A Personal Invitation to Operations Global Lab – China

In preparation for 2018 Operations Global Lab, Professor Dickstein reflects on his own experience in Hong Kong and China.

My first passport in the early 70s explicitly banned travel to and acceptance for passage in China (as well as North Korea, North Vietnam, and Cuba).  But with Nixon’s surprise visit in 1972 orchestrated by Henry Kissinger, relations gradually improved (sometimes referred to as the period of “ping pong diplomacy”, reflecting an early exchange of visits) and the door crept open.  Coincidentally, I was in Hong Kong just months after this historic event, and any worries about using my U.S. passport for entry into Canton (now Guangzhou) were dispelled by a U.S. consular official who simply used a magic marker to cross out China from the list of banned countries.  In the years since I have made five visits into China and twice as many into Hong Kong, a one-time British colony until July 1997 and a logistical gateway with its modern infrastructure into all of Southeast Asia.

Going back nearly 10,000 years China was the largest and most advanced civilization on earth.  The remarkable engineering feat of the Great Wall was completed about 1700 years BEFORE Columbus’ voyage to the New World. As recently as the 1270s, Marco Polo was “astonished at the wealth of China”.

This advancement was not sustained due to violent competition for power, the Japanese invasions in the 1900s, and Mao’s destructive decade of the Cultural Revolution in the mid-1960s that further impoverished the population.  The past forty plus years have witnessed an unprecedented pace of development.  Today, China is the world’s most populous country and the largest participant in global trade, with 2015 imports + exports of nearly 4 trillion USD.  (The comparable total for the U.S. in second position is 3.8 trillion).

Our trip provides an opportunity to experience firsthand some of the world’s most advanced infrastructure (airports, high speed rail) and oldest culture.  While Hong Kong may be a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China, 100 years of British rule have left an outward, global perspective and a strong rule of law.  In the most recent Ease of Doing Business rankings prepared by the World Bank, Hong Kong is #4 (compared to the United States at #8).

We have taken the inputs of the 2017 participants and enriched the program by adding several days in Beijing, the cultural (as well as administrative) capital of China.  I am very excited to share with OSU students such exciting destinations that resonate in my personal life and business career and, hopefully, will prove an equally memorable event in yours.  While my longevity does not quite reach back to the era of Marco Polo, I continue to view the country with a similar sense of wonder.

If you are interested in international business, cultural uniqueness, or history, this trip will allow you to explore an emerging country that increasingly shapes the world’s political and economic landscape.  Please join us for Fisher’s second undergraduate program in China, a two week exposure to business, politics, culture and even a great deal of fun.

The stereotypes are all true… but all not true

Phil Koch explains how India is everything he thought it would be and completely different at the same time. Phil consulted on a project for the National Bank of Abu Dhabi with two other Fisher College of Business Students during the Global Projects Program in Mumbai, India.

India is a very dynamic and complicated place. In Mumbai everything is fast paced and competitive…like NYC. Everyone has a story to tell and something to prove. The major difference between Mumbai and NYC is that although there is a competitive spirit in both places, people in Mumbai are genuinely hospitable and generally very nice.

When you sit down in any restaurant in India be it Thali, Non-veg/Veg, Mughal, Hindo – Chinese even Tex-Mex, you are almost always ceremoniously taken care of. In many restaurants you are fed copious amounts of food due to the Indian belief of “guests are gods to us”. It may be a bit cliché but this is the benchmark for the very high level of service provided to you in restaurants of all kinds, hotels and even around the office. Unlike the West, the high bar for service in India is not driven by money/promotions but a wholehearted desire from somewhere within to do right by their customer/guests.

Many negative stereotypes about the classification of the whole of India are abundantly recited in the United States by people who truly have no concept of the country. They range from India being a filthy place, to people being smelly, to being uneducated, to being extremely poor, and schemers and on and on. I will be the first to tell you that everything I have just written is characteristic of India, but it does not tell the whole story.

