First day in action

Today is the 3rd day of our stay in China. We were told that we would need to be at the client’s site a bit later (at 10 am) than normal time. Thus, we set off at around 9 am and arrived there at around 9:30 am, showing our MBA enthusiasm to our client. The first day passed really quickly. We had a good conversation within the team to start our 3-week program as consultants.

Team in action; the picture is purposely blurred to protect the identity of the team members!
Team in action; the picture is purposely blurred to protect the identity of the team members!

For the first day our client invited us for dinner. This was an excellent opportunity for us to taste authentic Chinese food (of course apart from pork dumplings sold by street vendors which Brad and Ryan, in spite of numerous warnings, enthusiastically explored in the last couple of days!).

We were invited to Tang Dynasty Restaurant, A luxury (and of course expensive) restaurant in a plaza called Thumb Plaza! The plaza has taken its name from a statue located at the entrance; a giant human-like object with its thumbs pointing upwards (shown in the below picture). The plaza also houses several western/international cafes, bars and restaurants including Papa John Pizza, the Irishman Pub with live music, Lapis Thai, Blue Marlin etc.

Thumb Plaza in Shanghai
Thumb Plaza in Shanghai

Although the restaurant is located on the second floor, you need to ask to be seated at the entrance of the block on the ground floor before taking the elevator to the second floor.

The entrance to the Tang Dynasty Restaurant
The entrance to the Tang Dynasty Restaurant

The food was exquisite.  A variety of dishes were placed on a large rotating glass top to assist the guests share and enjoy the food.

A part view of dishes
A part view of dishes

So overall, it was an exciting kick off day for our project in Shanghai. Tune in for further exciting stories….

Definitively English

Day 6 –  Pants.  You know, the things we put on nearly every day.  The things that go over a person’s legs and are fastened at/above the hips or sagging below the bum, however you fancy wearing them.  You might even choose to put on sweatpants, you know, just to lounge around in.  …Nerp.  In the UK, you’re more likely to convey the idea by using the word “trousers”.  If you say “pants” around here, you’re actually referring to underwear.  And “sweatpants”… um, well, it’s probably one of the most revolting words you could say to a Brit.

A few other Britishisms I’ve picked up:

“Lift” = Elevator

“Notes” = Bills (as in dollars)

“Cheers!” = Thanks / Goodbye

“S’alright.” / “No worries.” = A response to “Thank you”

“Speck” = A kind of smoked ham (Not sure if it exists in the U.S… I’ve certainly never seen it before.)

“Rocket” = Arugula  (When I asked the sandwich artist what “rocket” was, she picked up a piece and waved it in the air as if saying, “Ehm, HELLO. This stuff.”)

Walkers’ Definitively Prawn Cocktail crisps = Lays Shrimp Cocktail chips (if there ever were such a thing)

Mmmmmmmmmmm heaven in a pink bag.
Mmmmmmmmmmm DEFINITIVELY heaven in a pink bag.
















A little piece of America in a can. Cans










Back at the Interxion offices, we met with the Directors of Sales and Operations, both of whom are extremely knowledgeable and quite friendly (like just about everyone we have met so far!).  Today was another action-packed day for us, but the most eye-opening part of it was the tour through one of Interxion’s state-of-the-art data center facilities.  It was great to be able to physically see the service solutions that data center companies like Interxion provide, because up until this point, most of us were only able to haphazardly piece information together to construct our own visual understanding of how this business operates.  The way network connectivity works is quite complex, and even more so is the data center’s role in it.  Being able to see how it all functions helped our team leap over a big consulting hurdle.  Understanding the problem is a huge, essential first step, and it also consumes the most amount of our time.  Where we go from there is the challenge that follows (i.e. now what?), and it’s what we’ll continue to work on throughout the next week.  This is a rough industry as far as we can tell, and as is expected with just about any technology, it is also ever evolving and therefore, ever more difficult to strategize.

We ended today with a much clearer picture of the steps we need to take tomorrow to plow forward through this challenge.  We have an insanely busy day ahead of us!  And this weekend we’re pleased to be entertaining the Scott’s team from Lyon, France as they visit London for the weekend!  Jolly times ahead!

Shanghai Skyline

New York City. Hong Kong. London. Sydney. Shanghai. What do all these cities have in common? They all have iconic skylines. However, you wouldn’t have found Shanghai on this list as recently as 20 years ago. This is illustrated by the photo below, which captures Shanghai’s skyline (or lack thereof) in 1990.

