Brussels global experience can be summarized in four simple words: “Work hard, play hard”. During the day we are immersed in interviews in the evenings we go out and check the amazing places Belgium capital has to offer; we walk the narrow and lively streets, check famous tourist spots and enjoy dinner in charming restaurants tasting the local cuisine.
As soon as we saw the first glimpse of this place, we were mesmerized with the grandness of this place, truly grand in real sense. The picture cannot really depict the actual beauty and feeling of the place. The area about 400-500ft radius was surrounded all across by the grand architecture which was nothing but perfect. The top layers were plated with gold and on one of the buildings there was a statue a golden horse. The vast architecture was built with so much dedication and perfection which could be felt even today. Just looking at the sight was humbling, I wonder how satisfying this would have been for the person who built it.
The spirit of the place was not only in the architecture but also in the lovely ambiance. In midst of the grand views there were delicious foods from different countries and lovely people who were enjoying the great sights, food and wine with their loved ones. People looked so happy and relaxed and were really enjoying the overall experience. One thing we’ve been observing about the people here, no one seems to be in hurry, no one wants quick service, people really cherish the food, the surroundings and the moments, and dinner is never an hour, its three hours 🙂 .
Overall, the evening at the Grand Place was a treat after a long day at work, and a definitely must see place while in Brussels.
Day 5 – Text from Kyle at 7:44 am: Earnings call isn’t until 1:30pm London time FYI. No need to get to the office before 9.
I had already been up since 7 am and was planning to get to the Interxion offices with the team a half hour early for the Q1 2014 earnings call at 8:30. I smiled down at Kyle’s message as I realized that we had all still been set on Eastern Standard Time, and that the call was actually 5 hours later than we thought. Deciding to take full advantage of the extra time that was magically granted to us (even if by error), I made my way down to the breakfast hall of our hotel.
The room was already full with many guests, the center tables lined with your typical continental breakfast foods… Cereal flakes, mini waffles and jam (no syrup), shot glass sized yogurts, sliced bread, Nutella, cucumbers, cheeses, boiled eggs, and an assortment of processed deli meats. Did I mention that we’re staying in a German Catholic Mission bed & breakfast house? Ja, sehr gut! Complimentary (German) breakfast has indeed been a wonderful perk for us as visitors in one of the most expensive cities in Europe!
Now… back at the Interxion office for Round 2. Research. Trip #1 to the free breakroom coffee machine. Databases. Spreadsheets. Trip #2 to the free breakroom coffee machine. Industry and competitor analysis. Angry at how similar this all is to the strategy class we thought was already far behind us. Realizing now how meaningful that strategy class is for us now in practice.
::BREAK FOR LUNCH::
Readings. Earnings call. Internal meeting. Skype with Mr. Kurt Roush. Continued internal meeting. 45 minutes over scheduled meeting time. Seriously, we’re still in this meeting? Finishing up meeting with preparations for more meetings tomorrow (with Directors of Sales and Operations). Coffee #3. Continued research. 5:30 pm. Let’s go home.
Highlight of the day:
We’re still feeling great about this project, just mostly overwhelmed with the amount of data and possibilities right now. But we are fiercely fearless (rawr) and, the best part of it all, there’s plenty of free coffee!
Sunday, while riding the bus in Lyon, I saw a sign and thought…yes…that’s exactly right.
It says, “In the country of happiness.”
France, for me, is like coming home. It’s like seeing an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time but didn’t know you were missing. And a million other analogies like…your favorite shoes, or your old favorite song, or like when you smell something that takes you back to childhood…like honeysuckles in spring.
Walking around France is also like walking through my memories real time. Kind of terminator style. (the boys on my group just informed me that that reference doesn’t make sense.) Basically, if you imagine a pair of glasses where one lens looks back and one lens looks forward and you’re looking at both at the same time. I love that I’m making new memories in parallel with my old memories…sort of like re-memories.
One of my favorite re-memories are the pastries. Oh la! The pastries. I’ve had to exert some level of self control…only two a day.
My health coach is cursing me right now! But I’ve also been able to stick to my exercise goals because Lyon is an amazing place to run. There are two rivers that go right through the heart of the city with a great running trail the entire length of both. Can you see the stairs descending the side of the river?
It’s also just a great city to explore on foot and get your fit bit steps in! I finally passed my friend Marshall on the Fit-Bit…so now I feel really good about things! That’s straight up 7.5 miles in one day! Just walking around!
And when you’re done eating and walking around, France is just the kind of place where you sit in a park and drink hot chocolate in a tiny glass and reflect on the meaning of life. After all it is the country of happiness.
Here’s a fun video of the team exploring the city!
