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.

IMG_1795

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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TV3Oncvz_cU

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.

 

First day in Marsabit

Thursday May 14

After a relaxing rest at St. Stephens Church guest house, we woke up to an early breakfast before heading out into Marsabit County to treat children infected with chigoe fleas, more commonly referred to as “jiggers”.  The fleas live in the ground and burrow into their host’s feet (and sometimes hands) to nest and lay eggs.  Besides being incredibly painful, the parasites can cut off the blood supply in toes and cause gangrene. To combat this menace, we split into four teams comprised of OSU students, faculty and students from Mount Kenyan University, Partners for Care (PFC) staff members, and members of St. Stephens Church.  The PFC staff members led each group and explained how to treat jiggers.  First, you wash the infected child’s feet and hands before soaking them in a potassium based solution to kill the fleas.  After soaking the hands and feet, they have to be dried and covered by petroleum jelly or Vaseline.  PFC also had BOBS provided by Sketchers for us to distribute afterwards. These shoes will protect the children from reinfection.

The entire group ready for day 1.

The entire group ready for day 1.

I teamed up with Andrew, Molly, and Santiago to travel to the remote village of Parkishon. We hit the ground running and our group leader, George Okell, got everyone into place. Twenty-three children and one adult from the village came out for treatment.  After finishing in the village, we moved on to the Parkishon primary school and treated another twenty-one kids.  The school used to be 90% infected until Pastor John Hirbo from St. Stephens began working tirelessly in Marsabit County to eliminate the jigger infestation.  Senior PFC staff and faculty from Mount Kenyan University visited the County hospital in the afternoon and were told that the government is almost prepared to declare Marsabit County jigger free.

John checks hands in Parkishon.

John checks hands in Parkishon.

Santiago and Molly treat kids from Parkishon Primary.

Santiago and Molly treat kids from Parkishon Primary.

It was a long and tiring day, but this was a truly amazing experience to see different groups come together to combat a serious public health issue with a methodical and sustainable plan.

Molly outside of Parkishon Primary.

Molly outside of Parkishon Primary.

Visit to Coca-Cola Kenya HQ & Mount Kenya University, May 11

On Monday, we had a meeting at Coca-Cola’s Kenya headquarters with Bob Okello, Group Execution Manager for EKOCENTER in Africa. EKOCENTER is a Coca-Cola initiative to provide solar-powered centers in the most rural parts of Africa so that locals can enjoy amenities that people in urban areas take for granted such as electricity, WiFi, and TV.

Greif Kenya GTM & PD, with PFC staff and Bob Okelo at Coke Kenya HQ

Greif Kenya GTM & PD, with PFC staff and Bob Okelo at Coke Kenya HQ

Mr. Okelo shared many great insights about the unique characteristics and challenges of marketing and distributing Coke in Kenya. Coke uses Micro Distribution Centers (MDC) for the “last mile” distribution. In this system, a Kenyan owns a MDC and is responsible for purchasing and distributing Coke products to about 120 retailers (or kiosks) in their geographic area. Coke has “Key Accounts” staff who call on every single retailer/kiosk in their area at least once a week to verify stock, check on the kiosk’s relationship with the MDC, ensure that merchandising and displays are to Coke’s specifications, etc… It is amazing to me that Coke account representatives visit every single, tiny kiosk in the whole country on a weekly basis.

Mr. Okelo provided some good insights into a possible model for our PackH20 project, especially because tracking the packs and ensuring proper training and monitoring of end users is so crucial to verifying that the packs are serving their purpose as a health product. He also touched on the importance of incentivizing MDC owners to serve far-away and tough-to-access locations to ensure that a Coke is always “within an arm’s reach of desire.” Similarly, PackH20’s vision is for everyone in the world who needs a pack to have one, so it will be useful to explore an incentive structure to ensure that even the most remote and marginalized people in Kenya are able to get a Pack.

Both Greif teams and PFC with Mount Kenya University students and lecturers on MKU main campus

Both Greif teams and PFC with Mount Kenya University students and lecturers on MKU main campus

 

After we left Mr. Okelo, we went to the main campus of Mount Kenya University to meet with some lecturers and students in the nursing and MBA programs. We paired off and took tours of the school.

