Reflections from Elizabeth Napier’s Field Research with Gabriele Zedlmayer

Georgia State University Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) has played a critical role in my personal and professional development. Thanks to the generous contribution I received, I was able to travel to Munich, Germany in January of 2019 to further my academic research. Professional goals of this trip included meeting with my dissertation committee member (Gabriele Zedlmayer – Hewlett-Packard Vice President and Chief Progress Officer (ret.)), writing case studies, and interviewing the top managers of multinational enterprises, including Hewlett-Packard, Steelcase, and Fujitsu Technology. In addition, I attended the Digital-Life-Design (DLD) conference as well as a board meeting for Ms.AI, a technology platform for education and personalized learning for young women.

Upon my arrival, I was welcomed by Gabi and her family into her beautiful home. The scenery consisted of picturesque views of Bavaria surrounded by snow covered mountains. In the first few days of my field research, I enjoyed one-on-one conversations with Gabi about how technology is revolutionizing corporate social responsibility. After Gabi and I finalized our interview template, we drove to Munich for the DLD conference. The DLD conference is known as an interdisciplinary gathering for people eager to change the world. Past speakers have included Mark Zuckerburg, Yoko Ono, and Nobel laureates Daniel Kahneman and Martti Ahtisaari.

On the first day in Munich, I sat in on the Ms. AI board meeting as a participant-observant. I was personally inspired by the women I met who included the first German woman to climb Mt. Everest, executives from Microsoft and Google, and a senior human resource expert who studies the transformational effect of music in business. While all women were extraordinarily successful, they were also kind and open to sharing ideas with me.

Over the next few days I interviewed attendees at the DLD conference. To my surprise, data collection was relatively easy as most individuals I approached were open to taking the time to answer my questions and share their understanding of AI-enabled corporate social responsibility. My favorite part of the conference was the Inspiring Fifty, a non-profit that aims to increase diversity by making female role models in tech more visible and recognizes inclusion as a strategic opportunity. Gabi was the keynote speaker and the organizer of this event. The experience I gained from this conference is invaluable and will no doubt play an instrumental part in my future.

My time with Gabi allowed me to look inside the black box of the firm. Gabi shared knowledge from her remarkable career at HP as well as how she foresees technology revolutionizing future business processes. As a result, I completed qualitative interviews for my dissertation and advanced a bond between a mentor and a mentee.

I want to thank CIBER for all its funding and support, which allowed me to collect data for my dissertation, collaborate with CSR experts, as well as make professional connections for future research. The experiences and knowledge I gained from this ethnographic research will forever have a positive affect on my career in academia and hopefully be used to make the world a better place.

Elizabeth Napier, PhD Candidate
Institute of International Business
Georgia State University

Elizabeth gratefully acknowledges the guidance and encouragement provided by Professor S. Tamer Cavusgil, Executive Director and Principle Investigator of Georgia State University’s CIBER. Elizabeth also wants to express sincere gratitude for Farrah Bernardino, Managing Director of GSU CIBER, for her support and assistance.