India is still very much developing and as Vikas, my boss in Mumbai, put it, India is a “poor country” overall so the smells, municipal services, literacy rates/education opportunities and levels of average wealth are extremely different when compared to the U.S. The reverse of every stereotype I highlighted is also true within India and within Mumbai in particular. In the same block in Worli Sea Face (high priced real estate in town) I saw millionaires departing their upscale condos in chauffer driven Rolls Royces, Maybachs and Ferraris, where directly down the street was a large complex of lean-to abodes with whole family’s sharing spaces smaller than the average dorm room. This disparity is truly sad and something we do not experience in the U.S., or at least to less of an extent than in Mumbai.

When you exit the airport, “schemers” flourish as many “grapevine learn by osmosis” type of travelers will tell you, but not everyone is grabbing for your pockets and trying to make a quick buck off you as ignorant acquaintances may tell you. These types of people give India and places like it a bad name with sweeping generalizations that can smear its image in the public’s eye. India deserves better than this and definitely deserves a second look from American tourists.

Reverting back to my original point, whether it’s in a restaurant, hotel, on the street or in an Uber, 99% of the time Indian people try to accommodate you as best as they can and make sure your experience is enjoyable. Indians are EXTREMELY proud about India!! They love their country and deep cultural heritage and are always keen to know your thoughts about India/Mumbai/their restaurant etc. They are very welcoming and they look to do anything in their power to entrust that you have a fantastic time in their country (I quite like this and wish the U.S. would adopt such a mentality).

More notes on hospitality: Whether at Vikas’s house (our direct boss), Nirvikar’s Cricket Club (CEO of the Bank), Tanaji’s Yacht Club (OSU Alum & Real Estate Mogul) or Rumana’s home, each of the hosts went above and beyond to make sure we were well fed. Roumana (our landlord in Pali Hill) had the NBAD team over for an Iftar two days before we departed. She invited us into her home and we were able to meet and break bread, actually much bread, with her very awesome and comedic family. For more than four hours we ate delicious, home cooked “Non-Veg” food and had very insightful conversations into Politics (Indian/U.S.), Bollywood and Travel among other things. It is spur-the-moment events like this that truly make travel awesome and experiences unique. Had we not found that particular Airbnb, we would not have had an Iftar (breaking the fast during Ramadan) with an Indian family, we would have missed out on great conversation and would lack insights into true local life. This was a definite once in a lifetime type of activity.

Traveling Expands Your Mind

Emily Oldfield shares her experience on the Global Projects Program in Germany, where she consulted on a project with her team for Media Saturn.

My mom has always told me that “traveling expands your mind.” I understood what she meant by the saying: traveling leads to a better understanding of different cultures. No matter how many times she told me, I simply didn’t understand the depth of the saying until I began to travel. When you are given only a few weeks to see as much of Europe as you can, you pack a lot into your itinerary. Within five weekends, I traveled to six different cities. Planning one trip would include scouring Pinterest for the best sites to see, booking a hotel, buying train or bus tickets, and downloading the native language on our Google Translate app. One of my favorite trips was to Berlin.

Fat Tire Bike Tours name all their bikes so they are easy to find.

We arrived early in Berlin and our Airbnb was not yet ready. We had scheduled a bike tour for most of the morning and afternoon. In every city, we would try to go on some type of tour to earn a better understanding of the area’s history. This bike tour was by far my favorite. Berlin has a deep history and American textbooks only skim the surface. We visited Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate, The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and The Berlin Wall. Not only was it informative, but it was interesting hearing the history from someone living in the city. It was a slightly different perspective than the American’s lens.

Buddy Bears are located throughout the city to show unity after years of divide.

By the time the 4 hour tour was finished, our room was ready. One of the girls on the trip found our Airbnb and it was absolutely amazing. We were only staying two nights, but I wished we had more time. There was a balcony where we watched a parade of bikes ride past one of the nights. Lofted ceilings and white walls made it spacious enough for six people to sleep. By this point in the trip, we had spent enough time together to have well formed friendships. Berlin is known for being youthful. This city was full of tiny quarks that made it unique. From the spray paint murals to the green walking man on street lights, you are able to truly get lost in this city. That is perhaps one of my favorite parts of traveling. Aside from those venturing with you, there is complete anonymity. No one expects anything from you. You simply get to go on an adventure and leave your worries at home. Traveling leads to a sense of freedom that everyone needs. This trip has gone beyond words to describe it.

This green walking man is unique to Berlin’s stoplights.
Street art in one of the main art districts.