 

 

Mount Kenya University main campus

Mount Kenya University main campus

 

Mount Kenya is one of the largest universities in the country, and is set up somewhat similar to OSU, with satellite campuses to serve students in other communities. While their MBA program only has 8 or 9 students, their nursing and doctor of medicine programs are much larger.

 

 

Church in Nairobi, Kenya, May 10

The trip so far has been a whirlwind. We’ve been moving nonstop since we landed, starting with our first meetings at 8 or 9am, followed by dinner meetings at the house with local NGO and business contacts, and wrapped up by daily debriefings and planning sessions that last until at least 10pm. Things may wind down a bit as the trip progresses, though, based on our calendar.

Traffic in Nairobi makes it incredibly difficult and time-consuming to move from meeting to meeting

Traffic in Nairobi makes it incredibly difficult and time-consuming to move from meeting to meeting

We’ve front-ended most of our local meetings so that Connie, the PFC founder, could attend these before leaving for the US at the end of this week. One of the biggest time sinks is how long it takes to get anywhere. Traffic is crazy in Nairobi! Imagine when people are jostling to get to the front of the crowd at a concert, but here everyone is in a car. Miraculously, no one seems to actually hit anyone else.

On our first Sunday morning in Kenya, five of us walked with Justus (one of the PFC staff living in the house with us) to his church in the village a half-mile away from the house to do some cultural exploration. Church was what I expected- very lively with lots of singing, dancing and excited praise. This was a combined service, holding both members who usually attend the Swahili service and those that come for the English service because the pastor was announcing his 5-year plan for the church. This service was held in English with a Swahili translator, and the choir sang both English and Swahili songs. The corrugated tin building held around 350 people, and about 80 children.

"Hibari!" - Andrew, Team Leader for Greif Kenya Go-to-Market introducing our team to the Church congregation

“Hibari!” Andrew, Team Leader for Greif Kenya Go-to-Market team, introduced our team to the church congregation

The kids were very excited about seeing foreigners. Our seats were perpendicular to the kids’ rows, and just two feet away, so the kids were all clambering to high-five us and shake our hands when everyone was instructed to greet and welcome their neighbors. I winked at one little boy during a quieter part of the service, and from that point on, every time he caught my eye he’d close his right eye and smile at me, holding his right eye shut. It was so cute.

Alison from Greif Kenya Team Go-To-Market, was invited on stage to dance by a visiting singer at the Nairobi church

Alison from Greif Kenya Go-to-Market team, was invited on stage to dance by a visiting singer at the Nairobi church

 

The pastor had invited a singer from his old church to come sing for the congregation at this service. At one point, she pulled three people from the crowd to come dance on stage to “break the barriers” between her and the crowd, and then she walked over and pulled me up on stage! I felt like Kenyan “Idol”, because at least a dozen Kenyans jumped up from their seats to take a smart phone picture of the white American girl dancing on their church’s stage. It was a really neat experience.

Eclectic Toronto

 

Keith Jones in Toronto

Keith Jones in Toronto

(Written by Keith Jones) 

Being our last morning in Toronto before we head to Ottawa, it’s worth reflecting on how eclectic this city is.  There isn’t just one culture here in Toronto — there are many, gathered from every point on the globe.  I learned this fact early, when I was pulled aside for extra interrogation at the customs checkpoint in the airport. (Apparently, I look very suspicious).  There were very few similar ethnicities among those of us waiting for an interview with a customs agent, and I heard requests for all kinds of translation, including Cambodian!

Here in Toronto, there are countless cultures, and we met many of them on a simple walk to the grocery store or a stroll through Eaton Place, Canada’s largest mall.  The food court there has restaurants for every palate, from Japanese to Thai to French, just to mention a few.  Of course, this being Canada, the longest line was at Tim Horton’s, Canada’s version of Starbucks.

Everywhere you go you hear French spoken, and often it is mixed with languages I didn’t recognize.  Toronto is truly a global city, and it will be interesting to compare it to Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver, and see how they are similar or how they differ in the cultural mix.

