Go Now: Three Reasons I Chose to Go To Israel as a Working Professional MBA

Global Business Expedition participant Allen Jones gives his reasons for visiting Israel during his time as a Working Professional MBA at Fisher College of Business.

Admittedly, I was a little apprehensive about traveling to Israel.  I was considerably older than most of my WPMBA classmates.  I have a wife and three children who, at the time, were 13, 12, and 10, and I have a full-time law practice.  And, of course, the State Department had issued travel warnings to U.S. citizens for portions of Israel.  Nevertheless, I was driven by the missed opportunities of my college years, and off to Israel I traveled over the 2016 Spring Break.  Let me share three reasons why I think you should participate in Innovation Israel too.

 

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Students meet with Dalet at the Gav Yam Negev Advanced Technologies Park in Be’er-Sheva. The park features collaborative academic research led by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
  1. Go to Israel because the business climate is innovative and learner friendly.

I landed in Israel on a Saturday afternoon (the Jewish Sabbath), and we left for our first business meeting the following morning.  We met with two companies each day from Sunday through Thursday.  That may sound a little daunting, but consider the value of the opportunity to meet with company executives who, for the most part, were candid and open to answering questions about strategy, competition, marketing, intellectual property, etc.  Many of the executives with whom we met did not even bristle at being challenged by our questions.  My favorite example is a company called Somatix that uses data collected from wearables to help smokers quit.  We raised a number of challenges related to data collection, privacy, and user rebellion that the CEO very calmly considered and addressed.  The business experience alone was worthwhile.

 

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Students at the Church of All Nations, located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, next to the Garden of Gethsemane.
  1. Go to Israel because the culture is stimulating.

To my surprise, Israel was very western.  Every Israeli I encountered at hotels, shops, restaurants, and bars, smoothly and happily transitioned to English.  I never felt remotely unsafe in Israel too, despite the fact that our media often sadly portrays Israel as a war zone.  You might be surprised to learn that Jews and Muslims live and work with one another peacefully every day in Israel.  We also enjoyed a highly educational Shabbat dinner with a young Jewish family during our visit, and lunched one afternoon in a Druze village on Mt. Carmel.  The Dead Sea was neat too, but do not feel bad if you decline the urgings of your classmates to enter the sea and cover yourself in its slimy mud – I didn’t.  The highlight for me, as a person of faith, was our tour of the Old City of Jerusalem.  However, even if you are not a person of faith, the rich history and significance of Jerusalem is overwhelming.

 

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Shopping at a market in Jerusalem.
  1. Go to Israel because it is a visually stunning country.

The Mediterranean Sea and coast are absolutely beautiful.  The Israeli-invented drip irrigation systems have turned barren desert into lush fields of agricultural products.  The view of the Mediterranean from the ridge of Mt. Carmel while looking down over Haifa is breathtaking.  Every bus ride was an optical adventure.   Oh, and I almost forgot, the food is amazing.

 

Do not let your graduate school experience end without a trip to Israel.  Take advantage of the opportunity now and get academic credit in the process.  Experience business in another culture; intimately experience another culture; experience beauty in another part of the world; and get to know some of your classmates better in the process.  Don’t wait – Go now!

The inextricable link between culture and business

Samir Mohan, a graduating Working Professional MBA, reflects on cultural history and modern business during his time as a participant in Global Business Expedition: Israel.

“Wait, Samir, you’re going where?! Israel?!? What for? But isn’t it… dangerous…? Is Ohio State making you do that to get your MBA? No? Well, what do you hope to learn there?”

I wanted to learn how it is possible for a country less than half a century old and roughly the size of New Jersey to, despite all odds, thrive in a global economic context and at the same time presume to teach Americans the meaning of ‘audacity’.” Still, I found it equally true—and easier to explain—that I wanted to challenge myself and blend my central Ohio education with a true World View of business.

My trip to Israel was as revelatory as it was astounding. Truthfully, I had never paid much attention to happenings in the Middle East because of the stark cultural and geographic divide between our climes. My decision to go on the Global Business Expedition to Israel was partly a leap of faith—“do something extraordinary before you graduate”—and partly because it aligned perfectly with my professional aspirations in innovation and technology. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to ask “how” and “why” to leaders of multi-billion dollar firms, as well as entrepreneurs not much older than myself at red hot startups.

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A view of the Golden Gate, or Gate of Mercy, in Jerusalem. In Jewish tradition this is the gate through with the Anointed one with enter the city.

