It’s 2 AM and I’m writing a blog post.

Tonight was the first time in my whole life that I’ve had a team meeting after 11:30 pm. Usually I’m snuggled up and warm under the covers by about 9:30pm…but not in Mexico. We’re working late into the night, and I’ve had two diet cokes to keep up my energy. Our final presentation is Friday morning, and we’re determined to deliver a solid deck and several files containing hot sales leads.

Late night sessions are not fun. Everyone’s cranky, tired, and just ready to be done. But, these challenging situations are some of the best learning opportunities. Here are a couple of things we’re trying to keep in mind while preparing for our big presentation:

  • Chill out—We’re a bunch of type As who have been together 24/7 for three whole weeks. Sometimes it’s best to bring the intensity down and acknowledge that we’re our own worst critics.
  • Keep it in perspective—The stress sets in near the end of the project as we’re scrambling to consolidate everything we’ve done into one digestible framework. It’s important not to lose sight of why we signed up for this experience…to learn, grow, and most importantly—travel!
  • Take risks—No one likes to be wrong, but the worst that could happen is someone says, “No, you’re wrong.” Now, that wasn’t so bad was it? Experiences like GAP are a great opportunity to go out on a limb and try (or suggest) something new.
  • Take a break—Everyone’s brain needs some time away from the project and immersed in something fun. It’s okay to take some breathing room and do something for yourself.

 

 

What GAP teaches about the ‘real world’

This post is brought to you by Zac Petrak.

Cue up Matchbox 20 and the Real World…

We are nearing the completion of GAP and the associated project, and I have had some time to reflect on GAP. The association that most comes to mind is finding a job, applying for the job, waiting to hear if you got an offer, and finally the job itself.

The GAP program started off as an alluring component of OSU and the Fisher MBA program – just like any open position at the company where you want to work. You read about the program/job, watch videos and daydream.

Next, comes the hard work – applying for the Fisher program, being accepted, then applying for the GAP program and being in limbo, thinking “will I be accepted….I have to be accepted….why have I not heard anything yet!?” The same thought process will go through your mind after you have interviewed for the job you lust for.

So you made the cut – What’s next?

The job promises that you will be challenged every day, have direct contact with the CFO, and enjoy a fast track up the corporate ladder. GAP promises an interesting and intellectually stimulating project with offers real world experience and will provide you with skills employers are seeking.

Let it all Sink in

You have been at the job for about six months now – GAP is winding down. Is the project/job what you dreamed about a year ago? Most likely it is something completely different. The clear path that you drew out ended up with some curves and hard stops. However, GAP has prepared you for the real world. The question is how are you going to sell it as valuable experience to your next dream job!?

zac blog pic

To Battle!

T-48 hours. As we come to the end of our GAP project, we are all working at a frenetic pace, cleaning numerous spreadsheets and analyzing large volumes of data. Eric and his computer are in a show down as to which one will overheat and blow a fuse first.IMG_20150526_201613-compressed

Putting together our final presentation, we see the pros and cons of each of our options, and how variations in each component of a supply chain affect the overall recommendation.IMG-20150526-WA0005

As a project, the GAP experience has been a true learning experience. Not only does the project tie together all that we learned in class over the year; but, it highlights areas of expertise of each teammate and what we have learned from one another. However, the most interesting thing is the team dynamics – starting out as competitors, transitioning into colleagues, living together as roommates, and eventually becoming comrades-in-arms!

Pedal, Pedal, Pedal

One thing I’ve learned in my short time here in Amsterdam is that the Dutch LOOOOVE riding bikes.  They love bikes so much that they have two to three story parking lots just for bikes.

Bike Rack at the University of Amsterdam

Bike Rack at the University of Amsterdam – the Netherlands has more bikes than people

In the honor of the Dutch culture, Sammy and I decided to rent bikes and take a little cruise of our own.

Sammy on BikeFirst, we went by one of the grand canals in Amsterdam, and, because it was a holiday weekend, we were able to see a ton of activity on the waterCanal. Next, we cruised along a local street market searching for something to eat.

 

Unfortunately, Sammy decided to wander off, and we got separated. The bike trip became a solo mission!

 

Off on my own I went and made my way down the river passing many really unique buildings such as the NEMO Museum, which is a museum dedicated to all things science. NEMO

I also passed the historical Maritime Museum, which had a ton of really cool boats anchored at dock.  My next goal was to make it all the way to the North Sea, which was about fifteen miles to the East.  Unfortunately, the only path that I could find without the use of a GPS was a six lane highway- definitely not suitable for my bike!  Instead, I rode south to see Amsterdam University.

