Our trip to Milan, in many ways, was kind of like a Leadership Camp 2.0 for us, except the food was better… like, A LOT better. The Frankfurt School organises two modules abroad for the MBA programme, one in February in Milan and another coming up in July in Oslo. So once again, we found ourselves venturing off to a foreign land (this time Italy, instead of Bavaria) where we would work together and put not just our hard skills, but our soft skills to use!
The topic of the Milan module was Global Leadership and was held at SDA Bocconi, a highly regarded European business school. Whilst there were lectures involving theory, there was also a considerable amount of group work which involved putting the theory into practice, which, we discovered, is not always so easy, especially in a multicultural setting.
One of our courses involved working with Bocconi students to analyse case studies where two cultures collided. I have to admit when I first read our team’s case—about a Western manager working in China– I had no idea what the problem could possibly be. I read it again and again, and even asked the teacher some questions for clarification… but still had no idea. It wasn’t until a Chinese colleague explained it to me that I figured it out. Really goes to show what a product of our own backgrounds we are; had I been the manager in the case study, I could have easily made the same mistakes!
Of course not all time was spent in the classroom, such as when we got to visit one of Italy’s leading financial service providers: Mediolanum, who presented their unique family-banker business model to us. It clearly works—the figures were really impressive, particularly during the dot com and global financial crises. Building on the theme of cross-culture, the bank told us they have operations outside Italy as well, in Spain and Germany– the former being quite a success, the latter being a bit more problematic. They gave a number of reasons for why it had been so challenging, but I suspect it may just be that they need to bring some Frankfurt School MBAs on board ; )
The classes and excursions were great… but the real highlight of the trip was undoubtedly the food. There was no shortage of pizza, pasta, and wine throughout our time in Milan. In fact, a major topic of discussion during our drive back to Frankfurt was planning our diet and fitness regimes to undo the damage done by all the Italian food!
Whilst the time in Milan was a lot of fun, around half of us got even more bang for our buck—we turned the module abroad into a road trip! We drove from Frankfurt and spent a night in Zürich—where, despite being a global banking centre, it was surprisingly difficult to find an ATM (maybe that’s what they mean by Swiss “banking secrecy”?). Afterwards we drove through spectacular Swiss landscape and down into Italy, ultimately to Milan. On the way back, we stopped in Sirmione, where a number of us now hope to either honeymoon or retire someday (or both!). Thereafter, we again got our fill of the Alps, driving through Südtirol (which, after a week of relying on my arsenal of around 10 Italian words to get by, I was pleased to discover is a German speaking part of Italy) and then spent a night in Innsbruck, Austria—a small city that is nothing short of breath-taking! And is in fierce competition with Sirmione for top honeymoon and/or retirement destination.
Frankfurt is great, and we all love continuing to explore the city, but once in a while it is a nice change of pace to go somewhere new. I am very much looking forward to our upcoming module abroad in Oslo, but boy will Milan be one hard act to follow!