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2013 Engineering/MBA Student Blog

Journey to London

25 May 2013

by jordan laycock


Welcome everyone to the first blog of the 2013 BSMBA Europe trip. This year is set up a little bit differently than the previous years. Our trip will be more hands on, and will consist of real business tours of local companies. This will not only give us a great comparison of European and American business strategies, but will also give us a networking opportunity.

To start off our trip some of us decided to begin our adventure a little early with a couple day stop in London. After plane delays, missed flights, lost cameras, and lost luggage, our group finally made it to London. We were greeted with cold dreary weather, but we made the best of it. We ventured to the main tourist attractions of Big Ben, West Minster, Parliament House, changing of the guard, Tower of London and more. The architecture of the city is everything we expected and more, the fish and chips are phenomenal, the people are friendly and despite the beginning struggles, London has been a great experience. Stay tuned for the next post from Paris.


Our Rendezvous in Paris

26 May 2013

by jordan laycock

Today was the official beginning of our BSMBA program beginning in Paris. The hotel is a nice change from the youth hostels from London. Today we had a snapshot tour of Paris. Our English speaking guide did a fabulous job of showing us around the city, and giving us advice on the do’s and dont’s of touring Paris. The highlight of today was the climbing of the infamous Eiffel tower. Though hated by the French when it was first built, it is of course now an iconic symbol of the city. The city is amazing, and the architecture from the gothic style of Notre Dame to the modern day Louvre to the romantic style of the Palace of Versailles shows the diverse history. Today was a great introduction to that. There will be more to come from Paris as we dive deeper into its rich history.

Tomorrow is a very busy day that contains three exciting business tours of Thales University, Alcatel-Lucent and Peugeot-Citroen. After receiving the culture briefing today, these tours should be very interesting and quite applicable.


Exploration of Paris Businesses

27 May 2013

by jordan laycock

Today we had three very interesting business meetings. The first was Thales University, which is a corporate university for Thales Alenia Space to help them problem solve and teach them leadership. The University consists of a nice space to visually problem solve and conduct workshops. One of the really neat exercises that they talked about was the helicopter simulation they use to teach leadership to their employees, from CEO to the bottom guy. They use many of the lean six sigma techniques that we learned from Leancor in the program.

The next tour was Alcatel Lucent, a global networking company in downtown Paris with a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower. They emphasized the importance of innovation using four important aspects: developing a culture of excellence, internal communication, team and customer diversification, and developing workflow.

Our final meeting was with Peugeot-Citroen, the top car manufacturer in France. We learned of their alliance with GM and about their agreement on components and supply chain. It gave us a great comparison of French and American car companies.

Afterward, we walked around the hotel, ate dinner and immersed ourselves in the culture. Tomorrow is our tour of Google, so stay tuned.



“Googletizing” Paris

28 May 2013

by jordan laycock

Today was our tour of Google Paris with UK’s own computer science professor, Dr. Brent Seales. The facility was in a classic Parisian style building, but was “Googletized,” as they put it, to fit their culture. We were treated with breakfast and lunch, like all of the rest of the employees. We met with the head of brand marketing, a recruiter and a software engineer to receive the full overview of Google’s culture. It was very interesting to learn about the different techniques of marketing the brand depending on the location and the intense hiring practice. As engineers we were delighted to hear that decisions are mainly driven by engineers from the bottom up.

We were able to meet up with one of our fellow MBA exchange students from France to help us explore the city, and navigate us to places we wouldn’t have found without him. Tomorrow is a free day; most of us plan to tour the famous Louvre Museum and have a picnic by the Eiffel Tower.


Free Day in Paris

29 May 2013

by jordan laycock

After being in Paris for three days, it was time for us to be put to the test and navigate through Paris on our own. Dressed in our UK apparel, most of us made our way over to the Louvre, where we were enlightened by the arts from all over the world. Our first stop was of course to see Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, which was a lot smaller than I expected, but was still fun to see in person. It took us three hours to go through, and we didn’t even see it all. From ancient Egyptian artifacts to French Renaissance paintings, the Louvre was a great experience.

