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Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Today our first company visit was with Motorola.  They had reserved a meeting room for us at a local hotel, since space was limited in their office building.  The hotel was amazing.  If our hotel was a 5-star, this one was at least 10.  

Two Motorola executives were there for the presentation.  Biao was the VP of Corporate Communications.  He was a China native, and spoke perfect English with a deep British accent.  Lee was VP of Human Resources.  He also spoke fluent English.

They gave us a brief overview of the cellular phone market in China.  The market is only about 30% saturated right now, which surprised me.  It seems like everyone in Beijing is talking on a cell phone.  The youth market is huge.  Most teenagers buy a new phone approximately every 3 months.  Kids in China have a lot of disposable income.  The teenagers of today are the second generation of China’s one-child policy.  None of them have any brothers or sisters or aunts or uncles or cousins.  Each of them is not only an only child, but an only grandchild to two sets of grandparents.  Chinese children are therefore very spoiled. 

The latest things in Chinese phones are pen-based phones.  These phones have a large touch screen and a stylus.  You can write on the touch screen with the stylus, and the phone translates it into text.  This is a huge improvement in Chinese text messaging.  Text messaging in English is pretty straightforward.  You have the 10 phone buttons to cover 26 letters.  Chinese has over 16,000 different characters.  Previously, in order to send a text message in Chinese, you had to type the word in regular English letters phonetically.  Then the phone would make it into a Chinese character.  This is cumbersome, since there are so many sounds in the Chinese language that really don’t translate into English.  Chinese text messaging has almost become a completely different language, which I find very interesting.  The pen-based phones eliminate the need for this.  You can just write your message directly in Chinese.

Biao passed around the phone he’s currently using.  It’s as thin as a RAZR phone, but has the large touch screen.  It also has a feature that can scan a business card and import all of that info into his address book automatically.  Pretty slick! 

Motorola is a huge brand in China, and it’s considered very prestigious to work for them.  Every time they have a job opening, they receive thousands of applications.  Mitesh (in my class) works for Motorola.  He’s a little bit psycho as far as his company loyalty goes.  He talks about Motorola all the time.  Every time he sees an ad for Nokia or LG, he gets angry.  Manzoor swears that Mitesh has a Motorola chip implanted in his head – he’s been assimilated into the Motorola collective.  I have to wonder what will happen to him when he loses his job.  It happens to all of us sooner or later.  I don’t think it’s healthy to have that much loyalty in a company, because a company will never be loyal to you.

After the Motorola meeting, we went back to the hotel area for lunch.  We ended up eating in another noodle hut.  I was not very hungry, so I didn’t order noodles.  I just had a plate of veggies with some kind of spicey sauce.  Very good. 

After lunch, we went to our next meeting at the Bank of Montreal.  This was within walking distance of our hotel.  This meeting was not very interesting to me.  I have never been too interested in the finance side of business, and investment banking just isn’t too exciting to me.

When I got back to the hotel, I took my laptop up to the Executive Lounge and worked on homework for awhile.  Then Happy Hour started, and some of my classmates showed up.  Then we all went to a nice restaurant for Peking Duck. 

We split into groups of 3 and took taxis to the restaurant.  Steppen and Jaime were in my taxi.  Steppen is a slightly crazy Korean guy.  I never see him without a drink in his hand, and often also a cigar.  In the cab, we were discussing whether it was feasible to ship some stuff home so that we didn’t have to take it to Thailand with us.  I asked Steppen, “How long does it take for something to be shipped from Asia to the States?”  Steppen replied, “Only about 6 or 7 days.  I asked my wife to ship me a bath towel yesterday, and I expect it to be waiting at the hotel in Bangkok.”  I said, “A what?  A bath towel?  Aren’t the towels in the hotel good enough for you?”  “They’re too small,” he said.  “Steppen,” I said, “I’m at least 6 inches taller than you, and the towels work fine for me.”  The whole towel issue became a standing joke.

At the Peking Duck restaurant, we were led to the second floor and down a long hallway.  We passed by a number of small, private rooms.  Apparently this restaurant was all private rooms.  In our room, we all sat down at 2 large, round tables.  We were served almost immediately, family-style, everything except the duck.  Leon had bought some wine, which the waitresses served.  Phil and Erica had met with Budweiser China earlier in the day, and they had brought a few large bottles of a new Bud product to dinner:  Bud Ultra.  We each got to sample it.  Not so good.  Tastes a lot like water. 

We made a number of toasts to Leon and Phil and Erica.  Then the Peking Duck was brought in.  The chef carved it at the table, and then the waitress showed us how to dip the pieces in sauce and wrap them up in a tortilla.

After we finished eating, Steppen announced that he was going out to have a cigar.  I had been telling Erica about his towel issue, and as he passed our table, she gave him a little crap about that.  Steppen FREAKED out, and yelled, “I DON’T HAVE TO DO WHAT YOU SAY!  YOU AIN’T MY MAMA!”  And then he ran from the room.  I have no idea what that was about.  I guess he must have been drunk.  

As we left the restaurant, we were handed a business card that said, in English and Chinese, “Take me to Bar Street!”  We hadn’t really experienced any local nightlife yet, so we hopped in a cab and handed the card to the driver.  Bar Street turned out to be a street lined with little pubs, and it seemed a little touristy.  We saw plenty of Americans and Europeans walking around.  The first bar we entered had live entertainment.  Three Chinese girls were singing along with recorded back-up music.  They sang songs in both English and Chinese, and they were pretty good.  When they took a break, we tried to talk to them, but it turned out that they really didn’t speak much English.  They were just imitating the songs.

The next bar we tried was a little hole-in-the-wall place.  Above the bar hung all kinds of money from different countries, with writing on them.  I took out one US dollar and wrote on it, “LFGSM 2006” and gave it to the bar tender to hang.  At this bar, I got a chance to talk to one of my classmates, Jim, for the first time.  He works for Aon, which is a company that Mike has done a lot of business with.  Jim doesn’t work with the consulting side that Mike worked with, though.  He does something with engineering and fire protection systems.  He does a lot of work with the city of Chicago.  We figured out that he probably works with our friend Aric.  Small world.  I also learned that Jim had a daughter who was 25 years old – only 4 years younger than me.  I had no idea he was old enough to have a 25 year old daughter! 

We moved on to one final bar.  It was a really nice lounge-type place with plush red furniture.  They had a really nice bathroom, too.  At this bar, I got to talk with another classmate, Pete.  Pete had lived in Belgium for 2.5 years, on an assignment from his company.  While there, he had met his fiancé, a Hungarian.  She now lived with him in Chicago.  She was keeping her EU citizenship so that they would always have the option of living either in the US or EU.

At some point in the evening, we started playing the “Guess How Old I Am” game.  I guessed everyone’s age within one year.  For my age, I got guesses of 38, 36, and 33.  There was a lot of back-pedaling when I revealed my real age.

 Very interesting day.  I got to learn a lot about my classmates.

Go to March 8