Chile and Argentina: 1 Week, 2 Countries, 13 Company Visits

Winter break:  a time to relax with family and friends, hit the slopes (well, maybe in past years), put on a cozy sweater, and go to class?  Well considering class was held in South America, I didn’t mind going to class over break.  I had the pleasure of traveling to Chile and Argentina with 18 classmates as part of Kogod’s International Dimensions in Management course.  To say I learned a lot is an understatement.  I have about one year left in the part-time program but I feel comfortable enough to say that this will be my most memorable experience at Kogod.

Before traveling, our class met about six times throughout the semester.  We spent our time briefing each other on the economic, social, and political climate of the area.   We also learned first hand from representatives from both the Chilean and Argentine Embassies.  Our last class was held at Divino Restaurant, an authentic restaurant recommended by our new friends at the Argentine Embassy.  This was the perfect bon voyage, or buen viaje, to the experience to come.

I stepped off the plane and was immediately surprised by the modern city around me.  New construction, glittering office towers, and wide tree lined streets are visible as far as the eye can see.  Santiago’s thriving business district was not my typical vision of a Latin American country.   Fast-forward to Mendoza.  At the foot of the Andes, this town thrives on wine and the quintessential Argentine way of life.    Over one week, we traveled to two different countries, visited 13 companies and met with 18 different contacts, spanning over 10 different industries.

While a detailed journal of the week could fill an entire blog, I have listed by top eight experiences of the trip, both academic and personal, below:

8.  Start-Up Chile:  Immigrant entrepreneurs are said to have started about half of the businesses created in Silicon Valley between 1995 and 2005.  Chile hopes to emulate this success by sponsoring Start-Up Chile, a government-sponsored program designed to attract foreign, high-potential entrepreneurs to the country.  The mission, “They arrive.  They work.  They connect.  The leave and Chile stays connected.”   Start-Up Chile gives these entrepreneurs $40,000, a 12-month working visa, and access to the most prominent social and capital networks in the country.  We spent an afternoon at the Start-Up offices, interacting with the selected entrepreneurs and began to think of all the business opportunities available in this emerging market.  As so many of us were inspired, it’s very possible to see a Kogod Alumni involved in this program shortly!

7.  Copper, Copper, Copper:  Chile was made famous when 33 miners were rescued after 69 days trapped underground.  At that time, I knew nothing about the significance of mining to the region.   While studying the Chilean economy we found that copper makes up 55% of the economy and certainly is big business.  The first visit on our trip was to the corporate headquarters of Los Pelambres, a private firm operating the world’s 5th largest copper mine.    We learned everything from the engineering process, to the company’s social responsibility efforts in the local communities, to the importance of this industry to the national economy.

6.  Knowledge of Wine: To both Chileans and Argentines, wine is more than a beverage; it is a way of life.  Argentina’s annual wine consumption is equal to 40 liters per person.  (That’s a lot of Malbec!)  It didn’t matter where we were: on a company visit or out to dinner, the locals gave us both tasting lessons and their personal recommendations.  I improved not only my Spanish vocabulary but also my wine vocabulary during this trip!

5.  Business of Wine:  A region so dependent on wine must develop a solid infrastructure to market, distribute, and export this commodity.  Through various visits, we not only learned about wine but everything else that goes into the wine business.  For example, a transportation company has to worry about refrigerating cargo in order to obtain the perfect temperature for its client’s bottles.   Regional labor figures go up and down around the annual harvest.    Wineries need to focus on PR and distributor networks in international markets.  With all this at stake, we certainly found a lot of MBAs in rural Argentina!

4. Extending our Network in Valparaiso: A few of us arrived early and spent some time on the coast (it was summer in the southern hemisphere, after all).  While the beach was disappointing (the only cloudy days of our trip), we were lucky enough to find another gem on the coast: Valparaiso.  Cultural influences left over from this old major shipping port have made this city an artistic gem.  While buying unique artwork, and a statement necklace made of copper for myself, we made a connection with a local artist eager to get our opinion on his pieces as he plans to begin shipping to the US market.  While we were all impressed with his talent, we also realized that his company needed a business plan.  We continue to speak with him and hope to help him bring products to the US market shortly!

