A Day in the Life of our Regional Director for Europe

Michael Bulzan - reduced size headshotMy name is Michael Bulzan, and I am the regional director for Europe at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Our team is based in London and the “mission” includes enhancing Fuqua’s visibility in the region, working with prospective students for our MBA and Master of Management Studies programs, and building relationships with companies throughout Europe who want to engage with the school. I graduated from the Daytime MBA program in 2003, then worked in New York City for almost four years and now live in Romania. I travel about a third of the time and in the past year have visited 14 countries on behalf of Fuqua.

My “typical day” is a travel day:

7:00 AM – Conclude a short but restful night’s sleep at The Royal Horseguards Hotel in London. We have been holding the Executive MBA residencies at this hotel for the past five years and enjoy an outstanding working relationship with them. The residencies have given, and continue to give our Executive MBA students an opportunity to learn first-hand how business works throughout Europe, via direct contact with regional leaders and top local companies.

7:45 AM – Share breakfast with one of Fuqua’s European Regional Advisory Board members at One Twenty One Two, the hotel’s legendary restaurant. The name traces back to “Whitehall 1212”—the telephone number of the hotel’s former neighbor, Scotland Yard. We discuss the contents of the board member’s upcoming talk to our Global Executive MBA class that will study in Istanbul in January.

9:00 AM – Head to our 165 Fleet Street office, also home to the European staff of Duke Corporate Education (Duke CE). I would normally walk the one-mile route, but today I am carrying some luggage and I take bus #23 from Charing Cross to Fetter Lane. Public transportation in London is terrific, although expensive. The Oyster Card helps.

Stephanie talking to a prospective student at an admissions information event we attended

9:15 AM – Enjoy a catch-up with my colleague and travel companion Stephanie Stone. She has been with Fuqua for more than six years, so I am typically on the receiving end of both news and wisdom. I then have a quick chat with one of the Duke CE managing directors, following up on a lead about a Norwegian organization interested in MBA training.

9:45 AM – Check the final list of candidates for the evening recruiting event and am pleased to see that most of the interview slots that Stephanie and I reserved are booked. We will have no-shows and walk-ins, so the schedule should end up quite full. We typically work with third parties that bring together MBA candidates and business schools from around the world, which helps generate interesting leads.

10:15 AM – Head to St. Pancras Station for the 11:31 Eurostar train to Paris. The journey to Paris’ Gare Du Nord takes less than 2.5 hours, so it makes much more sense than flying in terms of time and cost. I turn on the Uber app and, in about two minutes, a gentleman named Cuma picks us up in a Toyota Prius (the Congestion Charge seems to be affecting the vehicle choice of Uber drivers in Central London).

11:30 AM – We are on the train, which is comfortable but crowded. It’s difficult to work on the laptop, so I settle in with a book. I just got Dr. Kissinger’s “World Order” and, at the risk of sounding pretentious, I find myself enjoying the read as much as a… Dan Ariely book (Dan is one of our well-known, brilliant professors at Fuqua). Just two weeks ago, on the same train, I saw a fellow traveler reading through an operations management course pack; the ensuing conversation was interesting, but she was already enrolled in an MBA program in Scotland.

Meeting with Yusuf Kaya, Daytime MBA '10, who is Head of Enforcement Division at Sermaye Piyasası Kurulu, the Capital Markets Board of Turkey

Meeting with Yusuf Kaya, Daytime MBA ’10, who is Head of Enforcement Division at Sermaye Piyasası Kurulu, the Capital Markets Board of Turkey

2:50 PM – As Uber seems to have considerably longer wait times in Paris vs. London, we take a taxi to our hotel by Palais des Congres, where the recruiting event later in the day will be held. There is just enough time to grab a late lunch, but we are used to this predicament by now. I am glad to have had a proper breakfast but thoroughly enjoy the onion soup (I supposed they don’t call it French onion soup in France).

5:00 PM – Back at the hotel, I try to sneak in a video call with my family. Romania is one hour ahead, so I figure that my son Alex and daughter Ada are by now back from tennis practice and ballet class, respectively. Between work and parenting duties, my wife Laura (a fellow 2003 Duke MBA) has certainly had a full day. It’s good to see and hear them, although everyone prefers we didn’t have to use technology to do so. I will be back home in a few days.

5:30 PM – After fully transitioning from “travel mode” to “interview mode” (including doing some in-room shirt ironing, which comes out surprisingly decent), I head down to the conference rooms, where Stephanie is already setting up our table, and pop up the brand-new banner listing all Fuqua programs, from the Master of Management Studies to the Global Executive MBA. We both walk around to greet fellow recruitment representatives from the other 30-plus business schools in attendance.