From our first few days in Ethiopia, we knew we were out of our element. Nothing seemed normal and our expectations were nothing close to what we were experiencing, if only for the fact that we had no idea what to expect. These expectations continued to evolve as we started our first real work day of the project. After having a brief meeting with one of the key stakeholders of our project, we took the walk to the University of Gondar’s Veterinary Medical Campus to meet with some of our partners.
After a brief introduction session, we dove head first into the nitty-gritty of our project, and were impressed by the passion and knowledge that our hosts maintained.
During the meeting, we partook in a delicious traditional Ethiopian coffee served out of a ceramic craft,
and snacked on some sort of toasted barley snack (called cookies and kolu) that was ridiculously addicting. One thing we as business students struggle with is ambiguity. We like structure, with specific meeting times, tight agendas, and set objectives. Ethiopia is really, really putting our team to the test and we have had to put our faith in the idea that everything will work out. Also, it’s Ethiopia. Everything is flexible.
Today we scaled back our anxiousness and began to accept and even embrace the unknown. A great example of this was with an outing with our marketing team. After meeting back with our hosts after lunch, we walked over to the main U of Gondar campus to start knocking on doors until we found a Marketing and Cultural Anthropologist professor to talk with. This happened with no advanced email, no phone calls, nothing. Unfortunately, we found that all of them were out of the office due to an emergency meeting to try to prevent protests and the subsequent government crackdowns that are happening in other regions of Ethiopia from happening in Gondar.
So what do we do next? Our gracious hosts asks, “Who do you want to see now?” As we flip through our list of people, throwing out the last hour and a half’s worth of prep work he had done for the meetings we were supposed to have, we suggest talking to someone who works for the national telecommunications company. We get the simple answer, “no problem.” So our host calls our driver and twenty minutes later (five minutes before closing) are walking up to the office of the district manager of Ethio Telecom (imagine the guy in charge of Verizon for all of Columbus). Our host introduces us and we talk for the next thirty minutes. This was shocking and amazing from American standards because not only did he take a meeting with us without an appointment, he stayed after the workday without thinking twice about it. We began to feel more at ease as since we only have three more business days in Gondar before going back to Addis Ababa, and having no meetings “scheduled” for the next three days will not create a barrier for us.
Something that we are also not used to is being in such a hospitality based culture. Today was Niraj’s birthday (Happy Birthday Niraj!) and our team mostly forgot about him. His wonderful fiancée Priyal did not though and sent him with lovely messages and a box of chocolate buckeye’s, giving him a little taste of home. So as we were about to sit down for dinner, Danny and Danielle were talking about how they had stopped for pastries with one of our hosts, and Niraj pointed out, “What, didn’t bring me back any cake for my birthday?” So after Danny and Danielle pulled their head out of the sand, they asked the front desk if they could do something special for him, either like a cookie or a piece of cake. At the end of dinner, they roll in blasting an Ethiopian happy birthday song with this! In the 45 minutes since we had mentioned this to the front desk, they had run out to a store and got him an amazing birthday cake with candles, creating a magical Ethiopian Birthday for Niraj.
This goes to show the love and care of the Ethiopian people, and they have continued to share with us their warmth and acceptance as guests in their country.
As our circadian rhythms and livers continue to adjust to Germany, it’s probably about time to introduce our loyal readers to our project. Over the next three weeks, we’re meeting with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and tier-1 suppliers to help DHL Supply Chain’s Global Automotive Sector determine the buying behaviors of both prospective and current customers. Since we were assigned this project back in late February, we’ve met with DHL clients stateside to understand the industry and get a feel for DHL’s many, many different services within the automotive supply chain. And now that we’re on DHL’s home turf of Germany, we’re traveling all over the country to develop findings and a solution that can not only be applied to Europe, but can also be extended to DHL’s global market.
On Monday, we met with one of DHL’s freight forwarding customers, a tier-1 safety equipment manufacturer located in our home base of Koblenz. Our main point of contact, Helge, gave us a thorough background of their business and how the approach logistics procurement. Tuesday’s agenda took us to Cologne, where we met with Markus of DHL’s Lead Logistics Provider team, which manages the entire supply chain for Ford Europe. DHL’s team for this project works just feet away from where Ford produces all of its Fiesta cars for the European market. While on-site, we got a personalized tour of the entire production complex, from where the body frame is created to where the finished car is rolled off the line for final quality testing. For security reasons, we weren’t able to take pictures throughout the tour, so you’ll have to take our word for it about how insanely awesome, complex, and impressive the entire process is when orchestrated in real-time. However, we did get a picture of us in our snazzy vests.
