Have Spreadsheets, Will Travel

Students write about putting classroom lessons into action.

PostcardAfter the last final is over and the last team project is submitted, Wharton students pack up their laptops and exit campus. But they don’t leave Wharton behind—when students disperse into the wider world,they take what they learned with them. And for most, summer isn’t just vacation.

Whether it includes an internship, immersion experience, or travel, the break between spring and fall semesters is an essential part of the learning experience. It’s a time when students can apply what they’ve learned, try on a career, and stretch themselves.

In this issue, four Wharton students share different summer experiences in their own voices.

Mitchell C. Burgess II, W’08, found himself in an unnerving new environment just by crossing Spruce Street. The health care management undergraduate put on his scrubs to intern in the high-stakes emergency trauma center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Four summers ago Lyndsey Bunting, W’07, got a taste of Wharton during Leadership in the Business World, a summer program for high school students. This summer she took those lessons to a higher level as student coordinator for the Grand Teton Mountaineering Leadership Venture.

Selorm Adadevoh, WG’07, president of the Wharton African Students Association and a veteran of a Global Consulting Practicum to Peru,took on more new cultures—the Asia Pacific region by way of New Jersey—as he interned in product development and strategic planning at Avaya, an enterprise communications company.

Daniel Bowermaster, WG’08, G’08, a German-track Wharton/Lauder student with six years in operations at a medical device manufacturer, reported on a language immersion that included class work, business site visits, cultural history, and the all-consuming hysteria of the World Cup.

Four Blocks from Wharton, but a World Away

Mitchell Burgess on interning at Penn Trauma Center.

Mitch, I need you to exit the chopper and come with us.”

I immediately recalled the deplaning procedures I learned in the briefing session only hours earlier. I unplugged my headset and unbuckled my seat belts. While jogging to catch up with Sue Potter, the flight nurse, and Jack Long, the paramedic, I asked myself, “What could they possibly need me for? I’m just an observer… with no official medical education!”

Over the roar of the helicopter propellers, Jack loudly informed me that I was needed to assist the team in transporting an injured patient from an ambulance to our BK-117 chopper. We rushed to meet the ground EMS team that was already on the scene.

The plan was simple: We would carefully lower the patient’s gurney to the ground, transfer him to our flight gurney, and push him to the helicopter. However, the patient weighed more than 300 pounds and had sustained an injury to the head, making this task more difficult than we anticipated. After employing some strategic maneuvering and the strength of five people, we managed to complete the transfer and load the patient into our chopper. Jack and Sue performed a quick, yet comprehensive inspection of the aircraft and surrounding area and then took their positions in the rear of the chopper with the patient; I climbed into the co-pilot’s seat in the front. Moments later, we were in transit to the Trauma bay at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP).

As we soared through the Pennsylvania skies, I felt a great sense of excitement and accomplishment. Here I was, thousands of feet above ground participating in the delivery of emergency care when only weeks before, I was studying this industry as an outsider in a health care management course. I was really enjoying the experience and for an instant, I imagined my future self in a similar role. Though, this daydream was abruptly interrupted by a familiar question: “Am I trading in my pinstripe suit, pressed white shirt, and tie for a pair of scrubs and a white lab coat?”

This is a question that I often ask myself. Although I have always been certain that I want to build a career in the health care industry, I constantly debate what type of role to pursue. Do I want to serve on the front line of health care as a physician or tackle the issues on a broader scale from the business side?

I first attempted to find the answer by participating in the Wharton Leadership Venture at the Penn Trauma Center in October of 2005. This project allowed me and 15 other Wharton students to observe leadership and teamwork in a high-stress environment like the trauma bay. We then compared our findings to what we have learned about effective team structure and behavior in “business” environments and presented successes and improvement opportunities to the trauma team. I did not realize at the time, but my involvement in this venture would later lead me to an extraordinary and unique opportunity to further explore my interests in this industry.

While going through the familiar, yet daunting process of searching for suitable summer internships, the Trauma Clinical Programs Administrator, Kate Fitzpatrick, MSN, CRNP, offered me the chance to work with the trauma team to critically examine its clinical and administrative operations and make recommendations for improvement. This offer outshined all of the others for three particular reasons. One, I appreciated being approached by an administrator who specifically selected me for my skills and talents. (What can I say? It made me feel honored!)

Two, I would be the first intern ever hired by the trauma division. Hence, I would be granted significant autonomy and be in a position to offer valuable feedback. There was also positive pressure for me to perform well on my and Wharton’s behalf and set high standards for future interns.