Deeper than the Desk

Phil Koch shares his experience working for the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, where he consulted on a project with two other Fisher College of Business Students during the Global Projects Program in Mumbai, India.

I could not be happier with my experience at National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD). From the multi-million dollar office/trading rooms to the two butlers who made the best masala tea known to man, my experience was great. All kidding aside, the work we did was necessary for the bank to move forward in attaining new clients in India. Albeit on occasion the work was a bit repetitive and even monotonous, I learned a great deal about major Indian Business sectors and who controls them (it’s really only a few guys). Additionally, I did another project where I examined SWF’s (Sovereign Wealth Funds) headquartered in the Gulf Cooperation Council to establish both how much assets under management (AUM) they have and estimate what percentage of that was invested in India (the hard part).

Vikas, my boss at NBAD, was impressed with my analysis and pitched the numbers to the Head Office in Abu Dhabi to start the approval process. He was grateful for my thoughts and estimations on this project as they are directly influencing his line of business. As the CEO put it on the last day, that while the work we did at the desktops could have been done from anywhere in the world, it is what we learned outside our six wheeled English made chairs (standard across most high end commercial banks/trading floors) in the building that mattered most.

Everyone around the small office of about thirty people were willing and truly loved discussing their roles and processes within the company (in depth), but they also enjoyed sharing with us the little things, like where to eat and what to do on the weekend etc. Everyone including Vikas were always available and willing to discuss everything from work, to life in India and beyond with all of us. Nilendu, the director of strategy, is one of the most high energy people I have ever met that preaches positive energy and small problem solving as the way to ease through life. He is a very successful banker (closed more than $30 Billion in funding) who is awesome to be around, runs 100+kms for fun and rocks a Mont Blanc watch for big closings. Vikas and Nilendu are exceedingly intelligent and having conversations with them about anything was a real treat as they know so much about both exceedingly specific and broad topics!

I learned a great deal about banking and real estate from Vikas at and away from the desk. Whether in casual conversation over his daily Flat White or listening to him banter in the trading room, I learned about business and life in India as a whole, that an usual intern would have no chance of learning in a typical, slightly more established organization. Vikas is an exceedingly generous person (sensible given his well-kept real estate portfolio that has increased in value by 15 times over the last ten odd years) who took us out to multiple lunches at some very tasty restaurants and purchased coffee/tea for us on average three times a week. Additionally, he graciously welcomed us into his Malabar Hill home and was always ready to respond to any question we asked with a candid and thorough response.

Consulting for a Foreign Company in Germany

Sarah Burger shares her experience working on a consulting team for Media-Saturn during her time abroad with the Global Projects Program.

During my time in Germany, I had the opportunity to work with Media-Saturn, which is one of the largest consumer electronics stores in Europe. I had an amazing experience with this company and found it really interesting to learn more about the company itself and how business is done in Germany. Through this project and working with my team, I was also able to develop crucial skills that I know will help me throughout my future career.

One of the first things that I noticed when working at a German company is how team-oriented everyone is and how the social aspect of work is very important. In the group that I worked in, everyone sat in one large room so that it was very easy to communicate with each other and run ideas by everyone on the team. Also, people took time out of their day to socialize much more than they do in the U.S.. Employees almost always went to lunch in groups and spent a long time just conversing with each other. One of the stereotypes that Germans have is that they are notoriously on time and they get mad if you show up late. It might have just been the company that I was working for but they were not uptight about showing up a couple minutes late and in fact, most of the time we never started on time.

One of the things that I enjoyed most about my time abroad was how I was able to develop professionally through this project. One of the most challenging aspects of the project is that you are working on the same thing for five weeks and working with the same people. This requires a lot of discipline to stay focused and it requires really good teamwork and communication.

One thing that I learned that helped us stay motivated and focused was to change up what we were doing every day, whether that be visiting a MediaMarkt store to generate new ideas or doing a speed brainstorm session.

One thing that I learned working in my team was that it was important to play to people’s strengths. One of us was really good at research, one was really good at coming up with ideas, and one was really good at pulling it all together. As we continued on in the project, we learned to rely on each other because we knew what each other’s strengths were.

