Marina Mansilla Hermann, who visited Yale SOM this week for Global Network Week, was still getting to know her peers from around the Global Network for Advanced Management when she found herself sitting front of 50 of them and sharing her professional story.
Hermann, the founder of the Argentinean environmental organization Fundación TierraVida, is pursuing an executive MBA at ESMT Berlin. She choose Yale SOM’s Global Network Week module, titled “The Behavioral Science of Management,” because she thought it would help her find new ways to engage the private sector in climate initiatives. What she didn’t expect was the helpful tips on working across cultures from her peers during a forum known as Panel of Peers.
At Panel of Peers, Hermann was one of four students who shared stories about their work and cross-cultural management experiences.
“I’ve already begun to see the difference in how you work with other people from different backgrounds,” Hermann said during the event. “In Argentina, we’re used to working in teams, and when reporting a success, we always say ‘we.’ It’s always about the ‘we.’ It would sound a bit weird to say, ‘I did this; I did that’ because it comes across as ego-centric or showing off. But in other countries, like here in the United States, you need to say, ‘I.’ You speak about your team, your work. It’s a small difference that matters.”
It may seem like a small revelation, but it’s exactly what Panel of Peers was designed for. The program originated as a forum for Yale SOM MBA for Executives students to share their professional and personal experiences, started by SOM students Jasper Daniel ’19 and Brad Wayman ’19 in January 2018. The student-led forum is held every two weeks as part of the EMBA program’s in-residence weekend. Some discussions start with a set topic—sustainability, for example—but the conversations often follow unexpected paths.
Daniel and Wayman wanted to get to know their classmates in the Yale SOM EMBA program better, to find points of common interest and opportunities for collaboration. They thought that giving their peers a chance to share their experiences would open up a multitude of angles for discussion. “We have had the opportunity to learn from veterans in business, entrepreneurs, leaders in technology, athletes, and others,” Daniel said. “More than anything we have had the opportunity to learn more about the depth of diversity and the immense intellect and experience of our group.”
Yale’s Panel of Peers has already had an impact on students’ professional lives. “In the very first session we held, a VP of corporate social responsibility was on the same panel as founder of a nonprofit,” Daniel said. “It was during the POP session they realized that they had an incredible opportunity to collaborate and partner.”
The forum expanded to Global Network Week for EMBA students from June 11 to 15, with several participating Global Network schools holding their own version of the event. Unlike the SOM event, students from Network schools met for the first time and not only come from a variety of industry sectors, but also have different cultural experiences.
Daniel saw the Global Network Week Panel of Peers events as a chance to develop quickly meaningful connections among students from a variety of industries and with different cultural experiences. “Getting to know our peers and their stories builds empathy and collaboration within our group,” he said. “We can see this platform driving great visibility to leaders within the network and an opportunity to network in a really meaningful way.”