Three, I would not have to choose between the suit jacket and the lab coat. The internship created somewhat of a “dual role” which would allow me to wear both. I would function primarily as the “consultant,” observing specified aspects of the trauma program, attending closed administrative meetings, and shadowing administrators both at HUP and other facilities within the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS). My secondary role would be likened to that of a “physician-in-training,” granting me access to all of the patient care and operating units as well as the research meetings.

My supervisors, Dr. John Pryor and Kate, had several projects for me to get involved in. As the “consultant,” the first and most important was a leadership transition analysis. I started at the time when Dr. Patrick Reilly and Dr. John Pryor were moving into their new roles as Vice-Chief and Director of the Trauma Program.

Usually, when a leadership change is in process, there are concerns about the circumstances that led to the change, the morale of the existing team, the acceptance of the new leader, and the future of the organization. Reilly and Pryor were aware of this, and hence, were very interested in getting an impartial perspective of the division and learning how to best continue the great work of their predecessors while being true to their personal leadership goals. The other team members were also intrigued because the analysis afforded them the opportunity to offer feedback to Reilly and Pryor about how they can improve the program and their own leadership capabilities. To conduct the analysis, I closely observed Reilly and Pryor’s managerial activities and behaviors. I also set up interviews with every member of the trauma team including the division chief, attending physicians, patient service representatives, and clinical administrators. These meetings were enjoyable because they allowed me to collect candid responses while building a good rapport with the team.

The second project was focused on the outpatient trauma clinic. Andrea Blount, the Outpatient Practice and Education Coordinator, wanted to develop a way to organize and maintain the clinic’s medical supply inventory given its space and budget constraints. This assignment was especially interesting for me because I did similar work for the Materials Management department of University Hospital (University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey: Newark, NJ) last summer. I was able to directly apply the skills I acquired there to configure a suitable storage structure and write a proposal for its purchase from a popular medical cabinet/cart dealer. Additionally, I made contributions towards improving the functionality of the resident-maintained patient database, increasing the efficiency of the division’s usage of limited office space and storage, and developing a comprehensive strategic plan for the trauma program.

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When taking a break from my projects, I took on the role of an unofficial “physician-intraining.” On these days, I hung up my suit and sported an authentic set of light-green HUP scrubs and a lab coat. (I learned early on that some clinicians do not respond well to the “suit and tie guys,” so my medical attire helped to foster a greater sense of comfort and camaraderie for the team and me.) I was exposed to every graphic phase of patient care. I shadowed one of the PennSTAR flight teams to get a grasp of pre-hospital care. I regularly attended the daily patient report and rounds in the intensive care units with the medical students, residents, and fellows. I also spent time in the trauma bay and operating room observing the attending surgeons and support teams while they performed procedures that I couldn’t even pronounce at first. As the summer went on, I expanded my knowledge of human anatomy, clinical terminology, and basic medical procedures. In addition, I have seen the effects of just about every possible mechanism of injury on the human body.

Writing_1The third installment of this internship consisted of a series of amazing shadowing opportunities. At HUP, I met several clinical administrators and learned about the various types of care offered as well as initiatives to improve clinician performance and reduce the amount of firearm injuries in the Philadelphia area. A few of my adventures led me away from the trauma office. For example, Kate Fitzpatrick invited me to accompany her at a Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Foundation (PTSF) board meeting in Harrisburg, PA, where I learned about new state-wide trauma regulations and initiatives from a phenomenal group of seasoned nurses, doctors, and health care executives. Some of my other amazing hosts included Garry Scheib (COO of UPHS/CEO of HUP), Albert Black (COO of HUP), and Diane Corrigan (CFO of HUP), all of whom imparted great knowledge of health care systems operations and finance upon me.

The most gratifying part of any internship is the reflection at the end. When I look back over the past three months, I recall countless extraordinary experiences and realize that I could not have asked for a better job. It was rewarding not only because of the scientific facts I picked up or the great people that I met, but also because it helped me put my life in perspective. As I stated earlier, I accepted this job for a reason; I hoped that it would help me decide which road to take after graduation. Unfortunately, I enjoyed everything so much that I still cannot choose.

So, the question stands: “Do I want to pursue a career in medicine or in the business of health care?” I am honestly not sure, but that no longer bothers me. This industry is so vast and there is no reason for me to limit myself to only two options. I am just grateful for the experience and I believe that my newly acquired understanding of health care will help me make the most informed decision when the time comes.

Teamwork on the Mountainside

Lyndsey Bunting reports on the Grand Teton Leadership Venture.

