Eye opening, exuberant, unique, were all words Lauren Murphy and Andrew Engram used to describe their recent Rady School immersion trip to Cambodia. Engram and Murphy, along with a team of six students from the Rady School were chosen to support the Cambodian company, Hydro-logic. Hydro-logic is working to help provide water filters to those who have little to no access to clean water.
During this immersion trip, they got a chance to put everything they have learned at the Rady School into action. The students used their business acumen to find out what challenges Hydro-logic is facing, how the company can increase revenue and how to help the company discover the best plan of action possible.
The trip was extensive, but enjoyable. Getting to travel together as a team, made us closer friends and we enjoyed our time together. We (six of us and Professor Michael Finney), took a shuttle up to LAX, then we took a plane from Los Angeles to Taiwan, which was 14 hours long. After another plane ride and a bus ride later, we finally arrived. When we arrived, our main source of transportation was a tuk-tuk, which is a small, three wheeled, motorized vehicle. Getting there took 19 hours total, and when we arrived, we were in immediate culture shock. We realized how much of a developing country this really was, and how much of the country was living in poverty. We were also very excited to begin working on our project as a team, and to do everything we could to help improve the water shortage problem with Hydro-logic.
Why were you interested in the Cambodia Immersion Trip?
I thought it was a great opportunity to learn more about consulting. Also, knowing how beneficial Professor Finney’s courses have been gave me that extra motivation because he is a great teacher and I wanted to learn from him more on the trip.
It was an opportunity to travel internationally, and get in the weeds with different cultures by working in an international environment. This trip was different because it wasn’t so much having an outline of things to get done, but a learning experience to put into action. It was great to understand how rural Cambodians live and find out about their access to drinking water. The client in Cambodia was trying to improve the livelihood by improving the amount of people who have access to clean water. Professor Finney was also an amazing counselor and guide for the trip. This is by far the best experience I’ve had at Rady. Every second was a learning experience and research. I was grateful to be able to use all I’ve learned and put those thoughts into action, rather than reading a textbook.
What did the work consist of?
Our tasks included reporting to the social enterprise, Hydro-logic. We learned about their needs and built a relationship with their team. We also got to go into the field and bring interpreters to chat with rural Cambodians who were getting the water piped directly to their homes. About 40 percent of the country gets piped water, and Hydro-logic sells water filters for those who don’t have easy access to clean water. One of Hydro-logic’s goals is to bring social impact, but also increase revenue. We were able to help them do that.
Once we understood what we needed to do, we met with the Chief Financial Officer, marketing team and private water operators. We also got to meet with rural customers, how they cleaned and obtained their water, and what they did to drink it.
Did the trip meet your expectations?
The trip exceeded my expectations, though I didn’t know what to expect. The quality of engagement and work we were able to do, as well as our exposure to a beautiful international culture and building great relationships, made the trip a huge highlight of my time at the Rady School.
Yes. Getting positive feedback from the client was wonderful. Seeing the client believe in what we were helping them understand made me feel like all my hard work at the Rady School was paying off. It was good knowing the MBA program can make an impact and have a lot of value. We both gained confidence and were grateful for the courses we have taken.
Did the trip change your perspective of doing business in Cambodia?
Yes. This trip inspired me to want to work more in an international, complex environment. I grew a lot professionally and personally.
It was such an immersive learning experience and everything I see is now through a filter of what was learned in Cambodia. I hadn’t worked in a country with an emerging market. It was eye-opening to see people need things we take for granted on a daily basis. It was also an opportunity to make a difference in the world.
What lasting impressions did the culture reveal to you?
We explored Siem Reap, a city in northern Cambodia. It was full of aesthetic temples including Angkor Wat. The details, art and decorations were beautiful and breathtaking. Seeing the beauty of Cambodia and its historical city structures inhabited by people, opened our minds and gave us greater context to our work. It helped with our project to take a couple days to rest and process our thoughts and expanded our creativity in greater ways.
The food was interesting as there was food from all over Asia in one country. Some of the peculiar foods included bugs, frogs and ants. There was a lot of Thai food, as well as a twist on a kind of noodles and stir fry. Their delicacies, which included tarantulas and scorpions, were very different from America’s.
Any Last Words?
Thank you to Rady Moxie who provided the funds for the trip and, had a stipend for expenses. Thank you to the Center for Social Innovation and Impact for the grant and Professor Finney for taking the time to do this. We want to be an example of what is possible and we think the Rady School should do more of these trips.
While we were in Cambodia, the team, with the help of Professor Finney, was able to help solve revenue challenges, recommend a manual washing machine, improve a system to collect rainwater and analyze how the company could best increase their current product awareness and online presence. Hyro-logic even let Professor Finney know afterwards how impressed the company was with the team and the amount of knowledge they gained from the students. The students would recommend this trip to anyone who can go. They said it was more than another school project, it was a truly life-changing process they will never forget.