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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

SU alumnus finds common language in business, humanities

Eric Dedola '10 draws on LLL training to succeed in international business

July 8, 2011, by Rob Enslin

Eric Dedola ’10 (pronounced “deh-DOH-lah”) is an entrepreneur on the move. When he is not traveling the world, the 23-year-old marketing analyst can be found bringing the world to him at his family’s global logistics firm in Southern California. Central to his work, he says, is effective communication.

“There are many language and cultural barriers out there, so a lot of communication gets lost in translation,” explains Dedola, speaking by phone from his office in Los Alamitos, just south of L.A. “Our goal is to leverage new technologies that bring people closer together to create the most effective service.”

One way Eric has promoted the importance of quality communication is by developing an online video contest for Dedola Global Logistics (DGL)—a company started by his grandfather that has been taken over by Eric’s father and two uncles. Titled “Dedola Language Challenge,” the contest is an outgrowth of Eric’s days in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, where he majored in Italian and minored in linguistics. At DGL, Eric felt he could parlay his interest in languages and cultures into a viable marketing campaign for the company’s 35th anniversary. “Since our industry is not exactly exciting to most people, we brainstorm ways to draw more attention to our company, while promoting the importance of multiculturalism and diversity in international business,” he explains.

The result is a series of vignettes in which company staffers address the camera in 11 different languages. It’s up to the end-user to guess the languages in the order that they first appear. Those who successfully do so are entered in a drawing to win an Apple iPad 2. “It’s fun but kind of tricky,” says Eric of the contest. On the surface, “Dedola Language Challenge” is a novel attempt at building a brand. (After all, who in the international freight business doesn’t want to expand market share?) But dig deeper and you may find that Eric and his team have other goals in mind. “The ‘big idea’ is to show how we are an increasingly connected society. With that come inherent communication challenges,” he says, citing the oft-used example of saying the word “yes” during business negotiations—a response that typically signals agreement in most countries, except Japan, where it can mean the listener is simply paying attention.

Eric Jochim, DGL’s marketing director, says “Dedola Language Challenge” has exceeded expectations. To date, the video has drawn about a thousand hits—a figure that will undoubtedly impact the company’s bottom line. “Eric’s drive to make an impact at the company and to try new things has been a real catalyst for change. These efforts are putting our name in front of prospective customers who, in the past, wouldn’t have known about our services,” says Jochim. CFO Stephen Dedola adds this: “The focus on languages was a natural. Our ability to communicate efficiently, in a variety of languages, is a valuable asset to our company and to our clients."

As much as Eric relishes the family business, it appears to be one in a series of professional moves he is making. Earning an M.B.A. degree is another. But any way you look at it, Eric is going places, literally as well as figuratively. His wanderlust first became evident when he trekked across Europe as a teenager, and it resurfaced during his semester abroad in Florence. Since graduating from SU, where he was heavily involved with Project Advance, indoor soccer, and the outdoor club, Dedola has traveled to the Far East and Central America, and has returned to Europe—at one point, organizing private wine tours in Italy. All the while, he has soaked up considerable experience in logistics, international business, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

What’s next for the native Californian? Eric and his younger brother, Ryan, recently established Virtu, a company that sells casual handbags with Mayan-inspired designs. The company name, pronounced “virtue,” was chosen because of the positive energy it imbues. The first line is set to debut this fall. “Giving back to the community is a core component of our company,” says Eric, explaining Virtu’s visionary trifecta of creativity, authenticity, and social responsibility. “We work with organizations to empower impoverished women in Guatemala so that they can provide clean water, medical care, and education for their families.”

Jaklin Kornfilt, SU professor of linguistics, applauds Dedola’s achievements, but is not surprised by them. “Through his studies of Italian and linguistics, Eric has applied his own linguistic competence and that of his multi-lingual staff to his business performance with great success,” she says. “He has made me happy and proud.” She goes on to say that the kind of work Eric does—promoting language and cultural competency—goes a long way in both the classroom and the boardroom. “When someone addresses us or responds to us in our native tongue, especially when we’re abroad, we invariably have a sense of comfort and reassurance,” Kornfilt says. “Eric has shown how we need to develop our language skills, quickly and thoroughly.”

Dedola takes the compliment in stride. “Professor Kornfilt and everyone else at SU trained me well,” he concludes. “My career path is proof that business and the humanities speak a common language."