Team Canada

The Final Delivery to DHL

At long last, after months of state-side preparation and three weeks of conducting interviews here in Germany, we’ve reached the end of our project with DHL. Wednesday was presentation day for us, meaning we spent most of the morning and early afternoon fine-tuning content, doing dry-runs of the PowerPoint, and of course, having the occasional last-minute freak out. Oh, and we also forgot to do a blog post amdist all of the final preparations (#SorryKurt).

Look at that sick VIRO model on my screen...

Look at that sick VIRO model on my screen…

Mike, Vince, and the rest of the DHL team invited us north to the company’s headquarters in Bonn one last time to deliver the final presentation. Through the magic of teleconferencing, our findings would be shared with not only the DHL executives in Germany, but also the US-based team back home. And while a few technical snafus delayed the start of the presentation, we delivered our best presentation yet over the next two hours. Each person on the team brought their A-game and was very knowledgeable on their own section and the entire presentation at large. Overall, our presentation was very well-received and will be a tangible asset for DHL to use when educating employees on the buyer behavior of automotive companies for supply chain services.

Team DHL Celebration Selfie

Team DHL Celebration Selfie

However, the success of the project would not have been possible without the incredible level of accessibility and time that each and every person at DHL gave us. Mike White, DHL Supply Chain’s Senior Vice President for the Global Automotive Sector was beyond generous with his time, working with us prior to the trip and on a daily basis once we arrived in Germany. Mike connected us with a wide variety of DHL personnel, including Vince, Scott, Markus, Frank, and Jan, who gave us genuine and transparent insight into the business’ current operations and what lies ahead in the strategic vision. We owe them everything for their genuine interest in our project and openness to share their thoughts.

We also felt very privileged to speak with many of DHL’s customers, some of which headed up multi-billion dollar business units. We greatly appreciated DHL’s immediate faith in us that we would represent our sponsors well in these meetings. As this project was very customer-focused, these client interviews were the backbone to our final findings, and without them, we would not have been able to deliver the true value that DHL was looking for when they brought on this project.

Road Trip!

Road Trip!

DHL also gave us the opportunity to see not just the city of Koblenz, but much of Germany itself. Over the course of the three weeks, we covered over 4,000 kilometers of traveling via the Autobahn (likely accumulating our fair share of speeding tickets once we found out that posted limits were legit and not merely suggestions) and saw much of the beautiful German countryside.

DHL Truck Selfie

Last night, we reflected back on the past year (our first year as MBA students) officially come to an end with the conclusion of the GAP program. It’s hard to believe that just nine months ago, we barely knew each other or where our experience at Fisher would take us. Since then, we’ve formed deep friendships, survived the competitive internship search, and broadened our business knowledge through the classroom. However, without question, the most memorable experience of the entire year will be the thrill of flying to an unfamiliar land to work on a pressing issue for a Fortune 100 company that will have a real and meaningful impact on their business. It was truly an honor and unforgettable experience to work with DHL over the last few months and we thank them for giving the six of us lifelong memories.

With that, we also thank you, the readers, for following our adventures over the last three weeks.

Auf Wiedersehen!

Team DHL at HQ

Water water everywhere!!!

Image

We just got back from Cologne after wrapping up our final review session with the client. This is it guys… tomorrow is the D-day (So glad we are done before my birthday!!). We have traveled a lot during this trip, some days coming back to Koblenz to only sleep! Like our client mentioned today “it was like you guys were put in a dishwasher or dryer and rotated”! But we had a jolly good time!!!

No matter what Rick Steves has to say we are in love with our Koblenz; a quaint little European town with numerous town squares, historic statues and the river by our apartment. It is fascinating to see the cuisine variety we here. I came across three Indian restaurants near a single square! But what I loved the most about Kolblenz were the fountains.

