Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A snapshot in time

red candle offerings
Originally uploaded by theory27
"If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn't need to lug around a camera." ~Lewis Hine

Reaching the top

buddha with thousand hands
Originally uploaded by theory27
Éméi Shān is one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains of China. The team climbed more than 900 steps and an elevation of 10,167 feet to see the sun rise over a sea of clouds. There, we posed for this photo.

Guān Yīn is the Buddhist goddess of mercy and compassion. She is often depicted with 11 heads and one thousand arms with which to hear and reach out to those who suffer and need aid. Having similar quest, our work brought us to this place to help create social and economic improvement for a country where many people live in a place that lies somewhere between extreme hardship and extreme growth and abundance. Through a tremendous amount of hard work, dedication and even play, I know my team and I made a positive difference in Sichuan. We made a difference for students, citizens, government, business owners, workers and children. The ideas, methods and solutions we shared sprang from collaboration and the combined experience and knowledge that spans 7 cultures and 64 years with IBM. This CSC team is my family of sorts. All that we saw and learned together has been an extremely valuable experience and I can easily say that this has been the single most important and meaningful experience of my career -- the pinnacle.

In China, fishermen used to pray to Guān Yīn to ensure safe voyages. She may have been holding my hand as I am happy to report that I have finally come and gone. After 27 hours in route, I am now back home in beautiful Austin, Texas where I wait out the jet lag and munch on chips and salsa with my best friend and dog, Olive, at my side.

I will continue to make post-assignment updates as news may pop up. A link to the complete photo gallery will be coming soon. Most importantly, thank you for reading my blog. I am thrilled to be able to share this experience with you. Your comments have been the friendly 'voice from home' while I've been away.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Permission to speak freely

Originally uploaded by pots
The language barrier: Our team is 9 people from 7 countries speaking at least 13 languages. English is our common language. And, even my English deteriorates as I learn and use a few Mandarin words and phrases. Luckily, YY's second language is Mandarin. YY has saved our team on numerous occasions by managing restaurant bills, negotiating the laundry service, directing our taxi drivers and even helping us to navigate our way out of a less than desirable Karaoke locale. While Mandarin is preferred in China, Sichuanese is the dialect spoken here. I have not yet dared to attempt to decipher more than 8 of the 2,000 Simplified Chinese characters in existence. Pinyin diacritic helps me enough to make a worthy attempt at one of the four tones. In English, the tone of my speech is inextricably linked to my emotion. This could be disastrous if carried over to Mandarin.

The communication barrier: It is more than just the language barrier that has kept me on my toes. Business communication carries out using a poker face. Expressing slight emotion with facial expression can be interpreted as weakness. At times, there is more meaning behind that which is left unsaid. For the Chinese, "I don't know" is not an acceptable response. I might ask, "What is the reason the marketing plan did not achieve this goal?" for example. I may get a response like," Our operations extend into Japan." I could try to figure out what Japan has to do with anything. The interpretation is correct, however, and Japan has nothing to do with anything in this example. Some questions will not receive a direct answer from the client or associate in order to 'save face' (yao mianzi). The true and unspoken answer may be, "I don't know.", "We don't have a plan." or "I made a bad plan." Ultimately, one must find a creative way to identify actual root causes in order to come up with plausible solutions and offer recommendations.

The rights barrier: Language and culture are enough of a challenge in understanding people and getting your own message across. At the same time, the actual right to speak freely can be the most intimidating of all barriers. Government control and censorship is palpable here. When the press corps was introduced during our conference the other day, each agent was identified as representing a different newspaper or magazine. All were owned by the same media company and that media company was operated and run by the government. There is a strange sense of uneasiness that comes with speaking and writing in China. Certain topics must be avoided to form and maintain good relationships and to stay out of trouble. The Chinese government has programs and people in place to search and block web sites. Censorship has kept me from having direct access to and functionality with CNN, Blogspot, Facebook, YouTube and more. I have been using backdoor, web-based proxies to circumnavigate the system. Simple words like, "Taiwan", "Tibet" and "human rights" can be a sure fire way to get this blog instantly and permanently blocked by the Chinese government. Over the past week, decorations have been going up in preparation for National Day -- the 60th anniversary of the PRC. As part of that preparation, police and military presence increases day by day. When I had a cup of coffee in the downtown shopping district yesterday, I listened to the slow voice of Patsy Cline pipe through street speakers as I watched camo-clad, helmet-wearing gun-toting military personnel march on the mall. This is surreal. Local police and military are ramping up, along with civilian security volunteers, to prevent and manage expected demonstrations in support of the freedom of Tibet. The residents feel safe. I am alarmed.

