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Businessman urges students to think globally

Kaitlyn Rabach | Friday, February 22, 2013


Thomas Herder, general counsel of the energy division of Siemens AG, kicked off the Saint Mary’s Department of Global Studies series called “On Developing Global Mindset” with a lecture Thursday in Spes Unica.

Herder said part of developing a global mindset is knowing companies cannot only rely on the United States, Germany and Japan. He said because many other countries are growing rapidly, there must be a shift away from a Eurocentric approach to business.

“Siemens looks at the global market, breaks it down into regions and then focuses in on certain countries,” Herder said. “We then strategize from that mindset. We are a German company with a strong global footprint.”

Herder said cultural sensitivity is essential for success in international business.

“It is important to do your homework so you know up front what you are going to be dealing with and how you as a foreigner will be treated in that specific setting,” he said. “It is essential to understand and appreciate different cultures, but it is also important to be aware of your own perspective and what is driving you. That way you won’t let others take advantage of you in the business setting.”

Herder said taking a few basic business classes helps prepare students for the global marketplace. He also emphasized the importance of having language and writing skills.

“Liberal arts education teaches people how to think,” Herder said. “I can teach people how to negotiate contracts, but I cannot teach them how to think.”

Herder urged students to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

“The only constant is change,” he said. “Embrace it, get used to it and look for opportunities for value-added change. Those who resist [change] are going to be left behind.”

Herder expressed the importance of compliance in a world where corruption is a problem.

Compliance is important to Herder, he said, because Siemens had to pay $1.9 billion in fines to the European Commission and Justice Department in 2009 for corrupt business practices. Although Herder was not implicated in the allegations, he said he saw the scandal’s negative affects on the company.

“If people in our company had done the right thing, we wouldn’t have had to pay $1.9 billion in fines and a lot of families would not have suffered,” he said. “From a global perspective, we see the darker side of corruption and the horrific effects it has on developing nations. I believe we are obliged to point out things that are wrong.”

Herder reminded students of the importance of common sense when traveling to unfamiliar places. He said women should be especially careful.

“Do not let this stop you from traveling or taking advantage of job opportunities,” he said. “Just be aware of your surroundings.”

Workplace diversity is an important component of developing a global mindset, Herder said.

“Companies are trying to get additional representation from minorities,” he said. “More representation adds to the richness of the company. Each individual comes with such different perspectives. This new major [of Global Studies] allows you to explore these different perspectives and develop a global mindset.”