International MBA student aspires to create consulting agency that assists small towns with improvement strategy

Moore School International MBA candidate Joey Smith developed a passion for working with overseas businesses while living in Vietnam for more than seven years. Smith’s experiences in Vietnam led him to pursue a career that would allow him to work with multinational companies.

In 2017, Smith returned to the U.S. from Vietnam and started working in development and fundraising at Neighborhood House Charter School in Boston. Within this position, he missed interacting with international businesses.

“It was a great experience, and I loved Boston, but I really missed the exposure to international markets, so I had to have an honest conversation with myself and had to do some self-reflection on how my career interests and capabilities had changed while living overseas,” Smith said.

After reflecting and realizing that he wanted to further his education in international business, Smith started researching different graduate programs and said he became very intrigued by the Moore School IMBA program. When he visited campus, Smith said he was able to meet with key faculty and staff, sit in a classroom, talk with students and get an overall feel for the program.

“The university’s status as the top International MBA program was a big draw,” he said. “Honestly, I had never correlated South Carolina with international business education, but their track record was impressive. I’m on the global track, and the opportunities and projects that we are discussing appealed to what I was looking for in a graduate experience.”

Since starting his IMBA at the Moore School, Smith said it has been an adjustment getting back into the groove of being in a classroom again. He said that the students in his cohort have helped him tremendously as they are always eager to lend a hand when needed.

“It’s been really fun getting to know people from a variety of backgrounds while learning how to balance each other’s strengths across projects,” he said.

Last spring, Smith and his teammates won the UofSC COVID-19 Ideas Challenge with a proposal for a new educational gaming platform called PlayGround. Smith said that PlayGround will allow students to work collectively on projects and assignments in a virtual setting. As students work through material, they will be rewarded with enhancements that they can use toward their virtual characters such as special outfits, hair, accessories, among other things.

This experience allowed Smith to enhance his already existing planning and proposal skills. The project also helped him learn how to work on a tight deadline as the group only had 12 days to decide on a concept, mold it into a business plan and formalize everything for submission.

“I came to graduate school to learn and fill skill gaps, so I’ve had some really beneficial classroom experiences,” he said. “[International Business Professor] Tatiana Kostova and [Management Assistant Professor] Jeff Savage’s courses were highlights that I continually reference.”

Smith said he hopes to utilize the skills and knowledge that he has gained from his courses in a strategy or consulting role after graduation in 2021. Eventually, he would like to have his own consulting organization that works with small towns on turnaround and improvement strategy, he said.

“I love the collaborative nature of the work needed to achieve the end goal,” he said. “The aspect of continuous learning through the varied assignments is incredibly appealing, and I feel like it’s an opportunity to make meaningful, lasting impact in the work I do, which is really important to me after spending so much time in the nonprofit sector.”

He said those who are considering getting their IMBA need to think about how important an international focus is for the work they want to be involved in. He also said that it is a good idea to speak with faculty and connect with students and alumni to get a more holistic view of what the experience is like. “It is challenging, and you will leave the gate running,” Smith said. “But you’ll have a support network, and everyone is in it together. Don’t be afraid or too proud to ask for help. I would also add that it’s OK if you switch your focus. I came in thinking I was going to focus on marketing, but exposure to more strategy-, case- and consulting-style courses helped me to realize what my true passions were.”

Claire McGrath