Thursday, June 28, 2012

Walking Tour

It was our first full day in St. Petersburg, and here are my impressions so far:
  • This city is cold. Really cold. June is supposed to be the warmest time of the year here, but this morning it was only about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, if that.
  • It is a beautiful and quaint city, very different from the commercial hub of Moscow.

Today began with an informal presentation by Peter, founder of Peter's Walking Tours. Once we learned about the background of his business, we set off on a tour of the city. Peter was an amazing guide who truly demonstrated his passion for this city and his knowledge of its history, while showing us both prototypical landmarks, as well as unique ones. We enjoyed the experience so much that we agreed to go on a private midnight boat tour with his company on Saturday. Below are photos of sites that we visited along our tour.

Summer Palace of Peter the Great

Summer Gardens of Peter the Great

For lunch, a few of us ate at Cafe Botanika, a great vegetarian restaurant. We were so happy to have a warm respite from the cold and delicious, healthy food to last us through the day.

In the afternoon, we had a presentation from Edgar Pauly, General Manager of the Novotel St. Petersburg. He reminded me so much of professor Christian Dussart, not only due to his French accent but also in the words he used (e.g. "servuction"). After the presentation, we all did a round of vodka shots together - Na Zdrovie! 

This entry was originally posted on the HEC Montreal Campus Abroad blog here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Train of Thought

Well, this has been an "interesting" day! It started off well when we headed to Deloitte. Our presentation was led by Alexander Bragin, Partner, Tax and Legal Leader for Russia. He was very open about discussing corruption in Russia and how Deloitte avoids corrupt transactions (answer:  the company does not work with the public sector). It was an enjoyable visit and I am glad that I had the opportunity to peek inside a Deloitte office. While outside the office building, I took the dichotomous photo below that demonstrates Moscow's complex contradiction of old with new.

Later, in the afternoon, we took the high-speed train from Moscow to St. Petersburg. The Moscow train station was hazy, hot, and filled with sketchy people. Fortunately, we did not stay there long and were quickly ushered outside the building. When we were on the train and loading our giant luggages onto the upper shelf, I captured a telling moment of a passenger worryingly looking above.

And although the train was moving at a rapid pace, I was still able to take a photo of the landscape as we forged ahead. It was a very picturesque ride (see below).

Finally, once we arrived at our destination, we were anxious to explore our new surroundings. Most of us headed out onto the St. Petersburg streets together, looking for a place to eat and drink. In the end, we were split into three groups, with my group ending up at Carl's Jr. of all places. Yes, we certainly won the jackpot with our American fast-food restaurant chain find.

Fortunately, we have several more days and many more chances to locate quality food in this city.

This entry was originally posted on the HEC Montreal Campus Abroad blog here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Not feeling well while on this trip is a huge bummer. Not only does it not feel good, it also feels like you are missing out on the experience. Thus, when I was feeling nauseous this morning, I happily accepted two Gravol that were handed to me by my group member. The only bad part was that I was extremely sleepy for the rest of the day. I slept on the entire bus ride to and from Klin and I slept on the bus while everyone else visited the Tchaikovsky House-Museum.

Once we arrived at the AB InBev brewery in Klin, I was still drowsy. Fortunately, I kept my eyes wide enough not to break any of the strict safety regulations. I even enjoyed a glass of Hoegaarden during the taste test where we were offered several varieties of beer. The AB InBev team was so nice to us, taking us through a long tour of the facilities, feeding us lunch, and giving us parting gifts. I feel bad that I was not fully alert during our time there. What I will always remember, though, is the passion and dedication that the employees showed at the brewery. Below is a nice photo of us in our safety gear.

This entry was originally posted on the HEC Montreal Campus Abroad blog here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Open Communication

These days are so long and jam-packed with activities that by the time I get to the end of the day, it's hard to even remember how the day began. We started off today with a visit to the strategic communications firm PBN Hill+Knowlton. President Susan Thurman even stopped by our meeting to tell us about her experience in starting PBN (before the merger), and about her move from the US to the Russian market. Below is a photo from inside the PBN Hill+Knowlton office building.

After lunch on Arbat Street (my third time there), we headed over to the Canadian Embassy (second time there). It was here that we mostly learned about the role of the Canadian Embassy in Russia.