Most of us from team Germany have forgotten the taste of still water (much to Devin’s dismay). Whenever you ask for water here it is normal to be served “wasser mit gas” (water with gas) so we (by we I mean only Devin) have to specially mention “wasser no gas” or still. There is not free water/tap water concept here!! Even though it is completely safe to drink tap water Germans don’t offer it; the word for tap water is “leitungswasser” which converts as plumbing water, sooo offering plumbing water is a no no!! So, where does all of Devin’s water go in Koblenz… the fountains!!!

The most famous one though is the Spitting Boy of Koblenz. We found that out the scary way. Imagine taking a late evening stroll and stopping to admire this statue and suddenly he starts spitting water (I think one of us even screamed!)

Spitting Boy!!!

The Spitting Boy is actually called Spitting John who represents all the bastard sons of invading French soldiers. This shows the town’s dislike for foreign authority.

More beautiful fountains:

The Koblenz Fountain: depicting its history

The Koblenz Fountain: depicting its history

Girl playing with ducks

Girl playing with ducks

Dancing Couples

Dancing Couples

Trying to figure out the strange take on Noah's arc!

Trying to figure out the strange take on Noah’s arc!

See… water water everywhere!!!

Now we get back to fine tuning our final presentation. FYI everyone is invited to the Wednesday night karaoke project ending/birthday party!

Danke!!!

Cruising on a Sunday Afternoon

Did every GAP team spend the weekend in a vehicle besides a car? Seriously, between boat trips in Oman and Malaysia and Team France taking to the air, we covered enough modes of transportation fit for a Steve Martin/John Candy buddy comedy.

Well, Team Germany was no different. Sunday was our big social outing with the DHL team, as we celebrated the conclusion of our three-week stint in Europe. Koblenz, our home base for the project, is nestled at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel, making it the perfect spot for hopping on a boat and seeing some castles. Let’s do this thing.

Look! There’s one now!

Castle #1

Little did we know that Sunday also happened to be the Koblenz Marathon, thus creating a logistical snafu (ironic given the subject matter of our project) and causing two of our guests to literally miss the boat. Seriously, couldn’t they have run 26.2 miles (sorry, 42 KMs) somewhere else?!?!

More Rhine Prettiness...

More Rhine Prettiness…

To no-one’s surprise, Natalie became claiming castles for her future reign in a merciless Cerci Lannister-like approach that left few survivors in her wake.

Castle #3

While the weather in Koblenz has mostly been reminiscent of our much-envied Columbus climate, the sun broke through this afternoon, initiating the overdue brews on boats segment of the trip. Fun fact we learned on the trip: Germany has an official association of castles, headquartered at the stunning building below.

Castle #4

Germany Castle Association HQ

While on our trip, we got to bond with our contacts at DHL (Mike, Vince, Yan, and Scott – a Fisher alum!) and their families. Little did we know that we were sitting amongst a celebrity the whole time. Our main POC at DHL, Mike White, was an extra in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (thank God it wasn’t the fourth one).

After cruising down the Rhine for a few hours, we stopped over at Boppard, a small village along the Rhine, to meet up with the rest of the team for ice cream sundaes. And my God were they delicious.

Boppard

 

But alas, all good things must come to an end. such as this project in the next 48 hours. As we disembarked for our trek back up to Koblenz, we said farewell to a few of our DHL contacts for the last time. It’s truly been a pleasure to work with the world’s leading logistics provider over the past three weeks. We’ve had incredibly access to executives from leading auto manufacturers and tier-1 suppliers all across Germany, and of course, DHL itself. And now, it’s time for us to return the favor. Stay tuned for more information on our final presentation in the next few days!

DHL Boat Cruise 2K14!

DHL Boat Cruise 2K14!

 

Having a Dam Good Time in Amsterdam

Yep. That’s right. We went to Amsterdam.

Leaving the open and unrestricted speed lanes behind us (seriously Netherlands, 120 km/h? We’re driving German-engineered cars, not Power Wheels), Team Germany headed north for the weekend to get our passports stamped in another country.

What’s that? You don’t get your passport stamped when you come in by car?!?

Well, whatever, we went to the Netherlands and we have the pictures to prove it.

