Second-year Wharton | San Francisco EMBA student Zofia Wosinska Picker recently participated in a Global Modular Course (GMC) in Dubai and Abu Dhabi on Finance in the Middle East and North Africa. We asked Zofia, who is cofounder of HUNG3R in Denver, CO, to tell us about that experience. Here’s what she said:
Before coming to Wharton, I was a chemist. I had never taken any business classes, but I dreamed of starting my own company. To learn how to make wise financial decisions for my company in the future, and to learn from the best of the best, I decided to major in finance.
Finance majors need to take a certain number of finance classes, and a few of the courses like the GMC offer the option to step outside the classroom. So the GMC on Finance in the Middle East and North Africa was an intriguing option. It’s an intensive three-day course in which you travel to the Middle East and talk to business and government leaders in that region.
The GMC also was a chance to meet Wharton EMBA students from Philadelphia as well as full-time MBA and undergraduate students. I was excited to get that kind of interaction and broaden my Wharton network.
The course began in Dubai with a classroom session on finance in the region. That was an important day, as we learned a lot about how the Islamic financial system works.
Then we had a panel of speakers visit our class. This was an incredible experience because they shared so many different perspectives. Our speakers included the founder of the first private equity firm in Saudi Arabia, the CFO of PepsiCo Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and the CEO of Emaar Properties, just to name a few.
Since our group came from many different backgrounds, our questions covered a lot of ground. We asked everything from how they run their businesses to how loan-debt structures work. We also talked about cultural issues, particularly related to women and professional opportunities.
On our last day in Dubai, we visited the Burj Khalifa, which is the tallest building in the world. We also visited Abu Dhabi, which is an hour away. While Dubai’s GDP largely comes from wholesale and retail trade, the majority of Abu Dhabi’s GDP comes from mining so it was an interesting contrast.
In Abu Dhabi, we met with Abu Dhabi Investment Council representatives and toured Masdar City (the “Green City”), which is a community focused on living the “highest quality of life with the lowest environmental footprint.” We spent the afternoon at the Court of Crowned Prince of Abu Dhabi and ended with an excursion to the absolutely stunning Majlis Mosque.
I was blown away by the course. It offered a unique blend of finance and culture, and was a great chance to get to know more Wharton students. Most of all, the opportunity to be exposed to such high-level executives and government officials was just so unique.
Now that we’re back, our class is working on papers integrating what we learned on our trip with our interests. I’m writing on impact investing in the Middle East, which is very new in that region.
The GMC was such an enriching experience that I’m planning to take another global modular course this spring. This time, it will be on luxury brands in Milan, Italy. My new company, HUNG3R, is in the apparel and fundraising space, and I’m working on another startup in the luxury apparel area so I’m really looking forward to that course. After the GMC in the Middle East, I know it will be an amazing learning experience.
To read a related blog on the Finance in the Middle East and North Africa GMC, click here.