I've never felt as grateful for U.S. freedom of speech as I do now. Today, I feel lucky to live in a country that grants this right. U.S. citizens owe it to ourselves to exercise this right with respectful, open sharing of information, ideas and beliefs.

Kung Pao what?

Sichuan Province is famous for its spicy cuisine. Kung Pao chicken originated here and Hot Pot is the main attraction for visitors. I would be remiss if I didn't tell you about the food which is such a major part of Sichuan culture. And because I couldn't have said it better myself, please read Rajat Pal's blog post on the local food. Rajat's blog, "Famous Sichuan food in Chengdu, China":

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Another typical day

Originally uploaded by theory27
In the past 24 hours I have:

1. fielded questions at a press conference
2. eaten a yummy Thai dinner
3. watched Chinese acrobats
4. sipped green tea
5. dodged the teahouse ear-cleaning man
6. seen Sichuan face-changing opera performers
7. danced on tables
8. played poker
9. taken a ride on the jam-packed city bus
10. shopped for Bright
11. visited the city's Chairman Mao statue
12. joined students on a trip to the Sichuan Science and Technology Museum
13. had more than one tearful goodbye

Yep ... just another typical day in Chengdu. Now, the end is drawing near and I know I will be sad to see my team and new family depart.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jincheng College of Sichuan University

On Tuesday, the bus dropped us off at Jincheng College. Two ushers with red and gold silk sashes led us into an amphitheater-style auditorium in the round. We took our seats at the round table. Name cards, water bottles and microphones were placed at each of our seats. 30 students observed while Zhang Zhi Min, Dean of Computer Science and Software Engineering offered his welcome and careful description of the college vision, goals and teaching methodology. Interpretation mediated the slow and deliberate exchange of introductions, teaching methods and questions and answers. After our round table discussion, we adjourned to the customary Sichuan-stye lunch. More than 12 spicy dishes of some recognizable and some not-so recognizable meats and vegetables were stacked on the spinning ‘Lazy Susan’ in the center of the table. Our lunch time conversation was punctuated and muffled by the periodic rush of Chinese fighter jets passing overhead. Local government and military outfits are preparing for Oct 1st, National Day -- a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the formation of the People's Republic of China. After lunch, we took a tour of the campus and various labs. We also met with Zou Guangyan, the President of Jincheng College of Sichuan University. The team has elected me to be our spokesperson on most occasions. I value these speaking opportunities. The experience of receiving and reciprocating the warm welcome and respect of such provincial figure heads as Zou Guangyan is really something to treasure.

On Wednesday, the bus dropped Alfred, YY, Bright and myself off at Jincheng College again. It must have been the same two ushers with red and gold silk sashes that led us into a different lecture hall this time. Imagine our surprise when the echo of applause revealed the ‘small student workshop’ we were to lead was actually a room filled with 275 eager young students standing and clapping. The room was decorated with balloons and gold streamers and a red-fringed table cloth. Bowing and clapping occurred at every pause in our speech. Camera flashes abound. I can honestly say that I have been photographed and filmed more times in the last four weeks than I have in the whole of my life. You would have thought a rock-star reputation preceded us. Yet, when I posed the question, “How many of you are know who IBM is?” only 3 hands popped up. I learned later that this was due to shyness as students feared I would call on them with a question. When asked, “How many of you would be interested in working for IBM?”, all 275 students raised their hands. For an hour and a half we introduced IBM and presented technology trends, skills development and mentoring. Just when I thought the audience had calmed, my favorite point in presentation occurred. Our secret was revealed. YY broke his cadence of English and started speaking fluent Mandarin. All of the students stood up smiling and erupted in applause. During the question and answer session, we found students curious to know:

“Can I be join IBM Corporate Service Corps team?”
“What is do to have IBM see my university degree?”
“How do you collaborate with work team each day?”
“Can you teach English of me?”

In the afternoon, we shared our specific recommendations with Dean Zhang Zhi Min and the professors of the Computer Science and Software Engineering department. We discussed ideas and solutions for helping to develop students into not just job-ready IT experts but the independent, innovative and free thinkers that they truly are. The dean accepted our talent development model instantly. There was much realization and agreement on the value of cross-discipline collaboration and foundational competencies such as adaptability, critical thinking and communication.

