Professor Heather McGregor

16 September 2016


How often is something a ‘problem’ for you?

Earlier this month, at a meeting of Heriot-Watt University’s leadership forum, we watched a short video of the TEDx talk given by Professor Mushtak Al-Atabi, the university’s new Senior Deputy Principal Malaysia, who will join next month. In it, he challenges us to replace the word ‘problem’ with the word ‘opportunity’ or ‘challenge’. I went on that day to have several meetings where I found myself counting the number of times I heard the word ‘problem’, and mentally replaced it, before continuing the dialogue. Watch the video and try it for yourself!

We have many EBS students studying at our brand new campus in Malaysia, but also in another 165 countries, which gives us one of the most culturally diverse student bodies in the world. Which is why I was fascinated to sit in a lecture by the dynamic Insead Professor Erin Meyer. Speaking to a group pf leaders in corporate communications at a conference in London, she reminded us why we all need to learn to ‘read the air’, i.e. to sense the things that are not said in any conversation with someone from another country/culture. ‘Reading the air’ is the literal translation of a Japanese phrase that accurately describes how people manage communication in high-context cultures.

I shall be in Japan in early November and hope to meet some of our alumni and students while I am there. I used to live in Tokyo, and the original Mrs Moneypenny columns in the Financial Times were written from there, but I am still not sure how good I am at reading the air. I plan to read Professor Mayer’s book The Culture Map before I go.

Someone who has moved around the world between different cultures is EBS alumnus Bosman du Plessis. Bosman’s career has taken him from the rugby fields of South Africa and Scotland to the boardrooms of the USA. A recommendation from his cousin set him on his way to an Edinburgh Business School MBA and a unique development path.

“My passion for sport always went beyond the technical, tactical and physical challenges. I was intrigued by how people are motivated and the critical impact of the environment in which they develop and perform.
After coaching successful youth rugby sides in South Africa, I came to Scotland for a rugby development job in 2010. I was looking to broaden my professional skills and my cousin spoke highly of the EBS MBA, which he had completed in 2005. Soon I started working on a cultural change programme for Scottish Rugby and the Bill McLaren Foundation, where I combined my coaching experience with the growing business acumen I was gaining from the MBA. 

During my graduation year there was a significant twist to my story: I met my soulmate, Charlene, and we decided to build our future in Atlanta, Georgia. I took the opportunity to make a career change. In America’s competitive job market, my MBA was invaluable: it gave me options and skills that were relevant in new contexts. 

Now I’m working for a young, dynamic and growing firm, where my role spans business development, designing business processes, leading the marketing team and getting involved in consulting. 

My studies at EBS provided me with the critical thinking skills and management toolkit I needed to be a versatile, adaptable and global professional.”

The picture shows Bosman being presented with a quaich, a traditional Scottish drinking cup, at his graduation, to mark his graduating with distinction. I will be featuring many more alumni stories in the weeks ahead, and hope that they will be inspiring many more EBS students to continue in their studies, whatever part of the world they are in.