The execMBA class of 2017 will spend nine days on an international residency in Prague, Czech Republic, and Munich, Germany. Two execs have volunteered to chronicle their trip as they take a deep dive into global business and contextual intelligence.
John shares his first impressions of Prague, visits to local companies, and tourist activities:
Arriving in Prague
After a 24-hour trip from Chicago, we made it to Prague. Once we finally arrived, it was definitely worth the trip. While unpacking, a few of the fathers on the trip found Father’s Day cards or gifts, which was extremely thoughtful of our wives.
Prague, or as the locals refer to it, Praha, is a beautiful city that is rich in history. It saw little damage during the World Wars, so much of its art and architecture have been preserved for hundreds of years. The city streets were bustling with locals as well as tourists.
Despite being in the European Union, the Czech Republic uses Koruna (pronounced “crown” in English) as its currency. The exchange rate at the hotel was about 22 Koruna per US dollar. Prague is quite affordable by European standards – the average annual salary of a Czech citizen is approximately 15,000 USD. Low prices of goods and services are promoted by the government. The economy in Prague is a bustling one with shops and outdoor cafes on every corner.
As a group we toured the most beautiful castle, church, and library in the city. Some of the books in the Klementinum Library date as far back as the 14th century.
We visited the Czech auto maker Skoda, as well as cyber security firm Avast. Skoda is part of the Volkswagen family of cars. Their main markets are Eastern Europe, Russia, India, and China, but their long-term plan is constantly changing due to advances in the market coupled with globalization. I get the feeling that at some point in the next few years, Skoda will be introduced into the US market.
Avast is the second-largest cyber security company in the world. I found it interesting that a tech company of this size is headquartered in the Czech Republic and not Silicon Valley. The company was founded in 1989 while the Czech Republic was still under communist rule. It’s a private company that will most likely go public within the next five years. We heard from their COO, Ondrej Vlcek, who started working for the company as a student in 1995 and has worked his way up to the executive team. It was fascinating visit; it felt like we were somewhere in California.
We also visited Agrofert, the largest agricultural company in the country. This is my industry, so I was extremely excited about this. They farm over 130,0000 hectares, own fertilizer production facilities, and have their hand in just about everything, including media. The visit gave us insight on how the agriculture sector works in the country.
We also found some time to have a little fun. A group of us found a Czech bar fittingly named the U Zlateho Tygra (“Tiger Palace”). Our waiter was familiar with the Missouri Tigers so I am sure we are not the first from Mizzou to visit. Overall our time in Prague was great. Many of us plan on returning at some point. Now off to Munich…
John Fowler grew up in Unionville, a small town in northern Missouri just south of the Iowa border. He graduated with a BS in Agricultural Education from the University of Missouri in December 2001.
He started with a job in customer service with the world’s largest fertilizer manufacturer, PotashCorp, and has since held several positions of increasing responsibility with the company. After almost a decade in sales he was promoted to the position of Director, Product Management – Nitrogen.
He lives in Chicago with his wife Sara, and they have a lively three-month-old son named JJ.