Day 10: Fisher Bonding

Today was Vesak, a Buddhist prayer holiday. Due to the diversity of the population throughout Southeast Asia, there are a number of public holidays throughout the year, and this was one of them.

While our team did take the morning to relax and soak in the Singaporean views (and try desperately to find laundry facilities with no luck – we’re getting smelly folks!), the afternoon was all business as we joined forces in the hotel room to run regressions (gasp!), crunch numbers, and redesign dashboard mockups.

In the evening, we headed back over to Mariana Bay to check out the Gardens by the Bay, which features biodomes of flowers and tropical ecosystems, as well as large metal “super trees” throughout the endless park.

"Super Trees" found throughout the Gardens by the Bay
“Super Trees” found throughout the Gardens by the Bay

Rali and I took in the views from a rooftop bar on top of a super tree while Henry filled his memory card with endless pictures of the gardens. In the meantime, Dan ventured into the infamous Sands Casino and came out on top! All in all, a good evening that got even better when we went to dinner with a future Fisher student, Nishant.

Nishant has been living in Singapore for the past five years, but is packing up and landing in Columbus this August to join us as a first year FT MBA student. It was great talking to him over dinner about all things Fisher, Columbus, Singapore, and more. After dinner, we all walked over to Level 33, a bar on, you guessed it, the 33rd floor in the financial district (Sam’s future workplace). The views were ridiculous and it was great to talk even more with Nishant about life and his future in Columbus.

View from Level 33
View from Level 33

Needless to say, we’re excited to have him as part of the Fisher family and we’re already planning where to take him when he lands in Ohio this summer!

Nishant (on the left) with our GAP team
Nishant (on the left) with our GAP team

Great day of relaxation, work, and some solid Fisher bonding. Back to the grind visiting suppliers tomorrow!

Day 9: No more seafood plzzzzzzzz!!

The day started little differently because for the first time our weekday started without a healthy heavy complimentary breakfast (KL hotel had almost 30 options to choose from). I was missing our hotel in KL already. We started at 8:30 AM on a 1.5 hr drive to a supplier location in Singapore. I was amazed by the number of German and European vehicles on the road. Ben Dato, our contact for the trip talked us through the Certificate of Entitlement (COE – which could cost around S$ 80,000), and how expensive it would be own a car.  So, when people decide to buy a car, they might as well go for the most expensive ones in the market.

After an introductory presentation, and a factory tour, they surprised us with Indian food (spicy too :)). Few more presentations and discussions followed. Later in the evening we had some of the best seafood in Singapore.


Well, you don’t see all of the seafood in the pictures.
Well, you don’t see all of the seafood in the pictures!!

Only spicy crabs and Tiger beer pops up in the picture. Well, having just crabs for meal makes everyone in the team happy.

Even the apron couldn't save Henry from aggressive crabs later on
Even the apron couldn’t save Henry from aggressive crabs later on
Amazing dessert - all served in cocount
Amazing dessert – all served in a coconut

We had a lot of cultural discussions. Roger, one of the senior executive at the table, wants his son to get some work experience and an MBA from US before he can come back and take up the business in Singapore. This seemed very typical of Asia from our experiences with the supplier meetings so far.

Thanks to the vision of some of the highly educated prime ministers of Singapore, they have turned once smelly streets of Singapore (occupied primarily by fishermen) into clean and beautiful Singapore. Though some of the measures taken seem extreme, for a small country such as Singapore to shine in this current state, extreme measures are required. Their current metro/train (mass rapid transit – MRT) is expanded into the corners of the city so that more people commute through public transport system rather than drive to work.

People traveling to Malaysia from Singapore need to maintain certain fuel level in their vehicles (you better believe it!!), else they pay fine. Though it seems silly, Singapore government has been thorough in not losing an opportunity to make money. For a small country with limited resources this seems essential.

There were plenty of shoot on sight, if trespassing, signs all over the city and also at the immigration. But, the good thing about the country is that their general population have come to terms with the system and these signs and mainly meant for foreigners.


No trespassing, but seriously, noooo
No trespassing, but seriously, nooo……..
Ugly looking....but, tastes great!!
Ugly looking….but, tastes great!!

