Cinco de Mayo . . . Day 4

Today we mean business. . .

The RISE team spent this morning diligently working to find data outlining the US and UAE food & beverage and retail markets.  With around seven weeks of work behind us, we still have a lot to learn and more work to put into our plan. . .

Lunch time we went our separate ways . .

Joey and Gina took a few minutes to relax. . .

I went town to our courtyard to read a book and grab a snack at the grocery store. . .

Travis went to a meeting for the Rotary Club of Dubai. . .

This may seem like an interesting activity however, Matt and Gregg take the cake for interesting . . or should i say peanut butter and jelly . . . burger


Yes, that’s right . . burger

Now like many WP’s, I have grown to love my daily PB&J sandwich on my drive from work to class . . . I now fear that this concept may forever ruin my love for this evening snack

the PBJ . . direct from the site, “Grass fed beef smothered in peanut sauce and strawberry jam with balsamic strawberries, melted cheddar, natural BF aioli, salad and relish all on a wholemeal bun.” . . . aioli??

Aioli is glorified mayonnaise. Not only do I loathe mayo, but to combine mayo with my adored PB&J . . .I’m scarred

But hey . . .I certainly applaud Gregg’s willingness to try new things



It’s funny . . . we must still be adjusting as we struggle to not only remember what day of the week it is, but also what day it is. . . how could we forget. . . cinco de mayo?!  It dawned on the team about mid-day and we set out on a mission to find a place that evening to celebrate.

In the UAE there are strict restrictions against the sale and consumption of alcohol so we had yet to participate in this popular collegiate pastime, but put a bunch of determined, bright, MBA students together and they will find a way.  It really is not all too difficult, while restaurants do not serve alcohol, most hotels have a license and we found Girders down the street.




The team enjoyed happy hour and then we headed down the beach walk in search of Mexican food (Dubai may have every version of every cuisine here, however, Mexican food is not very popular). . . RISE ended the evening at El Chico’s . . . Happy 5th everyone!


Day 2: First Day of Work

Our second day in Malaysia was all about getting settled into the Western Digital: Malaysia offices and learning more about the project and community. The day began with a scenic van ride to the office (read: lost driver who drove around in circles until Sam and his newly purchased sim card guided us in the right direction). Once at the office, we got to meet with our team leader in Malaysia, CK, and gain a better understanding of the area and all that gets done in the 8 Western Digital buildings on the premises.

Western Digital specializes in data storage and hard disc drives, an industry that is profitable and stable, but shifting with the evolution of data storage (ie – hard discs vs. ‘the cloud’). The discussion of this shift led to a great quote by a WD employee…

“We cannot be passionate about what we do, but about the skill set we have.”

I think this is a great quote to keep in mind as we journey out into the real world – it’s not about the exact job we’re doing, but about the skill set we have to do that job and evolve along the way.

After speaking with WD employees, we had the opportunity to go into the factory where hard disc drives are actually produced, as a percentage of Western Digital drives are built right in Malaysia. Here, our team had to put on full body suits to ensure that there we were not bringing ANY static or dust onto the factory floor. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to take any pictures at Western Digital, but imagine the six of us in hairnets, rubber gloves, a full anti-static one-piece body suit and shoes, and face masks – definitely a sight to see (or one you would want to forget)!

Picture something like this
Picture this

Inside the factory was amazing! We definitely gained a greater respect for the production of hard disc drives – the intricacies are truly unbelievable! Every robotic machine must be precise to the micro-millimeter, every worker must ensure total quality control, and every hard disc must be (and is) made with a great deal of care.

Overall, a great first day learning about the company – next up… speaking with suppliers and learning more about risk management within the supply chain.

The calm.

Day 3 – It was the third consecutive beautiful day here in London, partly cloudy (and partly sunny) with gusty winds, and a high of a modestly warm 64 degrees F.  As I saw all of the locals out walking the streets or relaxing in the grassy areas to enjoy the sun, I reflected back to yesterday’s lunch with Doug and how we began the afternoon out on the uncovered restaurant patio.  Everyone there kept gushing about how beautiful a day it was, while in my own mind I defaulted to the thought, It’s not anything extraordinary – moderate sunshine, slightly warm — typical spring weather.  Nothing “nice”, just… typical!  Sunshine is a rare gem in London, though, as we learned from Doug.  With today being not only a beautiful day, but also a bank holiday with many people off, the streets were bustling with activity!

The six of us were on a mission, and that was to explore London without going broke.  I’d say we actually did a great job!  Look rightTraveling took place mostly on foot, and we’re very thankful that the wonderful British are kind enough to remind us tourists which direction we need to look for oncoming traffic before crossing the street.  (Although it wasn’t enough to prevent a very close encounter between one of us and a car’s bumper… What can we say?  Old habits.)

