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.