Rice, fight, never die
Rice, fight, never die
I authored today's IMD MBA Diary and, although the content may be familiar to my readers, I'm reposting here for you:
Today marked the end of my first week of work back in the real world. That’s right, exactly one week after spending the day learning about the importance of taking our time to say goodbye and transition at our own pace, I dove head first into my next career. Many of my classmates are taking weeks or months off to settle their affairs, rest, and reflect on the year that has just passed, which I think would be marvelous. My employer is a startup, however, and startups can’t afford the same timing luxuries as big businesses. I am the Product Manager and our product officially launched last week, therefore I am needed NOW!
The company is called Poken – www.doyoupoken.com – and was founded by Stephane Doutriaux, a 2007 IMD MBA Alumni. We produce a keychain that connects you with people online as you meet them in the real world. Our first generation offering is funky and cool, targeting the young and the young minded. Future offerings will include a professional version to replace the business card, a platform for third parties to include our technology in other objects, and many other features that we hope will bridge the gap between the physical and online worlds.
I admit that at some points during my IMD MBA I questioned how “real world” was our “real learning.” However, having spent only one week back in the real world now, I can’t believe how applicable so much of our learning is. I am no stranger to start-ups; in fact, my entire career has been in technology entrepreneurship. Accordingly, much of this Poken experience is not new to me: the frenetic pace, the unstructured role assignments, the need to roll up my sleeves and get things done, etc. However, I really feel like I am seeing everything in a different light—in many different lights, in fact.
My IMD MBA has armed me with many “lenses” through which to analyze and act. With manufacturing in China, HQ in Switzerland, and customers around the world, concepts from Production and Operations Management are very helpful. As we seriously plan our international rollout in response to demand in Spain, Holland, the UK, the US, and South America, my take-aways from Marketing are key. The challenge of capturing ideas from within and outside of the company, prioritizing them, and managing their implementation is addressed by Innovation and Product Design.
I could go on and on, but it is clear that the most impactful IMD course on my new position is the Leadership Stream. Managing a team of Swiss, French, Americans, and Bulgarians, some of whom are on-site, some of whom work remotely, each of whom has different background, skills, and interests, is a challenge to be sure. But I feel more prepared to address that challenge than I ever have before. I am more aware of my own feelings and the effects my actions have on others. I am more cognizant of the subtle intra- and inter-group dynamics all around me. And I am more open to feedback about my performance, ideas, and—well—everything.
I came to IMD to develop myself as a global leader and now I have a chance to put that development to the test. While it is ultimately up to me to succeed or fail, I must credit the IMD faculty, staff, and—most of all—students for helping me prepare for it. Although I don’t have months to sit back and reflect on the IMD experience; I find it popping into my head in the middle of work situations. “Ah, this reminds of that time in the integrative exercise,” “Oh, this might be a good opportunity to leverage that concept from Entrepreneurship,” “Hmm, I wonder what that professor/classmate/guest speaker would think of this...” and so on. We really did pack a LOT into a very short time. If my first week back to work is any indication, though, it really was real world, real learning.
I will be the Product Manager (collecting information from the target audience, creating a coherent product development roadmap, and managing the software and hardware development teams to implement it) at first, evolving in 6 months to either a COO role or a general manager of North America as the product expands to markets outside of Europe.
As many of you know, I agonized over this decision because--as with most decisions--there are both pros and cons.
International – the position is based in Lausanne, will require travel around the world, and involves managing global operations (manufacturing in China, software developers in Switzerland and Romania, sales and marketing throughout Europe initially and soon elsewhere)
Hardware – this will be a chance for me to broaden my software-only experience to include hardware as well
Growth – The company has a lot of momentum (Evidence: Poken made the front page of digg.com this morning) and I will have the opportunity to participate in its growth
Challenge – Developing an innovation/development process and prioritization methodology that is responsive enough to market feedback that will come very quickly once the product is being used by thousands or millions of people is an exciting order
Social Value – I came to IMD to prepare myself better to help change the world; I’m not sure this company really satisfies that criterion
Risk – Companies at this stage statistically usually fail and I would be accepting below-market-value compensation along with that risk--after a year of paying tuition and not earning a salary
Distance – This would keep me thousands of miles away from friends and family in the US. I would own all of the US business partner relationships, which should create many opportunities for travel, but I would still be based far away
After much soul searching I decided that this was an opportunity I just couldn't pass up. I should have a chance to practice a lot of what I have learned at IMD and gain experience in ways that will prepare me to contribute even more to addressing the global energy challenge. Will Poken make me feel like I am somehow making the world a better place for the needy kids I held in Kenya? No, not directly. But will I continue to keep them in mind as I work and network and keep my ear to the ground for opportunities that will? Absolutely.
