University Students from Ashesi Venture Accelerator in Ghana visit Berkeley Haas

Ashesi Students, Prof. Adomdza, and IBD Team Ashesi at Sproul Plaza, UC Berkeley

Ashesi Students, Prof. Adomdza, and IBD Team Ashesi at Sproul Plaza, UC Berkeley

Ashesi University comes to the Bay Area:

Berkeley Haas and the IBD program hosted a group of 12 undergraduate students from Ashesi University on Thursday, March 7, 2019.  Ashesi Faculty Advisor to the Ashesi Venture Accelerator, Associate Professor Gordon Adomdza, brought this group of inspiring students from Ghana to the Bay Area for a Silicon Valley study tour.   Professor Adomdza also said that part of the reason for the Bay Area trip was to connect with Ashesi founder (and Haas alum) Patrick Awuah’s Berkeley Haas roots.  

Patrick Awuah and Berkeley Haas:

Patrick Awuah receiving the award at UC Berkeley's Commencement 2015, Dr. Awuah thanked the Haas community for its contributions to Ashesi's development.

Patrick_Awuah receiving the award at UC Berkeley’s Commencement 2015, Dr. Awuah thanked the Haas community for its contributions to Ashesi’s development.

Patrick Awuah graduated from Berkeley Haas in ‘99, and as an MBA student in the IBD program, he developed the idea for Ashesi University.  Mr. Auwah  launched Ashesi University in 2002 as the first Ivy League-style school in his native country of Ghana.  Ashesi’s mission is to educate ethical entrepreneurial leaders who transform Africa.  Mr. Auwah and Ashesi University have won numerous awards throughout the years and have been recognized for their impact on leadership, education, innovation, and entrepreneurship in Africa.  After meeting these exceptional students, one can see clearly why Ashesi and Mr. Auwah have been honored for their work.

Ashesi and the IBD Program:

Ashesi IBD Evening and Weekend MBA Team and Patrick Awuah 2014

Ashesi IBD Evening and Weekend MBA Team and Patrick Awuah 2014

IBD has had the privilege of partnering with Ashesi on numerous IBD projects, including most recently projects with an Evening & Weekend MBA Team in 2014 and a Full-time MBA Team in 2016.  This spring semester, IBD is fortunate to work again with Ashesi again on another IBD project. The 2019 IBD Team Ashesi, comprised of five MBA students (Team Lead Joe Bird, and Team Members Carolyn Henderson, Nicole Quinty, Jessica Slocovich and Nicholas Meyer), will travel to Ghana in May to work in-country for three weeks.  It is a rare opportunity for an IBD Student Team to meet its project client in Berkeley before the in-country IBD experience, so we were thrilled with the opportunity of welcoming Ashesi Venture Accelerator students to Berkeley Haas on March 7.  In addition to hosting a walking tour of UC Berkeley campus, IBD staff and the Ashesi IBD Student Team put together a program of speakers to talk about entrepreneurship and the MBA program at Berkeley Haas.  IBD Team Member Carolyn Henderson was able to spend time with the students from Ashesi and shared the following.

IBD Team Ashesi and students from Ashesi University

IBD Team Ashesi and students from Ashesi University

“It was so fun meeting and talking with the undergraduate students from Ashesi. We were impressed to hear that many of them have already started companies, and in fact, one student has started two companies! Discussing entrepreneurship, the value of education and their visions for the future made our IBD project feel very real and made us even more excited to work with Ashesi this summer.”

Berkeley Haas and Ashesi values:

Professor Gordon Adomdza and his students with photo of Patrick Awuah on the walls of Haas

Professor Gordon Adomdza and his students with photo of Patrick Awuah on the walls of Haas

Upon their return to Ghana, Ashesi Associate Professor Adomdza shared that after meeting with different companies, universities and groups of people in Silicon Valley,  his students “talked about how special it was that Haas was the only place with an Ashesi story embedded in the presentation and a poster of Patrick on the wall.”  The connection between Ashesi and Berkeley Haas is very special, and was reflected in this additional comment from Carolyn Henderson:

Students from Ashesi University at the UC Berkeley Campanile

Students from Ashesi University at the UC Berkeley Campanile

“The values of Ashesi University are very much in alignment with Berkeley Haas’ Defining Leadership Principles, and it was fun to see that even though [Ashesi Founder and Berkeley Haas alumnus] Patrick Awuah was here before Haas formally adopted these principles, there is a recognizable similarity between the two places. This made for an easy connection with the students, and we can’t wait to experience this again when we go to Ghana and spend time at Ashesi. “

What’s Next For IBD Team Ashesi:

IBD students Joe, Nicolas, Nicole, Jessica and Carolyn will continue to work here at Berkeley Haas for the remainder of the spring semester before they depart for Berekuso, Ghana to work on-site at Ashesi University.  The IBD program is excited for this year’s student team to experience all that Patrick Awuah and Ashesi University have to offer.

IBD Team Ashesi - Carolyn Henderson, Nicole Quinty, Nicholas Meyer, Jessica Slocovich and Joe Bird

IBD Team Ashesi – Carolyn Henderson, Nicole Quinty, Nicholas Meyer, Jessica Slocovich and Joe Bird

A Week in the Life of an IBD Team – Team Ananda

Written by Igor Borges, Stan Cataldo, Ryan Dingler, Elaine Leong, and Mila Pires, of the Ananda Development team in Thailand.

It was May 13th at 6pm and our team had just arrived in Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok’s main airport. Ryan (one of our team members) hailed us a Grab, Thailand’s Uber, and we were on our way to the hotel. In the hot and humid Thai weather, we passed two of our clients real estate developments. During our research, we found Ananda Development (our client) had a strong real estate presence in Bangkok and were already finding that to be true!

Ananda1

The next day we met Lloyd, our main employee contact and the best host we could have asked for. He introduced us to his staff and gave us a tour of the office, which looked more like a high-tech company office in the Bay Area than a real estate company.

Ananda2

Ananda3

After showing our initial research and framework to Dr. John, Ananda’s Chief Development Officer, we rebuilt our deck to dive deeper into the solutions we identified as strongest in preparation for our field research the following day. To decompress, back at the hotel we began a tradition, which continued for the full three weeks, where we would all play foosball but only Elaine would win. Then we managed to get through the intense Bangkok traffic to Beer Belly, a restaurant recommended by an employee at Ananda, where played some pool, air hockey and ping pong along with eating fried pork skin and some (very) spicy food.

Ananda4

Tuesday during the day, Lloyd and his team setup tours of three of Ananda’s real estate developments, from pre-construction to fully sold-out and transferred properties, including an amazing 4D projection for the Ashton brand (Ananda’s most luxurious sub-brand). The three developments were all different Ananda sub-brands (these brands vary by target resident income and style) which gave us a good perspective of the various types of customers Ananda attracts.

Ananda5

In the afternoon, we went to dinner with Ananda and a USC-Marshall team that was also doing a project with Ananda. It was a great opportunity to mingle and try several typical Thai dishes that our Ananda team ordered for us. This was also the point where Ryan was introduced to mango sticky rice – a true love story in the making.

Ananda6

Wednesday we spent the day incorporating our initial feedback from Dr. John and additional information and insights we gathered during our field tours into our deck before our presentation to the CEO on Thursday. We also got to participate in a Singularity University event on the development of “fake meat” delivered by a professor from Japan.

Ananda7

Thursday, was our big day to present to Ananda’s CEO, Khun Chanond Ruangkritya. Khun Chanond is a young Berkeley alum that is at the forefront of rewriting how real estate is done in Bangkok. During the meeting, he gave us the go-ahead and said we were heading in the right direction and gave us a lesson on how to be a successful but humble leader – a true Haasie! To close the day, we were invited to the presentation of USC’s project and networked with professors and other USC teams that were also in Thailand.

On Friday we visited another Ananda building to learn about their Property Management division and how they manage existing developments. Also, Ananda had a TGIF event, where we were able to hear an amazing Adele performance by one of our close Ananda contacts, who used to be a professional singer before joining Ananda.

Ananda8

After the performance, we headed to our flights to Chiang Mai (a city in the north of Thailand) where we spent the weekend visiting temples, caring for our “own” elephants at a sanctuary and driving rented motorcycles.

