Archive for August, 2011
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
My time at Grameen Bank was filled with some unforgettable experiences that have taught me a lot about myself. Over the course of three weeks I have made some great friends, interacted with dozens of locals and learned so much about Grameen Bank. These memories will be invaluable too me in the future, both professionally and personally. Spending time in a country thousands of miles away truly gave me a fresh perspective on my future and the world around me.
My first key learning experience would be meeting and talking with borrowers of Grameen Bank during my five day village trip. Having the chance to interact with people with lives so drastically different allowed me to gain insight on what Grameen Bank actually does. Grameen Bank provides a service to a segment of people that otherwise would have no access to financial resources. Dr. Yunus believes that credit is a basic human right. Without access to credit, the borrowers in Grameen Bank would face yet another hurdle to upward social mobility. Professionally this has helped me look at the world in a different light. Despite the ever-increasing force of globalization many of todays poor people face barriers to entry to things they need to help them overcome their situation. This can be seen in quality education, healthcare and as Grameen Bank has pointed out – financial services. Speaking with borrowers that were helped with loans as low as $100 has sparked my interest in development. In the future I hope to use my business skills in ways that can help others.
This leads me to my second key learning experience – meeting with Dr. Yunus and the Yunus Center. Just recently Dr. Yunus was ousted as the managing director of Grameen Bank due to government regulations. He had founded the organization back in 1983. Despite this sad event Dr. Yunus is now busy spreading a new type of development – social business. Social Business is just like any regular profit-maximizing business except its goal is not to maximize value for shareholders but it is to solve a social problem. I got the opportunity to learn about this concept in detail with meetings at the Yunus Center and by reading Dr. Yunus’s books. Through Social Business entrepreneurs and business leaders can solve the world’s problems while still being sustainable. Social Business differs from most aid organizations because it refunds the donors money and eventually becomes a normal business. Professionally it was amazing to see that my future industry has a chance to do more in the world than help its shareholders. This new concept of Social Business can be revolutionary and has already started. Grameen Danone in Bangladesh is a joint venture with Danone – a yogurt manufacturer. It provides cheap, healthy yogurt for children that helps fight malnutrition. Its great to see social initiatives that business’s can be apart of. I hope to learn more about Social Business as it progresses and hopefully be apart of one some day.
My final key learning experience had to be meeting other people with my same interests from all across the world. The other interns were an extremely diverse group. The ages ranged from 18-31 and everyone’s background and education were all different. There was one other American, two Japanese, three Italians, three from the UK and a few from other countries. It was exciting getting to spend time with these people and explore a new country with them. For most, including myself, it was their first time in Bangladesh. Interviewing borrowers, meeting with bank staff and experiencing the local culture were all the more enjoyable with others with same desires. We all got to learn and experience Bangladesh coming from homes drastically different. Being in a foreign country with other interns has really sparked my desire to travel even more. Being in Bangladesh fro three weeks gave me a taste of how different the world is. I now wish to study aboard if I have the chance. In addition living and working aboard seems like a true possibility after graduation. International exposure is key to understanding a global economy.
Overall my Grameen Bank internship could not have gone more smoothly. I have had some unforgettable experiences that have made my desire to learn more about development and go aboard grow strong. It was great to experience business in such a unique light. Most internship are about doing grueling tasks and working for superiors. The Grameen Bank internship was the complete opposite, with exposure, education and dialogue at its core. Professionally I hope to continue to challenge myself in the future with both unique and traditional internship roles.
Thursday, August 18th, 2011
August 12th – Weekly Reflection 2 – Dhaka, Bangladesh
The second week of my internship at Grameen Bank was drastically different than my first. We left Sunday morning for a 5-day, 4-night village trip where we would be living at a Grameen Branch Office. There are over 2,500 of these offices in Bangladesh serving 8.6 million borrowers. Our branch office was about 60 miles northeast of Dhaka. The staff at the branch office, like many of the rural people we met, could not of been more friendly. We stayed in a room above the first floor of the bank, alongside the branch manager and his family. Our days consisted of attending center meetings, here staff of the bank go to villages in the proximity of branch office and hold meetings with around 50 borrowers. This is where Grameen Bank operates. Villagers at these meetings ask for new loans, pay back weekly installments and communicate any issues they are having with the bank. After the center meetings we would meet with select borrowers, they would graciously invite us into their humble homes and grant us an interview. We met with many different types of borrowers, some had greatly benefited from the bank, others were still in poverty and trying to utilize their loans as best they could. Over the course of the week we met with about a dozen different borrowers all with different stories. We met with two girls that had received scholarship money and student-loans and were now attending college. Another member was a beggar who used the money to buy some cows, goats and chickens to help supplement his income. Overall the week was an amazing journey into the lives of people who now had the tools to help themselves because of Grameen Bank. My final week in Dhaka will be consist of meeting with different departments of the bank and learning about Grameen sister companies, which are separate ventures aimed at various social causes.
Monday, August 15th, 2011
Hortense Fong gives fellow students advice on interning abroad based on her experiences on internship with Goodyear in Shanghai, China.
My internship has taught me a lot, but I have also learned a good bit outside of work. The first thing I learned was how to find an apartment. Before arriving in China, Goodyear provided me with some websites about renting shared apartments. I learned quickly that the turnover rate for shared apartments is very high in Shanghai. It took me nearly a week to find a suitable apartment, but the apartment I ended up with is fantastic. It’s large, clean, and my flatmate is a lot of fun. The second thing I learned, or rather confirmed, was that Shanghai is a great place to meet new people and network. Everyone here is looking to meet new people-expats because the area is new to them too and locals because they are curious about foreigners. One concept that nearly everyone here is familiar with is the idea of guanxi, or the power of relationships. Knowing the right people in China can take you a long way, for better or for worse. It is a concept that all my professors brought up when I studied in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Finally, for those who are considering interning in China, I learned last year that bringing tissue paper and hand sanitizer everywhere is a good idea. Be prepared to use a squatty toilet as well.
