Engaging Asia

Asia, Engaged

In the two weeks prior to school starting this fall, a significant portion of Oregon MBA students took a trip to Asia in an effort to learn about a foreign business culture. A prerequisite for this trip was taking a class called “Global Business Environments”. While I learned a great deal about many business cultures from that class, this pales in comparison to what I learned about Asia on just the first few days on this trip. This really speaks to the importance of getting out of the classroom and truly experiencing the culture.

What I will remember from this trip:

  • The juxtaposition of Chinese culture – it is hard to get used to seeing Prada stores and Ferrari dealerships next to crumbling housing developments.
  • The culture of sport in China – Only a handful of children are selected to pursue sports (for Olympic development) while most end up devoting 100% of their time to education or vocational skills. This means that there isn’t a big sports culture among the majority of the Chinese population because they didn’t grow up playing sports like we do. However, this is slowly changing, recreational basketball courts are springing up everywhere.
  • The utopian nature of Singapore – still wheezing from my time in Beijing, Singapore was literally a breath of fresh air. Due to the nature of being a city-state, Singapore has developed into a economic hub for Southeast Asia. And as such, the country has strict laws about cleanliness and many other matters that helps maintain a very western culture despite its location.
  • The impressive quality and quantity of meetings – our agenda was packed with meetings with some amazing people; David Shoemaker (CEO, NBA China), Larry Namer (founder of E! Network), Ian Charles Stewart (Wired magazine cofounder), Cheah Kim Teck (CEO, Singapore Sports Council), Chris Renner (CEO, Helios Partners), and the list could go on.

Needless to say, my time in Asia was an amazing experience. From bonding with classmates, to shaking hands with business leaders on the other side of the world, everything exceeded my expectations. It almost made me want to work in China. Almost.

 

Written by Foster Boone

Foster is a second year MBA student in the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. He joined the Oregon MBA program after five years in the advertising industry. He hopes to apply his professional experience and academic learning to a brand management role upon completion of the program. When he is not thinking about marketing he is usually giving into his inner nerd or his inner athlete, depending on the weather.

Hong Kong Skyline

Engaging Asia: Grand Union Trading

Hong Kong was a favorite destination for many of the students on our trip to China.  It is a beautiful city nestled between and around the mountains and the sea, and it bustles with life both night and day.  But our company visits in Hong Kong really set it apart from the rest of the trip.

My favorite company visit was to Grand Union Trading Co.  You probably haven’t heard of it, and that’s okay with managing director Anthony Sim.  His company exists to manufacture high quality outdoor gear for the world’s best brands such as Patagonia, Outdoor Research, Kelty, Rab, and others.  Grand Union’s own brand is built on a reputation of quality and responsibility known best among the high performance outdoor gear retailers.  Those who need to know about Grand Union do; and we just so happened to have one of those folks accompanying us on this trip.  We were treated to an insider’s view of the outdoor clothing world by Lundquist College’s Avamere Professor of Practice and former CEO of Patagonia and Kelty, Michael Crooke (MC), and his friend at Grand Union, Anthony Sim.

Avamere Professor of Practice Michael Crooke introducing Grand Union Trading Co. Managing Director Anthony Sim.

 

MC’s connection with Anthony allowed us to learn about the nuances of doing business in China, what traits Anthony looks for in employees, advice on negotiating, and emphasis on sustainable, responsible growth.  We learned that it is important to satisfy the needs of your business partners so they have no reason to leave you for someone else, that a long view of business strategy through responsible company growth is much more healthy than emphasis on quarterly profit, and that above all else, cash flow is key.

We were very fortunate to have such personal attention from and interaction with MC on this trip.  Very few MBA programs get exposure to business environments from such seasoned professionals.

Hong Kong skyline photo by David Iliff, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hong_Kong_Skyline_Restitch_-_Dec_2007.jpg

Written by Eric Ringer

Eric is an MBA Candidate in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. He came to the Oregon MBA program from his old Kentucky home to supplement his technical experience in engineering with valuable business skills. He intends to help businesses build competency in decision making processes and business operations through the lens of the triple bottom line: people, profit, planet.

Warsaw Center, UO, Selected for Global Sports Mentoring Program

Last month, Judy Sheldon, an employee (and 2011 graduate!) of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Program, was selected to participate as a mentor in the first edition of the Global Sports Mentoring Program. The program was established primarily by the U.S. State Department– having been championed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and espnW. The primary purpose of the program was to connect U.S. institutions that focus in sports with women from developing countries in order to promote athletic development as a tool for economic empowerment. Funding for the program at UO came mostly from Warsaw, as the primary host group. Of the seventeen host organizations, the University of Oregon was the only academic institution selected to participate in the program, which Sheldon attributes to “the quality of the Warsaw Center and UO athletics”.