3.  My First Latin American Presentation:  As a part-time student with a full-time job, I was lucky enough to arrange a work meeting in conjunction with our trip.  The added bonus: an extra week in Santiago.  I presented my company’s research to 20 Chilean participants.  While I was the teacher, I had to rely on the class to explain concepts that didn’t clearly translate.  This was my first exposure to the warmth of the Chilean people.  They treated me to a traditional Chilean meal of conger and Pisco and an unforgettable, yet resume worthy, experience I will never forget!

2. Cross-Border Differences:  We left Santiago, with its bustling economy and 45-hour workweek, and traveled across the Andes to Mendoza, a laid-back town that closes for three hours every afternoon for siesta.   While we tend to lump these countries together, the business climate and ways of operating are significantly different.  One of the most interesting presentations of the trip for me was a conversation with David English, an American consultant who helps foreign businesses navigate the red-tape associated with the Argentine business climate.  This was such an interesting concept to me, especially after visiting Start-Up Chile earlier in the week.

1. Sharing Mate with my Classmates:  Mate is a traditional Argentine drink made of dried leaves of yerba infused in hot water.  Mate is served with a metal straw from a shared hollow gourd.  This is a drink of friendship and those who share it are bonded together.  Friends sit in a circle.  Each person takes a sip and passes it along to the next person until the mate is finished.  We had the pleasure of participating in this ritual during our time in Mendoza.  Our guide, Martin, had us over his house for a traditional backyard bbq.  We not only ate famous Argentine steak but also bonded over the mate ritual.  This perfect evening embodied the experience of Argentina and our trip.

While I put the finishing touches on my research paper (yes, there is a research component to this experience), I continue to reflect on the business environment, the culture, and the relationships I’ve made throughout this course.  I would encourage anyone who is thinking about this course to do it as I am certain that it will be my top experience at Kogod.

120 School Days + 2,688 Miles = 1 Amazing LA Vacation

A couple of weeks ago I visited two of my cohort mates in Los Angeles.  It was freezing in DC, and the opportunity to cash in my miles and seek warmer ground was a no-brainer.

Shopping in Santa Monica

It was amazing!  Thirty minutes after arriving at LAX and after jamming my down wintercoat into my suitcase, I was eating lunch at a Santa Monica eatery with the sun on my face and the Pacific Ocean in my view.

The next few days were a whirlwind:  shopping in Santa Monica, racing down Pacific Coast Highway, soaking in the art and gardens at the Getty Museum, standing in line for an ice cream sandwich at Diddy Riese near the UCLA campus, boutiquing in Westwood, riding the winding Malibu canyon on a Harley and stopping at the Rock Store off of Mulholland Hwy, bowling at the infamous bowling alley from the Big Lebowski (mark it zero, please), taking an hour to go 4 blocks in infamous traffic (ok, not so fun), and celebrity sight-seeing (I swear I saw Khloe).

1st Year MBAs (L-R) Alexandra, Jen, & Maria Teresa at the Getty Museum

As I sit here in DC a few weeks later, I smile as I think about how different this trip to LA was compared to my previous visits.  I’d been to LA a couple of times for both vacation and business, but I felt like I saw this trip differently.

For example, while in the legendary line getting my ice cream sandwich at Diddy Riese for $1.50 and feeling an instant exhilaration at how cheap and delicious a deal this was, I then realized that this was an exact example of what one of my professors called “consumer surplus.”  Good thing Diddy Riese doesn’t know just exactly how much I would indeed be willing to pay for that there sandwich.  As I walked out of their shop, I wondered how Diddy Riese could possibly be making money charging such deliciousness at such an obscenely low rate?  I glanced at the long line that I had just been standing in and remembered the concepts of volume sales and cost efficient goods providers.  Gotcha.  Of course, both concepts flew out of my mind as I polished off the rest of my sandwich.  In fact, much of what I was thinking flew out as I finished such deliciousness.

Diddy Riese Cookie Sandwiches...a $1.50 slice of Heaven

Being an MBA student has given me another way of viewing the world around me:  it’s like I’m now traveling with 3D glasses with my newly acquired knowledge.  One semester in, I was sitting in my free ticket seat and wondering what dynamic pricing models my airlines had used in offering seats on the plane to wondering what the size of endowment and interest rate the Getty might need to operate such a facility for the public good.  It was as if I saw business everywhere and it made the strings of connecting everything so much more vibrant and clear.

