David Armstrong ’08 chose to major in global business because it represented both a challenge and adventure: “The challenge was to become fluent in a foreign language because I failed my second year of Spanish in high school,” says the La Cañada, California, native. “The adventure was studying abroad.”
More than a decade later, Armstrong affirms those choices and the Redlands experiences that followed were transformative.
As a global business major at Redlands, he learned about government, accounting, economics, and history. He also studied German to fulfill the program’s requirement for fluency in a foreign language. Supported by two U of R scholarships, he spent a year in Vienna and Germany studying business and economics, while further improving his language skills.
“When you learn a foreign language, you learn a lot about yourself,” he says. “Your way of thinking changes because you have to think through a different medium, a different language. Through language you learn how other people process problems, which also teaches you empathy, patience, and tolerance. It sets the foundation for mutual understanding.”
Armstrong notes this understanding can also change the use of your native language. “When you speak to people who don’t speak English as a first language, you’re able to choose the words differently because you’re feeling for the other person, and how they need to hear the words to understand them. That’s critical. Being able to get into the shoes of the other person is the key to healthy relationships in general.”
His experiences abroad led to further accomplishments, including the presentation of two papers on banking, one at Oxford University and another at the Copenhagen Business School.
After graduating, he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and used his language proficiency to conduct research in Berlin. He interned for the German manufacturing company Bosch, after which he went on to Cambridge to complete his master’s degree in international relations.
Today, Armstrong is a vice president and general manager at KaVo Kerr, a dental company in the Envista Holdings Corporation, where he leads the consumables business for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. He says his work is part of a journey that continues to be a challenging adventure. “I’ve lived in three different countries since returning to Europe, and I am constantly learning more about myself and new ways of helping the business.”
Armstrong still appreciates the language skills he developed at the U of R “After I joined KaVo Kerr, I was sent to work in our Mexican factory. Because learning German boosted my confidence, I was able to use my Spanish—the same language I struggled with in high school.”
Armstrong also learned Italian to communicate with personnel at factories in Switzerland and Italy. In the Czech Republic, he met his future wife and began learning Czech. Now he communicates with her family 100 percent in their language. “The ability to connect with my wife’s family would be completely missing if I didn’t have that foundation that first came with finally conquering a language. Redlands afforded me that opportunity.” At their home in Munich, Armstrong and his wife now speak an entertaining mix of English, German, and Czech.
Armstrong is now helping current and future Bulldogs embrace opportunities similar to the ones that shaped his own path. As a member of the Global Business Advisory Board, he provides input on the Global Business curriculum and helps Hunsaker Chair of Management Jack Osborn mentor students throughout their university days and beyond. “I give back to Redlands because of the support and experiences I was given as a student, and I want help give others the same opportunity for such experiences.”