Friday, January 7, 2011

Global Consulting Practicum - SoyPro in Israel

For those who have not heard about GCP, here is the official home page. And below is my unofficial story...
What people have told me about GCP:
One of the most valuable experiences at Wharton, but it is a LOT of work, really a LOT. Think three times before signing up for it, think ten times before signing up for it during the first year. Since term three is the busiest term, adding GCP to it does not really help.
What I thought when I heard what people said:
No problem, it is only one term’s hard work. Of course I can handle it during term 3. Let me do it during the first year so that I can focus more on my career second year …
Well, the reality is: GCP spans two terms (not one!). During term two, we have to start building a team, writing up project application, bidding for projects, worrying about whether we will get a project, and finally, working on the engagement proposal before flying to Israel after Christmas. AND we are doing all these while preparing for three final exams for term two… Every week, we have a team meeting with the Israel student team, a team meeting with our project faculty (PF) and TA, and an internal team meeting; every three weeks, we report our progress to GCP office; of course, every day, we are searching for data for an unfamiliar industry, building the work plan and dealing with travel logistics to Israel. Wow, I really did not sign up for so much work before term three even started!
You do not think I am writing this to convince everyone not to do GCP, right? Of course not! Even though the work came much earlier and was a lot more than I predicated, every piece of work is accompanied with ten times more fun. Did I mention that I love Israel?

The Israel SoyPro project was not our team’s first pick, but I have to say that I felt really lucky that we did not get our first pick! Now, I realized that GCP is not about the nature of the project, it is about the people and the consulting process. I am not deeply passionate about soy beans but later I found myself laughing with our teammates, each holding an Edamame (immature soybeans in the pod) in hand taking a picture in a Japanese restaurant in Israel. All I have to say is that accept any project you get, surprises will come during your journey, especially from the people you are about to meet and the country you are about to experience.

Winter might not be a good time to travel to Europe or Asia, but winter is great in Israel. It was in the 70-80’s when I floated in the Dead Sea and soaked myself in the mud. The beaches in the Dead Sea or Tele Aviv are just amazing: blue in color and quiet with healing power. Masada and Jerusalem are about the culture and history of this amazing country. Even though I am not religious, it was just fun to listen to the ancient stories, walking the old city and taking pictures of art, food and architecture. I had the best hummus, kebab and falafel in the world, the best. The coffee, wine, fine dining, and sleepless energy made Israel a lively city. Wow, food is really just yummy: lamb spareribs, chicken pate, gnocchi, bread, pomegranate juice and dessert. Of course, it also gifted me with several lbs in weight – it certainly did not help to watch “eat, love, pray” on the way to Israel. I constantly asked myself: when did I start to feel guilty of enjoying life (aka food)?

A lot of work. I arrived two days early for sightseeing knowing that once work starts, there will be no time for break. We worked from 9am to 10/11pm every day. But of course after work, we ate together, took a taxi to hotel and fell right to sleep. Exciting discussions happen every day – it is so much more existing to argue in person than on the phone-, but we are making rapid decisions. Many stakeholders gave us many feedbacks towards different directions, but we have 100% liberty to decide whether to incorporate their feedbacks. We are perfectionist when it comes to work. The biggest satisfaction is when the client said “I am very positively impressed by your proposal” with a big smile. It was only the first victory, but it meant so much to all of us.

I cannot remember how many times our Israeli team members or our Wharton team members told me during the week in Israel: “I feel so lucky that I am on this team (and not on the other team ).” We first met on the phone every week for more than a month and we became friends; we then spent a whole week together under one roof and we became best friends. We are also very lucky to have no-nonsense project faculties (PF). Our PFs taught us so much about consulting in real life and shared so much of their personal experiences with us that we really felt connected with them.

The road ahead:
While we still have 4 months’ work in front of us and I might change my perception about GCP during the tough journey, I felt confident that I will be back to Israel one day to visit my dear friends there.

- Pardon any typos or grammar errors. Jetlag is my excuse. :)

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