Reflexiones después de regresar de Cuba (Reflections after returning from Cuba)

It’s hard to imagine that just a couple weeks ago, I was traveling through Cuba, learning about the business environment, culture, and history of the country. For this final post, I asked my classmates to contribute their own reflections, opinions, and photos. I’m grateful and excited to share their contributions and insights with you.

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Our class in Cuba, photo courtesy of Adam Fu

“The highlight of our trip to Cuba was striking up a conversation with a local woman who then invited us into her home to tell us about her experiences during the revolution. She then made us Cuban coffee, showed us pictures of her family, and had us call her abuelita.” – Oliver

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Oliver and Ron, photo courtesy of Oliver Noteware

“Cuba exceeded my expectations on many levels. One thing I found fascinating is how advanced Cuba is on gender issues in comparison to the United States. Despite the low salaries, women and men are paid equally. In terms of abortion, all women have the right to abort. Here in the United States, we are still fighting for pay equality and for abortion rights. “ – Silvana

“After visiting Cuba, I now realize how easier it is to live in a country with no crime and violence. However, I also understand how lucky I am to have been given opportunities to pursue my dreams.” – Federico

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Stephanie, TJ. and Tatiana, photo courtesy of Adam Fu
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Natasha, Teresa, Isobel, and Silvana, photo courtesy of Adam Fu

“After visiting Cuba, I now realize that the allure of the island for Americans is the fact that we mostly forbidden to go. Cuba has a long way to go if it wants to consistently attract tourists in the future.” – T.J.

“One thing that surprised me was the openness that young Cuban people had to discussing how the current system benefits them, as well as their ideas for how to improve it. The most interesting thing I learned was that workers have the daily newspaper (and novels) read to them as they work in state-operated cigar factories. I was really moved by the state’s commitment to ongoing education for Cuban citizens. After visiting Cuba, I now realize the many ways in which the system there works for the Cuban people, and I feel excited to see how that system adapts in upcoming years to provide even more opportunity for young Cubans.” – Natasha

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Marc and Jefferson at organic farm, photo courtesy of Laila Marouf
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Teresa and Laila, photo courtesy of Laila Marouf
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Michele and Tatiana, photo courtesy of Silvana Ordonez

The diverse perspectives of my classmates and I reflect how many topics were touched on during our Global Immersion Program (GIP) in Cuba. To say Cuban economics and politics are complex would be an understatement, yet the Cubans we met continue to do the best they can to overcome their financial circumstances and maintain hope for the future.

Thank you to everyone who provided photos, comments, and feedback on these blog posts. And thank you to Chazen and CBS for this incredible opportunity!

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Professor Meier, Maggie Hopkins (Chazen), and our class, photo courtesy of Adam Fu

Final thoughts on Israel

Since coming back from our whirlwind adventure in Israel two weeks ago, I have gushed to my friends and classmates about Israel’s historic landmarks, hospitable people and the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that beats throughout the country. I’ve developed a newfound appreciation for the incredible achievements that modern-day Israel has made in business – especially given the unique geopolitical challenges facing the country—as well as developed a deeper understanding of the cultural factors that have shaped Israel’s identity and in turn its business environment. Still, one week is not enough to fully map out the complexity of Israel’s history, economy or politics. These are some of the takeaways about Israel that struck me during the trip and the questions I want to continue to explore:

  • Startup nation to scaled up nation? Israel is well known for its plethora of tech startups and its strong engineering talent. However, we came across differing perspectives on whether Israel had the potential to develop startups into larger tech empires. During our trip, Intel announced it was buying autonomous driving technology firm Mobileye for $15 billion – a very successful exit for the Israeli company. While the book Startup Nation argues that the diversity of Israel’s people and mandatory military service has fostered a strong environment to build startups, can the country sustain continued growth in the tech sector? Furthermore, is the Israeli market big enough to bring startups to larger scale or is a sale to a non-Israeli company the optimal solution for Israeli startups to grow?
  • There is no one-size fits all solution to the conflict in the Middle East. What’s the next best option? Israel has very delicate relationships with its neighbors in the Middle East, many of which are in the midst of political turmoil and many of which do not support Israel’s existence. There are numerous issues underlying the conflict in the Middle East but there is no way to please all stakeholders. However, having open conversations across all countries in the region will be key to navigating the complex political environment and finding solutions that can tackle one issue at a time.
  • Israeli’s “survivor” attitude carries through into business. One of the things I appreciated the most about Israeli people is their optimistic and hopeful attitude, even in difficult times. Israelis truly are survivors and their determination to achieve the goals they set forth is an asset in the business world and something we as aspiring leaders should strive to embody.– Nathalie Tadena, CBS’18
    Chazen Israel Section B

Reflections on Spain

During the 6 days in Spain, we traveled to 3 cities, visited 7 big companies and over 10 world’s famous attractions. We learned authentic Spanish culture and business and economic conditions through the very best people, especially our three amazing three Spanish organizers. There are many key takeaways and interesting things I learned from the Chazen Spain trip.