Over the course of three weeks, Judy utilized her role as Director of the O Heroes program, connections to the Warsaw Center, and her personal experiences as a student-athlete to mentor Hongxia Wei, a Beijing native who works for the Chinese Ministry of Sport. During their time together, Judy and Hongxia attended UO sporting events, held meetings with the athletics, business, compliance, and media departments, enjoyed several cultural outings, and also had the opportunity to meet with Nike and USA Gymnastics in Portland.

Sheldon truly believes her time as a student in the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center was crucial to her selection and success in the program:

“My experience across three levels, as a student-athlete, as an MBA student in Warsaw, and as a professional at UO, has given me three different perspectives on athletics. Because college athletics are so unique to the U.S., I was in a unique position where I could advise her on how things work and help her understand both the pros and cons of our systems. Additionally, the MBA Engaging Asia trip, as well as several personal trips to China, helped build the foundation for my understanding of Chinese culture, and particularly the role of sports in China. As a result, I was definitely better equipped to help Hongxia develop and implement a program that would work in her home country.”

Overall, Sheldon said she thoroughly enjoyed the program, and would be honored to participate again if given the opportunity. Memorable moments such as explaining the “Shout!” song at the football game, watching Hongxia’s joy at seeing middle-school students practice a variety of sports at their school, or simply discovering our own cultural idiosyncrasies (it certainly is a bit odd that we often start conversations by asking people how they slept at night), all made Sheldon’s three-week professional juggling act worthwhile. “Besides,” she says “UO and Warsaw, even O Heroes to a certain extent, we’re all trying to establish a global presence. What could be better for that than working with a program that involves the Secretary of State, espnW, and the Chinese Ministry for Sport all at once?”

 

For additional perspectives and information regarding the GSMP, or Judy and Hongxia’s experiences, please visit:

http://sportandpeaceutk.wordpress.com/
http://sportandpeaceutk.wordpress.com/about-the-global-sports-mentoring-program/?DB_OEM_ID=500
http://www.goducks.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=500&ATCLID=205705106

Written by Andrew White

Andrew is an MBA Candidate in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. A native of Massachusetts, he came to UO to refine his business skills and build his expertise in the sustainability arena. His primary interest is in helping organizations implement environmentally and socially sustainable strategies for long-term success, and he is a regular participant on many of the MBA intramural sports teams.

Welcome to Singapore!

For the first time ever, the Warsaw group extended the Asia trip to include the beautiful country of Singapore and continue to foster the relationship with the Singapore Sports Council. After a fantastic nine days in China, we boarded our 6-hour flight down to the most westernized country in Asia. Singapore is a haven compared to most other countries in the region, and it gives the impression the locals are living in a bubble. Everything is clean, there is little to no crime, and a melting pot of cultures keeps the country from developing too much of singular identity.

Our first day in Singapore was jam-packed with speakers, meetings and trips around the island. We started the morning at the Sports Council and listened to the CEO and other presenters talk about their plans for Vision 2030 and explain the sporting culture in Singapore. We learned a lot about how small the country was, but how its constant growth and desire for change make it a force to be reckoned with. The Sports Council is making big strides on taking Singapore from a country without a large sporting culture to a country that realizes the importance sports can play in the development of society and its individuals. The presentations helped us to understand the sporting landscape, and ways it can be improved.

After lunch with the staff and getting to sample some of the local fare like chili crab and chicken rice, we headed out to the Singapore Sports School near the northern tip of the island. The Sports School is one of the ways that Singapore is trying to develop sports from an early age, while showing it can be done without missing out on schoolwork. With so much emphasis placed on education, sports tend to get lost in the mix in that country. At the Sports School, students hone their talents and skills in their particular sports, while still being able to attend classes on campus and even live there during the week. The success of schools like this will be instrumental in the development of Singapore’s future athletes and their performance on the international stage.

Finally, we got to visit one of Singapore’s local Recreation Centers at Pasir Ris on the West side of the island. The Center was enormous, and included a full gym, swimming pool with water slides, basketball/badminton courts and tennis courts. We got to tour the facility, and saw how locals could come to any of these Centers to play sports with their friends, workout or just escape the unrelenting heat and humidity they deal with on a daily basis. It was a fantastic first day In the city of Lions, and it set the course for a very successful stay and hopefully prompted future visits.

