Day 20: It’s been fun

This was our final day abroad, as we all begin our journeys back to Columbus tomorrow. It’s hard to believe that we began this adventure three weeks ago. While we are all eager to get home and see our friends and families (and do laundry), it is sad to see this chapter end. From climbing 272 stairs at the Batu Caves to fishing for own dinner in Langkawi, we have gained cultural experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. From suiting up to enter clean rooms to presenting our findings to multiple executives at a multi-billion dollar company, we have gained international business knowledge that will benefit all our future careers. We could not be more grateful for this experience, and on behalf of my team, thank you for coming along on this journey with us!

Final teammate reflections come from the girl who loves O-H-I-O pictures and could never get enough, Ralitsa:

“Having the opportunity to visit two countries in Southeast Asia was incredible. One of the things that struck me most was how multicultural both Malaysia and Singapore were and how peacefully the different ethnic groups coexist and how well they work together. The amount of construction that is going on in KL, as well as in Melaka was also an eye-opener. I really hope Malaysia is going to be able to build all this infrastructure in a sustainable way. Something that Singapore seems to have done very well. All in all the past 3 weeks have been a great eye-opening experience.”

Ralitsa - doing what she loves most!

Ralitsa – doing what she loves most!

It has been an honor sharing this experience with you – it’s been fun, but goodbye for now. See you later Southeast Asia!

Goodbye from our team!

Goodbye from our team!

Day 19: Preparation, Presentation, Celebration

Today was bittersweet, as it was our last day at the Western Digital offices. Over the past couple of days our team has worked tirelessly to put together our final presentation, and it all was put into action when we presented our findings to the Chief Procurement Officer and the VP of Asian Operations.

Team at the Western Digital Offices

GAP team at the Western Digital – Malaysia office

Even though the guest list was intimidating, our team spoke fluidly and knowledgeably about our findings and recommendations, and in the end, received positive feedback from the executives (we’ll take it!). It was a great acknowledgment that our team was on the right track and that some of our findings could actually be implemented into a multi-billion dollar corporation.

Needless to say, we were all relieved and excited by how well the presentation went, so after a couple hours of revisions we headed into downtown Kuala Lumpur for a celebratory evening.

First we stopped at Central Market to have a nice team dinner and to do a little souvenir shopping. Then we ventured over to Sky Bar, a 33rd floor bar with a pool in the middle, a DJ on the end, and a ridiculous view of the infamous Petronas Towers on the right. The setting was perfect and it was a great place to reflect on our time here and just take it all in before traveling back to the United States this weekend.

View from our seats at Sky Bar - not bad!

View from our table at Sky Bar


Speaking of reflections, it’s time for some more deep thoughts from the team.

Next up, our crab loving, archery shooting, and master merman, Dan:

“This GAP project for me, has been an eye opening experience into both the business culture of SE Asia, as well as practical application of supply chain management practices learned in the classroom.  Southeast Asia currently plays a vital role in the world’s economy, and is poised to continue to do so into the foreseeable future.  The size, scale, and sophistication of the manufacturing facilities that we visited during our trip are at least equal to anything that can be found in the U.S. I also enjoyed seeing lean methodologies in action at many of the suppliers, and understanding why things were done the way that they are.  I also enjoyed having the opportunity to work with a great group of my fellow MBA candidates over the course of the project, and share this unique growth experience with them.”

Dan - and his "I'm excited to get crabs again" face

Dan – and his “I’m excited to get crabs again” face

And his lovely roommate, the heat loving, newfound fishing fanatic, Sreekanth:

“It has been a great project and good cultural learning for me. Our team has interacted with people from China, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore and Japan. That’s a lot of cultures for me. My experiences during this trip in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Langkawi with the locals have been great. People here are so friendly and welcome other cultures. I can only wish I come back to this part of the world. Well, moving to Singapore would be nice.

Our team has been great. I had my first fishing experience in Langkawi, thanks to Dan. Catching my first fish (ok, it was a small fish) took too long, but it was worth it. Langkawi is a beautiful island with a lot of stuff to do. Rain interrupted our plans on one day, but it was such a relaxing weekend. Now I am going to look for fishing places in and around columbus.”

Sreekanth - first fish and he's hooked on the activity!

Sreekanth – catches his first fish and he’s hooked on it!

As you can see, this trip has been an amazing experience both professionally and culturally for all of us. More team reflections to come as we wrap up our last day here tomorrow.