Thankyou to EVERYone who has supported me throughout my career search. It isn't over--it will be an ongoing process of course--but you have all helped me through a significant career milestone. I won't let you down and I'll prove that to you immediately--I start work tomorrow!
The real question here will be fit. How does an entrepreneurial software executive work within the context of a huge, bureaucratic heavy industry company? How does he A. create value and B. not go insane? The answer is non-obvious but after yesterday's discussions I am optimistic. The best matches for my skills and experience seem to be in:
product management - managing the interface between engineering, marketing, and strategy to make sure the company is building products that serve customer needs and support the company's direction
strategic marketing - helping a company that is used to clients coming to it to place orders modernize and be more proactive about market segmentation and accordingly segmented sales processes
sales operations management - working with the globally distributed sales force to create processes and systems to support them for greater communication and efficiency
We shall see; they should be in touch within a week or so with feedback. If nothing else, I finished Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets on the trip, so on to The Prisoner of Azkaban!
I'm off to dream golden dreams of how I will help GE change the world of energy--then hopefully convey said dreams to them tomorrow!
I had my third (if you include my first "fit" interview with a recruiter) phone interview with Google this week and it went well. This one was less about my experience and more about how I think. I had to design another product and work through a few brain teasers. On Thursday I received the news that I had "passed" and an invitation to interview onsite at their Zurich office. According to one of my contacts in Google (whom I know through the Rice alumni network) the economic slowdown has raised the "hiring bar" and making it to the onsite interview is even harder than it used to be so I am particularly honored to have made it this far. The interview should be next week.
The founder/CEO of Poken (IMD alum) and I met again and I remain very enthusiastic about the company. They have big, world changing ideas, cool opportunities for a product manager/COO, and a fun corporate culture. The CEO is becoming overstretched between product management, business development, investor relations, etc. and is looking for someone to share the load. Given that my background is in managing innovative teams of software engineers and working with the marketing and strategy interfaces to ensure that the product vision is headed in the right direction, the role would be a great fit.
I also had a first interview yesterday with Positive Energy, a Washington DC-based startup that builds software to help residential power customers consume less energy. They just closed a major funding round, already have some customers, and have a smart team in place. The VP of Product has a marketing background and is looking for someone to manage the more technical side of their software product. Even though the company is only 20 people strong right now they have a couple of TJ alumni on board so, once again, this really drives home the importance of the network.
This last opportunity came may way through CleanTechies, a cool new site for techies looking to help the environment. I'm doing some side blogging there about how technology can be used to help address the global energy challenge.
So, things are moving along with a few very appealing opportunities and I'm continuing to add more to the pipeline. I'm long overdue for a Board update so will write one soon and post it here.
There hasn't been too much time for reading this year (Sleep usually wins out in the prioritization battle.) but I've managed to finish a few books outside of the many books, articles, and cases required for classes and projects:
Harry Potter e La Pietra Filosofale, the first Harry Potter book in Italian
The His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass), an epic fantasy/sci-fi series inspired by the work of John Milton
Three Cups of Tea, the tale of one man's quest to change the world by building schools in rural Pakistan
In the interest of full disclosure, I listen to some of the books in audio form so that I can multitask during my cardio, but I don't think that's cheating--it's just being efficient! Next up on my list:
The rest of the Harry Potter books in anticipation of the movie release (November)
The Catcher in the Rye, which somehow I've made it almost 30 years without reading
Tolkien's major works in chronological order (The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings)
Myriad business-related books and articles I've accumulated over the year but haven't yet had the chance to read
Any other recommendations?
I had a productive weekend working on our ICP, my career search, and catching up on reading. The weather was gorgeous so I even got some beach volleyball in. It wasn't exactly warm but it felt great to be out in the sun and the sand.
My performance in the interview was OK. I suggested some product innovations Google might consider and was quickly shown that Google had already invented or acquired many of them. Oops--someone needs to do his homework better next time. I thought the open-ended question, though, in which I was asked to design a product, went well. In fact, if Google doesn't hire me, I may consider starting up a company to develop that product!