Next we explored the rest of the city. Notre Dame Cathedral was awesome; not only was the outside structure breathtaking, but the inside was, too. Then a couple of us made the journey to the Eiffel Tower to see it lit up at night. Tomorrow we take an early train to Toulouse to catch our afternoon business meetings. Paris is such a great city, and its sad to leave such a beautiful city so soon. It has been a great experience, and we have a lot more to see and do. See you in Toulouse tomorrow.


Airbus in Toulouse

30 May 2013

by jordan laycock

Today we had an early train ride to Toulouse. The ride is all the way from the North side to the South side of France, so it took about six hours. We went straight to Airbus for our tour. The campus is huge, and just one of the assembly plants, the one we saw, covered nine soccer pitches worth of surface area and could fit four A380s. This facility was set up like an assembly line, where each system was slowly put together. Most of the parts are outsourced from Germany, Spain, and the UK; only the controls and the some of the frame is made in France. These $400 million dollar aircrafts come out of final assembly about every ten days, but because of the incredibly complex supply chain, the lead time from order to delivery could be more like two years. This is an incredible company, and though they only really took off about ten years ago, has proved to be a real competitor with Boeing. As engineers we took a lot of interest in the supply chain and logistics, and it was great to relate it to our supply chain classes.

We all decided to tour the city center in search of food. Oddly enough we stumbled across a bar called Le Kentucky, the picture is shown below.


Thales Athenia Space

31 May 2013

by jordan laycock

Today was our tour of Thales Alenia Space, which is a world leader in designing and manufacturing satellites. Like Airbus, they also have a huge facility for assembly and testing. This tour was very personalized for us, and we were able to speak with several executives. They are in a very unique industry, in which the technology is so complex there are only about ten true competitors and most of them work very closely with each other in order to financially fund projects. In particular they work with a U.S. based company called Orbital. Though there are cultural difficulties in working closely with foreign companies, they know that their work is for the betterment of the world and the knowledge and technology they develop will change the world. This mentality gives them an advantage compared with other global based industries. The facilities were really cool, and we were able to see some of the environmental chambers, as well as the vibration testing equipment. I think we all really enjoyed this one; they were very knowledgeable and very interesting to talk to. We may even have dinner with them before we leave Toulouse.

Next we did a walking tour around Toulouse, and saw a lot of their ancient history that the city is built on. We were able to see ancient Roman artifacts found right here in Toulouse. We also went into a couple churches, one being the largest catholic church in Europe. Toulouse has some great history, and we really needed our guide to explore it.


The South of France

1 Jun 2013

by jordan laycock

Imagine a thirteenth century castle armed with two impenetrable walls and hundreds of deadly accurate archers. This is the scene I imagined as our group strolled up to the castle of La Cite De Carcassonne, which was built on the base of Roman walls from the third century BC. This remarkable structure had never been breached thanks to the walls and constant guards. The French king’s people could feel very safe living inside. This was an unbelievable fortress with walls that stretched about a mile long. France has such a rich history, and it is really fun to be able to learn what it has to offer.

Our next stop was Narbonne, a quaint town a little more south of Carcassonne. Finally the European weather is getting better; because we are about two hours further south, it was a lot warmer. This town was small, but had a lot to offer. We were first greeted by the booming sounds of a traditional Southern French drum group. It was fun to take in the scenic square and listen to beats of the drums. Next we entered the tallest Cathedral in Europe. Though it was only half finished, it was very impressive.
The rest of the evening we are meeting with an American employee from Thales that has transferred here to Toulouse. He is introducing us to a typical French restaurant. He is a very interesting guy, so we are all excited to have the chance to pick his brain.