For me, this trip to China has reinforced the value of respect and diplomacy. My job while I am here is to live up to the reputation that precedes me and the respect I am given. The planet is our classroom. Cross ocean and culture, we have much to learn from one another. I hope that guests in my country will be treated with as much regard as I have while a guest in this country.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Flu

The Swine Flu is a major concern for China right now. As we speak, 40 schools in Dujiangyan are closed for preventative measure. China has just announced that it will be the first country to deliver mass inoculations. It is not uncommon to see people in the streets wearing face masks.

While I was delivering a presentation to 14 professors and a handful of department heads at Neusoft College this week, I started to feel those somewhat familiar hot, cold sweat and dizzy sensations. I was hoping that the broken air-conditioning was the only reason. By the time I woke up yesterday morning, I was pretty sure I had "the flu". Imagine my slight bit of nervousness. I was more concerned about speaking the words than having the illness.

Our NGO partner directed Bright, my trusty interpreter, to take me to the best local hospital in Dujiangyan. When Bright and I arrived at the best local hospital, we found the most horrifying vision of a hospital I have ever seen in my life. Dirt and broken tile covered every square foot of celing, wall and floor. The first floor area with labs and doctors offices was all open-air and outdoor. People were smoking, puking and moaning as they stood in line. I stepped over fresh bloody footprints to enter the doctor's office. While I sat at the doctor's desk answering the routine questions, other patients came and went at the same time. The old moaning man joined for a bit until a gurney took him away. A young moaning girl waited in the office with me. My lab showed I did have the flu, but I do not have the swine flu. Phew!! The total visit, prescriptions and labs cost about $10 USD and took only one hour.

We took the taxi back to the hotel where Bright helped me identify medications and dosages, make tea, find a thermometer and obtain dumplings for dinner. What would I do without this kid. Now, 24 hours later I am happy to report that my fever has broken and I am feeling much, much better now.

Leshan Giant Buddha

leshan buddha
Originally uploaded by theory27
Last weekend the team went to visit Leshan and Mt. Ermei. The Leshan Giant Buddha measures 71 meters (or 233 feet tall). It is nestled between mountains and against a place where three rivers meet. A Chinese monk named Haitong started the construction during the Tang Dynasty (618 and 907 AD). Some say that Haitong used his knowledge of the natural elements to yield the force of the three rivers to carve the stone in the form the sitting buddha.

Off to school

head shoulders knees
Originally uploaded by theory27
On Wednesday, we participated in an Education Support Launch Ceremony for rural Xiang E primary school and Puyang middle school. IBM China donated our Reading Companion software and 40 headphone sets. The CSC team reserved money from our month's allowance to give to 10 students that were selected based on financial need and top academic achievement. The school will help the students manage their money and purchase as many books and other learning materials as they could ever hope for.

These two schools were just two of those affected during the earthquake. At Xiang E primary school, lives of 200 children and 124 faculty members were lost. Those that survived were able to crawl out of the collapsed building rubble. Many children lost family members. One of the students that received a donation lost both of her parents to the earthquake. I really can not fathom the loss these children have experienced.

In middle school, 90% of students live in dormitories on campus. Their parents are farmers in more rural areas. The cost for each student's education and boarding is 200 RMB per year (approx. $30 USD). While the students do not get to see their parents often, their education will enable them to be of greater support to their families and villages in time. Girls are more likely to be sent to school and, at times, boys may be held back at home to help with chores and farming. Teachers act as teacher and parent here. Xiang E and Puyang schools have since been completely rebuilt. Campuses and dormitories are now three times their original size -- basketball courts, football field and all. The facilities are clean and beautiful. Next week they will receive internet connectivity for the first time.

After the ceremony, a few of us went to Puyang Middle School to teach English to a class of 5th grade students. So, what do you do with a gaggle of 12-year olds? Well, to start, we sang "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes". Games and songs are not usually applied for learning. Students wear uniforms, sit up straight for the duration of class and raise their hand sharply to request permission to speak. Persuading teachers to allow the students to leave their desks took a bit of doing. The children enjoyed all of the games. "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" was a big hit. "Old MacDonald had a farm" was fun too. We also played a game to teach our names and the name of the country we are from. These students have never seen funny-looking foreigners such as ourselves. We were quite the spectacle. The children's smiles and laughter is all the reward I could ever want today.