I Am Amsterdam

Upon emerging from the depths of the Amsterdam Metro system (side note: the city-wide janitorial staff for the Metro system is currently on strike. Every train and station looked like the spaceport in The Fifth Element [credit Tim Kiss for that amazing reference] and we weren’t going to be the scabs to start cleaning up the place), we realized that we sorely lacked the appropriate transportation needed to get around the city.

In Amsterdam, the pecking order for right of way goes like this:

  1. Bikes. All 1,000,000+ of them. Seriously, it’s insane.
  2. Boats (while not conflicting with traffic, they are the object of desire of every pedestrian in the city)
  3. Mopeds
  4. Cars
  5. Pigeons
  6. People with walking sticks
  7. People biking with a giant bucket in the front of their bike to carry other people who were too lazy to bike (shocker: Natalie wanted to rent one of these)
  8. Regular people walking

In front of my very own eyes, a guy was clipped by a biker and started bleeding from his arm right in the middle of the street. This was treated by the locals as a regular occurrence.

Speaking about unusual lacerations to the body, Friday night’s events included a stop over at the Vincent van Gogh museum, which doubles as a music venue on Friday evenings for aspiring DJs and contemporary jazz bands. @JoeyClarktheIII would have uttered the phrase “the jams” a record number of times.

Friday Night Lights at the Van Gogh Museum

Friday Night Lights at the Van Gogh Museum

Later on, we took to the streets to continue our Street Dance Party: International Tour Edition (copyright 2014). Knowing that we would be calling Saturday an early night as we needed to hit the road first thing on Sunday, we committed to Friday being a big night and subsequently closed down the Amsterdam bar scene. Hamburg trained us well.

Sruti and Natalie Dance Party

 

Saturday was filled with enjoying quite possibly the nicest day in human history. We kicked off the morning with a boat ride from our hotel through the heart of Amsterdam’s canal system, checking out the best of the best houseboats Amsterdam had to offer. While this was a great way to experience the entire city by day, we were suffering from serious FOMO once we realized that you could rent private boats and drive them yourselves. Unfortunately for us, everything was already booked for the day. I’ll regret not driving around a boat for the afternoon and having my team refer to me as “Captain” until the day I die.

Over the course of the day, we worked through one of the biggest open-air markets in the world, took a nap in a beautiful park, stumbled upon the Royal Palace, visited Anne Frank’s house, and caught the Netherlands soccer (excuse me, football) game with a wild crowd of spectators. Oh, and we got a bunch of cool pictures too. Check ‘em out.

Netherlands Bridge

 

IMG_0169

Team DHL at Royal Palace

 

IMG_0189 IMG_0190 IMG_0196 IMG_0201 IMG_0202 IMG_0206

Man I really mailed in the end of this post. Until next time Amsterdam…

 

Be careful what you wish for…

Tuesday May 13th

When the location for GAP clients was announced, I didn’t hesitate to sign up for Ethiopia. There was no thought, no contemplation, and no matrices of pros or cons. I simply used my gut and cashed in all my chips so I could work in Africa because I knew it would be an adventure.

I am an adrenaline junky. I thrive on fast-pace heart stopping moments that trigger you into fight or flight mode. In my mind, an African adventure might be going on safari or being stranded on the side of the road hundreds of kilometers from help. I learned that a true adventure is anything that just takes you along for the ride.

I knew Tuesday would be different because a few of us were flying from Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa instead of making the more than 8 hour drive. I didn’t know that arriving at the small, resort town airport at 7am was the beginning of a long and adventurous day. Our first shock came in the literal sense of the word. Upon entering the airport, we had to put our belongings on a conveyor belt to go through security. As Danny leaned on the rollers to take off his shoes, he was zapped by an electrical current. OUCH!  We all stopped to make sure he was ok, and then continued on our journey.

Our chariot awaits

Our chariot awaits

The flight was smooth, and we were all mesmerized by the beauty of the landscape below of us (not to mention grateful that we weren’t driving on the switchback road we could see from the plane). Upon landing, we easily spotted Asres, our local guide from Addis Ababa University, and piled into the truck that would take us to our lodgings for the next eleven days.