University of Amsterdam

The University was beautiful, everything looked brand new, and being the architecture dork that I am, I rode everywhere looking at all of the amazing buildings.  After my time at the University, I went by Middenweg Park which is where EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE, in the area comes to play sports. The park was beautiful! It had what seemed to be over fifty turf soccer fields, and it contained numerous playgrounds, sand volleyball courts, tennis courts and an indoor ice rink.  I spent about an hour and a half just weaving around the park paths watching people play both soccer and field hockey.  After exploring the park, I made my way home.  Another interesting feature of parks in Amsterdam is what I call “kid parks” because everything is miniaturized, even the park itself.

Little People Park

Little People Park

Although I lost my biking partner, the day turned out to be one of the best experiences I have had to date in Amsterdam.  Overall, my route went through at least five different cultural neighborhoods: Chinese/Vietnamese, Jewish, Middle East, Jamaican/Carribean and African; lasted about four hours; and, took me over twenty-one miles throughout the city.

British Hospitality!

It has been about a week since we started working on our consulting project at Commercial Vehicle Group (CVG) Northampton. CVG Northampton has the corporate office, manufacturing unit and the warehouse clubbed into one massive building in a quiet neighborhood called “Round Spinney”. The facilities are great, and the people here are the best!

Tina, the cafeteria lady, took the time to sit down at our table and talked to us for over half an hour explaining British cuisines and places to visit near Northampton. She even offered a slightly modified menu at lower prices to us considering that we are students! Tina not only suggests authentic British restaurants to us, but also serves the most delicious cafeteria food that I have ever tasted (trust me, I am not exaggerating). My MBA mind keeps wondering what her incentive structure is – because they have got it absolutely right!

Today, when Ben and I were waiting outside the warehouse to watch and time the loading of pallets on to a truck, Brian, the forklift operator, walked up and gave me his jacket because it was cold outside. It was such a purely selfless and friendly gesture. I had never met Brian before, but I know that I will remember his name far longer than many other acquaintances.

These are not unusual events though. People at CVG are genuinely helpful and friendly, and we have felt it over and over again. The welders, fixers, forklift operators and every other person in this office seem to enjoy their jobs. There is always music playing in the warehouse interspersed with sounds of laughter. Are there operational inefficiencies? Yes. But, CVG Northampton has found the treasure when it comes to people!

Road trip to Scotland

It has been two weeks IMG-20150525-WA0000since the start of our project at CVG Northampton. While the project has been exciting, we have also been eagerly looking forward to the weekends. This weekend we decided to visit Edinburgh. The problem, however, was deciding how to get there – take a train or a flight. In the end we decided to drive up the coastline until we reached Scotland!

On hindsight, it was the best decision ever! The landscape was picturesque to say the least and was interspersed by quick peeks of the ocean. In fact, if one watches eagerly, one can actually notice subtle differences between the landscape and view of the English countryside and the Scottish ones. My opinion – Scottish ones are way better!

The names of the places were also really strange, and we had a good laugh about them. Longframelington, Alnmouth Shilbottle, Eyemouth and a few others really amused us. Also, every fifteen minutes Nishant would ask, “How long until we get there?” In fact, one time he thought we had been driving for at least an hour and half when it had only been 20 minutes! With such long road trips (seven hours) it is important to find laughter in the small things!

Once we reached Edinburgh, it was everything that we had hoped for and more! I have no doubts in my mind that Edinburgh is my favorite of all cities that I have ever visited.

One Last Time into the Fray

I am wIMG_4432-004riting this blog at 11:18pm on our last night before the big presentation! After a hectic fourteen hour work day with a fried brain, this blog is a vent to my feelings at this point. It has been a great learning experience for these three weeks and all of us have enjoyed our time here. We have worked, fought and laughed together, and tonight, as I look at our final presentation, I can’t help but feel proud of our achievements!

We are presenting our findings to the C-suite of Commercial Vehicle Group tomorrow. None of us has ever presented to a CEO before, and we are excited about this opportunity. I have no doubt that we will be stepping on some toes with our findings, but that is the job we were tasked with – to provide an unbiased, uncluttered report and strategies to fix the issues. I believe we have done that task. We presented our findings in a draft presentation to the Director of Purchasing at CVG yesterday, and he was very excited by what we had to offer. We are all eagerly awaiting tomorrow.

On a different note, I think it will be strange leaving this place tomorrow. I have some great memories of this trip that will stay with me forever. I have made new friends, bonded with some old ones, worked hard and partied harder. It has been an intense experience for the last three weeks – I feel as though I might be leaving a part of me behind when I depart tomorrow. Northampton is not the most happening city in the world. It is, however, the city in which I had my GAP project. It is special.