Stand up away from the rock and lean back” Kent, our mountain guide, told me.

“Come again?” I replied as I gripped my handholds a little tighter.

“You’re on belay. I need you to trust your team, yourself, and your gear to not let you fall. So try and fall.”

Business is obsessed with climbing metaphors. And it’s easy to see why. Climbing offers the obvious symbols of reaching the summit, the necessity of individual talent and teamwork and the elements of risk and reward amid serious challenge.

Teton_SignThis summer, Wharton Undergraduate Division’s Leadership Ventures and Merrill Lynch Chief Financial Office sponsored a one-week program in Jackson, WY, for 12 selected undergraduate students to attempt to summit what is considered one of the world’s classic climbs, the 13,770 foot Grand Teton. We were joined by Christopher Maxwell, who teaches Management 100 at Wharton and organizes Wharton Leadership Ventures for the Undergraduate Division, his wife Kathy Maxwell, and Merrill Lynch vice presidents John Sims and Andy McGinnis, in hopes of bridging the gap between theory and practice of leadership and teamwork on the mountain and in the business world.

The Sunday of our arrival, we arrived at the Jackson Hole Airport and traveled to the Murie Ranch, which served as our headquarters for the week. The nonprofit ranch was previously home to Olaus and Margaret and Adolph and Louise Murie—founders of the Wilderness Society and later backers of the Wilderness Act, which protected designated lands as national forest wilderness. As part of the project, we would be preparing recommendations at the end of the week that would enable the Center to spread its message of sustainability to a larger audience, specifically corporations. It appeared as though our days would be packed with hiking and climbing and our evenings with group discussion regarding our service project.

Learning the Ropes

This year was my second as a participant of the Grand Teton trip. A participant in the 2004 trip, this time I was the Student Coordinator. Having an idea of the personal and group challenges that lay ahead, I was curious to see what this year’s participants would take away from the program as compared to what I had taken away from the program two years earlier. In the new position of Student Coordinator, I found that my task was more about facilitating team development rather than leading the team. I observed as my teammates rotated from leading different aspects of the trip—on the trail, during project group discussion, or even making sure everyone was awake and ready to go in the morning. In spite of the differences in physical strength and skill levels among the group, because of the nature of uncertainty in the venture, no one could say, “I’m the most qualified and will be leader of this trip.” The uncertainty leveled the playing field, forcing everyone to take roles leading and following.

Teton_Collage

But before we could climb, each participant was required to pass basic and intermediate school organized by Exum Mountain Guides, one of the most famous and prestigious guiding services in the United States. There are typically fewer than five guides who train with Exum each summer and at the end of the summer, the Senior Guides determine who should be invited back to continue their training the following year. When not guiding in the Tetons, the majority of the guides disperse to lead climbing or extreme skiing expeditions around the world, including Patagonia, France, or the Himalayas.

Our basic mountaineering school consisted of the fundamental aspects of climbing, including the intricacies of the safety lines—belaying, anchoring, bouldering, and rope management. The necessity of teamwork and trust in climbing becomes glaringly obvious. You realize that you’re all tied in together, and each person is responsible for the safety of his or her teammates. At one point, John, a Merrill Lynch Vice President with a wife and four children, jokingly yelled up to Dan who was belaying him, “Six people are counting on you and you definitely don’t want my mortgage!” Communication becomes of the utmost importance.

Basic school is followed by intermediate mountaineering school, which included more difficult multi-pitch climbs, several overhanging rappels, anchoring on exposed terrain and advanced climbing techniques. Each movement requires more attention and concentration, whether it’s placement of your foot around the boulder or remembering your belaying position so as not to let the person below you freefall should he or she lose their grip on the rock.

After passing basic and intermediate climbing school, our group was ready for the two-day ascent of the Grand Teton. Our first day of the ascent included an eight-mile hike that began at 9:30 a.m. and ended nine hours and 5,000 vertical feet later at the Lower Saddle (elevation 11,650 feet). We observed the change in topography and climate from the mild weather and meadow near the trailhead to the barren and winter landscape at the saddle. At the Lower Saddle, we added several layers of clothing and quietly munched on whatever dinner we could hold down. By 9 p.m. that evening we all packed into the tiny Exum hut where they keep mats and sleeping bags and tried to settle down for the night.

Day two of our ascent of the Grand Teton began at 3:00 a.m. the following morning as everyone was awakened from a restless few hours of sleep. After a silent, anxious breakfast, we grabbed our packs, put on our harnesses and headlamps, and headed out in the dark in groups of four.

