By Jose Poovathinkal
In July 2016, I had the golden opportunity to go on an IBM Corporate Services Corps (IBM CSC) assignment in Qingdao City, China. IBM has already sent 32 CSC teams to China in the past 8 years but Team 33 is the first one for Qingdao city. Upon arrival, I received a warm welcome by IBMers from 10 different countries who had arrived earlier than myself.
In the morning of July 11th, the most awaited and most sought after meeting was kicked-off by Ms. Xiao Yin Deng, IBM China Corporate Citizenship Manager, which is the grand occasion where the IBM teams had the opportunity to meet media representatives and the NGOs to whom they are being assigned to work with. My team met Mr. Wan Bin (owner) and Lulu (Secretary General) of “Angel Emergency Assistance Centre” (AEAC) to whom our team was assigned to.
Our client, AEAC, a non-profit organization, do various emergency related trainings to schools, community groups, government offices, shopping malls, factories, etc. at zero cost. They give trainings on CPR (CardioPulmonary resuscitation), firefighting, smoke escaping, knotting self-rescue, trauma emergency, emergency evacuation, self-rescue from earthquakes, drowning interference, emergency handling of traffic accidents etc.
I had the opportunity to do a short interview with the founder of AEAC and he said that he was there during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China where he witnessed the huge number of human tolls and heavy loss to thousands of families. He could not sleep for days and nights as the sufferings of the people are appearing in his minds and thoughts throughout. There emerged the idea of an Emergency Assistance Centre and he named it “Angel Emergency Assistance Centre”.
AEAC is a small organization that is passionate to grow in China, but they do not have any Marketing strategy. The Statement of Work (SOW) for our sub-team was to provide them with an Optimized Marketing and Branding Strategy.
In the first few days, my team tried to understand their offerings, existing marketing plan, organization chart etc. and dug out a lot of information about AEAC and how they operate. Lots of progress were made in the 1st and 2nd week in terms of gathering the information from all the staff through an Empathy Map where we stick the inputs of the staff in Mandarin and English simultaneously with the help of our smartest interpreters. We created a SWOT analysis and optimized the marketing strategy for our client while trying to keep everything as visual as possible. We filled our client’s office walls with flip charts and sticky notes in order to visualize our work to them as they were so anxious and curious to learn new methods and practices for their work.
On the 2nd weekend, we had a community gathering at the Qingdao Volunteer College where IBM experts shared the Design Thinking and Agile Workshop for all clients and their staff, and I was the Master of Ceremony. The experience also gave me an opportunity to learn new things everyday such as making a mural, a big visual on-line canvas where all team members can communicate their ideas and inputs. We used a mural to capture our task board, where we can visually see the action items on a daily basis and keep our focus on priorities. We also carried out an Empathy Map exercise, which is part of Design Thinking practices, where we tried to get our client to express their personal feelings and thoughts.
By the 3rd week, the deliverables were taking shape. Marketing strategies, an optimized marketing plan with new structure, segmentation and some new tactical ideas were being finalized, among other things.
The 4th and final week of the assignment was quite overwhelming as we presented our output to the IBM CSC manager.
The team was able to experience the triple benefits of the IBM CSC program:
- Communities have their problem addressed
- IBMers increase their leadership and functional skills
- IBM develops new market and global leaders
On a cold Saturday morning, August 6th, we departed for the airport, and said goodbye to Qingdao.The bond, the rapport, and attachment created is beyond explanation.
To sum it up, the experience I got in the CSC assignment was amazing and beyond what words can explain. This is an experience of a lifetime and I am excited to have had the opportunity to join IBM as we help transform communities.
Jose Poovathinkal is Estates Planning Manager – IBM MEEP & Turkey
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