Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Grandfather

This Christmas we said goodbye to my grandfather, Ned Brown. A legend in Beaufort, South Carolina, his memories left everyone laughing and loving each other a little more. The following definition of a successful man was read at his funeral. I think he is the only one in the family that truly fulfills every line:

"He has achieved success who has lived well,
laughed often and loved much;
Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women,
the respect of intelligent men
and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has left the world better than he found it,
whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
Who has never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty or failed to express it;
Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration; whose memory is a benediction."

This was the slide show that we put together for friends and family during the services. I think it really shows his breadth of experience and love of people. (Make sure you have your sound turned on):

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fall 2008

Well, it's over. I've done everything I need to do to graduate with my IMBA degree! After we completed the core, I did a year of language study + an internship in China, followed by seven more elective courses. That went faster than I thought! As most of you know, I'm not graduating until May 2009, because I had to pay the last installment of tuition, so I'm going to hang in Thailand/China and take some classes but more vacation until it's time to graduate and be a working girl in June.

Fall 2008 was fast and furious. We got back from China in August knowing that there was a full semester of coursework ahead plus a fast-paced job search, trying to find that perfect something in the midst of a declining economy! Yikes! I went to Atlanta and Washington D.C. to participate in National MBA Career Fairs. Then after that I flew to two company headquarters in Ohio and Minnesota for final-round interviews. All signs pointed in the direction of one company, and I am happy to say that I accepted a position in a two-year Leadership Development Rotation Program with a diversified manufacturing company here in the States. So what is the specific role? Hard to describe. I will get a list of possible assignments and work with the program manager to decide on one. After the first year, I will change roles and do the second rotation in a different job, business unit and location, in an attempt to get a well-rounded view of the company and functions. At the end of the rotation program, I could go in any number of directions, but let's not cross that bridge until we get there :-) I'm excited to be lucky and blessed enough to receive a job offer in this poor climate, and look forward to starting in June!

So now you know the plan! Off to China on Jan 3rd, then Thailand for the end of January for some R&R. I will eventually start classes in February and keep you updated. Now for a few pictures from the Fall!

Moved into a little apartment in Five Points with my sister!

One of the first get-togethers early in the Fall...Sarah's birthday:

The roomies Adrian and Vinoth:

The first day at the career fair, only a little terrified! Look at all of those black suits!

Diwali Dinner, the Indian Festival of Lights:

A group of us out for dinner after a day at the grueling career fair!

Paco and Orlando come from Mexico and Tennessee to visit!

Racing Go-Carts as a stress-reliever during crunch time:

Ladies at the Holiday Party in December:

Going to see Karen's new little baby boy with Jessica!

Visiting Courtney in North Carolina for her 2-year-old's Princess Birthday Party!

And around the Thanksgiving table in Beaufort, SC:

The End! More from Christmas break soon :-)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My New Favorite Quote.

When i read this I thought..."Yes. This is what I've been trying to explain but didn't have the words." And to think...he said this far before the convenience of airplanes...

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
—Mark Twain, 1857

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Leadership Model

I was reading an interesting article in the McKinsey Quarterly about "How Talented Women Thrive." I found the following 5-point leadership model very inspiring:

Meaning, or finding your strengths and putting them to work in the service of an inspiring purpose;
Managing energy, or knowing where your energy comes from, where it goes, and what you can do to manage it;
Positive framing, or adopting a more constructive way to view your world, expand your horizons, and gain the resilience to move ahead even when bad things happen;
Connecting, or identifying who can help you grow, building stronger relationships, and increasing your sense of belonging; and
Engaging, or finding your voice, becoming self-reliant and confident by accepting opportunities and the inherent risks they bring, and collaborating with others.

This model can obviously be used across genders, but resonates more with women as it was developed from a research study of successful women from around the world. I hoped you found it as interesting as I did.

Finally, I really identified with this quote...maybe because we share the same initials! :) Shona Brown, Google’s senior vice president of business operations, described how she handles opportunities and the risks that accompany them. “I’ll use a skiing analogy because I like to jump off cliffs,” she says. “But I generally jump off cliffs from which I’m relatively confident I’m going to land—or if I don’t, it’s not dangerous.” Brown said she enjoys risk. “I like to be at that point where you’re about to jump. Your stomach is kind of going ‘woo’! It’s not so simple that you’re sure you’ll succeed. But you’re not in a life-threatening situation.”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Search Begins!