The sun was just coming up as we reached the first of our 12-pitch climb up the Owen-Spalding route. We roped in, checking our harnesses as the first of the group began to climb and then belay. I watched as my rope disappeared with Carlos along the first of the multi-pitch climb known as the Belly Roll and Crawl. The name comes from the route’s first ascent by Glenn Exum, who literally crawled along the narrow ridge with no rope or belay to reach the other side. Several minutes later my rope tightened and I knew that Carlos was on belay.

“That’s me, Carlos!” I yelled, trying to project my voice above the wind.

“Climb, Lyndsey!” he yelled back.

“Climbing, Carlos!”

This was the simple dialogue that we had practiced over and over in climbing school to let each other know that we were in position to accept responsibility for each other’s safety. While I had just met Carlos that week, I knew that if I should slip, he would not let me fall to my death. Carlos and I practiced several of these exchanges as we slowly fought our way up the mountain. I also exchanged this dialogue with Riya, who I would belay after I finished each climb. This continued down the line as the team slowly progressed towards the summit.

We reached the 13,770 foot summit by 10 a.m. There was little time to enjoy the view of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho from the lofty perch that we had pushed ourselves so hard to reach. Our trip was far from over. The most dangerous part was about to begin—the descent.

Twenty minutes later we began our downclimbing as we carefully tried to step around the loose rock and shale. The descent is dangerous because everyone is exhausted and more likely to make inane mistakes.

When we reached our 120 foot rappel, the temperature was freezing and we were completely exposed to all the elements. The rappel was the easy part, and we continued our downclimb reaching the Lower Saddle by 1 o’clock. After a brief lunch break, we were heading back down through Garnet Canyon and reaching the trailhead and car by 6:30 p.m.

The Element of Risk

Perhaps one of the greatest differences between teamwork and leadership on a mountain and in the classroom is the element of risk. Risk implies that there is something significant at stake. It is obvious enough that the consequences of falling or failing to belay your teammate are exponentially higher than any consequences that may be incurred in a classroom leadership or team-building exercise. By increasing the stakes you are forcing that critical moment where leadership and teamwork abilities and deficiencies are exposed. And there’s no question that the experience we had working together to successfully manage exposure on the mountain will help all of us as we encounter uncertainty in our future work in the business world.

One of our guides said, “There’s no place to hide in climbing.” When you fail, whether it is failure to summit or simply reach the next handhold, it is painfully obvious to you and your entire team. Every climber has failed at some point in his or her career. The system of pulleys and ropes is there to prevent them as best as possible from serious injury or death every time that they fail.

When Kent asked each of us to step back and fall, he knew that the best climbers were the ones who have fallen but have learned to trust themselves, their teammates, and their equipment. The ability or degree to which we take risk becomes entirely dependent on trust. In the dialogue between climber and belayer, one person is consciously saying, “I trust you with my life.” The other person responds with “I accept your trust and I will not drop you.”

The amazing thing was that this dialogue was going on between 16 people that didn’t know each other a week before. While we may not have the opportunity to put our lives in our co-workers hands in the corporate world, I don’t know how many people would if given the chance. In trusting our teammates, we become free to try more difficult routes or attempts. We are no longer focused on falling and blind to other potentially better opportunities.

And by forcing participants into a leadership and follower role, each person becomes more aware of how he or she acted while in the position of leadership, what the current leader is doing well, and what he or she would change by strengthening their leadership skills.

On Friday evening, we finished preparing our recommendations to the Murie Center about their capacity to engage business in conversations about sustainability. The project not only assisted the Center, it also allowed us to translate what we had learned on the mountain into practice. On Saturday, we presented our service project outcomes to Brooke Williams, Director of the Murie Center, who was enthusiastic about our suggestions. That evening we headed into the town of Jackson for our closing dinner—a tribute to everything that we had accomplished that week as a team.

I’ve found that climbers tend to be a unique and self-selecting group. They push themselves physically and mentally to the critical moment again and again where they know they may fail. Their capacity for calculated risk is matched only by their ability to trust and their sense of adventure. After a week in the Tetons, I am still processing everything that has happened. I hope that I will be able to take what I’ve learned from the trip and apply it to my personal and professional life.

A New Way of Thinking

Selorm Adadevoh explains the value of business education to his skeptical father.

T_1he day after my internship ended, I didn’t get far in a phone chat to update my dad. In true Ghanaian style he proceeded to interrogate me instead. “So, son, what exactly about your first year Wharton education contributed to your internship experience?”

