IBD Blog “Dois dias no Brasil”

By Varstation Team Member, Dakota Campbell, MBA Candidate 2020

São Paulo Skyline

São Paulo Skyline

As a relatively inexperienced international traveler, I did not know what to expect when signing up for IBD other than that I’d stretch myself personally. As I was assigned to team Varstation in São Paulo, Brazil, I was excited to visit a country to which I had never been, but that my Brazilian classmates spoke highly of. After spending 3 weeks in country working with my Haas classmates and the Varstation team, I can certainly confirm that it was a transformative experience. Week days working in the office with the Varstation team and weekends exploring Brazil with my classmates both contributed immensely to the experience in unique ways. Profiling a “typical” week day and our shared weekend in Rio will paint the most complete picture of the Brazilian IBD experience.

Example of student deliverableWeek Day

The work days typically began with 6:15am alarm to rattle us out of our comfortable hotel beds. I’d fumble around the room for clothes and brush my teeth before heading upstairs to the hotel gym for a team workout! Depending on the adventures of the night before, team participation varied but was a great way to start each day. Afterwards, we’d all run downstairs to shower and hustle out the door for Starbucks on the way in to the office – a 20-minute cab ride from our hotel. Side note: we appeared the most American at Starbucks via our iced coffee or café filtrado orders as all the locals drink espresso-based drinks!

IBD/Varstation final presentation

IBD/Varstation final presentation

Our client, Varstation, is a genetic analysis software company that is in the process of spinning out of the prestigious Albert Einstein hospital in Brazil. Our office was located within an incubator that serves as a satellite office for the various companies the hospital is incubating in the Vila Mariana neighborhood. The Varstation team was gracious enough to carve out a conference room for us to set up shop for three weeks to finish all the deliverables we had been working towards over the semester.

IBD Touring Albert Einstein Hospital’s Sequencing Lab

IBD Touring Albert Einstein Hospital’s Sequencing Lab

You can’t have IBD without the work, so what did we actually work on? Our three main deliverables for the project were a spinoff playbook, market prioritization, and competitive audit. The spinoff playbook delivered best practices, case studies, and a synthesis of critical success factors across financing, governance, leadership structure, and business strategy. Market prioritization distilled down many factors including total healthcare spend, genetic analysis competition, market growth, etc. across ~26 different global markets to determine where Varstation could best expand in the near to mid term beyond Brazil. The competitive audit profiled four key competitors in the genomic space to provide Varstation with a competitive intelligence report. This report enables Varstation to more effectively compete by seeing services that are offered by everyone, what they do better or worse than others in the industry, how their value proposition stacks up, etc. Since the Varstation team is primarily comprised of computer engineers / coders working towards building their software, these higher-level business strategy documents were far beyond the scope of their daily activities and created value by more concretely guiding their business at it continues to take shape.

Our IBD team was usually in the office from ~9am to 630pm working towards these deliverables. We’d grab lunch at any one of several local eateries for lunch with many Varstation team members. This break for lunch is an integral part of Brazilian culture, as they can often take upwards of 90 minutes – a stark contrast to eating lunch at my desk as I was used to in the states. Our favorite destination was the “boteco”, a Brazilian staple that is a mix of a local café, corner store, and diner. Lunches were heavier than I was accustomed to, ranging from chicken parmigiana to a huge “corner” omelet, all served with rice, beans, and French fries.

After staving off the food-induced afternoon sleepiness, we’d finish our work for the day and depart the office back to our hotel. We stayed in the Itaim Bibi neighborhood which was a wealthier suburb, containing many stores for shopping and restaurants. We’d typically take 45 minutes upon returning to the hotel for personal tasks – tough to keep your life in order while out of the country for a month! Most nights the team would then all go to one of many local restaurants for dinner, spanning styles from Japanese, Brazilian, Mexican, American, etc. After dinner, we’d typically return to the hotel around 930pm. I’d put on the Warriors or Bruins games on the TV in the room and enjoy watching with the excitable Portuguese commentary, before going to bed around midnight to start the following day all over again!

