Discovery trip – Mexico and California (Vivek Tiwari)

Hello Everyone. This is your guest blogger Vivek who will take you through the discovery trip to Mexico and California that I and my thirty amazing friends went to.

Discovery Trips are essential part of the curriculum at IMD and extensive preparations go on from early on in the year. These range from selection of places, companies to visit, alumni network to contact etc. Thankfully, our super-efficient MBA office takes care of all the administrative stuff and we students focus on the academic work and company presentations for our visit.

The theme this year was that we would visit one developing and one developed country. Mexico and California was an easy choice for me since I was interested in technology sector, start up clustered around Silicon Valley, plus I had never been to US before and the idea of visiting it with a large group friends really excited me.

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Our first stop was Monterrey in Mexico. Monterrey is the third largest metropolitan area in Mexico and an industrial hub having couple of large corporations headquartered there. We visited a Walmart distribution center and understood the complexity of running such large scale operations. It was fascinating to see how a fruit grown half the way across the globe reaches the shelves of our local supermarket. After Walmart, the next company visit made us all go in memory lane and we became kids again. The reason: Lego factory visit. At IMD, we have studied turnaround of Lego in mid 2000s in a couple of case studies, and it was a fascinating account of putting strategy, operations and marketing into practice and putting the company back on the growth track. Looking at the highly automated factory and advance robotics in action was a different experience and made me appreciate Lego even more. Plus, each of us received a Lego set as a gift at the end of the visit. That reminds me I have to build my set soon.

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Besides these two events, we visited CPA, Cemex, BCG and Alfa group where we got to interact with senior business executives from these companies. Before flying out of Mexico, there was an Alumni networking event in which group of students made a presentation on the economic situation of Mexico. Our MBA director Ralf Boscheck also facilitated a session with participants giving an overview from an ecnomics standpoint.

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San Francisco was our next stop. If Monterrey was all about manufacturing and industrial goods, San Francisco was the polar opposite with its venture capitalists and start-ups. Our schedule here was jam packed with visits from Salesforce, Twitter and Google. Visiting google headquarter in mountain-view was the highlight of the trip. Fun fact 1: Do you know that you can have free lunches at Google?

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SF chamber of commerce held a session on the innovation economy and economic development of San Francisco followed by a session from VCs explaining us about the entrepreneurial culture in the valley. Fun fact 2: If you are 20 years old and studying at Stanford University and you haven’t started your company, you are in a very tiny minority.

And before we knew it, the discovery trip had come to an end. However, we got two full days to recover from our intense sessions and explore San Francisco. Our group had great fun with activities such as taking a biking tour of golden gate bridge to eating in china town to partying in San Francisco. Special thanks to my American colleagues and friends Courtney Galligan and Tom Cohen who organized the trips and made sure that each of us had great time. Cheers.

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Discovery trip – Dubai and Singapore (Stephanie Lin)

My classmate Stephanie Escher participated in the group which travelled to Dubai and Singapore, and would like to share her story. The reason why she chose the destination was because she had never been to Dubai nor any other region in the Middle East before. She also targeted company visits in Dubai and Singapore for networking purposes.
 
There were mainly three focus points during the trip. First, the group had meetings with the Economic Development Board of each country (UAE and Singapore). During these meetings, Stephanie could see how the UAE was trying to benchmark with Singapore. Secondly, the group visited various companies. These meetings brought the unique way of doing business in these countries closer to her. Thirdly, cultural events were organized so that IMD students could experience the local customs, like snowboarding down the sand dunes of the Dubai desert.
 
What impressed Stephanie about the UAE was the foresight in developing the economy’s diversification and anticipating future challenges. In Singapore, she was amazed about the changes of the city, coming back after 20 years. She could especially feel the vibe and energy which a typical Asian metropole offers.
 
During the interaction with expats, Stephanie could explore what living abroad in these regions can look like. She felt that Singapore could eventually be a country for her to work and live in. Besides interesting business opportunities, it offers a high quality of life and the population is very diverse. She appreciated that she was travelling with a smaller group of 28 people, where she could continue bonding with the other classmates.
 
For the future MBA students to choose their discovery destination, Stephanie suggested that you first understand what you want to get out of the trip, for example in terms of experiencing a new culture or exploring potential job opportunities. Then the trip will be highly rewarding.
Stephanie (Lin)