July 13, 2003 - Vanderbuilt University: A Business "Peace Corps" By Lithuania RPCV Debra Asay

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Lithuania: The Peace Corps in Lithuania: July 13, 2003 - Vanderbuilt University: A Business "Peace Corps" By Lithuania RPCV Debra Asay

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, July 13, 2003 - 12:19 pm: Edit Post

A Business "Peace Corps" By Lithuania RPCV Debra Asay

A Business "Peace Corps" By Lithuania RPCV Debra Asay

A Business "Peace Corps"

By Debra Asay

Many classmates and potential employers could not understand why I turned down great job opportunities to volunteer for a year in a country most had never heard of (Lithuania), and one in which I did not speak or understand the language, for $200 a month. But seven years later, that experience remains one of the most valuable of my life and a perfect complement to my Owen education.

One of my goals in business school was to learn about the global economy through international work experience. Exchange programs offered unique cultural experiences but did not include a work component. I saw the MBA Enterprise Corps as the answer.

The MBA Enterprise Corps recruits MBA graduates from top business schools to work in developing and transitional economies as consultants to locally based companies. Owen has participated in this program for approximately 10 years, with nine alumni serving in Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, and Moldova. Owen taught the business concepts (and in some cases, practical application of the concepts), while the Corps provided an avenue to apply what we had learned.

Debra Asay and Andruis Josas, a Stoma Star employee, at a Lithuanian dental trade show.

Consistent with the transitional nature of Lithuania (and most countries with Corps volunteers), my initial placement fell through because of a bankruptcy related to the organization’s assets. The Corps arranged for a second placement with AB STOMA, the first privatized dental clinic and distributor in Lithuania. There, I

• consulted with the largest private dental clinic and equipment distributor in Lithuania;

• initiated international contacts and developed a database of potential partners/investors;

• developed a relationship with the World Health Organization to introduce preventative dental care to Lithuania;

• applied for additional funding to support the organization’s growth; and

• reached out to the local expatriate community to increase awareness of the organization.

I also solidified skills in areas essential to global business: effective communication, cultural understanding, and leadership development.

Effective Communication: I used to take listening for granted. But when you live and work in a country where English is a fourth, fifth, or sixth language, active listening and comprehension is key. Translation issues and cultural differences make effective communication all the more important.

Cultural Understanding: In contrast to the warp-like speed at which business is conducted in the U.S., my experience overseas taught me the value of patience and inquisitiveness. I constantly asked, "Why is this done this way, why don’t we consider this," often to receive the comeback, "This is our reality." After years of communist oppression, change represented a significant shift for Lithuania. Over time, with a solid rationale, a proposed change could become the new reality. And this, I learned, is not always bad as some ideas get lost in our fast-paced environment. We sometimes learn and accomplish more by getting back to basics. Cultural differences can cause business to operate more slowly, but the rewards include new focus, perspectives, and thoughts brought to the workplace.

Leadership Development: The best part of my experience involved helping to develop leadership. I would only be there a year, but I wanted my contributions to be long-lasting. I was fortunate to work with two "rising stars." I introduced them to the importance of teamwork and watched them grow and prosper during the year.

My Corps experience empowered me to believe that I can do almost anything. Day-to-day life with limited language skills was challenging, but I developed friendships that will last a lifetime and was able to support the positive growth of a company during economic upheaval. I am more global because of this experience and appreciate diversity in the workplace, especially cultural diversity. Owen and the Corps opened doors to the world for me. I look forward to a time when my husband and I return overseas with our family, and I can share these treasured experiences with them.

Debra Asay, ’95, is marketing director for Deloitte and Touche in Nashville.

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Story Source: Vanderbuilt University

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Lithuania



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