Weekend in Rio

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Jainero

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Jainero

Our team had two weekends in Brazil where we could really cut it loose and see more of what the country had to offer. Since there were 4 separate IBD teams stationed in Brazil, we took the opportunity to plan a weekend in Rio together. Despite it being early winter in Brazil, Rio was still warm enough where we could take advantage of the nightlife, beach, and general outdoor ethos of the city. Teams from São Paulo, Florianopolis, and San Jose all assembled into two shared rental houses for a weekend full of shenanigans.

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Jainero

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Jainero

On Friday night we all grabbed quick dinners, and then headed for the street fair located in the center of the city. Here, numerous food vendors, drink carts, musicians, etc. lined the central park of the city near a major nightlife district. The streets were filled with locals and tourists celebrating, popping into the local bars and eateries before spilling back out into the central street party. Samba music mixed with contemporary American music to create a truly unique cultural immersion.

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Jainero

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Jainero

On Saturday we all rebounded from the late night Friday by heading straight to the iconic beaches of Rio. Despite it being early winter, the midday temperatures were over 70F and the water was delightful to swim in. Most of us relaxed on the beach for the day, strolling down to check out the coast line, and getting drinks from beachside vendors. When late afternoon arrived, some of us decided to hop in cabs and head to Sugar Loaf Mountain, a high mountain at the edge of Rio that has a system of cable cars to take you up top for a breathtaking vista. It was a truly expansive view of the entire city. The only issue was that we were still damp from swimming and it was unsurprisingly window at the top of the peak, which you can see from some crazy hair in the second picture below! We grabbed a glass a wine from a vendor at one of these peaks and listened to a live band before departing for a pre-planned, all group dinner.

iew from the top of SugarLoaf; Multi-team photo

Multi-team photo

View from the top of SugarLoaf;

View from the top of SugarLoaf;

As a sendoff for the broader Brazil IBD teams, we planned a nice dinner Saturday night before everyone departed at varying times on Sunday. We went to the local restaurant Bazaar, where most people indulged in seafood paired with Argentinian wines. We even squeezed all of us into one photo!

Wrap up

Overall, the IBD experience pushed me outside my comfort zone, both personally and professionally. I had never worked internationally before, and all my international clients had previously come from Europe. Getting used to the more laid-back Brazilian culture away from the comforts of home tested me over the 3+ weeks I was out of country. Personally, it brought me close with my IBD team members Stephen Collins, Erika Renson, Michael de Lyon, and Moto Takai. Whenever you’re out of your element, as we were in Brazil, the uncomfortable external environment really draws you close to those most similar to you. From that standpoint, I really appreciated IBD in that it brought me closer to my teammates. We now share a truly unique experience between us, and I hope that propagates in our relationships beyond our time at Haas. As for our client team at Varstation, they were truly gracious hosts and a fun-loving bunch, and I hope to track Varstation’s progress and keep in touch with them moving forward.

Full Brazil IBD team photo in Rio

Full Brazil IBD team photo in Rio

IBD Helps EWMBA Student Pivot to New Role: Interview with Shaun Hundle, ‘19

Shaun Hundle, Haas MBA '19

Shaun Hundle, Haas ’19

Evening & Weekend MBA (EWMBA) student Shaun Hundle, ‘19, is graduating in May.  Shortly after that he will start a new role as the Manager in Consulting & Analytics division at Visa.  Shaun was a 2018 Summer IBD student who spent two months working on a project with a financial services company located in Mexico City.  We interviewed Shaun about his IBD experience and how it helped him pivot to his new career position.

IBD:  What is your current position now?  

Shaun: I am a Project Manager at the Swedish Trade and Invest Council, a go-to-market consultancy affiliated with the government of Sweden to assist Swedish companies to expand globally. As Team Lead of our Healthcare and Life Science practice, I’ve spent most of my time with small to mid-size Swedish companies looking to enter and grow in the U.S.

