Day 16: Just Because it’s Gilded Doesn’t Make it Great

So, we last left off with the gawd-awfully awesome black and gold-gilded bathroom. I knew it was too good to be true – and it was. We were woken up in the middle of the night by “drip..splat…………….drip..splat……………..drip..splat” of the air conditioner. Positive: the room had AC. Negative: it dripped loudly onto the carpet. After a  middle-of the night trip to the front desk we were told that we could switch rooms in the morning.

We got to sleep in a little more and had breakfast at the hotel before we started out to visit Aarhus (pronounced oar-huus). As my luck has it, every single church was closed. Seriously – Scandinavian churches have something against me! We went to the Aros art museum where we saw some very interesting exhibits, including a room filled with fog and another with ceiling fans being reflected onto the floor. The most famous work of art here is The Boy.

Afterwards we took a walk up to Den Gamle By, an outdoor air museum that showcases Danish city life (unlike most other ones that highlight farming life). The Botanical Gardens were connected so we decided to take a horse and carriage ride around it. Gorgeous! We also decided to grab some lunch here and boy was I happy we did – they had meatballs! I know, dear readers, that you’ve picked up on the lack of meatballs in my postings so I’m happy that I am able to bring them back one more time. They were actually quite tasty and I’m glad that I was able to have them one last time.

After changin grooms and relaxing (aka napping due to the lack of sleep due to the AC the previous night) we headed out to the canal for dinner before heading back to the hotel and bed. Only one more full day in Denmark before we head back to the good ole U.S.of.A.

VT Scan trip 2015… done and done

My last day in Copenhagen was spent well. I slept in a bit, and then headed out to do a canal tour of Copenhagen. After doing the canal tour, Anna and I went and hung out at a outdoor bar by the canal. Those of us who stayed on the extra day all met up for dinner at Nyhavn and enjoyed our last night there.

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This morning we headed to the airport and said goodbye to Europe. I was happy to get home to my family, but I definitely was glad at all I experienced on this trip and my wanderlust to see more of Europe is still very alive. The eight hour flight during daytime (overnight flights are always rough for me) was smooth and I was welcomed home by my family at the airport.

I went home and unpacked, did laundry, and went through my mail. I was going to check my work e-mails, but apparently two weeks is how long it takes me to forget my work computer password, so I have to wait and call our IT department tomorrow so that I can get them to tell me my log in info.

Reflecting back on this trip it has been an amazing two weeks and I really feel like I got to see so much. I feel like I was able to relax in some ways that I haven’t for years; taking a break from the “real world” is definitely needed from time to time. I also feel like I can look back at grad school now not just as a part-time thing I did to get a degree, but an actual experience, with friends and connections that have been made.

I’m signing off for now – Scandinavia will be missed.

One more day…

I opted to stay an additional day for more time to explore Copenhagen. Noelle and I slept in (which was amazing) and spent the day in Nyhavn. We had lunch at a cute little coffee shop, went on a canal tour, and just walked around. During the canal tour, we passed by the Opera House and saw a Danish princess walking in! There was a carpet rolled out for her, a royal boat, guards, and a LOT of people! We also saw the famous little mermaid statue and a few other popular sites in Copenhagen. The group that stayed met up for one last dinner together and ate outside right on the canal. Afterwards, Noelle and I stayed in Nyhavn to explore the town a bit more before heading home in the morning. I can’t believe I will be back in the US tomorrow!

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The Little Mermaid statue from our boat tour

The Little Mermaid statue from our boat tour

Maersk, Carlsberg, and our last night together!

Friday morning we visited Maersk, which is the company Noelle and I are researching. I was pretty excited about this visit because I think they are one of the more interesting companies on the trip. We had three presenters to talk about the Maersk Group in general, Maersk’s in house consulting service, and the Key Client Sales program. This was by far my favorite presentation of all the companies we visited. The presenters were well spoken, full of information, and interesting to listen to. I was sad when the time ran out because I had so many questions I wanted to ask! I think most of my classmates felt the same. It’s pretty incredible that they are responsible for a huge portion of global trade. They described their operations as a giant conveyor belt of ships that are moving goods where they need to go. While researching the company, I read a lot about Daily Maersk, a service that guarantees container delivery on a certain day of when it is shipped. This seemed to be a very unique service in the shipping industry because it is difficult to predict when a container will arrive to the day, and many containers are late. When we heard about it during the visit, we were told the customers didn’t care much about the service! This is the type of information that I could only get from the company visit versus independent research on the internet. The reason it isn’t a popular service is because the ocean portion of a container’s journey has the least variance. Daily Maersk only guarantees when the container will arrive at the port, not necessarily when it arrives to  a final destination.

