DATA is a Four Letter Word

For seven weeks of Strategy class, all we heard about was how we should appreciate the case exhibits and how difficult good, clean data would be to get in the real world. Well, the real world done slapped us the face. Our project is to find real, total, landed costs of parts in a global supply chain, and compare them to quotes received from suppliers based in China.


Me showing all the data we need to find

SPOILER ALERT: Getting the data you need is hard!

It’s not that they don’t have data, it’s just not what we need. Without access to their IT systems, you have to constantly rely on others to get data, and, in other cases, estimate costs to try to complete the picture. It pretty much reminded us all of this:

Who doesn’t love a nice Zoolander reference? Anyway, on top of all of this, people are busy, and asking them to find time to help students comes in a less than close second to their day-to-day duties. This is not their fault, as their jobs are important, but it is a hindrance.  All in all, we are making progress and are using some methods we learned in Operations class to find some of the data ourselves.  We are confident we can find what we need and provide a strong end product for CVG.


Eating in Tanzania

By Elliott Ethridge

Our group has now been together in country for over a week. During this time, we have experienced an exceptional range of locally sourced and processed foods.

In Zanzibar, the primary source of protein was seafood. Shocker. Groups of fishermen would take anything ranging from a wooden canoe to a wooden hulled sailing vessel out into the Indian Ocean to fish for anything that would bite. Around 6pm, the boats would paddle/sail/motor back to the beaches and moor just off the shore. The children would then take turns hanging from the mooring lines. Fisherman often sold their daily catches to middle men who would take it to the town square and lay it on a layer of newspaper for display. This part was pretty worrisome, as there was no refrigeration whatsoever. Flies were everywhere, and I have a sneaking suspicion that inventory not sold was held for the next day. I ate a lot of rice and fried dough in Zanzibar.

As we migrated to Morogoro, we passed through multiple small roadside markets consisting of shacks selling fruits, vegetables, and various other wares. For dinner, we stopped at a road side restaurant and ate what would turn out to be the first of many meals consisting of fried chicken, rice, and beans. One thing to note in Tanzania is that Indian dishes are popular. Curry is a delicious addition to an otherwise repetitive ingredient list.

A few nights ago, the group just couldn’t stomach any more rice, chicken, and beans. We took a taxi into town and found a restaurant that offered American fare (sort of). Items included “Chicken Kentuck”, “Kenturky Chicken” that was offered “crumbred or fried”, and a “hamburg” described as, “two bun filled with beef parties”. After a 2.5 hour wait, we received our food. On the whole- it wasn’t bad. We were honestly just happy to eat something different and faintly reminiscent of our native cuisine. Since then, we’ve found a wider range of food including a pretty decent pizza and some really tasty bird wings of some sort referred to as “Drums of Heaven”.

Now, we are in transit to Dodoma near the center of Tanzania. My keyboard is covered in crumbs from Alpella Rings – a marshmallow and chocolate covered confection purchased at the last roadside market we passed. They’re pretty good and will serve to hold me over until the next adventure called dinner.

Typical Tanzanian meal of fried whole tilapia with rice, beans, and spinach, washed down with a refreshing mango juice

Typical Tanzanian meal of fried whole tilapia with rice, beans, and spinach, washed down with a refreshing mango juice

“Teaching” Operations and Marketing in Tanzania

By Mike Sargent

Elliott "Teaching" an MBA Operations Class at SUA in Morogoro

Elliott “Teaching” an MBA Operations Class at SUA in Morogoro

We concluded our week in Morogoro by teaching an Operations and Marketing course to MBA students and MSC (Master of Science Agribusiness) students.

This was a deeply humbling experience and an exciting opportunity for us to apply our knowledge from our first year at Fisher. Professor Matta’s and Professor Chandrasekeren’s slide decks were instrumental. But, Professor Dial’s use of interlocking fingers was the single most valuable takeaway, and it proved just as effective in our new culture (or so we hope).

Despite not threatening a participation grade, we were successful in soliciting comments and questions. And, other than Elliott drawing an incorrect diagram on the board for queuing theory, everything went according to plan. We even asked the professor if he had anything to add at the end to which he casually replied; “We presented a good introduction to the topic.”