IBD:  Tell us a little about your new upcoming role at Visa as a Manager in Consulting & Analytics division?

Shaun and his team in Mexico during 2018 IBD Summer program

Shaun and his team in Mexico during 2018 IBD Summer program

Shaun: I will take on a Manager role on the Consulting & Analytics team. I will still be client facing (although focusing on only one or two clients at the same time, unlike at my current company) and leading the internal delivery. At Visa I will be working more with quantitative data than the qualitative consulting I’ve focused on to date, so I see this as an excellent opportunity to gain a new skill set and transition to the fin-tech industry with a globally recognized company.

IBD:  You worked for a large financial company in Mexico City last summer for the 2018 IBD program. Did this experience offer you new skills or insights that helped identify this new opportunity for a career shift?

Absolutely! The work we did was very similar to the type of work I will be doing with Visa’s clients, including data analysis. Having this type of hands on consulting experience gave me very relevant experience to talk about in my interviews with Visa, as well as strong knowledge in the retail banking and payments industry ecosystem.

IBD: What did you take away from the IBD experience that you plan to apply to this new role?

Shaun:  I learned quite a bit about how to leverage influence in a larger organization, as well as understanding how to manage various stakeholders from different divisions who we were responsible for delivering to. My big take-a-way was that it’s important to listen and build trust with various stakeholders before doing the more complicated work of presenting and recommending solutions that some stakeholders may not like.

Shaun Hundle and Team- 2018 IBD summer final presentation for client

Shaun Hundle and Team- 2018 IBD summer final presentation for client

IBD:  Do you have advice for other MBA students who are thinking of a career change? How can they utilize the IBD experience to test this hypothesis?

Shaun: IBD gave me the opportunity to have an “internship-like” summer project that became invaluable to speak about in my interviews and conversations when I was recruiting in the Fall, so I think this is a great opportunity for Evening & Weekend MBA students especially. It definitely allowed me to pivot towards tech, fintech, and consulting roles a bit easier than previously, since I had direct experience I could point to. Although I had previous consulting experience, I didn’t have much experience working in fintech, retail banking, or payments, but the exposure to the industry I received through IBD was great in helping me decide where I wanted to focus for Fall recruiting. There is a high level of diversity in the types of IBD clients and industries which makes it a bit of an adventure, but there is a lot one can gain out of the experience, especially if you are still a career or industry explorer.

End of Interview:

We in the IBD program love hearing from our IBD students about their experience working on international consulting projects, and we especially love it when the experience contributes to making valuable career choices.  Shaun’s experience is not unlike many MBA students who participate in the IBD program. If you are a Berkeley Haas MBA student, and would like more information about IBD, click here or contact the IBD program office.

Continued Reflections on Our Plastic Use

*POST 2: Written by Catherine Soler, Leslie Brian, Kelly Lamble, Scott Peacock and Sipian Wang

Beautiful water and skyline with boatsThis is a second post about our project in the Bay Islands. After spending three weeks answering the question, ““How might we provide clean drinking water to the communities of the Bay Islands without a plastic footprint?”, we are now examining the question,

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

See reflections from our team members below.

Scott’s Reflections: Developing Gratitude and Empathy

There was a perception on the islands that the pollution is caused by a “live for today” mentality. But, it’s not about enjoying the day; it’s about surviving the day. How can someone worry about the future consequences of plastic waste when they are worried about food, water, and safety today? I have the means and time to plan for the future, but still, many things that I use for convenience, saving money, or fun have negative externalities. This experience has reinforced my appreciation for the benefits I have and has made me reconsider the conveniences I take at the expense of others.

Beautiful water and sky with branch

Kelly’s Reflections: Called to Action

As we slowly moved down Pumpkin Beach on Utila, methodically picking up pieces of plastic, my heart sank. A staggering number of microplastics dotted the white sand with blues and reds and greens. Even the most painstaking cleanup could never get all of those little pieces off the sand and into a trash bag.