Another thing that I took away from this project was learning how to think outside the box. I think that sometimes we are so trained to look at the obvious solution and stick with it but this project forced my team and I to look beyond all the simple ideas and come up with creative and out of the box ideas.

Finally, I feel much more confident interacting with people from another country because of my experience in Germany. Even though all the people we worked with spoke English, there were still some barriers to communication. There’s a lot of things that we have in the U.S. that don’t exist in Germany and vice versa so we had to become very good at explaining things such as what a Costco is.

Overall, I really enjoyed the project I worked on and the team I worked with. The employees at Media-Saturn were amazing. They were so friendly, helpful, and wanted to make sure we were getting as much out of our experience as we could. I am so happy with what my team accomplished during our time there and I know that I will take what I have learned and use it in my college career and my professional career.

Transformative and Unforgettable: Learning Something New with Exposure to Something Different

Nick Repasky reflects on his unforgettable experience interning abroad in Hong Kong and what you can learn about yourself by leaving your comfort zone and exposing yourself to something unfamiliar.

Growing up in suburbia northeast Ohio, the largest city I had spent any extended period of time living in is Columbus.  And here I was, at the Fisher College of Business applying to travel to one to the world’s largest and dynamic cities, in a foreign land I had never been, on the complete opposite side of the earth for 8 weeks.  I knew I had a fascination for travel and knew the business experience abroad would be priceless, but as the departure date got closer and closer I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. I wanted to expose myself to something totally unfamiliar so that I may become comfortable feeling vulnerable, and learn to thrive in those intimidating conditions. I packed up a suitcase, hopped on a plane in Cleveland and nearly 30 relaxing hours of travel later I had arrived in my home for the summer in Hong Kong.

I had my breath taken away by the sheer magnitude of the city as we traveled to our hotel, and it was not long before I began to experience the many things that are different from home.  But thanks to my own open mindedness and experience from the Fisher College of Business and Ohio State, my transition was smooth and successful.  I quickly developed relationships and friendships with my fellow interns and coworkers at the office.  I never wasted a single day as I was determined to learn as much about this part of the world and experience as much of it as I could in my 8 weeks.  From the restless city to the quiet mountains we hiked, I saw views, tried food, and created memories to last a lifetime.

Hiking on a mountain in Lantau

The isolation from home forced me to into seeing my life and the world from a new perspective.  During my seventh week abroad I had the opportunity to present a speech at the Fisher College of Business Hong Kong Alumni Club about my experience where I was accompanied by friends from the Fisher community and even Dean Makhija!  To see the global influence of my school, that no matter how far I travel from home, my Ohio State Buckeyes have made an impact on the world renewed my sense of pride in my school.  As I began to take advantage of these opportunities and excel in my internship, I started to learn more about myself and the potential of my future.

Showing our Buckeye pride with Dean Makhija

The decision to go abroad will forever be one of the best decisions of my life.  The unforgettable memories, new friendships, and new perspective never could have been possible had I not made the commitment and tested my personal boundaries.  I am grateful to have been an ambassador for both my school and my country on a global scale.  I am excited to return home with my new set of skills to help make my home country a better place, and I have a renewed appreciation for all of the comforts that come with living in the USA.  I now have the confidence to take on any challenge and find creative solutions as I navigate my way into my career in business.  I returned home a better version of the same person that left, and my friends and family who know me best can see how much I have grown as a person.  I encourage anyone who is considering traveling abroad to just do it!

Home is Where the Buckeyes Are

My Trinh reflects on her summer in Hong Kong participating on the Summer Global Internship Program and how that program allowed her the opportunity to speak in front of Dean Makhija and 20 Alumni Buckeyes living in Hong Kong.

Going to a school with an alumni network of more than half a million strong, I knew that no matter how far I traveled, there will always be a Buckeye there with me. This fact was reaffirmed when I got to speak in front of a group of more than 20 Buckeyes in Hong Kong.

This summer, I traveled to Hong Kong as part of the Fisher Summer Global Internship Program. Not only has this program acted as a catalyst to kick start my professional career, but it has also acted as the highlight of my college experience. When you first come to college, you always hear people encouraging you to go abroad, no matter what the experience is for. When I first entered college, I didn’t think I would ever have the opportunity to fulfill the advice of those people. But luckily, through the generosity of the Buckeye community, I got to experience this once in a life time opportunity.