Ameer Abdelaaty, WSMC, Class of 2013

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.

Hong Kong skyline at night

Finishing Strong in Hong Kong

After 10 days in Mainland China, the CSBP, FSAC, and LCE group traveled to Hong Kong to finish off the Engaging Asia tour. The CSBP/LCE visits began with a Dim Sum lunch with Edwin Keh at the exclusive China Club. Mr. Keh has extensive international business experience, stemming from his work both with NGO’s across the globe, as well as his recent role at Wal-Mart as the COO and Senior VP of Global Procurement. While the food at the China Club was delicious, the most appetizing part of the day certainly was our conversation with Mr. Keh, who posed a bevy of thought-provoking questions to the group.

After lunch, we then had the opportunity to meet with the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, where we learned about the developing market for impact and responsible investing in Hong Kong, as well as the city’s role and importance as a financial center connecting Chinese and foreign markets.

We finished our first day of business visits with a unique taste of the States at California Vintage Wine Bar with Chief Branding Officer Susan Darwin. Ms. Darwin has long been involved with the wine industry through her previous professional endeavors, and ultimately decided to pursue her passion and entrepreneurial spirit by opening a California-based wine bar in Hong Kong. The location focuses on small family-owned wineries that present unique stories along with interesting varietals, and throughout the visit our conversation with Ms. Darwin reflected the application of many concepts we’ve seen in our entrepreneurship classes.

The end of our time in Asia came with a visit to the China University of Hong Kong Business School, which was conveniently located adjacent to our hotel. The technical talks were led by professors Leslie Young and Paul McGuinness. Dr. Young began the day with a compelling historical explanation of the development of various Asian economies and how it affects finance and investments in those countries today. We then delved into the details of equity markets in Asia with Dr. McGuinness, who expounded upon the differences between investing with different currencies in China.

Overall, our time in Hong Kong was probably the most academic of the three cities. This focus was a great pairing to go with the amazing amalgamation of cultures in the cosmopolitan city, and it may also have helped prepare us for our classes that start immediately after our return to Oregon!

Andrew White, CSBP, Class of 2013

Written by Andrew White

Andrew is an MBA Candidate in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. A native of Massachusetts, he came to UO to refine his business skills and build his expertise in the sustainability arena. His primary interest is in helping organizations implement environmentally and socially sustainable strategies for long-term success, and he is a regular participant on many of the MBA intramural sports teams.

Sports in Singapore

 

Our first few hours in Singapore can be described by the following three words: humidity, splendor, and Facebook.  Upon landing in Singapore after an 8-hour journey (delayed ironically enough by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s visit to China) we were greeted by a thick blanket of 83 degree, 87% humidity at 11pm.  We were tired and even hungry, but it didn’t stop a spirited foursome of guys from continuing their game of iPad Yahtzee.   We found all of our bags 45 minutes later, and I use the word “found” because not all of our bags came out on the belt, but were sitting in other areas of the baggage claim area as if we were having a scavenger hunt.  It seemed our exhaustion was only outdone by the hospitality of Lenard Pattiselanno of the Singapore Sports Council, who waited at the airport for three hours simply to welcome us to the island.  We still managed to lumber to our bus and settle into our temporary new hometown.
As we drove from the airport to our hotel, we were struck by the incredible architecture of the island.  Towering buildings in incredible shapes lit up the night sky with fluorescent pinks and greens.  The most incredible sight of the evening came as we got a full glimpse of the marina, where crews were working around the clock to prepare for the upcoming Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix coming up this weekend.  The grandstands were lit up as if it were noon, and the flurry of activity seemed to increase our excitement for the upcoming trials we will observe on Friday evening.  When we finally arrived at our hotel, it seemed as if every member of our group dropped everything in their hands and immediately logged onto Facebook, which we had all been missing while in China.  The return to social media was nothing short of cathartic, and the photos that will undoubtedly surface over the next few days will surely show it.  As we now prepare for our visits around Singapore, it’s clear that we will all need to wear lots of light clothing. and walk with swagger to fit into this incredible island.

Singapore ice cream sandwich. Slice of ice cream in a piece of rainbow bread!

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.

