Sunday, April 26, 2009

Italian weekend….

Half of my MBA 2010 class visited the Agusta Westland plant near Milan for a school-sponsored field trip. The goal of the visit was to diagnose operational issues in the helicopter assembly and upstream sub-assembly manufacturing plants. Luckily for me, Agusta Westland is 90% similar to a previous client from my consulting days, so this was a lot like shooting fish in a barrel. In any event, as far as operations go, three words are all one needs to know - Lean Six Sigma. Everything else is a load of crap, outdated and ineffective. These days most PE firms swear by Lean Six Sigma.

The helicopter plant itself was near Varese, an hour away from Milan. I won't bore you with the details of how Apache and Sea King helicopters are assembled. However, I'll mention the the pizza in Varese, which was awesome – wood-fired oven, thin crust with parma ham, roquette and buffa mozzarella.

After the plant trip, a few of us rented a car and drove first to Bologna, where we had Bologna salami (baloney) and real Bolognese sauce at Osteria di Poeti, the best restaurant in Bologna (near the city center). We then drove to Florence, where we stayed in Oltrarno for the night.

The next day was spent walking around Florence (remember my admit essay on how I would spend a free day?). Of course no visit to Florence is complete without pistacchio gelato from Ponte Vecchio and a visit to the Gallerie dell'Academia to see David. And, we celebrated April 25, Italy's WWII liberation day, with a bunch of cute communist students at a demonstration below the Piazzale Michaelangelo. They treated us to cantucci, a hard almond biscuit (like biscotti) which is eaten after dipping it in vin santo (sweet wine). And they even gave us a large bottle of fantastic homemade wine, promising to let us make it up to them when they next visited London.

We spent the rest of Saturday and Sunday at a castle in Tuscany - Castello di Ripa d'Orcia, on top of a hill near the village of San Quirico d'Orcia, some 25 km from Sienna. The view from the hilltop and the traditional food from the kitchen was glorious, although the wine from the estate left something to be desired. The serenity of the Tuscan evening was broken only by the sounds of our partying late, and the music from another party in the next castle over, on another hill, a few km away. This morning we drove back to Milan, where after a long delay at Malpensa, we made it back to Gatwick, in time to read our corporate finance cases and finish our managerial accounting homework.

The Duffman cometh
Stealth photography at the Gallerie dell'Academia

The view from our castle
Ghiberti's "Gates of Paradise" - Baptistery across from the Duomo in Florence
View of the Duomo from Pizzale Michaelangelo

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On being nominated for Best of Blogging @ Clear Admit

A much needed update to my blog. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was nominated for Clear Admit's Best of Blogging. Fantastic! A really busy schedule prevents me from waxing literary, so bullet points will have to suffice. What has life brought my way these days?

  • I'm in love with Japan. I almost applied for exchange to Keio but other conflicts prevented me from making it work. I'll likely take a few block weeks during one of the terms at LBS and then spend a month in Japan.
  • Leaving for Milan on Thursday for a trip related to my Operations and Technology Management Class. I'm visiting the Agusta Westland Helicopter operations near Milan to do a diagnosis of their assembly plant which should give me an opportunity to apply those Lean Diagnostics skills I used in my previous consulting work. Agusta Westland usually makes the Air Force One helicopters but Obama won't be getting one this year.
  • Speaking of Obama, the non-profit I'm consulting for, MyBnk was in the news lately. The Chief paid an impromptu visit to its London office during his G20 visit to meet Lily Lapenna and her crew and to thank them for educating common people on financial principles in these tough economc times. Go Lily!!!
  • Event prep for Crossroads, the LBS Art Exhibition, is going great guns. Tomorrow we take over the quad and install an exhibit. It's a clothes line strung across the quad, hung with colorful bras and boxer shorts and equally colorful resumes, rejection letters and candidates' responses to rejection letters.
  • I recently visited Saatchi Gallery in London. Their current exhibition "Art from the Middle East" is f@#king awesome, like nothing I've ever seen before.
  • Several friends from Boston and Sweden visited me in London. That was awesome! Shout out to Keith, Kate and Ariana!
  • I love Marketing Strategy – it's the most amazing course I've taken so far, and Dan Goldstein, who teaches it, is the best prof I've had so far.
  • I highly recommend that every rational young adult read "Stumbling Upon Happiness" by Daniel Gilbert. It's a provocative look at why we as adults may or may not find happiness elusive
  • I highly recommend that you watch 50 Dead Men Walking, IRA, moles, great 80's rock, heart-pounding thrills – the movie has it all. It's Brilliant!
  • I highly recommend that you iTunes download "They Don't Love You" by Juvelen and "Rive" by Electrified Jet Shamisen Okita (Think Kill Bill, fusion traditional Japanese music and rock, except its driven by an electric Shamisen. Awesome!).
  • And finally, I just got back from a lecture on leadership at LBS by Ian Davis, ex Global Director of McKinsey. He's one of my heroes! Getting a chance to shake his hand and speak with him one-on-one was just incredible.

More soon. Sayonara!

Why I'm in love with Japan. Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo Midtown.

Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto

Toyota City, Nagoya

Making a mockery of the tea ceremony. Not sure that one dunks the green tea biscuit in the green tea, but what do I know, I'm gaijin!

The fair ladies of London Business School

And you thought the London Tube/Paris Metro was hard to navigate? Try Tokyo