Throughout my time here in Hong Kong, I’ve experience many first, from climbing a mountain in a thunderstorm, to swimming next to oxen on the beach, to squid fishing, to being stuck in typhoon. But none of these experiences, to me, were as freighting or rewarding as the opportunity to speak in front of the Dean of Fisher College of Business. When I first heard that I was selected to prepare a speech for Dean Makhija, all my peers and the OSU alumni network in Hong Kong, I felt a wave of nervousness and fear wash over me. What would I say to these people? Were any of my experiences here really that exciting for them to hear about? But, all these emotions were eased and the questioned answered as soon as I started speaking.

I remember looking around the room and seeing nothing but encouraging smiles and nods from those around me. From every lame joke I made, to every fact I listed, the crowd that surrounded me never failed to laugh or show excitement for what I had to say to them. I realized at that moment that the Buckeye community that I am apart of is one that is always going to be supportive, caring and responsive to whatever I do.

These individuals that I spoke in front of wanted nothing but to give back to me and to help me achieve whatever goals I aspired for. The best thing about my speech, was not delivering it to the crowd, but the conversations after that came from it. Each individual that I spoke with would offer me business cards and information about their company after I expressed interest in them. They all showed genuine curiosity about my experiences and all wanted to know more about how they could help create more life changing experiences for me. These individuals to me define what it means to be a Buckeye.

Being a Buckeye means that you will always have people that will give you support when you need it, help you up when you’re down, ease your fears when you have them and encourage you every step of the way. But, most importantly, being a Buckeye means that no matter where you are in the world, so long as you yell “OH”, you will get back an “IO”.

Things to Do; Places to Go; People to See

Michael Bougie, discusses his experience travelling to Madrid, Spain through the Fisher College of Business Global Internship Program.

The last time I left the United States was when I was twelve years old, and back then, I did not appreciate my voyage abroad as much as I could now, so I took every opportunity to see the sites this summer. My eight weeks in Madrid flew by, and I can credit the friends I made, the places I went, and the opportunities I had for this fast-paced, once-in-a-lifetime adventure. When describing my travels there’s only one phrase that comes to mind, “things to do; places to go; people to see,” and that is exactly how I’m going to break down my summer in Europe.

Things to do: On the top of my agenda in Madrid was my internship with Ericcson—a company at the forefront of communications technology that leads the ICT industry. I worked every day on projects regarding the future use of 5G applications. Here I am pictured with my boss. He was one of the reasons I loved my internship as much as I did, and he said he would write me a letter of recommendation at any time. If it wasn’t for this program I would’ve never met him!

Places to go: Because it had been so long since I had been out of the country I took advantage of the cheap European flights and trains and explored more than just Madrid during my time. I ended up going to Dublin, Ireland, Budapest, Hungary, Lisbon, Portugal, Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Ibiza, Spain on different weekends. I love that Europe is filled with many different cultures and types of people all so close to each other. I saw so many beautiful places while I was there, but if I had to pick a favorite it would’ve been Dublin, Ireland. We got to Dublin on a Friday morning, and we spent the entire weekend site-seeing. My advice to anyone looking into this program would be to take advantage of the time you’re there—go see the world beyond your internship location and really dive into all of the different European cultures.

People to see: I went into this trip knowing only a few people on it, but I ended it with friends I know I will have a bond with forever. I traveled the world with strangers who turned into close friends, and I loved every minute of it. I have every intention of keeping up with them, but I know that even if we do fall distant, we will always have fond memories of the adventures we shared together.

My experience traveling Europe through this program was unforgettable, and I would recommend this opportunity to everyone. I will always look back fondly on the things I did, the places I went, and the people I saw. It’s been real Madrid…

A Life Changing Experience

Hari Adhikari discusses the factors that made participating in the Summer Global Internship Program in London the best decision he ever made in his life.

I was a little skeptic when I applied for the Summer Global Internship Program (SGIP) through Fisher College of Business at the start of the spring (2017) semester. One part of me said, I should really expound on this opportunity but another part of me wasn’t ready to live in a foreign country for 2 months. As I type this blog, I only have a week and half before this remarkable London internship ends. My decision to accept an internship in London this summer has easily been the best decision I have ever made in my life. Here’s why:

1. Professional Development: London is a global hub for businesses and companies. Some of the world’s largest companies and businesses are headquartered in England and operate through here, making it an exciting place to work and develop yourself. It is one thing to learn about business concepts/ideas in academia but it is completely another thing to apply those theoretical ideas in real life.

