“You can’t consider yourself an MBA until you get that passport stamped and gain global exposure.”

That’s one of many pieces of advice that GE Vice President for Global Operations Maria DiPietro shared at a recent Suffolk University Graduate Business Association (SUGBA) “Lunch with a Leader” event.

DiPietro, a double Ram and Suffolk trustee, would know. She spent eight years in London, first as the COO for GE Capital’s EMEA, then leading GE’s Global Growth and Operations European transformation. Subsequently she led GE’s Global Operations supply chain before returning to the United States, where she’s currently Vice President for Global Operations. She is one of 190 officers at GE, which has approximately 290,000 employees.

“I think it’s important that, if you want to be a leader, you need to know how to deal with various cultures and the nuances within those cultures,” elaborated DiPietro after the lunch. “A lot of people in U.S. companies with non-U.S. revenues manage as if the whole world operates like the U.S. Good leaders need to realize that if businesses have a global component, there will be cultural differences and you need exposure to ensure you engage and lead non-U.S. organizations effectively. Understanding cultural sensitivities is critical.”

“Don’t be afraid to take those jobs that are really tough.”

DiPietro got her first job working in finance at Filene’s—just down the street from Suffolk University at Downtown Crossing. After that were jobs at American Express in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and then helping to start up GE Capital Consumer Credit Card Portfolio in Cincinnati. From there, this financial services and operations person was asked to switch to GE Industrial—and jumped at the chance.

“When I was asked to move to the Europe Transformation role, I was scared to death because I didn’t even know the industrial side. I’ve always been a financial services person,” she said. “You question whether or not you’ll succeed, but I think those are the best learning opportunities you’re going to have.”

Her solution? Build a network of people who can help her learn what she doesn’t know, work really hard, and forge relationships based on trust and transparency.

“Know pivot tables and Microsoft Excel like the back of your hand.”

As any Excel user knows, pivot tables are key to seeing the numbers. Or, as DiPietro would say, to helping you understand the levers that drive a company to perform. “You need to be like an analytical jockey on Excel.

Back to where it all began

DiPietro started her career in Boston. And now the company she’s worked for over the past 26 years has relocated its global headquarters to Fort Point, about a mile from her alma mater. Even though she won’t be making the move from Connecticut for now (she has a daughter in high school), she thinks the Hub is a brilliant choice for GE.

“I’m so excited that GE is in Boston. They’re going to optimize on the talent and the culture that’s in the area. It’s a really huge win for GE and huge win for Boston.”

Her final piece of advice? “Be a good people manager.”

“I'm extremely supportive of the team that I have,” she said. “If something goes wrong I'm the first one to step up and say, ‘It's my fault, it's no one else's fault.’ My job is to make sure my team understands and answers the right questions. That's the job of a good leader. If you’re coming out of graduate school, you need to know how to be a good people leader and coach.”

The next “Lunch with a Leader” is scheduled for December 1, 2017, when the guest will be Vahid Ownjazayeri, Chief Growth Officer for AECOM. Check the Suffolk University Graduate Business Association (SUGBA) Facebook page or Instagram feed for details.