Business Spotlight: WorldWise Coach
Jennifer Burge started WorldWise Coach in 2019 after spending a 17-year international consulting career traveling the world. Her experience includes work in Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Australia. Throughout her travels, Jennifer has used her “terminal case of curiosity” to learn about the people and culture involved in today’s international business world and brings that experience to her work with clients at WorldWise Coach. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jennifer took the time to brush up on her Spanish and better understand the new United States, Mexico, and Canada Agreement (USMCA) while preparing for the changes that were set to take effect last summer. Jennifer is truly a world traveler and has spent her life working to bridge the cultural divides and communication challenges that make doing international business difficult. She even led a session at Native Edge Institute Louisiana focused on international trade and global branding and marketing. Jennifer will be joining us for future Native Edge Institutes for similar instruction.
We hope you enjoy learning more about Jennifer’s exciting career and her new venture, WorldWise Coach!
1. Tell us about yourself
My name is Jennifer Burge, I am the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of WorldWise Coach where I offer a number of services including executive intercultural coaching, intercultural team coaching, business English instruction, and international business consulting.
I am originally from Vermilion, Ohio, a small town west of Cleveland on the Lake Erie shore. Fortunately, I was exposed to other cultures from a young age (even at 80, my father is a mad traveler) and I have always been curious about how people live in other countries. I started learning Spanish in the sixth grade and then added French in ninth grade. I continued with both throughout my time at Ohio State University where I graduated from in 1994.
After college, I moved to Phoenix thinking it would be easier to get a job as a bilingual person. I got a job immediately, but my dream of working abroad seemed unlikely to be launched from Arizona which at the time had few international companies. I went back to Ohio in 1999 and in 2000, I was hired by a large global consultancy. Once hired, I made all kinds of noise to whoever would listen about my desire to live and work in Europe. My first shot at an international role was in Calgary in the Canadian province of Alberta in 2001. I returned from there days before September 11, 2001 when planes stopped flying. The following week, I was offered a 12-month role in Germany. Thinking that opportunity may never knock again, I took it and landed there in October 2001.
During that year, I traveled everywhere I could and formed strong relationships in Amsterdam with my company’s team there. I moved to the Netherlands at the end of 2002, Singapore in 2007, and Australia in 2011. I have worked with large and small companies and implemented technology projects as a certified PMP (Project Management Professional) in 15 countries working with teams of 23 different nationalities. It was a 17-year adventure that left me with an amazing amount of experience globally, a dual US/Australian nationality, and a passion for helping people do what had been initially very challenging to me: working effectively across cultures.
2. Tell us a little bit about how you got the idea to open your company?
I have wanted to do this forever. Technology is useful, of course, but people are endlessly fascinating. I have a terminal case of curiosity about why people do what they do, and this field gives me license to keep exploring that and to share what I call a country’s “secret code” with others. There are so many small details we take for granted about our own culture and we never think about sharing them. Living within other cultures helps you to see your own quite clearly. Then you have the tools to compare notes.
3. Tell us a little about your company:
WorldWise Coaching has been a winding path. I was certified in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in Madrid in 2017 and thought I would be spending more time teaching English to professionals, coaching them in presentation styles, and helping people communicate effectively one on one. I teach groups about effective intercultural communication techniques in business and how important it is to adapt your communication style so that the person receiving it understands it the way you intended.
WorldWise is also in a strategic position to work with companies across North America to understand and comply with a myriad of new regulations that came into effect with the United States, Mexico, and Canada Agreement (USMCA), the successor of NAFTA. Many people think that not much has changed with the new agreement, which came into effect at the height of the pandemic on July 1st, 2020, but that is not the reality. This is where my management consulting background and intercultural business experience combine to form a comprehensive approach to problem solving and educating across the entire region.
4. When did you open, how did you have the idea to open WorldWise and what is included in your services?
The company was formed in April 2019, so I had a pretty short time to operate prior to the pandemic. When I came back to the US, I thought that the US corporate world would have changed its mindset more about understanding global communication and the need to adapt to your target or host culture, but I discovered it hadn’t. We still think everyone needs to operate our way and that the US model is the best way to work anywhere. Again, not true. Thankfully, Arizona is very close to Mexico and I found that when I spoke with businesspeople there, they immediately understood how small miscommunications can become big, time-wasting, expensive arguments quite quickly.
5. How have you been managing the pandemic, what measures are you taking to keep people safe, and did you close for a while or did you do takeout in the beginning?
I never closed the company. I took the time to improve my Spanish so that I could give presentations in Mexico and altered my strategy to focus on the USMCA. I could tell by reading the document (yes, I actually have read it) that the sweeping labor reforms in Mexico are going to be a large cultural adjustment for the entire region and wanted to be prepared. Consulting uses my analytical skills and intercultural skills which, for me, means that during the pandemic I landed on an ideal strategy. I am fortunate that I was able to forge great relationships in Mexico just before the pandemic and we have never stopped working together from the moment we met.
6. How are you involved in the community?
I am a member of the Phoenix Committee for Foreign Relations and serve on its programming committee. I was also appointed to the City of Phoenix’s Pacific Rim Advisory Council by Mayor Kate Gallego in 2019 and serve as Vice Chairwoman. The Consular Corps of Arizona—which has Consular representatives from over thirty countries—appointed me to its Board of Advisors in 2020. I also serve on the Arizona Advisory Board for the US Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC).
7. Are you planning to expand your business?
Yes! I am in the process now of expanding into Canada. Many of my clients and partners are in the mining industry and the industry is also huge in Canada. Leveraging my Mexican mining experience makes it a logical move.
8. Anything else you would like to include?
At present, I am co-organizing a women’s empowerment initiative in partnership with the US Consulate of Nogales and the Mining Cluster of Sonora for International Women’s Day on March 8, 2021. Our goal is to open a cross-border collaboration channel for women in mining across Arizona and Sonora. The event: “Las Mineras: MegaWomen in the MegaRegion” will be the catalyst for a partnership and mentoring program that will continue well beyond the event.
We are fortunate to have been funded by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Economic Affairs for this initiative.
9. What kind of external support have you received?
My local international trade representatives of US Commercial Services (USCS), Ruth Soberanes and Christina Parisi, have been fantastic in their support of helping me understand what assistance I can receive from the US government. I have been gone a long time and it was not the easiest re-education process! I also have two amazing global exporting mentors, Elyse Erickson who is an entrepreneur and Anthony Cambas at the Small Business Administration. Both of them I met through USCS’ Women’s Global Empowerment Program in August/September 2020.