2 Jun 2013

by jordan laycock

Today was a travel day to Munich. We met the guide and ate at a local brewery, which was a great meal. Unfortunately it was bad weather, but we were able to see the famous Hofbrauhaus. Also Bayren Munich won their championship cup, so there was a huge celebration in town. Most Germans are very willing to speak English, so it was fun to chat with people and learn about the culture.


A Dreary Day in Dachau

3 Jun 2013

by jordan laycock

Today was our trip to Dachau, a concentration camp just outside Munich. The dreary weather was very appropriate for the atmosphere of the place, because this is where tens of thousands of people were murdered. This particular camp was a work camp and used as a distribution center to other subsidiary camps used mainly to build roads, or manufacture ammunition and weapons. Our guide was very knowledgeable, and it was interesting to hear it from a German’s perspective. Today they see it as we do, that it is a horrific part of our history, but it can never be forgotten. Of course this was not always true; this particular camp had to be rebuilt so that it may always be remembered.

Our group has really learned to love authentic German food; the guide suggested pizza, but we wanted German. After lunch we made a stop to the iconic sight of Southern Germany, the Nymphenburg Palace. Built in the 17th century, this was the residence of the royal family that ruled the Bavaria region of Germany. The building consists of both French and Baroque architecture. The decorations inside are beautiful, consisting of crystal chandeliers, gold plated frames of artwork, and full murals on the ceilings. An interesting tradition that came from this place is when King Ludwig I was married here, they threw a huge party in which the entire population was invited. They still celebrate this party once a year; we all know it as Oktoberfest.


The Exploration of GE Labs

4 Jun 2013

by jordan laycock

Today was our corporate meeting with GE research laboratories. A couple of us have worked in the R&D field and some have had internships with different divisions of GE, so we could really relate to this visit. Being an R&D facility, he stressed the importance of innovation; however, it was quite different from Google’s way. Instead of the 20% rule, they let the workers do experiments and have a built-in budget to conduct experiments–usually outside the facility. They have quite an array of divisions in this location, from medical imaging, to wind energy, and these all overlap between a diverse team of employees.
The rest of the day is a free day for us to explore and dive into the culture on our own. One group took a train to see the Neuschwanstein castle tucked away in the beautiful alps of southern Germany. This castle was what inspired the castle at Disney World. Another group of us stayed in town to visit the English Garden. It is a beautiful park where all the locals hang out to drink in the beer gardens, sun tan (of course it is still quite cold, so not today), and to just meet up with friends. Usually filled with people, it wasn’t too crowded, but it was cool to see. Tomorrow is our last full day in Munich. We have a visit to BMW in the morning and then the evening free to explore the city further.



5 Jun 2013

by jordan laycock


Today was our visit to the famous Bavarian Motor Works, or as the world knows it, BMW. We had both a company visit and a plant tour to help us a learn about their company. Both experiences gave us a great background of the company and their future. They gave us a little insight into their new electric vehicles and also how they have sustained business for almost one hundred years.
We enjoyed our last day of Munich, and tomorrow are headed a couple hours north towards Stuttgart.



6 Jun 2013

by jordan laycock

Today was our early train ride to Stuttgart. It is a smaller city than Munich, only the sixth largest city of Germany, but the number one cultural city of the country. Our tour was of DLR a German space reasearch center that specializes in testing equipment. Our tour consisted of three lab tours of their design and manufacturing technologies, fuel cell systems, and battery testing labs. They were very interesting speakers and we could all relate as fellow engineers and researchers.

After our tour, our guide showed us around town, and I can see why it was the number one cultural city of Germany. The center of the city is a green space square, and is crowded with people. This is a nice change from the bustling city. Tomorrow is all business tours, and a full day of learning.


Kpunkt and Mercedes

7 Jun 2013

by jordan laycock

Today was our visit to Kpunkt and Mercedes. The first visit was a technology marketing company, which is a small company of only twenty employees. They do both internal and external marketing of technical products. We were especially interested in their stories about the cultural issues they have to deal with, and as we learned in class, it is very important to learn the culture before doing business. It was very interesting, and a nice change of pace from the larger corporate companies.