Day 18: Let’s Reflect

With only a couple days left in Malaysia, I’ve started thinking a lot about this journey we’ve been on and all the great memories and experiences our team will fly away with. And since I hold so much power as the blogger, I decided it was time to get the rest of the team in a reflective state of mind as well. Over the next couple of days, as our journey here concludes, I will share our team’s thoughts on this adventure we’ve been on together.

First up, some thoughts from our beefy Sam (many a people here have been extremely impressed and intrigued by Sam’s big muscles and extra-firm handshakes):

“The past three weeks here were not only my first visit to Southeast Asia, but also my first experience working in a foreign country.  The supplier visits were a fantastic source of information about manufacturing processes as well as cutting-edge risk mitigation and BCP procedures that have become a vital part of enterprise risk management for companies operating in this region.  It was especially eye-opening to see in detail how events such as the 2011 Thai flood have shaped the ERM strategies for an entire industry.  Outside of our project scope, meeting with friends and contacts in the region for informal discussions such as the business climate of SE Asia, the pros and cons of business travel, and career advice for MBA students was extremely beneficial from a personal growth standpoint.  And finally, the sights, the food, and the people that we as a team were able to experience during our time here are things that I will always remember fondly.”

Sam (he's so strong he can hold up a fish with one hand!)

Sam – look at those arm muscles in action!

Next up, Sam’s roommate and resident ‘sorority squat’ expert, Henry:

“A new destination recalls old dreams, habits, and aspirations. As exams wrapped up and GAP approached, I decided to revisit the goals and hopes I had for myself during my last stint abroad in Paris. My life revolved around thousands of images captured through a camera lens and Sartre for three weeks. During that time I set many expectations for my last year of undergraduate life.

My time in Malaysia, though certainly filled with photographs and favorite authors, has offered a much different perspective. Our project began with an analysis of data and a method for effectively displaying information, but it transformed into many interactions with suppliers and teams from WD. Our insights came not from data, but from direct interaction with teams of people who lived and breathed the data we analyzed. Taking the time to step in front of my lens, that is to actively interact, yielded many insights that allowed our team to succeed. Furthermore, it has helped me to bring together a drive to document and analyze information while acknowledging that successful interaction, and not solely analysis, can bring about extraordinary results.”

Henry

Henry – in his famous ‘sorority squat’ on the right.

Stay tuned – more thoughts from the rest of the team to come!

Day 17: It’s off to work we go

Today was all about compiling our findings into a comprehensive presentation for Western Digital. I won’t bore you with the details – but lets just say that things started to get real when the six of us spent the whole day in one, windowless office crunching away at excel and creating dashboard images on a computer screen for the entire work day. Fortunately, we made great progress and should be just about ready to present our findings to the Western Digital – Malaysian team tomorrow afternoon, and then some higher level executives after that.

The culmination of this trip and project will occur when we return to the United States, as our team has the opportunity to present our findings and our journey to the CEO of Western Digital, Steve Milligan. That’s right. A day after returning to Columbus and quickly (hopefully) recovering from jetlag, our team will get together once again to share our project with the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company (we just can’t get enough of each other!).

OSU alum and WD CEO, Steve Milligan

OSU alum and WD CEO, Steve Milligan

While we do need a bit more prep work and fine-tuning, this experience here in Southeast Asia has more than prepared us to speak intelligently and succinctly on the hard disk drive industry and the future of enterprise risk management. Hopefully Mr. Milligan, a fellow Ohio State alumnus, will be as excited as we are about our project and as grateful as we are for allowing us to come out here and work for his company for a couple weeks!

Day 16: Beginning of the End

Today was the beginning of our last work week here in Malaysia. We spent the day visiting our final supplier, where we got to see a very impressive factory floor and learn more about risk management.

The factory was working on all those great principles that are taught in Operations – 7S methodology (they went beyond the standard 5S methodology and added 2 extras), six sigma, lean capabilities – you name it, and there was a board for it. Basically, as the only marketing major amongst a group of operations/supply chain nerds – I got to see faces light up as the classroom came to life right before their eyes! It was a great moment.

Final Supplier Visit

Final Supplier Visit

Looking back on the six suppliers that we visited throughout Malaysia and Singapore, I don’t think our team could have asked for a better experience. Not only have we had the opportunity to speak with and present to top level executives of multi-million dollar companies, but we have also had the chance to see factories in operation and gain a greater understanding of the processes in Southeast Asia and beyond. We are ending our tour of suppliers with a new look on how the supply chain functions, how risk is mitigated, and where the future of the field is going – not bad for a bunch of MBA students from Ohio State!