The Nile

The Nile

As soon as we pulled into traffic we were sucked back into our version of an African adventure. Cars were whizzing by us right and left. Pedestrians were inches from the bumper of our car. We were on sensory overload from all the black exhaust, dust and constant beep, beep, beep of coming from every direction. There was bumper to bumper traffic; trucks piled high with cargo, mass chaos in round abouts, and people using the gridlock situation to sell cookies to all of us stuck in traffic. WOW!!  The adventure was back in full force and my eyes were wide open to take it all in.

Water cans, water cans, and more water cans.

Water cans, water cans, and more water cans.

After more than an hour of driving over bumpy roads, behind loud trucks and onto dirt shoulders we finally arrived at our accommodations. It was time to settle in and relax while we waited for the rest of our team. As they say, there is no rest for the weary. Our planned housing had some unforeseen issues, and while trying to decide the course of action, a teammate’s bug bite conditions became worse. We all loaded back into the truck and drove 90 minutes to seek medical intervention.

More sights, sounds and smells grabbed our attention as we waited at the hospital. Addis Ababa serves as the hub for people from all over Ethiopia to come in search for treatment of malaria and other diseases. I have never seen so many people gathered outside in waiting areas, seated on benches near patient rooms or openly weeping over a diagnosis. I didn’t know where to look or what to observe. It was the most humbling experience of my trip to Africa so far. Luckily, our teammate’s situation was quickly treated, and we left to reunite with the rest of our team after their long drive.

I thought we were simply going to pick up the rest of the group and head back to our housing. We said goodbye to the University of Gondar driver, Amara, who had accompanied us for nine days. After hugs of gratitude, the adventure tapped on my shoulder to remind me it was still there. Our accommodations had not been settled. I watched as our hosts huddled around a computer and spoke in rapid succession. I don’t speak Amharic, but I am smart enough to know that they weren’t talking about putting us up in the Hilton. They entertained us by giving us a tour of the heritage museum on campus, which is housed in the former palace of the king.

Saying goodbye to Amara

Saying goodbye to Amara

palace selfie

Roar!!! The palace turned museum

 

Sitting in the office of the person who would play a hand in where we would live while in Addis Ababa, I thought about taking a shower and climbing into bed. I knew we had a long day ahead of us, and all I wanted to do was stop moving. But as before, the adventure heaved me out of my rest and kept chugging for many more hours. With no real solution in sight, calls were made to Ohio to seek help for our situation. Kurt, Heidi, Wondwassen Gebreyes, and Christine O’Malley were responsive, compassionate, and instrumental in our attempt to solve the issue.

While waiting for arrangements between OSU and Addis Ababa University, the team headed to dinner near the National Museum. My body relaxed and enjoyed the sumptuous food. We all agreed that we had found the best pizza in Ethiopia. Considering we had pizza almost every day, this was a huge discovery. But wait, there’s more. Yes, that’s right, the adventure wasn’t over. Lodging was finally secured for us in the center of the city, but now we had to drive more than an hour one-way in traffic that hadn’t died down — even though it was 7:30pm — to retrieve our luggage from the very first place we traveled to after landing in Addis. All of us were weary after having started our journey at 5:30am that day. I volunteered along with Danny to get the luggage while the others handled the check-in at our hotel.

Driving at night is no different than the daylight in Addis Ababa, except it is harder to see the people crossing the street inches in front of your car. The same gridlock we experienced at 1pm was still present even though it was 7 hours later. The place we were headed to locked the entry gate at 9pm, and I didn’t think there was any chance we were going to make it in time. Just when we would finally get moving, I would see brake lights ahead. It was touch-and-go for a while, but we arrived at 8:45pm.

With the luggage on board, the last leg of our adventure was coming to an end. For me it was full of ups and downs, twists and turns, peaks and valleys. Just when I thought I could breathe, a new roadblock appeared. Though it was exhausting both mentally and physically I wouldn’t have it any other way. I believe that anyone can have a normal day where things run smoothly and fall into place. But what is the fun in that? What do you learn if there is no adversity? Only by tackling what is in front of you does true adventure appear.