Updates from IBD Turkey – Touring Turkey with YGA and The Turkish Delights

Written by Amol Borcar, Annie Porter, Chelsea Harris, Jeanne Godleski, and Mariana Martinez

The room was buzzing with three languages, and communication was a game of telephone. One of the Syrian primary students would excitedly share something in Arabic, at which point it was translated into Turkish by a Syrian university student, and then a staff member from Young Guru Academy (YGA) would share it in English with our Berkeley-Haas IBD team of five. Nuance was definitely lost through these piecemeal verbal communications, and we came from radically different backgrounds – lives interrupted by the Syrian Civil War, educations defined by a single test score, and former careers in consulting, software engineering, and clean energy. Yet there was one language in the room that we all understood perfectly – science.

YGA university student volunteers leading a science workshop with Syrian primary school students in Gaziantep. Annie concentrating hard on remembering how electrical circuits work!

Our team, fondly nicknamed “The Turkish Delights,” was at one of YGA’s science workshops with Syrian refugees in Gaziantep – a city in southeast Turkey, just 20 miles from the Syrian border. At first glance, this activity seemed somewhat removed from the formal scope of our project with YGA – developing the strategic business plan for the new Aziz Sancar Science Center, set to open in Istanbul in 2018. We were struggling to understand how participating in YGA’s science workshops in Gaziantep and Trabzon would inform our marketing and financial plans for the Science Center. Coming from high-pressure, deliverable-oriented careers prior to Haas, we all wondered if our time would be better spent at our computers, modeling projected visitor numbers and coming up with creative marketing tactics. The business plan was the whole reason we were here after all, right?

Mariana answering the hardest of science questions, like “Where is Mexico?”

Mariana answering the hardest of science questions, like “Where is Mexico?”

Now in our second week, we have realized the immense gift YGA gave us by immersing us in their culture, projects, and relationships for the first week. Coming into our in-country time with YGA, we knew it would be anything but your typical client-consultant relationship given our interactions from Berkeley, but this experience has exceeded all expectations.

On paper, YGA is a non-profit organization that cultivates “selfless leaders” who will create a brighter future for younger generations through innovative, community-based programs and technologies. These projects include Science and Innovation Workshops, My Dream Companion for the visually-impaired, and the Young Leaders Program for high school students.

When the students insisted on giving us a Turkish dance lesson at the end of one science workshop, we couldn’t say no!

When the students insisted on giving us a Turkish dance lesson at the end of one science workshop, we couldn’t say no!

However, the projects themselves are merely tools that YGA uses to instill confidence, humility, and optimism in Turkey’s young generations, with the hope that they will one day lead more socially-conscious organizations and companies. The process of implementing these projects – the planning, the evaluation, the personal growth – is the true goal and measure of success. For example, we ran three separate workshops – one for Syrian refugees, one for orphans, and one for underprivileged students – and although we couldn’t communicate perfectly in any of them, science gave us common ground to which to connect. After each workshop, we paused to reflect on how the students interacted with us and the material, and we all left having learned something about ourselves.

Amol mastering a self-driving car with Syrian students at a science workshop in Gaziantep.

Amol mastering a self-driving car with Syrian students at a science workshop in Gaziantep.

This has been a very new way of thinking and working for us, as we come from jobs where the destination – what you produce – is far more important than the journey. Only by experiencing YGA’s model firsthand could we internalize the notion that success can also be defined as a thoughtful, self-reflective process that leads to personal and collective growth.

Our client Duygu giving us the rundown of all the delicious homemade Turkish dishes!

Our client Duygu giving us the rundown of all the delicious homemade Turkish dishes!

YGA has made us feel like family, from inviting us to a homemade Turkish dinner at our client’s apartment to including us in their weekly executive leadership meetings.

The future location of the new Aziz Sancar Science Center at Istanbul Technical University’s (İTÜ) Maçka campus, which currently holds very outdated science and technology exhibits.

The future location of the new Aziz Sancar Science Center at Istanbul Technical University’s (İTÜ) Maçka campus, which currently holds very outdated science and technology exhibits.

We have now lived and breathed the YGA way and will deliver a business plan for the Science Center that integrates both the tangible programs and intangible values that define this incredible organization. Earlier this week, when we visited the building in Istanbul where the Aziz Sancar Science Center will open next year, the impact of our project felt more real than ever.

These two weeks have been a blur, and we don’t anticipate it slowing down for the remainder of our time. While we’ve had to squeeze time at our computers into odd hours given the packed, immersive days with YGA, we have still managed to find moments to explore Turkey’s rich cultural – and culinary – offerings! We spent a few hours touring Trabzon with a very jolly tour guide who shared all of the local jokes and stuffed ourselves with Gaziantep’s world famous katmer!

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We have also been befriending Istanbul’s well-cared-for stray cats and popping into the city’s gorgeous mosques at every chance.

