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The Global Experience Week (GEW) is a cornerstone experience of the Imperial Full-Time MBA programme and our class has been excited all year to have the opportunity to travel to Lusaka, Zambia to consult startups.

However, 2020 had a different idea for us (as it did for so many), and with the global pandemic, our experience quickly shifted to conference calls and remote consulting. 

While I think it’s fair to say not being able to travel to Zambia and experience the culture and country first-hand has been disappointing, I was still amazed at how rewarding and impactful I found this experience to be.

Find out about our virtual Global Experience week working with startups in Zambia.

Virtual Global Experience Week

Our virtual GEW week started by meeting the client over a Zoom call to discuss their business, their goals, and where they were hoping we could help. The company my team was working with is an organisation focused on supporting Zambia’s most remote and vulnerable communities, and they were looking for support on putting together a pitch deck for their newest programme.

We quickly fell into a routine for the week of a morning call with the client to ask questions and share updates, followed by an internal call with our team. We worked throughout the week to research Zambia, understand the financials of the programme, and learn more about the cattle-herding culture of the communities (the basis for the project we were working on).

Effective communication channels were crucial for working with our team and with our client throughout the week since we couldn’t be together.  Leveraging Microsoft Teams, Zoom and WhatsApp helped us ensure we were all on the same page with the project.

Applying MBA skills to the project

We were pleasantly surprised when skills and topics learned throughout our MBA popped up as tools to help us with this consulting project.

Mini celebrations ensued as we used Excel tricks learned in the Decision Analytics module, formulas from our Finance class, and tools from the Strategic Problem Solving module to accomplish our goals throughout the week.

While it was exciting to leverage the skills we’ve learned, we also had the opportunity to explore new areas of business. I had never put together a pitch deck for investors nor worked on anything related to cattle herding or social enterprises.

It was a great experience to learn about these areas, dig into different processes, and put together something useful and impactful for our company.

Discovering a new country (from a distance)

While we were harnessing our MBA skills to put together an investor pitch-deck, we were also still learning about Zambia from afar. The company we were working with focuses on supporting Zambia’s last-mile communities, which are some of Zambia’s most remote, poverty-stricken areas.

These communities are some of the most vulnerable to climate change as they are heavily reliant on agriculture, and larger aid organisations often overlook them due to their remote nature.

Learning about last-mile communities and the challenges they are facing gave me an immense appreciation for the company we were working with and the impact they are creating throughout the country. It was incredibly humbling to support their work and help them with a small piece of their mission. 

Global Experience Week desk set-up

Reflections on Global Experience Week

While it was certainly disappointing not being able to travel to Zambia, the GEW was an immensely impactful week. From quickly adapting to an online format and delivering a remote consulting project, our team developed skills around agile working, effective communication, and virtual collaboration.

We gained experience in assembling an investor pitch deck while also gaining exposure to the world of impact investing and social enterprises. Lastly, we learned about last-mile communities, the challenges they are facing, and the amazing work being done across Zambia to support, engage, and uplift these communities.

While it wasn’t the week I expected, the Global Experience Week will still be an experience to remember. 

Carly Gerlach

About Carly Gerlach

Carly is currently a Full-Time MBA student. Prior to studying on the Imperial MBA she was working in Chicago at a market research company in sales and account management. Once she completes her MBA programme she hopes to move into the consumer goods industry and work in either marketing or global strategy.

Interested in finding out more about the programme?