HomeNews & Views Leading with Global Competence: Working for a Multinational Corporation in the U.S.

Leading with Global Competence: Working for a Multinational Corporation in the U.S.


What do Michelin tires, L’Oréal cosmetics, Ubisoft video games, Adidas shoes, Canon cameras, and Toyota cars have in common? The products are well-known in the U.S. and each corporation has a huge presence in the U.S. economy. More importantly, of the corporations listed above, none of them are headquartered in the country. Instead, these multinational corporations (MNCs) rely on cooperation with regional U.S. offices to succeed stateside.

To ensure cooperation between the headquarters and regional offices, MNCs oftentimes hire regional workers that excel with the exported company culture. This requires global competence—the capacity to engage with others, often in the target language, anywhere in the world.  This often means learning the corporation’s official business language and gaining an understanding of cultural mannerisms, customs, and traditions.

Automobile manufacturer Volkswagen is an excellent example of this international business model.

Alexander and James are participating in an exchange program between Volkswagen Chattanooga, in Tennessee, and Volkswagen Emden—a German plant that employs 9,000 employees, and is known as the birthplace of the Volkswagen Beetle. For both, in addition to the technical training they would receive, the decision to go abroad and learn more about the company culture was driven by a desire to advance in their careers back home, at VW or elsewhere in the future: “Big German companies are a growing presence—at least in my area, in the South.”

And of course, the experience abroad allowed for personal growth. “Just stepping this far out of my comfort zone has been rewarding to my character,” James explains. “It’s helped me to accept a lot more different things, […] different people, different ways of thinking.”

Alexander and James will return to the U.S. following their experience at Emden with a new perspective, stronger language skills, and a better understanding of how to interact with VW employees both domestically and remotely overseas.

Thinking about working at an MNC?  Whether you “Just Add German” or you add another language of your choosing, you will open doors to nearly endless possibilities.  Explore college or university programs with a focus on language or cultural studies, including global engineering or business programs. Which language will be right for you? Just be sure to choose one you love!

Do you already work for a multinational corporation and use language skills in the workplace? Let us know by joining the conversation @LeadWLanguages on social media! #LeadWithLanguages