Each day we woke up early to attend early business meetings in virtually every corner of the country, and each night we stayed up late to experience Israeli nightlife. We visited places and touched things whose names are capitalized in holy texts. We pressed our tour guide and Professor Shenkar to explain the at times exasperating inconsistencies between cultural factions in the region. Why do they mask Made in Israel labels? Why are parts of the country so segregated along ethnic and religious lines? What are the Gaza Strip and the Iron Dome? Indeed, I experienced first-hand the extreme emphasis on security; however, it did not take long for the sight of armed guards to become “the new normal” for most of our group.

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Students visit Netafim, the world leader of drip-line irrigation systems, in Hatzerim. After a meeting with executives the tour continues with a visit to joint-owner, Kibbutz Hatzerim.

I could at once see a platoon of hardy female IDF soldiers guarding Jerusalem’s Dung Gate and a group of Hasidic Jews rocking back and forth in kinetic prayer at the Wailing Wall. We toured the construction site of a state-of-the-art public and private sector research megaplex in the Negev Desert, and peered through smoked glass as lasers cut medical stents with micrometer precision in Jerusalem. An Israeli VC’s CEO described his firm’s multi-million dollar investments in Israeli startups over the past decades as I ogled his achingly beautiful wristwatch and wondered if I had some semblance of his chutzpah—audacity.

I travelled 7000 miles from home armed only with an open mind and a handful of case analyses on companies in the Startup Nation. What I observed there and ruminated on while floating on my back in the Dead Sea at the end of the trip, was Israel’s incomparable duality of worldwide cultural historical significance and modern day business relevance.

A Personal Invitation to Operations Global Lab – China

In preparation for 2017 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 four 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.

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Containers at Modern Terminal port viewed from the 6th floor Control Room.

I was by no means an “early mover” into China.  Going back in history nearly 10,000 years China was the largest and most advanced civilization on earth.  As recently as the 1270s, Marco Polo was “astonished at the wealth of China”.   The Japanese invasions in the 1900s set back this progress, which was worsened further by 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).

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A comparison to highlight the development of Shanghai in the last 30 years.

Our trip provides an opportunity to experience firsthand some of the world’s most advanced infrastructure (airports, high speed rail) and oldest culture.   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 and an exploration of an emerging country that increasingly shapes the world’s political and economic landscape, please join us for Fisher’s first undergraduate program in China, a two week exposure to business, politics, culture and even a great deal of fun.

Ready for Delivery: Project with DHL Supply Chain

Marketing Global Lab 2016 in Singapore. FCOB undergraduates Lauren Barry, Devin Horton, Shelby Smith, Mack Watts, and MBA mentor Paul Webb explain their project deliverable for DHL Supply Chain.

Entering Singapore, our team was tasked by DHL Supply Chain to research the manufacturing opportunity that was being created by the newly formed ASEAN Economic Community and how DHL may be able to capitalize on that opportunity. After seven weeks of thorough research, our team was ready to provide our progressive recommendations that we found.

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FCOB undergraduate participants in Marketing Global Lab take to the stage to present their recommendations to DHL Supply Chain.

Going into Tuesday, the team was ready to go. We had spent the previous night rehearsing and felt confident in our preparation. Upon waking up, we all met downstairs to have a team breakfast and present one last time in front of Dr. Matta to gain his seal of confidence prior to getting in front of DHL’s executives. We were relaxed and had pep in our step as we rode the bus out to DHL’s office.

Upon arrival, we were thrilled to find that we would be presenting in the newly built, Asia Pacific Innovation Center, a space that DHL uses as a think tank and community center for its thriving business partners. The center was one of the coolest places that any of us have ever been, and what followed was nothing short of exciting.

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With a new pep in their step, members of Team DHL Supply Chain celebrate a job well down with faculty Dr. Shashi Matta.

Ross Ballantyne, the head of marketing of the Asia Pacific region at DHL, took the floor and set the stage for the whole morning. After DHL’s presentation, our team took the stage and spoke to both Ross and his colleague Nidhi. Shelby and Lauren started the presentation with a bang, allowing Devin and Mack to finish with progressive recommendations for DHL to take going forward into the development of the AEC. This experience provided team DHL with an amazing opportunity to showcase what we learned in professor Matta’s class and apply it to a real business solution.

Wendy’s for the Win: Team Wendy’s Presents to Executives

Marketing Global Lab 2016 in Singapore. FCOB undergraduates Alexis Lambos, Olivia Chancellor, Max Olberding, Andy Landaverde, and MBA mentor Elena Pipino recount the morning they presented to Wendy’s executives.

Our fourth day of Singapore began by waking up slightly earlier than the other teams to begin final preparation for our presentation to the Wendy’s Asia Pacific team. We were all a little nervous but also so excited because we had spent the last three months working hard on the project.

