MBA Enterprise, the Peace Corps for the MBA-crowd, places recent MBA grads in positions to act as management and business consultants under a USAID program. Currently heavily focused in central Asia and Eastern Europe. It's a small program, and very competitive - last year only 10 positions were available for 98 applicants. Prior experience working abroad is a definite asset. Check out for more information on postings, qualifications, and how to apply at www.mbaec-cdc.org Here's a look at a day in the life of Shaun an MBA in Uzbekistan.
6:00 a.m.: The alarm goes off. I groan and roll over. I have to get up this early in order to squeeze in an hour of Russian lessons before work. Well, it's only a quick walk to the office. I'm in Ferghana, a regional capital in Uzbekistan. In this town, nothing is very far.
7:30 a.m.: I'm in the middle of my Russian lesson with Oksana. Even though Uzbekistan isn't officially part of Russia anymore, Russian is definitely the lingua franca of the region. Everyone speaks it, especially for business. I'm already somewhat fluent - I took Russian lessons before I arrived, but I've still got miles to go. To put it mildly, Russian is a witch of a language to learn - very difficult and very frustrating! Of course, I get a lot of practice - outside of the office there aren't too many English speakers.
8:30 a.m.: The lesson is over and the rest of the staff are starting to trickle in. There's 15 of us, and we're set up by USAID to provide business training, advice and trade promotion to companies in the region. I'm in charge, overseeing all the functions of the office. It's a very hands on role - lots of management responsibility! The rest of the staff are bright young Uzbekis, all of whom, thank goodness, speak English. Two have studied in the States, and a couple have MBAs. They act as Business Advisors to the companies in the region.
9:00 a.m.: Today, like every other day it seems, is going to be busy.
9:15 a.m.: My first order of business is to meet with one of the staff. Doniyor has just returned from vacation and I need to get him up to speed. We have a new EVA (Experienced Volunteer Advisor) arriving today. EVAs are retired, experienced professionals from the States who are contracted by USAID to come and lend their expertise to local companies. The one who's arriving this afternoon is an expert in agribusiness and export, and he'll be working with three local companies to improve their marketing plans.
10:00 a.m.: Together we finalize the plan. The general goal of an EVA is to provide one or two improvements in each company - we call these "successes". Successes are things like increased sales, better margins, increased employment, more exports, etc. The goal for this EVA and his three client companies? Increased sales and exports.
10:10 a.m.: Doniyor is ready to go and meet him at the airport.
11:00 a.m.: Another meeting, this time with an EVA who is leaving soon. We review the outcome of his work with two local producers of sun-dried tomatoes. Jim is a fantastic guy with loads of experience - more than 25 years. He's had a wonderful impact with the companies, setting them up with new export markets and increased sales. For me, it's double learning: I learn a tremendous amount from the companies we work with, and also from the EVAs. It's a powerful mixture.
12:20 p.m.: I'm helping one of the staff rework a report. For each "success" in the region, we write a report called a "success story". These are then submitted to the USAID office to show the results of the program. The "successes" are tangible demonstrations of our impact on the company, and on the economy of the region. There is a real emphasis on real results here - something that pleasantly surprised me when I first arrived, and something I hadn't normally associated with development work.
1:00 p.m.: Lunch at my desk - again! The office generally closes early, around 5 or 6, but the hours in between are jam-packed. I don't want to miss a call that's coming in from Afghanistan. They're requesting a transfer of one of our Business Advisors to help out with a new regional office they're setting up.
2:00 p.m.: I'm on the phone to Moscow and the States, trying to secure a quality management EVA who can work with local companies to improve internal operations. But getting the EVA is only half the battle: on the other hand, we also need to find qualified local companies who are willing to participate in the program. Though most of the companies around here can benefit from the help, a lot of them aren't too keen on the idea of a foreigner coming in and possibly peering through all their books.
3:00 p.m.: The new EVA has arrived from the airport. I introduce him around the office, and have a brief chat. We'll talk more in depth tomorrow, but right now he's tired and needs to get to his hotel.
5:00 p.m.: Early finish today - it's soccer time! Every Tuesday we have a weekly soccer match against a local group of kids. The game is practically mandatory for the whole office.
7:00 p.m.: I'm exhausted - 2 hours of soccer is more than enough for me. We head as a group to a local bar for some "plough" and vodka - the Uzbek equivalent of pizza and beer. I could talk and drink all night with my colleagues, but I suspect I'll turn in early - Russian lessons again tomorrow morning!