Former Copenhagen student Ankit Khandelwal has designed his own self-study program to become a global business leader. Here, he shares the secrets of self-directed learning using technology and his program.
Getting the general background
To understand global trends, I started to read news (mostly business) from different parts of the world. Both developing (India, China, Russia, Latin America) and developed (USA, Germany) and on a weekly basis from other parts of the world. I have recently added Japan and Africa to my reading lists. In the early months, I spent 4-5 hours every day to grasp every minute detail along with their meanings in business sections.
Today, I just need 20 minutes to glance at all the news from all these regions to get a quick update of market situations around the world.
Through such readings, I have put many of the economic, finance, and strategic theories in practice to understand them in real situations. I created a knowledge database by storing important information and classified it according to different sectors. Today, just by reading a newspaper headline, I can think about its impact in multiple directions. These readings were the upgrade to my existing quick decision-making ability at the international level.
Libraries: I used the library card borrowed from my friend to use private libraries to study different business magazines. I also studied some management books to grasp some remaining fundamentals not covered through online courses or newspaper readings.
So here is where the online education kicked in:
My course list include taking courses on general management like operations, human resources, business strategy with the objective of getting a professional upgrade on my existing skills. With special interest to uncover the secrets behind the money movements in this world after 2008 financial crisis, I have taken 5-6 courses in Economics. I have also given special emphasis to new market trends and studied more about Mergers & Acquisitions, design thinking, and data analytics.
– Urban Planning/Future cities: I was observing this trend from a long time and directly involved in it through competitions. The majority of the world’s population is going to live in cities in future, so understanding more about city planning can definitely help a future manager.
– Demographic changes: From the course Latin American Migration, I have tried to observe changes migration bring to any nation. Future population is going to be very mobile, very aged in some countries and having mixed ethnicity due to mass migration. Some regions of the world are experiencing high population growth going to offer opportunities as well as challenges. Knowledge of such trends can help in better planning.
– Environmental law & Policy: The environment is going to be involved in every big project of future. Using my engineering knowledge, I have tried to understand basics of laws and policy in this field. It will be helpful in dealing with conflicting interest scenarios of future.
– Disaster preparedness: Natural disasters are occurring more frequently than before and already affected many businesses in recent years. I gained knowledge on how to face such challenges.
– Functioning of EU/Public policy: The EU is most complex governmental organization in the world. Using my experience of EU Open Days, I have extensively studied different policies and get an overview of functioning of EU in general. It will be helpful in understanding other world organizations and their working mechanisms.
– Trade negotiations/law: Trade agreements and trade disputes are very common today. For any firm engaged in multinational cooperation, knowing basics of this area can be helpful. I have studied these to get a good overview in preparing myself to handle such situations.
Becoming more globalized
It is still not clear what exactly globalization means and how a person can become more globalized. I used my own thoughts and tried to expand my knowledge base to be in a position to conversation anywhere, work anywhere and live anywhere. These ideas came from my positive experiences of living in Denmark.
There is no single definition of how to define a ‘culture’. But in my view, the combination of studying history, geography, festivals, economic conditions, likes & dislikes, local customs, social structure etc. can make you slightly more culturally sensitive even without living in that place.
I have tested this methodology while staying in Denmark. Following similar methods, I have spent past two years studying China, Russia, Latin America, Middle East and Japan and added more knowledge to my previously gained experience of Europe and North America. I have communicated with native people to know more about their countries. I have learned the flags of all the different countries.
For a future global manager, knowing a few foreign languages can be helpful.
My first stint with foreign language was learning Danish. It was not successful, and this gave me valuable lessons to change my strategy of learning languages. During this program, I was mostly in my home town with no language school to study. I decided to study the top business languages of the world step by step. I was keen on German from past few years, so I have started with it. I spent lot of time in finding good online resources for self-learning resources and using them to develop my methods of language learning. Be it watching movies, listening to serials on you-tube or undergoing language exchange with native speakers, it was not an easy task. It failed many times, and I lost patience sometimes. But gradually, I developed some ways to learn any foreign language easily. I have later tried this with Spanish and Russian and I am going to repeat them to learn more languages in future.
It was my favorite free time activity. I have spent a lot of time on Google Maps scanning the entire world map, finding any random corner on it and reading about it on Wikipedia. Now, I understand time zone differences easily and can set meeting timings with people from any parts of the world.
Practicing knowledge in real life
I always believe that, any gained knowledge cannot become a skill, until it has been tested in real situations. I did not have luxury to do internships, so my best bet was to turn to the surrounding environment and make the best use of available online/offline situations. I have used course projects to test my skills and expanding my knowledge about different regions of the world.
Along with course projects, I have done some side studies out of my own interest. Some of them are: ‘How to maintain discipline in lines in crowded temples of India’, ‘Marketing in megacities in 2020.’
I observed a bridge under construction in my vicinity continuously for 2 months and made notes to test different project management tools. Using knowledge of finance, I helped a street vendor to solve his debt worries and another street vendor to increase his revenues. I helped an NGO in Sierra Leone to improve their agricultural activities and a Mexican firm to improve their packaging efficiency.
– Social Media/Other readings: I needed to spend the majority of my time in my home town Kota, Rajasthan to keep my expenses low and get things done with a minimum of resources.
– The downside: It offered very little possibility for me to have face to face interactions on topics of my interest. I have taken this binding as an opportunity turned to the virtual world and became more active on social media.
Especially different groups on LinkedIn/Facebook were good for exchanging information, putting out my thoughts on issues of public policy, project management, leadership, economoics, international trade etc.
I expanded my network to over 100 countries and got many different cultural insights through direct interactions with native people. As I could not buy the case studies; I have read easily available resources like company annual reports, published reports of international institutions (world bank, IMF, EU etc) to gain the necessary depth in different economic sectors.
So that is it! Now is only to see how far I can get.
Ankit’s ‘Envisioning 21st century global manager’ project
For the past two years, this was Ankit’s full time job, taking 20+ courses from different universities, self-learning three foreign languages and extensively studying business and political updates around the globe. He studied different cultures to prepare himself for “negotiating/working in the multicultural environment”, he says.
As part of his program, Ankit took courses at MIT Open Course Ware, OCWC(Open Course Ware Consortium), OYC (Open Yale Courses), OLI (Open Learning Initiative), Organizations (WTO, Copenhagen Business Center) as well as on other MOOC platforms (edX, Coursera, NovoEd, Open2study, Alison). It is his own invented program.