A Tale of Two [Chinese] Cities

This past weekend, our team travelled to the ancient Chinese cities of Hangzhou and Wuzhen.  We started our journey on Saturday morning when we took a high-speed train to the city of Hangzhou.  Upon our arrival in Hangzhou, we hailed a cab and began our commute to the hostel where we would be staying for the evening.  At some point during the ride, it became readily apparent that traffic in the city of Hangzhou was on a different level of hectic, and we were informed shortly thereafter that Hangzhou traffic is among the worst in the entire world.  Indeed, it was fairly insane: we constantly drove between lanes (and cars) as well as frequently coming close to collisions with the droves of motor scooters that travelled in all directions like great flocks of birds dispersing in the air.

After we reached the hostel, we travelled to a beautiful lake in the middle of the bustling city called Westlake.  There, we boarded a Chinese houseboat to reach an island within the lake that actually hosted its own island within a lake.  Bear with me here: we travelled to an island within a lake within an island within a lake.  Has anyone seen Inception????  Trust me, it’s still equally confusing to me, even after visiting this paradigm of enigmas.  All in all, the day was beautiful, and we all had a wonderful time exploring this ancient Chinese landmark.

The following day, we took an early morning train to another famous Chinese city, the historic water town of Wuzhen.  After spending a good amount of time haggling with drivers at the train station in an effort to work out a decent price, we took a large van to the actual town, where we found an enormous amount of Chinese visitors already busy exploring the site.  We were nevertheless undeterred from our excursion and happily explored the streets of the millennia old city.  The city itself originally sprang up along the banks of a great river and eventually carved out its own series of canals that now crisscross the entire area.  After a day of exploring the streets and waterways of this fascinating place, we boarded a small, gondola-like boat for a serene boat ride back to the city entryway.

The Empire Strikes Back!

Ah! The weekend! Time to kick back from all the hard work and research, and spend a Sunday like the Dutch. While one of our teammates was off to Rome to teach the Italians some card games, ye olde empire sent over a couple of blokes to make sure we wouldn’t be relaxing over the weekend.

After some Friday night revelry, those brave enough to venture out headed for the original Heineken brewery, which organizes detailed tours for beer aficionados. While there, Joe, Adam and Sammy snagged a picture for next year’s Fisher brochure.IMG-20150516-WA0007 (1)

On the work front, we began comparing respective teams’ progress (within the scope of the NDA of course) and noted the nature of similarities in challenges different companies face. For firms that have been doing business for a while, it does become difficult to identify and make tough decisions that affect the people they share their work lives with. A fresh perspective helps to take a neutral and objective view of things and going through the process helps us tie what we learn through lectures and cases to a real business environment, with all its intricacies.IMG_20150517_155813-compressed

This weekend also hosted ‘Rollende Keukens’ or Rolling Kitchens, Amsterdam’s food truck festival. What is surprising is that even with a strong tradition and history such as Holland’s, the food truck festival with all its diverse global and fusion cuisines received ample patronage from the Dutch palate. I think this place might be the answer to Prof Matta’s claim of having the best food in the world.

Well it is time to bid farewell to our friends from across the Channel, and to get ready for the next week, when we will start piecing together the data for Eric’s logistics optimization model. More on that to follow, but for now, it is goodbye from team WD.

Tot Ziens!

Sree

Another side of Thailand

After two weeks in Bangkok, our team decided to expand our experience to some other areas of Thailand during the weekend. However, half of the team wanted the loudness and craziness Pattaya, one wanted the romance of Bali, Indonesia, while I chose Hua Hin, a very quiet and beautiful beach just about 300km (186 miles) from Bangkok.

The place was quite the opposite of noisy Bangkok. We enjoyed some of the most peaceful days since we came to Thailand. The most pleasant experience for me was the people in the town. They were extremely honest and helpful- definitely a great relief from the tuk tuk and taxi drivers in Bangkok. If you enjoy peaceful beaches, nice weather, great street foods and elephants, this is the place to go.

This was the place where we lived in Hua Hin, very nice little hotel we found on Airbnb

This was the place where we lived in Hua Hin, very nice little hotel we found on Airbnb

The elephant was coming to pick us up. 400 baht each ($13) for 20' riding. The name of the elephant was Tuk Tuk, which was really funny as the experience we had with tuk tuk (a kind of motobike taxi) in Bangkok was aweful.

The elephant was coming to pick us up. 400 baht each ($13) for 20′ riding. The name of the elephant was Tuk Tuk, which was really funny as the experience we had with tuk tuk (a kind of motobike taxi) in Bangkok was awful.

 

Tuk Tuk meeting his gang

Tuk Tuk meeting his gang

Camels, ugly animals with beautiful eyes. And they were almost as tall as  the elephants.

Camels, ugly animals with beautiful eyes. And they were almost as tall as the elephants.

Found a nice bar with live music (Jazz and Saxophone) with 5 stars on Tripadvisor. Obviously we didnt understand anything about Jazz, but the place was really cool.

Found a nice bar with live music (Jazz and Saxophone) with 5 stars on Tripadvisor. Obviously we didnt understand anything about Jazz, but the place was really cool.