One of the things I wanted to do with this blog from the start is to tell not just my story but the stories of the people I encounter. One of the ways I’ve been doing this is by interviewing some of the people who have already completed their CSC experience.
I’d like to introduce you to John Fredette, who works in Corporate Marketing. John worked as part of Team Kenya 2, and has a great blog which you can see here. I’d encourage you to take the time and pay it a visit; I really enjoyed reading his insights; he does a good job conveying how he connected with his team, his clients, and with Kenya in general.
Here is our conversation. My questions are in plain text; John’s replies are in green.
How long have you worked at IBM, and what is your role?
I have worked at IBM for 15 years, and have been fortunate to have worked in many different roles, primarily in marketing communications. Currently, I work in Corporate Marketing on the global advertising team. In this area, I manage the US media team – which is responsible for the paid media strategy and execution for all our advertising – including television, print and digital.
What made you decide to apply for CSC?
I was very interested in the CSC from the first time I heard about the program. The idea of deploying with a diverse team and work in an emerging market is alluring to me – and coupled with my love of travel, this was an opportunity I did not want to pass up.
Was it hard to win the support of your management team, given that they would lose you for a month? How did you go about convincing them that this was a good idea?
They were very supportive, as they understood the opportunity presented – and the business/skills value that would come back with me as a result. That said, I did have to come up with a coverage and backup plan, and had a lot to catch up on when I returned to the office. It was well worth it, though!
Tell us about your deployment project. What was your team asked to accomplish?
There were 12 IBM’ers assigned to our group – and we were split up into 3 groups, working with different divisions within the Government of Kenya. My group was assigned to work with the national postal corporation – who, like many other postal entities around the globe, were suffering from declining revenues and an antiquated business model. Our task was to provide recommendations for improvement – from adding government services, to creating partnerships with banks, to organizational restructuring.
Were your day-to-day job skills of any use? Did you have to learn new skills?
It was interesting – I was the one true ‘marketing’ person on the Kenya team, so the majority of marketing & communications responsibilities were mine to own. From developing market research, to planning awareness initiatives, I brought my everyday skills to the table throughout the whole project. The challenge was the setting – you could not take the same tactics from a mature market like the U.S. and immediately apply them to an emerging market like Kenya. The principles remained the same, yet you had to be flexible in the approach.
What were your team’s finished results? How were those results received?
We ended up providing some very forthright recommendations to the client team. These involved not only new services and potential restructuring, but looking at a whole new strategy for how they operate. The team recognized the situation they were in, and were very receptive – and I’m pleased to since our deployment, they have rolled out many of the initiatives we recommended. There was some press about this recently, which can be seen here.
What was the most surprising thing that you learned from your CSC project?
Not really surprising – but I was amazed with the people of Kenya – from the government leaders to people on the street. Everyone was friendly, passionate about their country and eager to help us out in any way possible.
What was the single most rewarding experience?
Working with my amazing CSC team. We were 12 people from 9 countries, representing various backgrounds and skill sets. But once deployed, we immediately became a seamless team, working around the clock and each contributing our own unique skills. I keep in touch with all my team members today, and will always have a special bond with them.
Thank you John for taking the time to share some of your adventure with us.
John runs an active Twitter stream; I have frequently found his articles to be both interesting and useful. You can follow him here.