By the end of the interview I felt energized and excited, which is a great sign for me; I felt the same way after the IMD interview and I think it is indicative of a good fit. I don't know if my interviewer was as energized by my ideas as I was but he was at least satisfied enough to move me on to the next round, which will be another, similar interview with another Google PM. This was just a first interview in a process renowned for many interviews (up to 16!) but it still felt great to receive the thumbs-up today from the recruiter.
It's not the only good news I received this week, either. Yesterday I was asked to come to Florence for a second interview with GE Oil & Gas, which is making great strides at reducing the carbon footprint of oil & gas production. Furthermore, GE's renewable energy companies are taking off so they might be an option further down the road.
Monday I talked with a delightful alum from eSolar (Again, many thanks are due the most sophsticated woman at IMD for forging the connection.) and another with Planet Capital. Tuesday, I spoke with a good friend of one of my ICP teammates who has launched CleanTechies.com, where I will soon begin blogging about the use of ICT in sustainable energy. Wednesday I chatted with the Oerlikon Solar and E.ON Renewables. Today I met with another alum, the founder/CEO of Poken, a hardware/software service which will revolutionize the world of social networking. Finally my career search feels like it's really in gear!
Several of my classmates have either accepted job offers or received offers that they will accept. These mostly come from companies that did on-campus recruiting, in which I didn't participate much. Still, it's hard not to feel at least a little time pressure when others are starting to make plans for their living arrangements already! This is what I planned, though, to take my time through the recruiting process, to make sure I explore my options, and to make sure I make the best decision for me and my future employer--not one based on early deadlines or unexplored alternatives.
The distractions of the career search have an impact on our ICPs as well. It is becoming more and more rare to find all four of our group members in the room at the same time because each of us frequently steps out for career-related calls. In the meantime, our project has taken a major turn. It has evolved from a supply chain project to a change management project. The subject matter is still supply chain, but the obstacle between our client and the $100m+ they can add to their bottom line with supply chain improvements isn't analysis; it is implementation. That is now our focus: how can they conduct sweeping change in a way that works for all the varied (and often opposed) stakeholders involved? We are all very excited about it because it affords us the opportunity to learn and practice skills that transcend industry, function, and geography. But it isn't easy--real world, real learning!
It is humbling to play a small part in such a great honor and I credit our faculty, staff, and accomplished alumni for this feat. I'll do my best to go out into the world and live up to it!
As it remained cold all day, we took advantage of the opportunity for some fondue upon our return to Lausanne. In between touring and dining I spent the day preparing for my Monday interview with Google. I familiarized myself with their product suite , business strategy, and corporate history. It's only fair that I bone up on them; after all, given that this blog site is owned by Google, they should know plenty about me!
Mom is in town, which is a real joy. Wednesday evening she arrived, we had dinner at Le Pinocchio, and got her situated at her hotel. Thursday she toured around Lausanne and then I took her out for her birthday dinner at Beau-Rivage Palace, mmmmmm! Yesterday she went to some museums, met me at IMD for lunch, and then we made lasagne (Thanks, Lee!) for an ICP team dinner hosted by Felipe and his partner, Laura, both Colombian. It was fun to get [slightly] out of the IMD bubble and just relax and have a good time with my teammates and their partners.
I'm embarrassed to say that, after 48 hours here, my mother knows more about Lausanne than I do. I really need to get out more; this year will be over before I know it and, if I miss out on all that Lausanne has to offer, shame on me. In the meantime, Mom and I might head into Geneva today, depending on the weather. I'll be happy whatever we decide to do so long as I get to spend some time with her.
My Owls didn't disappoint me in a record-setting, 77-20 demolition of the Mean Green. With four TD receptions in the first half alone, Jarrett Dillard tied the NCAA record for career TD receptions (50). He and QB Chase Clement broke the NCAA record for TDs between a QB-WR pair (40).
It was a beautiful day too--great football weather. I can't believe it's been 11 years since I stepped onto the field in Rice Stadium as a player. My freshman roommate and I took some time the day before to throw the ball around, run some patterns, and get some sprint exercise. While it was a lot of fun, the subsequent soreness in my hamstrings reinforced that I am not in the same shape I was in back during my playing days--go figure!
