Archive for July, 2014

A map would be a good idea.

July 5, 2014

Final day in KL. Had a very productive time so far and will certainly be coming back. There is a huge amount of business to be had and I want my fair share for m2r Education.

If you recall, we had the ‘privilege’ of having a tour guide with us on the KL part of the mission. Shame he couldn’t actually find anywhere. On our final day, Columbus was again with us. I was particularly looking forward to our first meeting, with the Ministry of Human Resources and Skills.  Working in recruitment this would be a perfect meeting and one I would get a lot of information from. The rest of the delegation also felt the same way. We boarded the bus with a huge sense of anticipation and Marco Polo put us all at ease as we headed off to Putrajaya, located 25 km south of Kuala Lumpur. Putrajaya serves as the federal administrative centre of Malaysia. Did you know that Putrajaya has nine bridges and 14 different designs of street lamps? Well, our intrepid guide filled us in with extremely fascinating facts as we headed to our first meeting.

Putrajaya. One bridge and one set of street lamps.

Putrajaya. One bridge and one set of street lamps.

Now. this first meeting was scheduled for 9am.  Excitement on the bus was building as I am sure you can imagine. Vasco da Gama was in complete control. After all, he was a tour guide, assigned to us and obviously knew his job. We put down his indiscretion the previous evening to nerves. 9am came and went and a high degree of deja vu was setting in. Putrajaya is very stunning but do we really need to see the same bridge 50 times? Maybe he was ensuring we saw every single street lamp before we alighted.

10am came and went. So did 10.15am. Hmmmm. Maybe our tour guide wasn’t all he seems. Surely not as it would make no sense whatsoever that we had been given a guide who couldn’t even find his way out of a paper bag, would it? Well, let’s put it this way, don’t buy him a paper bag for his birthday.

We were lost. He had no clue where the ministry was. Brilliant. His comeback was that he was a ‘tourist guide’ and the not a business tour guide. Oh cheers. Great planning then. No meeting but at least we saw 5 million street lamps and bridges. Less Columbus and more Columbo.

Off to the next meeting in that case! Thankfully he knew where this one was. Just. He also managed to successfully negotiate his own locale and find the rest of the day’s meetings too.

President's Palace, Putrajaya

President’s Palace, Putrajaya. Had worse meetings…

Being able to have a meeting in the above building was incredible. We were all seated in a UN style room which gave some of the group the opportunity to grab forty winks. No names mentioned and if I showed you the picture I would pixelate their  faces anyway….

Almost the UN

Almost the UN..

Very good meeting though, extremely informative and came out with information overload. Thoroughly impressed.

The final meeting was rather odd, only because it started in a manner to which none of us were accustomed. I have no intention of being derogatory to our hosts but it really showed how different cultures express themselves. As usual we all had to introduce ourselves, I have no issue with this and of course, makes follow up meetings a lot easier to arrange. What we didn’t expect was that each and every one of the 28 delegates received a hearty round of applause by the 5 company representatives who were hosting the meeting. As you can imagine, the introductions took some time to get through and we had to stifle laughter for fear of appearing extremely rude. Again, I must stress, I would never ever denigrate a host, especially one that was gracious and gave us food and gifts, it was just not what we were used to, that was all!

After what seemed like an eternity in getting back to the hotel it was decided that we should spend our last night exploring the sights of Changkat. We did. This is all I am saying on the matter. Click the link!

So it was farewell Malaysia, a thoroughly mind blowing trip for me and one which gave me tremendous confidence that we could secure a lot of business there. The group were bonding very well and although we were all very tired, struggling with jet lag and the humidity, no one was grumbling or complaining. So far so good.

Before I sign off I must tell you about my own Columbus / Columbo experience as we left for Indonesia. Now, suffice to say and in my defence, most people almost followed suit. I stress the almost.

Picture the scene. The airport for the Air Asia flight is literally bolted onto a shopping mall. You therefore drag your case and carry on bags past all the shops before you arrive at departures. Very few signs, it is merely stumbled upon. I wonder how many people have gone out for a leisurely shop and ended up on a flight to Vietnam…

So, I ended up in the airport and like most overseas airports I have visited, the first thing you do (or so I thought) is get all your bags scanned before check in. So, scanned and through, I wandered, somewhat aimlessly and also alone, through the airport looking for check in. After 10 minutes of walking I began to notice that I was the only one pulling a 25kg suitcase. Still, unfazed, I pressed on in true British style. Until I saw the gate. Then sheer panic set in. I had somehow managed to get all the way through immigration and 2 security checks with my suitcase that contained items such as razor blades, aerosols etc etc. Rather worrying when you think about it!