1990 Skyline

The above photo is breathtaking when compared to what occupies the identical space today (see below):

2010 Skyline

However, the Chinese are not the type to rest on their laurels. In fact, a favorite Chinese saying is “jia you”, which, roughly, translates to “add gas”. At present, “gas” is being added to the Shanghai skyline in the form of the yet-to-be-completed Shanghai Tower. The Shanghai Tower, at 632 meters (2,073 feet) high will be China’s tallest building and the world’s second tallest skyscraper. A rendering of the Shanghai Tower, which is projected to be completed by the end of 2014, can be found directly below.

Shanghai Tower

Leuven the Beercapital

capital bier

Yesterday a Belgian friend took us to a small and charming city full of history, narrow streets and students on a bikes. We soon understood why biking and walking was more popular than driving: Leuven is known as the Beercapital.

Sober activities in Leuven, the Beercapital.
Sober activities in Leuven, the Beercapital.


We had an amazing dinner at a chic restaurant in the main square.

Waiting for the food. Europe is still in the midst of a Fries war/dispute: both Belgium and France claim the invention of the (French) Fries, also known as Pommes Frites.
Waiting for the food. Europe is still in the midst of a Fries war: both Belgium and France claim the invention of the (French) Fries, also known as Pommes Frites.


The main square.
The main square.

Lyon, My Perspective

This has been a very interesting adventure thus far.  Our flights were long and exhausting, our hotels and beds are tiny and the wonderful people of Europe do not understand the concept of personal space.  On the plus side, everyone seemed very pleasant and helpful.  They are very patient with our lack of French skills and try very hard to speak in English.  Thank god for Shai, our fluent French speaker and personal translator for the group.  Or as the boys began to call her, Mamma Shai!

Our 1st weekend was very productive.  Sat we spent walking and discovering our little own around our hotel.  Sunday was a fun day.  We took a 8 hour Lyon bus tour and got to discover the rich history of the city and experience the beautiful crisp May weather.



Over the next few posts, you will get to learn more about us and our unique personalities. As we go about this adventure, our unique quirkiness will shine through and we will bond over drinks, laughs and long walks.  Best part, we started a directory of quotes.



Best part of Lyon is that my childhood bestie lives in town and I got to have a fabulous Lyonnais dinner with her and I get to spend this weekend out in the country with her family.


My learning experience thus far…

I must see The Wolf of Wall Street movie… Andy and Chris heavily quote it!

Aqua Man has a worthless power but still beats Ant Man, as explained to us by Saucy Daddy Pop

Pastries, bread and carbs are the main food group in France…. I am in GLUTEN heaven


Sherehan Ross

Faith healers and Health Extension Workers

Wednesday, 5:30pm: Rain pelted the windows as I sat in the back of the van with seven men, interviewing a young woman about administering health information in the Gondar region.

We were pulled over on the side of the road on the outskirts of Gondar city, asking the woman about her role as a Health Extension Worker. This eight-year-old program trains and employs women to provide basic health education, information and supplies to each kebele (small municipality) throughout Ethiopia. The HEW program responds to the limited formal health care in the country, with very few doctors and nurses to meet the population’s needs.

We were meeting with the woman, whose name translates to “Love,” to learn more about the role of HEW and if/how they could be helpful to the rabies plan.

We (Danny, Javed, Niraj and myself, plus our three guides/translators from the University of Gondar, and our driver Amhara) were sitting in the van because of the rain outside, and because the HEW’s post was far away.

Surprisingly, this wasn’t our first van interview of the day. We started the afternoon by visiting the health station near Gondar city. The Ethiopian health system has a set structure operating from the kebele to the regional level. The HEW operate from a local kebele post and visit families door-to-door. Above them is a health station, with nurses. Above that is a health center. And the highest level of care is provided at the hospital level, but only two main hospitals (in Addis and Gondar) can provide a wide range of health services.

health infrastructure
health infrastructure

At the health station we could meet with a HEW coordinator. Our van idled for a few minutes in front of the short cement building while the team members discussed with our hosts what we wanted to ask. A young woman approached our van to ask what we wanted. Our hosts spoke with her in Amharic, and then the young woman left and shortly returned carrying an umbrella over the head of another woman, wearing a white coat. Sister Abanesh entered the van, sat in front and answered some of our questions about Ethiopia’s 17 health priorities which the HEW workers focus on. She was the coordinator and managed six HEWs. But we didn’t get to talk to her long, since an angry man also wearing a white coat soon approached our vehicle. He was the director of this health center and did not appreciate that we were holding an informal meeting in the van. We needed to speak with him formally.

So we got out and walked to his office in the health station compound. On the walk we saw some cool posters promoting different positive health behaviors, which the marketing team (me and Danny) were very interested in for our part of the project.