It was an amazing pleasure and privilege to be in this project and we hope the next classes are as lucky as we were in getting such a heartwarming, exciting and eye-opening experience as ours. Lloyd and the team were wonderful hosts, every week they planned multiple events for us to network with CEOs, academics, and Berkeley alums.

Thank you Ananda for this unique experience and for the invaluable lessons!

Ford Shanghai – 2018 IBD

Members: James Westhafer (team lead), Sandra Tamer, Alyssa Warren, John Sheffield, Joe Akoni

Figure : The Ford Asia-Pacific headquarters in the Shanghai neighborhood of Pudong

Figure : The Ford Asia-Pacific headquarters in the Shanghai neighborhood of Pudong

The Ford-Shanghai team was tasked with a very unique problem in their IBD project: How can Ford improve their customer experience in the “pre-drive” space (before a journey starts) and the”post-drive” space (after the journey ends).  It was a relevant problem for multi-national company because so much of Ford’s internal effort is spent on the “in-flight” (during the journey) customer experience. We spent the spring semester at Berkeley researching customer use cases, benchmarking the competitive landscape, and speaking with as many Ford employees as possible to better educate ourselves on this unique problem.  We knew that our in-country experience in China at the end of the spring semester would be immersive and we came in with high expectations. Our time in Shanghai exceeded these expectations and gave us a level of exposure and experience that none of us thought was possible when we were sitting at our gate ready to board our flight to China on May 11.

After registering at the front desk of the Shanghai Information Center in the skyscraper-laden Shanghai neighborhood of Pudong and passing through the facial-recognition security checkpoint, we arrived on the 36th floor of Ford’s Shanghai office.  Our first day was filled with meetings of Ford executives, in groups ranging from strategy to Ford Smart Mobility to their Autonomous/Electric vehicle division.  It was the epitome of “drinking from the firehose” as we continued to educate ourselves on a very complex topic. We soon realized that talking and listening is only one component, and to fully understand the travel woes in urban China, our team had to experience it for ourselves.  We spent the entire second day of our project moving through Shanghai: subways at rush hour, the bus during non-peak hours, the dock-less bike share program, Didi (Uber equivalent in China), and even more.  

    

Experiencing the true urban China mobility experience first-hand was essential for our understanding of the true pains of residents and Ford customers.  It’s these pain points that drive Ford’s strategy in product development and partnership selection and an area that we believed to be a key area of focus in our project.  We didn’t have much time to debrief after our mobility outing because we were scheduled to travel to Beijing on Thursday for all-day meetings on Friday. We wanted to meet with other key Chinese mobility players to better understand their strategies for addressing customer pain points in the pre and post-drive space.  The partners we visited—Didi (Uber equivalent in China), Mobike (China’s most promising and successful dock-less bike company) and Shouqi (Didi competitor)—would be a great data point on how other companies in China were thinking about similar mobility problems.

 

After a marathon day of meetings, we were able to unwind a bit and take in the local flavors of northern China.  There was an eventful Beijing night that included the local favorite dish of Peking duck and a Chinese alcohol specialty, Bijou.  The next day, the team made a memorable trip to the Great Wall of China that far-exceeded everyone’s expectations. We had a great tour guide that educated us on all-things Chinese history and helped put the grandeur of the Great Wall into perspective.  It was a highlight of our trip and certainly a lifetime memory for all of us.

An amazing day trip to Huanghugcheng, north of Beijing, to visit a relatively tourist-less portion of the Great Wall

An amazing day trip to Huanghugcheng, north of Beijing, to visit a relatively tourist-less portion of the Great Wall

We got back to work the following Monday and began designing and creating a comprehensive interview guide that would help to validate (or disprove) some of our customer painpoint takeaways from our mobility outing and various meetings from the week before.  We lined up a number of Ford employees and other Shanghai residents that ranged from ages 23 to 60 in order to help our team better understand mobility trends and personal travel pain points in urban China. We had some very interesting and thought-provoking conversations that validated some of our personal painpoint takeaways, but also some unique nuggets that we used to develop some preliminary recommendations.  

As the week progressed, we had more meetings and team brainstorms to start landing on what our final recommendations would be to the Ford team.  There were many long nights as our team sifted through the massive amounts of data and information that we had in front of us from the 2 weeks of immersive meetings and interviews.  We left the Ford office on Friday on the second week of our in-country visit with a clear (yet ambitious) presentation outline that we would delve into during our last week.