We all boarded the bus and arrived at the meeting location—the American Club in Singapore.

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Members of the Wendy’s Team show their OSU pride by posing with a Block O following their presentation to company executives.

The Wendy’s team welcomed us with a warm greeting. John Pain, the VP & Managing Director for Asia Pacific & EMEA, and his team began by introducing themselves and sharing more about their roles within the company. John continued by presenting insights about the Asian consumers and how Wendy’s has been able to successfully adapt the brand within this market.

After John’s presentation we took a brief break and then set up our PowerPoint.

We shared with the Wendy’s team research and recommendations that we had collected over the last few months, specifically regarding the way better burger chains could threaten Wendy’s in the Asian market. While the project was challenging, the experience of presenting to John and his team and hearing their positive feedback was extremely rewarding. After we concluded our presentation, we had a bit of free time to mingle and network with the Wendy’s team.

Marketing through a New Lens: Presenting to Johnson & Johnson

Marketing Global Lab 2016 in Singapore. FCOB undergraduates Cory Bonda, Kyle Hubbard, Amelia Gulick, and MBA mentor Lindsey Durham describe what it means to have time with multiple top-tier marketing executives at Johnson & Johnson.

Thursday morning was the visit to Johnson & Johnson’s Asia Pacific headquarters. We presented a project on Acuvue define contact lenses to multiple top-tier executives. They provided great feedback on our presentation and asked quite a few questions to gain more insight and detail on our ideas. This discussion was actually held with the president of the Acuvue brand in the Asia Pacific, who was very impressed and engaged with our work.

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FCOB students and Johnson & Johnson executives pose for a picture follow student recommendations.

Due to other obligations and a busy schedule, he only had 20 minutes to hear us present but chose to stay for over an hour to finish the conversation and then share his personal background with us all in a Q&A session. It was also encouraging that some of the executives actually followed up with our group members during an intermission to gain more insight on our thoughts and ideas.

The feeling of being engaged with top professionals in a company like J&J was intimidating and exciting simultaneously; even better was how genuinely interested and impressed they were with our ideas. The weight off of our shoulders when the whole thing was done was phenomenal. To finally cross the finish line for the project we’d spent so much time and effort, so many ups and downs and turnarounds, on left huge smiles plastered on our face for the rest of the day.

Customer decision making survey

Through the Global Applied Program (GAP), I had the wonderful opportunity to visit China for the first time in my life. And as mentioned in my cultural blog, I planned to take this opportunity to learn both the cultural and the business environment of China. I was part of the marketing team of the project. And on this blog I am going to share and reflect on the experience our team had while we were trying to conduct consumer survey in order to learn more about the customer decision making process.

Malls/Supermarkets – Talking to the Sales Representatives

As part of tIMG_0352he project, we planned to conduct in depth interviews with our target consumer to understand more about the consumer’s decision making process. Our first step was to gather some basic product information and currents trends in the market by talking to the sales representative at the malls. But contrary to expectation, the sales representatives were not very open in sharing information with us when we  approached themCapture as students. Therefore, we immediately changed our strategy and tried the role play of a young American businessperson looking to purchase an air purifier for his office with the Chinese student acting as his assistant helping him understand the different models and standards of the purifiers. Although this strategy helped us with the sales reps in understanding the different products in the market, surprisingly the sales representatives would not allow us to take pictures in the stores. Instead, we had to discreetly take pictures. Above are some of the picture that we took while in the stores.

Malls/Supermarkets – Talking to the Consumers

After being somewhat successful in talking with the sales representative, we decided to try our luck with some of the consumers shopping in the malls and supermarkets. From my perspective, talking to these customers was the single biggest hurdle we faced during the entire project. To give an idea of how challenging it was to talk to a consumer, we visited a total of five malls/supermarkets and approached nearly 40-50 people. Only three of them responded to us, and all three were non-Chinese residents currently living in China.

WeChat – the Savior

In the end, the only way we successfully gathered data on consumer behavior was through passing our survey on WeChat.

 

 

 

 

That’s a Spicy… Bullfrog Leg?!

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Soon after final exams were finished and the first year of the MBA program came to a close, the Columbus Industries team was on the way to Shanghai!  We arrived in country on Saturday afternoon — some came directly from the U.S. while others were able to spend some time with family and friends in India and China.  Needless to say, we were quite jetlagged upon arrival, and it took some adjustment.