“Well, Wharton taught me a new way of thinking,” I replied. “It’s amazing and hard to describe or explain. One simply has to experience it to know.”

Dad, a retired gynecologist and obstetrician, retorted in a hoarse mutter, “Son, are we still talking about your first year in business school?”

I spent the next two hours redeeming myself. I had to explain how I could possibly have learned a new way of thinking in one year especially when he and Mum had tried and failed for several decades.

Before I begin, here is a bit of background:

I spent my summer working in Product Development and Strategic Planning with Avaya in Basking Ridge, NJ.

Basking_SignI worked on three main projects. The first one was to align the fiscal year 2007 research and development investment plan with Avaya’s corporate strategy and recommend ways to maximize the investment while maintaining and growing our competitive position. My second project was to look at Avaya’s channel-support model and recommend new ways of affecting channel effectiveness. My third project was a high-profile project initiated by the COO to develop a competitive strategy against one of our key competitors.

I had to explain to my father—a scientist and skeptic—how my internship really brought it all together. I told him my new thinking is made up of three main things. Firstly, my learning team experiences and several experiential activities have provided me with teamwork and leadership skills in risk-free environments to learn and try new things. Secondly, the myriad of analytic tools have built a sound foundation for problem solving and finally, the exposure to new and solid ways of communicating have taught me how to get my point across. I realized that explaining Wharton to Dad would be a critical test of that last skill.

“Dad, before you ask any questions, let me just tell you how these helped with my summer experience…”

As a new member to the team working with established project managers, program managers and general managers, one of my first tasks was to fit and become a “member.”

How does one become a “member”? Technically, I was assigned to the team by management, but to be effective, I had to make the rest of the team trust me. I proactively reached out to get to know some key people. This helped enlighten them about me and my projects and gave them a good degree of comfort also. This changed the “guilty until proven innocent” notion of the new boy to “innocent until proven guilty.”

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Before long, I started receiving unsolicited e-mails with critical information that I definitely needed for my projects. I also got invited to several Executive Leadership Team (ELT) meetings and even got a special invitation to the product group’s week long annual global ELT meeting in Boston. Being the only summer associate there was an honor, but more importantly, I got to experience intense intellectual discussions on past quarter performance, alignment of results with expectations, and global strategy, and I also met some very smart leaders from different parts of the world.

Despite the intensity and demands of my internship, I remained true to the unrelenting Wharton spirit to find time to engage in regular out-of-work social events. This was a way to further the bond with my colleagues including several other MBA students from Tuck, Columbia, Fuqua, Kenan-Flagler, and Chicago.

I set up frequent after-work social drinks, a tennis league, weekly “out of office” lunch meetings, and several trips over weekends. Surprise: The 45-minute wait in the rain in a queue on Philadelphia’s South Street for a Philly cheesesteak was a more exciting event than our gambling trip to Atlantic City and our pub crawls in New York.

One of the other things that helped with my settling in process was what I learned from being in a learning team with colleagues that I had very little in common with; I learned to be humble. Even though my learning team, Magnificent Seven, was truly magnificent, it wasn’t all hugs and kisses. Yes, others are much smarter than me, and they are not few. That was just one of many humbling experiences in my first year. This humility helped me listen to and show respect to my colleagues at Avaya and eased my settling in process a great deal.

Before long, I was a recognized “member.” The coffee guy knew my order (tall iced white cafe mocha), the launderette manager wouldn’t stop calling me Shalom, and the invitations to several management meetings continued. I believe a lot had to do with the humility I showed throughout.

I’ve always been a great admirer of humble leaders and try to live by this principle myself. I believe that while you need to look forward to top executives, you also need to recognize that it is those behind you who will support you when you get there.

This message has been reinforced by a few leaders I listened to during my first year. I remember listening to Jim Donald, Starbucks CEO, in a Wharton Leadership Lecture, and thought about how he emphasized the need to show humility and get to know your colleagues well, both those at the top and those at the bottom. Even as CEO, he sometimes spends the night in the roasting plant to have one-on-one interaction with his employees. Todd Thomson, chairman and CEO of Smith Barney, on his visit to our leadership class stressed the same point. These accomplished leaders exhibit humility and great leadership at the same time.

“Dad, I look back at my summer internship and I’m even more grateful for the rigor, the many experiential opportunities and the learning team experience that are all inculcated into the Wharton education. This is not all though—teamwork and leadership is just one of three things.”

Yes, we Whartonites love numbers—the analytics. In my first week, I spent most of my time in full-day meetings, getting very excited each time a class concept was applicable. (The rest of the time I was lost trying to figure out the meaning of yet another acronym. Is Avaya the only company plagued with this acronym epidemic? Understanding the lingo was one project in itself.)