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Overall, this company really impressed me. The breadth of knowledge the employees have, their passion, and the mission of the company made the visit so unique. When I finish the MBA program, I may start looking at their job openings in the states!

We ended the trip with a visit to Carlsberg which included a guided tour of the brewery and free beers after! There was a self guided tour which a few of us also went on, where we saw a room of beer that had about ten aisles of nothing but beer!

 

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After the tour we had a few hours to explore before dinner, so Noelle and I went to Christiania. Honestly, I was a  bit hesitant to visit the area, but I figured I might as well see as much of Copenhagen as possible while I’m here! There was no photography allowed, so unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the area, but it was cool to see all the graffiti artwork in the area. Christiania is a little area in Copenhagen that pretty much ‘makes its own rules’ and is left alone by the police for the most part. When we left, there was a sign at the exit that said “You are now entering the EU.” … ha!

For our last night together, we ate dinner at the hotel, gave out superlatives for the trip, hung out on the hotel  patio, and went to Tivoli! Tivoli was GORGEOUS at night and I totally understand why this is such a huge attraction in Copenhagen. There was a live band and beautiful lights that lit up the whole area. I went on one of the roller coasters but mainly just enjoyed soaking up our last night as a group. It was so nice to hang out with everyone – I can’t believe this trip is coming to an end!

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The most anticipated visit – LEGO!

The day is finally here – we went to LEGO headquarters in Billund today! I was smiling the moment I saw the huge lego blocks at the entrance of the facility. We got to tour the plant and watch legos being produced right in front of us! We walked into a huge room with dozens of machines making injection moldings of specific legos and robots roaming freely. One of the things I found interesting is that one tiny lego person requires 9 moldings to make all the necessary body parts! I never thought about the work that went in to such a small toy. After the tour we listened to two presentations about the company and even got to play with legos (and take some home!). The hosts were very generous and gave us each a lego set as we left. I have really enjoyed the company presentations because I hear so many things that I never thought of before that companies have to think about. For Lego in particular, I found it so interesting that they consider Apple a competitor. This is something I never would have even thought about before – but I always see young children playing on iPads and iPhones!

I was here!

I was here!

LEGO HQ

LEGO HQ

Hokies in Billund!!

Hokies in Billund!!

After the visit with the company we got to go to Lego Land for a few hours, which was pretty cool! The rides were a bit tamer than American theme parks, but still fun! There was a ‘build your own ride’ that you choose the flips and turns you want on a computer and your ride is customized. Walking up, there were huge machine arms (that kind of looked like the big robotic arms we have seen in the factory visits) with seats at the end. Of course, Ashley and I chose the rides with the most flips and turns and spent a lot of time upside down!

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The Lego Land adventure was a good experience and it was cool to see so many things built out of legos! We hopped back on the bus and started on to our final destination – Copenhagen! I know I speak for many of my classmates when I say that this was the most anticipated destination of our trip! We got in around 10:30 PM which left us some time to explore the city. A pretty big group of us went to a little pub (which we pretty much took over) for a few drinks. It was Allison’s birthday the day before so we wanted to show her a good time! We danced and enjoyed the night life in Copenhagen – I am already in love with this city!

Travel Day (a bit longer than expected!)

On Wednesday we said farewell to Sweden and hopped on a three hour ferry to Denmark. It wasn’t long after we arrived and got back on the bus that our bus got a flat tire! None of us were expecting to be sitting at a rest stop for about three hours, but it was a beautiful day and we all sat outside playing games, sun bathing, and even had a beer! We rolled into Kolding at about 8pm, had dinner, hung out in the lobby with each other and rested up for our day at Lego in the morning. To be honest, I kind of enjoyed getting stranded with my class! We got to hang out more as a group and made the best of an unexpected situation. At dinner, we all sang to Allison because it was her birthday! Kolding wasn’t exactly the most exciting town in Denmark, so we decided to wait until Copenhagen to celebrate with her!

Last Day, No. 14: End of an Era

On Friday, as we’d done virtually everyday of the trip, everybody was on time for the bus to head to our first stop of the day, Maersk. It’s pretty impressive the punctuality of the whole class, since there were 29 of us (including Dr. Hoopes, Carol, and Yon) that needed to be in one spot at one specific time.

At Maersk, everybody was on their A game, bombarding the speakers with question after question about the business. The two in-house consultants who came to speak about themselves and the in-house consulting industry drew plenty of questions, as many in the class had never heard of in-house consulting before. Although I saw plenty of the benefits of in-house consulting, including lower costs and more specific expertise on the “Maersk way” of doing things, part of the benefits of hiring consultants is an outside perspective. Even though Maersk has several industries that they operate in, the Maersk in-house consultants will always be limited in the depths of their experiences to Maersk ones, as well as any they already previous had. Nevertheless, the two gentlemen were very impressive and clearly brought value to Maersk, so I appreciated their thoughts and perspective.