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The People: Spanish people are one of the most down to earth Europeans I ever met. While the Spanish are very friendly, welcoming and laid-back, their other sides are very tough, smart and realistic. Another interesting thing I learned is that they are very conservative. I believe this humble culture of the Spanish has been shaped by its long history. The great power that had in the past from colonizing many countries around the world made them became very rich from tributes earned. After those countries declared independence, Spain was lagged behind without the know-how and capabilities to actually make money on their own. However, their abilities to cope with hard times and bounce back are impressive and what made who they are today.

The Culture: Its long history has shaped its unique culture, arts and architecture. I was mesmerized by all the places I see and things experience throughout the trip from everyday delicious Spanish food and tapas to famous museums, buildings, churches and football stadiums.

The Business: The seven company visits revealed to me that Spain is still a great country with great people. The future for Spain seems to be growing gradually and consistently fostered by the capabilities of the people, their participation in the European Union and the country’s strong presence in the Latin America. While the future might be uncertain as it is for every country, I believe that Spain has the abilities, capabilities and resources to overcome all the challenges and remain great.

Thanujdee Seriwathanophas’17

Chazen Spain 2017

Reflections from Israel

‘Have you heard of the routing app, Waze? It’s Israeli.’ my driver asked me, as I got in the car en route to the airport for my flight home.  I could see the app predicting my arrival at the airport at 6:14pm, a full three hours before my flight.  I loathed this seeming waste of time – a common phrase in my pre-CBS consulting career was ‘if you’ve never missed a flight, you’re getting to the airport to early’.  But, we had been warned about the Tel Aviv Airport Security, and after accidentally going to Newark airport instead of JFK on my way to Israel, I couldn’t risk another stressful airport experience.  I replied that No, I hadn’t heard of Waze and wondered if it was really that much better than Google Maps?

When my driver asked me how I had enjoyed his country, it was hard not to conceal my new found love for Israel. The food, the entrepreneurial spirit, the history… so many things flooded my mind.  But being back in the states and reflecting on my trip, my favorite aspect by far is the people.

The Israeli culture is rich with history, religious background, and stories of both oppression and hope.  And what I didn’t appreciate until my trip was the clear camaraderie that binds Israelis together.  Whether this is because the nation is relatively young, because of the history of what the Israeli people have been through, or because of something else, is unclear.  But the immediate closeness I witnessed time and again amongst Israelis was undeniable.

Over the course of the trip, we visited many companies. Three companies talked to us about the same recent sale of an Israeli start-up (Mobileye) to Intel for $15 Billiion.  Even my cab driver brought it up to me.  Most people spoke about the value of their army experience.  And everyone talked about being focused on continuous improvement and their own internal hope.

Coming from the states, a country that in so many ways is about diversity, it’s striking to see such a degree of similarity across Israelis. I look forward to my next (and hopefully soon!) trip to Israel to further uncover its culture.  And for the record, we pulled up to my gate at precisely 6:14.

Haley Smith, ’18 – Group A, #Israel #IsraelChazen

#Chazippines

Philippines – Andrea Oran ’18

It has been 2 weeks since we returned home from our Filipino adventure. The jet lag is finally starting to subside and our bags have been unpacked, we have returned to school and resumed our day-to-day schedules, but the memories we formed, lessons we learned, and experiences we shared will not soon be forgotten.

I will admit, prior to the trip I did not know much about the Philippines. I grew up hearing stories of my grandfather’s experience when he was stationed there during WWII while he was in the Navy, but that was about it – and as we learned during our time there, not much remains from the pre-war days. Point being, I went into this trip very open minded and not quite sure what to expect.

Almost immediately I learned about Filipino hospitality through the way everyone welcomed us, the impeccable service at the hotels and restaurants we attended, and through the incredible welcome reception hosted by our trip leader’s family. I learned about the political climate from the inside and how they portray the direction they want the country to go in and the influence the US has had on them. I learned about the changing business climate for both large conglomerates and younger start-ups that are both navigating the constantly developing country.

But what I will remember the most is the natural beauty we saw – from the Pagsanjan Falls to the islands of Coron, I saw some of the most breathtaking views, pictured below (photo credit to many different members of the trip).

So to anyone traveling to Southeast Asia in the near future – I would encourage you to take some time to explore the islands that comprise the Philippines. Meet the hospitable people and see all the natural beauty the country has to offer.

CBS Chazen South Africa 4.0

The last two days in Capetown were filled with memorable moments, great people, and we all wish they lasted a bit longer. We toured the V&A Waterfront with members from the Green Building Council, discussed sustainability with Allan Gray Investment Management, visited a local development firm, hiked a 3,600-ft peak, enjoyed wine tastings in Constantia & Steenberg and took plenty of advantage of the coastal night life.