We decided to have our first team meal together on Sunday afternoon.  Our resident Shanghai expert (Hong) suggested that wScreen Shot 2016-05-12 at 11.54.21 AMe check out Xin Xiang Hui in People’s Square.  We ventured up to the 4th floor of the building, and Hong got us into our own private dining room!  The experience was “family style” in nature — we all chose a dish which we shared by using the rotating wheel (Lazy Susan) in the center of the table.  Of course, we enjoyed typical cuisine such as beef, pork, tofu, veggies, rice, and noodles and everything we ate was quite spicy.  One of the more interesting (and delectable) choices that we tried were the bullfrog legs!  The best way I can describe the taste and texture was that bullfrog legs are similar to ….chicken, but better.  Did I mention that everything was spicy?

Overall, it was a great dining experience in an authentic Chinese restaurant.  After many hours of preparation and planning for our journey, it was nice to have all twelve of us sitting around the table enjoying lunch together.  I can’t think of a better way to start off our time here in China!  Next up — pork brain!  We’ll save that for another day.

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HKUST Takeaways

Diving deeper into the university community, David Drummond shares his insight to his Student Exchange Program location, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). Learn about the university, classes, community, and how he has managed to assimilate.

My time at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has given me a fuller impression of Hong Kongers and the international community, a rich curriculum taught by very experienced professors, and opportunities to learn and interact outside my normal studies.

Campus itself is on Kowloon and to the east a bit on the coast of Port Shelter. In good weather, there is no better place to be studying in Hong Kong. Next to the water the dorms and academic facilities climb up a steep hill and provide beautiful views of blue water, islands, and plenty of sails. The downside to this location is also the weather. During my time here in the spring, most days are cloudy, grey, and foggy/misty if not rainy. I hear the humidity is something awful in the summer. However, waking up to a sunny day on a Friday feels amazing and motivates you to get outside and take advantage of it.

I have had different impressions of the local students here. By taking introductory business courses, like MGMT and MARK, I am in class with first and second year students. The biggest difference was that a lot of them come late to class, which surprised me and didn’t seem like it fit with my preconceptions about Asian studiousness. They also have a tendency to talk to each other in Cantonese while the professor is talking. I think I would attribute this mostly to their inexperience rather than culture, because the older students I know don’t behave as much like this. Still, it is definitely something to expect when taking these kinds of courses. Also, the cultural differences are clear in terms of participation. Local students are less open to participate in class, even more so than Mainland students! It’s common for professors to make an effort to not continue calling just on exchange students.

Because HKUST is a little further from the city, exchange students often form groups to go explore the parks on a hike or go out for dinner or to an event. For us, it has been super helpful to have a Facebook group just for our exchange students to post what they are doing and to find others who want to tag along. The university makes it easy to connect with other exchange students by giving us a book of names, emails, and a picture of each that we can reference. Extremely helpful when you forget someone! As someone who does not generally invite themselves into other groups I had to figure out how I was going to meet and hang out with new people once I got here. I’ve had plenty of opportunities through the Facebook group to meet other exchange students from Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America, and most of my best memories are with these groups. For me, it was easier to set myself on something I wanted to do and invite other people along, but in my experience this group of multinationals loves getting to know one another and building friendships. This network is especially helpful for travel!

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The courses I am taking have definitely exceeded my expectations in terms of quality of instruction. While my introductory courses are not the liveliest, the professors have had extensive experience and genuinely care about helping the students learn and understand the material and concepts. The business school is definitely feels like a top world program. Taking a global business course on Deal making in Asia and Emerging Markets has exposed me to some of the school’s top undergraduate and MBA professors in a unique model. Years of experience in forming deals and doing negotiations in Asia and other emerging markets comes together in this course which focuses on case studies and group negotiations. As my professor experienced negotiating in China, the other party will often keep asking the same questions over and over making a frustrating time for a westerner who just wants to get the deal done. However, after enduring the long drawn-out negotiation process my professor was told that he “ate bitterness well” and this was a sign of his trustworthy character. This is the type of information you are lucky to have access to.

HKUST also offers a plethora of involvement opportunities and ways to go beyond your normal studies. I have been taking an International Relations course taught by a professor with over forty years experience studying Chinese politics. This has given me the historical context to live and study in Southeast Asia and the unique application of my studies in a simulation game of an international conflict in the South China Sea. Just last week I went to interview a special correspondent for Reuters, through my professor’s contacts, who follows the current events of the crisis. Since Hong Kong is such a financial and trade hub, I was able to get information about the current state of affairs between countries in Asia directly from someone who actively studies it and was approachable. There are also lots of student organizations covering academics and social networking, however when I first arrived they were promoting them over a couple weeks with ‘chantings’. I still haven’t figured out how this works, but it seems like they just stand in groups of their organization next to all the others and yell chants for hours. I’ve been living in Hall IX, one of the newest, which has its advantages but not a lot going on. Some of the halls have learning communities that organize events and activities that can really get you involved with local students. There is also an international students’ association that plans trips and events around Hong Kong like kayaking, hiking, and cultural discovery. However it is all up to luck since you cannot request your hall placement.