The next young lady who spoke to us, although I can’t recall her name, was a 31 year old rising star in the company, who had been working there for the last 12 years. She was a delight and provided candid feedback to all questions we presented about challenges for Maersk and the industry itself. I felt she spoke as a great advocate of Maersk, without wearing “rose colored glasses”, providing honest opinions and insights. I felt it was a great pleasure which, based on feedback, many of my classmates felt as well.

After a brief stop for lunch, we headed to Carlsberg for a tour of their site. As there was a mix up in times, our guide gave us an expedited tour of the site grounds and history of Carlsberg. The most interesting of note to the tour was the use of, what Americans know as a swastika, had in fact been a symbol of the sun which provides life, prosperity and good fortune. Although the rise of Nazi Germany made this symbol taboo for most, Carlsberg still adorns the symbol on its roof and art at the elephant gate. They believe the symbol still represents the values it used to before its reputation was stained. It’s interesting because, just as some southern states are divided over the Confederate flag and what it symbolizes, I wonder if Denmark and Carlsberg share similar dividedness over the use of the symbol. I’ll probably read more up on it in the coming days to learn more about it’s history.

Oh yes, and there was free beer on the tour! Most members of the class visited the beer bottle collection and walked through the museum, enjoying a cold delicious pint. It was great weather and great way to cap the culmination of 13 companies visited in 13 days.

That night, we shared one last group dinner together at the hotel. We followed that with an emotionally filled Superlatives ceremony, where we recognized each other’s favorite traits and admired all for their general well-rounded and wonderful personalities. We also got a chance to thank Dr. Hoopes and Yon for all of their contributions on the trip!

It was a great way to finish our trip. We continued to Tivoli for some great music and rides before the last batch of us made our way to a local nightspot. The ending is bittersweet as, although I’m looking forward to my wedding and what lies ahead, it was an awesome two weeks and more importantly, I’m going to miss an amazing group of people I got a chance to know on this trip.

Here’s a few of faves from the last night:

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Ashley & I at Tivoli
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Roommates in Deep Thought
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Hans Being Hans

Day 13: Everything is Awesome

We entered Thursday on the last legs of our trip, the mood moderately sad and nostalgic, yet excited for the adventures still ahead. We started the day by going to visit the Lego Group, first taking a stop at their production facility and later at their headquarters.

The first stop at the production facility went like many others, with a reminder that photos and other recording devices were not allowed to be used past the lobby. What made the Lego stop unique however, was the symbols of ‘fun’ emanating from all directions, with vibrant colors and Lego figurines scattering the walls and office space.

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Inside the production facility, our tour started out venturing through the manufacturing line. Robots safely whizzed up and down the rows of the facility, gathering boxes of completed product, replacing them with empty ones, and brining the full boxes to the packaging location. We also got to see where the molds of their 10,000+ designs were located, as well as where boxes were stored for delivery and picked from cranes to be shipped out. It was a brief tour but a great experience to see how a world-class quality company manufactures and ships its products.

Later, we received a briefing at the headquarters. They had a great twenty minute video which introduced the class to the history of Lego. Despite losing his wife and raising four kids on his own and the factory burning down, losing all his drawings, the founder, Ollie Christiansen, showed great resiliency and determination to fight and keep Lego moving forward. His family continues the tradition of customer satisfaction and quality excellence and innovation to this day.

One highlight of the morning was having a quick duck making showdown followed by a truck building challenge.  Below is a pic of my results:

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In the afternoon, we visited Legoland. Even though it was mostly a kid-themed park, there were some cool activities including the Polar Express coaster and the Star Wars Pilot training ride. I reverted to a familiar American activity and enjoyed a two-scooped Ben & Jerry’s cone. Mark Z, Allison S., Mark A., Alex, Anna, Ashley, and myself spent most of the day together, sharing fun experiences and getting to know each other better. It was a lot of fun and am realizing I’m definitely going to miss hanging how with our entire class of amazing people.

Since it’s the end of the trip, a large group of about 20 or so went out at night to celebrate Allison Stout’s birthday. It was a blast as, led by Allison, everybody sang and danced the night away.

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Wrapping it up with cargo ships, beers, dinner and a theme park!

It is extremely tough to believe that 2 weeks have come and gone so quickly.  Our company visits to Maersk and Carlsberg round out our 3 country – 8 hotel –  13 company tour of Scandinavia.

