Words I never thought I’d hear: “You’re going to Malaysia.” The statement filled me with equal parts exhilaration and anxiety. When some fellow WSU students and I formed the Barton International Group last fall, we wanted to spread our wings. Still, I’d never envisioned a trip that required 37 hours of travel just to get to our destination.

On June 14, our entrepreneurial 14-member group embarked on a two-week trip to Spirit AeroSystems’ Malaysian facility. Our goal? To advance Spirit’s efforts to create a unified, transglobal corporate culture. Our tool? Research using the McKinsey 7-S management model based on seven organizing factors – structure, systems, style, staff, skills, strategy and shared values.

Making New Friends

The employees of Spirit Malaysia embraced our effort – and us. They willingly answered our questions whether it was an individual interview, focus group, or job shadowing. We had access to everyone from C-level executives to cafeteria staff. Our most gracious hosts invited us out after work, even taking us to the equivalent of an American Dave and Busters.

Our strenuous 15-hour workdays and nightly reports taught me much more than any teacher, book or blackboard ever could. I left Malaysia with new skills: how to strategically approach a project, develop a consultant-like mindset, lead a group of students – and navigate in a foreign country.

Continuously keeping my mind focused on our final deliverable – a presentation to Spirit CEO Jeff Turner in August – offers insights to what life will be like after graduation. One thing I know now more than ever. The lessons will never end.

This learning thing’s a lifelong endeavor. One that will take you places you never imagined.