African Adventure28 February 2009

I'm heading to Africa in a few days as a part of the IBM Corporate Service Corps. Despite the mildly awkward name, it's a rather interesting program. IBM is sending 600 of its best and brightest to work with NGO in emerging markets. It's a mish-mash of corporate citizenship, good public relations, philanthropy, and advance market research. I'm joining 8 other IBMers from around the globe -- the Philippines, India, Brazil, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and the United States -- to work for one month with three organizations in Arusha, Tanzania. We have never worked together as a team before, let alone ever met in person. We're all hail from various backgrounds which run the gamut from technical skills to sales to marketing to management. Some of us don't speak English very well, and none of us speak any Swahili.

I learned just a few days ago that I'll be working with the Institute of Accountancy Arusha (IAA). They offer various undergradute and postgraduate programs in business, accounting, and information technology. I'll be working with them to assess their current infrastructure, plan upgrades, and various other IT-related tasks. Other team members are working with the African Wildlife Foundation and the Tanzanian Association of Tour Operators on projects ranging from AIDS outreach to marketing to business planning. We're not the only IBM team that has been to Tanzania. Two teams visited in 2008 to work with TATO and AWF. They accomplished a lot, including creating the current TATO web site, numerous business plans, and lots of consulting work. A fourth team is leaving in a month to go work in the capital of Tanzania, Dodoma.

Overall, I am quite excited for this. It is certainly the most interesting task I've taken on in my short tenure with IBM, and I have no doubts that it will be the most challenging. It's a bit intimidating going into a new country, culture, and pace fo life. Things I take for granted here like instant, always-available Internet access, are simply not available there. What will I ever do with out Google? But that's all part of the experience, and I look forward to it. I am also quite eager to join this new team. Just from the few weeks of conference calls and uncountable email chains, they have demonstrated a great level of capability and professionalism.

Want to talk about this a bit more? Send a tweet to @cgansen or email me at cgansen@gmail.com.