Figure 7: The Ford team working through some slides in “CR-9 War Room”, the designated space for the team during their stay in Shanghai.  Lots of snacks, coffee and water were needed.

Figure 7: The Ford team working through some slides in “CR-9 War Room”, the designated space for the team during their stay in Shanghai. Lots of snacks, coffee and water were needed.

The final week in Shanghai consisted of long working sessions to perfect the slide deck that would be presented to senior Ford leadership at 8am on Thursday May 31st, the last day of the project.  The climax of the in-country experience came on Wednesday May 30th when the team worked from 7:30am until 10:30pm at night, which included a final run through of the presentation in our hotel room while eating one last meal of Shanghai’s famous “soup dumplings”.  

The final presentation on Thursday morning was a wild success.  We presented to the head of Asia Pacific Ford Smart Mobility and the head of Asia Pacific Strategy for Ford along with a number of other Ford executives.  After presenting our findings and making final recommendations on Ford’s strategy in China, the VP of Strategy for Asia Pacific (formerly a partner at Bain Consulting in Shanghai) said that the presentation “exceeded his expectations” and that he saw really tangible ideas that could make a difference in China.  He even started brainstorming with Ford’s lead on Connected Services on how some of our recommendations could be piloted in China! It was a very rewarding ending to the project and validated the hard work that we put in throughout the spring semester. It was an absolutely amazing experience for all 5 members of the team and will certainly be a highlight of our two years at Haas.  We want to publicly thank the Ford team for their help and support throughout the project. It was a joy working with the Shanghai team and we are happy that our recommendations could have a lasting impact for the company. From the entire team, xiè xie for everything, Ford!

The Ford team on the 36th floor of the Shanghai Information Tower in Pudong on the last day of their project.  Thanks for everything Ford!

The Ford team on the 36th floor of the Shanghai Information Tower in Pudong on the last day of their project. Thanks for everything Ford!

 

Seva Team Blog – 2018 IBD

Written by Jocelyn Brown, Rachel Lee, Grant Hannigan, Josue Chavarin, and Gagan Dhaliwal

May 21, 2018

It’s 110 degrees outside. Every bump of the road jostles us back and forth as we sit on stretchers in the back of the hospital ambulance. Weaving down dirt roads that look way too narrow for our vehicle, let alone two lanes of traffic, the driver uses the siren to announce our arrival, to both wandering buffalo and massive trucks filled with just-cut sugarcane. Within minutes of leaving the hospital, we are passing small farming villages. Goats, stray dogs and buffalo rest in the shade of ramshackle structures, along with villagers who stare at us as we drive by. Little fans in the back of the ambulance blow hot air in our faces, making it feel like we’re in the middle of a hot, dry sauna.

After stopping to ask directions several times, we finally locate our first interviewee. Today, Gagan and I are interviewing patients who visited Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital in Mohammadi, India, and were told that they needed cataract surgery but haven’t come back yet to schedule it. We’re hoping to learn, through our teenage translators Srishti and Gracy, why they haven’t come back to the hospital. Every trip we take outside of the hospital walls has taught us an incredible amount about the surrounding communities and their day-to-day lives. We also usually come back exhausted and completely wiped from the Indian heat after only a few hours.

The first man we meet is prone on a cot underneath a straw hut and comes out to meet us. He’s shirtless, hunched from the waist around a wooden walking stick, and wearing thick, coke-bottle glasses. The first thing our translator tells us after introducing us is that he drinks alcohol. He doesn’t have any family members who can take him back to the hospital, and so he relies on others for transportation. Boiling in the sun, struggling to get any concrete details about why he might not want to come back to Shroff’s, we quickly decide to move on.

Our next interview is the opposite experience. We pull up to through the center of another village and step out of the ambulance. All of the houses around us seem to be made out of mud and straw. Several children seem to be the only ones who have any energy as they run around playing with each other and a stray dog. The community outreach coordinator for the hospital learns that our next patient is out working in the fields. While other members of the community go fetch him, chairs and water are suddenly precured from nowhere. We see very few women, just glimpses of their colorful garb from open doorways. As we wait for our interviewee, a small crowd of children and interested men starts to form. By the time our interviewee has arrived, a crowd has fully surrounded our little half-moon of chairs.

