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Michael Calfee, '12

CFO, Grupa Zywiec

Warsaw, Poland

Nationality: American

"I wanted to work for an organization with a global footprint, and I believe the MBA program has prepared me for the next 15 years of my career, and will enable me to continue to move up to the next level."

International Exposure

In 1994, I was working for Coca-Cola International when it acquired a Dutch franchise. I was asked to visit Holland to do an audit of bottlers. It was the first time I had worked internationally, and I really enjoyed it. I loved the challenge of working with people with different ways of doing things, and of living and working overseas. I joined the international audit team and continued working on projects across all continents and gained a lot of international exposure. I held several international roles at Coca-Cola and worked in Italy, Russia, Austria, and Greece. I very much like the arts, architecture, history and traditions Europe has. At the same time, there were several professional opportunities for me. So it was a marriage of business opportunity and cultural attraction that drew me to, and kept me in Europe. During the Global Executive MBA program, I lived in Spain, where my wife and our kids are from.

Preparing for Career Growth

I reached a point in my career where I had progressed in my organization as far as I could. I wanted to refresh myself academically, update my credentials, and learn about current methodologies. I chose Fuqua because of its reputation and quality of faculty, and I selected the Global Executive MBA because of the international nature of the program, especially the residencies in Asia. I wanted to gain insight on Asia because I had not yet worked in that region, but was interested in possibly pursuing opportunities there.

I left Coca-Cola in 2011. After graduating from the MBA program, I joined Heineken Nederland as Global Finance Project Director in Amsterdam, before moving on to my current position with Grupa Zywiec, which is part of the Heineken Corporation in Poland. I wanted to work for an organization with a global footprint, and I believe the MBA program has prepared me for the next 15 years of my career, and will enable me to continue to move up to the next level.

The China Strategy

I visited Beijing and Hong Kong in 1997, but during the MBA residency in Shanghai, I was impressed by how much China had changed. The increase in its size and businesses was amazing - it was previously all open land, and now it is covered with skyscrapers. It was obvious how important China's economy has become to the rest of the world.

While there, Edward Tse, an author and a partner at Booz & Company in China, presented on the corporation's China strategy. He discussed how the country got to where it is now, why the economy will continue to succeed, and how businesses can and should harness the power of China. There is an entirely different business strategy for China. Tse is a Chinese national who was educated in the U.S. and has worked in the U.S. He took his background and married it with his education, and was extremely knowledgeable about his environment. He had an awareness of what was going on and a clear vision for the future. It was really interesting to gain such in-depth, first-hand knowledge about business in China. As a business leader, I believe it's important to understand the Chinese economy and model. A day could feasibly come when I might need to work in China, and I'll feel well prepared for it.

Applying Action-Oriented Leadership

The most valuable aspect of the leadership component of the MBA program was the framework provided for personal leadership development. The action-oriented model included different leadership domains, and we examined how we function within each of those domains. We learned about our leadership style and how to apply the new methods to be more effective. At work, I decided to focus on one of the leadership domains and specific actions. I practiced implementing them with my colleagues. One key point of the domain was the necessity for everyone to understand their role on a team and how they fit into the broader context. At one point, someone reporting to me was complaining about interacting with other parts of the organization. We had a long conversation, and clarified what he was doing, why he was doing it, and how his contributions added value. We discussed his impact and what other departments needed from him to be effective. He was ultimately more interested and willing to work with others, and was less discouraged when encountering resistance to change. The Global Executive program gave me practical, applicable leadership skills that will continue to make me a more effective leader.