A Trail Through Innovation: An Extreme (Blue) Travelogue

Sanjay Lavakare, Global Program Manager, Extreme Blue
Sanjay Lavakare, Global Program Manager, Extreme Blue

By Sanjay Lavakare

Many of you would have read the previous blog on IBM’s prestigious internship program wherein some of the participating interns had shared their experiences & thoughts about the program. As you would have learnt, the program in each region culminates with an expo wherein the interns present the outcome of their projects to the IBM leadership and, in some cases, to the clients as well. This blog intends providing you a ring side view of  the global expo-events for the Year 2014 chapter of Extreme Blue.

There are internships and some more internships; and then there is Extreme Blue. A 12-week ‘experience of a life-time’, for some of the best university students across the world. Earlier this year – the 15th year for Extreme Blue – sometime around May, the corridors of our 16 worldwide locations were abuzz with excitement as the young talents trooped in to dive right into their projects. The fun had just begun.

Cut to July, 14. The degree of excitement has gone up ‘expo’nentially (pun intended) in anticipation of the grand finale of the program where the interns are a paradoxical bundle of nervous confidence and cautious enthusiasm. They await their time in the limelight, to spring  the “Jack-out-of-the-box” solutions they have proposed  for the equally unique challenges. It’s show time….finally!!!

As the Global Program Manager for the program, I had the opportunity (and a great one, at that!) to be a part of the 4 expo events and collaborate with some of the best folks from within and outside IBM. With the locations being as geographically diverse as Bangalore (India), Armonk (US), Ehningen (Germany) and Beijing (China), my journey, if it were to be plotted on the world map, would not have looked much different from that of Indiana Jones in search of the Holy Grail, the red travel line crisscrossing across continents. And just like Indy’s, it was an absolutely thrilling ,enlightening and rewarding journey for me (minus the snakes, rats and ants, thankfully :)).


EB-India Pic

The first expo was in Bangalore in mid-July, where we had a team of over 25 interns take an impressive gathering of IBM India Labs’ employees through the results of their 11 projects with ideas as diverse as developing a NextGen Travel Companion through Social Media Analytics to recommending power aware designs for IBM’s future server processors.

Interestingly, true to Extreme Blue’s tenet of doing things differently, one of the interns was a design student who was instrumental in defining the look and feel for one of the project’s mobile application. That perhaps explained the zanily designed T-shirts that some of the interns were sporting that day!

Absolutely America…The Armonk Sojourn

Next in line was the North America expo at IBM Learning Center premises in Armonk. There was a spirit of joie-de-vivre at the venue on the day prior to the event as interns from Austin, Raleigh in the U.S. and Ottawa &  Toronto in Canada started arriving with their respective country program leads. The buzz of introductions punctuated by an occasional muted shriek of delight at having recognized the faces that were mere voices on the phone till now, lent a touch of festivity to the atmosphere.

US Pic 1

Rigorous practice sessions inside the auditorium followed and at the end of the day, we had a bunch of 52 extremely confident and seasoned set of students raring to go.

On the D-day, with an auditorium filled with the who’s who of IBM leadership community, the interns, in all their formal-attired glory, wowed the attendees with their presentations peppered with a fair share of fun and dramatics, but at the same time, showcasing the serious works they had done.

Incidentally, most of the projects this year gave the students to experience IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform as well as  capabilities of the famed Watson.

US Pic 4

The cherry on the icing was, of course, the visit by IBM’s CEO, Ginni Rometty, at the expo and her involved interaction with the students to understand and appreciate their work. That, to the interns, was a memory to treasure forever. Oh – and by the way, the Hollywood-styled project-posters designed by the interns lent a whole new meaning to the word “Creativity”

Europa erleben (figure that out! )… Experiencing Europe in Germany

EB-Europe-PicThe European expo in Ehningen in mid-September, was the next to roll out. IBM’s sprawling facility amidst the rolling countryside, never ceases to impress and the 100-strong contingent of students and mentors arriving from 7 countries across Europe ( UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Belgium) certainly seemed awe-struck by the fantastic arrangements for the event. A cultural melting pot of an event (interns from over 20 nationalities), this one was a true representation of IBM’s paradigm of global integration.

Just as in other expos, the interns did a wonderful job presenting their projects (24 in total) with topics that ranged from innovations in social media networking to predictive policing for crime-control to ensuring workplace safety using emerging technologies.

Beyond the content of the Extreme Blue projects, perhaps what left an indelible impression on the students’ collective psyche was the visit to the History@IBM museum at the Boeblingen labs where they got the opportunity to touch and feel some of the relics from IBM’s rich hardware legacy and have some of the IBM veterans explain their history and functioning. That was undeniably, a ‘Wow’ moment for the students.

Wènhòu!  Greetings from China…

The last lap of this incredible journey was the one to Beijing, where the China Extreme Blue expo event was held in the last week of September. Though this was relatively modest in size and proportion to its North American and European peers, the quality and quantum of innovative projects and young talent were certainly on par.

With 7 projects showcased, an energetic posse of  20-somethings, numbering 20-something themselves, took to the stage and presented their projects on topics such Innovative IoT application incubation based on IBM IoT Cloud,  Smarter logistics cloud platform for mobile, Smart air pollution analysis/forecast and Mobile based zOS management and others.

With project demos like the voice controlled light bulb and fan underlining the increasing significance of IoT applications, the event once again established the program as one of the most sought after internships.

EB-China Pic

That’s another successful year wrapped up for Extreme Blue. But this wasn’t Indy’s Last Crusade for sure. Plans have already commenced for 2015 – perhaps an even more eventful and innovation-laden year. So stay in touch with  us!


To learn more about the Extreme Blue internship program, go to: http://w3.extremeblue.ibm.com/
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