Avaya_Collage

I was reminded of sitting in one of Professor Franklin Allen’s Finance 601 class when he cautioned that as long as you are from “The W,” you will always be the “finance guy” anywhere you go. It was therefore not surprising when within an hour of starting my internship at Avaya, I was lumped with building a three-year P&L forecast for the product division and developing the R&D investment strategy for fiscal year 2007 to meet the revenue targets set by the CEO at the time, Don Peterson.

Franklin was right. It didn’t take long to see that activitybased costing stuff was actually very important and had huge implications. About 40% of my work involved heavy-duty analytics drawing on core finance and marketing skills.

For instance, in determining Avaya’s competitive position, I had to use primary and secondary research methods for data gathering. I developed a template to capture specific information and contacted more than 40 product managers from all verticals and regions. This process had several challenges, especially getting managers to understand the timescales I was working to, but on the whole it went smoothly. I was able to leverage my past experience doing similar tasks on my Global Consulting Practicum (GCP) project and on my one semester fling with the Wharton Community Consultants (WCC), both of which had huge market research components.

At this point in the story, Dad broke in.

“Son, wasn’t your GCP project about Peruvian sauces? What do sauces have to do with anything else?”

Actually, the skills were the same. As part of a for-credit international marketing consulting class, my GCP team project involved developing a market entry strategy for a line of Peruvian sauces. As part of this, we were tasked with developing marketing research tools to capture consumers’ sauce usage patterns, purchasing drivers including gauging price points, and most importantly purchasing intent. The objective of the research was different from that on my internship but required the same fundamental thought process to develop an effective tool linking responses to the analytics required to yield insights and recommendations. On GCP, it took us a few tries to get this right. With that experience behind me, at Avaya it was all smooth sailing.

With all my analytics under the belt, I needed to be able to get my point across effectively in glossy, juicy, and insightful PowerPoint slides. If my analysis were going to be appreciated at all, then it was imperative that I convey the message well. Even though this involved both verbal and written communications, for the most part it was all about written communications. This is where my love for PowerPoint was born.

“Love for PowerPoint? That’s what your internship taught you?”

Oh yeah. I have grown to love PowerPoint because frankly, I had no choice. Even my dreams took shape as PowerPoint slides.

Being able to communicate effectively was key, especially since my boss had a “catch me if you can” label on his back. I saw him not more than 10 times in 12 weeks, so each minute spent with him was like gold dust.

In my opinion, the one area where I could have done more work in is communications. The Wharton core does not have many communications courses, but I get the opportunity to make up for this through electives in my second year. Dad interrupted, “Alas, a negative… Finally we are back on earth.”

Like most Dads, this one had to have the last word. So I let him.

After our conversation, I took a deep breath and started to reflect on the entire journey…

More than a year ago, prior to leaving for Wharton, I had been riding on a red double-decker bus on Oxford Street in London, holding a fruit bowl of skepticism about my decision to pursue an MBA, close to my mouth…

My reason for going to B-school was to get the right tools for strategic consulting and eventually become a telecom entrepreneur in Africa. I didn’t know then about the full experience Wharton truly offers, and how much it was going to prepare me to meet my goals, with the toils of recruiting, school work, and club responsibilities straining my every muscle.

Riding that red bus on my way to Starbucks for another tall iced white cafe mocha, I was full of conviction that I made the right call. My first year gave me the basis to survive in the business world, and my internship gave me the opportunity to apply these skills to the telecommunications industry. My final recommendations for my projects were received well, and some were even transitioned into an implementation project before I left. I knew that I was on the way to achieving my ambitions.

Today, as I reflect over this, I have no doubt that my walk through Jon M. Huntsman Hall has transformed me into a new person and added a totally new dimension to the foundations of my thinking. I cannot imagine what else could have prepared me better for life ahead.

Joining the World in Germany

Daniel Bowermaster journals from Belgium and Germany during his Lauder immersion.

T_2he World Cup. Everything stops for World Cup games. It’s crazy. Fans from all over the world mix with the Germans, who grow increasingly proud with their team’s every win. Big screen TVs and projector screens are everywhere—cafes, bars, restaurants, hotel foyers, train stations, and plazas. Fans surround the TVs, cheer on and yell at players, as well as at each other. Strangers—who otherwise would ignore each other—discuss the day’s games and pontificate future results. The police close down streets to let the masses celebrate in the open. Cars displaying German or Italian or Brazilian flags honk their horns as traffic ceases to move. Ardent fans—often wearing not much more than colorful painted faces—wave flags, blow whistles, and cheer for their team all night long. It’s amazing. What a rush.