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In my first few weeks here, I planned a lot on going into the city alone to explore and get my bearings. I didn’t yet feel comfortable enough of the other exchange students and wanted a way to feel independent in this new home. I think this gave me the confidence to explore more of Hong Kong. The first bar I went to, I happened to meet the President of the OSU Hong Kong Alumni Association, and I’ve made similar contacts going to watch the super bowl or other events. His advice was that the best way to make connections is to actually, with no pretext, get to know someone, and that’s often hard to do when you’re with a big group of students. Most of my connections were developed through the exchange student group on facebook, but when you’re out in the city and meet some fellow expats it is always a good idea to ask them about how they got to Hong Kong, getting an idea about what opportunities there are outside the U.S. Since then I’ve made great friends here but being far enough away from the city it’s easy to get sheltered here on campus. I found my strength in a new place by making sure I could rely on myself first to have good time and then invite new friends along to enjoy it with.

About the Author: David Drummond, SP 2015, Student Exchange Program- Hong Kong

I Promise I Study During my Study Abroad

Want to know what the university experience is like at Thammasat University in Thailand? Learn from Melanie March’s point of view as she enjoys her time as a full-time student there on the Student Exchange Program in the “Land of Smiles”.

Just to clarify, I really do go to class here in Thailand! My parents confirmed this last week when they dropped me off for class at Thammasat University. I am taking a variety of classes here that includes International Marketing, Marketing Analysis, Operations Management as well as Beginner’s Thai.

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These classes have been interesting and very different than my classes back at Ohio State. One of the biggest changes has been wearing a uniform to school every day. This has been very convenient in the mornings where you wake up and don’t have the energy to decide what to wear for the day. It also means that I have to wash it every day that I wear it because I sweat through it just walking to class. It’s about a 30 minute commute by foot and I get to take a ferry in order to cross the river to Thammasat.

Once we get to class we have fifteen minutes once class has started to sign in. Most teachers don’t start the class until after this sign-in period and then we have a 15 minute break in the middle of class to break up the three hour time frame. I wasn’t so sure about the break at first but it is a great time to stretch our legs or get some coffee. There is also an hour break in between classes that gives students plenty of time to get lunch at the pier or in the cafeteria on campus.

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My favorite part about studying at Thammasat University in Bangkok has been the students that I have met here. They are some of the kindest people I have ever met and are very willing to get to know you. Exchange students are welcomed with open arms and staff and students alike are very helpful with any problems that we have had settling into Thailand. Most of the students have gone to international schools when they were in elementary school so they have been speaking English for many years. A majority of students also study abroad at some point in their high school or college career that allows them to have been in our shoes so they know what it’s like to be in a classroom and know very few people.

In the classroom, Thai students are extremely bright and some of the most motivated students. Many participate in international business case competitions that has taken them all over the world. They also go above and beyond on every task that is assigned which has shocked me because so many people only do the bare minimum in order to get by. Thammasat students are quick thinkers and only want to succeed and work hard to do so. It is motivating to see students my age doing so much and becoming the next generation of business leaders in Thailand.
12573709_1241511272532629_1163249868574369464_nIf any person decides to study abroad, I highly recommend taking a language course. It really gives you the chance to learn the language as well as learning about the culture that you will be living in. It’s crazy to think there are people who lived here years without ever feeling the need to learn the language when I can see the usefulness in my everyday life. We just started learning the Thai alphabet which has been really exciting but also challenging. Thai is a tonal language which means that a word can have many different meanings if you say it with the wrong tone. As Americans we tend to have a rising tone when we are phrasing a sentence as a question which can be a hindrance since many times people will not understand you because it sounds like you are saying a different word than you are trying to say. I was trying to ask a taxi driver to take me to Thammasat but I kept phrasing it as a question using a high tone. When I say it with a mid-tone that does not fluctuate, taxi drivers will immediately know what I’m talking about.

Thammasat University is a school that has immediately made me feel at home. Although frustrating at times, I am so happy that I chose to study in Thailand where the people are welcoming and kind. It really is the “Land of Smiles.”

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About the Author: Melanie March, Junior, Marketing. Student Exchange Program- Thailand.

Read more of her experiences in Thailand on her original blog!