Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Studying Czech Beer

A return visit to a Prague conference, having helped run one 20 years ago in my British Airways days, saw me grab a short afternoon and evening re-visiting this beautiful city.  Guiding marketing colleague Derrick Chong on his first visit, I felt it appropriate to use a social media 'top 5 brew pub' list to give us some informal structure to our walking tour.  My map reading skills were not quite up to the mark inferred with my Scouting credentials.  

In reality this looked more like a good old fashioned UK boozer, with a nod to beer history in the wall decorations only.  

From the left 0.1 litre samples of banana, sour cherry, nettle and coffee flavours.   Definitely interesting.

Social media comments suggest that many Prague visitors make a beeline to this historic micro-brewery.  The traditional rectangular tables and bench seating surrounded by wooden wall panels makes for an old world feeling, you can believe its been around a long time.  The service is intriguing - I had been hoping to savour anticipatory pre-consumption delight in pouring over elaborate product descriptions for a range of house brew offerings.  None of it.  Muscular looking men with trays stacked with Becherovka absinthe shots and a heady dark porter were constantly circulating - you just caught their eye and the beverage was beside you inviting you to imbibe - as a tally of your drinking developed on the scrap of paper.  Not the formal hospitality you would expect, but ideal for a mates session - you don't have to get out of your seat or even wait to order the next pint !

Budwar and the Pilsner style beer hails from Czech origins (if then over commercialised by post prohibition Coca Cola swilling America).  The tourism trade has sought to emphasise this as a key element of the Czech experience.  The airport shops boasted an unusually large range of local beers and multi-media advertising in the terminals sought to drive brand preference.

Czech's were in a state of national fervour as their team made it through to the semi-final stages of the  Ice Hockey world cup, hosted in Prague.  I spotted chocolate hockey figures and even player profiles on beer cans.  Pilsner Urqell and Kozel are both SAB Miller owned brands brewed in Czech Republic.

Best pint of the day - after a long hike up the castle hill.
Unfiltered, unpasteurised, locally brewed.  
CAMRA would be proud.

Cheers !  Hope you enjoyed this mini-beer fest !

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Dessert theatre or social exercise ?

Pudding for many is the highlight of a meal, a sensory overload of sweet, sugary treats.  But what do you offer to 260 exceptionally well travelled business school Deans and MBA directors ?  With so much 'been there, done that' grey hair prevailing, you would think that there is little this exclusive group of wise heads had not seen or experience previously.  Not so....

My first 'real success' utilising the time-lapse function on my iPhone.

Whilst I enjoyed the pure entertainment of seeing something entirely different, a never-been-done-before (NBDB) perhaps ?  This performance certainly had a wow factor - to the extent that the first tables to be decorated drew a crowd of smart phone wielding academics.  Now that is really something   

However, my diet prohibits me from indulging in puddings, so I limited myself to tasting a tiny portion of sorbet and a sprinkling of healthy berries.  It was clear that the sauces and petals were very much for decoration, not consumption and the more conventional ingredients were arranged in micro sized portions.  What would hygienic etiquette require of you ? There were no plates or serving spoons to enable you to avoid re-using saliva encrusted spoons in the shared items.

Dry ice cloud:  exciting enough to take some snaps

The theatrical finale came with Heston Blumenthal inspired science, for a cloud like table cloth generated by ultra cold dry ice that quickly vanished into the ether.  The Ooh ! and Aah ! crescendo moment.  If only the serving staff had looked like they were enjoying themselves in the process.  

Our table left much of the food in the centre of the table untouched, rather wasteful. Other tables, where the chefs had a small gap to operate in, saw uneven distribution of the sweet treats limited by the arch of the chefs reach.  (You can see a couple of gaps in the above photo).

Antonella, Dean of the Monaco business school (centre picture above), took a different view, perhaps unencumbered by film crew responsibilities, having carefully observed the group dynamics across the various tables.  She noted that some of the tables collaborated, rotating the glass top, an impromptu lazy Suzie if you will, to offer those with larger appetites the chance to consume more and bring out of reach items into play to those who might have missed out.  

Dare to be different:
Justin @AMBA conference

The traditional banquet service would see a pre-plated dish or glass cups distributed.  Limiting choice and customisation, (often popular with in large catering operations) results in a fast, lower cost service proposition that is sometimes referred to as McDonaldisation.  Antonella highlighted this 'communistic' approach which appears to offer everyone the same and yet fails to easily offer more (or less) for those with anything but average portion desires.  A form of equality that is perhaps unrelated to needs and wants.

You do not need to participate in an AMBA gala dinner spectacle, book at table at the dark & sensory 'Dans la noir' or hunt down an Ethiopian restaurant like Mesi's on Holloway Road where cutlery use is optional, to challenge your fellow diners (or romantic date) to a social experiment.  

Why not try out sharing plates at home and observe the different behaviours it can generate ?  

That is what you get from an MBA: Learning to look at life differently.

Friday, 15 May 2015

MBA Berlin study visit - Part Drei

After an active time biking .... ....

Maximillians restaurant - traditional German luncheon

At the Holocuast memorial 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

MBA Berlin study visit - Part Zwei

Monday am:  weather sunny and warm. Next visit to Mashup Communications to discuss - 'storytelling as a means of communication'.

Tues pm:  Inspiring visit to Axel Springer "plug and play", watching pitches from in-house start-ups.  Voting for the vest pitch and best idea.  

