Learning about a world beyond big corporations
One of the main reasons I selected Henley’s Executive MBA programme was the inclusion of two immersion study visits as part of the curriculum. Our group has just returned from a wonderful week in Miami, where we were immersed in the local culture and learned about international business and entrepreneurship from various perspectives. I used the opportunity and travelled to Miami a few days in advance to enjoy some sunshine, a rare phenomenon in Finland in January.
The task for approximately 30 Henley students from Finland, Denmark and the UK was to consult three different companies on their internationalisation strategy. The work started before we left for Miami, where we presented our first thoughts to the company, our student colleagues and our professors. The discussions and feedback gave us further ideas and thoughts on how to finalise our assignments once we’re all back home.
My team worked with a company called JOI, a company producing plant-based milk concentrate without preservatives or added sugar. Their products come in paste or powder form, and you just add water. The company got off to a commercial start in 2019 and is now looking to internationalise. The first part of our assignment was to analyse the company’s strengths and weaknesses.
In addition to the group work, we listened to guest speakers who gave their views on entrepreneurship. They included, for example, Cuban-born Augusto Vidaurreta, who told about his business successes and failures in a new country, Tana M Llinas, who shared how her brand agency was born, and Derek Distenfield, who presented “derekisms” on how a capital venture investor decides where to invest and what his role is with start-ups.
All the speakers emphasised the role of Miami as the capital of Latin America. It seemed like the city provides a great spot for entrepreneurs and a place where start-ups can thrive. It’s a true melting pot. As one of my fellow students accurately described it: Miami is like putting all of Latin America in a shaker and then giving the mixture an American boost.
I’ve worked most of my career in an HR role in big corporations, and the entrepreneurial world is one I do not have access to in my daily work. Although I may not be able to apply the learning directly to my work in global talent management at Valmet, I find the dynamics and topics around start-ups very interesting.
I also appreciated how the programme took us to a different location in Miami for each day of the module so that we were able to get a glimpse of different parts of Miami. To complete our immersive experience in Miami, some of us ended the week with a visit to Superblue Miami, an immersive art exhibition that surrounded us with new multi-sensory and interactive worlds created by some of today’s leading artists.
The modules in the Henley MBA have so far been very different from each other and that provides a motivating variety to the studies. This module is very different from the ones in Stage 1, as it does not have as much structured learning as the others. So before going, it’s good to calibrate your expectations. You need to take more responsibility yourself for what you want to learn or take out of the immersive experience.
Despite the inspiring module content and fascinating guest speakers who provided loads of useful insights, the most valuable part of the trip was to get to know my fellow students from all three countries better. Working together with such a diverse and smart group of people is an invaluable experience. I was really impressed with the presentations that each group gave on their projects. And working together with my team members from Denmark, the UK, Panama and Finland has not only provided great learning experiences but also was a lot of fun!
Hanna Heikkilä is Vice President, Talent Management at Valmet.
Hanna has a long career in various HR roles in large multinational enterprises in Finland and Asia. Currently, she is responsible for talent acquisition, development and engagement globally. She is passionate about cultures and learning – and enjoys nature in her free time.