Global Challenge-GSK North Africa (Casablanca, Morocco) by: Michael Lin
Hello Blog readers, I’m Michael from the Philippines and I’m very fortunate to be blogging about this once in a lifetime work experience awarded by Global Challenge for my final year of studies in Birmingham Business School. I never imagined and thought it would happen in my life. In fact, until now, I’m still very much overwhelmed that I’m finally in Casablanca, Morocco working for one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, GlaxoSmithKline North Africa Human Resources Department.
Forgive me with the length of this blog as this is a long overdue entry since it’s been almost a month since I arrived here in Casablanca. Frankly, a month is more than enough time to have a very basic grasp on the city’s geography, but every time I get out exploring the city, I learn something remarkable, I meet new interesting people. Each day is out of the ordinary. Each day is a learning experience in this totally extraordinary and fascinating new place. I’ve been to a lot of cities, but this time, I can honestly say that I’m faced with a totally fresh culture that I was never immersed before.
Upon mentioning the word “Casablanca”, one would immediately think of the classic Hollywood movie characters played by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, in which I discovered that not a single scene of had been filmed here. Casablanca is located in North Africa, known to be the economic, financial and business center of Morocco, while Rabat is the political capital of the country. Besides being an economic and business hub, it is also a “resort city” with a lot of new apartments and villas facing the ocean similar to Brighton in UK or Barcelona in Spain. It is a beautiful and fascinating city with extensive boulevards; a stand-out that is visited by a lot of locals and tourists is a very attractive road along the Atlantic coast known as the La Corniche and a lot of constructions going on. The Corniche is a combination of a road, a park with beautiful landscaping, and a boardwalk entertainment with tons of dining options. I will be talking more about the city, cuisine, attractions, culture and people in my future blogs.
From 1840s until 1950s, Morocco was a French colony. French is extensively spoken here and most of the street signs are in Arabic as well as French. Being able to speak some Français does come in handy. I can say that language barrier was and still my biggest obstacle here even after almost a month. Most locals do not speak English.
I’ve always told my friends when I Skype with them that Casablanca is blessed to have undoubtedly the best weather I have ever encountered among all the cities I’ve been. It has the perfect amount of sun accompanied by the most cooling breeze all day, the city being located directly beside the Atlantic Ocean.
It was a massive struggle during my first few days, landing at 2am in the morning with 47kg of baggage, communicating with local cab drivers, alone in a new country, not knowing anybody did not help at all. I’ve travelled to a lot of places before, but it was the first time I felt scared. However, I owe a lot to my “GSK family” here in Morocco especially to my co-HR colleagues Sanaa, Souad, Hasna and Nasseh from the IT department, along with all the other departments, who really took care of me during my first week. They gave me the warmest, most heartwarming, genuine, overwhelming welcome and showered me with a distinct Moroccan hospitality that reminded me of the familiar treatment given from my own country. All the fear, anxiety and apprehensions disappeared just like that.
The company helped me find a very cozy studio flat just 8 minutes away by foot from the office. The location of the apartment is very convenient; the flat is secured and furnished that includes all the essential facilities.
North Africa Human Resources division in GlaxoSmithKline is supporting 3 countries namely Morocco, Tunisia and Libya. When I found out about the internship, I got thrilled as Human Resources have always been my passion during my studies. My goal for the next 4 months is to understand the HR framework within the North Africa region, as well as the pharmaceutical market and GSK’s business model. In addition, to apply what I have learned in Birmingham in a real HR setting.
Photo of GSK Lobby
During my first few weeks, I was given the task of updating the HR balance scorecards and analyzing the different Key Performance Index of the department for this year. Moreover, I was given the task of updating the action plan to organize, update and see the progress of all the projects of the department. This task helped me to be aware of how an actual HR department works in an annual point of view. Doing these initial projects was surreal to me as I really felt the fulfillment after submitting the tasks to Sanaa, our HR Director, inspired to listen to her thoughts, suggestions and mentoring. The level of professionalism in GSK especially in the HR department, the work environment, and office culture and ethics are so inspiring and admirable. In addition, the entire HR staffs have been so approachable and supportive in mentoring and assisting me with any information I needed while doing my work. I can’t wait for my future projects in the coming weeks and learning more things about the HR framework.
Clearly, this entry is not sufficient for me to share the wonderful, exciting, and new learning experiences here in Casablanca. I will be blogging more about my work, the city and other Moroccan cities in my weekend trips in my upcoming entries. Right now, I’m very much happy to face whatever else is coming with no regrets. So far, I feel so thankful and honored to be chosen to participate in this work experience.