Relations and Annual Giving. Varhelyi was invited to join the Alumni Council in 2010.

“In my opinion, it is the ultimate way to stay involved, to be informed, but also be able to participate in the continuing success and future growth of Fuqua in a proactive way,” says Varhelyi.

Hardly a stranger to travel, she participates in many Fuqua alumni events in Europe, and returns to Durham twice a year for council meetings, balancing her activities with the demands of the constant global business cycle. With diverse pursuits—and success—on every level, Varhelyi is no longer simply a citizen of the world by chance. She has clearly chosen this fate.