BUSINESS MASTER'S PROGRAMS BLOG

Student Perspective: MBA Global Residency in Turkey

I was lucky enough to go to Istanbul a week early and leisurely soak up the historic sites, sounds and people of this massive city of 17 million before turning my focus to more academic pursuits. My first impression was surprise at the sheer size of this ancient yet modernized city. After growing up near Los Angeles, I thought I was immune, but the urban sprawl that Istanbul has achieved in the last decade is quite an accomplishment.

It’s a fascinating mix of tiny cobblestone streets barely big enough for the hundreds of feisty taxis driving around and construction site after construction site building massive new high rises to accommodate a rapidly growing economy.

MBA studeents at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey during their global residency.

MBA studeents at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey during their global residency.

Our first day on the MBA global residency was spent in awe of the accomplishments of ancient peoples who left sites like the 6th century Basilica Cisterns and the Hagia Sophia, built in 537, for us humble tourists from our youthful 400 year old country to gawk at. Across a courtyard filled with tourists, locals selling roasted chestnuts, and random cats lies the Sultan Ahmet (or Blue) Mosque—a wonder in its own right, though much younger with a completion date of 1616. Slipping and sliding on rare Istanbul snowfall, we made our way to our first of many decadent meals filled with delicious mezzes (shared appetizers), spiced meats, syrup drenched desserts, Turkish coffee and tea, always tea.

Our next five days were spent hearing about the accomplishments and plans of modern peoples who have benefitted greatly from Turkey’s recent economic and political stability. We visited large global businesses such as Turkish Airlines and DHL as well as small, local businesses like Bosphorus Brewing Company and restaurant. We had the chance to visit businesses that can’t be found in America, such as an Islamic Bank – Kuveyt Turk.

We explored the differences in Turkish and American worlds of business. For example Borsa, Turkey’s stock exchange, is a calm, quiet office with tea drinking employees trading on their computers in jeans as opposed to the high powered, electrifying NYSE. We learned this is not because of a lack of financial power in the country, but a cultural difference that places trust in family over institutions.

Large family-owned holding companies such as Koc and Alarko presented our group with their explanations of successful ownership/management strategies. They also provided insight into the relationship between business and politics with a heavy emphasis on strict separation. Whereas many powerful companies lobby in America and make their political preferences publicly clear, the more powerful holding companies in Turkey purposefully distance themselves from political parties. Affiliation with the wrong side in a country with a history of political instability could spell out disaster for that unfortunate company.

It was an eye opening experience to see the benefits and weaknesses to starting or managing a business in a country with a developing economy with an uncertain political future in a geographically troublesome area, all of which present challenges you would only face outside of our relatively stable and secure environment. It gives us Mason MBA students a lot to consider as we join a more globalized world.


Written by Emily Richonne (MBA Cohort – 2016) who completed her global residency in Istanbul, Turkey the first week of January 2016. The residency was led by Professor Patrick Soleymani.

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