6:00-9:00 PM – We conduct interviews with potential MBA candidates, pre-screened by the partner organization and further vetted by our team. Overall, there are several promising candidates we will be excited to follow-up with, and I already look forward to sharing some of the conversations with our admissions counselors back on campus.

9:30 PM – We head out for dinner with a current student from Fuqua, on exchange at a Paris business school, and his wife. A representative from another top U.S. business school and two exchange students from there (in the same class as our student) join us. There is some friendly teasing in the mix, but we enjoy each other’s company and talk about ways to popularize the uniqueness of a U.S. MBA in this region.

11:30 PM – It is tempting to stay out longer, but as inviting as the streets of Paris are, the day comes to a close. We need to rest up before another day on the road. Next stop is Madrid (by air this time), for another recruiting event and a group dinner with our amazing Spanish alumni.

Health Care Executive Discusses Industry Trends across the Globe

Faisal Darwazeh - headshotFaisal Darwazeh knows the health care industry well, and not just its landscape in Europe. Over the last 13 years he has worked in the United States, Jordan, and Switzerland. Throughout that time he progressively gained industry knowledge through roles in supply chain, marketing, consulting and general management. He is currently general manager of Labatec Pharma in Switzerland and is also responsible for the company’s growth in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region.

Darwazeh graduated from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business Cross Continent MBA program in 2010 and currently serves on the school’s regional advisory board for Europe. He shared his insight into the health care and pharmaceutical industries in a Fuqua Q&A.

What are some of the differences you’ve seen in how the business of health care is conducted across the different regions where you’ve worked?

The differences range from the medical professional acceptance of new innovative drugs and devices, to government involvement in the health sector, to regulatory environment.

For example, in the United States doctors are more open to new innovations and technological developments in the health and pharma sector, allowing the industry to constantly introduce new drugs and medical devices. In Switzerland, doctors are more conservative when it comes to new innovations. They are more cautious and prefer to take their time in understanding the safety aspects of the drug or device, before taking on new products.

The US health system is a free pricing system, where the market forces decide the pricing of drugs and/or medical devices. Therefore, there is no ceiling on how high prices can go especially when there is a drug shortage—you can see prices multiply by 1,000 times the original public price. While in Switzerland (and Europe for the most part), the health reimbursement agency puts a limit on drug prices, which is usually driven from the originator drug price plus a basket of European country prices. Therefore the market is more controlled, and spending on drugs can only go up to a certain limit.

Lastly, the regulatory environment across the US, EU and MENA regions is becoming stricter than what it was 10 years ago, with more regulations on the health industry and higher barriers to entry.

Cultural influences and health care regulations differ from country to country, so how do you adapt your marketing strategy to account for these variables?

The most important part to our multi-market strategy is to find and hire the best local candidates in each market where we operate. The regulatory rules vary between markets, and we need to find the local talent who understand these regulations better than non-locals. For each market, we make sure we understand the local needs and regulations before we choose our strategy and product lines.

Please describe a key learning point in your career that still resonates today and influences how you approach leadership.

Always look forward and never look back except to learn from your past mistakes. Be passionate and optimistic about what you do, and believe in yourself and your team.

What are some of the tools you’ve found to be the most successful in motivating your teams?

Giving them the opportunity to think and act outside the box, and allowing them to try new ideas even if they make mistakes. The sky is the limit.

What advice would you give to a business school student who aspires to work in Europe?

Look for jobs in healthy economies (such as Germany, Switzerland, UK, the Nordic countries) and in growing industries such as healthcare, energy, etc.

Microsoft Executive Discusses Global Leadership

Biljana - PhotoBiljana Weber has more than 20 years of experience working in Europe for two of the world’s largest information technology companies. She is general manager of Microsoft in the Czech Republic and prior to that was general manager of the company’s Slovenian subsidiary. Before joining Microsoft, she worked for IBM.

Weber recently spoke to Fuqua’s Cross Continent MBA and Global Executive MBA students studying in in Prague. She shared additional insight about utilizing technology in the workplace, being a woman in the IT industry and what it takes to lead across the world in a Fuqua Q&A.

Advances in technology are constantly changing the way people live and work. As a business leader, how do you create a productive employee culture that embraces and makes the most out of these advancements?