The ceremony in the news:

The Earthquake

On May 12th 2008 at 2:28pm, a massive 8.0 magnitude earthquake hit Wenchuan county in Sichuan Province, China. It was felt more than one thousand kilometers away in Beijing. 68,000 lives were lost, more than 18,000 people went missing and more than 10 million were left homeless. Between 64-104 aftershocks ranging in 4.0 to 6.1 magnitude were recorded within 72 hours of the main quake. All of the highways into Wenchuan, and others throughout Sichuan Province, were damaged, resulting in delayed arrival of the rescue troops. Dujiangyan city was at the epicenter of this earthquake. Here, eight schools collapsed with thousands of students buried and hundreds dead. Primary and Middle Schools were excavated by civilians and cranes.

The direct economic loss to Sichuan from the Wenchuan earthquake totalled 1.1 trillion RMB (about 160 billion USD). These figures are close to the economic damages estimated for Hurricane Katrina. The government has spent $441 billion dollars on relief and reconstruction efforts. Billions more have come from Foreign aid such as the Red Cross and UNICEF. The Shanghai municipal government matches many of the donations to Dujiangyan. Hundreds of public and commercial buildings and hundreds of thousands of homes have been rebuilt and many more are still under construction. Those still awaiting reconstruction live in temporary homes and villages.

Relief, Reconstruction and Renewal Report on International Investment and Assistance Needs in Sichuan’s Post-quake Restoration and Reconstruction October 2008, McKinsey & Company
Wikipedia: 2008 Sichuan earthquake

Betty and Bright

Betty and Bright
Originally uploaded by theory27
Our CSC team has 6 interpreters dedicated to it. Each are twenty-something volunteers and University students or graduates. They work in exchange for a small stipend and the experience of translating and interpreting for foreign business people such as ourselves. For most of the interpreters, this is their first time interacting with a foreigner and their first time using their English name.

Two interpreters are assigned to our subteam. "Betty" and "Bright" have been as necessary as the oxygen we breathe over the past two-weeks. They have supported us through countless meetings, speeches and presentations to Presidents, Vice Presidents and Directors of Municipal organizations, Foreign Affairs Offices, Chambers of Commerce and Colleges in Sichuan Province. They have also helped us to navigate everything from the food we eat to the hotel room "air-co" to a visit to the local hospital (more on this one later).

Betty has a degree in English from a University in Xi'an. Bright is a double major studying Law and Translation. He is in his final year. His dream is to go to a world-renowned interpreter school following graduation. His top three choices are located in Monterey, California, London and Sydney.

Bright has been doing the majority of my translation. He and Betty work late hours and weekends to translate slide presentations to Simplified Chinese. In meetings, Bright will interpret my speech, the questions from our clients and my responses. During our first week, I let Bright know that I would be improvising rather than working from a script during a 25-slide presentation, he softly revealed in his British-English, "If you can help me contain the nervousness of my heart, I think I can do it." . As I am perfecting my timing of speech, he is perfecting interpretation of my IT terms and colloquialisms. We are becoming buddies and I think he is actually starting to understand my sense of humor -- go figure.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Mayor's Office

Today, is our first work day in Dujiangyan city and our 3:30pm Government Leader's Meeting was at the Mayor's Office This meeting included participants from Dujiangyan Municipal Foreign Affairs, Chamber of Commerce and the Education Bureau. The CSC team requested I be their spokesperson and offer a brief speech. We have come to experience and learn much about the people, businesses and organizations of this area. What I described to Vice Mayor, Yan Daixiong, was IBM Corporate Service Corps' commitment to support social and economic growth and sustainability in Sichuan Province. I noted the great beauty, history and culture here. I spoke for the team in saying that although the devastation of the May 12th earthquake was great - the resilience, strong spirit and optimism found in the people of Dujiangyan is far, far greater. Today, our team joined Dujiangyan in the rebuilding of its city. This week, we will work closely with local businesses and Neusoft College. We will also donate teaching, funds and learning software to the students of Xiang Primary and Puyang Middle Schools.


