LEADing to Africa: If you’re ready to lead, why not join IBM?

LEADing to Africa, IBM’s internship program, has been designed to give students every opportunity to excel. As an intern, this short term assignment will provide students with the experience, skills and contacts they need to start the career they want, at one of the most successful companies in history. In Africa, we’ve been changing the way the continent does business for more than 50 years, and as our company continues to grow, we need talented individuals. Upon successful completion of the LEADing to Africa internship within IBM in Germany, students will have the opportunity to be considered for full time positions with IBM in Africa.

Fred-Eric Essam (IBMer since 1998) is working as Channel Sales Representative and is the mentor of Sandrine Nina Touko Messa. Sandrine Nina is an African student since summer 2014 and completes her Leading to Africa (L2A) internship at IBM in Cologne. We asked them about their experiences with this program.

Fred-Eric Essam
Fred-Eric Essam

Fred-Eric, what is your specific connection with Africa that makes you so enthusiastic to promote this program?

I was born in Africa and as a teenager grew up in Douala, Cameroon’s largest city – an urban and commercial center very different from my father’s life in the rural north – I received a unique opportunity that would set me apart from many of his Cameroonian peers: I was given a scholarship to study biomedical engineering in Germany. In 2004 I founded the non-profit organization ident.africa, to balance the education deficit on the continent. I regularly return home and the visit reminded me of how fortunate I had been and how much more is needed to be done to help other young people in Africa. I realized that we could play a role providing skills and a better future to young people by supporting them getting access to business knowledge and actively participating in the transformation of the African society.

Which kind of benefits does this program bring from your point of view to Africa, the students joining this program and besides the IBM Business in Africa?

I am always motivated to tell people about Africa and I like to discuss about things that tackles. The question of transformation in Africa, really, is a question of Leadership. I’m convinced that, train and enabling students, to use, understand Information Technology, innovative tools, networking with others, will help to understand the real business challenges and positively impact changes. It will help to transform the African continent and give them the opportunity to gather more practical knowledge. Knowledge and technologies transfer in terms of “Information Technology” is key to the transformation of the African society. I’m strongly motivated to support students in this program who have expressed their interest to work in Africa. With the IBM’s internship program we do help young African people to become familiar with the IBM organization, work style, people, tools and get experiences in addressing customer and societal issues. As IBMer and with my African background, I’m listening carefully the company expansion strategy into Africa, which represents in terms of revenue a huge opportunity for IBM today. I’m convinced that enabling young people with Information Technology is a key driver of societal change and its concerns Africa as well.

Sandrine Nina, how did you get to know about the IBM L2A program?

I read the announcement on Facebook.

Sandrine Nina Touko Messa
Sandrine Nina Touko Messa

Where are you coming from? Which subject are you studying, for how long and at which university?

I was born in Yaoundé in Cameroon. Currently I am a master student, studying Computer Science and Economics at Gelsenkirchen University since April 2014. Like most people, my first contact with IT was during game-playing. Through computer use, I developed a great interest in the way it works and the possibilities that came with IT.

In which Business Line are you performing your internship within IBM in Germany, what are your specific tasks?

I am assigned to the Sales Channel Management Department of IBM in Germany with the responsibility of preparing a list of IT-providers who could be interested in partnering with IBM, researching to assist in determining best prospects for new Business Partners, writing emails to prospective clients, accompanying my manager to business meetings, assisting in various administrative duties, calling clients to follow up on emails or proposals made. In my team, I am supported and encouraged in all my activities. I am not only challenged but also assisted every step of the way. One cannot expect such guidance from every organisation. I have a lot of fun carrying out my duties.

What do you think, will you be able to leverage the skills gained during this internship once coming back to Africa? What is the most you may make use of?

During the internship I was able to learn a lot about IBM and its business methodologies that will be very useful to me. I developed good communication skills, team work and vision of client expectations. Once I get the chance to work for IBM in Africa I am able to put into practice everything I learned.

Is there a specific job you would like to apply for coming back to Africa?

I would like to work in Sales and Distributions or IT area. Otherwise since I am still learning, I am flexible and open to new challenges in other departments in the firm to be able to get a more rounded knowledge base about the IBM.

What do you think is the perception of IBM in African countries?

For people in Africa IBM represents the future of information and technology and since we are in the information age it is therefore a force to reckon with.

Will you recommend the program to your African fellow students?

Of course, yes, most certainly. I discuss the program with everyone I know. I think the program offers an amazing opportunity to students in the diaspora to be able to connect to their motherland and not forgetting the chance to learn within a great company like IBM.

What is the best part of LEADing to Africa internship at IBM?

When my manager and I go to the Business Partners to successfully sell software or license!

How has LEADing to Africa internship helped you develop your skills and capabilities?

Some of the responsibilities that received from my manager included being in direct connection with Business Partners. Effective communication, sharing and accessing all knowledge and information. Besides, people show respect for the contributions of colleagues.

What networking opportunities could you leverage as part of LEADing to Africa?

I create the connections necessary to achieve my goals. I have to initiate conversations, create connections and make positive impressions. I join networking groups and will get me invited to networking events, online social networks are useful to create network. Possibly I may also network with IBM Business Partners.

What are the top two pieces of advice you would like to give students interested in LEADing to Africa internship

From the moment you join Leading to Africa internship program, you will be opening up a world of resources, experiences, and relationships that is unparalleled within consulting. We have the opportunity to work with a good team who offers equal opportunities for all employees. Our personal and professional lives are increasingly impacted by the relationships that we build and maintain. Through networking, you can discover new opportunities.

More information about LEADing to Africa internships here.
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