Inside Aperian Global: Michael Greto
In our monthly interview series, Inside Aperian Global, you will get to know the passionate people that drive Aperian Global’s mission, values, and day-to-day operations. Aperian Global’s employees will provide you with a sneak peek into their work lives and share stories about themselves. This month, we asked Michael Greto, our Managing Director of Global Learning Solutions, based in Chapel Hill, NC, USA, a few questions
Mike, what attracted you to the cross-cultural consulting industry? How did you join Aperian Global?
It may sound strange, but I had been working in the cross-cultural consulting industry long before I knew it was actually an industry! Discovering Aperian Global while attending my MBA program was actually the first time I’d heard the term “cross-cultural consulting industry.” I started my career with the privilege of working closely with U.S. and Italian Ambassadors and was captivated by their roles and responsibilities as social, political & economic “bridges” between their respective countries and cultures. As someone who had studied, worked and lived abroad, it occurred to me that whenever you step outside of your borders or comfort zones, you become an ambassador. This realization launched me onto a career path aimed at helping create what I’ve come to call “everyday ambassadors.” I’ve worked in the study abroad industry, which does great work to raise up student ambassadors who expand their horizons via study, volunteer, and work abroad opportunities. And, when you get right down to it, at Aperian Global we are essentially creating corporate ambassadors who can communicate and collaborate more effectively across various boundaries. Aperian Global was a natural fit.
From financial planning, marketing, operations, and account management, to playing the guitar and completing an MBA, you seem to combine a multitude of interests and work experiences. A traditional education system makes us believe that we shouldn’t dip our toes in too many pools, but focus on one straight career path. How would you say these different work and life experiences have helped you perform better in your current job?
I’m a pretty curious person and while my career trajectory has not exactly followed a predictable or straight path, I wouldn’t have it any other way. As a University of Virginia alumnus, I’ve been inspired by Thomas Jefferson, who founded the University, as an individual who had so many different interests and talents and somehow made it work. Some of the clients we serve provide rotational programs as part of their employees’ career development. The participants rotate through functions like sales, finance, operations, etc. I guess you could say I’ve accidentally created my own rotational development program over the years! There is no doubt that my various experiences have built on each other and allowed me to approach problems and projects with a holistic perspective and an appreciation for multiple points of view.
Many MBA programs have realized that they need to teach global leadership skills in order for their graduates to succeed. You’ve completed the MBA of Global Strategy at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, USA. When choosing an MBA program, what advice would you give to others in roles with international responsibilities?
Global leadership is no longer a “nice to have” in an MBA program.
- Ensure the program enrolls a diverse mix of students. This diversity could be nationality, functional background, generation, or time spent in the workforce. The better your program mirrors the real world, the more impactful your MBA experience will be.
- Get out of the classroom. Case studies are great, but the world is increasingly complex and unpredictable. Seek out a program that will take you out of your comfort zone to work or consult with a real company experiencing real issues. This was a highlight for me at Thunderbird.
- Find a program that blends face-to-face learning interactions with virtual teaming & collaboration. At work, your team will likely not be collocated, so practicing virtual collaboration skills is important.
- Take some risks and have fun. This is the time to try things you might not be willing or able to do at your job.
For those readers that are not currently in the position to take up a formal education like an MBA, which strategies can they follow to boost their cultural intelligence and global leadership skills?
- Build some self-awareness. Understand your beliefs and core values. There are many assessments out there, including GlobeSmart, that can help with this. Without this understanding, it will be hard to understand and adapt to others’ belief systems.
- Volunteer at an organization in your community that serves people that don’t dress, look or sound like you. Organizations are always looking for volunteer leaders to step up and help out. In my experience, volunteering breeds humility, and humility is a key global leadership trait.
- Don’t stop learning. While any Master’s program is a formal degree, the learning should not stop when the degree is in hand. Now more than ever, there are free or very affordable online resources like Lynda, Udemy and YouTube on every topic you can imagine.
Lastly, tell us something that we don’t know about you yet.
I was a Coffee Ambassador for a Rwandan Coffee Company selling beans to communities and churches around the U.S..
Interested in hearing more about resources to support global mindset & leadership development in an academic setting? Visit our Higher Education page.