My IBM Corporate Service Corps Experience — Great Memories and Valuable Lessons

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 present the concluding piece of Andrea Keating’s experiences in Argentina.

It’s been a full week since I’ve returned from IBM’s Corporate Service Corps program. As I’ve adjusted back to life in Denver, I’ve thought a lot about the wonderful people I met and the experiences I had in Argentina. From the heated conversations at work, the shared dinners, and the weekend trips, I realize I have accumulated some great memories and valuable lessons in just four short weeks.

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Of all the valuable lessons learned, the following really stick out for me:

Cultural awareness and acceptance bridges gaps between people.

No matter how much preparation and cultural awareness one is given in advance, the real life experience has the greatest impact. Cultural differences are real, and can be difficult, frustrating, confusing. And that is a good thing! Our diverse group had a base line understanding that first, we are all IBMers (and therefore, have shared values) and second, here for a real purpose and opportunity (and therefore, have the same mission). With that in mind, we were able to not just be aware but to accept each other’s cultural differences. Moving from awareness to acceptance can take time and real-life experience but the transition results in individuals who are more aware, patient, adaptable, and collaborative; in essence, better global citizens.

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Seriously focus on work, but don’t be too serious.

Each team worked hard for their respective nonprofit. In only 4 weeks we needed to understand the challenges and pain points, propose strategic solutions and develop the necessary training materials. We worked late evenings and weekends to ensure our contribution would be completed on time. While I learned and admired the work ethic and dedication, I also witnessed the fun that is needed to move forward with momentum and enthusiasm. In my small group, we would not have been as successful without a few coffees (or beers) or snacks. That dance break? Needed. The opportunity to congratulate the newest licensed driver in the household or laugh at a funny photo from the weekend? Needed. As I get back to my normal role, I promise to myself to remember to have fun as I work, that in doing so, I actually work better!

Great team + great challenge = personal growth.

I can confidently say that I have improved my skills through collaboration with my peers. Observing the work habits and approaches from fellow IBMers led to an improvement in my own skills. Their creativity, and past professional experience, allowed them to simplify problems, structure results and manage timelines. The constructive feedback from peers was crucial in adapting my approach and evolving as a teammate. I’m looking forward to applying these new skills in my everyday work life, and sharing my experiences with my team.

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So, what now? What’s next? I want to take advantage of the fact that IBM helped further my global citizenship.  I will look to my community and see where I can contribute and give back.  I’ve learned to never get too comfortable and that I thrive when learning new things, in that light, I’ll enroll in additional IBM training and ‘train up.’ And maybe I will plan my next trip to an unfamiliar region of the world for some more adventuring (or visit one of my 12 new friends/colleagues around the world).

Thank you, IBM, for the life-changing experience!


Andrea Keating is North America Recruitment Marketing and Branding Lead for IBM Global Business Services.

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

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