En route to Delhi, India - layover in London. Even though I was in London for a just a few hours, I got to see quite a bit. It feels like a cleaner, nicer NYC.
There is beauty ... and then there is real beauty :) We had a good time.
Between our last day of classes and our "closing ceremonies," we traveled to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal.
Pulling up to the school for the last time, we were greeted by a small marching band--and this time, by familiar faces. Several of the students got to the center early to welcome us one last time with flowers, music, and lots of dancing.
After what seemed like an eternity of dancing, we settled down to close the week with a small ceremony and to present the women with their course certificates.
What a team!
A few reflections after being home for a few weeks:
Customer immersion often leads to big insights. Before we delivered the course, we had the opportunity to visit some of the women students in their villages. The members of the village were welcoming and matched our excitement to meet each other. During our immersive experience, we observed a lot—and came to the realization that more important than teaching, was the opportunity to encourage and empower each of the women attending the course. That pivot in mindset influenced the material we taught, how we interacted with each other, and ultimately the goal of each class. Without understanding better our customer, we would have taught the same material we created thousands of miles away, back in our office—less impactful, less meaningful. It reminded me again how critical it is to spend time with our customers—to develop empathy and get clarity on the pain or problem we are trying to solve.
Thinking big and starting small. Part of being bold is solving big customer problems. It was clear, given the context, that these women faced many challenges—even opposition with regards to developing their business. After the course was complete, we wondered if our week had made a difference—especially when you consider the macro conditions of rural India. In partnership with the local non-profit, our content will be shared with over 10,000 women over the next year. But even that is a drop in the bucket. But, I’m reminded again that every successful venture starts small—but is inspired by a big vision, and a big problem to solve.
Why innovators love constraints. I think we all felt a bit frustrated (and humbled) with our inability to speak Hindi. We felt incredibly limited—reliant 100% on our translators to communicate with the students. But we still had the goal to encourage and empower these women students. Over the course of the week, it was impressive to see the teachers be innovative in their attempts … sharing pictures they’d taken of the women, exchanging jewelry, facial expressions, etc. All in efforts to communicate and build relationships. Despite the language barrier, we were able develop meaningful relationships—and great memories. Constraints, limitations, narrow focus—all can lead to creative problem solving and innovation.
Some of my favorite images ... class registration :)
We held the classes in a community center central to the rural villages. By teaching remote, the women were able dedicate three days without the distractions of being in the village.
Here, we were met by Mr. Mohan from one of the local NGOs we partnered with to help deliver the course--and to help connect us to the local women entrepreneurs.
Thousand of miles away but feeling right at home as we get ready for the teaching phase of our experience. The Indian culture of celebration and ceremony were welcoming and a lot of fun--we all seemed to enjoy the flowers around our necks and the paint on our face.
"TEAM C" Classrooms were held in tents that were set up especially for us. An unique experience for all of us.
Our college student translator, Ashish (right) not only helped us communicate with Hindi speaking entrepreneurs--he got the ball rollin'
We Care Give Back (WCGB). Over the past couple of weeks--along side a dozen other Intuit employees, I had the incredible experience of partnering with Team 4 Tech and Connecting Dreams Foundation to deliver a entrepreneurial workshop to women living in rural India (just north of Delhi). I've been home for a couple days now and have had a chance to process a bit of what we experienced--the places we visited, the people we met, and the friendships we made.
The process to create and deliver the content was not too dissimilar to how we create products and services at Intuit ... it started with people; talking with them and seeing them in their environment. We only finalized the curriculum after we met these women in their villages--after saw their shops, met their families--and even sung and danced in their homes.. In just a few hours, our team started to feel more connected and felt a love for the people and their rich culture--it was both inspiring and humbling.
In anticipation of our visit, the village covered their main road with messages in English. The village had just under two-thousand people and presented one of the warmest welcomes I've ever experienced.
After our welcome, we were set up to have three interviews with different owners of micro businesses/shops in the village. Our first women entrepreneur ran a tailoring business equipped with a catalog of clothing choices customers could choose from.
As our team finished up the interviews, I spent some time hanging out with the men and boys of the village. We didn't get to communicate much, but they seemed to be glad we were there.
Back at the hotel in Ghaziabad, North Delhi
After 3 years, I'm headed back to India. This time I'll be visiting Northern Delhi to teach women entrepreneurs in remote villages--it should be a great experience. Since I've had India on the mind, I revisited my pics from the first trip back in early 2012--II found few more images to share ...
After a 15-hour flight from Dallas, I had an 8-hour layover in Dubai--which included a hotel room that I used only for a quick shower and change of clothes. To make the most of my time in Dubai, I asked a cab to to be my driver for the day. I hadn’t studied much beforehand, so I let him decide what to show me. My driver was Pakistani and lucky for me, spoke enough English to understand me.
After the first couple of stops, I realized he was only taking me to the typical touristy places…we stopped at the Burj Khalifa (tallest building in the world), and the Dubai Mall (a place I came to appreciate later on the trip), and the self-proclaimed “7-star” hotel, Burj Al Arab. Although impressive, I wasn’t too inspired to take out my camera.
After snapping a few pics, I asked my driver to take me somewhere I could find more of the locals working, shopping, and hanging out. He knew the perfect place, although by then, I had only a couple of hours left before my continuing flight to India. We went to an old spice market, Dubai Gold Souk, off the Dubai Creek. It was exactly what I wanted to see. After walking through the market, I spent some time talking with a few locals working on their ships–old, wooden ships equipped with electronics like refrigerators & TV’s. I found most people to be very friendly–some even asking me to take their picture. The man pictured above insisted I take several shots of him puffing on his cigarette.
At this point, I was alone--without the driver. I planned to walk around on my own and then grab a new cab just before I needed to be back at the airport. About half-mile out, I was confronted by a man from Iraq. He quickly let me know that he was from Iraq and then waited for some kind of reaction--I wasn't sure if he thought I should be excited, upset, or interested. But, I honestly had no reaction. After a few looks and exchanges, his disposition changed and then he asked me to take this picture with his friends. Dubai is an interesting place--and was surprised to find out new the city was--even the old spice markets weren't older than 100-200 yrs.
The images above display the stark contrast between the more urban, modern setting you find at the Mall of Dubai and the traditional, cultural experience near Dubai creek. Notice the Burj Khalifa and the skyline in the background of the boats. It seemed like Khalifa was visible from any point in Dubai.
On to India ..