We feel that we mitigated personal embarrassment and by extension limited damage to Fisher’s strong reputation.

A Poem about a Kenyan Desert

We thought that traveling would be really neat,

We didn’t know that we would be cleaning feet.

A mission trip was outside our project scope;

But, understand the people – that is the hope.

I gathered my thoughts on the bus ride home,

Here is the result: I wrote a poem

Bus Group

The trip began by boarding a bus,

There was barely enough room for all of us.

The twelve hour journey was crowded and rough,

The road was not paved, by the end we’d had enough.


Twelve hours of bumps and a whole lot of dirt,

Limited water and food made my head hurt.

But this trip it is not about all of my woes,

We must get the bugs out of kids’ toes.

Pastor Hirbo greeted us with his famous smile.

One look at his face and the trip was worthwhile.

Jiggers bite the feet and burrow into the skin,

Over one million are effected, where do we begin?

We knew we would be with medical staff in Marsabit

But, we didn’t know that we would be a part of it.

John_Andrew_Me Cleaning

Apprehension was high and nerves were shot,

MBA students yes, but medical students we were not.

We broke into groups and were shown our tools,

Some drove and some walked to the nearby schools.

Wash, soak, rinse, then dry-

The vaseline makes the jiggers go bye.

Ryan Treating

My shoes are red and covered in dirt;

But, that’s nothing compared to how my heart hurts.

We arrived to help make Kenya jigger free

I didn’t know how much it would affect me.

Bus at Village

The kids were strong and tried to smile,

But, the treatment was painful and took a while.

The sight of one boy made my heart break in two,

The jiggers got to his feet and he didn’t know what to do.

Boy with gloves

The shame on his face and pain in his eye,

A lump came to my throat and I started to cry.

I got comfort from my team; we worked as one.

We were committed to help until the treatment was done.

The last step in the process is putting shoes on their feet,

The one-for-one model from Skechers, which was pretty neat.

Putting on Shoes

At the sight of the shoes, the kids formed a line,

All of them wondering – will one of those pairs be mine?

Shoe line

More kids than shoes, a sad realization-

How can we truly help this great nation?

Over 300 were treated with kindness and care,

And jigger prevention they are now well aware.

We debriefed from our days and said our goodbyes,

The impact of this experience was truly a surprise.

Jake Carrying

 We started the journey a bit distressed.

As we leave, we are feeling overwhelmingly blessed.

Farewell to Marsabit and it’s desert air,

This brief look into our trip; I’m glad I could share.


Sometimes you just gotta improvise.

Business trips are not glamorous. One of the downsides of business travel is that the gyms are nowhere near as nice as the RPAC. We have had to improvise to make sure that we stay in shape while working here in Mexico. We’ve been working so hard that we don’t have time to visit the hotel gym. However, good problem solvers are always looking for ways to kill two birds with one stone. We found a dual-use for aluminum castings:

photo (16)


In all seriousness, we’ve learned that the key to business travel survival is to be flexible. It’s uncomfortable to be out of your element and without the luxuries of home, but a great opportunity to learn how to adapt to any situation you get thrown into. We’ve learned to use humor as a coping mechanism—teams that laugh together, thrive. We laugh a lot.


Forbidden Economies of Scale

After our amazing and exhausting trip to the great wall Saturday, and reunited with the CVG team, we decided to hit up the epicenter of ancient Chinese power and modern tourism.  We woke up early to beat the crowds and subwayed over to the Forbidden City complex.

“Large” doesn’t quite capture it.  Everything China does is bigger, but the Forbidden City and surrounding sites take it to a whole new level. From the second you leave the subway and walk up into the square across the road, your entire field of vision is taken up by massive palace walls on one side and a field of stone on the other.  Even early in the morning, milling crowds of tourists (both international and Chinese) mill around taking pictures of everything and entering into various queues for the attractions.

We decided (unwisely), to go to the Forbidden City first, so began entering into lines.  First, there was the line for the first security check; then, the line to get into the city; then, the line to get tickets; then the realization that we were in the wrong ticket line; so, out to another line to get the right tickets; then more security…

Finally, we made it in!  By this point, we had passed by several tiers of walls and gates that would daunt the Mongol hordes.  This is not a place that it would be appealing to attack, especially when you include the formidable presence of various Chinese military forces protecting the area.

