Growing up in South and Central America, where his father worked for a global nonprofit, Prof. Exequiel (Zeke) Hernandez developed an interest in international business and global strategy. In his core EMBA class on Global Strategy and during Global Business Week in Argentina, Prof. Hernandez brings that passion for global strategy to life for students with real-world examples and cutting-edge research about the current opportunities and challenges faced by managers. We recently asked Prof. Hernandez to tell us more about his class, Global Business Week, and his research on global strategy. Here is what he said:
Why is it important for EMBA students to learn about global strategy?
Companies have become and will continue to be globalized. Anyone in a moderate to high level of management will encounter globalization because their firm or competitors are in multiple countries or their firm is affected by policies related to globalization. The models, principles, and frameworks for managing a firm across borders are different from the ones used to manage a firm in one country. If you apply what you do in a domestic market to every other market, then you will fail, and it will be a costly failure.
What do you want students to take away from your class?
I want my students to be globally-minded decision makers. I organize the class around the major decisions that managers need to make when considering expansion into foreign markets: Should I expand abroad? Where? What strategy and organizational model should I use abroad? Being a good global decision maker isn’t the same as being a good local decision maker. I want students to have a toolkit of concepts and ideas that they can use for anything they do in a foreign market whether it’s a decision to expand or about choosing a location or about an ownership model. Those tools are applicable for all industries and contexts.
How is your class structured? How do you bring in real-world examples?
I have a rule that I don’t talk for more than 10 minutes straight. The class is very interactive – it’s a mix of case discussion, group activities, and quantitative analysis. As for real-world examples, it’s easy to talk about current events with news stories about protectionism, tariffs, neo-nationalism, emerging markets, etc. In addition to traditional cases, I write my own case studies and use news articles as part of the basis for class discussion. And because it’s an EMBA class, we discuss students’ own experiences too.
What do you like about teaching EMBA students?
Wharton EMBA students are here for no other reason than to learn. They have successful careers and they want to apply what they learn in class each week. I have a line of students during class breaks who want to talk about real-world issues at their organizations. And because they have a lot of experience, there is a high level of discussion in the class. When I talk about making decisions to invest abroad or managing people across locations, there are students doing that now, or who have done that in the past, which means we get can jump right into the issue and get very deep.
You often lead a Global Business Week trip to Argentina, where the focus is on managing in turbulent environments. Why is Argentina a good location for this topic?
Students see a lot of headlines in the U.S. and Europe about things like Brexit, protectionism, trade wars, populism and rising dissatisfaction of income inequality. These things create uncertainty and turbulence for companies because it’s hard to know what the future holds. Many students are used to stable environments where policy is predictable and society is stable, but those things have become a bit unhinged lately. We visit Argentina because that is a country where the society and economy have been volatile for 100 years. The conditions that concern managers worldwide have been present in Argentina for a long time, so it’s a good place to study how you manage when the macro environment becomes very turbulent. We meet with all sorts of companies, big and small, local and foreign, high-tech and low-tech, etc. The idea is to learn how managers deal with unstable environments and develop resilience.
This trip is a natural follow-up to my Global Strategy course. Students learn a lot by visiting it in person and meeting with business leaders and managers. It’s also a fun and interesting country with a rich culture. I used to live there and I enjoy showing students this corner of the world.
What research projects are you currently working on?
I’m looking at how immigration affects the globalization of companies, and have many papers on this topic. A recent paper looks at how immigrant entrepreneurs in the U.S. influence VCs to make investments in foreign markets. I show that as more VC firms invest in startups in the U.S. led by immigrant founders, we are subsequently more likely to see investments in the home countries of those founders.
Another series of projects looks at how the research and development partnerships that companies develop in foreign markets affect innovation. We find that partnerships are very valuable to help firms access novel ideas. However, they also have to be careful about what partners they pick and the processes in place to successfully absorb the knowledge gained from those partners.
Read more stories about Global Business Week.
— Meghan Laska
Posted: March 14, 2019