Once that visit ended, my team walked to what we thought was the right direction for our meeting with a Russian entrepreneur for our assignment. Though we weren't going the right way, we managed to get a couple nice pictures during our walk (see below).

In front of the Kremlin

Saint Basil's Cathedral

As soon as we made it to the proper location for Cafe Mechta ("Dream Cafe"), we were happy to meet Vladimir Kanin, entrepreneur and CEO of Optiflame Solutions. Vladimir taught us a lot about his business, the renewable energy sector, what it is like to operate within the Russian market, international business practices, his upcoming project with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and his relationship with the Skolkovo Innovation Centre. It was interesting to begin the day with a communications firm and to end it with an entrepreneur saying that communication was the most important factor in business. I would like to thank Vladimir for taking the time to meet with us, as well as my classmate Anastasia for arranging the meeting.

This entry was originally posted on the HEC Montreal Campus Abroad blog here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Works of Art

We finally got to sleep in today! After all the walking we've been doing and the time we've been spending in the sun, it was necessary. During the overcast and chilly morning, a few of us visited some metro stations along the brown line to explore and take photos of these architectural and artistic beauties. See my favorite photo below of the stained glass from inside the metro station, with two of my classmates casually standing by.

We didn't just ride the metro for fun, though. Halfway around the circular brown line, we stopped at the massive Ministry of Foreign Affairs and strolled along Arbat Street (see below).

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Arbat Street

Stopping at the Princess Turandot statue in front of the Vakhtangov Theatre

Afterwards, four of us went to the ARTPLAY Design Center, which turned out to be an interesting experience. It wasn't exactly what we had expected, but we did see another side of Moscow and got to step inside a modern art exhibit, school, and neighbourhood. Rather than seeing Lenin, we saw Lennon (see below).

This entry was originally posted on the HEC Montreal Campus Abroad blog here.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Russian Dolls

Today started with a visit to Moscow's historical Kremlin. Our visit coincided with a military school graduation at the complex, which meant that there were endless military processions including dancing, music, and marching. It definitely added a different spirit to this walled-in area of religious buildings. Below are a couple photos of the military activities from inside the Kremlin.

In the afternoon, we headed over to the Izmailovo Market to pick up our souvenirs and practice our negotiation skills in the meantime. Though there were many classic Russian dolls, known as "matryoshka," I also quite adored the modern Winnie-the-Pooh version (see below). Also below, you will see a photo of two of my group members choosing their matryoshka at the market.

This evening, our group separated in two. While the majority of the group went to a low-key meal, eight of us went to a nearby Georgian restaurant that was absolutely delicious. It was great to try a variety of foods from a new cuisine, and of course, to have excellent company. On the way back to the hotel, as we walked through the busy Saturday night crowds, it was crazy to see so many women dressed up with insanely high heeled shoes navigating the uneven, cobblestone streets. In fact, I have noted that this seems to be very much a part of the modern Russian women's style every day, and is not just reserved for Saturday evenings.

This entry was originally posted on the HEC Montreal Campus Abroad blog here.

Friday, June 22, 2012


This was such a long and amazing day that it's hard to know where to start when it comes to recounting the memories. I did want to say, though, that the coordinators did an excellent job of selecting the students for this Russia Campus Abroad journey. One of the criteria for the program was to be a giver, rather than a taker. I can safely say that that is absolutely true for each of the individuals on this trip, and that has been one of the major reasons why this has been an awesome experience. Not only have the activities been amazing, but the group dynamic has made every moment seem special.

With that being said, I can now dive into the details from the day. Our first stop today was at the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management. The combination of commerce, creativity, international minds, modern layout, and hefty price tag reminded me of C2-MTL. Below are a few photos from outside and inside the Skolkovo building.

While at Skolkovo, we learned that the name of the school is confusing because it is the same name as the school, the foundation, and the town. But while in this aspiring-to-be-Silicon Valley region, we had the opportunity to peek into a company called Vizerra. Vizerra is a 3D modelling technology organization and software that allows users to create and share three-dimensional images without having technological expertise. In fact, Vizerra was one of the winners of a "Business Project 2010" contest run by Google and Forbes Russia. What is additionally impressive is that Vizerra has already written about our visit on the company blog (see here.)

We managed to squeeze in a third company visit today at Thomson Reuters. Our visit was led by an HEC Montreal alumnus who answered our questions about the company and its challenges. Afterwards, we went to the Red October neighbourhood where we discovered a colourful and modern bar where we remained for the evening.