The rest of the week will be spent gathering our findings and preparing our final presentation – we’re in the home stretch here, people!

Day 15: Last day in Langkawi

Today was our last day in Langkawi and we wanted to make the most of it. Our plan was to fit in as many activities as we could before our flight back to KL. As we were getting ready to leave, it began raining and what we expected to be a 15-20 minutes quick storm turned out to be 3+ hours of heavy rain (Thank you tropical weather!)

Finally the rain subsided and we began our short 30 min journey to the Langkawi Cable Car aka the SkyCab.

IMG_20140518_143424582(1)

Riding on the cable car was definitely one of the highlights of our journey. The Langkawi Cable Car was recognized by the Malaysia Book of Records as ‘the longest free span single rope cable car’ (950m  between Tower 2 and Middle Station) with one of the steepest gradients in the world, at 42 degrees.

It looked much steeper riding in the cable car than the picture does justice

It looked much steeper riding in the cable car than the picture does justice

The SkyCab ride starts at the Oriental Village, which is one of the region’s most unique duty-free shopping, cultural and culinary destinations, and ends at the top of the Gunung Mat Cincang mountain range. All in all the cable cars travel a distance of over 2 kilometers up a vertical height of 680 meters.The view from both the Middle Station and the Top Station was breathtaking and we managed to take some pretty good pictures before the fog started to come in. Both stations have viewing platforms overseeing the Andaman Sea and the Langkawi island group. On a clear day visitors can also see  mainland Kedah and even the Tarutao Islands of Thailand.

A panoramic view from Middle Station

A panoramic view from Middle Station

IMG_20140518_143405309_HDR

O-H-I-O at the Middle Station

O-H-I-O at the Middle Station

O-H-I-O + Sam at the Top Station

O-H-I-O + Sam at the Top Station

Another impressive attraction at the Top Station was the 125 m long SkyBridge which is suspended from a 82m high single pylon and hangs at about 100m above ground. Unfortunately for us, the SkyBridge was closed until further notice for renovation and upgrading.

The SkyBridge. We will have to go to Langkawi again when it opens!

The SkyBridge. We will have to go to Langkawi again when it opens!

After this magnificent ride we stopped by the Oriental Village for some souvenir shopping and then made our way back to the hotel.

Our innkeepers once again showed how nice and hospitable they are and allowed us to check out late just before our evening flight back to KL. After a wonderful final dinner at the Cactus Restaurant we headed to the airport and back to work in KL.

 

 

Day 14: Catching our Dinner Langkawi Style

Today in Langkawi started like every other day when you’re on an island – with breakfast outside and a trip to the beach. But the afternoon is where it got interesting.

Beach outside our hotel

Beach by our hotel

We are staying at a quaint, 9-room hotel on the island called the Cactus Inn. Out in front is a charming outdoor restaurant, the Cactus Restaurant, where you will find the most hospitable inn and restaurant staff hanging out and chatting with one another and the guests. We have felt so welcome here since the moment we arrived. So when Dan asked if there were places to go fishing, rather than just tell us yes, the innkeeper hooked us up with a discounted boat trip for the afternoon.

Cactus Restaurant & Inn

Cactus Restaurant & Inn – go visit!

So off we went! All six of us piled into a fishing boat with our guide and motored away into the Malaysia ocean, ready to catch some fish and relax in the warm waters. Our first stop was by some islands close by. We put some bait on our fishing lines and lowered them down to the ocean floor (it’s all hand fishing here – pretty cool). Unfortunately, the fish just weren’t biting. Fish-1 GAP team-0.

On our fishing boat for the afternoon!

On our fishing boat for the afternoon!

Dan with hand fishing gear

Dan with his hand fishing gear

But we were on a mission. So off we went to another location and that’s when we started reeling them in. After stopping at six different locations, taking a break at a small beach to swim in the ocean, and then heading back to shore, our team spent 5 hours on the waters and caught a number of different species of fish (including multiple types of grouper, Japanese fish, Catfish, and Kiss fish). In total, we caught over 20 fish for the afternoon – not a bad day’s work!

FishCaught

BoatView

When the fishing trip was over, our guide handed us a bag of our 10 biggest fish and off we went to the hotel with a bag full of pride. And remember how awesome the staff has been at the Cactus Inn? Well, it got even better because we showed them the fish we caught and they cleaned the fish and then baked and fried them for us to eat for dinner. That’s right – we went out in the Malaysian waters and caught fish in the late afternoon, and then got to eat it for dinner the same night. It was a feast unlike any other!

Team enjoying the fish we caught after it had been cleaned, fried, and baked (left to right).