Over a decade later, though, the lessons I learned on the field are still paying off: teamwork, leadership, discipline, integrity, and a relentless thirst for victory even in the face of the most daunting of challenges . . . fortunately, the field of business doesn't require quite so much exertion from my hamstrings!
Moreover, hail to the NFC East! With the Giants (3-0 and defending Super Bowl champs), Redskins (3-1), Cowboys (3-1), and Eagles (2-2), is there really any division that can compare?
Then the evening was wonderful. I sat around with 10 of my best friends in Houston, dining on Goode Company BBQ, and talking about everything ranging from politics to Ayn Rand to football. One player was conspicuously absent but he was the topic of conversation frequently enough that he was at least represented in spirit.
Through a miracle of chance, my brother is in town this week so he joined us for dinner and will crash at my house. The opportunity to see him--and my nephew, his son--was the icing on the cake. This is a great trip.
Afterward we picked up buffalo burgers at Bubba's Texas Burger Shack, a local legend. A couple of days after listening to Buffett perform Cheeseburger in Paradise, this was just what I needed. Huge buffalo meat patties, fresh wheat buns, gooey cheddar cheese, smoked jalapenos, and grilled onions, oh how I missed thee . . .
Yesterday I had Cajun (Treebeard's) for lunch and tomorrow I will have BBQ (Goode Co.) for dinner. If I can add some Tex Mex to the mix, I will feel complete from a culinary perspective.
There is still no Internet at home, which is making my career pursuits harder than anticipated.
After sustaining days of hurricane-force winds and torrential rains, Houston has held up pretty well. I wish I could say the same for the rest of the Texas gulf coast, much of which may have been dealt a fatal blow. In Houston there is still debris all over the streets--mostly fallen trees/limbs, but also a significant amount of glass from shattered windows and material from signs and buildings. Many traffic lights are still without power and that is causing serious traffic congestion.
Still, the city stood up well to a direct hit and for many it's almost back to business as usual. We have power at my house, although unfortunately still no Internet. The Rice alumni office is letting me camp out with them during the daytime so I can check in online every once in awhile. One thing that has NOT changed about Houston is the heat (90 degrees F today) and humidity (70% today) so I'm thankful that we at least have A/C at home.
It's fun driving a car again for the first time in 9 months. Directing the 270 horses in my convertible feels somehow very . . . empowering. It's a nice feeling of control after 9 months of feeling more reactive to everything the professors throw at us--not to mention the complete ignorance of where my career search will lead!I had lunch today with Vanessa Kellogg, a Rice alum at Horizon Wind Energy, to discuss the particulars of the wind generation industry. She was very, very helpful so I think the least I can do is plug her book on wind energy: Wind the World Over. Talking with people like Vanessa renews my faith that we WILL find a solution (or solutionS) to the world's energy woes.
Meanwhile it feels good to be back. As I look out the alumni office window onto the grounds of Rice's Lovett Hall and main academic quad, I'm pleased to see that the old live oaks survived the storm well and that the campus is as beautiful as ever. I feel at peace and I feel at home. Now I need to stop feeling so peaceful and get my career search into gear!
With a selection of 300+ movies to start, stop, pause, and fast forward as I please, I had the chance to catch up on American movies that had been released while I was abroad. I saw The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Iron Man, Leatherheads, and, running out of new movies I wanted to see, Rear Window. It made for a very pleasant flight and now it’s good to be back in the US of A for the first time since early January!
Fortified by a bottle of Bordeaux, we walked about an hour to the concert venue, which was in a sketchy neighborhood in the 5eme arrondisement. We finally found New Morning Jazz Café about a half hour before the show started. I was worried about arriving so late as it was open seating and I thought we might be stuck in the back.
That turned out not be a problem, however, as the venue was very, very small, and the concert was limited to about 200 attendees. As I walked in and sized up the place, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “This is one of the best decisions I have ever made.”
Sure enough, we found a spot around 20 feet from the stage and began the usual pre-Buffett meeting/greeting of other Parrotheads. As with any Buffett concert, most of the fans weren’t local. We met people from all over Europe, North America, and Australia. Also as with any Buffett concert, there were fans ranging from 6 years old to 60 with the entire spectrum of ages in between represented.
The concert itself was a blast. Jimmy played for over two hours with no break. The set list was excellent and the environment was intimate; the entire audience was singing along and spirits were high. The bar wasn’t prepared to deal with the lush factor of Buffett fans as they ran out of wine halfway through the show and beer shortly after that. No worries, though, we still had a blast between Buffett’s singing, joke telling, and French speaking.