We managed to find a great boat tour along the River Thames that took us from Tower Bridge over to Westminster, the area where you’ll find the Eye of London (the big ferris wheel) and Big Ben (that famous ol’ clock).OHIOIMG-20140505-WA0046IMG-20140505-WA0043

Wrapping the day up with dinner at a local café, we as a team reviewed our strategy with Interxion moving forward.  Yesterday’s conversation with Doug presented us with a few new challenges, quite different from before, but nothing that can’t be tackled by this phenomenal group of talented and creative people.  Our team’s energy is high, collaborative efforts are solid, and outlook is very positive.  We prepared for our meetings with the Directors of HR and Finance tomorrow, and then headed back to the hotel.  It is now just after midnight, and the team has headed off to bed as I finish up this post.  We feel good about this.  There’s a sense of calmness among the six of us, and I don’t think we’ll even have a storm of chaos to face.  But… I guess we’ll just have to see how things go tomorrow.

Hitting the Ground Running

Today was our first official day at the Volcano HQ site in Brussels. We were ready to get to work!

Entering Volcano HQ
Entering Volcano HQ

They had a special welcome for us inside.

OSU Welcome!


I was happy to be the official photographer, but the team insisted I be in at least one picture:


Everyone at Volcano was fantastic; they set us up with everything we needed, including a HUGE conference room for us to work in.

team room

We were very excited to get to work, and were warmly welcomed by all. Our client gave us an overview of the company as well as a tour, so we got to meet the very internationally-diverse (and super friendly!) Volcano Europe team – in addition to Brussels, we met people from Netherlands, France, Indonesia, Venezuela, Germany, Lebanon, Jordan and others!

After a hard day at work, we headed back to the apartment, only to face the Brussels afternoon traffic. Can you spot how many red lights are in the picture? Yes, they were as endless as they looked!


After parking the car and changing into more comfortable attire, we headed out for a walk to find someplace to eat and found this!



In case you missed the sign, here’s a close up:


There was no one there for us to try to see if Professor Dial’s divulgence of the MBA handshake of Crown, Cork and Seal would gain us entry into the club.

It was a great first day at Volcano and we had fun exploring in Brussels afterward. Now if only we could get over this jet lag…



Drive from Addis to Gondar

Screeeech! Thump.

I braced myself against the back seat of the van and waited to see what had happened. Our driver for the day pulled over to the right side of the road. A goat herder in a white turban carrying a walking stick approached us. To our left, the goat we had apparently just hit ran to the grass for safety. Kids started slowly collecting to our van like filaments to a magnet. Our driver and guide got out, while the guide’s beautiful young wife stayed with the rest of us. The seven of us looked at each other in shock and confusion. “Close the doors,” Ale said, as the crowd gathered. Javed and Niraj got out and stood at either side.

The goat herders, our guide and driver walked to the grassy area on the left, where the goat stood, its face bloody. They were talking in Amharic, arguing from the looks of their dramatic arm gestures. Our guide picked up the goat several times, perhaps weighing him, or indicating that he wasn’t badly injured. On our right, children from around ages 4-14 gathered. They had varying hues of dark skin and eyes, with closely cropped hair, a few shaved in geometric patterns. Big bright eyes, open and looking, mouths smiling when we smiled. By then, we had determined the temperature of the situation and had opened the door. To entertain the kids, Alejandra recited the few words in Amharic she had written down: “Hello,” “Nice to meet you,” “What is your name?”


On our left, the men were still arguing, lifting the goat.

Back on the right, Alejandra asked, “Should we count to ten and impress them?” So she did. One of the kids told us her name in perfect English. We looked at each other in awe. “Pencil?” another one asked. But we didn’t have any pencils available; everything was packed in our luggage and loaded in the back.

The driver came back to the van and got money out of the glove compartment. He brought it to the goat herders; later we found out he paid 500 Ethiopian birr, or the equivalent of $25. Our guide walked back to the van carrying the goat upside down by his legs. Some of us started clearing room for him, but others loudly refused. We had three more hours til Gondar, and barely enough space for the 10 of us and our luggage as is.

* * *

Banana stand in Addis
Banana stand in Addis

The day had started about 10 hours earlier, when we left Addis Ababa bright and early 6:30 Sunday morning. Plenty of people were walking to church wearing thin white shrouds, sheer fabric wrapped around their hair and bodies like a toga.

We were surprised to notice many runners up the steep hilled streets around Addis. Lots of men running, stretching, doing push-ups on the side of the street.

Banana, people at church, Rift Valley
Banana, people at church, Rift Valley

As we drove further from Addis, crowded city streets gave way to houses and shacks further apart. The soil was red. We passed a cement factory, horses, donkeys, people herding cattle, oxen and goats. After a few hours the elevation grew higher, the air grew colder and thinner as we approached the Rift Valley. We stopped for gas, some kids approached us and we gave them some marbles.

The Rift Valley was extremely winding and extremely beautiful, mountains full of clouds and trees. A baboon ran across the road, then another and another, and we saw about seven or eight in one small curve of the road, including a mom holding her tiny baby. Near the top, women and children were selling plates of fruit, and Alejandra bought two full plates from a woman with intricate tattoos (either a pattern or script writing) covering her neck. It cost 60 cents for all the bananas and limes we then ate.