We finished the day with Durian, the most talked about fruit in travel blogs and among locals. All in all, another great day in Singapore.

Day 8: Just Another Singapore Sunday

Our first full day in Singapore began with a relaxing dip in our hotel’s pool on the fifth floor overlooking the surrounding neighborhood. Our resident mer-man, Dan Reeder did his best Michael Phelps impression, gracefully swimming laps while we watched in silent awe.

Behold, Singapore’s first glass-walled, cantilevered pool

After a tasty lunch at a local pub in the Robertson Quay district we traveled to another part of town to meet a friend of mine, Atem Ramsundersingh, who is the CEO and co-founder of WEnergy Global, a renewable energy start-up based here in Singapore. He describes his firm as an ‘energy house,’ providing sustainable and cost-effective renewable energy solutions to industrial clients, governments, small towns and communities located throughout Southeast Asia. Currently, they are working to close a deal on the construction of a 2.3 MW hybrid solar-diesel plant with a 15 km of micro-grid in Puerto Princesa, on Palawan Island in the Philippines.

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Concept rendering of the Puerto Princesa project

Atem has extensive international experience, having worked for many years at the World Bank, and offered some valuable insights about the business climate of Southeast Asia. He left the bank for the private sector in 2009 to escape the bureaucracy and to work for a cause that he was passionate about. While he acknowledges that this has been a challenging path, he firmly believes in the bright future of sustainable energy in the region and has positioned his firm to capitalize on this growth.

A stroll through Robertson Quay

We wrapped up our day by watching the sunset from atop the famous Marina Bay Sands, an iconic hotel overlooking Singapore’s beautiful skyline. We snagged a table at Ku De Ta nightclub on the 57th floor where we sipped on (very expensive) drinks and took in some breathtaking views of the area.

Team WD Malaysia on top of the Sand
Cloud Forest and the Gardens by the Bay



Downtown Singapore at day…

Dan puffed on a cigar from a certain communist island nation while Melissa repeatedly claimed that the Beckham family was staying at the hotel. Unfortunately, to her dismay, there were no sightings of Mr. or Mrs. Posh Spice.

…and downtown Singapore at night
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Infinity pool overlooking the bay
**No we didn’t lose Henry, he’s behind the camera
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The Marina Bay Sands from the boat home

Our night concluded as we traveled back to our hotel via a boat tour up the Singapore River, learning a bit about the nation’s history along the way. Singapore is a bustling, beautiful, and idyllic city unlike anywhere else in the world. We are looking forward to experiencing more over the next few days…while continuing to carefully avoid jaywalking, littering, chewing gum, spitting, transporting durian fruit, cutting in line, not washing your hands, burping too loudly, horseplay, or any other behavior that might land you a prolonged, involuntary stay!

Day 7: Creative Destruction

The difference in the level of development becomes very evident as we leave Kuala Lumpur for a week in Singapore.  The differences are most apparent in the amount of construction in KL.  Cranes crowd out the skyline as often as skyscrapers and seemingly wild green-space pushes back at the edges of construction.  No one on our team believes the landscape will recognizable within five years of this post.

The stunning architecture, however, has a number of drawbacks.  As we drove through Maleka, empty apartment buildings stood next to complexes still under construction and even the hotel advertised discounts for foreigners seeking to invest in property.  Time will tell if the drive for urbanization affects Maleka as significantly as KL, but they certainly have the infrastructure and potential for rapid growth.

Scaffolding between two complete skyscrapers.
Scaffolding between two complete skyscrapers.
Growth from decay
Growth from decay
Between growth and green space.
Between growth and green space.
Skyscrapers and cranes pushing upwards
Skyscrapers and cranes pushing upwards
Growth from all angles
Growth from all angles
Construction reflecting the Petronas Towers.
Construction reflecting the Petronas Towers.
Tradition and modernity
Tradition and modernity
Stages of growth.
Stages of growth.
View of growth from the Batu Caves.
View of growth from the Batu Caves.


