By Sarah Warsaw
On the plane home from New York recently, I looked back at all the notes and comments I’d written down from the week. My favourite notes were the quotes I’d taken from people as they shared their favourite item and it’s story in a session called “passion collective;” there were dream catchers, football boots, cameras and a red balloon. During my turn, I stood up with my notepad (and my new I love NYC pen) and told the group that I love to capture stories and share them in writing or photography – so with that in mind, here’s my story of the Fast Forward 2020 programme.
What is Fast Forward 2020 and why I was hanging out at IBM CHQ?
Technology has changed the world over the years and IBM has been a part of that throughout history, but there’s never ever been a more important time to be looking ahead and planning for the future. With start-ups disrupting markets and industries so unexpectedly, large companies like IBM have to be responsive, relevant and move swiftly to ensure we don’t get left behind!
The programme Fast Forward 2020 has been designed by and for the next generation of IBMers, giving us the chance to share ideas that we think will help the company continue to be successful. During stage one, over 50 of us ambassadors met with next generation IBMers from all over the world to find out what they thought could be better about our company; thoughts, ideas and suggestions.
Following our feedback sessions locally, the ambassadors were incredibly lucky to visit Corporate HQ in Armonk, New York for a three-day Design Thinking workshop during which we were able to net down, group and consolidate the suggestions we had collected into realistic, yet BIG ideas that we believe will help shape the future of IBM. We met with senior executives from across the company, their teams and peers to ensure we weren’t repeating anything already in place and to validate our ideas as feasible. I’ve been learning bits and pieces about an Agile and Design Thinking approach to projects in my day-to-day job, but I haven’t had the chance to really focus on the approach without thinking of anything else. These sessions really validated for me that it’s changing the way we deliver projects, helping to ensure the end user is in mind throughout.
Our final challenge at the end of day two was to pitch a BIG idea to our CEO Ginni Rometty. What an honour to be given this opportunity, and to be in a position to be able to impact the future of our company!
With Senior Leaders sponsoring our ideas, it’s now time to take action. We’ve assigned Scrum Masters and team leaders to ensure we put our plans into place. This hasn’t been a fun exercise with no gravitas: this is real next generation IBMers putting forward our ideas for the future of the company and then making things happen. I like to think of myself as a DO-ER, so it was a real chance to prove this and go back to our peers and say, “hey remember that meeting we had, and those suggestions you made? Here’s how we’re actually using your input to change the company and you can do the same.”
Meeting with other IBMers from around the world was not only a huge privilege but also a learning experience. We each brought food and snacks from home to share – I learned that I love savoury Indian snacks the most.
Ok on a serious note though, there’s a few key takeaways from the event:
- Everyone in large companies faces challenges – that’s how large companies work but it doesn’t meant that things can’t change and we will ensure they do.
- There’s so much passion out there within IBM, finding it and nurturing it is a key success factor for business.
- An Agile, Design Thinking approach to projects is a really fun way to get stuff done – plus, lots of coloured Post-Its look great!
- Everyone has a mantra / motivational quote that they live by – learning about other people’s is even more motivational.
- Senior leaders are people too – be yourself with them but always be respectful.
- There’s nothing better than finally putting a face to an email address /
- Take lots of photos during experiences like this, but also, don’t forget to enjoy the moment – nothing is more valuable than your own memories.
- Despite time zone issues across a global company like IBM, it actually ensures a 24 hour business and that’s pretty great.
- If you really want to do something, it is possible, as commented by one of our executive sponsors Marc Dupaquier “everything is possible”.
- It’s not just the BIG ideas that are valuable, little ideas and changes can really make a difference too.
- Question things – if you don’t ask, there won’t be an opportunity.
The one key message I’d like to leave you with is this: Don’t underestimate the opportunities available to you if you look for them. It’s not always going to be easy to find them but it’s always worth it. Meeting with global colleagues is awesome so make the most of working for a global company when and if you can, especially to try out new food!
We are the future, so we’re building the company we want to lead.
Get more insight into Fast Forward 2020 on Twitter.
Sarah Warsaw works with the IBM Brand and Communications team and is based in London.
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