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Virtual MSc Global Lab gives students lessons on international business

  • Dawn Milne
  • |
  • Sep 30, 2020
Virtual MSc Global Lab gives students lessons on international business

L-R: Chenchen Ma, Melanie Dang, and Ryan McCuaig

It was an international business experience with a twist. Instead of travelling to a host country to live and work, Ivey’s MSc International Business students participated in the eight-week summer work experience, the Ivey Global Lab (IGL), virtually. The IGL experience equips students with strong project management skills, strategy consulting skills, client-facing interaction and an understanding of business in a cross-cultural context, while developing personal character.

We spoke to three students – Melanie Dang, Chenchen Ma, and Ryan McCuaig about their virtual IGL experiences with iQuanti in India.

Melanie Dang Melanie Dang, MSc ’21 Candidate

Position: Strategy Consultant, Customer Experience for iQuanti, May 5 to July 11, 2020

Making an impact: Dang’s responsibilities included segmenting iQuanti’s customers into different tiers so the company would know who to target first, as well as developing the methodology behind each segment. She also identified new clients and what kind of value proposition of products would appeal to them.

The takeaways: Dang said she learned about the importance of work-plan structures and timelines for deliverables, as well as having teammates you can trust.

“Our team members got to know each other very well and bonding was a crucial part of the project,” she said.” I learned a lot about trust. You have to trust other people to do their work, and be flexible, too.”

Most of all, she said she enjoyed getting to work on a real-life business problem.

“It was great to work on a real-life project. It helped me to think about my research differently. I learned to ask myself, What would management like to hear?,” she said. 

The virtual experience: One of the toughest parts of working virtually on an international project was dealing with different time zones. The team members had to gather all their questions and wait for scheduled meetings to ask them. At times, there were 5 a.m. meetings due to being in different time zones.

Memorable moment: Getting to know her teammate, fellow MSc student Chenchen Ma. The two bonded throughout the project and Ma is now her roommate.

“We didn’t know each other well before the project, but we worked well together and helped each other through tough times,” she said.

 

Chenchen Ma, MSc ’21 Candidate Chenchen Ma

Position: Strategy Consultant & Team Lead, Client Experience for iQuanti, May 5 to July 11, 2020

Making an impact: Ma’s responsibilities included conducting a client success analysis and research on iQuanti’s competitors in terms of client engagement. She identified the inefficiencies in the client journey, developed a strategy and implementation plan, and designed an e-mail campaign. In addition, as the team lead for her Ivey Global Lab project, she also planned the team’s work schedule, synthesized the outcomes, and led the meetings with the management.

The takeaways: Ma said she learned how to manage an international project as a consultant. 

“I learned that, in an international project, the time differences, cultural differences, and working-from-home situations can make many things unpredictable. It is really important to work through ambiguity with adaptive work plans and confidence,” she said. “Having a reliable team is also very crucial.”

 The virtual experience: Ma said she found virtual work turned out to be more efficient since she didn’t have to commute to the office. She could also schedule her work a bit more flexibly, working at the most productive hours. But she said she would have liked to have had engagements with local staff and to experience Indian culture and cuisines.

 Memorable moment: Due to being in different time zones, sometimes she woke up early to accommodate 5 a.m. meetings.  

“We had a lot of fun and worked great as a team. I also feel very lucky to meet (fellow MSc student) Melanie [Dang], who became one of my best friends here,” she said.

  

Ryan McCuaigRyan McCuaig, MSc ’21 Candidate

Position: Strategy and Analytics Consultant for iQuanti, May 11 to July 1, 2020

Making an impact: McCuaig’s responsibilities included evaluating the U.S. go-to-market strategy for iQuanti’s Director of Digital Services by researching user experience (UX) input factors, revising user decision trees, and creating user case scenarios for different product features. He also visualized datasets to enhance product UX design using Wireflow diagrams, prototypes, and user journey maps.

The takeaways:  In addition to learning about UX design and product management, which were all new to him, McCuaig said he improved his client counselling skills.

“Client counselling is a unique soft skill that I think is important as a consultant. I needed to move a client through the change process and communicate the change story in a way that the client accepts,” he said. “During our work with iQuanti, the client counselling component developed through building trust, exercising project ownership, and by learning how to communicate in a way that makes sense to the intended audience.”

He also learned that for international business, you need to be able to take a step back to understand the work environment, business contexts, and team preferences so that you can produce the results the team expects and communicate them in a way the team understands.

The virtual experience: McCuaig said working virtually removed contextual information, but, as a result, he learned how to deal with ambiguity.

“We were not able to connect with our team the same way we would have if Ivey Global Lab was in-person and this was a substantial area of personal growth for me. But I was grateful for the fact that we were able to adapt to an entirely new environment and set of challenges from those present in the standard Ivey Global Lab project,” he said. “My summer term placement was not the experience I initially wanted, but it later became a valuable experience where I was able to develop my adaptability and resiliency.”

Memorable moment: McCuaig said the interim presentation week proved to be challenging. After hearing concerns about the project trajectory, his team realized it had to show the company how its research could meet the work needs. After spending many hours fine-tuning the presentation, the team ended up exceeded iQuanti's expectations.

“That was a moment that defined our Ivey Global Lab experience,” he said.

McCuaig said the Ivey MSc program helped to prepare him for the experience.

“The case method forces students to deal with a range of business problems from the perspective of the decision-maker, which prepared me to approach my Ivey Global Lab with creative problem-solving and situational adaptability,” he said.