No matter how well traveled you are be beware of dining experiences. The dangers come in all shapes and forms, literally. Many of my friends were knocked down by local foods while vendor shopping especially in China or India. My friend Boris, VPE of a successful Silicon Valley startup, was out for two days after savoring jellyfish dinner in China, another friend was hard down for almost a week after lunch at McDonald’s in Moscow. I heard that asking for simple local food (something they know how to cook) works well. I also heard that asking for “food that an American can eat without getting sick” gets the message across. I tried those as well as many others and can assure you that none are fail-proof. My latest memory is a low key dinner in Bangalore, where my hosts were quite accustomed to guests from the states. Everything was beautifully served and spiced to a perfect degree; no surprises and no concerns. After the dinner the waiter brought a plate with leaves wrapped into small pouches. My hosts all gabbed one of those and suggested that I do the same – “it’s like a mint candy”. I guess “like” was the key word there, a second later I learned that biting the green pouch feels like drinking Listerine out of fire hose. Luckily I knew the way to restrooms which I covered in just a few jumps.
Shopping for an offshore vendor is unforgettable experience even if you are looking for relatively small contract. Where else an IT manager would be a subject to such royal treatment? Every time when I face a dubious pleasure of vendor shopping I keep reminding myself that it is probably one of the best parts of outsourcing. And there is always something fun to remember about those trips. Not long ago I was in Pune, India meetings with Satyam – one of the top tier outsourcing firms. The lobby of Stayam’s office was decorated with welcome slogans, flowers and colored sand “paintings” on the floor. There were four of five executives greeting me, all holding high positions in the company. They shook my hand with impressive enthusiasm. A few women dressed in saris welcomed me with large bouquets of roses. While a photographer jumped around taking pictures of this one-of-a-kind event one of the execs whispered in my ear that this was unusually flamboyant greeting that they only offered to utmost important guests. After a few more awkward moments we moved to the conference room with maybe 20 execs and managers. The power point parade began after 30 minute round of “quick” introductions. 15 min into presentation I noticed that older execs started to fall asleep, most with their eyes opened; the skill I always wanted to master. A couple hours later I was exposed to more glorious aspects of the company history and abilities than one can possibly tolerate. By that time I knew for sure that no company in the world comes close to Satyam in terms of quality of the resources, ingenuity of leadership and reliability of its management. Speaker after speaker we were moving down the agenda of what was called out as a brief discussion of the company’s capabilities. Lunch, a buffet of monumental proportions, was a welcome break then an hour later and a few pounds heavier I was back to the power point water-boarding. But I was adapting, it seemed that finally I was getting the grip on the art of sleeping while actively participating. Unfortunately the photographer woke me up. He brought me a CD with my pictures. I put it in my laptop to bring back fading memories of the morning. Here they were: the lobby, execs, saris, roses… Alas, the victims of the greeting ceremony were two strange guys wearing suites and all American smiles. For some reason I did not feel that special anymore. Yet so happy as that little excitement saved me from immanent death by power point.