Witnessing the effects of plastic pollution firsthand made me think about my voice as a consumer. What excuses do I tell myself for why I’m not able to make a bigger impact? Is there really not enough space in my kitchen to have trash, recycling, and compost bins? Is there really no way to avoid buying new consumables, like big coffee tins from Trader Joe’s or shampoo from Walgreens, instead of refilling them? Those small pieces of plastic littering that beach was the motivation I needed: I bought two new trash bins yesterday, and a bar of soap that came without packaging. These may be small steps, but if enough consumers start voicing their desire for less plastic and greater sustainability, companies will have no choice but to listen.

banner saying "El Plastico recicla, la naturaliza, no!"

Catherine’s Reflections: Demystifying Plastic Perceptions

When we interviewed local people about their clean drinking water sources and plastic pollution, there was a pervasive sentiment that because we were from the US, we knew how to do things the right way. There was blind faith that, in America, we are free of single use plastic water bottles and all of our waste is composted or neatly packaged and disposed in environmentally friendly ways. Meanwhile, those same people were promoting sustainable straw use and drinking from 5 gallon jugs of water in their homes to reduce single use bottle waste – practices that are far and few between in the US. More so, by interacting with the communities on the Islands, I recognized many of my own behaviors that actually encourage plastic pollution and was inspired by their actions to change.

In a place like the US, we have the luxury of resources, education and expertise to make substantial plastic reduction and be a true ecological leader to others in the world. I hope that we act on that opportunity quickly and live up to the expectations that the rest of the world has for us. After this project, I hope to work to help local people feel empowered to design their own solutions to sustainability and have the confidence to share their practices with others. I am committed to learning more about how to reduce my own plastic footprint and find ways to inspire others around me to do the same.

plastic coke bottle on the beachClick here to read Post 1 from Team TBP

To view additional photos from Team TBP, click here

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

Greetings from Antigua, Guatemala and the HF Healthcare team!

Written by Michael Sahm​, ​Amy Fan​, ​Rachel Green​, ​Joanna Lyons, and ​Carlos Sanchez

May 31st, 2018

Project Overview

The arch in Antigua

The arch in Antigua

Our client is Nasir Hospital, a private, nonprofit hospital in Sacatepéquez, Guatemala (opening October 2018) that seeks to expand access to quality healthcare services for Guatemalans. The healthcare system in Guatemala is inadequate, as providers across the country lack necessary resources to meet the healthcare needs of citizens. Nasir Hospital’s goal is to provide free care free to approximately 20% of its patients, while still making enough money to sustain operations. Our task was to design a business model which makes this feasible. Today marks the last day of our project, and we feel privileged to have worked with such outstanding people pursuing this cause.

During our trip, we visited several local hospitals and conducted over twenty interviews with doctors, patients, and administrators to better understand Guatemala’s healthcare system. Much of what we saw was eye-opening. For example, public hospitals often lack basic supplies necessary to provide services, forcing patients to purchase their own and bring them to the hospital to receive care. Furthermore, basic hygiene and sterilization pose significant challenges in public hospitals, leading to a high number of hospital-acquired infections and illnesses. These are just a few of the issues which inspired HF Healthcare to build its first hospital in Guatemala.

HF Healthcare Team participating in global telethon for Humanity First

HF Healthcare Team participating in global telethon for Humanity First

Our recommended business model contained several components. First, we defined Nasir Hospital’s position in the marketplace, and crafted a strategy to attract target patients to the facility. Next, we designed an operating model to make the provision of free care financially and operationally feasible. Finally, we recommended service prices and projected patient volumes to create a multi-year financial forecast for the facility. Despite working with minimal data, our interview-centered research allowed us to deliver a quality final recommendation to our client, one we hope will be instrumental to its successful operation in the future.