Wednesday am: Visit to the impressive office of Deutsche Bahn for presentation and discussion on the challenges and opportunities for the future transport market.  


Crossing Cultures Course Co-ordinator, Giana Eckhardt, meeting Julia Beyer, senior PR & Social Media Consultant of Mashup Communications. 

Wednesday pm:  Amazing Wall AG showroom visit and presentation on Creativity without Borders - trends and vision for today's advertising ecosystem.

MBA Students brainstorming ideas in groups.... 

You can't visit the German capital without posing by the Berlin wall !

Berlin hosts the 2015 European Cup final

Wed: Lunch meeting with Martin Kutter, COO at Delivery Hero and Royal Holloway alumnus (below wearing glasses)

Monday, 11 May 2015

MBA 2015 Berlin Study Visit - Part Eins

Each year International Management MBAs excitedly undertake an international study visit.  

2015 Berlin, Germany 

MBA Class of 2015 - arrived safely at LHR terminal 5 - a good start to the International Study Visit to Berlin.

Monday am: A visit to Burson-Marsteller for presentation and discussion on 'Managing Perceptions of Key Stakeholders'

Monday pm: A visit to GTAI for management presentation and discussion on: Germany as an Investment Location.

MBA administrator Michelle Casey pictured with a Berlin bear, the city's icon.

Thursday:  Day trip to Potsdam, wandering around the beautiful gardens and a guided tour of Sanssouci castle.  

Potsdam - an amazing cultural dimension to the business focussed study visit

Look up !  Inside Sanssouci Castle at Potsdam

Andy Warhol's Fredrick the Great

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Shrenik Shah - Royal Holloway MBA alumni profile

Why did you decide to study for an MBA and why did you choose Royal Holloway?

I started my career with an accounting role, with few years of experience and with the achievement of CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountant) qualification I moved to a Management Accountant role. After completion of my CIMA qualification I was given bigger projects and responsibility, however I always desired to play front end roles in the company, by being an accountant most of my role was back end; preparation of budgets, management reports, preparing quotation and so on. This made me think of adding MBA into my career profile that will help me play key roles in the company.

When I decided to do an MBA I choose to do it in UK as I was familiar with the UK education system and college/universities because I have studied my CIMA qualification in London. While searching for good universities I came across Royal Holloway. I was quite attracted to Royal Holloway (RHUL) due its history, it’s ranking amongst other UK colleges, lecturers, cultural diversification, AMBA accreditation and of course campus. I started contacting some of alumni to take their review. Alumni assured me about the quality of education at Royal Holloway and it was cost effective compared to other colleges. These were some of the key reasons why I choose to apply at RHUL and was selected for MBA 2014 programme.

How did the MBA prepare you for the next step in your career ?

I managed to upgrade some of my skills from MBA studies and it helped me to apply to the jobs I wish to work. The MBA helped me to feel confident with skills I needed to reach to a career stage I desired. MBA helped me to learn more about global management and globalisation. RHUL MBA has kept all of us engaged through out the year with constant networking with professionals, corporate visits, international tour, projects and presentations which pushed me to constantly think about new ideas and helped me grow my analytical, presentation, creative, industrial and many other critical skills. I was very pleased with the complete structure of MBA at RHUL as it pushed me to think and perform activities out of my comfort zone. I think the MBA has broadened my horizon, my CIMA qualification grown my core management accounting skills and MBA helped to learn other business management skills. 

How did you find out about your current job ?

It was a long, stressful, at times disappointing and quite challenging task. Although UK market looks very promising and there are thousands of job available in market for all kind of qualified professional but companies have been very sceptical in recruiting overseas people. I prepared a list of companies I wish to work and applied to all those companies. I was delighted with the initial response I received, many calls for telephone and web interview however moment they come to know that I am overseas student and would required sponsorship to work they step back. I gave several telephone and web interviews to many of fortune 100 companies. I have attended assessment centre and was selected for final round of assessment but due to Visa issue I was not offered a permanent or even contractual position.

After this disappointment I started applying to medium size companies and because I have my own small accounting practice in India I applied to few chartered accounting firm and that’s when I received call from this company Atkins & Partners. They took my telephone interview and called me for a face-to-face interview that ultimately went really good and was a success. 

What steps did you have to go through to get the job and to secure your sponsorship ?

After two rounds of interview I was offered a temporary contractual position. I was assigned three different projects to complete and produce result within assigned timeline to prove my capabilities and skills. I manage to complete these projects on time, not only this projects but I also streamline their other projects. These proved my knowledge and skills and I managed to make my space in this company. After successful completion of this task the partner of the company became very keen to keep me with the company as they have several clients whose businesses have a presence in several countries including UK and India. He wanted to manage his global client and I was delighted to do this as I can use my skills and expertise and learn more about global businesses. 

What advice would you give to international MBA students who want to stay and work in the UK ?

Do not wait until last moment, plan and start early keep variety of options. I feel its quite challenging to secure place with any company as there is huge competition and companies are not very open with hiring international students however, its not absolutely impossible. Do not restrict with applying only to companies directly or applying through agent. It’s worth trying other options like making application on LinkedIn, networking with people working in the company, connecting to alumni and using their experience and making most of any other source of networking. Use career advisor available in RHUL, I have taken advice from Emma Baker and she was really helpful in showing me some step to communicate with alumni. I manage to make some friend with alumni and they guided me and share their experience.

Our thanks to Shrenik for sharing his experience.