At that precise moment my thoughts we not about the lack of proper airport security checks but more of how on earth am I going to get my case on the plane!!! Some rather bemused Air Asia staff took pity on me, the way they looked suggested I was the first ever person to commit such a level of idiocy. I was assured that if I took my case all the way to the plane it would be manually tagged and essentially treated like a pushchair. Thankfully it was and arrived safe and sound in Jakarta. The only thing that didn’t make it was my dignity……

So seasoned and unseasoned travelers alike, take heed. No matter how much you travel, new ‘interesting’ experiences will always find you. It’s how you deal with them that counts.

Adieu.

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Kuala Lumpur – Now the fun begins

July 2, 2014

Day 5

After a few days in KL I suppose it was only fitting that I did some proper work, after all that was the reason I was there in the first place. I had spent one day at an Education Fair which was good for contacts but The Training Gateway had arranged a packed program for us all and I needed to showcase my new name badge anyway…

A bit of a disclaimer here. If you find my account of the actual trade mission tiring then I would advise you not to bother going on one. I have been on trips with people who are not ready for such an ordeal and I can tell you, it is grating. Only commit if you have the energy, drive and enthusiasm required for such a trip. This isn’t a holiday (honestly!).

After I had packed away my lilo and water wings (joke) the serious business of showcasing m2r Education began. As with all missions, an introduction into the market / country is essential and as usual, we started with a visit to the British Embassy. Above a bank. In a coach with a tour guide. I didn’t realise I had booked onto a women’s institute holiday to South East Asia. But at least I know where Michael Jackson stayed now. Shame he had no idea where the meetings were though.

I like visiting British soil when I am away, just to get a decent cup of tea mainly. However, as this was a new country for me, I went into the first set of meetings with my eyes open, the same cannot be said for other members of the group however… The information presented was very informative and certainly gave me tremendous enthusiasm for the rest of the time in KL. The facts and figures relating to Malaysia were mind blowing and the educational blueprint is certainly worth a look.

After what seemed like an eternity the initial briefings came to a close. Don’t get me wrong, they were very good, especially the one who decided to present 73 slides to an audience of rather drowsy delegates (hot, stuffy room) in a rather monotone voice…. Seriously, they were good.

Two further meetings followed, with organisations specifically aimed at the training and education sector. I am not going to bore you (any further) my dissecting every single meeting, suffice to say the company and audience were well matched. Just a shame that jet lag was following most of us around and there was a lot of head nodding to be seen…. Someone needs to make a little crane that is attached to eyelids to keep them open. Hence my point earlier, missions are tough, do not think you can breeze through them.

From my perspective, the final meeting of the day was the best. Obviously I am on a trade mission mainly for selfish reasons and therefore I am looking for recruitment related opportunities. Meeting an organisation who represented 500 international schools and were happy to push our details to them was music to my ears. One of the Directors was a guy I originally met at the education fair on the previous Saturday, he was happy to see me again and of course, cemented the fact that I represented a serious and committed organisation. Take note, on a mission always look to see what other events are happening around it and make sure you attend.

Today was also the first day the group was together for work related purposes, no cliques were developing (unlike last time…) and everyone was getting on really well. When tiredness is setting in, having a good bunch of people around you helps. It also means that we can take snaps of those who decide to catch flies at inopportune moments too…..

On all trade missions, one of the great benefits is the networking. Not just between the group but also at organised events. This was no different. So after a very quick turnaround it was out for an evening of meeting all those great and good within the world of education in KL and further afield. Slight issue though, our brilliant tour guide, yet again, had no idea where he was going. I suspect his guided tours are of his own house and even then he gets lost.

Our bus. Not lost for once.

Our bus. Not lost for once.

After 500 years we made it to the networking reception, a very nice rooftop terrace owned by the Director of UKTI in Kuala Lumpur. It is always good to be fashionably late… By 2 hours. These events are always good, if you make the most of the occasion. There have been too many times when I have witnessed people at these events just chatting to their mates and then complaining that it was a poor turnout. I am not a massive fan of networking but so far, no one has shouted at me, punched me or even been slightly rude. Just get out there, have a go and see what happens. I left with some great contacts and have never seen so many sweaty people in one place in my life. No I don’t frequent those types of places thank you.

All in all a very good first ‘proper’ day in KL. Made some good contacts, got a good overview of the landscape, only nodded off once (honest) and sweated more that I actually intended to. Thanks heavens for hotel laundry. We may have gone out to relax after an action packed day but if you think I am going to blog that, then you have another thing coming…. One more full business day in KL to follow plus a rather interesting experience at the airport en route to Jakarta to come next!! Until next time folks…

A warm welcome

A warm welcome