Life in Antigua

We have been fortunate to call Antigua, Guatemala home during our trip. Antigua is a small city approximately one hour outside of Guatemala City, and is one of Central America’s most popular tourist destinations. It is filled with bars and restaurants (which we explored daily), and is close to some of Guatemala’s best outdoor attractions, including active volcanoes, coffee plantations, and Lake Atitlan.

One of our trip’s highlights was a weekend trip to the Lake. We teamed up with the Cemaco IBD Team from Guatemala City, and stayed at a hotel in Panacachel, a small town which borders the lake. On Saturday, we rented a boat and spent the day visiting different towns all around the lake. It was a special chance to connect with classmates so far away from Berkeley!

HF Healthcare Team participating in global telethon for Humanity First

HF Healthcare Team participating in global telethon for Humanity First

For our second weekend, we chose to stay in Antigua. After working Saturday to participate in a worldwide fundraiser telethon for our client, we started our weekend at Antigua Brewing, where we enjoyed local beer while watching live eruptions from Volcán Fuego.

HF Healthcare and Cemaco teams at the top of Volcán Pacaya

HF Healthcare and Cemaco teams at the top of Volcán Pacaya

The next day, we hiked Volcán Pacaya where we roasted marshmallows in hot spots throughout the summit. We ended our weekend with dinner and souvenir shopping with the Cemaco team, who trekked to Antigua after touring Mayan ruins at Tikal National Park the previous day!

¡Hasta Luego, Guatemala!

As we conclude our project, we feel very grateful for our IBD experience, and have several things to be thankful for. First, for the chance to work on a high-impact project that we know will impact the lives of thousands of patients at Nasir Hospital. Second, to the community members in Guatemala, who were incredibly generous with their time in assisting our project work. We were fortunate to meet several high-profile guests of Nasir Hospital including congresswomen, the family of the President of Guatemala, and an ambassador for Mayan culture and welfare, all of whom recognize the hospital’s potential and are eager to help in any way possible.

HF Team at dinner with Sheba Velasco, international ambassador for Mayan culture and welfare

HF Team at dinner with Sheba Velasco, international ambassador for Mayan culture and welfare

HF Team with the mother and aunt of the President of Guatemala, Jimmy Morales

HF Team with the mother and aunt of the President of Guatemala, Jimmy Morales

Finally, to our friends at HF Healthcare, especially Majid, Patricia, Manuel, and Erick. You went above and beyond in your hospitality, and we are so thankful for your help in making our project experience and trip to Guatemala a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We are confident that Nasir Hospital will be among the best in all of Guatemala, and look forward to following your future successes!

The amazing staff at Nasir Hospital!

The amazing staff at Nasir Hospital!

 

IBD Team Belize aka Team Unbelizable – Week 1

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

Sea Turtle at Belize Barrier Reef

Sea Turtle at Belize Barrier Reef

IBD Team Belize aka Team Unbelizable – Week 1

From the time we learned about our IBD summer project in May, we knew we were up for an amazing experience. Our assignment was to develop a sustainable business model for WCS Glover’s Reef Research Station in Belize. We spent most of June developing work streams to explore the business problem. Through extensive customer interviews, routine client interactions and pouring over their financial data we came up with the hypothesis that student groups are the most attractive customer segment and Glover’s should focus on scaling this customer segment to become sustainable. The next step was in- country experience to answer the questions – “how to scale” and “is the solution feasible”. It was now time to travel to the clients office in Belize.

Belize Barrier Reef

Belize Barrier Reef

June 25th – July 1st

Lobster for lunchOur first stop upon arrival in Belize was San Pedro. San Pedro is a popular tourist destination about 2 hour boat ride away from Belize City. It’s most prized possession is the Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest reef on the planet.

Three of us (Andrew, Jerry and Srinivas) arrived earlier on 06/27. We were either already PADI certified or got certified on short notice to be ready for some of the best dives in the world – Half Moon Caye, Great Blue Hole, the Aquarium as well as other local dives. We captured extensive footage of green turtle, reef shark, rays, variety of fish, corals reefs and an interesting tug of war with a nurse shark.