The full depth of the IBD experience likely won’t hit home until we are on our return flights or starting our summer internships because it is so much to digest both personally and professionally. We all know, however, that YGA has forever changed how we define success.

Amol, Mariana, and Jeanne visiting Istanbul’s Süleymaniye Mosque.

Amol, Mariana, and Jeanne visiting Istanbul’s Süleymaniye Mosque.

Updates from IBD – Team Dubai

Jonathan Prowse, Davis Jones, Haruna Yasui, and Nikita Jain are full-time MBA students working on an International Business Development project in Dubai, UAE with a local engineering and manufacturing startup company.

 

Team Background

With close ties to the Silicon Valley, Berkeley Haas is distinctly renowned for its academic thought leadership and industry expertise in the fields of management, entrepreneurship, and technology. As such, we were each drawn to the Haas MBA program from all corners of the globe – hailing from New York, Toronto, Bombay, and Tokyo – with aspirations of pursuing careers in entrepreneurship and VC.

Collectively, we possess diverse skillsets, with industry experience across financial services, education, and engineering. Upon receiving our assignment for our International Business Development (IBD) class, we found common ground through these complimentary skillsets and our shared interests in entrepreneurship. We were fortuitously partnered with a startup in Dubai to assist in the development of a market expansion and go-to-market strategy for their innovative, engineering solution for buildings systems.

The project allowed each group member the opportunity to apply or prior experiences, coupled with tools and skills developed throughout our first-year coursework, to a project that perfectly aligned with our collective and respective career goals in entrepreneurship and VC. Surrounded by the often-glamorized culture of entrepreneurship in the Bay Area, it’s safe to say that we failed to fully anticipate the significant challenges and tremendous ambiguity that a nascent company faces in its early stages…

(Specific project details cannot be discussed due to the sensitive nature of the company’s patent-pending technology and competitive strategic positioning)

 

New Challenges

We arrived in Dubai to a very different project than the one we had anticipated. Our client had entered into a breakthrough partnership agreement with an international supplier within days of our arrival, and accordingly, their business needs and future development plans had shifted dramatically. We had spent the previous four months conducting industry research for our proposed market sizing project, but the new partnership agreement created a new, pressing need for further capital investments to support the growing venture. There was no way to anticipate this overnight transformation, but this was exactly the type of project we were hoping for. We were now working for a startup preparing to raise capital to fuel their international expansion – the company’s future now hinged on this critical need for capital funding, and our work over the coming weeks would help to define the organization moving forward.

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We anticipated a work/travel experience that involved a healthy mix of work and play, allowing us to learn about the business culture in a new country, forge new relationships, and provide some time for side travel and exploration. Upon arrival, the presumed work:play ratio of our IBD project shifted in order to meet the changing needs of our client, and, truly, it could not have been more exciting.

Fueled by the office’s frenetic energy as they prepared for this pending milestone in the company’s near future, the enthusiasm amongst team members was palpable, as we were now able to assume a much more significant role working alongside our client to shape the future of the organization. Our diverse backgrounds (both academically and professionally) and our career interests in entrepreneurship/VC enabled us to serve as trusted advisors, assuming a primary role in developing the company’s strategy for funding and its pitch deck for investors.

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Final Product

Following three weeks of late nights, too much coffee, sweltering 120 degree heat, and some impassioned brainstorming and collaborative work sessions in the office’s sole meeting room, we converged to prepare a final pitch deck for our client. We conducted more than 20 interviews with industry experts, potential clients, and important influencers for this new market from all over the world to develop a clear vision of the risks and opportunities. We poured over financial statements, created sensitivity analyses for pricing, and cemented the companies’ value proposition for both future clients and investors. Ultimately, we even worked alongside a graphic designer to design and polish the final pitch deck to be used in upcoming VC pitches – if we were to offer lasting value, we needed to treat this as if were our own company and deliver the best possible product.

Our final presentation was structured as a formal VC pitch session. The client’s extremely positive response validated our hard work and confirmed that our contribution to the organization had been significant. We left our client with a deck that will aid and support them as they (successfully) pursue venture funding; confident that the presentation fully communicates the strengths of the organization, its remarkable team members, and their future promise as they enter uncharted territories and seek to transform a global industry.

We came to Haas to learn how to effectively lead people and organizations, to take bold risks, and to change the future of various industries through innovation. IBD provided an opportunity to partner with an exceptional group of visionary entrepreneurs in an emerging market, and it demonstrated the significant value of our MBA program. We came to Haas to learn, grow, and develop as both individuals and future leaders and to forge significant, life-long relationships with our peers and a network of global leaders – our IBD project confirmed the values of the Haas program and all its future promise for each and every member of our team.

