Category Archives: Summer 2011 – Czech Republic and Spain

June Abroad 2011: A Visit with Cisco

Upon arrival at Cisco Systems, Barcelona, we were greeted by Guillem Veiga, who was quickly referred to as “the Most Interesting Man in the World” by our group. Guillem is an Enterprise Sales Engineer. He began his career with Cisco in 2004 as an Interim Engineer. As an Enterprise Sales Engineer Guillem was a Cisco Sales Champion in FY07 for being a top 10 percent Performer, the maximum award given by Cisco Systems.

As many of you know, Cisco is a leader in service and solutions for small and large businesses. They offer a wide range of products including, the Flip Camera, Linksys routers, WebEx, Phone and Voice Systems, and TelePresence. Guillem gave us a brief overview of the company from its beginning in 1984 to where it stands today. He referred to their CEO John Chambers as a really cool guy.

The Cisco office in Barcelona is comprised of mobile workstations with only a few people having a dedicated workspace. After we learned about the history of Cisco and the numerous acquisitions the company has made over the years, Guillem introduced us to the TelePresence Products that they now offer. These products are being offered as solutions to cut costs and increase productivity.

After a brief explanation of what these products entailed, we were given a live demonstration of how it works. Being that I love technology, this was one of the coolest video conference tools I had ever seen. We were linked directly to one of Guillem’s counterparts in Madrid. The detail, the speed and ease of use were truly outstanding! If this kind of thing interests you, check out this link to the Cisco website:

Written by: Kevin Frazier

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June Abroad 2011: Travel Reflections

Study abroad has ended and the Summer 2011 group is back home and back to reality.  The final trip home couldn’t have been any longer, even though we all had a wonderful experience, I think we were all ready to see friends and family and sleep in our own beds.

Looking back on the trip, I would definitely do it again with the same group of people.  I think my favorite place was Prague.  The history, architecture and overall feel for the place was one I think I could go back to and visit for a longer amount of time.  I especially liked Old Town (and how close it was to our hotel) and sitting and watching the locals and tourists throughout the area.  There were so many nice shops to look into and just take your time enjoying the atmosphere and Prague in general.

Before I left everyone I talked to that had been to Prague expressed how beautiful it was and how peaceful it felt and I am happy to say that they were all right!

Barcelona was definitely more city like with the people on the go constantly and had that big city feel.  Seeing the student protestors near our hotel was interesting but not threatening at all.  I enjoyed our business visits and the hospitality was very much appreciated.  The dynamics of Barcelona to Prague were very apparent and it was a definite change to go from the laid back life in Prague to the busy, city life in Barcelona.

I really enjoyed my stay in both countries and enjoyed the group that went.  I am looking forward to going back to these countries in the future.  I would strongly recommend anyone in the MBA program that has not studied abroad to do so and if they are not in the program, to still take the time to travel abroad.  The culture, food and lifestyles are so nice to experience and I think it is something everyone should enjoy!  ☺

Written by: Sarah Westmoreland

June Abroad 2011: Spanish Culture

After arriving in Barcelona, we immediately stopped for a quick bite to eat and our tour guide gave us a bus tour of the city. Some of the highlights included the Montjuic Mountain, the Olympic Ring, the Pala St Jordi, and Mirador del Alcalde. The highlight of the tour was the stop at the Sagrada Familia.

The Sagrada Familia is a church designed by famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi.  The construction of it began in 1882, and even though Gaudi died in 1926, construction still continues today.  It is entirely funded by private donations and is planned to be completed in 2026 for the 100th anniversary for Gaudi’s death.  It was especially surprising to us.  Pictures of the Sagrada Familia will not do it justice, but a few are attached to this post.

Our hotel is half a block away from Catalonia Square, the center of the 2011 Spanish protests in Barcelona that started just a month ago.  At this point, the majority of protesters have left and the area surrounding it is generally safe, but there is still consistent police presence in the area.   Barcelona is considered to be a safe city, but pick pocketing is very common and the entire group was warned to be very careful about our bags and documents.

It was a welcome change that unlike Prague, the public restrooms in Barcelona did not generally charge a fee to be used.  ☺

Barcelona is an area of Spain where not just Spanish is spoken, but also Catalan.  Many official street signs were not only in Spanish, but also in Catalan and English as well. Dinner was together as a group at the Pomarada Restaurant where Jason very generously acted as our guide as he can speak Spanish very well. Thanks, Jason!

Written by: Tony Real

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June Abroad 2011: Food and Fellowship

Prague exceeded my expectations beyond measure. When we arrived after a long night of travel, it was a welcome sight. Marek, our tour guide, picked us up at the airport and provided a brief background of Prague on the way to the hotel.

Our hotel was located very close to Old Town Square, the heart of Prague. When we arrived to the hotel, a small group of us walked in the direction of the square, stopping in at little shops. We didn’t have a lot of time because we had a welcome dinner, so we just got a feel for the area.

