The trip finally came around in early July. I didn’t manage to do any additional posts before the trip itself, which was a little disappointing. Fortunately there wasn’t anything important to note before departure.
I’d like to quickly get a few important points out of the way so that the primary purpose of this series of blog posts, namely to serve as a reference for future organisers of iLead Overseas Study Missions can quickly and easily find a useful checklist of tasks and sundry notes, is fulfilled.
Things that you need to prepare at least a day in advance
- Have a backup plan in the event that any company visit is cancelled
- Call each company to confirm the visit time and address
- At the end of each day you’ll be asked to participate in the debrief. Prepare some questions that force the students to think, and refrain from criticism
Some Observations from Berlin
The city is as beautiful as I remembered it. The trip was a smooth one overall, and summer seems to bring out the best of the place. On the flip side, Berlin seems to have gotten a lot more expensive and busy. Beers were more costly, and the proliferation of upscale, hipster enclaves seems to have gained momentum.
Everybody on the trip had fun! Professor Lau (who was tagging along for his research purposes) and his wife were with us, and they clearly enjoyed themselves. Even Peng Kee, who had more reason than most to be stressed about the trip, was in a good mood throughout the trip. I think that this is one of the great benefits of traveling. Being someplace new forces your brain to adjust to a new context. When something as basic as what the words are for hello become new, the world takes on a different texture. This transient feeling of wonder is to my mind the closest substitute to being a child again.
A big part of the trip was our attendance at Tech Open Air Berlin. It was an eye-opener for me as much as the students. None of the conferences that I’d ever attended had such a major outdoor part to it, in addition to being so informal. Part of the marketing spiel was the blend of arts, music and tech. The truth was more like hardware-tech, software-tech, with a side of art and music. I suppose that it was inevitable with Berlin’s burgeoning popularity as a startup hub, but it feels a bit like Berlin is a man discovering that he’s really good at work, and so buries himself in it until he one days discovers that everything else in his life has withered away from neglect. You can be cool, or you can be rich, but you can almost never be both simultaneously.
One of the most important things for me was how the students would cope with the unofficial assignment of helping the startup companies that we visit achieve some marketing outcomes. I admit that I had high expecations. I take it for granted that people know what Reddit is, and that writing an 800 word blog post is an endeavour that takes no more than a day if you focus on it. I also suggested that blog posts be written and photoshop be done, but made clear that it was only a suggestion. I took these skills and people’s motivation for granted, and of course was unceremoniously smacked in the face by the cold hand of reality when practically none of my expectations were met. I was however reminded that products of the Singapore education system like myself are pretty good at figuring out what minimum expecations are and how to meet it with the minimum of fuss; and that is a proper life skill too! ;)
All things considered I had a very satisfactory iLead OSM experience. I was given an opportunity to do 2 things that I love, talking to entrepreneurs and mentoring people. I got to do both and my alma mater paid most of the bills. I am nothing but grateful and happy for the trip as well as the relationships built. Thanks Poh Gek, Felicia, Jinyao, Junwen, Kyle, Linda, Jessica, Joanna, Mufiz, Tony, Jack Kuan, Hendry, Shavinn, Dennis, Mill, Professor and Mrs Lau, and lastly Peng Kee for making the trip one to remember.
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