The MBA job search is officially up and running after attending my first career fair in Washington DC last week. I have others coming up in South Carolina and Atlanta and am much more prepared for them after the first round. Looking for a job in Asia while being in the U.S. is harder than you'd think. These career fairs are stocked with all of your big-name companies, elaborate displays, free gifts and their HR recruiting teams for the USA. Most international positions are provided to seasoned, experienced people within the company. However, some have leadership development programs that offer rotations that could be international, depending on candidate preference.

All that being said, me looking for an international job in a domestic MBA career fair is just as hard as an international student looking for a company to sponsor their work visa in the U.S. However, I am very much inspired by the fact that all of these companies have expanding markets in China vs. contracting or stable markets in the U.S. My experiences in China and with the language was very much appreciated but they weren't sure they could use it in their current hiring systems.

What I learned:
- Go for more project-based firms (mainly consulting) instead of role-based firms because you can be assigned to projects anywhere in the world and are not usually held to a location.
- So make a consulting resume and a marketing resume.
- International headhunters also attend these fairs and are good targets.
- Starting from scratch, it might be easier to just go to China for the spring semester and continue the job search. (Disadvantage: Giving up the "expat" package.)
- A medium size might be better than a large company because they could be more flexible.

I got past the "meet and greet" in the exhibition to interview with two companies while I was there, both of them International Leadership Development Rotation Programs. As for that...well there's the two or three week wait to hear back. All total I researched hundreds of companies, had conversations with about 30, gave my resume to about 15, and had 2 first-round interviews. How's that for the funnel effect? Well, I'm positive about the whole thing and looking forward to the rest of this adventure. We shall see...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back in the States

Well I'm back! 18 months in China came to a close a lot faster than I expected or wanted. This is my last semester of classes for my Masters (although I might study abroad or not graduate until May 2009). The job search is starting up and will be a dizzying mix of career fairs, resumes, cover letters, company research, interviews, phone calls, etc. etc. I'll be talking to most companies with the goal of going back to work in China in 2009. I've already registered for 3 or 4 MBA career fairs (not in S.C.) that require travel and weeks of preparation. So let the fun begin!

Don't worry, the blog will continue although I can't guarantee life in South Carolina will be as entertaining as life in Beijing. However, there are always new perspectives to be explored, no matter where we are in the world!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Olympic Ceremony = 15,000 performers

Many olympic writers are saying that this could very well be the most anticipated Olympics in the last 100 years. It's host country has gone absolutely all-out in preparations. It has one of the most unique designs for its central stadium, compared to only 3 or 4 other Olympic cities in the world in terms of best architecture and significance. Any person even remotely involved signed confidientiality agreements to keep it locked in sercrecy. For the opening ceremonies, this stadium + 32 other sites in the city absolutely lit up with fireworks. From where we were sitting, we could see two of the fireworks sites in the city.

The ceremony definitely displayed some typical characteristics of China performance: A) Enormous numbers of people (around 15,000 this time) and B) All of them acting in perfect unison to create a larger image or picture. From the teams with fans to the drumming in the beginning to the people creating Chinese characters, it was all perfect harmonization that made you say: How did they do that?!

Well, it took the 3 months of practice and all the performers were Chinese students. Some received a stipend of a couple dollars a day while others were purely volunteer. They received housing and transportation but mainly worked for their free ticket to China's most exciting ceremony. I'm sure if they didn't, there would be thousands more willing to take their place.

The U.S. team came out with fanfare second only to the China team. They were dressed in sailor-like uniforms and had upwards of 600 in the delegation.

It was a very impressive opening ceremony promoting the idea of peace and cooperation. Now come the events!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Olympic kick-off in 12 hours

Tonight's the big night. It feels like the most anticipated night in China's last 100 years of history. We obviously don't have tickets as they are selling in the second hand market for thousands of dollars, but we do have a pretty nifty plan. Besides the Olympic stadium, there are 32 points of fireworks in the city, one of the biggest in Tiananmen square. The solution: A rooftop bar overlooking the square and the forbidden city with a giant TV to watch the ceremony. That's right, we want it all and Adrian actually found a place to make it happen :) Yin Bar is on top of the Emperor Hotel, just a stone's throw away from the action!