Increasingly more changes in our lives are driven by new technologies. One that has increased dramatically over the past years is the need for flexibility and mobility–both at work and in life. Productivity and innovation are no longer achieved through fixed hours in a fixed place. In more and more professions work is something you do, not a place you go. And increasingly, it becomes clear that people need to be (and want to be) held accountable for their outcomes, not for time they spend in a certain place. Our whole lifestyle is changing. The old days when we managed people top-down by telling them what to do and controlling when and where they do it are history. And the sooner we accept that “unseen“ does not mean “unproductive“ the better.

The lines between our professional and personal lives are blurring. A new generation of young workers with different ideas and values has entered the workplace. They are comfortable with technology and social media as an integrated part of their lives from a young age. They do not need to segment their lives into work or play. This approach is spreading across generations. The challenge for businesses lies in enabling people to utilize technology to be more productive with work when they are at home. Trust and empower employees to take control of schedules and workloads, and allow virtual presence by using smart technology. This encourages a “family-friendly” workplace and increases staff productivity.

Technology is a key enabler of this transformation but the change itself takes place on a psychological, cultural and managerial level. It is a fascinating trend. As a company who creates these devices and services, we are the first to adapt it and we can use our own example to inspire people and businesses to use these technologies to work smarter, better integrate work and life, improve business results, and be more innovative and sustainable. We call this the new world of work.

I’ve read that you believe one of the keys to embracing technology in a way that improves the efficiency of a workplace is establishing trust. Can you please elaborate?

The technology is not the biggest challenge. It already exists. The challenge is changing the culture inside the company. While it is new technology that drives this change in our style of work (and life), it is trust that is at the heart of it. Lack of trust–or lack of confidence in the ability to manage people who are not present in the office–is usually the main reason for managers being reluctant to allow people to work flexibly and manage their duties as they need. Leadership teams need to establish a culture that is focused on what people achieve. This is where the biggest challenge lies. But many modern companies are already on board because this approach is key to attract the best people.

We at Microsoft never had an issue with it. I would even say that the risk will be not applying the approach and trying to force the old way of working because in the future, employees will not want this. Here is an example from our experience. We have always believed that employees need to feel they can contribute to the success of the business and shape its culture. I am a strong believer in empowering employees and giving space to everybody to come up with great ideas. We provide our employees with a significant level of flexibility and trust. They can schedule and manage their work tasks in the way they find most effective, as long as they achieve the set goals and make themselves available, in person or remotely, to their teams and customers when needed. We have been using home offices for years and it is a normal work practice for us. It is integrated into our planning tools and is automatically reflected in shared calendars. Transparency is a very important element in a flexible culture. Just to give you an example everyone can see my calendar, and I mean full details, not just availability. When people see that management applies a flexible approach, they will find it easier to do themselves. Another example–we routinely include remote attendance options (via Lync) to every meeting so people can take part from anywhere.

Please describe a key learning point in your career that still resonates today and influences how you conduct business.

There were many important points that impacted me. One of them was when I realized that I feel best when I can be a transformational leader, and that I am not a person who just manages business as usual. I always look forward, drive change, and want to do things with real impact. For me personally, the most rewarding achievement is to know that I achieved a positive cultural change in the team I work with, with longer term sustainable effects, that I inspired people, helped them develop and succeed. This is why I really enjoy my current role at Microsoft. Our company is undergoing a fundamental transformation and this provides a great opportunity for each employee as well as for the company as a whole.

What advice do you give women who want to pursue a career in technology?

I do not think that industry really makes such a difference. Maybe the only point with respect to IT is that women often think IT is an area for men because it is very technical. However this has started to change as they realize that in IT, you can have both a technical, as well as managerial career and that the dynamic nature of the industry provides great opportunities.

When it comes to building a career as a woman, I am a believer that professional behavior at all times and excellent results are going to bring you forward. For a management role, it is not enough to make one step ahead, but rather several steps at same time. IT is very dynamic and the nature of work is requiring from us a high flexibility level–both in regards to number of hours we put in at work and job location. I need to stress the importance of communication, and managers must have empathy and appreciate good teams around them. I believe women should make it clear what their ambitions are, both at work as well as at home, and should not be shy to ask for support they need it. If you have a dream of what you want to achieve, you need to make it clear to people around you, otherwise you cannot expect that they will support you. Women are greatly positioned to achieve such success especially today because in the information age, it is their core skills that are at the heart of success.

What are the key qualities to being an effective leader globally?

Let me start by elaborating on the previous questions. According to some research, women in leadership positions are often assessed as better than their male colleagues on a number of qualities, including cooperation, mentoring and giving credit where credit is due. In my opinion, this makes women more suited to be a leader in the information age, where teamwork, partnerships, and ability to continuously transform ourselves are key. These are the skills you need to embrace change and transformation and create competitive advantage in today’s world.

