One Year Out: Catching Up with Three M.S. in Global Commerce Alumni

June 25, 2019
Caroline Wimbleton, Ada Ma, and Ewa Granosik
Caroline Wimbleton, Ada Ma, and Ewa Granosik

Since launching in 2016, McIntire’s innovative M.S. in Global Commerce Program has been providing an exceptional and transformational learning experience that people are noticing. Consider this: How many one-year master’s have you heard of in which students from a wide range of educational and national backgrounds come together to live and learn on three different continents and complete the rigorous program, acquiring two degrees and a certificate?

Global Commerce graduates find themselves extraordinarily well prepared for navigating new business situations in careers that span the world. The results of their time together in Charlottesville, Barcelona, Spain, and Guangzhou, China, earn students more than an M.S. in Global Commerce from McIntire, an M.S. in Global Strategic Management from ESADE Business School, and a certificate in International Business from Lingnan (University) College at Sun Yat-sen University: Students exit the program with the kind of astute perspectives required for excelling in global careers and empowered to succeed literally anywhere. No less important, they’re also rolling deep with an immediate international network of close colleagues.

Take M.S. in Global Commerce graduates Caroline Wimbleton, Ada Ma, and Ewa Granosik. The three members of the Class of 2018 are pursuing opportunities that have built on what they learned throughout that academic year.

Wimbleton came to the program from Clemson University, with a bachelor’s degree in International Trade and Spanish—along with a year working in Spain in a business development role and refining her language proficiency. Currently based in Paris as a Project Manager within the Market Management team for insurance and assistance company Allianz Partners, she is in the second of four rotations in its Worldwide Graduate Program. In August, Wimbleton will relocate to Dubai for the third rotation.

Ma, who received her bachelor’s degree in Finance at Sun Yat-Sen University before completing the M.S. in Global Commerce Program, previously served in internships with Unilever, Accenture, and Roland Berger. She has been part of beverage giant AB InBev’s Global Management Trainee Program since graduating in June of last year.

Before entering the master’s program at McIntire, Granosik left her native Poland to complete her undergraduate studies at Bocconi University in Italy, which also included exchange terms in Singapore and Thailand. Using that rich and diverse background as a springboard for the M.S. in Global Commerce Program, she is now working at LinkedIn Ireland as a Sales Development Specialist, impacting Polish businesses. 

One year after finishing the program, we spoke with the young alums to get their perspectives about how the program fit their goals and what they continue to draw on from it in their new positions.

What do you enjoy most about your current position?
Wimbleton:
I am really enjoying the scope of my role here as a Project Manager in the global office. Not only do I get to work on our strategy for multiple business units across Europe, but I also liaise with various departments on a day-to-day basis. It is challenging but interesting, and has allowed me to learn so much about our travel line of business in a relatively short period.

It is exciting to work on initiatives that impact some of our largest B-Partners, particularly in the area of customer experience. I hope I can continue to be a “customer champion” as I progress in my role with the company.

Ma: As a Global Management Trainee for AB InBev in Shanghai, I need to have geographic and functional mobility. Mobility means being able to adapt yourself to different segmented markets and cultures, which is key to successful teamwork and launching a business. I am also learning the differences among consumers and offering tailored solutions for business growth.

At the same time, as I am taking on different roles in sales and marketing as well as supply chain areas, I still need to learn specific professional knowledge quickly. However, as a GMT, my role is not just to execute business as usual, but also to utilize my strategic thinking and envision ways to improve our efficiency.

Granosik: There are multiple opportunities to make a difference at LinkedIn. I work with very talented people on many projects that let me leverage all the skills I gained through my education. My daily work as a Senior Sales Development Specialist involves consulting with companies across sectors and business types in Poland on their growth strategies, talent acquisition, and branding.

It’s inspiring to talk to C-level executives and directors and to be able to advise them. I don’t think many jobs give you this kind of opportunity early on in your career. It is challenging, as I have to do thorough market research every day, which involves intelligent prioritization and time management—two skills I have definitely improved during my Global Commerce experience.

Why did you decide to enroll in the M.S. in Global Commerce Program? Why did you think it would be a good fit for you?
Wimbleton:
I knew I wanted to find a postgraduate program that would build on my previous experiences abroad while challenging me academically. After looking at many programs in different countries, the M.S. in Global Commerce stood out as a unique combination of everything I was looking for: cultural immersion, rigorous coursework, and a robust community of high-achieving peers. I felt the diverse makeup of the cohort, combined with coursework led by three elite institutions, would prepare me for an internationally mobile career.