Here the press release for where about 12 of us will be tonight:

>> Yin Bar Press Conference, Opening Ceremony
Chen Dongliang, a representative from the Olympic design strategy team, and representatives from Emperor Hotel meet on the rooftop to discuss design strategy of the Olympics and boutique hotels. Free flow of sparkling wine, plus a big screen displaying the Opening Ceremony. Reservation recommended. Free.
7pm. Yin Bar (6523 6877)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I've never seen a city change so fast.

I went out an around Beijing a little this weekend, being a tourist and exploring some of my old favorite spots that I'd heard had gotten face lifts. I just can't get over how this city has changed in just the 18 months I've been here, not to mention since I lived here in 2004!

The infrastructure is very developed with new subway lines, roads, police forces, etc. The "Odd/Even Rule" is working out pretty well. If your license number is an odd number, you can drive on odd days of the month, and vise versa if its even...cutting the number of personal cars on the road in half for the next two months! And they are strictly enforcing it. Security checks are everywhere, English speaking volunteers are asking if you need help, and the general population has been trained to stand in line! (not a typical Chinese characteristic.) I have to swipe my electronic card 3 times to get into my apartment now. Once for the complex, once for the building and once for the elevator. No thieves getting in there, not that I ever felt it was unsafe to begin with.

In public there are enormous Beijing 2008 banners everywhere, often strategically placed to cover up entire buildings or streets that may not be pleasing to the eye. This is in Wangfujing, the most popular and expensive shopping street in the city. Everything here is in a large scale, and I was surprised to see the whole street was plastered with the banners.

And on every corner there is a place to buy official Olympic merchandise...not the knock-off stuff. And on a normal day before the Olympics are even here, you would be standing in line to purchase anything.

One of the streets that I used to go to a lot is called DaZhaLan street, and is just south of Tiananmen Square. It has a lot of Beijing's "Oldest" or "Firsts" like the first movie theater, the most famous silk shop, the most famous shoe makers, etc. Just recently it and the entire area around it got a very expensive face lift with widened walkways, clean streets and new store fronts, opening just in time for the Olympics:

As you can see in the photos, the skies have been clear for several days now. Perfect blue skies. The cab drivers are saying it's the odd/even rule, but who can explain it. It makes me think that maybe the government might actually be able to make good of their pollution promise. We'll see.

But for the rest of the city, it seems as if a lot of deadlines were met. The Olympic stadiums are all ready and waiting, sparkling new buildings and streets are opening up all over the city, and security seems to double each week. For the opening ceremony we're going to have a party on a roof-top bar next to Tiananmen square so that we can simultaneously watch the TVs as well as the fireworks outside. I can't wait. As for the actual events, I'll just be going to artistic gymnastics on the if you're watching the stands for a blonde girl in the sea of black hair :)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

3 Week Countdown

3 weeks left in China. 2 weeks of work and a week of furious shopping, packing and attending Olympic events before I go home to hit the books for a semester. Needless to say, there have been lots of little get-togethers lately as people trickle out of the country. No one can get visas anymore because of the Olympics. All foreigners without tickets, employed or not, and all non-Beijing Chinese citizens have to leave. We're left with lots of goodbyes, less people on the street, and no one to take a sublease. Pure craziness. The good in the craziness is the time with friends in the last month. We just tried out the new Mexican restaurant in town, The Saddle:

And went boating in the lake near the Forbidden City, one of our favorite past-times lately :)

Good times.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Why China?

I'm getting a lot of this two word question lately. My 10 month internship is coming to a close and my 18 month stay in China only has 3 weeks left. I am preparing to finish my MBA specialization in the Fall and participate in the job search. Of course everyone is curious as to where I will sign that first contract, and brace yourselves Mom and Dad, but it is most likely China.