Wherever the Wind Blows You…

The whole CSBP-FSAC-LCE group outside of the Vestas factory in Tianjin

After an informative and thought-provoking fireside chat with some American and Swiss expats on Sunday night, the LCE-FSAC-CSBP crew was a bit slow to get to our 8: 00 a.m. bus on Monday morning, but it wasn’t for a lack of eagerness. Our trip to see the Vestas wind turbine factory in Tianjin was one of the most anticipated academic moments of the trip, and although we welcomed the downtime, we all were excited for the two-hour bus ride to come to an end. As one might expect however, buses in China don’t come with GPS navigation, and the rapid expansion of the nation’s infrastructure means that one wrong turn, some poor signage, and a construction zone can end up costing almost an hour and a half. At one point we could actually see the factory across a field, but couldn’t work out how to get there. After debating the merits of crossing the marshy land on foot, we ultimately made a pit stop at a toll booth and got directions to send us on our way.

Once we reached the facility, Vestas did not disappoint. The plant manager Amy, a Tianjin native, gave us fantastic insight into the cultural challenges of working within an international company that relies on collaboration between team members from the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Then we had the opportunity to tour the production floor (while donning safety shoes, vests, and hardhats). Comparing the manufacturing processes of wind turbines to that of the apparel industry (seen last week near Shanghai) was very interesting because almost exactly the same process management techniques are applied, just to different materials and procedures.

After ten insightful and enlightening days in Mainland China, we’ll now move on to Hong Kong for the third and final leg of our journey through Asia. Although we’ve only been here for about 2 hours, I can already tell you that the British influence has come as a bit of a shock. Driving on the left side of the road definitely caught me off guard, but it will be somewhat relieving to hear more English and improve our communication capabilities.

Andrew White, Center for Sustainable Business Practices, Class of 2013

 

 

When I visited San Diego for the very first time, I was amused to see signs on the highway of a silhouetted mother and child running across lanes of traffic.  Little did I know that I would be reenacting these signs on a highway just outside of Beijing, China.  And so began our trip to the Vestas Factory to learn more about wind turbine production.  As it turns out, being able to see a factory from the road does not necessarily mean it will be easy to drive to said factory.  It’s hard to say just how many times we passed through the toll gate as we circled around on- and off-ramps, but after a good hour it was time to pull over and let a bus full of over-caffeinated MBAs cross over to the toll booth bathrooms Frogger-style.

Finally, we found our way and drove in among enormous propeller blades and pieces of turbines.  We met our tour guides and chatted about the company over a brief lunch before taking a stroll through the part of the factory that assembles the nacelles.  Of course you know what a nacelle is, right?  That seems to be what the majority of us were pretending, until we got to the assembly floor and realized nacelle is not another term for “completed wind turbine.”  The nacelle is where the magic happens, if you will.  It is the part of the turbine that takes the kinetic energy from the spinning blades and, through a complex set of steps, tons of wiring, and countless different pieces of machinery, turns it into electricity that can be fed into the grid.

We wrapped up with a few more minutes of Q & A with Amy and Eddie rounding out our tour with an interesting discussion about the importance of multiculturalism in a worldwide company like Vestas.  Vestas has production facilities in Europe, Asia, South America and the United States which serve their global markets spanning from Australia to Africa to the Americas, Europe and Asia.  Amy elaborated on her regular conference calls with other facility managers in Italy, Denmark, Brazil and the U.S. and highlighted the importance of understanding each of these cultures so as to better communicate and learn from each other.  “When I’m on the call, it’s always the American factory that has comments and (constructive) criticism, while some of people from Denmark or Brazil never say much… Italy, we still haven’t figured out” she said, illustrating the different approaches various cultures have to something as simple as a conference call.  This was a great bit of insight as most of our discussions thus far have focused on the differences between Chinese and American business practices.  In fact, there’s a whole world of cultures out there that need to be considered.  It is becoming increasingly apparent that the ability to communicate the priorities of different cultures will be just as important as the skills we have learned and the degrees we will soon hold.

Shannon Oliver, CSBP, Class of 2013

Written by Andrew White

Andrew is an MBA Candidate in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. A native of Massachusetts, he came to UO to refine his business skills and build his expertise in the sustainability arena. His primary interest is in helping organizations implement environmentally and socially sustainable strategies for long-term success, and he is a regular participant on many of the MBA intramural sports teams.

Culture, Culture, Everywhere!

On Saturday we got our first real taste of Ancient China and Chinese history with our visit to the Great Wall. I chose to continue that trend on Sunday, by following up with visits to Beijing’s other classic historic sites, namely the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City, and the Hutong District, which lined up geographically to make our lives easier. It turned out to be a long day that ended with some sore feet and weary legs, but it was absolutely worth it.

