So here we are.. back in Upstate New York... tired, cold, hating the snow, back to work and classes, and oh the jet lag! But most of us wouldn't trade it for anything - home... Home is what makes travelling so special - having a home base to return to... spouses, pets, friends, colleagues, classmates and familiar surroundings. It allows us to appreciate the new areas and cultures we experience when we travel.
Having spent most of my life and growing up in Upstate New York, these trips have been as much a learning and personal growth experience for me as it likely is for the students - both MBA and undergrad. Prof. MacKinnon and I frequently find ourselves having philosophical conversations about how fortunate we are to have the families, lives and jobs we have as we stroll through the streets of Bangkok, Singapore, and Sydney and constantly appreciate and marvel at all of the wonder and opportunity our educations and positions at Clarkson have afforded us.
I personally find it very rewarding reading through the blog posts the students write and hearing that we were able to provide them an opportunity to explore and expose them to the world, culture, and to business practices different from what they are accustomed to. It is so enjoyable to take them on little exploration excursions and watch them experience all the world has to offer them - whether it be to the Opera Bar to enjoy a fancy cocktail overlooking the Opera House from arguably one of the most scenic venues on earth, or a rainy hike through the Blue Mountains to see amazing scenery (well, fog this year!) and try some outstanding hot chocolate, or an evening walk through The Rocks - the oldest and most historic precinct in city with its old stone historic walkways (like "The Nurse's Walk"), beautiful cafes and century old pubs to enjoy a pint together, or just wandering around the city sight seeing and experiencing the nightlife in Sydney.
This week's visits provided the students with some hands-on exposure to what their lives and careers may look like - an opportunity that many university students don't receive until they have graduated and started their jobs. Several students have mentioned that this exposure to what these companies do and how they do it have changed not only their worldview, but also their plans for their career path and trajectory. What a gift to be able to help someone form their life plans!
Our visits on Wednesday started with a visit to The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Sydney's CBD and a talk with Robert Hossary, the General Manager. I have known Robert now for 4 or 5 years and visited him in 2 different AmCham office locations. Robert spent several years (around 10 I believe) living and working in the US, so he is no stranger to the cultural and business practice differences between our countries. In true Aussie style, Robert is blunt and to the point in his comparisons - which is good for the students to hear (although sometimes hard to hear). What amazes me is that when we leave, very rarely is there a students that feels that Robert's observations weren't spot on. There is a lot to be learned from that man - which is why we visit AmCham on every visit to Sydney. How fortunate we were to have the opportunity to attend the AmCham breakfast event the day before our visit!
Next we rushed off the IBM in St. Leonards where we met with a panel of interns and IBMers and listened to IBM's blockchain "guru" explain IBM's interest in this growing technology. The students had the opportunity to ask a variety of questions of our hosts - from what is is like to work for an icon like IBM, to their take on work-life balance. After a quick office tour, where the students had a chance to really experience an agile workplace first hand, we were off to our next visit - KPMG.
KPMG is located in the Barangaroo office buildings - a new area of development off the end of Darling Harbour that I have been dying to see the inside of!! (Unfortunately Prof. MacKinnon could hardly stop from chuckling every time we said "Barangaroo"... ). We have watched this are morph from a fenced off bruhy area in the first years we visited (we used to stay near here) to a highly developed and beautiful addition to the cityscape of Sydney's skyline. The area is now filled with beautiful cafes', restaurants, bistros, shops, and 3 beautiful and very ultra-chic and modern office buildings.
The visit to KPMG was a great opportunity for the students to learn not to "judge a book by its cover". The firm is well known as an accountancy and audit firm, but that is just the very tip of the iceberg. Many of our students will be working on a data analytics degree either concurrent to or after their MBA program and they learned that KPMG is quickly gaining ground as a leader in using data analytics and blockchain technologies in some very new and innovative ways.
After a quick talk and demo of some of the capabilities of their products and systems, they were kind enough to host a small cocktail reception and networking opportunity for the students. What a wonderful partner KPMG has been to Clarkson both here and abroad and I cannot thank Ken Seel (a member of our Business Leadership Council in the David Reh School of Business) enough for facilitating our visit to KMPG in Melbourne last year with the undergrads and again this year for both the MBA and undergrad trips, and our hosts in Sydney.
Dodging the raindrops, we quickly headed back to the hotel to change and go to dinner at the Haymarket Hotel. Unfortunately they did not have their "Lady's Night" special this time (free manicures), but we had a great group meal nonetheless.
Thursday had us travel to the Blue Mountains. Unfortunately, heavy rains and dense fog prevented us from seeing the mountain range in all of its splendor, but there was some opportunity to see some of the ranges and rock formations (and have some awesome hot chocolate!).
Friday was our last day and the students had the day to themselves. Some went to try their hand at surfing, others went to the wildlife sanctuary, others took the time to relax, wander the city, do some shopping, and pick up last minute souvenirs.
In all, this was a great trip that I hope was beneficial and enjoyable to the students - I know it was for me!!
Stay tuned to hear about my wife's and my adventures with the undergrad trip in May to Melbourne, Cairns and Sydney... there may be a crocodile tour on jet skis to report about if I have my way!