We’ve worked with our translators ahead of time so they know the types of questions we’re hoping to understand: how did you first hear about Shroff’s? What motivated you to seek care there? Did you understand what the doctor told you about cataract surgery? Why haven’t you returned to Shroff’s for surgery? We receive very brief answers in return: I was very satisfied with my experience. I wouldn’t change anything; the doctors and facilities are the best. Now surrounded with a full crowd of villagers, I wonder how much this man feels like sharing with these foreigners who have suddenly descended upon him and his home.

Conducting our interview with a local farmer

Conducting our interview with a local farmer

As our translators work to glean why this man hasn’t returned to the hospital for surgery (he doesn’t have the time), Gagan and I start to realize the enormity of our task. Our goal is to find untapped sources of new paying patient revenue, so that the hospital can work towards financial sustainability. But as our interviews in the community continue (we only make it through two more before we’re completely wiped by the heat), we realize we will not find the patients we’re looking for here.

We discover that the sugar cane farmers are paid 1-2 times a year for their crop and are making at most $5,000 a year. If these villagers are challenged with the basics of transportation and finding the time to make the trip to the hospital, none of our fancy, MBA pricing models are going to make any bit of difference in this community. Our impression that these patients would price shop for their surgery is immediately dispelled once we realize the simple, minimal lifestyle that describes 80% of this entire state of 200 million people. It’s only Monday of our second week and we certainly have our work cut out for us to identify sources of paying patients.

We gathered quite the crowd!

We gathered quite the crowd!

How Three Weeks in the Bay Islands Changed our Perspective on Plastic

Beautiful water and boatsPOST 1: Written by Catherine Soler, Leslie Brian, Kelly Lamble, Scott Peacock and Sipian Wang

How three weeks in the Bay Islands changed our perspective on plastic

Prior to this consulting project, none of our team members had even heard of the Bay Islands. Now, we will never forget them. The beautiful lush scenery, the warm people, the exquisite sunsets – our IBD adventure was chock full of moments to remember. And yet, the most frequent way we will remember our time on this project will be through the sight of plastic.

The objective of our consulting project was to help Think Beyond Plastic (“TBP”), a Carmel-based NGO focused on plastic reduction through creative enterprise models, bolster its Mesoamerican Reef Plastic Reduction Initiative through the identification of business ideas and partnership opportunities. We explored the question:   

“How might we provide clean drinking water to the communities of the Bay Islands without a plastic footprint?”

And now, we will share the answer to another question that came from this work:

“How has this project changed the way we look at our own plastic footprint?”

Pile of plastic and trash

Leslie’s Reflections: The Shield of Waste Management System

Our team came to the Bay Islands with the hypothesis that tourists were the problem behind plastic pollution. We were right, just not in the way I had first imagined.  Waste management is a problem in most developing countries, and the Bay Islands are no exception. A 16-year-old boy described how the trash outside his home would smell and attract dogs. The government simply stopped collecting trash at the end of last year due to mismanaged funds. What would I do in the absence of reliable waste management? Most likely, I’d do what the islanders do: throw trash in an uninhabited, public space.

Yes, plastic pollution is a problem in the Bay Islands, but an average person there consumes far less than an average person in the United States. The local people reuse everything out of economic necessity — kids use plastic bottles as toys. On an island, everything you consume has a direct impact on your surroundings, while in the US, our waste management system shields us from the impacts of our consumerism. I am certainly guilty of the mentality that once the garbage man comes, my trash is out of sight, out of mind. Yet, I don’t really know what happens next. My trip to the Bay Islands has pushed me to lift the lid on waste management in the US and not to rely on recycling to undo the effects of unnecessary consumption.

Sipian’s Reflections: Every Effort Counts

Sipian’s Reflections

Sipian’s Reflections

I was standing on a white sand beach in Utila. On my right hand side is one of the most gorgeous scenes I’ve ever seen with crystal-clear blue water and the colorful coral reefs underneath. On my left hand side, pieces of plastic waste can be spotted all over. In fact, the picture above captures only part of the plastic we picked up during a 3-hour cleanup: toothbrushes, straws, toys, etc.