After three encores we all spilled out onto the Paris streets. Even in the small crowd I bumped into a friend of mine from Rice—small world! The long walk back to the hotel in the fresh night air was a nice way to cap off a very, very different Buffett concert experience. If he comes back I will try to make it again next year –and with a larger group that won’t feel shy about tailgating in a random alleyway in a sketchy Paris neighborhood!
Photos and Videos
As someone who is very performance-oriented, I took both failures pretty hard. Although I recognize that it is the job of these recruiters to assess fit—not just worthiness—and hence it is better to know that the fit isn’t there earlier in the process rather than later, it is still hard not to feel . . . rejected. I had many peers with whom to commiserate as each company took just a few applicants to the next level.
This year has taught me a great deal about failure. My prior attitude was one of avoiding failure at all costs. I was obsessed with winning each and every battle I undertook—perhaps to the point of avoiding some battles that offered low likelihood of success. But there is much to learn from failure and these cases are no exception. Both Shell and BT have offered to share feedback from the interviews with us next week. This will help me understand why there wasn’t a fit so I can focus my career search better. Furthermore, I look forward to learning the strong and weak points of how I came across so I can build them into subsequent interviews with companies for which there is a better fit.
Speaking of which, I also talked with three product managers at Google this week and that position sounds like an excellent fit with both my skills and experience. The recruiting process is daunting, with up to 16 interview and some of them very technical, but then so is the process for attaining most positions worth having!
Friday night: high school football under the friday night lights!
Saturday morning: drag myself out of bed, tend wounds from the previous night, and watch game films with the rest of the team at school
Saturday afternoon: chores and homework
Saturday night: date or night out with the guys
Sunday: excursion to the orginal Red Hot & Blue BBQ in Roslyn with Mom and Nick, listening to great blues in the car
Those were great times! And, although I'm missing out on the football and BBQ here in Lausanne, the weather is definitely cool and I have Buddy Guy playing in the background as I work on my career search. Life is good!
Yesterday was my interview with Shell, although it was less of an interview and more of an assessment. They're less gung ho about renewables than I would have hoped, but I think there may still be a fit. I'll find out this evening whether or not I've been invited to the second round, which will be a much more intense group assessment.
Today I'm talking with Google, practicing for Thursday's case interview with British Telecom, and discussing opportunities in Italy with IMD's corporate development staff. And probably playing some ping pong too!
Oh yeah, that was just what I needed to start the morning off right. It took me back to middle school days, working out with my brother Nick, when we had just discovered a different kind of poetry--the electric kind that came out of Jimi's guitar. It put an extra spring in my step, as did the crisp, clear autumn weather en route to campus.
My scheduled interview with the MTS group, an Italian heating system manufacturer that is going green, went well and there could be a fit there. I met GE Energy at the career fair and they were interested enough in my profile to schedule an ad hoc interview. It went well and we identified some positions where there could be a fit.
It was not all sunshine and rainbows, however. After talking with the Amazon rep, it seems that the position I had identified there was not a great match for me. They clearly thought likewise as they declined to interview me, encouraging me to email a CV and cover letter. Perhaps that's what they told everyone who wasn't a German speaker looking for supply chain positions (for which they definitely were interviewing), but I'm less enthused about the opportunity with them regardless.
Tomorrow I interview with Shell, hoping to learn about their commitment to sustainability and demonstrate to them my "capacity, achievement, and relationships ." Then it is time to focus on off-campus recruiting for a couple of days before my interview with British Telecom. Bring it on!
Speaking of Houston, it seems that all of my friends there made it through Ike OK. The power is still out but everyone is safe.
Last week my ICP team presented our results from Phase II to our client in Zurich. Thanks largely to the efforts of Daniel, my German teammate who pulled triple duty as programmer/analyst, slide czar, and presenter, we turned out a quality product. Our client agreed that our project could help them add over CHF 100m to their bottom line! We are very excited about phases III and IV, which commence in two weeks.
First, however, we have a two-week deluge of recruiting activities. It begins tomorrow with a career fair at IMD then continues with multiple rounds of interviews over the next two weeks. I have an interview tomorrow with MTS Group, an Italian heating company that is concentrating heavily on solar thermal, and I hope to get interviews with GE Energy and Amazon at the fair. Tuesday I interview with Shell and Thursday with British Telecom. Should I succeed in the BT interview, there will be another on Friday, giving me just enough time to make it to Paris for the Jimmy Buffett concert. If Shell likes me, there will be another interview the following week--when I'm scheduled to be in Houston. I suppose we'll just cross that bridge when we come to it. I may also have an interview with Google this week but that is still to be confirmed.