Our first stop was Maersk where we heard from a set of internal consultants as well as one of the sales directors focused on their largest clients as well as their forwarders who assist with the delivery components to and from the freighter.

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The internal consultants brought a very different focus in terms of their presentation compared to what we’ve seen in these two weeks.  I think it hit home for many of us who are in the government consulting space and aren’t necessarily producing products for the market.  Their group was relatively new in terms of the various Maersk product lines and noted that they bring the following key benefits to the organization:

  • Global Talent Development Network
  • Superior Project Execution Engine
  • SME’s in the industries they work
  • Cost competitive alternative to external consultants

They were formed in 2012 and were created to provide an alternative to outside consulting services for Maersk’s projects and initiatives.  Their group deals with an interesting dynamic as they are sometimes treated as colleagues while at other times are treated the same as external consultants – both scenarios have pros and cons, but throws an interesting twist during and after their project engagements.  They look forward to growing and providing more value to Maersk in the years to come.

One of the concepts that stood out to me during the internal consultant presentation was Maersk’s concept of “Must-Win-Battles”.  There were initiatives, programs, or projects that were critical to Maersk’s strategic and corporate goals and therefore received the highest priority.  Coming from past work experiences where everything is a priority (therefore nothing is a priority), it was refreshing to hear that this designation was in place to guide the overarching objectives over a given year.  I asked about whether these priorities remained intact during a period of time, and it sounds like they do remain at the proper priority levels without other efforts disrupting the process.  While some must-win efforts sounded like they may span multiple years, they stressed that they are reviewed annually, and the process has been beneficial.

Our next speaker was the Director of Key Client Sales and discussed the sales approach and methodology in terms of how they sell container space to their clients on one of the Maersk Line ships.  The speaker was very engaging and captured our class’s attention and she described what her customers most valued and how they articulated the Maersk value proposition in a very low margin and cost competitive environment.  She outlined several areas of importance for customers which Maersk needs to be cognizant of when selling their services – the top 4 area are: their own market (whether it be socks, shoes, avocados, etc.), their total supply chain cost (not just the cost of shipping), reliability (delivery, invoice accuracy, etc.), and global coverage (Maersk’s key clients operate globally and they need to know their transportation vendors can work globally as well.

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We eventually ran out of time for the Q&A, but I think many more of my colleagues would have continued asking questions if time allowed – overall it was a great lecture and provided several insights into Maersk as a company as well as some of their specific lines and services.

Following Maersk, we headed to the original Carlsberg brewery where they started production many years ago and have continued production and beer innovation ever since.  While our tour was short, there were some nuggets that I found interesting.  For instance, the original head of Carlsberg was very focused on the science of beer brewing and production and through various trials and innovation created a very reliable, stable and consistent form of yeast which is a critical component of beer production.

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What was most interesting, was that Carlsberg’s founder decided to share this knowledge with the rest of the beer industry rather than keep it as a competitive advantage.  While this seemed crazy to me, our guide mentioned that this act provided Carlsberg with an immense amount of marketing, and the Carlsberg yeast is used across the beer industry to this day.

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Following our tour, we all were able to kick back and sample several of Carlsberg’s brands and start to reminisce about our past 2 weeks of travel and company visits.  The cold beer also helped cool the group off as it was a very toasty day – even by our standards (it was probably sweltering for the Danes).

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After an hour or so of checking out the gift shop, enjoying some beverages and seeing some of the old production areas and parts of the Carlsberg museum we hopped back on the bus and headed back to Copenhagen.

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Our group wrapped up the day and evening checking out various sites in the city including the famous canal street of Nyhavn.  After a short little walking tour, we headed back for our final dinner together as a class.

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Following dinner, Prof. Hoopes wrapped up our adventure with some closing remarks and a series of “Back of the Bus” awards across a variety of categories such as Most Laid Back, Sleepiest, Happiest, Best Athlete, etc.  All of the categories were voted on by the class and I ended up getting enough votes for runner-up on Quietest (kind of  bummer), Most Adventurous Eater (can’t argue that), and Best Dressed (I’ll happily take this one seeing as I ended up re-wearing quite a few outfits 😛

To wrap up the night most of the class ventured to Tivoli which is one of the oldest amusement parks in Europe.

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Right in the center of Copenhagen, it includes a large concert venue, roller coasters, rides, food and plenty of other amusement park staples.  It really is an impressive venue, especially when it begins to get dark and the park is all lit up – it also made for some interesting people watching as we saw quite a few crazy looking (and acting) locals.

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Overall, it was a great way to wrap up an exciting trip with a great group of people!