At my company, I have had the exposure that I needed to enhance my problem solving and analytical skills. Working and analyzing large business database, preparing slide deck for an important meeting with a client, writing out business propositions, and developing end-to-end product portfolios include some of the important business skills that I have had the pleasure of acquiring through my work this summer. I have also become better when it comes to time management, business communication, team work etc. Besides the obvious benefits that comes with an internship, an international internship such as this will set you apart from your colleagues in the ever competitive job market. During my time here, I have also been able to expand the list of my professional networks.

2. Personal Development: Not only has this internship help me grow professionally, it has also propelled my personal growth. Living in a foreign country by yourself away from your family and friends impacts you in many ways than you think. It effectively makes you a new person. Since the day I landed in London, I have had to do things that I would have never done if I had decided to stay in Columbus. I have learned how to be self-sufficient. Whether it is grocery shopping or figuring out how to get navigate the underground train system (tube) or preparing my own meals, I have broken out of the dependent shell which I was so accustomed to living under around my family members.

3. Broaden Cultural Experience: One of the best things about this internship has been the fact that it has allowed me to develop a greater awareness of the world, and our place in it. This experience has helped me essentially escape the American bubble. America and England share same language, but don’t be fooled by that. There is a substantial difference between these countries. I have learned a great deal about the British culture and the British people in this past two months.

In addition to that, traveling to countries like Germany and Netherlands have fine-tuned my intercultural skills and awareness. Traveling and learning about new culture, people, and food also helps you become a global citizen. Often times, we are too carried away with what’s going on around us only. But when you actually push yourself out of your comfort zone and become open-minded, you will experience things that can help you moving forward. Add cultural competency to your outstanding experience, and you will set yourself apart from your peers.

4. London Attractions & Activities: London is one of the most historic cities in the world. That being said, there are numerous landmarks and attractions that you can visit while you are working here. Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Tower of London, River Thames, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye etc. just to name few iconic London venues to visit. There are also ample of activities that you can do in London during your free time. Whether it is revisiting the history through the lenses of arts and/or antiques at the British Museum or it is playing 5 v 5 soccer at the famous Hyde park or attending a concert at the packed O2 arena or standing at the prime meridian line which separates the Eastern and Western hemisphere, London offers you so much to do.

Work, Travel, Repeat

Grace Schneider explains why she is grateful to have lived, worked, and traveled in Madrid Spain during the Summer Global Internship Program.

Who ever said work has to be boring? This past eight weeks I have lived, worked, and traveled in Spain and around across Europe while having the time of my life! Madrid, a city that I now consider a home, is described as, “a city of elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks.” But I came to realize it is much much more than that. It’s a city with embedded with centuries of exciting history, architecture characterized by symmetry and elaborate exterior, and we can’t forget it is home to football club giant Real Madrid. But even in this short blog post I can’t explain the love that has developed for the people and culture of Spain.

I worked in the Human Resources department for the company Aegon Seguros, a financial services company. Here I was welcomed with open arms by amazing co-workers that I can now call friends that quickly made me feel a part of the team.

In these eight weeks I helped create, collect, and organize employee variable compensation information. I also had a chance to take part in an EVP (employee value proposition) video for the company. In this video we promoted the company culture and environment in hopes of attracting a wider and more diverse selection of candidates and applicants for positions in the company. With many other projects, I learned to see all aspects of the HR department, but also the interconnectedness of all the departments. As a marketing major, I was thrilled to be involved with the EVP video and the opportunity to work with the marketing and communciations departments.

Overall, this experience allowed me to grow both professionally and personally. I traveled to Valencia, Toledo, Barcelona (Spain), Budapest (Hungary), Munich (Germany), Porto and Lisbon (Portugal), Rome and Florence (Italy), Dublin (Ireland), Dusseldorf (Germany), and ended my trip in Paris (France). I loved every second of this trip and I couldn’t be more grateful to have lived, worked, and traveled a little bit more of our awesome world.