Day 6: The Calm and The Storm

Today was all about digging into our data! We started the morning off with a teleconference where we got to speak with our client contact in California. Fortunately, the meeting went well and both sides are confident that we will have a solid presentation at the end of these three weeks! After discussing the details a bit more with the WD Malaysia team, it was then time for lunch…

Fridays usually mean longer lunches, so we had the opportunity to leave the office and grab an authentic Chinese-inspired, Malaysian seafood meal. We left the ordering up to the Malaysian team, who ordered a plethora of great seafood for us – everything from shrimp and scallops to more fresh crab and delicious Asian vegetables. The weather was hot (shocking, I know), but it was great to get out and enjoy the food, the company, and the view!

View at Lunch - we could get used to this!
View during lunch – we could get used to this!

After lunch, we went back to the office and dove into the data, discussing different scenarios and working together to figure out the puzzle that was before us. Although boring from a blog perspective, it was a very productive afternoon for us.

When we got back to the hotel, we experienced yet another Malaysian thunderstorm. Apparently the weather in Malaysia is all about the extremes because just like the heat, these storms are something else! Rain pours down like a monsoon and thunder and lightening are so close it sets the alarms off at the hotel! The storms usually only come in the evenings and are gone within an hour, but it does make for some great entertainment after work. Take a look at a short clip Sam caught of a storm the other day – it’s hard to capture it in a video, but believe us – it’s a sight to see!

Malaysian Storm

Next up – the team travels to Singapore tomorrow to spend the week visiting more suppliers and exploring the city!

Day 5: Tea time with Dan


Yes, that tiny little glass about the same size as the tea candle is what I am supposed to drink out of, somehow.


I thought it would be nice to give Melissa, who has been doing an excellent job with our team’s blog, a break for a day and would write a bit about my day instead.  Day 5 in Malaysia started much the same as most of my days here.  Waking up early and heading down to the hotel’s pool in order to get my daily Pelotonia training in.  Since the local roads and traffic habits don’t particularly lend themselves to cycling around, a morning swim is going to need to do for now.  After my swim I grabbed a quick bite to eat, and then we loaded into the shuttle bus, and went into the office for the day.

Our hosts at WD have been most generous during our trip, and have been extremely helpful.  Today we had a nice discussion over lunch with the VP in charge of materials for Asia, who offered some experienced based insights into some of the challenges that we are facing.  After a busy day at the office working on our project, we once again loaded into the van, and zipped through traffic back to the hotel.

We decided to head back to the Sunway Pyramid mall for dinner tonight, as the variety of options available there is for practical purposes, limitless.  We chose a local tea house and Chinese food establishment called the “Paradise Inn”, after comparing the menu’s of several nearby restaurants.  The one problem I have found thus far with food in Malaysia is that it pretty much all looks delicious, and it is usually hard to decide what exactly I want to order.  It is also, generally speaking, very reasonably priced.  I eventually chose a beef and onion hot pot meal, along with Oolong tea, and a mango based desert.  As with every local meal I have had thus far, I was not disappointed in my choice.

Food here is inexpensive (not cheap), and delicious. A meal like this costs around 30 Malaysian Ringits, somewhere around $8-9 USD, depending on what exactly is ordered.

As Melissa mentioned in a previous post they take their shopping malls very seriously here in Malaysia, with a wide variety of experiences available under one roof that you generally don’t find in America.  One of these experiences at the Sunway mall is an indoor archery range, which is across the way from the Mui Thai gym, and bowling alley, and nestled next to a jewelry store.  I wasn’t about to let such a unique experience pass me, or my team by, so after dinner we headed up for some relaxation/archery practice to top off the evening.

There was no way that I was going to pass up a chance to get some team archery practice in at the mall.


We then made our way back to the hotel so that we can prepare for another full day of amazing experiences tomorrow, before we fly to Singapore on Saturday.  With so many new and different things to experience, one could easily become distracted and lose focus during a trip like this, but thankfully my team continues to do an excellent job of staying on target.

Staying focused on the target is a key part of a successful project.


Day 4: Risk Management in Action

Today we traveled 2 hours to a city called Melaka, which is in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula and only about 90 minutes from Singapore. We started off the day meeting with another supplier that works with Western Digital. We learned about their in-house operations (which were extremely vertically integrated and very impressive), and then we took a tour of their facilities.