Our welcome dinner was a great introduction to Prague. The food alone was amazing. I am a vegetarian, so I had garlic soup and steamed vegetables with cheese. Garlic soup may not sound appealing, but it was one of the best soups I’ve ever had. During dinner, I sat near Marek so he shared some of his experiences growing up in Prague. He, along with many Czechs, has a very strong opinion on switching to the Euro. He feels it’s nearly impossible to have all of the European Union members on the Euro; the EU cannot be homogeneous because there are so many rivalries among the members within.

Marek also spoke of the Velvet Revolution. He was in high school during the revolution, so he participated in the strike by providing supplies and helping the older students. After dinner, dancers and a band came out for traditional dancing. Four dances were performed. The first dance was a mix of Czech and German. The second dance was southern bohemian, the third was Slovakian, and the fourth was eastern Moravian.

Written by: Samantha Messier

June 2011 Abroad: Visiting Cognis

Today the group visited the chemical plant Cognis, which will be renamed to BASF within the month.  While most of the group is not in the chemical industry, we all learned a little bit more of how chemicals are made and used in our everyday products such as lotions, body washes and toothpastes.

When we arrived at Cognis, we were welcomed by Rosa.  She made the extra effort to come into the bus and talk to us before we even saw the company.  It was a pleasant surprise.  Before the tour, we all had the opportunity to eat at the cantina for lunch.  It was Thursday so there was the chance to try paella, which is a rice dish with a mixture of seafood.  It was nice to try a Spanish dish while at a company to get a feel for the culture and mingle among the workers.

After the visit to the cantina, we had a brief overview of the company.  Cognis is a chemical company which, in my opinion, resembles Simco in some ways.  Cognis says that they are “Cognis is a leading supplier of innovative specialty chemicals and nutritional ingredients, with a particular focus on the areas of wellness and sustainability.” We learned that BASF, another chemical company bought Cognis and by the end of the month Cognis would officially be renamed to BASF.

“BASF is the world’s leading chemical company. With about 109,000 employees, six Verbund sites and close to 385 production sites worldwide we serve customers and partners in almost all countries of the world”.  We got to tour the company but we were not allowed to take pictures.

Comparing the various chemical companies was interesting and I learned a little about chemistry and how chemicals were tested to make various products like toothpaste, lotions and body washes.  It puts a different perspective on the products we use on a daily basis.  Overall, it was a nice visit with a great group of people from Cognis.

Written by: Sarah Westmoreland

June Abroad 2011: Visiting ESTEVE

ESTEVE group photo

ESTEVE group photo

We eagerly waited to finish visiting the last company, ESTEVE, in our trip for shopping and visiting other places in Barcelona. We visited ESTEVE, which is a family owned international chemical and pharmaceutical group, located in Martorelles, near Barcelona, Spain.

The location we visited has warehouse, production, research and development and operations facilities. The company provided us light-weight coats and glasses for safety during our visit.

The warehouse operates the inventory of raw materials, final products, picking and processing of customer orders and shipment of products to the customers. The warehouse is fully automated for packages handling and operated by about 80 employees.

We saw the production units that are processing and producing different cells, powders, capsules, tablets and final products. We were excited about the process of how the capsules are filled with medicine; the tablets are filled in bottles or aluminum foils, and the labels and barcodes are attached to the bottles or boxes. The bottles are rejected if they have the wrong count or seal on the bottle.  The research and development team conducts new experiments and provides initial product recipes.

The company doesn’t have its own marketing division for selling their products to the customers and the products are now selling through different partners. The company is investing to expand the business globally and might go for public issue for investment.

We enjoyed the visit and the lunch in the company. Our group enjoyed the entire trip in Praque and Barcelona and I feel lucky to be a part of that group. Judy and Professor Das were very caring and supporting.

Written by: Ramesh Jasti

June Abroad 2011: Visiting SAP

While in Prague, we met with the Global Finance Shared Services team at SAP, led by Marc Siml.  The office in Prague was formed in 2005 to centralize and standardize the finance and human resource processes.

Siml indicated that communication, leadership, teamwork, and automation were the main priorities of the Prague operations.  During the transition to the centralized processes, SAP analyzed each step of the process to identify shortfalls and areas of excellence.  Siml explained that management felt this was necessary to help with future project implementation and ensure a smooth transition.

With the globalization of the market, SAP remains keenly aware of differing tax requirements and the importance of a diverse workforce.  Many SAP employees speak multiple languages to provide acceptable levels of service for the SAP clients.  With the economic uncertaint and recent financial crisis, SAP has focused efforts to increase transparency and efficiency.

After the presentation, we were able to tour each department of the finance operation at SAP.  The departments visited included purchase orders, expense reimbursement, general ledger and collections.  Each department had an open floor plan, with shared cubicles.  The SAP employees were welcoming and delighted to share their experience with the Elon MBA program.

Written by: Matthew Haynes