My two greatest pieces of advice would be to: try new things and travel. Eat duck, cow intestine, or maybe shark fin. Bargain to a tenth of the asking price. Have clothes custom made for less than the cost to normally buy them. Go clubbing with the locals. Squeeze onto a crowded subway during rush hour. Learn Chinese. All of my coworkers that have been taking Chinese classes have learned remarkably quickly. It has made communicating with locals much easier for them and the locals are impressed. Next, it’s important to travel. As my coworker once said, “Why do you make money? To see the world.” Between last summer and this summer, I have visited Dalian, Qindgao, Hangzhou, and Suzhou and I will be traveling to Hong Kong soon. In Dalian, I met Russians who looked oriental. I had no idea that there would be Russian influence in Dalian (since it’s nowhere close to Russia). Because of Hangzhou, I now have a very good idea of where silk comes from. Every new place I go, I learn more and more.
Here are some pictures from my experiences. The first is a picture of me at one of Goodyear’s tire retail stores. It was fairly close to our office building. The second is of the Pearl Tower in Shanghai. And the third is of a Penn State flag in a restaurant opened by a PSU graduate who is now living in Shanghai.
Thursday, August 11th, 2011
Dev Basumallik is a Sophomore intending to complete the Master of Accounting program through the Smeal College of Business. This is the first of Dev’s reflection on his experiences as an intern with Grameen Bank in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
My first week at Grameen Bank in Dhaka was a week of acclimation to a city, climate and bank much different from anything in the United States. Dhaka is a humid city, characterized by horrendous traffic and people at every corner. The Grameen Bank headquarter is located about fifteen minutes from the apartment I am staying at. The other interns come from all over the globe and there is only one other American in my group. Our first week consisted of mainly meetings with different employees in the bank, learning about the banks fundamentals. Grameen Bank was started in 1983 and is a bank that specializes in micro-credit to mainly the poorest rural-women in Bangladesh. We learned of the various loan products, services, and the structure of the bank.
My first week had two highlights that were truly incredible experiences. The first was meeting Dr.Muhammadd Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank. He enteredd the room with a huge smile on his face to the applause of all the interns and staff. Dr. Yunus along with Grameen Bank received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Dr. Yunus spent about twenty minutes with us interns; signing books and taking pictures.
The other incredible event of the first week was taking a day trip to a village to visit a Grameen branch office and center office. The Grameen Bank headquarters in Dhaka does no operational activities, all the loans are actually distributed in thousands of offices in villages all across Bangladesh. On our day trip we got to meet with borrowers and hear their stores about how Grameen Bank has helped them . This experience was a taste of what we will be doing during the bulk of our internship.
Next week we will be going on a 5-day village trip and living at a Grameen Bank branch office in the field. This journey should be the most rewarding aspect of the internship. The Grameen Bank internship is much different than most because it is based on exposure and education, not doing tasks and work like other traditional internships.
Monday, August 8th, 2011
Hortense Fong is a Junior Finance major at the Smeal College of Business. Hortense is the Co-President and Founder of Penn State’s Global Business Brigades, a Schreyer Honors students, and actively involved in numerous student organizations.
My summer internship is in Shanghai, China from June through July with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. As a Finance major, I am curious about Corporate Finance and so I work as an intern in the Regional Finance department, specifically on the FP&A (financial planning & analysis) side.
I got this amazing opportunity after speaking with one of the mentors at a Smeal Alumni Mentoring Program dinner. While talking to my mentor, I mentioned that I was interested in interning in Shanghai this summer because I had studied abroad there last summer and had an unforgettable experience. He told me he went to MBA school with the President of Goodyear Asia Pacific, and was kind enough to forward my resume. The President in turn forwarded my resume to HR and the Senior VP of Finance for Goodyear AP. I interviewed with him several weeks later and then I was offered the internship a few weeks after that.
Upon hearing the news, I was very excited about my upcoming summer. From a professional standpoint, I would get to see what working in an international setting is like. In addition, China is a country that is currently full of opportunities because of its unprecedented growth. From a personal standpoint, I would get a chance to develop my networking skills and meet people from all over the world.
I have in fact had the opportunity to meet people from all over—Germany, France, Switzerland, China, Brazil, etc. The Goodyear Asia Pacific office is itself very diverse with employees from the U.S., France, Australia, India, China, Canada, Brazil, and so on. I love hearing the different accents throughout the office more than anything. Everyone here has been very kind and helpful and it’s interesting to hear about their different backgrounds.
Thus far, I have worked on two projects: Report Factory and a project relating to products’ gross-to-net structures. Report Factory has the goal of developing a single central information system that will allow the different countries and departments to draw data from. For the project, I got to work with an incredibly nice gentleman in Singapore and I helped him to consolidate the Sales and EBIT Walks for January through May, making sure the data was consistent with the countries and what was submitted to Corporate, and develop the allocation system for conversion and raw material costs. For the G2N project, a problem exists now where salespeople and customers are unsure about the discount structure of products because of a complex discount system that differs between countries. My assignment was to gather information about the G2N structures of the different countries for the ultimate goal of harmonizing the structure throughout the region. For these projects, the main skills I have needed are basic Excel skills, problem solving abilities, and solid communication skills (since I have to work with people throughout the region). I also have a much better grasp now of what problems people face in corporate finance and what sort of tasks are routinely performed.