This entry was originally posted on the HEC Montreal Campus Abroad blog here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Walk in the Park

It is truly unbelievable how long the sun seems to be up here in Moscow. I woke up this morning at 7 AM when the bright sunshine was streaming into my hotel window. After an early but slow start to the morning, we headed over to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group.

There were a couple really fascinating things that I noted from our IFC visit. The first was when our host Andrei Yakovlev mentioned that the IFC does not have any internal marketing department (although the company does have a public relations unit). Rather, Andrei's role as an Investment Officer for Central and Eastern Europe, in large part, demands that he market the company through his own networking and business efforts. Secondly, when I asked about the IFC's most successful business transaction, Andrei highlighted that the IFC's investment in Yandex, the largest search engine in Russia, has had a three-digit percent return! In the photo below, you will see our group with Andrei (centre right with the tie) outside the IFC.

After the visit, my team went to Gorky Park where we strolled and relaxed (photos below). In fact, while lounging in some unique chairs in the park, we found ourselves engaged in a conversation with an entrepreneur who had recently received his MBA from a school in Germany. Upon realizing the time, we then rushed to have dinner in the park, but Russian restaurant service being typically slow, we waited quite a while before ordering and being served. Though we were in a hurry to get back to the hotel for our optional roundtable discussion with Madeleine Leroyer, a freelance journalist, we couldn't help but walk through the Fan Park 2012, a festival-like area that was set up for the soccer match, on our way toward the exit.

Cotton candy in Gorky Park

This entry was originally posted on the HEC Montreal Campus Abroad blog here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Different Red Square

This was a great introduction to the Russian culture, history, and business environment that we were all seeking. We started off the day with a full breakfast at the hotel, followed by lessons at the hotel from our two coordinators, Pierre-Emmanuel and Olga. Pierre-Emmanuel gave us helpful tips about navigating the city and Olga presented us with information about Unilever and her role at the Russian office of the company.

GUM Department Store

Then, we went to Red Square where we took pictures and had lunch at the GUM department store (photos above). Following our lunch, we began a team scavenger hunt around the city which was a lot of fun. As the winners, my team nabbed some vodka, pickles, champagne, dried fish, chocolate, and candy as our prize (photo below). The day was topped off with dinner at a restaurant serving food from Azerbaijan. All in all, our first full day in Russia was a highly enjoyable one.

This entry was originally posted on the HEC Montreal Campus Abroad blog here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Grand Entrance

I have arrived in Moscow! Simon, one of my classmates, met me at the Domodedovo (DME) Airport and with our combined wits, we were able to navigate the public transportation system to get to the hotel. (By the way, the escalators for the metro are not for the faint of heart.) I am now so lucky to be sitting on the 17th floor of the hotel, looking out onto a beautiful view of the city.

It was a full day of traveling, so I'm happy to finally be on solid ground. The others who have already arrived seem to be out and about, but I'm going to save my energy for tomorrow's first activities.

This entry was originally posted on the HEC Montreal Campus Abroad blog here.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Woman About Town

On Friday night, I attended a thank you party for all of the C2-MTL volunteers. It was a great opportunity to see the friends I made during the event and recount stories of our experiences. We even started talking about C2-MTL 2013; if I am in Montreal, I hope to be there!

I am still in the preparatory stage for my Russia Campus Abroad trip. Before I leave, I will be adding on my Rogers travel pack to my phone, so I can talk and text a bit while I am away. I have also gotten a Yuko treatment on my hair yesterday (see photo below), so that I won't have to blow-dry or straighten my hair during my travels.

I also wanted to say Happy Father's Day! There are several fathers (and mothers!) in my cohort, and their ability to juggle their student lives with their personal lives is quite impressive.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cover Girl

I finally get to share the results of my photo shoot from April! The 2010-2011 Fondation HEC Montreal annual report has been released and I am on the cover (see image below)! The annual report can be viewed here.

We also recently received access to our graduation photos. Unfortunately, my best photos are not the ones with me in the cap and gown or with a diploma, but rather in my typical garb.

This has been a busy week of preparing for my departure to Russia. As I write this, my entire wardrobe for the trip is completely covering my bed. Last night, we had an opportunity to have dinner at a Russian restaurant in Montreal called La Caverne, along with the Russia Campus Abroad students from last year. It was a great opportunity to ask questions and network with those who recently went on the trip.

