Friday, April 13, 2007

Witnessing Positive Change

Recently, I have had the fantastic opportunity to visit many Southeast Asian countries that I am now managing, to partake in launch activities for new programs and operations. First stop was in the Philippines, where I was fortunate enough to meet with the Secretary of the Department of Education (just left of me in the photo) in our joint efforts to promote improved education initiatives across the Philippines. Our two organizations share a passion for developing young people and it was great to see the private and public sector come together for a common and important cause.

We each gave speeches and also entertained questions during a session with the gathered press and media that was in attendance. I was then joined by our Country Manager for the Philippines (above), along with other partner representatives to sign a formal agreement that would commit resources to accomplishing our efforts together.

What was new for me was getting the opportunity to wear a traditional Filipino dress shirt called a Barong, which is a long-sleeve embroidered shirt made from Pineapple fibers. It can be worn in the Philippines for business meetings and is considered just as formal and appropriate as a western business suit and tie. The Barong is great and is a heck of a lot cooler than a stuffy old tie any day!

Next stop was Vietnam, were I was able to attend the ground-breaking ceremony for our new manufacturing facility that will be constructed over the next 18 months in a brand new business park outside of Saigon. In attendance were company executives, government officials from the Communist Party, as well as local leadership from Saigon to celebrate a facility that will help bring 3,000 new jobs to Vietnam's fast growing economic engine.

To help kick off the event, and ensure good fortune for the facility and the people who will work there, the gathering was entertained by a young troop of local dancers who performed a traditional Lion Dance.
Speeches were made and glasses were raised in mutual appreciation for the hard work on the behalf of all involved which made this facility a reality. Of course I had to get into the act of celebration while shamelessly posing with a group of gathered ladies wearing the traditional Vietnamese Ao Dai dress.

I am amazed each time I visit Vietnam of its rate of growth and steadily raising levels of prosperity. I first visited Vietnam as a tourist in 1999, and in just 8 short years I feel privileged to have had a front-row seat for its success and evolution. I am looking forward to being an active participant in its economy and in learning more about its rich culture and its many friendly people.

Last stop was Thailand, were I was able to meet up with the always-hospitable Thai Team. After a long day's work going over performance reviews for the team, it was time to celebrate and join in on a team dinner. It was heaven for me, since Thai food is my favorite cuisine. The waitresses kept bringing out more food to our tables in a never-ending supply chain of spicy goodness. One delectable delight was being able to sample tiger prawns that were as big as a small lobster. The local Thai team filled my stomach for sure, but as always they filled me up with their spirit which is full of joking, laughing, and openness.

I am truly blessed to have this opportunity to be a part of so many wonderful and ever-changing Southeast Asian countries. It brings a new found sense of pride to see how my efforts are impacting lives in a positive way. Little do the people in these countries know that they are impacting my life in a positive way as well with their graciousness, enthusiasm, and ambition to constantly improve. I look forward to joining with them on this journey.