The Temple of Heaven was first on our list because it was furthest south, and furthest away from our downtown hotel. Strolling through the park on a Sunday morning, we were able to catch a great snapshot of Chinese lifestyle. Old men occupied benches and tables for loud and competitive games of cards and a game that appeared to be a cross between backgammon and chess, while the elderly women sat knitting and singing songs. The temple itself was beautiful, and detailed with intricate colorful designs. From an architectural point of view, it’s also worth noting that all the temple walls are completely free-standing, and the entire structure is actually supported by 18 massive pillars/columns.

After the Temple of Heaven, we confirmed that the Forbidden City is a “can’t-miss” attraction, because it seemed like half of China was inside the city walls with us. In fact, it seems as if some of them may have made the trip just to see us, because we were asked to take pictures with many of the locals, who could not have been happier to see us. We braved the crowds and intense sunshine however, and were able to thoroughly appreciate the scale and importance of the palace for the Chinese people as we passed through the concentric rings of the palace.

We continued our journey northward in search of food, and recharged ourselves with some Tsingtao, mapo tofu, and spicy beef at an amazing restaurant in the heart of Beijing’s Hutong District. Hutong means “alleyway”, and the buildings here are the classic Beijing architecture that can’t be found anywhere else in China. The small gray stone buildings serve as residences, businesses, and social gathering places, connected by tiny winding alleyways that provide ample opportunity for navigational errors. Fortunately, we extricated ourselves from the neighborhood with just a few blisters and some incredible experiences.

Matt Story, Finance and Securities Analysis Center, Class of 2013

Written by Andrew White

Andrew is an MBA Candidate in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. A native of Massachusetts, he came to UO to refine his business skills and build his expertise in the sustainability arena. His primary interest is in helping organizations implement environmentally and socially sustainable strategies for long-term success, and he is a regular participant on many of the MBA intramural sports teams.

Going to the Great Wall

After a bumpy drive two hours outside of Beijing and a brisk hike, we enjoyed the amazing scenery at the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. Although we didn’t see any Mongol invaders, we enjoyed some of the best weather and clear conditions that Beijing has seen in months, according to some locals. The scale of the Great Wall was incredible and seeing it was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. The best part may have been the toboggan ride down to the bottom–despite the rickety toboggan track and questionable safety precautions. Overall, it was a beautiful day and there’s nothing better for MBA bonding than hiking around a World Heritage Site.

Karen Bonner, Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, Class of 2013

 

After an awesome trip to the Great Wall early in the day, those of us who were hungry for more culture decided to take the short subway ride from our hotel to Tiananmen Square to see the changing of the guard. The weather could not have been better, and a great sunset framed the Forbidden City and the rest of Beijing’s fantastic landmarks as the flag was lowered. Once it became dark, we decided to have a dumpling eating contest, which ended in a three-way tie when everyone agreed it was best not to have more than twenty-four dumplings. Overall it was an amazing day that really provided some insight into Chinese culture.

KJ O’Grady, Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship, Class of 2013

Written by Andrew White

Andrew is an MBA Candidate in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. A native of Massachusetts, he came to UO to refine his business skills and build his expertise in the sustainability arena. His primary interest is in helping organizations implement environmentally and socially sustainable strategies for long-term success, and he is a regular participant on many of the MBA intramural sports teams.

Lanterns outside our Hot-Pot dinner

The Bullet to Beijing

Thursday was a travel day for the UO contingent, and we made our way from Shanghai to Beijing via bullet train. The journey is about 800 miles, and we completed the trip in just under 5 hours by taking a 190mph train through the Chinese countryside. It was great to get outside of the cities and see what rural China looks like, and to get out of the city smog for a while.

Our first day in Beijing was action-packed, and included meetings with the Bank of China, Intel Capital, APCO, and Lehman Brown. Then, Friday night, the whole group followed the recommendation of Warsaw’s Shuo Cheng, a Beijing local, and had traditional Hot-Pot for dinner. After the delicious meal, a large group then made its way through the hectic streets of Beijing to Houhai Lake. The lake, surrounded by bars and lights, was absolutely beautiful at night, and capped off a great 2 days of travel to Northern China.

Next up is the Great Wall. More photos to follow!

Written by Andrew White

Andrew is an MBA Candidate in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. A native of Massachusetts, he came to UO to refine his business skills and build his expertise in the sustainability arena. His primary interest is in helping organizations implement environmentally and socially sustainable strategies for long-term success, and he is a regular participant on many of the MBA intramural sports teams.