Poster depicting meningitis vaccination
Poster depicting meningitis vaccination

We filed into the director’s office, sitting in chairs around his desk. He spoke with our three university hosts in Amharic for several minutes first. We don’t know exactly what they said, but it seemed to be an argument about why we didn’t ask him to visit in advance, why we didn’t speak with him directly and acknowledge his role as director and leader of the health station. The argument grew a bit heated, one of our hosts took out his ID to show his position at the university, and eventually we were told that we would be leaving. We all filed out of the office, but our hosts and the director continued talking outside. The GAP team walked a little ways down the hallway platform. After several more minutes, our hosts apparently made an agreement with the director, because we were told we could continue our interview. We all filed back into the office. The director answered our questions about the training and reporting processes for HEW, and Sister Abanesh gave us some pamphlets that they use for family health education. One important thing we have learned is that, while there is an overall 40% literacy rate in Ethiopia, almost all households have at least one child who can read, and so the child will read information for the whole family, leading to an almost 100% literacy rate at the household level. Then they showed us the storage area where they keep the vaccines cold.  Javed, Akilew, Niraj, Director, Sister Abanesh, Danielle, Danny We left with smiles, thank yous and handshakes all around, then drove to our second van meeting of the day – this one less confrontational, thankfully.

It is worth noting that the health station is located in a Jewish area just outside Gondar. We saw a house with a wooden Jewish star outside painted blue and white.

Our first meeting of the day had been no less surprising. We met with a group of faith healers who were having their association meeting at 9am. We all gathered behind their shack in downtown Gondar, which had posters for remedies like aloe vera curing HIV.

Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera

We had heard that a lot of people in Ethiopia use traditional or faith healing (bahwali hakeem in Amharic) instead of or in addition to modern medicine, especially the rural population. Since 90% of Ethiopians live in rural areas, we really wanted to understand our “competition,” if you will. Thankfully, our university guides Akilew and Debasu had contacts with them and were able to set up a meeting.

Consistent with what we had learned about Ethiopian culture, the association was quite hierarchical, and though we directed our questions to the group of about seven men and one woman faith healers, for the most part only the chairman responded. We asked about their motivation for becoming faith healers (for some it was a change from their strict religious backgrounds, for others it was passed down in their family), and if they had or would ever collaborate with doctors or other medical scientists in their treatment. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that they are open to collaborations, especially with treating dogs who have rabies, since they admit to difficulty treating animals.

We then visited a vaccine storage facility, a health clinic, and a vet clinic (with a very sad-looking chicken outside). The veterinarian told us they had administered 500 rabies vaccines since March, and showed us their cold storage (rabies vaccines have to be kept cold – one of the challenges in warm climates like those in Africa) and even a sample vaccine, which came from India.

Katie lifts a rustic barbell outside the health clinic
Katie lifts a rustic barbell outside the health clinic

After our morning meetings, our host Tameru suggested we go to Hotel Taye for traditional Ethiopian coffee. In the second floor lounge area a woman was roasting coffee beans and cooking ground coffee in a traditional pot over hot coals. Rose petals were strewn in front of her cooking area.

coffee ceremony
coffee ceremony

It was a very long, insightful and rich work day which lasted about 12 hours, and I retired early to be well-rested for what will surely be another full, surprising and enriching day.

So Travis brought this toy . . . Day 6

and by toy . . . I mean this really amazing quadricopter

If you are like me . . . I had no idea what this was, a hybrid toy helicopter and video camera?. . . but infinitely cooler

controlled through GPS . . . it can fly extremely high (of course the team tested for validity), it has a homing device, it records video . . .I mean . . .

photo 4

and i have trouble figuring out the remote for the tv. . .

photo 3


Anyways . . Gina and I decided to take a walk around the Marina and grabbed dinner. . we were gone for about 3 hours, very nice relaxing dinner

Of course, while we were gone . . . boys will be boys. . .



They headed down the beach at night and tested out the ‘copter’

Not only did they get a nice video of the Dubai Marina Area, they turned the ‘toy’ into a fighter pilot . . . sorry Gregg

Grad Students Use Their Brains . . . Day 5

It’s another hot day in Dubai . . .and the construction continues


This building is located across the street and due the rapid progression in three short days I’ve decided to start documenting, will it be done before we leave??

Not likely, but it is truly incredible the amount of construction going on in this gigantic city and how quickly it is completed.  The city that grew overnight . . .


We woke up to a very surprising email this morning. . .

Ghassan is the CEO of RISE Trading and our sole communication within the company.  He has been traveling in the US and was not scheduled to be back until the 12th but an important meeting brought him to the UAE last night . . .and he wanted to meet for lunch today to discuss our progress. . .

