International Business Helped McCombs Alum Christian Pallotta See the “Big Picture”
It comes as no surprise that studying abroad is often a life-changing experience for college students — in fact, the number of students studying outside their home countries has more than doubled in the past twenty years.
But in addition to inspiring students to broaden their global networks through international experiential learning opportunities, studying abroad can also have a significant impact on students’ career choices. Take McCombs School of Business alum Christian Pallotta, a recent graduate who switched his major to international business after studying abroad in Beijing his sophomore year.
We caught up with Pallotta to learn more about how his time at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) influenced his path forward.
Finding the right fit
Born in Bogotá, Colombia and raised mostly in in Houston, Texas, Pallotta wanted to go to a university with a diverse student population — especially international students — but he also wanted to stay relatively close to home. After choosing UT, he also knew he wanted to study at the McCombs School of Business, but it took him a while to settle on a major.
“Like so many students who start out in college, I switched my major a few times before deciding on international business,” Pallotta says. “I was a finance major my freshman year, and then I switched over to supply chain. For me, international business was a way to see the ‘big picture’ when it comes to business issues and solutions.”
During the program, he worked with startup companies and entrepreneurs to develop, fund, and implement solutions to a variety of issues in rural communities surrounding Beijing and throughout China. The opportunity also shifted his focus when it came to his academic career. “Because I worked with startups and entrepreneurs, I realized I didn’t want to specialize in just one line of work like finance or supply chain,” he adds. “I wanted a broader sense of all the facets of global business.”
Chasing real-world experiences
Going into his junior year, Pallotta felt more confident in his academic pursuits after switching his major to international business. He credits mentorship and support he received from McCombs and the Center for Global Business as helping him to chart his path. “The classes required me to have a good foundation of all the business specializations that are integrated into the international business program, including accounting, marketing, finance, and more,” he notes.”
Pallotta also cites McCombs professor Alex Gabbi as an influential force in his education. Pallotta took three classes with Gabbi, including his international business capstone course. “Professor Gabbi’s classes are very engaging, and his courses not only helped me stick to my major, but also challenged my perception of what the business world is like,” he adds.
One of Pallotta’s most challenging classes, also taught by Gabbi, was an entrepreneurship course in which students had to develop a product, market it, and demonstrate its financial statements. “I learned the intricacies of creating an international product for mass consumption,” Pallotta says. “Everything from regulations with taxes and marketing to the difficulties in doing business abroad.”
In addition to his inspiring study abroad experience in Beijing, Pallotta embarked on another adventure, this time in Barcelona. He fulfilled the international business program requirement of staying in a homestead while studying abroad in Spain’s second-largest city and studied cross-cultural management at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, known for its pioneering independent and forward-thinking approach to learning.
After graduating this past May, Pallotta now works in Houston as an analyst for Alvarez & Marsal, a global professional services firm specializing in management services. He works in the corporate performance improvement unit, where due to his stints studying finance and supply chain at McCombs, he is able to lend his insight to source reduction expenses. “I really enjoy working with our clients to help them dissect their problem areas and provide sound solutions,” he adds.
With hopes to travel to Australia or Europe in the future, Pallotta knows the invaluable experience he gained as an international business student at McCombs will help him excel in his pursuits.
“Having obtained my degree in international business and my experiences studying abroad in Beijing and Barcelona, the program truly equipped me to understand all facets of business,” he says. “I feel prepared to take on the global business world — literally.”