I breathed a huge sigh of relief upon reading the subject line of the email that I had just received from the director of the Global Challenge Lab program. GCL teams had finally been assigned, and much to my delight, I had been placed on my top choice project in Bogotá, Colombia. Furthermore, I had been placed on the only all-girls team out of all the GCL groups and was ready to show our client what Thunderbird ladies are capable of!
The company we would be consulting for was a healthcare provider called Clínicos based in Bogotá that specializes in ambulatory care (essentially, medical care that does not include emergency or inpatient services). The company had just received a second (and very large) round of funding from a Colombian venture capital firm, and they were looking to use that money towards expanding the company via acquisitions. The scope of our project was to research current trends and innovations in healthcare in Latin America and identify companies whose visions aligned with said trends, which we would ultimately recommend to Clinics as opportunities for acquisition.
With a background in healthcare, a passion for Spanish and Latin America, and aspirations of pursuing strategy consulting after graduation, I was thrilled by the opportunity to work on a project of this nature. However, my excitement had its limits. So many unknowns were weighing on me and preventing me from experiencing the full range of enthusiasm my peers seemed to be experiencing with their respective projects. Would the language barrier pose problems? Having never worked on a consulting project before, would I be able to provide any value to the client? Would the client be satisfied with our performance?
Fortunately, we were not going into the experience blind. We spoke with Professor Roy Nelson, who connected us with the Bogotá Alumni Chapter President Robert Dragoo shortly after we arrived in Bogotá. Having lived in Bogotá for nearly ten years, Robert was able to provide us with a lot of useful information about Colombian culture and life in Bogotá, and he even gave us some great suggestions on places to eat, drink, and sightsee (let’s face it, recommendations are 10x more valuable when they come from a local)! With a background and expertise in commercial real estate valuation, Robert was also able to provide a unique perspective on the market in Colombia and even offered some creative ideas on how to go about researching the companies we were targeting for acquisition.
Being able to go almost anywhere in the world and find a T-bird is truly one of the most unique and exciting aspects of being a part of this community and is undoubtedly Thunderbird’s strongest advantage over other programs of its kind. Before applying to Thunderbird, the constant theme that emerged from conversations with alumni, administration, and current students was how extensive and impressive the alumni network is. While it’s one thing to hear about it, experiencing this phenomenon in action was special and solidified that I made the right choice in coming to Thunderbird.
Having the support of a fellow Thunderbird while in a foreign country was incredibly meaningful and put my entire group just a little bit more at ease. I can confidently say that our project’s outcome and overall experience in Colombia would not have been the same had we not had the opportunity to meet with Robert. My hope is that when traveling abroad (for GCL or otherwise), future Thunderbird students will be able to have an experience with a T-bird alumni that is as pleasant and helpful as mine was.