Our trip to Mercedes gave us a chance to compare them to their close competitor, BMW. This tour was a little different; we were able to get very close to the manufacturing process and assembly. After both tours, I think our group is about split in half on which brand we will buy after our success. Tomorrow is our tour of Stuttgart with our guide.


Studying in Stuttgart

9 Jun 2013

by jordan laycock

Today was our cultural tour of Stuttgart with our guide . Our first stop was the Museum Der Bildenden Kunste, which is the local art museum and has a lot of famous paintings from original Picassos to Andy Warhol. Despite the stereotype of Germany being a beer country, Stuttgart has a long history of wine, and in fact some of the buildings were built using wine as opposed to water. We were able to get away from the city and see the beautiful vineyards and countryside.
Next we moved on to the Mercedes Museum, which was made up of double helix that featured the beginning history of Mercedes all the way to the predicted future. Their history is very rich, from the first combustion engine car to the first commercialized hybrid car. Tomorrow is our long journey to Prague, and due to transfers will take about eight hours.




9 Jun 2013

by jordan laycock

Today we made our long journey to Prague in the Czech Republic. Despite traveling all day, we had a guided tour of the castle complex across the river. Prague has a very rich history, and their architecture shows that, from the 13th century bridges to the castle complex to the cobblestone streets. The main attraction in the complex is the stunning gothic style St. Vitus Cathedral.

After our tour we had a typical Czech meal consisting of our choice of goulash, garlic rabbit or duck along with sauerkraut and dumplings. The meal was delicious and we have all decided that our European meals have been some of the best food we have ever had.


The Bone Church

10 Jun 2013

by jordan laycock

Today was our day trip to Kuntas Hora, a town about an hour drive from Prague. They are most famous for the bone church that sits in the middle of a cemetery. The church is very eerie inside, and is decorated with four mounds of real human bones, a chandelier made of bones, and several wall decorations including a crest of the city. All of these bones were dug up after they had decayed, and most of them were found in mass unknown graves from the black plague. When our guide told us we were going to the bone church, I never expected anything like this. There is a picture below, but it doesn’t do justice compared to seeing it in person.

Next we went to a breathtaking Gothic cathedral atop a hill; it was beautiful inside and many of the original paintings are still in place unlike the other cathedrals we have seen. We also got to see the ancient mint used to make coins dating as far back as the thirteenth century. It is really cool to see that at least this part of the country has so much preserved original architecture.

The rest of the night is free to explore the city. Tomorrow is our business tour of GE Aviation.


GE, AMI and Farewell Dinner

12 Jun 2013

by jordan laycock

This last post is about our final two days of the program. Yesterday we visited GE aviation where they manufacture and assemble agricultural plane engines. They bought out a failing company in 2008 in order to enter the turboprop market. It was interesting to hear how they integrated the company, and the difficulties they had teaching a new way of management, because they were still used to the communistic way of management. It is essentially a new company with the deep pockets of a large company, which gives them a big advantage in entering a new market.

Today we visited AMI Communications, which is a PR company for the government and the corporate world of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. PR has to be done a little differently here, because of their history with the Iron Curtain, the people are very skeptical of what they are told by the government. It was interesting to hear a different perspective, and learning about their innovative techniques in order to be so successful in this line of work.

The rest of the afternoon we wandered around and explored the city. This is our last day and the weather was great, so we grabbed a map and just started walking. Tonight we had our farewell dinner near our hotel at a very elegant restaurant, certainly a nice change of pace from the kebab shops. It was a nice dinner for all of us to be together and reflect on all that we have done and learned thus far.

On behalf of our group, I want to thank all of the faculty, staff and donors that made this unbelievable experience possible. This is a trip we will never forget, and has been a great learning and networking experience.