Inside was beautiful. The complex is a Russian nesting doll arrangement where you pass through successive gates with palaces that ancient emperors used for all types of activities: putting on shoes, holding banquets, being rubbed down by concubines.  There are even palaces for resting in between traveling between palaces in the complex (which is reasonable since it is pretty exhausting walking between them.  We are talking a multi-mile stroll).  The buildings also house various pieces of art, antique military equipment, and other posessions of the dynasties, so that you can get a better picture of life back then.  What is amazing about these cases of artifacts is that a sword from 3000 years ago may be sitting next to a sword from 700 years ago without much change.  Both the quality of preservation and the timelessness of the culture are incredible.

My favorite piece of the interior, however, was the gardens.  Within the massive stone walls, the ruling class could relax from their stressful lives by wandering around carefully manicured gardens, fountains, pools and weathered stone formations.  Even with huge crowds inside, it was a strangely tranquil environment. I can imagine that the gardens were a great place for emperors to come after a long day of ruling a quarter of the planet’s population.

After a few hours, despite only having seen a fraction of the complex, we decided to move on to see a few more of the sites surrounding the area.  Unfortunately, because the exit to the Forbidden City is on the far side from the entrance, when we left we realized that we had to walk all the way around the walls of the city to get back to Tiananmen square.  This helped get us up to our Chinese daily average of twelve-thirteen miles of walking a day.

Tiananmen square is pretty impressive, although there is not a lot in it.  Surrounded on all sides by monolithic sculptures and buildings dedicated to the Chinese bureaucracy, its interior is mostly empty, though dotted with throngs of tourists, marching soldiers, lights and security cameras.  In the very center, there is a large stone pillar dedicated to the People’s Heroes.  While not quite on the same scale as the Washington monument, in the middle of so much empty space, it sends a message.

By this point we were pretty much touristed out, so we headed a few miles (or two blocks according to Yuming) down the road to a famous dumpling restaurant.  We had a big group, so they gave us a private room upstairs.  We proceeded to absolutely pig out, devouring 150 dumplings and a couple side dishes between the eight of us.  We ordered a range of different fillings, and everything we ate was delicious.  Best of all was the price: only 260 RMB total or about $5 USD per person.

Impressive Panorama of Tiananmen

Dual Team OHIO in the Forbidden City!

Dual Team OHIO in the Forbidden City!

As we tried to avoid slipping into food comas, we caught the subway back to the train station.  Fortunately, this time the CVG team was with us, so they managed to make it on time!  We blasted off back to Shanghai at 300 km/hr, tired but happy with an awesome trip to Beijing.


Morogoro Agricultural Experiences

Janet teaches us about native Tanzanian crops that are grown at SAT

Janet teaches us about native Tanzanian crops that are grown at SAT

Naturally-filtered, Rainwater fed tilapia ponds at SAT

Naturally-filtered, rainwater fed tilapia ponds at SAT

By Christian Medeiros

During our stay at SUA, our hosts took us on several field visits to experience Tanzanian agriculture firsthand.

The first visit was a short trip to SUA’s on-campus poultry facilities to take a look at the poultry research trials being conducted with broiler chicks (the kind of chicken you eat).  The trials were testing the effectiveness of small housing units from a South African company that could be used by smallholder farmers to improve their poultry raising methods. The control group was raised with traditional methods, while three test groups varied housing type, heating type, and feed.

Later in the week, we visited a medium sized poultry farm for layers (the kind that produce eggs), which was run by a professor at the university. Undaunted by the hordes of flies and lack of sanitation gear, we stepped into the poultry houses. Along the way, Carlos and the professor discussed the finer points of poultry rearing in Colombia. The farm used small cages like those typically seen in the United States. The professor did mention that they put one less chicken in each cage than the maximum capacity. Apparently this practice leads to higher egg production as the less crowded birds are less stressed. The farm also utilized a biogas system to capture waste from cows and goats so that they don’t have to purchase gas for cooking and heating. 

