By Mike Sargent
A Day in the Life – Оксана
One of the unexpected pleasures of working abroad for the month has been the opportunity to learn more about our colleagues, their preferences, and their lifestyles. To celebrate that opportunity, this blog (along with several others) is written to communicate some of the interesting things we have learned about each other over the course of this project.
Having worked with Оксана on my core team for the year, I was well aware of her commitment to quality output and ability to focus on the core problem without becoming distracted by tangents. Thus, it was not surprising to learn that this attitude permeates her life.
Without fail, Оксана is the first to awake in the morning and station herself at our family-sized kitchen table. Here, she enjoys her morning drink of choice: tea. One of the first new things we quickly learned is Оксана’s passion for tea and preference for sachets. Though a deep dive into the types of tea she prefers and whether she is tolerant of loose leaf tea may be an area for future research. However, it is clear that regular teabags are not welcome in Ms. Komarova’s abode.
Often, by the time I have finished my first cup of coffee, Оксана has already departed for a full day of activity.
It is clear Оксана is at home in the city in both her manners and dress. From art museum, to coffee shop, to neighborhood store, she matches like a chameleon crawling among branches in a jungle. In Amsterdam, for example, scarves are a suave accessory and as ubiquitous as fanny packs at theme parks in the 80s. I, for one, wish Оксана had shared this information before our trip so that the rest of us could have been as fashion-prepared as she has been on this trip.
However, though she blends in seamlessly, she never seeks to hide. Instead she commits significant thought to demonstrating her affections for those around her. On our recent trip to a market, she thoughtfully discussed her gifts ideas for her family. Even this weekend when she was visiting Brussels, she emailed a list of ingredients and offered to cook the team breakfast on Memorial Day.
Though you might imagine an early riser is an early sleeper, this is hardly the case. Оксана is as capable of enjoying late evenings and is responsible for Team Amsterdam’s favorite way to pass the time. On one of our first nights, Оксана taught us a Russian Prison card game (we choose not to ask how she learned it) called Durak, Russian for ‘fool’. The game involves attacking and defending until only one player is left and declared the ‘fool’ (i.e. loser). This card game has become so popular among our team that we play it on a daily basis. The game is roughly 80% skill and 20% luck. We play macro games against opponents and track cards continually to avoid the title of ‘durak’.
The past month has been a significant learning experience. Beyond business, the interpersonal lessons have been invaluable and deepened my appreciation of each of my teammate’s unique strengths.
Amsterdam is an amazing city. For me, it’s a city full of interesting details.
Amsterdam is not planned for cars, and not for pedestrians. It respects only bicyclists. You have to be careful and attentive in order not to become a victim of a bicycle in this city. There are numerous variations of this vehicle in Amsterdam: bicycles with baskets, bicycles with a front seat for a kid, with a back seat for a kid, with the two seats for the kids, bicycles with the closed cabs at the front for the babies, and bicycles with an opened trailer for the dogs. And, they are parked all over the place! By our second week here, I stopped being surprised by a young father in a suit riding his bike with his two daughters and huge dog in a trailer. No wonder, Dutch men and women are really fit.
Amsterdam has a lot to offer to the visitors thanks to its history, and the ability of its citizens to preserve this history. Downtown Amsterdam is all about the canals and small, typical Dutch houses with sharp roof-tops and narrow windows. The houses here are so narrow that each of them have a hook at the top of the roof in order to facilitate moving in and moving out (all the furniture is taken into the house through the windows). The canal system is really picturesque; the majority of postcards with city views feature several shots of the canals. Although we arrived a little bit too late for the tulips season, we still saw some really beautiful and unusual tulips near the main museum of the city.
By Mike Sargent
By themselves sort of boring, but when you’re surrounded by forty of them it’s amazing. Also pretty cool when one chases the car, and you actually get away.
By Mike Sargent
As you might imagine, I’ve struggled to find areas where I could contribute to the team.
“We have our two best minds on it so we should be okay.” – Nick
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.
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!?
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.
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.
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!
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.
In the honor of the Dutch culture, Sammy and I decided to rent bikes and take a little cruise of our own.
First, 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 water. 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!
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.
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.
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.
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!