I have also been coordinating with my P8 team to finalize our contract for the Supervised Consulting Project. It has been crazy but I am definitely looking forward to working with the National Film Board (NFB) soon! The film that we will be marketing highlights the struggles that women face in Canada. It is pretty timely considering the Globe and Mail's recent article entitled "Canada best in G20 for women - or is it?"

It was no surprise, though, that Canada was recently ranked in fourth place on the Global Peace Index (article here). With that in mind, I wish everyone a peaceful weekend and enjoy the St. Laurent street fair - I hope you find some good deals!

Monday, June 11, 2012

One Week Until Takeoff

The official countdown to Russia begins:  7 days! With only one week left until takeoff and so much to do before I go, this will definitely be a busy few days.

To prepare for our Russia Campus Abroad trip, we have had three sessions with our coordinators where we have learned about Russian history, culture, and corporations. Today, we had the final instalment of our Russian preparatory lessons and each of our teams presented background information about the companies we will be visiting.

We were also asked to list questions for the companies we will be visiting. Though I did not have any specific questions for the hosting organizations, I couldn't stop thinking about an Inc. article I read recently about Russian women ditching marriage to start businesses. I'm hoping that, while on the trip, I might encounter some women who can elaborate on the female startup/tech community in Russia. It definitely seems like a fascinating phenomenon!

One of the things that I will miss while I am away is the Montreal summer. Though I will only be away for a few weeks, summer is the best time to be in the city, with so much excitement and buzz. Everyone gets outside in the summer, and in fact, I ran into two former coworkers today while I was out for a walk. At least we will still be doing a ton of walking in Russia!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Big Apple

I am back! I spent the last four days in New York City (NYC). As always, my trip was a whirlwind experience of friends, family, food, and fun (all the best F's). I even had the opportunity to visit the TopMBA Connect office, to meet with their team. I had previously worked with them virtually when I developed articles for their MBA Blog, but this was the first time we met in person. It was great to be welcomed into such an open and inviting environment, and I look forward to continuing our work together. Below are a couple photos from my long weekend in NYC.

In the Financial District

Eating a Magnolia Bakery cupcake

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The End is Nearer

Another semester has ended! As I exited my Selling and Negotiating course this evening (my final MBA night class), it was officially the end of P6 for me. It was fitting that I took my graduation photos today, as I am one step closer to reaching the end of the program.

This morning, in Digital Marketing Strategy, one of the teams presented the Coca-Cola on Facebook case study. I was so impressed by their humorous video that I wanted to share it here on my blog for others to enjoy. Watch it below.

So, now that I am that much closer to graduation (and one year older and wiser), what is my advice to MBA students? I can say that making an assignment look nice and having a clean, clear presentation are key ingredients to a successful outcome. That is not to say that the content can be disregarded. However, it simply means that, when an excellent grade is achieved, it seems to come hand in hand with a nicely polished product.

With an undergraduate degree in Arts, this is something that I never really needed to think about before. I had previously submitted 10 page papers that had no graphics, just pure text with a continuous stream. However, for an MBA class, don't forget to create nice cover pages, use titles within the document, and produce creative and simple PowerPoint slides. These elements should not be overlooked.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Party's Over

I wanted to thank everyone for the lovely birthday wishes! Since I worked hard to finish my schoolwork by Friday, I was able to truly enjoy the weekend with friends and family. In fact, while my dad was in town, I got a surprise birthday dessert at Aziatik!

As I return my focus to the MBA, though, it seems that there are some interesting business school reports in the news. The Globe and Mail stated that MBA students offer an excellent discounted alternative to businesses seeking the advice of consultants (article here). In fact, that is exactly what our P8 semester is designed to do. At the low price of only $7,500, businesses have the opportunity to get consulting services from diverse, professional HEC Montreal MBA teams. My team is actually currently in the midst of specifying our marketing mandate for the National Film Board (NFB).

Forbes also released a recent article about the potential obsolescence of MBA programs. The article raises excellent points about why one should invest in an MBA degree.

Today, I had an opportunity to speak with my P3 Corporate Finance I professor about the employment environment at universities in California, to help me in my career development. Since he had previously worked at Claremont McKenna College, he was able to provide me with insight from a California college.

It's hard to believe that this is the last week of P6. Yet another semester is flying by!