Our final visit was to Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT), an organic farm and training center located outside Morogoro town operated by a husband and wife team, Alex (from Austria) and Janet (from Tanzania). The trip to the farm passed along a very rough road through rural farmland. Along the way, Alex and Janet pointed out different crops and how poorly many of them were growing on smallholder farmer plots. The 2015 rainy season started very late in Morogoro, and so many farmers planted too early, resulting in stunted crops. Even though the rains continued beyond the typical end of the rainy season, it was too late for most plants. The plots that looked better were those that were patient in planting. SAT had to plant their maize three times in order to time it correctly with the beginning of the rains. 

Arriving at SAT, we were greeted by the first dog that I have seen in Tanzania sporting a collar. The grounds at SAT contain many experimental plots that are intercropped to help develop the soil and that utilize as many indigenous species as possible. They also employ a large rainwater catchment system that collects runoff from their buildings and stores it in a large reservoir tank. They had have a reservoir and are trying different trenching techniques to try and increase the catchment area to fill the reservoir. Alex and Janet are very passionate about organic, sustainable agriculture and helping farmers utilize these techniques to increase their income. 

Both vehicles had an interesting ride back to town. Some of our team was swept along at ‘lizard pace’ as our host prodded the driver to hurry and get her back for a meeting, resulting in a very rough ride that left several people disjointed for days. The other car went way down a wormhole when Elliott accidentally mentioned GMOs. All in all, it was a very interesting trip and a great experience to see a different way to farm in Tanzania.

King Solomon – A Zanzibar Legend

By Mike Sargent

Classic antics from King Solomon on the Zanzibar beach

Classic antics from King Solomon on the Zanzibar beach.  Also of note is Mike’s hat.

You may think you know who King Solomon is. Well, what I’m about to tell you will change all of that.

We spent our first weekend in Tanzania adapting to the culture and our new time zone by taking in the sights of Zanzibar. An added bonus was having Kurt Roush join our group.

Forgive me as I digress. Back to King Solomon.

It begins with Christian’s innate ability to identify talent. Christian was able to parse out King Solomon from the army of tour guides and salespeople accosting us at every turn. Whether it was Solomon’s questionable sobriety, crazy tech t-shirt (which we later realized was the only shirt he ever wore), upbeat personality, or just the simple fact that he “randomly” showed up wherever we were, he was the perfect choice.

Never in a thousand years would we have been able to squeeze so much into so little time had it not been for the monumental efforts of King Solomon. On the first day, King Solomon escorted us to a local restaurant and arranged our visit to Jozani Forest. At the forest, we saw wild monkeys leaping among the tree branches and explored a beautiful mangrove.

The next day, we took a boat trip to Prison Island where Zach became known as the “tortoise whisperer.”

Zach encounters a sleeping tortoise on Prison Island

Zach encounters a sleeping tortoise on Prison Island

Tortoise begins to stir

Tortoise begins to stir…

Getting to its feet...

Getting to its feet…

Standing at attention...

Standing at attention…

Later, we hopped back on our boat and fished while heading to a local snorkeling spot. It was amazing that some of us actually caught fish: we were neither using rods nor reels! (I must pause now for a special shout out to Elliott for miraculously snagging two fish at the same time.)

After snorkeling, we all swam back to the sand dune to swap stories about what we saw. However, instead we found two of our crewmembers taking turns slamming something on the sand. We watched for ten to fifteen minutes until we figured out the recipient of the beating was an octopus – and later our calamari stew. The funny thing is that it still had the texture of a Goodyear tire so the abusive efforts were likely in vain.

Well tenderized octopus meat

Well tenderized octopus meat

On the way back to Zanzibar, Carlos almost caused significant damage when he slipped on the boat narrowly missing the charcoal fire burning in the hull. This happened three times.

Solomon and team huddled around a hot stove while at sea in a small wooden boat

Solomon and team huddled around a hot stove while at sea in a small wooden boat

After returning to Zanzibar, we relaxed in the beach bar with Solomon. His final legendary act was to facilitate the purchase of our team Tanzania soccer jerseys for $7.50 each.