All over the world, governments are facing a critical need to address significant issues through greater collaboration with organizations, communities and each other. Chengdu is no exception. Chengdu Municipal Information Office is the government agency dedicated to the development of the city's eGovernment platform. (

Last week, we met with Chengdu Municipal Information Office and learned that the government is working hard to build citizen-centered experiences. The agency strives to connect people to programs based on their individual needs. There are challenges. They agency must transverse many government departments and processes as well as transform legacy infrastructure and resources. The agency also holds important goals in benefit of its citizens: transparency, privacy and democracy.

The Chengdu Municipal Information Office asked IBM CSC to help it achieve these goals and overcome these challenges. The ICT subteam (Alfred, YY and myself) conducted an exploration and developed recommendations based on IBM's experience in working with European governments to accomplish the same goals. We also presented focused methodologies that bridge the gap between business process and IT infrastructure. Applying IBM's experience and methodologies, we hope to see Chengdu continue to innovate its two-way communication and collaboration between government and citizen, business, department and employee.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Chasing taxis

Originally uploaded by theory27
Soccer may be popular in Chengdu but I've chosen to partake in an alternate sport -- catching taxis. Chengdu is a city of 11 million people spread across 4,783 square miles. Current modes of transportation include: car, taxi, bus, bicycle and foot. Taxi fares are inexpensive and supply of taxis is less than demand. Catching taxis is critical to city survival and can be a team or individual sport. To claim a cab, one must have a good game plan, athletic skill and outright bravery. Please allow me to share my personal strategy.

First, one must recruit her friends to stake out a highly trafficked intersection. Notice the multiple directions of traffic and anticipate the potential, various points of taxi entry. Quickly observe the location of your opponents and distance yourself from them. Be the closest to stand near oncoming traffic. Act as the scout and alarm your friends of the next taxi coming your way. Prepare to run. As soon as the taxi moves toward you and drives up onto the sidewalk, run as fast as you can along side the taxi. Beat your opponents to this position of holding the door handle of the moving vehicle. Your friends will team with you by grabbing the door handle of all other passenger doors. This is important -- you must be the first to grab the door handle of the passenger seat that is empty. You will have as many as 4-6 opponents chasing after the same taxi. As the taxi starts to slow, you must use defensive elbow jab motions and angry grimaces to prevent competitors from squeezing into your position. If an empty seat exists, open the door and GET IN! even though the previous fare has not yet paid and exited the vehicle. While getting into the taxi, use your whole body to block opponents from sneaking into your seat before you. Your friends will do the same. Once in, close the door as soon as possible and direct your driver to your destination using your best attempt at speaking Mandarin or by pointing to a map or business card.

It's not over yet. This is where the bravery comes in. Close one eye and try not to fear the speed and swerving of your driver. It is optional for him to adhere to the one-way arrows. Running red lights is acceptable. If there are three lanes, drivers may decide to create their own fourth lane or simply drive onto sidewalks. If you reach any destination (not necessarily the one you requested) consider this a major team win.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Everybody was Kung Fu fighting ..

Enemies beware as, tonight, the team entered the inner sanctum of Daoist martial arts. Our Kung Fu training taught me how to minimize damage from any force that hits me, prevent pain and even defend myself when backed into a corner. As if that was not impressive enough, I learned how to stand with the force of 100 people pushing me and not even budge. I can't wait to demonstrate this seemingly ancient and mysterious feat to my friends!

Our Shifu (Kung Fu master) has traveled down from misty mountain tops and through the bamboo-thick base of the Himalayas to share his precious wisdom with eager and uncoordinated students like us. His name is Andy from Oregon. After our first training session, I am happy to announce that the team made it out of class with some amount of dignity in tact and without breaking any bones. While we now have better tools for maintaining a peaceful existence, I have a feeling that each one of us will think twice about sneaking up on the other in the dark.

Xie xie, Andy!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pandas go to kindergarten too

group hug
Originally uploaded by theory27
Yesterday, the team traveled a couple of hours outside of Chengdu to visit Bifengxia Panda Base in Ya'an . During the earthquake in 2008, roads to Wolong Natural Reserve were destroyed and some pandas were transferred here. The base is the biggest captive giant panda institution in the world. The Giant Panda is an endangered species. It is native to and lives mostly in Sichuan Province. China has a little more than 200 pandas living in captivity and about 2-3,000 are estimated to be living in the wild.