But wait. I’m here in Munich for school as part of the Wharton/Lauder German-track summer immersion following our May term in Philly. May included: taking three classes, passing the math test, establishing the electronic Penn accounts for email, IT access, financial aid, and health insurance, making the necessary trips to Home Depot and Lowe’s, painting the great room wall, hanging shower curtain rods and towel bars, figuring out where to buy a bottle of wine, and taking a class field trip to the Estee Lauder headquarters in New York. And May term is the slow part of the Wharton/Lauder program. It’s going to be a quick 24 months.

Munich_SignLauder is a dual-degree program that culminates in an MBA from Wharton and a Masters of Arts in International Studies from Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences. The background and talents of our 61-person Wharton/Lauder class both humble and inspire. Some served in the Peace Corps in Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, or Guatemala. One student set up and still manages Iraq’s first post-conflict private radio station. Another managed investments for clients in Central and South America. Another worked for USAID in Afghanistan. Another taught English in Japan. Another ran the operations of a family design business. Others traded in New York, London, or Shanghai. People speak four or five languages fluently. And me? I delivered newspapers, dog sat, and flipped burgers as a kid in northwestern coastal California before working at a medical device firm.

Prior to my arrival here in Munich, the four French and six German track students spent three days together in Brussels. We attended an international conference with other MBA students prior to starting our summer programs in our respective countries. On Friday, June 2, my flight left Philly for London. Thankfully the British Airways agent gave me an exit row; otherwise my 6’6″ frame would have had a tough flight. I arrived in Brussels around 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 3, and headed for the tiny hotel near the European Union Commission. The neighborhood contained some great bars, cafes, and restaurants. My French skills are abysmal, but good enough to order some food and make the wait staff laugh. Political rhetoric aside, most Belgians seemed happy when you would try to speak French, one of two official languages of Brussels. Due to previous immersion in dialect- heavy parts of Germany, I could understand Flemish (similar to Dutch) fairly well, but most people in Brussels prefer French.

The conference disappointed me. The goals included analyzing the current state of the E.U. while increasing communication, specifically focusing on international trade and politics. Although the goals were noble, applicable, and interesting, we just finished our outstanding European history class at Penn where we debated these issues in greater detail. Plus the conference’s moderators struggled to run an efficient, yet effective program. Three of the panelists spoke clearly, concisely, and directly, while the remaining two dozen got lost in rhetoric and minutia.

Here in Munich we have a full schedule. Each day commences with individual language instruction at 7:30 a.m., followed by grammar class, then our German cultural and politics class, and ends with myriad company visits. Cultural activities are also planned on some late afternoons as well as weekends. My favorites include a walking tour of Munich university and surrounding neighborhood, the bike tour of city led by a guy with espresso instead of blood in his veins, and a day trip through southern Bavaria, complete with driving on the autobahn (one unnamed driver in our group decided to ditch the guide and miss the exit), walking through little Bavarian villages, touring a museum, a castle, a monastery, and—of course—a biergarten.

I’m not an art or art history guy, so some of the activities have been rough… including a Sunday morning tour of the art of the Residenz, and a four-hour Sunday night theater piece. I’d much rather go for a run in the English Gardens, see “Rent,” or sit in a cafe and write a few postcards than check out hundreds of Post-Expressionist works of art. Patience. Our plan includes visiting the technical Deutsches Museum in a few weeks; that’s more my style—I’m an engineer at heart. Interspersed throughout the week, local experts have given lectures on anything from the history of German political parties to the history of German banking. Our little group is also busy working on our summer project for the international business strategy class we took at Wharton in May. This included analyzing the marketing strategy of a Munich-based document storage company.

Today we have class in the morning, during which two of us are giving presentations on Siemens and BMW, and then we will travel down to an eclectic museum on Starnberger See via U-Bahn, train, ship, and S-Bahn. This weekend is the Muencher Stadtlauf; three of us are doing the half marathon on Sunday morning, plus the Germans play the Swedes here in the Achterfinale of the World Cup on Saturday afternoon. This town won’t sleep on Saturday night. I can hardly wait.

Frankfurt

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Frankfurt_2

We left Munich on Tuesday and just finished our week in Frankfurt. We lived in Munich; we visited Frankfurt—a significant difference. The change surprised me. It was tough to leave our lives in Munich—good friends, the lively neighborhood of Schwabing, the English Garden, favorite cafes, and an energetic Italian landlady—to move into a tiny, non-descript hotel in outer Frankfurt with reduced contact with Germans. Change. Many in the group plan to do an internship next summer in Europe. Vienna, Zurich, or Munich would be ideal for me.