Sunset, Beach, and New Jersey

Sunset, Beach, and New Jerseys

In closing, I would like to offer the easiest way to find Solomon on Zanzibar: simply listen for “Kichizi Kama Ndizi (crazy like banana)” – King Solomon’s favorite saying.

Dodoma Poker Confessional

By Elliott Ethridge

Like a Will Smith circa 1994, I blew my money stacks and wound up broker than Kissinger. I’m talking about poker, late night, Tanzanian style. It started when I decided to stay in tonight to get my beauty rest. The boys went to the bar down the street for a wifi connection and some sweet dancing. They came back looking for a fight. Boy, did they find it in this herculean specimen of a man. Carlos hammered my door shouting, “Come on bro! Wake up and come play poker!” My pupils dilated, my veins constricted, and I was all in.

Things started off according to plan. I was beating these fools like a rented mule. “Check! Call! Raise!” I shouted all of these words whose meaning is beyond me. No matter! I was winning and winning big. Then tragedy struck. Nick’s synapse fired, and I found myself in a battle of nerves. If it was a movie, right about now the camera would focus in on the fire forming in Nick’s eyes. The music would decrescendo, and the audience would wait at the edge of their seats for the flop.

You guessed it. The rest of the script didn’t go my way. Nick got lucky, I lost, and now I’m typing the obligatory blog post for the first guy out. I should mention that, in lieu of actual poker chips or any other sort of visual ranking device, we are passing around a napkin with tally marks depicting our current holdings.  This game will ultimately end in a mess of confusion and broken hearts.

Mikumi National Park

By Carlos Garcia

Gates leading to Mikumi National Park outside Morogoro, Tanzania

Gates leading to Mikumi National Park outside Morogoro, Tanzania

Relaxing in a Bau Bau tree while taking a break from our safari

Relaxing in a Bau Bau tree while taking a break from our safari

Our first safari in Tanzania was a resounding success. Waking up at 4:45 am and hearing a torrential downpour concerned all of us. However, within ten minutes, the rain had subsided, and the rising sun presented one of the most stunning mornings we have experienced while in Tanzania. Once our car crossed the park’s borderline, the congestion of highway side shops morphed into lush pastures adorned with hearty trees and bushes that housed the local fauna.

Our first wildlife sighting was a herd of Impala who stared from the side of the road at the passing traffic. Baboons paraded the highway shoulders in search of the occasional treat that drivers donated in spite of the numerous signs condemning such actions. The baboons, clearly understanding the pay-offs of a timely smile or pose, welcomed the traffic and made themselves as visible as possible. I am quite certain that if we had contributed to their loot the smile would have been accompanied by a wink.

The park’s entrance served as a hub of vehicle exchanges from the tour vans into open air safari vehicles. Both locals and foreign visitors could not hide their excitement and anticipation for the upcoming adventure. The rewards started within minutes, as a herd of impala and zebras gently grazed unbothered by the vehicles that flocked around them like paparazzi. A group of giraffes followed by elephants completed the welcoming committee. The open savannah would beautifully present a new herd to admire every couple of minutes. Solitary impala or elephants would engage in eye contact as they were much more attentive to their surroundings. Most of the wildlife was unconcerned with our presence with the exception of giraffes, which would stare eerily into your eyes the whole time you were present, and an elephant who not so subtly suggested we move on.

Elephants lock tusks

Elephants lock tusks

Trademark stare down from Masai Giraffe

Trademark stare down from Masai Giraffe

Zebras and buffalo

Zebras and buffalo

The hippopotamus pool appeared empty upon our arrival. The calm waters of the lagoon were suddenly disturbed by the surface breaching of behemoth after behemoth. The loud exhaling of the hippos upon surfacing reminded you of the formidable force of the animal beneath the surface. One of the beasts then stood up, arched his head backward and provided us with a spectacular yawn.

Giant yawn from a hippopotamus

Giant yawn from a hippopotamus

A single lion taking a rest during the hottest part of the day

A single lion taking a rest during the hottest part of the day

The long hours in the sun and continuously bouncing vehicle withered our energy, but could not blemish the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that we all experienced during the astounding journey. We all look forward to our next Safari adventure at the Tarangire and Serengeti National parks.