I've naturally spent enormous amounts of time thinking and talking about this, but I think the reasoning is pretty simple. There are 2 main reasons why I'd want to stay here, at least for the short term:

A) It's Interesting

Who doesn't want to be stimulated every day? Not be bored with what's around you? Maybe I've been "ruined" by living abroad, but I come back to the U.S. and am bored. I look like other people around me, I act and think like people around me, I like the same foods and movies, I understand the language and know how to do all the processes needed for everyday life. I don't have most of that comfort in China, for all the good (learning and adventure) and bad (annoyances and mistakes) that may bring.

I like the way one author put it: "I went to China to get a glimpse of the new China, and the more years I spent there, the more work that vision required. The silver lining was that I also saw America clearly for the first time, as well as my own, private Americanness, in the reflected views of the Chinese. China showed me America's place in the world." (Rachel Dewoskin) America brings consumerism, capitalism, freedom and immorality all in one package, seducing the young and ambitious while being rejected by the old and traditional. The shifting generations are now separated by a cultural divide, just like many of the foreigners that have lived over here for an extended period of time.

Regardless, it's a non-stop road of learning about yourself and others. One which I'm not quite ready to give up because living in the U.S. might be more comfortable.

The second reason for my answer to "Why China?"-

B) I'm Interesting

Call it selfish, but I like living here because I'm unique. Put me in the U.S. next to any of the thousands of type-As pouring out of MBA schools, and I'm just another young, Caucasian girl with very little full-time work experience on her resume. However, you put me in China and it's a whole different story. I have a western education that I can share and communicate to the local people in their own language. These differences that admittedly cause a lot of headaches and staring actually become the sparks for conversations, new friends, opportunities and job offers.

And like I said above, I'm learning how this being different constantly teaches you who you are and what you're made of. I certainly never hear of exceptional people that blended in perfectly with the maybe that means the path to exceptional is the path that's different. Who knows, the fun is in finding out.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rain, Smog, Sun, Rain, Smog

I'm interested to see how the Olympic weather is going to be here. It seems as if it has rained for a month. And when it's not raining it is smoggy or clear and scorching hot. The last thing I would ever want to do is run the marathon in this city next month. I feel for the athletes. Factories all around Beijing have shut down to clear up the skies. I had faith that it would work, but we're really close now and I don't see much difference. We'll see...only about 25 days left!

Opening ceremony tickets that were originally a couple hundred dollars are now being sold on the second hand market for $2,000-4,000 bucks a pop! So my friends and I have decided that Opening Ceremony house parties are the way to go. It's like the Super Bowl party in the U.S. just with chopsticks instead of chicken wings. I have tickets to a couple of events, but nothing important like finals, and I'm only here for the first week anyway. I'll probably go to one to say that I've been and then chicken out for the rest because of the crowds. But don't worry...I won't forget to buy the t-shirt.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Family Pics are In :)

In case you were wondering what my family looks like lately, Katie's wedding photographer just sent us the family pics from the reception. It's been a long time since all six of us have showed up for a portrait!

The above would be the Steve Brown Family and the below would be the Ned Brown Family. There's not a person missing! Ned's three children, their spouses, and all the grandchildren (including the new husband) are present. A day to go down in history :)

In truth, the only thing that might be funnier than all these ugly mugs, is a video of us actually taking this picture! We were all sweaty, getting dust in between our toes, and worried the sun would go down before Ned (grandpa) finished telling everybody where to stand! We made it through with a smile, but groaned gratefully and spilt in a million directions the minute it was over. All I gotta say is at least it was better than the Miller family picture (my Mom's parents) we tried to take in our house years ago, where someone kept passing gas and no one could stop holding their nose or laughing long enough to shoot the picture. Yes, this is what families are made of.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Side Trip

I surprised my family in June by showing up for a family wedding that no one thought I was coming to! It was great, and a fabulous week of vacation back at home. I played on the beach, ate lots of local seafood, and went in the boat just like I was a tourist. It was great to see everyone, even though I'm going home for the fall semester in August. I had a hard time knowing that everyone I'm related to was getting together in my home town to celebrate my cousin's wedding, and I wasn't going to be there. I would buy the plane ticket again in a heartbeat! Congratulations Katie and Patrick!!