This weekend I am spending my time researching the companies with which I have interviews and making sure I have a coherent story about the fit that I see with them. As much as I like to think of myself as a good ad hoc speaker, I'm definitely much better when I am prepared. In the meantime I'm also sitting on 10 companies to which I need to begin marketing myself and over 200 companies that I haven't yet vetted enough to know whether or not they are worth pursuit.
You'd think finding the right opportunity to help change the world wouldn't be this complicated!
Our Phase II ICP presentation is 36 hours away and there is still a great deal of work to do. However, it is interesting work so staring at it all day everyday is not onerous. Time constraints bring the challenge of finding the right balance between sophisticated analysis and quality communication of results. Growing anxiety over careers adds another dimension as teammates (myself included!) are pulled in other directions. This isn't unexpected, though, and I'm sure we can address it--after all, we will face similar challenges in the "real " world.
Rice's game against Memphis was much closer, but we still prevailed 42-35, scoring 29 fourth quarter points, capped off by a 69-yard interception return for TD with only 11 seconds remaining in the game. Go Owls!
Now if only my Redskins could pull their offense together . . .
His talk was very interesting. The first theme ws leadership of teams against difficult goals, a subject near and dear to my heart. The second theme was leadership and decision-making when you have little control over external factors. In a balloon, for example, you can change altitude but you have no steering control and you certainly can't control the weather. By recognizing that which you cannot control and focusing on what you can (adjusting altitude to take advantage of different wind directions and weather patterns), you will be maximally effective. The talk finished with a brilliant photo montage accompanied by "Let It Be."
Bertrand is now focusing on a new project: Solar Impulse, a 100% solar-powered plane to go around the world. I wish him great success, as such projects will inspire people. Many thanks to the most sophisticated woman at IMD, who was instrumental in helping me finnagle an invitation to the session.
I: Industry Analysis - understand the client's industry and which factors are key to succeeding in it
II: Company Analysis - benchmark the client against those key success factors, identify gaps, and recommend initiatives to close them
III: Issue Analysis - take one of those initiatives and work it out in great detail to provide very specific recommendations on which actions the company should take
IV: Implementation - provide a plan for and participate in the implementation of change
Our project is a little different, however. The client arrived with a firm idea of which issues they wanted worked. Accordingly we combined the industry and company analyses into Phase I and used it as an objective validation of the specific issues on which the client wanted to focus. Our conclusions were that yes, supply chain mattered to this industry, yes, the client had significant room for improvement and, in fact, if they didn't address their supply chain strategy immediately, they would soon find themselves in a world of hurt.
Three of our client stakeholders--including one board member--came down to IMD. I was honored to be selected by my team to make this first presentation, key to setting the tone for the rest of the project. Our team worked long and hard to produce a quality deliverable and wanted to make sure that the presentation reflected that. Although I had to adapt my usual "jovial" style to the serious, Swiss-German audience, I think it went well. This should largely be credited to the team (including Corey, our faculty advisor), who offered me very helpful feedback during the several dry runs we went through.
There was one snafu, though, and it occurred at the very beginning. I was presenting with the display behind me and one of my teammates' laptops in front of me, controlling the powerpoint presentation. While presenting one of the first slides, a meeting reminder popped up on the laptop, obscuring much of the screen. It wasn't visible on the display behind me, however, so no one else knew about it. As I contemplated whether or not just to continue presenting that way, my mouth was on autopilot. I was supposed to say that our objective for the meeting was to build a "common platform of understanding" from which to launch the rest of the project. However, what came out was a "condom platform of understanding." Oops.
After that, though, it was pretty smooth sailing. We're glad to have Phase I behind us and today will immerse ourselves in Phase II: conceiving an optimization model for warehouse locations and transportation costs within Europe. Our next presentation is in 10 days--bring it on!
Although professional games don't begin until next weekend, this weekend marks the start of the season for the NCAA. My fighting Rice Owls won their season opener last night against conference rival SMU in very decisive fashion. I'm sorry I couldn't have been there as the home opener each year is always quite a spectacle.