Firstly, our group received a presentation of the V&A waterfront from Colin Devenish, Executive Manager of Operations and a member of the Green Building Council. The Victoria & Alfred (V&A) waterfront is a mixed-use complex located on the Atlantic Shore, in Table Bay Harbor. Designed in the late 19th century, the complex is situated in South Africa’s oldest working harbor and comprises over 300 acres developed for both residential and commercial use. In light of the size and high utilization rate (over 23 million of annual visitors), we were pleased to learn the steps that management has been taking to reduce its footprint since 2008. To-date, the waterfront has invested R45 Million into energy efficiency, water savings and waste recycling across the 300-acre property, as well as introduced a number of other greening initiatives across the area. Efforts such as these have allowed the waterfront to nearly halve its waste going to landfills, significantly reduce electricity and water consumption and increased recycling and lower carbon emissions due to increased use of bicycles and public transportation.

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On the note of sustainability, our group had the pleasure of touring the headquarters of Allan Gray with Michael Smith, Department Head of Infrastructure and Security at the company. Headquartered in Silo One at the V&A Waterfront, Allan Gray’s office was built in 2014 and achieved the first ever six-star green rating in South Africa. We were delighted to hear that the modern building incorporates features such as high-performance, fully-glazed, double skin glass façade to optimize the use of natural lighting and advanced cooling system that rely on cold Atlantic seawater. Furthermore, the heat from the IT server room provides floor heating in the reception area while waste water from hand wash basins and showers is collected, treated within the grey water system, and reused for flushing water. A beautiful anchor to the waterfront, this visionary project has stunning views of Cape Town and of the surrounding harbor.

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Having witnessed the remarkable success of the Allan Gray headquarters development at V&A, our team headed to Devmark Property Group, a development firm in the Western Cape specializing in mixed-use projects across all asset classes. The firm owns all aspects of the development process from land acquisition to entitlement, development, construction and marketing. The firm’s pipeline encompasses investments such as a 1,000-unit integrated housing project, 111 luxury home and 54 assisted living facilities as well as a full-scale R3bn retail development in the Western Cape. Playing off its 30-year old local advantage, Devmark analyzes opportunities in the region with an eye toward demographic trends in urbanization and capital migration.

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Last, but not least, we had a lot of fun in Cape Town. Hiking up Table Mountain at 7 AM after a night of successive pub crawls gave each of us the opportunity to test our limits physically while enjoying the pristine views of the Cape Town skyline. Fittingly, our trip concluded driving along the coast right before the dawn. We stopped the bus to watch the sunset, gathered around, reminisced the memorable times we had had over the past few days and celebrated being in the moment with yet another standing ovation to Africa, a land of stunning natural beauty and fascination for all things (not just Real Estate). Good bye, South Africa and see you soon!DJI_0010.jpg

Final Ciao Chazen Post: Pasta and People Withdrawals

Reflecting back on our #CiaoChazen trip throughout Italy, there are so many experiences and memories that will last a lifetime, but it was definitely the people on the trip that made the biggest impression. As someone who has gone on three Chazen trips, my favorite thing about these trips in general is the ability to meet and make memories with such a diverse group of CBS classmates that I otherwise may not have crossed paths with. This Chazen was no different as more than half were first years who I likely would not have had the opportunity to get to know before graduating without this trip. Additionally, our incredible three Italian leads organized such an amazing itinerary, allowing us to see all sides of Italy through their eyes. They were so good, I decided I must only go on trips organized by Italians from now on as they thought through every minute detail and really enjoy indulging in the nicest of food and wine!

This trip was also a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see the inner workings of the many and diverse companies I wrote about in earlier blogs from Ferrari to YOOX Net-A-Porter to Villa Antinori. Each of these companies really showed us Italian hospitality as they were so welcoming and excited for our visits, with some of them like Brunello Cucinelli literally welcoming us into their hometown! These visits made it so clear that personal relationships are very important in business in Italy and are the way lots of things get done. This also makes sense given the importance many of the companies put on their family ownership or heritage like we saw at brands like Ermemegildo Zegna and also Antinori, which is one of the top 10 longest running family companies started in 1385.

Speaking of heritage, it is something that was emphasized over and over again in our visits regardless the type of company. It was very clear that there is Italian pride in everything they do. However, interestingly we still saw a willingness to evolve and push boundaries. Gucci’s recent transformation is a great example of this idea of reinvention rooted in their heritage. I think that this authentic sense of heritage but willingness to evolve will be what pushes these legacy brands into the future…

We will see were the future takes these companies…but I know that the future will definitely take me back to Italy for more exploration and gelato after such an amazing trip!