I’m looking forward to going on one of the study abroad trips that Kogod is offering over the next break.  I’ll have gone through six more classes and learned a slew of other concepts and developed a host of skills.  On that note, maybe I’ll try considering consumer surplus while consuming macaroons and an espresso from Ladurées on the Champs Elysées next?  Oui!  Oui!

“See you in August”

The end of the school year is a mixed bag. Though it’s exciting to have a break from classes, there is no real rest for the weary. Internships start shortly after finals end and, especially for those of us that are interning outside of DC, there are plenty of logistics that need to be finalized. The biggest surprise was how hard it would be to say goodbye to friends.

Guys at Fogo de Chao

After finals, we began a series of little celebrations to herald in summer vacation. A few of the guys from the program enjoyed a steak dinner in downtown DC before meeting up with others in Adams Morgan.

The exhale that accompanied endless meat was both welcome and slightly overwhelming. In the end, we were happy to discuss our completed finals, expected grades and summer plans.

One (unfortunately cloudy) day some of us got together for a small barbecue. Since the pool wasn’t really an option, we mostly sat around, ate and enjoyed the musical talents of our friend Kevin.

Sing us a song, Kev

Some of us sang along from memory, others cheated by looking up lyrics on our phones.

Many of my classmates will be in different parts of the country for their respective internships. The likelihood that we’ll see each other over the next few months is low. Eight months of group projects, study sessions and back-to-back classes can really turn strangers to close friends. It is thus no surprise that while we are all excited to work and learn over the summer, it was weird to be saying goodbye for a few months.

As for me, I am in New York, interning in midtown. The summer is off to a great start despite waking up earlier than I did during school. It’s exciting to be back in the work realm using the tools that I gained in my first year. But I already miss my friends in DC and look forward to being back in August…. even if New York is pretty awesome.

A weekend in South America

This past Saturday I attended the wedding of a close family friend in Bogotá, Colombia. The young parents on my Thursday night Avianca flight were shocked when I mentioned that I was traveling to South America for the weekend. The short trips that my sisters and I made to Colombia meant a great deal to our immigrant father and made for a once-in-a-lifetime weekend.

Bogotá is no small town.

This being only my second trip to my father’s hometown, my dad and uncle were intent showing us as much as possible. Thus my South American vacation was full of rushed car rides and little sleep. It was awesome.

Saturday morning we were up at 6 am to get ready to visit Monserrate. Next, we went to the Museum del Oro which featured some of the most interactive exhibits. The wedding on Saturday night was “espectacular” and the bride was a “princesa”. Sunday morning we were able to sleep in until 8 before attending a family reunion on a “finca” about an hour outside Bogotá. Three packed days but luckily hundreds of pictures to help remember them.

Family reunion on a farm

I took on a great deal of risk traveling when finals are only few days away and group projects are nearing culmination. It would have been impossible for me to make this rushed trip without the support of my classmates and professors at Kogod. Even though I am in the process of catching up now I am immensely grateful for the understanding that my teammates offered me before my trip and upon my return.

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to attend two amazing events in Colombia and I have my great friends at Kogod to thank for that.

Kogod in a NY minute

One of the great benefits to attending graduate school on the East Coast is the proximity of so many great cities. Last week the students at Kogod enjoyed a much needed Spring Break. While I was unable to travel to any exotic locations, like some of my classmates (I’m looking at you, Amanda), I did go to New York to visit friends and family.

Having originally hailed from Staten Island, it was nice to be able to travel back north. I was very fortunate to have a colleague from Kogod join me. My friend Kristen decided last minute to come to New York for a fun filled 36 hours. Kristen, who grew up in Ohio, had only been to New York once and I was intent on showing her as much as we could fit in.

No rest for the weary

KO and LL in Times Square

Once we arrived in Manhattan, we pretty much didn’t stop moving until it was time for Kristen to leave. Lunch in midtown was an easy choice. Pizza was the only food group on Kristen’s mind. And with only a day and half in the Big Apple, we had to make sure we covered all our bases… pizza, bagels, coffee. After lunch with my college roommate, Nick, who was also gracious enough to be our host, we hurried downtown to do some shopping. Shopping in weekday Soho was rushed but luckily bountiful.

With about an hour to get back, get ready and get to a Times Square pub for networking, Kristen and I booked it to the subway to travel back up the East Side. The Networking for Professionals event at O’Brien’s was definitely worth the rush. We had the opportunity to speak with several experts in their given industries. Kristen (interested in finance) and I (interested in marketing) were the perfect tag-team. Our time at the event flew by but we both walked out with a better idea of the New York market and some great contacts.