Our initial days in Frankfurt proved uneventful, if not uncomfortable. The temperature often exceeded 90¡Æ F with equal humidity. On Wednesday we took a two-hour drive to Ludwigshafen and spent the day touring the chemical behemoth BASF. We sat in various rooms listening to different presentations and walked around the impressive facilities. Few German businesses have air conditioning, including BASF. We were miserable, sweating profusely in our business attire and dreaming of cold.

In the evening, everything changed. We ended the day with a stop at BASF’s wine cellar (you can order any of their 1.2 million bottles of wine at www.basf.de/kellerei), then headed to a late dinner with two group presidents at the BASF’s regal company restaurant. How regal? The restaurant occupies an entire historic castle-like building and served caviar as appetizers. It certainly wasn’t McDonalds.

On Thursday we toured the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, the derivative trading company Archelon, and Citibank’s retail and investment banking divisions. On Friday we checked out Deutsche Bank, including their trading floor. This last weekend I visited some good friends in Pforzheim near Stuttgart. On Sunday evening a local guide led a walking tour of the historic Frankfurter Altstadt, which ended at a local restaurant in Sachsenhausen. There we imbibed in the local specialties, including apple wine, “Ebbelwoi,” served in clay jugs and diluted with sparkling water.

On Monday, we visited Goldman Sachs in downtown Frankfurt and the VC firm Qventures in Bad Homburg. The opulence of the 66th floor of the former included marble- tiled elevators, Bose speakers in the conference rooms, and arguably one of the world’s best restroom views. The latter is a $500M venture capital company founded by the Quandt family, the majority stakeholder in BMW. The CEO of Qventures graduated from Wharton in 2000 and clearly loved his job. Private equity is very interesting industry, and it looks like a lot of fun.

Weimar and Buchenwald

Welcome to Weimar—home of Goethe, Schiller, and Buchenwald. The former pair spent the bulk of their artistic lives in this bucolic college town on the banks of the Inez River, while the world knows the latter as a vast concentration camp in the forest just outside of town. Despite Buchenwald’s primary function as a work camp (in contrast to the extermination camp Auschwitz, which consisted of three camps with huge gas chambers and crematoria), of the 250,000 imprisoned here during World War II, 60,000-plus prisoners perished.

Today Buchenwald consists of restored Nazi officers’ quarters outside the camp gates, and well-preserved iron main gate, electric fences, the torture bunker, a small crematorium, stables (where 8,000 Soviet prisoners of war were killed), the disinfection and sanitation building, and a large multi-story warehouse spread out over acres of former camp grounds. Visitors can still see outlines of the prisoners’ simple wooden barracks.

Buchenwald’s museum clearly addresses the anti-Semitism present not only in Germany, but also throughout Europe in the 20th century. It also states how the Nazis used these prejudices to come to power and advance their agenda. The display also accepts full societal responsibility instead of absolving the general populace as bystanders. The causes of the Holocaust remain complex and multi-faceted, and German society struggles with the guilt of the Holocaust even today.

Berlin

The last stop on our tour vibrantly mixed art, history, culture, and politics with one significant omission. Little industry exists in Berlin; the city is currently running a 70M Euro deficit to support itself. The cafe and museums are filled with people at all times of the day; even the graffiti is artistic. We visited the federal Economics Ministry, toured the Reichstag, and visited a slew of museums: German History, Berliner Gallerie (modern art), Pergamon (archeological), and the well-preserved Stasi (Cold War-era East German KGB) prison deep in East Berlin.

There a former prisoner showed us the facilities while outlining in great detail his experiences in the prison. Especially moving was his anecdote of the day of his capture starting with the phone call, meeting with the Stasi, the car trip with a hood over his head through Berlin in the middle of the back seat flanked by two Stasi officers, arrival at the prison gates, and his first vision of the prison when his hood was removed: surrounded by a semi-circle of yelling East German prison guards in a windowless garage. The only door out of the garage led into the prison wing. Most disturbing were the four medieval torture rooms in the basement (known as the U-Boot) of the prison. I couldn’t even take a picture.

This summer immersion ends tomorrow. As much as I’m looking forward to starting Pre-term and meeting our Wharton classmates, it’s sad to leave Germany because this summer was so outstanding. Once again, change remains a fact of life. Here’s to the next two years.

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