Fuqua Classmates Reconnect 34 years later

Visit to Moscow 2007

Sparkman, left, Watson, right, at a visit to Moscow in 2007

Lee Sparkman and Rick Watson have a connection that has spanned both time and distance. Long before either became successful executives, they met in business school at Duke University.

“In those days Fuqua did not pair ‘study groups’ but rather allowed students to seek out their own colleagues,” Sparkman said. “I am unsure why, but Rick and I ended up in many of the same study groups.”

By the time their second year of business school rolled around they were housemates, along with Sparkman’s basset hound Beaufort.

When their time at Duke came to a close, Sparkman went to Florida for a job. Watson says he had some good offers from major banks in Chicago and Pittsburgh, but he felt that was not ultimately the career path he wanted to follow.

“I really wanted to do something out of the box – and with some sun – after Duke,” he said. “Lee was instrumental in helping me find my first job.”

Watson moved down to Florida and joined Sparkman at the same company.

Their close proximity meant that their friendship remained close, with Sparkman attending Watson’s wedding.  But the men soon realized they wanted to pursue other career paths. Watson went to work for Freddie Mac in Washington D.C., and Sparkman stayed in Florida to work for Exxon Enterprises.

A few years later, they just missed each other in Europe. Sparkman was working for Sprint in London and was just leaving for a new assignment in the states when Watson called to say that he and his family were about to move to London. Fortunately for the pair, both their parents ended up living in the same area, so family visits would often allow time for the two to reconnect.

They also continued to stay connected to their alma mater. Both men serve on school regional advisory boards. Sparkman in Russia and Watson in Europe.

Durham House on House Avenue

The house Sparkman and Watson shared in Durham while attending business school

Sparkman has a long family history with Duke – his mother, children, son-in-law, niece and other extended family all attended the university. And while at Sprint, his company put 15 of their senior management through the program for Soviet managers established and funded by the business school’s namesake: JB Fuqua.

Watson said he felt driven to continue his connection with Duke because of his memories during school.

“The school was growing quickly and I believe most of our classmates felt that we were part of something unique,” he said.

In fact, Watson says he still uses some of the advice handed down from teachers at the school in his current role.

Now, Watson works as Managing Director and Head of Capital Markets for The Association for Financial Markets in Europe and Sparkman is President of broadband operator Enforta. They maintain their friendship and periodically exchange the experiences and knowledge they’ve gained in their roles.

“Surprisingly, we do talk a lot about the economics of Europe and Russia,” Sparkman said. “Rick’s even been advising the Russian Ministry of Finance about establishing policies related to securitization of Russian debt, and accordingly has visited Moscow a couple of times.”

And Watson said they both continue to discuss their old business school, and what they can do to help.

“We do share ideas on how to continue to raise the profile of Fuqua in each region, since the cultures and economics of education are different,” he said.

CFO Survey: Public Distrust, Threat of Severe Russian Sanctions Impacting Global Economy

The damaging effects of deflation on the European economy are a prime concern for some European Chief Financial Officers, according to the most recent Duke University/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook Survey.

About one-third of European CFOs believe deflation is occurring or soon will occur in the Eurozone, and two-thirds of this group think deflation could last for two or more years. Most of these CFOs think deflation could be damaging to the economy.

“These findings are particularly surprising because recent actions by the European Central Bank (ECB) had been widely anticipated at the time of our survey. These European CFOs are effectively saying that the ECB’s actions will not be sufficient to stave off deflation,” said Campbell R. Harvey, founding director of the survey.

European CFOs are also concerned about public distrust. Sixty-eight percent said they think the business environment has been hurt by a lack of public trust for business and government leaders. The results show that businesses are altering business decisions, changing governance and emphasizing transparency to address the public’s concerns.

“Public distrust inhibits the economy from reaching its full potential,” said John Graham, a finance professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and director of the survey. “Mistrust can reduce growth and it causes companies to devote time and resources to counteract mistrust’s negative effects.”

Russia sanctions are also anticipated to have an adverse impact on businesses worldwide. In Europe, 82 percent of CFOs say stepped-up sanctions would have a negative to a severely negative effect on their businesses.

Despite these concerns, 80.3 percent of European CFOs are either more optimistic than or as optimistic as they were last quarter about their countries’ economies, while 78.4 percent are either more optimistic or as optimistic about their own company’s future.

Read more about the results.