With no time to spare, we rushed to Hell’s Kitchen to grab dinner with Nick. After dinner, we hopped in a cab to go back over toward where we were staying. Our classmate Kate and her mom were staying one block south of us while they had their own NY shopping adventure. We joined them for post theater drinks. They had just seen The Addams Family (very jealous). Meeting someone’s parents is always a great way to get to know more about them. It was really fun to hang out with Kate and her mom for a while with Kristen in a new city. Unfortunately, we didn’t think to take a picture at the time.

Beat the bus

When we woke up on Wednesday, I was really disappointed that we only had a few hours in New York. So we were in a rush again. We traveled uptown to grab some bagels and visit museums. I was in heaven with all the Kandinsky’s that were being exhibited at the Guggenheim. We spent about 2 hours walking down the spiral gallery. As a huge fan of the Met, I had never been to the Guggenheim and was really happy to have a new experience in New York with my good friend.

Then it was back downtown for last minute shopping. And what do you know? We bumped into two other classmates of ours! Big city, but small world. Kevin and Julie Jones just happen to be in Soho at the same time as Kristen and me.

Look who it is

After a rushed 5 minute conversation, we were running again. This time Kristen needed to make her bus.

The city that never sleeps

While many of my colleagues at Kogod plan to stay in Washington, D.C., my career search has mostly focused on the New York City metropolitan area. It’s hard to believe that I will be coming back to New York after almost 9 years away. But $40 round trip bus tickets are a small price to pay to stay in touch with close friends. Even though I am excited by the opportunities that exist in New York, I look forward to sharing New York with my new friends when they inevitably come to visit, hopefully often. It’ll give me an excuse to break out my running shoes….

Global Innovation: Paris and Prague

 

Global Innovation at the L'Oreal Plant in Paris

I can’t imagine why anyone would want to spend their spring break in a classroom. Unless that classroom is in Paris.

When I signed up for the IBUS course on Global Innovation, I did so for a few reasons. First, the class is the only at Kogod’s international business department that has a European focus (the subject of my undergrad degree). Second, the course includes travel. Third, travel meant spending spring break and Paris and Prague.

We all know that one of the highlights of Kogod is the international atmosphere here, which is augmented by the many opportunities to take short study trips abroad. Whether it’s Brazil, China, Argentina, South Korea, or Europe, twice (or even three times) a year you can take a class that not only teaches you about doing business in a foreign country, but actually exposes you to engaging with business in that country.

For me, going to Paris felt like it would be a homecoming. Having spent all of my life since age five studying French, all of my college years studying French history and language, and four months living abroad in Paris, I felt like the first leg of the trip would be a piece of cake.

How very wrong I was.

Seeing Paris with Professor Tomasz Mroczkowski was like seeing an entirely new Paris for the very first time. Our group of 22 — mixed full-time/part-time MBAs, SIS grads, SOC grads, and some undergrads — was folded into the renowned European business school, ESCP. Apart from taking class with incredible professors, we went on a whirlwind tour of French companies to study innovation at France Telecom, NYSE Euronext, and finally, L’Oreal. By the end of the trip I was exhausted (and craving steak frites), but ready for more in the Eastern European city of Prague.

Having never been to Prague, I first thought I would be completely lost. I didn’t know a word of Czech (I now know how to say hello, please, thank you, beer, and water), and I certainly didn’t know the city like I did Paris. But Prague exceeded my expectations, and quickly took the top spot in my personal list of most beautiful cities. The academic portion was incredibly enlightening, and extraordinarily impressive. Our meetings were with the leaders of each featured company: the directors of strategy for the Czech energy company Cez; marketing, customer service, and PR executives of Vodafone Czech Republic; the leader of the US Commercial Service in Prague; and the CEO of GE-Walter Aviation.

Despite moments of exhaustion (it’s amazing how much you can fit into a day…), the trip was constantly eye-opening, and incredibly inspiring. Now back in class in DC, I find myself many steps ahead of where I was before the trip. The exposure to different cultures’ approach to business has changed the way I think about business, and has made me able to take the theories in class at Kogod and synthesize them in a way I hadn’t been able to before.

So in short, spending all of spring break in a class room wasn’t half bad. Let’s put it this way: I want to do it all over again.