We spent the morning drafting our discussion points, highlighting three key areas of focus and remaining areas where we felt we needed further clarification.


We were supposed to meet for lunch at 1pm, Ghassan called to inform us the Sheikh requested to see him and he would have to delay our meeting.  The Sheikh has been extremely hands-on in Dubai, driving the development of this cosmopolitan city and has a focus to provide the best customer experience from touch down to take off in this city.


So the team hung tight and had lunch . . . another exciting day in the Dubai food world.

Gina and I stuck with appetizers and salads. . along with the rest of the team we enjoyed the traditional lebanese cuisine.  Today. . .Travis was our brave soul . .

Travis also ordered a salad.  . .

a salad of lamb brains


And yes it looked just like you are probably imagining right now.



Gregg took a try. . . and followed with “I bet Kate will try it” . . come on

How do I describe it. . . chewy

I make a note for our assignment: ‘I don’t think this concept would franchise well in the US’



After lunch Gina and I ordered coffee. . . my first experience with Turkish coffee . . . AMAZING!  Our coffee has nothing on Turkish or Arabian coffee. . . I am officially hooked.


Ghassan joined us shortly after lunch.  Ghassan is actually a graduate of The Ohio State University and worked with Gina back in Columbus.  Today’s reunion marks more than 20 years since they last saw each other.  Technology is truly amazing . . .


We split up to run a few errands after lunch and then meet back at the apt.  Somehow our half ended up back here first without a key . . . whomp whomp.  In the evening it is quite nice out in our courtyard so we just hung out and waited for the others.

It’s ironic that coming over here, after working with the team for 7 weeks, I felt that I knew very little about my new colleagues.  But within a few short days of living in-country we are really getting to know each other, sharing our personal experiences and our life stories.  We bring together a very wide range of circumstances and it is really helping me to better understand them and facilitating a better team.  This really is our very own Real World Dubai . . stay tuned

Getting Comfortable in Koblenz

Hallo (that means Hello) from our German home! After only a few days in Koblenz, we are starting to feel comfortable with not speaking the language, driving (and stalling) on the Autobahn, and interviewing VP-level (and above) executives in the automobile industry.

To compensate for the delicate pastries, heavy bratwursts, and free flowing beers, I’ve gone on a couple of runs along the rivers. Koblenz is located on the confluence of two rivers: the Rhine and the Moselle, in the heart of wine country. Newsflash: running with beautiful scenery makes the experience much more pleasant.

Running with a view

Today was our first long drive day, which meant plenty of team bonding on the Autobahn.  Devin and Tim would yell “Ausfahrt” (that means exit) every time we passed a highway exit. Meanwhile, I would daydream about living in one of the many castles that lined the German hills. Neither of these activities should be considered unusual, if you know us.

Ausfahrt, ya!

Back to business. Today we toured DHL’s warehouse located around the corner from Audi’s main manufacturing plant. Now, this is not your textbook (MBA 6231 Operations I) warehouse. DHL does sub assembly for Audi, which basically means that they receive lots of tiny parts from suppliers, then DHL assembles into a larger piece and sends to Audi so they can seamlessly pop it onto the vehicle on the assembly line. I never would’ve thought that a logistics company would do pretty complicated manufacturing, so I learned something new today! Plus, we get to wear sweet safety gear, so I make sure to document every time that happens.

We look good in neon green, no?


The boys went off to Karaoke Night at our neighborhood Irish Pub, where they made friends with locals and also came across some University of Michigan undergrads. Don’t worry,  only playful rivalry ensued. Our Buckeyes decided not to get on stage this time around, but stay tuned till next week, where maybe our comfort level will be ready to belt out some Backstreet Boys. Any song requests?

Culinary experiences part 1

In India people are divided into vegetarians and non-vegetarians, and being in the last category kinda…. Sucks! Not only the restaurants are vegetarian but people would not eat vegetarian food in a restaurant that cooks meat. You never know, a sausage might have exploded in the kitchen at one point in time.

Our task of finding food is even harder with Amanda’s 1001 allergies.

Looking for meat we found this nice restaurant where a pre-monsoon torrential rain caught us and eventually left us in the dark, dining under iPhone flashlight. Internet worked though!

I was so excited at the thought of having an Indian hamburger (vada pav) only to discover that it’s …. vegetarian.

the next treat was a typical sweet (peda). Good by vegetarian or non-vegetarian standards.

Last but not least, worth mentioning, the awesome Kingfisher beer and a weird non-alcoholic blue sparkly drink.

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