Spring Break Treks: Camels, Monks, and Business Leaders

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Nearly 200 Berkeley MBA students criss-crossed the globe over spring break in the pursuit of camel riding, finding spirituality, meeting key business leaders, and building even stronger bonds with some of their new closest friends. Spring break trekkers traveled to Israel, Japan, Cuba, and Morocco and brought back with them a wealth of new experiences. Here are some of their stories:

Israel

The five tour leaders who guided 55 travelers through Israel wanted their guests — 47 of whom had never been there before — to experience of the “reality” of the country, based on personal experience and not on the perception of the small Jewish state they get from the news. Romi and Noa Elan, Adi Rubinovich, Yaron Leyvand, and Nadav Shem-Tov, all MBA 14 — believe they accomplished just that.

On several occasions, the leaders shared personal stories, such as how relatives died while fighting in the military, or introduced their relatives to their travel mates in person. In Tel Aviv, for example, some tour leader family members manned the stations of a scavenger hunt.

The tour group visited religious sites of both Christians and Jews, walked along the Syrian border, floated in the Dead Sea, and woke up early to climb Masada.

For Elan, who grew up in Israel, seeing the country through someone else’s eyes was illuminating. While climbing Masada, one guest commented, “This is the coolest thing ever.”

“Just hearing that about these things that I had taken for granted was amazing,” Elan says.

The tour group also visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum, which Elan thought showed the students “the context for the state of Israel and why some policies may seem so strict.” The group also spoke with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, a former businessman who got his start by co-founding a high-tech antivirus software company. “He laid out governing in business terms,” Elan says, “and how he intends to solve the issues of Jerusalem.”

Japan

Fifty-six Haas students traveled to Japan during spring break and toured the cities of Hiroshima, Kyoto, Atami, and Tokyo.

Highlights included waking early to listen to the holy sutras, living as monks do at the Buddhist temple in Mount Koya, and dining on vegetarian delicacies.

Ryo Itoh, MBA 15, helped lead the tour, which he described as a mixture of “culture, fun, andbusiness.” The group also visited a Toyota plant and Softbank, one of the largest telecom companies, and the atomic bomb museum in Hiroshima.

While everyone was really “cooperative,” getting 50-plus people on a bullet train in a one-minute window was a logistical challenge, Itoh says. So were some food allergies, which the group remedied by writing up cards with food instructions in Japanese to bring to restaurants.

In Tokyo, some students enjoyed a one-night homestay in which they were picked up by a Japanese host family and enjoyed an evening with a local family.

The trip concluded with a final dinner of more than 70 people, including Haas alumni in Japan and recent admits for the class of 2016.

Cuba

Eleven Haasies traveled to Cuba for the spring break, where they took in a lively salsa show in the colonial city of Trinidad, and half the group woke up early to trek to a secluded waterfall.

Brad Malt, Paul Cole, Matt Richards and Billy Blaustein, all MBA 15, even jumped off a 40-foot cliff into a swimming hole at the base of the waterfall. “It was really cool and definitely a highlight of the trip,” Malt says.

The students received one credit for an independent study called “Innovation in a Closed Economy,” looking at how the recent changes and loosening of restrictions are affecting Cubans. The MBA students had lunch with a Cuban veteran who worked closely with Che Guevara and Fidel Castro and shared his perspective on the embargo, recent changes, and how they are affecting Cubans.

The group also came to Cuba with two dozen baseballs and hats donated by the Cal baseball team to hand out to Cubans, who were grateful for the American gifts. On the students’ drive to the Bay of Pigs, Malt said they spotted a baseball field in town and pulled over for an impromptu pickup game. They didn’t have a bat, so a local Cuban lent them a partially broken wooden one. As they played, more and more townspeople came either to watch or to join the game.

“It was one of the more memorable experiences of my life,” Malt says.

Morocco

The Morocco trip started off small, with five people asking to tag along as Moulay Driss Belkebir Mrani, MBA 15, planned a visit to his homeland. In the end, Mrani ended up leading 66 people through Essaouria, Marrakech, Ouarzazate and the desert of Zagora.

The group enjoyed sightseeing, shopping, and camel riding, but there was also a purposeful business angle weaved into the trip. Mrani took the group to meet the CEO of the OCP Group, otherwise known as Office Cherifien des Phosphates, the world’s largest phosphates exporters and Morocco’s largest corporation. . “We had lunch and discussed the future of the fertilizers industry and the impact on farming in the world,” Mrani says.

The group also visited a mining complex and the site of a new university and met with a woman’s cooperative, where they learned about oil production.

One of the most memorable parts of the trek was the road trip to the desert in Zagora. There, under the stars, the group listened to tribal songs, lit a huge camp fire, and smoked in the “hookah corner.”

For Mrani, one of the greatest aspects of the trek was showing his country to his peers and re-discovering it himself.

“When you spend a week day and night with people, you get to know them better,” he said. “And to be in the desert in the middle of nowhere, in tents with food and music … Well, it was surreal and pretty amazing.”