The remaining two of us arrived on June 30th and the team was back together. The team was also fortunate to be in-country during the famous, annual Lobster Festival. We made friends with a local bartender, Dion Samuels, who acted as our unofficial tour guide for the weekend. With his guidance, we were able to explore the local cuisine and popular bars for a couple of days before bidding a fond farewell to San Pedro on July 1st, Sunday.

July 2nd

Monday morning we met the client at their office in Belize City and gave a presentation to update them on the work done so far. The presentation was well received, and the client appreciated our efforts and were looking forward to hearing our solutions.

After a quick lunch, it was time to visit the station itself. Glover’s Reef Research Station is located on the Middle Caye island of the Glovers Atoll, about a 3-hour boat ride from Belize City. We reached the island late afternoon, and after a quick orientation and a sumptuous dinner we called it a night after what was a very long, day.

July 3rd – July 8th

Life on Tropical Paradise: A typical day started at 8:00AM after breakfast which was served from 7-8am.

Morning: (8:00AM – 12PM)

Dining overlooking the oceanMornings were our high productivity time and we reserved it for brainstorming. We would meet in the library, which was a long room with a narrow center table, a few chairs, white board and two wall fans. It was far cry from the conference rooms we were accustomed to at Haas.

We would then discuss our potential solutions with the operations manager, Kenneth, to check for its feasibility in implementation. We would also walk around the island to interview the staff to learn about the facilities and its operations. Our goal was to evaluate if the station had capacity to handle an increase in customer volume.

Afternoon (12:00PM -5:00PM)

Lunch was served in a cozy dining area adjoining the kitchen. They were both located on the second floor overlooking the ocean. Pristine beach views made for a luxurious dining experience to an otherwise modest and rustic dining area.

Afternoons, we worked in the wet lab and focused on execution work. We would usually break into solo or smaller groups to work on feasibility/ROI analysis and other research and documentation tasks. Our favorite hangout spot by far, for work or pleasure, was the Wet Lab. The Wet Lab at Glover’s is a large square open air area, filled with benches, tables, chairs and HAMMOCKS. There was also a 360 degree view of the island – an ideal setting to temper the tediousness in execution tasks.

Evening (5:00PM -10:00PM)After Volleyball

Volleyball Time. We played volleyball with the staff every day. Initially it was Haas vs. GRRS/Belize Coast Guard but soon we mixed up the teams. These volleyball matches got quite intense, but they were a lot of fun. There was also a match between the UCF students and Haas & GRRS. Naturally, Haas dominated UCF, even winning the first game with a 21-0 sweep.

Volleyball was followed by dinner. Similar to lunch, the dinner menu was elaborate and included salad, a couple of main dishes, a side dish, dessert and fruit drinks. To say that every meal at Glover’s was exceptionally delicious is a gross understatement. All thanks to Rushell – chatty, patient and a brilliant chef. We would then retreat to the hammocks in the Wet Lab and relax in the fierce but warm tropical breeze for some reading, reflection, banter and bonding. Of course, we also hydrated with some fresh coconut water. Despite spending an entire day together on a remote island, we still looked forward to this time to get know each other more, form stronger bonds and become better friends.

Playing VolleyballAs blissful as this life sounds, it was not without its challenges. Andrew, Jerry, Nik and Srini were crammed into a tiny room and had to deal with a particularly stubborn gecko every night. Nik invariably made the gecko’s daily musings the topic of every breakfast meal. Sand flies did have a feast on some more than others. A/C was a luxury we could only dream about and internet was at best intermittent and non-existent at worst. Despite these challenges, time spent on this tropical paradise was productive, relaxing, fun. The team was able to make beautiful memories to last us a lifetime.

Stay tuned for part two which covers deep sea diving on the weekend, an “adventurous” boat ride back, and wrapping up in the main office in Belize City.

Hydrating with Coconut Water

 

 

Check out next weeks Haas In the World Blog for the second student blog from Team Belize which will include a video.