My IBM Corporate Service Corps Experience – Meaningful Job with a Noble Purpose

By Susan Zilahi

Almost one and a half years after being accepted to the IBM Corporate Service Corps (CSC) program. I finally received that very special email “Congratulations!! – You have been invited to join the India 30 CSC Team”. That was the kick off to my one month long journey to India that forever will be with me and influence how I approach challenges and meetings with new people.

Those four weeks were the most intense weeks of my life. The only way I can describe it is that I took a break from my regular life in Stockholm and transported myself into a whole new life. I had a home, a new “family” and great friends, I had a routine, I had a meaningful job with a noble purpose.  I quickly grew roots due to the intensity of the experience and the nurturing community I had around me.

My team of 12 IBMers, coming from all over the world, Canada, US, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Japan, France, UK, Ireland was the 30th team traveling to India but the very first going to Chattisgarh and Raipur.

The first picture I took upon arrival at Raipur. A construction site with scaffolding made of bamboo.

Chattisgarh is a newly founded state (in 2000) and its capital is Naya Raipur. With construction started in 2008, Naya Raipur is India’s 5th planned city.  20 kilometers away from Raipur, a noisy, disordered city with just over one million people, in the middle of rice fields, there is this brand new modern city called Naya Raipur. The city has huge roads, play grounds, street lights, plumbing, even bicycle paths, but very few people. Only 10% of the buildings are populated. The land used to build the city was acquired from the local farmers who did get paid for the land but are no longer able to earn their livelihood by doing the only thing they know – which is farming and neither can their children.

This brings me to the actual assignment. We had a sub team made up of Cristian (US), Deanna (Canada) and myself and our client was BKG academy. This Academy is an institute for education and skills development whose mission is to develop the study skills of its students as well as improving their communication and social skills so that their chance of future employment is improved. The Academy was founded less than 3 months prior to our arrival and is led mainly by two very amazing people.

One of many interviews we made for our data collection was with this amazing lady who is a mushroom “ambassador”, teaching mostly women about the health benefits of mushrooms and how to cultivate them.

BKG Academy asked us to help with developing a tool and approach that will allow them to perform a Skills Needs Assessment which will allow BKG Academy to evaluate the undereducated and unemployed youths in the area of Naya Raipur  to determine what sort of skills training they need to meet the new job market demands of this developing area.  We also provided processes and procedures to help BKG Academy understand when they need a training partner to meet those needs, and when new instructional materials will be required.


A visit at one of the more prosperous farming villages in the area. Here we were royally welcomed by the villagers and also visited the schools where these small children chanted the alphabet.

To sum up our 4 week relationship with the BKG team Manjeet said: “We met as a team, we worked as friends and we parted as family”

Even after having had some time to digest the experience it is difficult for me to put words on exactly what I have learned. The short answer is:  SO much!

I have learned the obvious things such as:

  • Indian culture, words in Hindi, how to cross a busy road with unidentifiable number of lanes, that some people measure distance in “chicken flights” (the distance a chicken can fly – not very far by the way)
  • I learned that it is not culture, nationality or religion that brings people together – it is openness, tolerance and empathy. It is amazing what we can achieve when we look for how we can complement and learn from each other instead of looking for differences.
  • The final thing I will take with me is:”adjust”. Indians are masters in “adjusting”. In fact they are at the level that the word is never used once but always said twice like: “adjust adjust”. If you can’t change it embrace it. Things don’t always have to go according to plan, nor do they have to be perfect, and that is ok.

I have been back home for over 7 weeks, and a day has not passed without me thinking about the wonderful experiences and people I met during my 4 weeks assignment to India. I will be eternally grateful for getting the opportunity to work with this dedicated, intelligent, and very generous team.


This article was first published in Susan’s blog

Susan is IBM Europe Customer Financing BSO Process Program Manager

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

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