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.


  1. What a wonderful culmination of your project, Tamara. What an honor to have been chosen as spokesperson. You have always shown the poise, grace, and intuitive insight necessary to interact with people from all cultures. Obviously they recognize these qualities, too. I am very proud of your work and your accomplishments. I look forward to seeing the rest of your future. This is just the beginning. You've done well, sweetie. Love, Mom

  2. What an awesome report, Tamara. You've done exceptional well...and we knew you would. What a diplomat!
    I am assuming you are over the flu.
    Take care...
    Love, Karen