I can't believe it's been over 10 years now since I last played football. Real football, I mean--none of this sissy flag variety. The grueling two-a-days in August heat causing players to drop like flies and require intraveinous water/electrolytes, the smell of freshly cut grass, the competition on the field for starting positions, the resultant camaraderie off the field, the crack of helmet on helmet and pads on pads, the roar of the crowd, etc, etc. The football field was a great place to learn about teamwork, leadership, strategy, discipline, performance in clutch situations, and how to accomplish goals despite daunting obstacles (UT!).
I will miss the football season here in Lausanne but at least I can follow my teams thanks to the Web. Go Rice! Hail to the Redskins! And, of course, Go TJHSST Colonials!
You know that something has changed when you take a train during a weekday. We have become so used to being stuck in Ouchy that it felt almost awkward not to sit in a classroom all day. There was a sense of adventure and excitement in the air when we (Bryan Hassin [USA], Mupwaya Mutakwa [Zambia], Felipe Restrepo [Colombia], Daniel Thull [Germany] and our professor Corey Billington [USA]) left Lausanne for the first work-meeting with our ICP client.
The expectations for our meeting were high. Over the last months there had been some communication glitches between our client, a global Chemical company code-named Pandora, and us and we were eager to get the project back on track. We used the two hour ride to Zurich in a very “swissy” train car to consult with Corey and come up with a project plan that will bring us closer to the “big win”. Had someone told us a year ago that we would be travelling first class to Zurich, talking about physical supply chain optimization and the tax-effect of principal structures, we probably would have told him to go see a doctor...
Avid diary readers might recall that we have recently seen the movie “An inconvenient Truth” by Al Gore. Although our project team had not discussed the issue openly, we did all our travel on public transportation and thus maybe helped to offset some of the carbon footprint of our colleagues who travel around the world.
The meeting with Pandora went very well. Although one of our stakeholders was out with a migraine (maybe that was due to the long list of information we were requesting from him) we were able to extract lots of useful information from them. Not least did we learn that emulsion polymers are colloidal dispersions of polymers in an aqueous medium. We expect that tidbit to be of critical importance in our future careers.
The Pandora buildings left quite an impression. Bland from the outside, they were sharp and very modern inside. Maybe a little TOO modern—the green bathroom was a bit much! Speaking of green, though, all of their buildings had green roofs. We thought this sustainability touch, coupled with the absence of a single environmental incident over their 100+-year corporate history, was surprising—and welcome—coming from a chemical manufacturer.
Lunch was a refreshing break as we spent an hour chatting up our client. The special of the day was “Fleischkäs”, which ostensibly means “meatloaf.” However, this was like no meatloaf we had ever seen. It was basically a huge hot dog, sliced into crosswise sections and served with gravy. It couldn’t compete with IMD’s lunches, but what do you expect in the cafeteria of the local water works?! Unfortunately Corey had a long conference call and couldn’t join us for lunch. He had to settle for a cheese sandwich plus a Twix – welcome to the consulting world!
Before hopping on the train to head back to Lausanne, our group relaxed by the river for about 45 minutes. We found a nice little café with outdoor seating and ordered a round of beer—except for B ryan. When told that they didn’t have any dark beer, he ordered Scotch whiskey instead. The “bourbon” on the menu came from Tennessee so he didn’t trust it—Americans! Despite the fact that he claimed to have had Macallan 12-year many times before, this was the first time that it was served A. in a champagne flute and B. accompanied by dark Lindt chocolate—a pairing that went quite well!
On the train ride home we abandoned project discussion to talk about careers. Corey was helpful in providing some of his wisdom accumulated throughout his years at IBM, HP, and Silicon Valley start-ups. His #1 piece of advice to us sounded obvious but he assured us that each year he saw students not follow it: avoid toxic companies/work environments. Avoid them like the plague. If you love what you do and are in a nurturing environment, there is no limit to what you can accomplish. You should feel your energy going up every day. If, however, you are in an exploitative, unethical, abusive, or otherwise “evil” company, your energy will go down and life will . . . suck.
This project falls into the former category. We are set to deliver millions of euros of value to our client, we have tremendous faculty support from Corey, and we are very positive as a team. Despite the fact that the solution to our client’s problem is non-obvious, our energy level for addressing it is increasing and we know that we will succeed. Now, in the meantime, we all need to work on finding similar environments for life after IMD!