Beyond government and institutional efforts, I believe our day-to-day actions are the key to reducing plastic footprint. Every piece of plastic waste we produce doesn’t disappear when we throw it into the trash can; it can end up somewhere in the ocean. While there is no quick path to minimize our plastic footprint, every small effort counts. Ask for no straw in your next drink, resell children’s plastic toys online, and reuse your solo cup.

Look for our next post to continue our team’s reflections here

 

 

Maximum Satisfaction: The IBD Max Warehouse Experience

Written by Natalie Bauman, Vicky Ngo-Lam, Jeremy Scheier, Elana Congress, and Alex Austin

Team Max WarehouseMay 31, 2018

“Before you come, there are two very important words which you must know: guacamole y frijoles,” asserts Juan Carlos on our first weekly team call. Juan Carlos is the project lead at Max Warehouse and serves as our cheerleader and guide throughout. He is really invested in our Spanish language education. “Next week, you will learn some new words,” he assures us. Can you guess the word we learned the next week? Cerveza–por supuesto! We learned vocabulary beyond just guacamole, beer, and beans, though. We pick up “Guatamaleños” (Guatemalan slang words)  and use them incorrectly and excessively.  Our favorite is “va” (“let’s go, sure, got it!”). We figure that between us, we have 2.5 people proficient in Spanish (and also 2.5 MBAs). Our motley collection of Spanish knowledge and ability to support one another in communication attempts represents well our team dynamics.

Introducing: IBD Team “MaxWareHaas.”Team with Duracel Bunny

We are the MaxWareHaas IBD team: Natalie, Jeremy, Elana, Alex, and Vicky.  Our project is with Max Warehouse, a subsidiary of Grupo Cemaco, the fourth largest retailer in the country. Max Warehouse started in 2012 as an online wholesaler for Ace hardware products and then launched its own website, MaxWarehouse.com, in January 2017 as a way to increase profits, build brand equity, and ensure a sustainable business. Our task is to create short-term recommendations, tactics, and a 3-year roadmap for MaxWarehouse.com’s growth. As the project progressed additional questions emerged, which kept us busy and provided a perfect opportunity to leverage our MBA skills to help this enthusiastic company. Our work at Max Warehouse
While at Berkeley this spring, we completed a design thinking-style story-board about Max Warehouse as a client and their current story. It really helped us get a grasp on how we fit in and how we can help them. What we came away with is that Max Warehouse is a feisty, entrepreneurial company pushing for growth. They are in a bit of an identity crisis though,
unsure of their value proposition or ideal customer. They are tenacious and eager to succeed in the U.S. market as an ecommerce player, despite the fact that they’re Guatemala-based and competing with Amazon.

IBD presentation Our final recommendation included 5-10 short and medium term recommendations. When we came in the next day, they were already in the process of implementing the recommendations. They had started interviewing for search optimization personnel, cutting products that weigh > 50 lbs from their SKUs, figuring out how to eliminate products without complete content listings, and implementing project management and communication software to increase cross-functional knowledge sharing across the team. This just shows the client’s drive to improve, and is what has made this project so rewarding and fun.

Touring Guatemala in Style

One of the highest ROI moments of the trip occurred when Alex and Natalie Team site seeingattended Grupo Cemaco’s annual internal football tournament. 26 teams competed, consisting of Grupo Cemaco employees from the stores, warehouses, and corporate teams. The Zona 5 office team, where we work, made the championship game for the first time ever. Alex and Natalie attended the game to cheer on the team and show our support. Afterwards, they chatted with Don Mario, the patriarch of the family that founded and leads the Grupo Cemaco enterprise. They mention that the upcoming weekend agenda was a trip to Tikal to see the ancient Mayan ruins. Don Mario asked about flights, arrangement, and hotels. Alex and Natalie sheepishly admitted that nothing has yet been booked. Two hours later, we had an entire weekend itinerary: flights, a stay at a beautiful eco lodge in El Remate (near Tikal) and a luxury hotel in Antigua, a top-notch tour guide, and complete transportation. The generosity and care is unfathomable to us. We cannot even begin to express our gratitude. This is just another example of the hospitality which is woven into the fabric of the Guatemalan

Sunset in Antigua IBD

Sunset in Antigua IBD

culture.

