Alumni / May 12, 2021

Thinking Outside the Box to Create a Global Mindset

Kevin Tanzola, MBA ’08

Developing a global mindset may require changing one’s way of thinking. For co-founder of Tanzola International LLC, Kevin Tanzola, a global mindset is thinking outside the box and being comfortable with differing opinions, which he admits is not as easy as it sounds. “I think it means something a little bit different to everybody, but for me, it’s breaking away from your traditional way of thinking and being open and honest with other points of view…it's really difficult. I think to have that global mindset, you've got to invite diversity into the conversation. Bring in different points of view… it's seeking to include a drastically different and perhaps sometimes controversial opinion,” he states.

Tanzola has spent 25 years working in the finance discipline at Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel company. He says his experiences in the company allowed him to live abroad and truly explore what it means to have a global mindset. “I have had the opportunity to live all around the world and have really appreciated the experiences and the people that you meet along the way. The company gave me the opportunity to explore what it means to be an expat. I've lived in Hong Kong, Aruba, London, Miami, DC, Los Angeles, and most recently in Dubai,” he recounts.

Due to the negative impact of the pandemic on the travel industry, Tanzola, alongside his wife, ventured out to co-found their own consulting company, Tanzola International LLC. The couple advises companies in the hospitality industry, specifically in areas related to hotel finances, financing structures and strategy. Tanzola says it is important to utilize all seven global mindset components in order to be successful when running an international business. “I tend to think of the global mindset competencies as levers on a machine. At certain points in time, you need to activate those various levers. Sometimes you need more adaptability or more tolerance of ambiguity for a particular situation. All those competencies of a global mindset are useful and the more self-aware you become of them, the more you find yourself using them in various situations.” he says.

Tanzola recalls a recent example where he had to “pull the lever” of tolerance for ambiguity on the job. “Currently, I'm finding myself applying tolerance of ambiguity. I'm working with a large professional services firm on a global project where they have many people from all over the world participating in meetings. When you have virtual meetings across different time zones, trying to schedule the right time for people all over the globe can be difficult. This morning, I was on a call at 5:00 a.m. Now, in someone else's world, they may be ending their day or be in the middle of their day. So you never know how people are going to come into these meetings. At 5 a.m., long before I've had my first cup of coffee there's that brain fog. I may not be as sharp as what I would like to be had it been 9 or 10 a.m. You have to take that into perspective every time you're getting on these calls and think about that other person's situation,” he explains.

Tanzola says the camaraderie amongst his cohort at the Smith School of Business helped to expand his global mindset. Prior to joining the MBA program, he states “You think you have a global mindset walking in. I'm going to teach people what it's like to live outside their home country or what it’s like to live as an expat. All of a sudden you recognize when you're sitting in the classrooms with other students that they too have had similar experiences or backgrounds (living abroad) or have come from different countries and now immigrated to the US. It makes you realize that you still have a lot to learn. You learn to appreciate that camaraderie,” he says.

Tanzola advises students or alumni interested in a role in international business to “take the plunge” and fully immerse themselves into a different culture. “Do your research upfront, understand the cultural nuances, and the norms, and show respect. You will have the best time… and don't overthink it. Yeah, do your research but don't worry about what could happen, enjoy the experience and make the commitment to do it. I think if a lot of people went out and lived in another country for two years or 18 months, they would come back with a much different mindset than before they left. I know It certainly happened to me.”

The mission of the Center for Global Business is to connect the diverse members of the Smith School community to the world and the world to the Smith School. Through these global alumni stories, the center connects the Maryland Smith community with alumni who have successfully utilized a global mindset in their careers.

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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