Thursday, March 3, 2011

Eurotrip Day 5 - Jazzing it up in Praha!

Quinn Plastics was the first company of the day. The Managing Director was refreshingly honest and candid. I really liked the fact that he began his presentation by asking us what exactly we wanted him to speak about - talk about knowing your audience. This was an excellent presentation where he spoke about some of the real problems facing international companies looking to establish operations in the Czech Republic, especially since this was a company affected by changes in commodity pricing. We also got to tour their manufacturing facility. A stark difference Czech and US manufacturing facilities seems to be the low safety standards here. We walked through the plastic extrusion plant without face masks or safety glasses.

After a quick lunch, we had a really interesting session with Vodafone with the head of their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) division and their Canadian CEO. Their effort to enhance their brand image as a socially responsible outfit has been quite remarkable, especially given the nature of the society in which they are operating. Another fact that stayed with me, again, was how excited the the gentleman was about CSR. It just goes on to reiterate the fact that I must try to find a job that I absolutely love doing.

As much as I hate to admit, I was most excited about the Jazz boat we were scheduled to visit at the end of the day. Basically, this is a boat ride around Prague with live Jazz music. For those of you who know me, know how crazy I am about Jazz. We entered the boat and one of the tables was occupied by all the beautiful MBA girls, with just one vacant seat. Of course, Dr.V!

I was fortunate enough to sit next to Dr.Kwasnica and right behind Dr.V and, more importantly, right in front of the musicians. The music was, in a word, enchanting. The food was quite delicious, but the music just transported me to a different world. That, coupled with the lovely evening sights of the Prague Castle as we floated by, and a fellow jazz enthusiast in Dr.V made this perhaps one of the most memorable evenings of my life in recent times.

I just came back from another fruitful day and shall write about it tomorrow. Stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Eurotrip Day 4 - Praha!

Day 4 began with a bang. Group A went to visit Coke while we in group B visited GE Money. This was a huge learning experience because the CEO Peter Herbert (the girls loved his British accent) spent over an hour with us discussing the challenges and opportunities facing the banking industry in the Czech Republic. What really stayed with me was how much he loved his job. I hope that when I am his age, I too have worked in a field I absolutely love. We were also given some very valuable lessons in management and a facility tour by their Chief Strategy Officer. As a side note, he has just returned from an 18 month paternity leave, something that would be considered absurd in the US.

After grabbing a quick lunch at a local mall (I ate Indian food in Czech!), we headed out to DHL. This leg of the day was a bit taxing on all of us. First of all, group A had to join us because of some unforeseen circumstances that prevented the scheduled company from presenting. Also, the change in plans caused a wait of over a couple hours. Finally, we had the presentation, but apparently, the person who was supposed to speak had to cancel and a last minute replacement arrived. Due to a mismatch of expectations, this wasn't the most fruitful experience. However, I was proud of the fact that we all stuck together and made sure the Smeal brand was represented professionally.

The evening brought about a much deserved relaxation. I went to visit Prague's famous Marionette Theater. This was a truly funny rendition of Mozart's famous opera Don Giovanni which he had written specifically for Prague. It was a fun time and I shall post pictures as soon as I get them from a friend.

I look forward to tomorrow because we will be hitting Vodafone's CSR department, something I am quite excited about. Also, I get to go on a Jazz boat with Dr.V an the gang! More updates tomorrow.