My IBM Corporate Service Corps Experience. Helping Communities Improve Their Processes

By Andrea Keating

IBM Corporate Services Corps (CSC) program gives IBM’ers the unique opportunity to develop their leadership skills, by going on a community-based assignment in an emerging market to help communities around the world solve critical problems. In this edition, we will continue the experience of Andrea Keating, North America Recruitment Marketing and Branding Lead for IBM Global Business Services in Argentina.

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Hola amigos! I’m currently on my overnight bus ride home from a wonderful weekend where I visited constituents of our non-profit organization, and did a little adventuring as well. My heart is full, my legs are tired, and I am happy.

My Argentine Work

Over the last few weeks, my small team has been working with Fondo de Mujeres del Sur. FMS’s mission is to act as a fund linking international and domestic funders to women grassroots organizations with limited resources in order to defend and promote women’s rights in Argentina and more generally in Latin America. Support activities from FMS are concentrated in areas like: Economic, Social, and Labor Rights; Environmental and Cultural Rights; Sexual and Reproductive Rights; Women’s Political Participation; and more. But what does that really mean? And how can I see the impact FMS has? This weekend I found out a little more, first hand…

I found myself on the last row of a 16 capacity (crammed with 18 people) passenger van. My eyes squinted over a dry, dusty, and sunny landscape. I was on my way to a field visit and was excited, yet unsure what I would see. The town we were going to was small, but I didn’t imagine it to be this remote. The women we met provided a wonderful home-made lunch that included a pumpkin tart, homemade empanadas, and a classic milanesa. While we broke bread, they passionately shared with us about what they’ve endured over the last 20 years. What do you mean you didn’t have a decision on how many kids you wanted? What do you mean you couldn’t fight for the land you lived off of? I realized that women’s rights’ go way beyond a fight for the singular woman, but for the whole community that is facing global challenges like climate change, drug trafficking, land exploitations, and mono crop cultivation. I was impressed by the women’s passion, tireless energy, and strong commitment to move forward together, knowing that a won cause just leads to the next one.

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As I sit on the bus, I understand that we are helping FMS improve their processes, so they can in turn improve grassroots organizations. Improvements on messaging to donors or internal processes can lead to more funds distributed to more grassroots organizations and to more programs…which, as I learned, actually make a difference. These improvements provide much needed assistance to help these women stand.

My Argentine Fun

Most people would say that I live by the “work hard, play hard” attitude, and that would likely still apply for Argentina! I have one month to explore, eat, try new things, and eat some more. Three overnight buses later, I feel like I explored the Northern Province of Salta quite well this weekend. On Saturday morning, 7 IBMers met at the bus station in Salta, to explore the Pre-Inca towns of Purnamarca and Tilcara, a region recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These towns are famous for the vast amounts of nature, amazing views and effort to maintain the indigenous roots.

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After a day of local exploring, it was time to eat! Luckily, the restaurant we chose had Pena – traditional folklore music Salta is known for. It is noted in every guidebook and the New York Times to definitely not miss, so we dined, laughed, and listened to great music.

The weekend fun was not over yet. On Sunday, we woke up bright and early. The boys were sent on a mission for breakfast, and came back with delicious croissants with ham, cheese and eggs. From the strange look they received, we learned adding the egg is a strange thing to ask for in a croissant.. oh, tourist! Then we all departed for a day of mountain biking at the base of the Andes. It was by far my favorite day, challenging and beautiful.

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The best part about this weekend trip was not necessarily the activities (which I loved), but rather the moments in transit when we’re all on a bus, a taxi, a walk. It is in these moments that we grow to understand each other’s differences and gently tease one another as we grow close. I learned about my colleagues from around the world; Rashmi from India shared her spicy candies (too spicy for some, and not at all for others), Mina from Japan sometimes eats sushi for breakfast, Tim from Taiwan has a resting heartbeat of 45 beats/minute (is he even alive? Maybe that explains why he looks so young?), Andrea from Italy firmly believes that a shot of Fernet cures everything (I’m still testing this theory), and Grant from the USA has had two elbow surgeries. Does any of that actually matter? Practically…maybe not, but I love that I know my peers and can see us growing together, a group of month-long nomads, working hard, representing IBM, and bonding in the most unlikely of circumstances.

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Now, at the half way mark of CSC, this experience is flying by and I’m determined to continue soaking up every minute of it. Time to rest, I wake up tomorrow in Cordoba and back to work we go.

Ciao for now!


Andrea Keating is North America Recruitment Marketing and Branding Lead for IBM Global Business Services. Follow her experience at Argentina here.

Take some time to read the experiences of some other IBMers during their CSC assignment across the globe here.

To find out more about IBM’s Corporate Service Corps, visit IBM CSC website

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3 thoughts

  1. What a fantastic testament of being a true global citizen! I am a huge fan of this program, as an IBMer and individually as well, because what better way to create a more inclusive world than immersing our employees in a totally different culture for several weeks at a time? Loved the great energy of this blog! #inclusiveIBM

  2. OK…..My heartbeat increased to the rate of normal people whilst biking in the hill……
    Thanks for the invitation to Salta, which is the most unforgettable experience in my CSC journey.

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