Farewell to Guate.

As we prepare to depart from this beautiful country, return to Berkeley, and start our internships, we are grateful for our amazing experience here. In addition to the work we accomplished for the company, everything that we learned about ecommerce in the home goods segment, and how a startup nested within a corporation can find success, we have learned about this hidden gem of a place and met some of the kindest people in the world.Team in Antigua

IBD Team Belize aka Team Unbelizable – Week 2

Written by Hima Erukulla,  Andrew Lee, Jerry Philip, Srinivas Rajamani and Nik Reddy

Week 2

Backdrop of beautiful water sceneryIt had been nearly 2 months, 4 grueling Saturdays, 1 week in-country experience since the “Big Reveal” of our IBD project in May, but the energy and excitement of the team was still intact. It was due in no small to our project which was to develop a sustainable business model for WCS GLovers Reef Research Station Belize. That the entire project was set against the backdrop of a tropical island was icing on the cake.

Diving on the Weekend

Travel to island named Marisol

Travel to island named Marisol

As Friday dawned, island fever crept on us and we decided to give ourselves a break. Starting Friday afternoon we spent our time at the nearby island named Marisol. We made a lot of connections on this trip, but one of the most impressionable people that we met was our transporter – Seth.

While the PADI certified folks snorkeled in the gorgeous lagoon, two of us were sweating towards getting our PADI certification as we had a special event planned for Sunday. On Sunday morning, five of us along with a couple of dive instructors dove in the Glover’s Reef Atoll to unfurl the CAL flag at a depth of 100 feet underwater!

Team dove in the Glover’s Reef Atoll to unfurl the CAL flag at a depth of 100 feet underwater!

Team dove in the Glover’s Reef Atoll to unfurl the CAL flag at a depth of 100 feet underwater!

Back at Glover’s in the afternoon it hit us that it was our last day there. We spent the rest of the evening exchanging goodbyes, clicking pictures, swapping stories and went to bed reminiscing on all the good times.

 

Journey to Belize City

We were up early Monday morning as the boat was slated to leave at 6:30 AM with 9:00AM ETA in Belize City. Since the UCF students were traveling back with us it was slightly cramped but as the boat gently swayed we were too immersed in the vast ocean to be bothered with anything. Half an hour our ride, as we ventured deep into the ocean, one of the boat engines died with a with loud pop. Immediately, the boat started rocking violently with angry waves lashing at it. The boat captain cautiously maneuvered close to an island to send a signal to a rescue boat which was summoned to rescue us in the middle of the ocean. It was a long and choppy boat ride and, at one point, the fear was palpable in everyone’s face when the boat’s only working engine groaned, threatening to give up. Fortunately, we were safely transferred to the rescue boat before the engine could give out. We reached Belize City nearly two hours late, tired and extremely glad, given how precariously close the boat came to capsizing.

Final Presentation and Wrap up

We spent the rest of the week in WCS office working feverishly on the final report and presentation. Fortunately the World Cup semis coincided with two conveniently long lunch breaks.

Watching World Cup Semi Champs

Watching World Cup Semi Champs

Friday morning we presented our findings spanning our experience at the research station, journey, recommendations, and implementation playbook. As the presentation progressed it appeared as if WCS was connecting with the various sections, pausing to clarify, corroborating their earlier findings and having internal discussions as well.  At close, our audience seemed satisfied with the work and were eager to present our recommendations to the headquarters in New York. They then took us for an fantastic lunch at a popular restaurant that we were meaning to go to and gifted us Glover’s Station merchandise for our efforts.

After providing a final rundown of our analysis and models developed, we left the WCS office one last time after much hand shaking and mutual appreciation for getting to work on such a wonderful project together. We ended the evening celebrating the successful completion of our assignment in Belize City. 

Celebration lunch

Celebration lunch

Forever grateful to IBD and Haas for an amazing project. This assignment has been a rewarding opportunity to learn and an ideal setting to form lasting bonds!

 

 

GRRS Promo Video

https://berkeley.box.com/s/kzgo6ybzz75jkhw136ywkck1e54thzni