Rift Valley
Rift Valley

It got warmer as we descended, and then cooler again once the elevation once again rose.

We stopped for lunch in the afternoon, during a rain storm. Out of the restaurant window we saw at least two wedding processions around the street’s roundabout, including several donkeys wearing woven blankets, songs pouring out of cars, bajajs (small three-wheeled rickshaws), guys dancing in the back of a pick-up truck and dump truck, and the wedding parties wearing flowing outfits. By the end of our weekend, we’d counted over 10 weddings (asseh in Amharic).

Niraj stays classy with bottled water
Niraj stays classy with bottled water

We bought some cake for the road. Some of us were carsick and took more medication. Further along the route we encountered the beautiful light of the setting sun, people of varying skin tones and clothing styles carrying wood down the side of the street, and eventually, the goat.

* * *

After the guide heeded his wife’s quick response to our unease with the goat’s accommodations, and piled the goat onto a bus that had just stopped, we continued in the deepening dusk to Gondar. The roads were very winding and trucks were using their high beams in the dark. Our driver was exceptional, however, at navigating the potholes, sharp turns, people and (almost all) animals with grace and precision. We arrived in Gondar just before 9pm, grateful to have made it to our destination, to no longer be crunched in the van, bouncing around with luggage, and thankfully no goat.

Day 3 – MES, India

Ashley and I are technically in our first 24 hours in Mumbai. We joined the rest of our team late last night. It appears to be the norm in Mumbai to swerve in and out of traffic narrowly missing other automobiles, bikes, and pedestrians while blasting horns. Quite the amazing experience! Following transport to our destination hotel, we were refreshed by the welcoming faces of our teammates who had already scoped out the area over the weekend and had various tips and tricks to help with our stay.

Thanks to Kingshuk we had some extra treats at breakfast and enjoyed sealed bottled water prior to starting our first day in the office. At the office we met the local WonderkidsIndia core and extended team members, toured the facilities, and presented our introductory findings to our client. We were also very thankful to have a welcome lunch with the President of the company in which we were able to further discuss our project scope and our general plans while visiting India.

Our team members already explored the city and made some very cool purchases. We are excited to do the same. And as final advice, remember to insist on taking your own bags. More on that story to come…

The attached picture is our group in the WonderkidsIndia 2

Bienvenue and Bonjour!!

Team Verte reporting from Lyon, France here. We are enjoying every minute of this wonderful experience but getting here was, at times, a bumpy experience. We endured over 24 hours of travel that included ‘excess poundage’ and narrowly evading exorbitant fees at the Columbus Airport (after sharing 8 pounds of breakfast bars amongst two team members to keep checked luggage weight down), one member almost not being allowed to board the flight, and another member popping ‘ludes on the flight and still being unable to sleep (and repeating ‘hang up the phone’ to other team members).


Once we got our cars, we soon encountered the extremely expensive consequences of taking a wrong turn on French highways, as they demand you pay when you get off and when you reenter the highway.


After getting settled in to our great hotel, we immediately raced to get the ‘best burgers in Lyon’ at Rem’s Pub, or Remy Danton’s, as we dubbed it.


Remy Danton indeed makes the greatest burgers this side of the Rhone.

Finally, we took a bus tour around Lyon on Sunday to experience the city. Photos of the highlights are below.









Mall Rats . . . Day 3

I’ve stolen this title from Gregg’s personal blog. . . as it is all too fitting for today’s events

In Dubai, the holy day is Friday so the RISE team begins our work week on Sunday . . . today.

The first week of our assignment includes a great deal of observation within Dubai, studying the current franchise trends, gaps between the offerings in the United States, general demographic information, etc. Basically, we need to get acclimated and fast as we have to present our findings first thing next week.

We began with a morning team meeting, a touch base to determine where we are in our research for the original assignment, our roles while in-country, and defining the project plan that Matt has developed for the team.  We still have a lot of work to do . .


We spent the second part of the day exploring the Mall of the Emirates and the largest mall in the world, the Dubai Mall.  The team’s first experience together on the metro . .


Lingering around food courts, pointing out our findings for further discussions certainty attracted attention. . .

Mall rats. . .

These malls have it all when it comes to food.  Both include multiple food courts, all appeared to be heavily populated with American concepts including the usual suspects (McDonald’s, KFC, Subway, Starbucks, etc.) and more surprising players (Garrett’s, Shake Shack, P.F. Chang’s, Texas Roadhouse).



Aside from food. . . Dubai malls have everything . . . literally

ice skating . .


an aquarium . . .


even a ski slope . . .



By 7pm the boys decided to head back and checked out the Burj Khalifa which is the tallest building in the world at 2,700 feet and features a water show that rivals the Bellagio in Vegas.


Gina and I put our Ops study to practice and hit up Zara . . .