Blog Archive

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Experiences during London Secondment - Bharat Chandu

Bharat Chandu
Supervisor, Consulting
McLean, VA
Bharat Chandu, a Supervisor on the Netsuite team, calls McLean, VA, his home office. But earlier this year, Bharat had the opportunity to complete a secondment for RSM’s London office. I recently spoke with Bharat about his experience overseas and the unique opportunity that he was given.

Bharat spent about 6 months in London, and the work was a little different in comparison to a typical project he would complete with the Southeast Region Netsuite team. The team in London knew a lot about ERP implementations, but did not have a lot of Netsuite experience specifically. His time in London was more of a teaching/training role rather than just a typical consultant. Not only did he gain valuable experience teaching and training the team on Netsuite, he also learned a lot about European businesses.

Overall, Bharat said the trip was a success, and if given the opportunity would definitely do another secondment. But in his opinion, 6 months was not long enough and in the future would suggest taking on opportunities that are 1-2 years in length.

Not all of Bharat’s trip was about work – he was able to do some traveling, and had the opportunity to travel to India to see his parents. If he had more PTO, he would have traveled even more!

Bharat’s favorite part of the experience? “The happy hours. Our office was in central London with 20 pubs within a ten minute walk of our office. Other co-workers were always up for getting a pint or two after work. It was a great way to unwind, network, and casually talk about work.”

Favorite Part of My Day

I am holding MY book! It is in libraries, schools, homes and on Amazon.
And I'm referred to as "an author". Someone pinch me!

Editor’s Note: Nicole Knudtson was the fourth of nine RSM US LLP (RSM) employees given an opportunity “pursue their passions” as a result of the firm’s 90-90-9 program. Through 90-90-9, RSM is celebrating its 90th anniversary by providing nine employees with $90,000 ($10,000 each) and nine paid days off to fulfill their personal dreams. Read Nicole's story:

After my anonymous application was submitted, I waited – nearly long enough to have forgotten about RSM’s 90-90-9 contest. Until…the call came. I won! I was in complete shock. I wish I had recorded that call because it’s funny as I play it back in my head now. The RSM leader who called was so excited for me, even though I questioned if he called the right person.

After the shock, came pure excitement, then worry as I realized how much I had to do to make this dream a reality. How the heck do I do that – and in less than 12 months? I didn’t have an illustrator or a publisher… And what if it wasn’t any good?!?
An illustrator and the creative process I knew I couldn’t take the normal path, as publishers were signing authors for spring of 2017!  I’d have to self-publish. After some research, I selected CreateSpace through Amazon. It gave me full creative license and ownership, while allowing me to set my own price, order on demand and use their procurement process.

Finding an illustrator required less research and more convincing! Katherine and I met in the third grade. I’ve always been amazed by her artistic talent (doodles through math class and singing at my wedding), while I was more into numbers and process. (I was her bridal attendant, tracking things down to make it her wedding go smoothly for her.) Although we’ve been busy raising our own families, we’ve stayed connected and I’ve been watching and supporting her pursuit of her design and illustration career. What better way to pursue my passion than to also help her achieve one of her dreams!  (Check out her blog post from her perspective.)

I just had to convince her.

Katherine was excited but nervous to take on such an important project for me. We decided that we wouldn’t worry about the “right way” to publish a children’s book, but instead do it “our way,” collaboratively. The plan was to get the book ready to launch by the end of tax “busy season,” which aligned well with Katherine, as that was her available time before her husband and kids would be out of the classroom and back home for the summer!

Thus started the creative process! We were so aligned on our vision that it didn’t take long for our story board to take shape. We had so much fun working in meaningful pieces into the illustrations as shout-outs to our families.

And the book is launched!
It was an amazing moment when the books arrived. With our first order of 500, we were ready to hit the road to share the book and our message. And RSM sent a camera with us one day to create a fun video of our story.