We saw adult, child and baby pandas. Each have names like Hope, Star or Qing Qing. Their eating habits are impressive. Entire apples or bamboo stalks disappear in a second. Napping is also a popular pastime for the panda. This picture shows fun playground activity at 'Panda Kindergarten'. I believe this was a group hug. It just doesn't get more adorable than this.

Building a new digital city

digital city
Originally uploaded by theory27
This week, we focused on our first client, Chengdu Hi-Tech Zone. The city of Chengdu is in the early phases of developing a new digital city, "Tianfu New City" by 2015. This city will a core area for the development of software and service outsourcing and science and technology as its principal function. Aspirations for the city concentrate on commerce, internationalization, fashion and livability. Over 600,000 people will live and work in this area of 37 square kilometers. The city will be supported by all facets of any other typical city in the world -- metro, hospital, shopping, restaurants and more.

The ICT subteam (Alfred, YY and myself) have formed recommendations for the development of Tianfu New City. In our recommendations, we answer Chengdu Hi-Tech Zone's five principal questions:

-- What are the standards and criteria for the digital city?
-- What are some world-class digital cities and what makes them successful?
-- What is IBM's experience in helping to build digital cities in the world?
-- How can we achieve sustainable development of the digital city?
-- What are IBM's recommendations on New Tianfu City?

We look forward to the presenting our recommendations on Tuesday.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Salsa, anyone?

This program is an exercise in cultural adaptation. It is not only a rare opportunity for observation and appreciation of the Chinese culture but also the culture and heritage of six other countries represented by my colleagues. In his article, 'Achieving Cross Cultural Sensitivity in Management', Jack N. Behrman reminds us that, "Diversity is needed to maintain life itself, and it should be enjoyed rather than declaimed."

With this concept mind, I realized that I must share a piece of my own culture too. This is a responsibility I decided to take seriously today. Here's how I felt my mission was best achieved in 8 easy steps:

1. Battled dozens of people to help our team claim two cabs to get to the nearest Tex-Mex restaurant in Chengdu.

2. Ordered a sampling of the finest Chinese representation of salsa, quesadillas, fajitas, chile con queso and burrito.

3. Watched the expressions of pure satisfaction overcome my colleagues.

4. Ordered a round and demonstrated the best manner of consuming a tequila shot -- with lime and salt, naturally.

5. Watched the expressions of pure happiness and laughter overcome my colleagues.

6. Battled dozens of people to help our team claim two cabs (once again) to get to the nearest Swensen's ice cream restaurant. (It just so happens that this is where Salsa dancing is occurring tonight.)

7. Encouraged the team to learn to Salsa dance.

8. Watched the overheated and dizzy expressions of pure joy overcome my colleagues.

Mission accomplished.

Hello, my name is ... Kang Ta Na

Originally uploaded by theory27
For the past two days, the team has been meeting with clients for the first time. Our clients range in sector (government, manufacturing, technology) and size (400 to 4000+ employees). Some of these companies or organizations include: Chengdu Laoken Technology Co., Chengdu Foreign Affairs Office, Chengdu Hi-Tech Zone and BRC Hejun Industry Co, Ltd.

Our meetings with all organizations have a few things in common. Each meeting consists of formal introductions, tour of the site, products, services and a natural sharing of expectations and clarifying questions and answers. There is the traditional and thoughtful exchange of handshakes, bows and business cards. My colleagues and I have been given a Chinese name to use in introducing ourselves. "My name is Kang Ta Na." Announcing this is always sure to elicit a smile. Executives introduce the organization's philosophy pointing to the calligraphed characters displayed as prominent signage at the building's entrance. Company and organizational awards are forefront. Respect for one another and clients is prevalent. The happiness of the employee is paramount and well-demonstrated.

To say that Chengdu is a boom town is an understatement. Its growth over the past five-years is unprecedented and a bright and vast future vision is aspired by all who live here. The excitement is obvious. The people of Chengdu have a tremendous amount of pride in their city and province -- equaled only by their warmth and hospitality.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

China Team 3

CSC China Team 3
Originally uploaded by theory27
Left to right: Yin Yoon Ng (Malaysia), Alfred Schilder (Netherlands), Etienne Leroy (France), Bonnie Murphy (Canada), Layne Morrison (US), Rachel Couto Ferreira (Brazil), Rajat Pal (India), Rajanikanth L Bangolae (India)

Ni hao, y'all!