Team enjoying the fish we caught after it had been cleaned, fried, and baked (bottom – left to right).

Overall, another great vacation day in Langkawi!

Day 13: Vacation time

Today was full of travel. Our team left Singapore early in the morning, flew back to Kuala Lumpur for a couple hours, and then took a small propeller plane out to the island of Langkawi.

Langkawi is where we will be spending our final weekend abroad. We could not have picked a better location for relaxation and a bit of a vacation before diving into the last week of our project and then traveling back to the US to present our findings and jump into our internships. It’s gorgeous here. An island full of white sand beaches and small islands nearby. It’s also a very underdeveloped island, with a number of small outdoor restaurants lining the roads and locals living very simple, stress free lives. It reminds us to take a step back from all our distractions and just enjoy nature and good company.

And there are no taxes on Langkawi, so food and beverages are extremely affordable, a welcome change from Singaporean prices! And therefore, our first evening of “vacation” was spent watching the sunset on the beach (so romantic), enjoying some local Malaysian food (so delicious), and overindulging in some cheap Tiger beers (so refreshing).

Next up – laying on the beach, wading in warm waters, fishing on a boat … Can’t complain!

* photos will be up later – we decided to relax without computers for the trip.

Day 12: Stay Classy, Singapore

It’s hard to believe, but today was our last day in Singapore. We started off the workday like most others, visiting a local supplier. But this evening was full of delicious food and great company as we ate at Jumbo Seafood (the BIG name seafood) for our final dinner. We met up with an Ohio State alum, Mark, who ordered all the best dishes for our last night here. Let’s just say we discovered our new love for black pepper crab.

Jumbo's Black Pepper Crab

It was great to catch up with a Cleveland native who moved to Singapore with his wife 5 years ago (she’s a Michigan grad but we made sure not to hold that against him). It was great to share our GAP experiences with Mark and to hear his journey and to learn what it’s like living in Singapore. Buckeyes really are everywhere, and Sam is ready to form an OSU alumni club if/when he moves here!

Overall, our last day in Singapore was bittersweet. We have grown to love this city in the short week we have been here. Native Singaporeans have such pride in their city state – and it is easy to see why.

The city is clean, green, and beautiful. The people are friendly, intelligent, and open. The views are ridiculous and the diversity of cultures and food is delicious. The education system here is top notch, the companies that are headquartered here are impressive, and the transportation system is expansive and easy. The only negative from a Singaporean’s perspective? The weather! And we’d have to agree. The weather (and maybe the high prices – but when our fountain of wealth wishes come true we’ll be fine) are the only complaints from our team.
City

Boats
You fall in love with the city the moment you see the skyline for the first time and it’s hard to say goodbye.
Skyline

Ferris Wheel

Night Sands
So for now, see you later, Singapore! Stay classy.

Day 11: Singapore State of Mind

Singapore never seems to disappoint, as today was another great (and a little cooler) day in the city state!

We started off the day visiting a supplier right in downtown Singapore. We spent the morning learning about their business and asking them questions, and then we were off to lunch.

At lunch we chatted with the supplier over some tasty Hong Kong style dim sum. It was delicious and the food never stopped coming (seriously)! In the end, Sam and Dan were left competing over who could eat the most food – but I think Susan won (the Lazy Susan in the middle of the table), as it was simply impossible to eat everything.

Round 1

Round 1

 

And more...

And more…

After lunch we visited the Fountain of Wealth, a large fountain that visitors are invited to walk through in order to become wealthy. In order for it to work, you walk into the middle of the fountain, place your right hand into the water, make a wish, and then walk around the circle of water three times. Most of our team (sorry Rali) successfully followed the directions, so watch out Fisher – you’re about to have some very wealthy alumni coming your way!

Fountain of Wealth? Yes please!

Fountain of Wealth? Yes please!

The evening was spent meeting up with a Fisher alum, Scott, who is in the area doing international consulting work. Kurt Roush, the director of the GAP program, actually was classmates with Scott at Fisher, so we tried to get as much dirt on Kurt as possible (not as successful as we had hoped). But the evening was great as we chatted over beers next to the Singapore River. We talked about the Fisher program, his experiences post Fisher, and life in general. It was a really great opportunity to meet up with a fellow Fisher-man and hear what life could be like after we graduate (and to be reminded to take it all in this next year and enjoy ourselves – no problem)!

Next up: we head to our last Singapore supplier visit before flying back to Malaysia the next morning. Hard to believe we’re entering our final week in Southeast Asia!