Ma: I wanted to explore the world and see how business, societies, and cultures differ. The program provided me with the best chance to travel and see things for myself, while talking to people in senior government and corporate positions and really experiencing new cultures by living them. The excellent education and reputation of McIntire and UVA were also a great help when I started my career.

Granosik: After having finished my first degree, I wanted to continue my education, and the M.S. in Global Commerce Program seemed to be the right fit to equip me for a culturally diverse, international career.

What are some specific aspects of learning at UVA McIntire, ESADE, and Lingnan that might not be readily apparent—perhaps details known only by someone who has gone through the three-school program?
Wimbleton:
Any opportunity to go abroad and learn from others is rewarding. However, I think people sometimes underestimate the value of a fully immersive experience. When you live and study with a group as diverse as that of the M.S. in Global Commerce, you become so much more aware of different worldviews. You develop a deep respect for people who challenge your ideas daily, and I think the opportunity is remarkable and rare. Beyond that, the program’s structure allows students to benefit from professors with interesting and varied academic and occupational backgrounds.

Ma: Writing your master’s thesis is just like finishing an international project in a global company: It’s difficult to fuse various disparate methodologies, but then you discover that it’s all worth it, since incorporating many different angles helps to make a complete masterpiece.

Granosik: I don’t think you fully realize that you will be living, working, studying, and traveling with the same group of incredible people for a whole year. It is intense and difficult at times, but the bonds that are created are worth every obstacle.

What aspects of the M.S. in Global Commerce Program stay with you?
Wimbleton:
Above all, the relationships I made during the program are what stay with me. As my current role requires me to relocate frequently, it has been amazing to have this expansive network across not only Europe but across the world! Many of our projects showed me how challenging it can be to manage a cross-cultural team under pressure, and how theory doesn’t always translate into practice. I often think about times when we successfully navigated the complexity of a diverse team when I’m working within our cross-functional and multicultural teams at work.

Ma: It taught me to trust people—even if you disagree. The M.S. in Global Commerce Program offers a fantastic way to collaborate with various people from diverse cultural and geographical backgrounds. So while it’s normal to have conflict, as people with different backgrounds all tend to have their own mindsets, you come to realize that disagreeing doesn’t mean that people aren’t willing to cooperate. There’s always a way to build relationships.

Granosik: Yes, cultural diversity and working with people with various mindsets stay with me, too. As I’m working for emerging markets—and my team consists of many nationalities and cultures—it’s not always easy to work with such a multicultural group. But thanks to the M.S. in Global Commerce, I approach teamwork, collaboration, and stakeholder management in a more thoughtful and empathetic way. It makes me a better colleague and a more effective employee.

How would you characterize the relationships you’ve built from your time in the M.S. in Global Commerce Program? How have your personal and professional networks grown or changed as a result?
Wimbleton:
I never thought that after such a short time I would have friendships that I know will last a lifetime. Because of the amount of time we all spent together, we truly became each other’s support system as we traveled across the world. We all have so much respect for each other, and I am constantly in awe of the passion and achievement among our cohort. I feel lucky to know so many capable, internationally mobile young professionals. They continue to inspire me, even from across the world! I know that if I were ever interested in a particular industry or company, my network from the program would be my first stop for insight and advice.

Ma: I spent a wonderful time with smart, sincere friends from everywhere in the program. It’s amazing to have friends across the world after graduation, from McIntire, and alumni in China as well. It’s not just about having professional networks: They inspire me. I feel lucky to have met people like them.

Granosik: It has been almost a year, and we have already had multiple reunions. I think that says a lot about the relationships we have built. I gained several best friends whom I talk to on a daily basis despite the long distances, and I know I have many friends to reach out to if I’m in need. It’s incredible how a year together could bring us so close to each other, and I am extremely grateful for these friendships. I am already planning another reunion for July—and not even on my continent!

What advice would you give to anyone considering the M.S. in Global Commerce Program?
Wimbleton:
If you are looking for a fully immersive, challenging, and highly interesting experience packed into 10 months, this is the program for you. For anyone considering applying, be prepared for an unpredictable year filled with valuable lessons and incredible friendships.

Ma: Don’t miss it. Just be present when you are in the program, and you will learn so many new things about yourself.

Granosik: Set the right expectations. Ask yourself what you want from the program. Talk to us—alumni—and get all the information you need to fully appreciate what this year will give you, because it will give you a lot. To begin with, you will have 59 more homes to visit after graduating.