Welcome to Chengdu, the Kingdom of Heaven -- population 11 million. The bustling sights and sounds prove our hotel to be situated in the downtown shopping and commerce district. The plaza is filled with clothing shops, fruit vendors and a public display of karaoke. Department stores welcome you with a pair of wish trees at each entrance. At every 100 feet, exists a different wedding photographer's store that beckons young couples with larger than life wedding portraits. People dressed in something closely resembling big panda or racoon mascot costumes entice onlookers to enter.

After three months of pre-work and conference calls, our team has finally assembled. Where does a transnational team of IBMers first gather to make fast friends? Starbucks, of course. We are 9 men and women ranging in tenure from 2 to 13 years and represent 7 countries. Our team has experience spanning consulting, finance industry, IT architecture, project management, sales and marketing.

Yin Yoon Ng – Malaysia
Alfred Schilder – Netherlands
Etienne Leroy – France
Bonnie Murphy – Canada
Layne Morrison – US
Rachel Couto Ferreira – Brazil
Rajat Pal – India
Rajanikanth L Bangolae – India
Tamara Gunter – US

During dinner, most of us start warming up our chopstick skills by tasting pork, goose, chicken, mushrooms, broccoli and tofu. If my luck is any forecast for the trip yet to unfold, we should be happy. The dinner check was followed by 'scratch'off' lottery tickets and I won 5¥ - that's 73 cents!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hopes and expectations

It’s Sunday, just four days until I make the 28-hour journey from Austin to Chengdu – via Chicago, San Francisco and Hong Kong. While I scramble to pack light and pack smart for a five-week stay, I stop to write about some of my hopes and expectations.

I hope to offer new ideas and actionable consultation that serve to make life more inspired and enjoyable for our clients and the communities of Sichuan Province. Personally and professionally, my goal is to affirm my role as a global citizen. I hope to develop confidence my ability to adapt culturally. I strive to broaden my perspective and come home with new friends, colleagues and ways of seeing the world.

Ideals set aside for a minute, I know there will be challenges. I expect that ...
  • Even with help of six assigned interpreters, communication will be the greatest challenge.
  • More time will be spent on building relationships than the job alone.
  • A transnational team of nine may not be able to complete our original and ambitious scope of work.
  • By day 14, I will develop a terrible longing for iced tea, chips, salsa and the company of my best friend and dog, Olive.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The assignment

Our team, as a whole, will accomplish two tasks:

  1. Conduct a feasibility study on Chengdu’s internationalization process, open policy, global promotion strategy and international cooperation, thus serving the city’s full economic and social development.
  2. Support rebuilding and strengthening of education program for schools in earthquake-hit Dujiangyan City.

The team has also subdivided into three sub-teams: Subject Matter Expert, Information Communication Technology (ICT) and Public Service. I am a member of the three-person ICT sub-team. Together, we will accomplish three tasks:

  1. Conduct working sessions, provide consultation and deliver a recommendations to build an IT infrastructure for a new digital city, "Tianfu New City".
  2. Provide concepts and methodologies to improve Chengdu's eGovernemnt platform.
  3. Advise on the design of educational programs and curriculum to benefit the IT industry of Chengdu.

Friday, June 5, 2009

What is IBM Corporate Service Corps?

IBM sends future leaders, from countries all over the world, to developing countries to work in teams on projects where IT is used to improve social and economic conditions. It benefits communities by solving problems on the ground. It benefits IBMers by providing them with leadership training and development. And it benefits the IBM by developing a new set of global leaders.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

China bound!

After receiving the notice of selection to IBM Corporate Service Corps, my assignment has just come through and I have accepted!. I have been assigned to China with a departure date of August 2oth. I will be based in Sichuan Province for one month. My team, "China 3", consists of 10 people. We are men and women ranging in tenure from 2 to 13 years and represent 8 countries: Canada, France, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Singapore and the US. Our team has experience in consulting, finance, IT architecture, project management, sales and marketing.

Friends and colleagues that know me well, know how positively ecstatic I am to receive this assignment. It was only two years ago that I explored Shanghai and beyond -- and deliberated over pursuing a two-year work assignment in IBM Asia Pacific offices. For the past four years and currently, I am enriched in the role I play as global marketing program manger and liaison to Japan and Asia Pacific regions. I have a special place in my heart for Asia. And, China has had great personal meaning for me for many, many years. This is a huge honor for me.