Book Tour - 2016
When I wrote the application I had hoped to convince one or two RSM offices to have my family come share our story. Wow. The response was overwhelming! With the girls on summer break, we had just a few short weeks for our “book tour” before our rising freshman had to start high school volleyball.  Somehow we managed to visit 10 offices…between my normal business travels!

As we visited each office, we were given tours so we could learn about the history of the office and the community. Each book event was unique and casual, encouraging lots of interaction. We were able to tell about our family history, our creation of the book, the 90-90-9 program and have the girls read the book. The rooms were often packed with 30-50 employees. It was fun getting the girls comfortable talking to large audiences. Each event also allowed for individual conversations with attendees as our family signed and distributed our book. One of the most popular parts of the events were the Q&A sessions. We’ve never been short on questions, and many generated extreme laughter over something one of the girls said. They certainly are very honest and highly animated kids!

Our “favorite part” so far?
That’s easy. It’s the feedback, comments, and stories we hear. Since publishing, there haven’t been many days that have gone by where we haven’t gotten a note, letter, text, email, IM, voicemail or someone personally telling a story about how they relate to the book or how it’s impacted them. We even received an email the day after my winning application was announced from a gal who asked her husband his favorite part of his day, which resulted in a fantastic conversation over dinner. These stories are powerful, touching and so valuable to my family and me.

Our dream was to make an impact by encouraging others to better connect in a positive way. I have to say that our dream has not only been accomplished but continues to exceed our expectations.

What’s next?
I have a few more office book events this fall, including Boston, New York City and Phoenix. And, we are trying to fit in a Chicago trip, as well.  

With our firm’s focus on diversity and inclusion, I was excited to have my dream so closely aligned with our Family First and Women’s Leadership groups. To be able to make the impact reach a bit further, I decided to create a Spanish version of the book. I didn’t want a literal translation as they often aren’t as fun to read or don’t always make sense. I asked a few friends if they’d tackle this task to make a fun-to-read Spanish version with the same positive message. As soon as they received the book, they had so much fun they worked on it all night and created such a beautiful version that some of my Spanish-speaking proofreaders commended their “knack for Spanish poetic writing!” I’m excited about having that out on Amazon later this fall.

The Unforgettable 2016
I will be eternally grateful to RSM, our offices, our leadership team and the 90-90-9 selection committee who made this dream possible. Not only have I fulfilled my dream to publish my book and share the concept behind it, but I was able to have a once-in-a-lifetime summer with my family where we created memories that will last forever.

A Heart for Haiti

Editor’s Note: Julie Kaehler was the third of nine RSM US LLP (RSM) employees given an opportunity “pursue their passions” as a result of the firm’s 90-90-9 program. Through 90-90-9, RSM is celebrating its 90th anniversary by providing nine employees with $90,000 ($10,000 each) and nine paid days off to fulfill their personal dreams. Read Julie's story:

While I’ve been to Haiti a number of times and have been working with Vision Hope for Haiti (VHH) for a while, my recent 90-90-9 trip to Haiti through RSM’s 90-90-9 program was eye-opening. I now realize the issues and circumstances we often worry about here in the U.S. are minuscule, compared to those in Third World countries. The clean drinking water, regular meals, and ability to go the doctor if we’re ill or injured are things we tend to take for granted. But these aren’t readily available to many, including those in Haiti. Something very important to Third World citizens, including Haiti, though – just as it is to most of us here in the U.S. – is spending time with family and friends, and helping neighbors.

My “passion” through 90-90-9 was to use the $10,000 from RSM to purchase land to be used to build a school that will allow children to attend for free. (Public school isn’t free in Haiti and while most children would like to attend, many families can’t afford to send them.) Since it’s warm year-round in Haiti, schools can be built relatively inexpensively. Next steps will include building a structure and securing sponsorships to pay for children to attend.

Our long-term commitment with VHH is to empower Haitian people with the tools they need to make better lives for their children through education, nutrition and medical care. Haitians don’t necessarily want the lives we have here in the U.S. And we respect their lifestyle, and marvel at how happy they are with what we view as so little.