After spending the day with Markus and his team, we found our way over to the Koln Dom (the Cologne Cathedral), Germany’s #1 tourist destination. While walking through a tunnel (which smelled like the exact opposite of what cologne should smell like) on the way over, I Wikipedia’ed as much as I could about the church and impressed my teammates with off-the-cuff knowledge about its prolific history (Don’t tell them I did this… I want them to think I’m smart). For instance, did you know that the Cologne Cathedral was the world’s tallest building from 1880-1884? Boom. You’ve been knowledge’d.
For dinner, we headed over to Fruh to try out one of Cologne’s famous dishes. “Heaven & Hell”, as it is loosely translated, is an interesting combo of blood pudding served over apples and mashed potatoes. Tim seemed to be halfheartedly enjoying the experience, until his first burp which, by the looks of it, was a negative life-altering experience. Also, a quick note on Cologne’s beer policy: if you order a beer at a restaurant, they’ll keep bringing you new ones until you politely refuse. Now that’s what I call customer service.
Despite the mixed reviews about blood pudding, Cologne’s cuisine TOTALLY redeemed itself with its nougat pretzels, a combo of white and dark chocolate, nougat, and almonds resulting in a diabetic shock and cavity inducing pastry of sheer deliciousness. Needless to say, we slept like kings.
The Mumbai airport had a recent upgrade with its beautiful columns and new artwork. When Amanda and I arrived we were able to see this without many travelers around, it was exquisite.
We were anxious to find our driver in the chaos outside of the airport where a barricade was set up between travelers and drivers. After being on a 15 hour flight we both wanted to crash so when we finally found our driver we felt relieved.
Our driver quickly took my bag and we began walking to the car when someone else grabbed my second bag and I, being a tired, non-suspecting American, went along with it assuming this second person was with the driver. Little did I know after he loaded my luggage he wanted money immediately. Even though I had Indian rupees I had no idea where they were in my luggage and I only had $30, one twenty dollar bill and two five dollar bills. The man kept saying “twenty” “twenty” so again being the un-knowing, tired American gave him the $20 (what was I thinking??).
He then proceeded to say, “friend money” “friend money.” A friend of his had come to help load the luggage and apparently I was to give him money as well. I knew that I shouldn’t but at this point I was tired and wanted to get to the hotel as fast as possible without getting into any type of altercation so what did I do… gave him my two $5 bills… I was officially broke in India, that is until later that night when after some digging I found my rupees… I was saved with a good lesson learned.
Tucked away on the banks of Jialing River is a tiny port village known as Ciqikou – a gateway to eastern trade for over 1000 years. This traditional city, noted for its architecture and narrow roads, was once a prominent stop along the silk road that was famous for its porcelain pottery production. However, today it mainly exists to sell the hundreds of daily tourist traditional artwork, handpicked berries from the nearby mountains, and soft serve ice cream.
The narrow streets of Ciqikou are lined with small shops and tea houses and decorated with red lanterns.
While many people come from around the world to enjoy Ciqikou’s open air market, Ciqikou is also home to two historical landmarks, the Bao Lun Buddihist Temple and The Compound of Zhong’s.
The Compound of Zhong’s
At the North end of Ciqikou sits “The Compound of Zhong’s” – the home of a wealthy Chinese eunuch build around the turn of the 20th century. The compound features eight rooms that encircle a large courtyard. Here visitors can take in the home’s period furniture, and pictures of life in and around Ciqikou in the early 1900s.
An tourist (identity unknown) takes a “selfie” in the 19th century mirror at The Compound of Zhong.
This picture shows a scene of life in Ciqikou 100 years ago. The caption reads: “A fortune Teller by hands who is skilled to make you believe what he said.”
A view of the steps leading up to one of Po Lun’s Towers.
Located on the Bai Ya Mountain at the center of Ciqikou is Po Lun Buddhist Temple. For a small fee donation, visitors can see the majestic 600 year old temple built during the Ming Dynasty. Here our team observed and participated in traditional Buddhist ceremonies, and wrote on prayer ribbons that adorn the outside the temple. In addition to intricately crafted buildings there were sculptures of religious and natural figures and view of river and the surrounding city that can not be enjoyed from any other spot in Ciqikou.
A panoramic view of the Jialing River from the top of Po Lun
While we were able to get a taste of traditional Chinese culture our trip to Ciqikou wasn’t complete until we had the opportunity to meet and interact with local people. On the way to the train we had such an interaction, when we began talking to a Xinge, a local Chongqing girl, who was standing in front of our group in the line for ornately made cotton candy. She and her friends spoke some English and were eager to show us their skills. We spoke in a mix of English and Mandarin making each other laugh and sharing our food before making plans to meet later that evening at a bar near the city’s center.
Xinge, a Chongqing local, with a flower made of cotton candy.
Look for more blog posts tomorrow including a follow up on our night with Xinge, our encounters with other girls of Chongqing Chongqing Locals, and a our the first in our series on Chongqing wildlife.
