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 International Master's in Management Students Meet Tough Challenges

By Laura Barlament

A lot can happen in students lives as they go through a Krannert Executive Education Program. For Branko Malagurski and Lukasz Zybaczynski, December 2000 graduates of the International Master's in Management (IMM) program, the two years brought changes and events on a scale beyond the norm.

As natives of former Eastern Bloc countries, Malagurski and Zybaczynski have lived through war, governmental collapse, and the transition into a new economic system. In comparison, the typical American conception of a dynamic business environment seems like child's play. But the two men both see their Krannert education as a definite boon - to themselves personally, to their work, and to the people they serve.

Branko Malagurski

Branko Malagurski has meshed different professions during his career. He studied law at the University of Zagreb, Croatia, where he received a master's degree in international law in 1983 and a PhD in trade law in 1994. During his graduate education, he worked as a lawyer for the SEVER Corporation, based in Subotica, Yugoslavia. In 1989, however, he moved into the corporation's market research division. He served as a legal advisor and participated in a range of tasks relating to the international part of the business, including strategic planning, market research, sales, and partnership negotiations.

The changes that were affecting the economic structures of his region and the world prompted him to seek out a master's in business. He chose Krannert's IMM program because of the high-quality education offered at a reasonable cost, the good reputation of the schools involved, and the flexibility that allowed him to continue working as he earned his degree.

The Balkans in particular have had one of the most difficult transitions from Communism to a free-market system. Malagurski was at the first two-week IMM residency, held at Purdue in March 1999, when NATO began bombing Yugoslavia in order to stop atrocities against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. "I can hardly remember a more difficult moment in my life, Malagurski says. Not because of myself, because I was safe and surrounded with people I knew, who were friendly toward me. My thoughts were with my family in Yugoslavia."

During this time, Malagurski says, his classmates and the Krannert faculty were a great support to him. Nevertheless, these circumstances endangered his livelihood and his ability to continue in the program. "Professor Lewellen asked me whether I would like to continue my studies," he recalls. "I had the will, but my material situation was desperate. At that moment, as I had decided not to return to my country for a certain time, I was actually a refugee without refugee status."

After the in-residence session at Purdue, Malagurski received the welcome news that Krannert and its partner universities would subsidize his educational costs.

When the NATO raids in Yugoslavia ended in June 1999, Malagurski returned to his home country to find it in shambles, physically and economically. He continued his work with SEVER Corporation in Subotica, although his company scaled back his job due to political reconstruction effects.

Although he has high hopes for the democratic reforms made possible by the election of the opposition party in September 2000, the country has a long road ahead. "The situation might be compared with Germany after the Second World War," he says. "People do not have sufficient income to cover daily costs. The need for help from the international community is urgent, in order to stabilize the situation and show people how a real democracy and normal political relations with neighboring countries can help them live a normal life."

With the knowledge he gained through his Krannert education, Malagurski is well-positioned to help rebuild his ravaged country. Currently, he is leading two initiatives aimed at reconstructing small- and medium-sized enterprises in Subotica and throughout the country. These projects are part of his work with the Open University, an institution developed through local and foreign educational institutions and supported by a few non-governmental organizations. "Through this work," he says, "I will be able to connect theory with practice and creatively apply the knowledge I gained in the IMM program." He also anticipates starting a business to mediate between domestic companies and foreign corporations interested in investing in Yugoslavia.

Malagurski says that thanks to his Krannert education, his understanding of business has entered a totally new dimension. "I am able to calculate the risk of a certain venture, and do not just have to rely on a 'feeling' about whether I should enter the arrangement or not," he says.

He sees many positive possibilities for his own future, including helping domestic companies to function within an open-market economy, working on the country's economic infrastructure, and helping to manage foreign companies that enter Yugoslavia. "I have possibilities for helping the development of this economy and for getting a well-paid job with either a domestic or a foreign company." he says.

Lukasz Zybaczynski

Lucasz Zybaczynski's career practically started with a career change. He was studying medicine at the University of Krakow, Poland, while a 50-year governmental and ideological system was crumbling around him. By the time he had finished his surgical specialization in 1992, many Western businesses were starting to enter the newly opened Eastern European markets. Recruiters from Eli Lilly & Company approached Zybaczynski, and he decided to give the business world a try.

Zybaczynski had come in on the ground floor of a rapidly expanding operation, and he quickly moved from sales into marketing. Only three years later, he got yet another promotion and moved to Sofia, Bulgaria, "to create the organization virtually from zero" in that country. "In three years, I was already teaching people about Lilly. I was Lilly for Bulgaria," Zybaczynski explains. At the same time, he witnessed more political unrest. "In 1995, there was still a Communist government in Bulgaria, just on the verge of changes. So, while I lived there, I saw another Communist regime falling apart."

After serving as country manager for Bulgaria for about two years, he became managing director for the "BYMA" area - Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, and Albania. This promotion required him, along with his wife and his three children, to relocate to Budapest, Hungary.

Soon after this move, Zybaczynski felt that he needed some formal business training. "I was basically working with my gut feelings, my common sense, my instincts. When I went to higher responsibilities, I started to feel like an amateur between the professionals."

He applied and was accepted into Krannert's IMM program, which had an orientation session in January 1999. Only a month later, the imminent war in Serbia shut down business possibilities in the BYMA region. Zybaczynski and his family moved near the Lilly headquarters in Indianapolis. "I started the program before I actually knew that I was coming to Indianapolis," he says. "But, one of the reasons that I selected the IMM program was the flexibility that it offers. I am the best example that you can move between continents without interrupting your education."

Zybaczynski approached the move with his usual sense of opportunity and curiosity. From his perspective, the stereotypes about the "New World" and "Old World" don't hold anymore. Compared to the Balkans and Central and Eastern Europe, he says, everything in the U.S. is very established. "People talk a lot about change and change management, but I have difficulties understanding what they are talking about. Where I came from, we were virtually creating the reality. Everything was changing daily. Here in the U.S., you're dealing with established processes, the way people have done things for 50 years. Even if you see a better way of doing things, it's difficult to implement it. It is fascinating."

Currently, Zybaczynski is responsible for the global marketing of antibiotics at Lilly. He believes the IMM program has prepared him to meet this challenge with confidence. "One of the nice things about this program is that you can apply the theory while it's still fresh in your mind," he says. "You learn in the evening and implement in the morning."

Student diversity brought a wealth of experience to the coursework. Often, students in the class had lived through the real-life case studies. "The professor might be trying to make a point, and one of the students would say, 'Wait a minute, I was there. I know how the decision was made. know this person; I know that person," he says.

Despite all of the changes in his career and life, Zybaczynski says that his focus has remained consistent. In my life, the important thing is to have a higher purpose, he explains. "When I worked as a physician, the reason was to help people. When I came to work at Lilly, I had the same reason. Success in his job means that people will benefit from Lilly's high-quality pharmaceuticals. In fact, he believes he is helping more people now than he could as a physician.

Zybaczynski also feels that the knowledge he gained through the IMM program will ultimately aid him in helping more people. "I can do things that I might have done before, but now I know why they should be done that way, he explains. There are also situations where your common sense is not enough. This is when you really need theoretical knowledge and can benefit from the experience of others."

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