Before we even left for Haiti, we were blessed with generosity. Through the gracious efforts from Delta airlines and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Rochester, MN, we were able to get all our bags checked on the airline at no cost, allowing us to provide two wheelchairs, medical supplies, soccer balls, clothes, school supplies and more to Haitian children in need!

Upon our arrival, we were welcomed with open arms. Jonas and Dou Dou – the co-founders of ‘Vision Hope for Haiti,’ their volunteers and our Haitian “family” were at the airport to greet us. They loaded our bags, and we hopped in the back of the “tap tap” (a Haitian taxi, which is a small pickup with a welded canopy over the back and benches on both sides of the bed). I felt like I was home.

At the guest house, our hosts John David and Ann, along with their seven-year-old son Ralph, served us pumpkin soup, which is a special meal served usually reserved for Christmas and New Years in Haiti. It was delicious! (And this was just one of the many delicious meals we were served while there. Others included, Asian rice, beans, goat and beef bouillon.)

The next morning, Jonas and Dou Dou picked us up in the tap tap, after being stuck in traffic for an hour. (Five million people live in Port au Prince, and I’ve only seen one stop light in Haiti, which also explains why you rarely see a vehicle without dents.) Our first stop was the grocery store to pick up bottled water, bread, peanut butter, jelly and chips. This would be our lunch for the week. We then drove to the church where they have a community program for children. We filled out medical forms for the children, listened to them sing, and “showed them some love.” Our first full day in Haiti was good.

Throughout the remainder of the week, we returned to the church (which had been leveled by an earthquake in 2010, and is slowly being rebuilt) daily to spend time with the children – making crafts, and teaching English, computer and singing programs. We provided basic medical checks; distributed toothbrushes and toothpaste; served meals; and visited a local orphanage.

Louisiane, who manages the orphanage, doesn’t speak English but she was so grateful for everything we brought, including enough food to last the orphanage quite a while, and some much-needed clothing. My favorite part, however, was when we placed Moses and Cassandra in their wheelchairs.  Moses showed his excitement by making noises and clapping; Cassandra sat quietly in her wheelchair with a BIG smile on her face. She looked like a princess. I often wonder if Cassandra and Moses would be able to walk and talk if they lived in the U.S., where they would have access to medical care, and physical and speech therapy.

One afternoon, after the children were fed, families came in for a presentation about beginning an agricultural family assistance program. We brought seeds and Chaya and Moringa twigs to plant. I explained the importance of the Chaya and Moringa, as these plants have many nutrients that help prevent malnutrition, which is so common in Haiti.

Another highlight of the trip included watching a local football club play soccer. Before last year, these children had not played in an organized league. In the summer of 2015, we took soccer balls, ball pumps and soccer shoes to the children. This time, we took more balls and supplies, as they told us that was what they needed. (The soccer fields in Haiti are not groomed like the fields in the U.S. The balls get a lot of wear and tear from all the use.) They have since formed the Santos Football Club, and boys at all age levels play. (To be able to play, they first have to attend practices and learn about being good citizens and the importance of education.)

The week passed so quickly. Before we left, however, we visited a memorial built on a site where more than 25,000 people were buried following the 2010 earthquake. Locals told us about how, after the earthquake, they would pile up the bodies at the end of their blocks, and dump trucks would pick them up to bring them to this site for a mass burial. The memorial isn’t completely finished but when you go inside, there is a feeling of sadness.

Each time I visit Haiti, it gets harder to leave. There is so much I would like to accomplish for our “family” there, so they can live without wondering when they will eat again, when they will have a job, when they will educate all of their children and when the orphans will have a safe place to live.

The people of Haiti have big dreams, and they work tirelessly every day with limited resources to improve their country. My goal is to continue to help by getting the tools they need in their hands so they can make the changes they would like to see in their country.

Read Julie's 90-90-9 submission.