The supplier team took us to lunch right on the beach of Melaka, too! It was a beautiful view and our hosts were extremely gracious the whole day.

Our team with the supplier team.
OSU team with the supplier team.
View from lunch - not bad!
View from lunch – not bad!

After lunch, we went on another factory tour – this time needing to get suited up again in our full body suits and gloves to enter a ‘Class 100’ cleanroom. Cleanrooms are classified according to the number and size of particles permitted per volume of air, so a ‘Class 100’ room allows only 100 particles per cubic foot of air. As we were touring the facilities, suddenly all the machines turned off, the lights went out, and the alarms started going off. Trying not to panic, our team looked around and saw all the workers simply sitting patiently at their stations. We asked if power outages like this happened often, and we were told that this was the first power outage in three years!

Lucky us!! We’re on a project all about risk management and creating business continuity plans (BCPs) for situations just like this one – and a scenario occurred right before our eyes! We were later told that the power was out for 3 hours, that a BCP existed where employees knew to turn off certain machines in case there was a surge when the power came back on, and that all customers – including Western Digital – were phoned within the first two hours to let them know the situation at hand. Seeing that the power had gone out in the entire area (which also meant no AC for us Americans), we decided to head to downtown Melaka to finish our meeting with the suppliers at a local hotel.

Downtown Melaka has buildings going up all over the place, and is a great town right on the water. We had the opportunity to take a quick tour of the area before a storm came through, and learned that Melaka is inscribed on the World Heritage List for sustaining a Portuguese colonial area from the 16th and 17th centuries. In honor of this Portuguese heritage, the supplier team took us to an authentic Portuguese-inspired Malaysian meal. Right on the water, we enjoyed some of the best seafood any of us had ever had – ranging from fresh clams and shrimp to spicy crabs (everyone’s favorite), it was a family-style meal that was delicious!

Portuguese-inspired meal with our new friends
Delicious Portuguese-inspired meal

Overall, a great day in Melaka spent with new friends. Next up: a full day in the office compiling all our learnings from the past couple of days and hopefully some more good Malaysian food!

Day 3: Gettin’ Digi wit it

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!

OSU with Supplier 1

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.

Sunway Pyramid

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!

Day 2: First Day of Work

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

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

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

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

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

Picture something like this
Picture this

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

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

Day 1: Being Tourists

Our first day in Malaysia was all about tourism by numbers. 97-272-88.

We began our day as tourists by taking the public transportation system. To our surprise, the trains were extremely clean, well managed, easy to use, and well air conditioned. The key here was well air conditioned! The first number, 97, is the average temperature pretty much every day in Kuala Lumpur. But this isn’t your standard 97 degree heat. This is an extremely humid, high UV ray, over 100 degree feeling heat. Basically, our team bonded immediately by sweating profusely from the first minute we stepped outside! But we’re getting used to it…

Our first stop was at the Batu Caves. The Batu Caves is a limestone hill that has a series of caves and cave temples. They are said to be around 400 million years old, and it is the sight of one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India, dedicated to Lord Murugan (as shown in the 140-foot statue pictured below).

Batu Caves

Rising high above the ground, the Batu Caves temple complex consists of three main caves and a few smaller ones. The biggest, referred to as Cathedral Cave or Temple Cave, has a very high ceiling and features ornate Hindu shrines. This brings us to our next number of the day. 272. To reach the Temple Cave we had to climb a steep flight of 272 steps – again, in 97 degree heat! Sweaty bonding continues…

After making it to the top, taking a number of selfies, protecting one another from the wild, bag-stealing (but cute and entertaining) monkeys, and engulfing ourselves in the breathtaking views, we headed back down and took the train into the center of the Kuala Lumpur. Here, we visited Chinatown, the famous City Center (think large flea market), and then made it to our last stop – the Petronas Towers.

Petronas Towers

These twin skyscrapers are a landmark of Kuala Lumpur, and were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004. And here is our final number of the day. 88. These towers are 88 floors and definitely a sight to see (and of course get a great team pic).

Towers as Team

Overall, great sweaty day of team bonding. We will definitely always remember our day of numbers as we head into our first week of work at Western Digital!