Using Prof. Matta’s Marketing 2 approach, let me give you some ‘snippets’ from our weekend adventures:
Tada! Kate Wagoner all excited to try out a fish eyeball!
Our language expert (and savior) Jeff Skiles uses his ‘expertise’ in Mandarin to order some food at a local Chinese restaurant, while Jeff Theado gives the clueless look. As I mentioned in my previous post, around 4-5 waiters gathered around our table, trying their best to overcome the language barrier and helping us decide the order.
After all the confusion around what to order, finally the food arrives – Chongqing style spicy hotpot. Our next confusion – trying to figure out what exactly we ordered! And if that alone wasn’t enough – trying to figure out how to eat all this with…err…chopsticks.
And lastly, on the snippets: we are doing much better now on the language front. Jeff Prescott has successfully learnt a whopping 7 words in Mandarin mostly through observation (and that is a very commendable feat), and also by bombarding the oh-so-patient Jeff Skiles with tons of questions. Some of these words are ‘Exit’, ‘Mountain’, ‘Chongqing’, and more :D. I have learnt ‘Is this vegetarian?’ and ‘How much does this cost :P?’ apart from the Chinese Numbers 101 that Jeff Skiles taught the entire team.
Each member of our team has also started bringing various expertise to the team.
Jeff Theado has become our direction expert in the city (and a proud owner of an authentic Chinese sword!), Jeff Prescott is our social expert (finding surprising routes through emergency exits all the way to rooftops), Kate Wagoner and Jeff Skiles are the language experts (even if we split into subgroups, we ensure there’s one language expert per team), I am the blogging and photography expert (finding every possible opportunity to sneak out, capture some cool shots, come back to the hotel and write ridiculous posts such as this one), and Praveen Kumar brings forth his 15 years of work experience expertise to the team!
Coming up next: Encounters with ‘Asian women’, a trip to the ancient town of Ciqikou, and one of the most memorable experiences of my stay here in China: the visit to China’s biggest Cloud Computing Industrial Park.
“Bond, James Bond”………sounds like we are enjoying a Bond movie in London with MI6 in its premise. Let me tell you in complete honesty, it is not so. It is the feeling we got in the office of the client, Interxion, at the first day of our office, where everybody was looking at us with high expectations of getting them out of the pickle. First day at the client site and we were consultants from the word “go”. After preliminary niceties, we started with our question filled meetings including the ones with the HR Director and the Finance Director. Tons of data was dumped onto us. It was an enduring first half followed by a chilled second half.
We were in the fishbowl today, literally. The office of Interxion is called a fishbowl because of its shape. Unfortunately, we not allowed to take pictures within the fishbowl. I believe the Londoners have a very different understanding of the dress code “business casual”. In the morning today, when we reached our destination, we found ourselves to be overdressed with partially formal clothes whereas everybody else was in jeans, had funky hairstyles and talked in a cool British accent. It was interesting to note that professionals in London hold such key and high positions at such a younger age. It might be something that is ushering in the era of corporate coolness “mate” (with a British accent). We noticed the beautiful London skyline while walking back to our hotel.
It is a running joke here that standing on The Heron Towers (the cuboid building), one can pour martini over The Gherkin (the missile shaped building).
The best part of the day was the evening when John, Kyle and I hit the bars for the fourth consecutive night in a row (the bars here are too good to pass by, if you understand what I mean ;)). Reflecting back on the day, I feel it was a rewarding and a fulfilling experience. Today was a glimpse of the life of a consultant we aspire to be and the GAP support we require to have. I am relishing every moment of this experience. I feel the craziness of travelling, working and exploring are a sign of more good times to come ahead in next 18 days.
Our team continued our learnings at Western Digital with a visit from one of their main suppliers. Traveling from Thailand and Japan to speak with us, we had the opportunity to learn how a WD supplier utilizes risk management practices effectively. It was extremely helpful for our project, as the company came prepared with close to 70 powerpoint slides all related to our project and answering questions that Dan had sent them earlier in the week. Very impressive!
When the company’s presentation was over, we shared a box of OSU Buckeyes with them and they were excited to give them a try (note the man in the middle holding the box of buckeyes front and center in the picture below)! O-H-I-O!
After heading back to the hotel and jumping in the pool for a bit to cool off, our team then ventured to Sunway Pyramid – one of the 66 malls found throughout Kuala Lumpur! This mall had pretty much everything – 30 restaurants, a plethora of American fast food, hundreds of stores, a bowling alley, ice skating rink, movie theater, archery area, laser tag adventure, and more! We’ll definitely be going back to try a variety of Malaysian foods and test our (shopping and sports) skills.
Next up – traveling a couple hours to meet with another Western Digital supplier and see the factory where some hard disc drive components are made. Stay tuned!