Can an MBA Add Value to Your Life and the Lives of Others?
Many candidates seek an MBA to boost their salary or energize their career, but those aren’t the only positives. For me, the International MBA from the Darla Moore School is how I connected with the German financial services company, Allianz, and now enjoy living overseas in Germany with my family.
If you’ve never worked overseas, you might not know that the business world operates a little differently than its U.S. counterpart. Yes, I work long hours, too, but with those hours comes a life-work balance that’s hard to come by stateside.
When my wife and I had our first child last year, we had a combined fourteen months of parenting leave. But that’s not the only European perk. I can ride my bike to work. When I enjoy coffee at 10 a.m., it’s not Starbucks. We have a real Italian machine with espresso and cream. After work, I have time to work out outdoors in Olympic Park and join friends and colleagues at a beer garden a few times a month. When I travel for work, I travel to wonderful cities like Brussels and Amsterdam. My weekends aren’t interrupted by work.
In my career, I enjoy a level of meaning and fulfillment that no raise or promotion can bring. All because I was willing to step outside my comfort zone and put my career as a commercial underwriter on ice to join the Peace Corps and then pursue an International MBA from the University of South Carolina.
In the Peace Corps, my eyes were opened to the many opportunities business can bring to cultures and populations. I worked with a group of disenfranchised individuals — nomads who were shunned by society and marginalized through physical abuse. Girls forced into marriage at the age of twelve or thirteen. We established community outreach efforts for the group, including a center for women and girls, to build their confidence and empower them with business skills. It was a rewarding experience that reinforced my hope for the world.
After the Peace Corps, I went to work for the largest Bulgarian NGO, which focused on economic development projects along the Danube River. I was charged with developing and implementing cross-border cooperation programs between Bulgaria and its neighboring countries of Romania and Serbia. In addition, I managed grant programs to help countries in Central and Eastern Europe join the European Union. That’s when it really clicked for me.
I wanted complete socio-economic understanding. That meant I needed international business perspective to link to the cultural aspects of my work. I had one part of the equation so I turned to the Darla Moore School for the second part of the equation: my MBA.
Today, I’m part of Allianz Worldwide Partners and based in Munich. As a senior project manager, I am responsible for identifying more cost-effective labor for our shared service centers throughout Europe and Asia. While my role has a direct connection to our company’s bottom line, there’s an equally important aspect of my work. One project I am working on now will help build competencies at the local level and improve the quality of life of individuals through a new call center in Thailand. That’s incredibly meaningful.
My career at Allianz began through with my program internship. As a strategic distribution intern in Munich, I helped create a cost model for a 200 million euro agency program for Italy, France and Germany. I also prepared and delivered several high-level strategic presentations for the Board of Directors at Allianz SE. As an intern, I had high-level visibility in the company. It was a thrill to be offered — and to accept — a position in group operations in Munich.
My time at the University of South Carolina gave me essential skills in organizational design, which I used to run business model assessments for all operating entities within the Allianz Group. Within two years, I was promoted to project manager in the Paris office and, later, was promoted to my current role.
While joining the Peace Corps and enrolling in the University of South Carolina MBA program were great decisions, neither would have been possible if I’d accepted the lull of my underwriting career. Willingness to leave your comfort zone and take a chance can be the most difficult steps.
If I hadn’t attended the University of South Carolina for my MBA, I would not be working at Allianz. While my ambition has always been to work and live overseas, if I hadn’t attended the Moore School, I probably wouldn’t be working overseas. Here I am doing what I’ve always wanted to do and I couldn’t be happier about my career or my life.
Chase Morgan, Class of 2012