One of the first days I was there, we went out in the boat for dinner and relaxation. It was majical to get back in the river. Here's me, mom and Mitchell cutting up in the back of the boat:

I even got to drive the boat for a minute, but then I got nervous and gave it back to my brother :)

This is us playing in something the locals call "pluff mud." Supposedly good for the skin, but it sure does make a funny scene! After you are completely covered and done rolling around in it, you just slide down the bank into the river to wash off. From the other boats and non-locals passing by, we sure did look like a bunch of crazies!

It just so happened that every time we went out in the river that week we saw dolphins. There must be a recent rise in local dolphin population, because I never saw that many in the past!

This is all the kids in the family at the wedding rehearsal dinner! It was nice to have all 4 siblings back in the house for a week. Sure did fill it back up, even if it was just a short time!

And now to the wedding! This is me after the wedding in the church with all of my grandmother's family, her sisters and brothers from Aiken, SC. This is a special crew, and it was great to see them again, as I don't get to see them often...maybe every few years or so.

This is me with the beautiful bride. I don't have any of the photographer's pics yet, so you'll have to just deal with mine. Katie is my only cousin on both sides that is the same age as me. We grew up together, with her family coming to Beaufort several times a year. Just couldn't miss her getting hitched!

Dad was the caterer (of course) for the rehearsal and wedding. It was great to eat some of his good food again. Don't get me wrong, Chinese food is good, but anyone would be crazy not to miss those cookies!

The bride and groom arrived at the reception by boat. Very romantic. This is them coming off the dock to greet the crowd.

As sunset approached, the couple was getting their picture done by the river. I caught this shot right as the photographer's flash went off. What a beautiful location for a wedding! I sure don't blame these Northerners for wanting to come down to little ole Beaufort for their wedding. :)

I went back to China the Monday after the wedding so I could go back to work for the last two months of internship this year. I look forward to seeing everyone again in August. And congrats again Katie and Patrick! I know you're having fun playing on the beaches of Mexico right about now.

Campbell Gals Pics Part II

I never did finish posting the rest of the pics from their trip in May! Here are a few more of my favorites!

This is two tired chicas climbing the Great Wall. Believe it or not, I actually took them to the WRONG section. As many times as I have been to the Great Wall with visitors, I got the names mixed up. No wonder I couldn't find my favorite toboggan slide down the mountain!

This cute lady really wanted to show us her bird!

I took them by the Olympic stadium complex on their last day in town. That's the bird nest stadium in the background there. How do you like the sand storm? It turns Beijing skies a nice brown color a couple days each spring. No worries, it won't be like that for the summer olympics :) Oh, and the white buildings between me and the stadium are temporary housing that the construction workers live in. Construction workers come to Beijing by the thousands. Migrant workers, but still from China, just from the rural areas of the country.

In front of China's leaning tower. What? Pisa is unique?

Playing in front of the decorative windows in the Suzhou gardens:

Everyone singing their hearts out at Karaoke night:

Getting simultaneous manicures, pedicures and head massages after shopping. Isn't vacation nice?

Here's the girls enjoying my favorite treat on snack street. Strawberries coated in sugar. Who wouldn't love it?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Campbell Gals Pay a Visit

I haven't written in a month, but I've been busy! I got two weeks off in the middle of May because friends Jessica and Judith arrived in Beijing for vacation! We spent a week in Beijing and four nights in Hangzhou and Suzhou. Both of those places were first times for me and fabulous spots. Hangzhou is a city with the famous West Lake, perfect for bike riding, climbing pagodas and kayaking. Suzhou is the "Venice of the East" in that it has small one story houses all along canals, crossed by hundreds of little bridges. Perfect for walking, shopping and taking boat rides! All in all, we had a great time. Here's some pics for ya!

Playing during a sunset on the top of a pagoda:

Getting Lost:

The girls came the same week of the big earthquake in Sichuan on May 12th. This was a memorial on the floor of my building that we saw one night coming home...

Pretend telephone:

Hats Galore!

Buying jewelry in the market from an old friend:

Riding bikes in Suzhou:

Feeding fish outside of the Suzhou Museum: