Friday, May 23, 2014

Top 10 Things I Learned While in Morocco Working with IBM's CSC Program

It's over.  Team 5 Morocco bittersweetly disbands after 4 weeks together.

Here's the top 10 things, in no particular order, I learned from this experience.

1) Moroccans are a very kind and generous people.  They should be role model's for the global service industry; they smile, look you in the eye and so many people went the extra mile in our requests. They didn't have to but they did.

2) IBM'ers can do anything.  I was so impressed how all 4 teams came together and seamlessly used our different skills to produce excellent recommendations to our clients.

3) All the IBM teams found a lack of documentation with our clients.  In our final meeting we were told (and I'm paraphrasing a bit) "Moroccans like to talk and discuss so it doesn't leave much time for documenting".  That is a universal truth in Morocco.

4) Moroccans are about relationships and as we nurtured them over the last 4 weeks we now have friends for life. Our client's closing remarks were not just about our deliverables but he spent just as much time talking about being ambassadors for Morocco (not kidding) and that we now all had new life long friends to look forward to.

5) Moroccan food is awesome.  From the ubiquitous mint tea and couscous, tajines, kebobs, salads with little to know lettuce (that was for you Brittany) we all put on a few pounds.

6) The 15 IBMers selected to come to Morocco were all great IBM ambassadors. We impressed our clients with our dedication and smarts and as we traveled the country our interactions with Moroccans were thoughtful and respectful.

7) The 15 IBMers who made up Team 5 Morocco completely took advantage of Morocco. Each long client day was followed by late dinners all over Casablanca (see trip advisor) as we made sure to experience as many different spots as possible. From hammams, to daily jogs for some, treking across the country on the weekends, eating with clients at lunch, we all embraced being in Morocco and soaked up as much as we could.

8) In preparation for our trip we spent time on how to work with Moroccans based on their culture. We learned just as much or more working with the other IBMers from all over the world and how their culture informs their approach and working style. I learned "big time" that my approach to time is very tight compared to the loose approach in Morocco.

9) Just as we developed new friendships with our clients we developed strong relationships amongst the IBMers and boom, just like that, we each have 15 new life long friends that were not there a month ago.

10) As I think about how this experience will inform me working back home right now what resonates is
Thank you IBM for this opportunity.
Thank you to my fellow IBMers for making this a balanced experience although I think the scales tip in favour of fun vs work,
Thank you to the country of Morocco for being so kind and generous.
Thank you to Misha, Nabil, and Imane for facilitating this engagement.
And thank you to our families and co-workers back home who had to take on more in our absence.

I'm forever grateful.

PS - I spoke more French this month than I have in the previous 20 years combined.  It was a great reminder of how much I love this language and will prevent me from losing it completely. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Hamman - A key Moroccan Way of Life - Dany Le Goaix

I treated myself to first Hammam this week.  It is a traditional cleaning ritual that many Moroccans take part of once a week and are found in each neighbourhood.  The Hamman is  Moroccan Bath-house, similar to a Turkish bathhouse.    As part of their weekly rituals it is a place for men and women to separately catchup on neighbourhood gossip, politics and family.  I believe even more so for women who don't participate in the local cafe scene.  From what I've read women will usually go with their friends or family, both to chat and socialise, but also to help each other with the ritual. 

When you enter there is a menu of options to choose; cleanse, scrub, massage.  I went for the package deal to get the full experience.  Part of this means purchasing a tool and a hand glove to be used for the full body scrub to exfoliate. 

Once you enter you strip down to your underwear.  You give your clothes and valuables which are stored in a locker.  I was escorted to a shower stall and then went into a hot steamy sauna which left me wondering how long I could survive it.  I laid down for about 5-10 minutes and then came out and was escorted to a marble table where the I was enthusiastically scrubbed down with an exfoliate glove for a good 10 minutes.  Your then washed down and off to the masseuse.  He applies an oil to your complete body and then spends about 30 minutes giving a full body message although more time was spent lying on my back then face.  Throughout the process a body tap was the signal to turn over.  After the message,  it was another shower,  another suana and then a complete soap and shampoo wash down applied on the marble table with another shower.  The whole experience lasted about 1hr 20 minutes. 

All of this was had for about 280 Dirham including tip which is about $37 CDN.  Plus it was the best I've felt in a while,  skin all tingly and feeling very alive.  You can not spent time in Morocco without enjoying a Hammam.   I can completely understand why this is a big part of Moroccan culture. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Volunteer Day! (Laurie Miller)

We in Morocco on the team helping the OFPPT, the government organization that provides vocational training to Morocco's youth, were lucky enough to have our entire CSC team come to the OFPPT for Volunteer Day this week.

The team of 15 IBMers spent the morning with about 150 young Moroccans in the schools of IT, and Business and Management. These young people were all studying to be business owners, managers, developers, architects, graphic arts designers, etc. We had the opportunity to help them understand what it's like to work for IBM, how to interview, and how to turn their knowledge into strengths, both on paper in their CVs and in person in their interviews.

Our sponsors, coordinators, and partners in this endeavor were Nadia from Education for Employment or EFE, an organization that helps ready graduates for interviews and helps place them in jobs, and our dear Imane from Digital Opportunity Trust or DOT, the group that has arranged our entire stay here in Morocco. They and Nabil, our counterpart from IBM, kicked off the session, explaining their groups and why IBM was here for the month, and then we introduced ourselves.

After that we broke into three groups -
  • IT technical folks
  • People interested in Business and Management
  • People interested in Digital Economy
In our small groups, we all endeavored to get the students talking. We wanted them to understand what it's like to speak up, to express oneself in front of others they don't know, and to do some sort of exercise to help them start thinking about their futures. The Business and Management group had them do some role playing exercises where they were a manager and a worker having difficult conversations, the IT group shared information about how no matter what skills (languages, etc.) one learns in school, that everything is useful in the marketplace. Many of them will be working in areas in  the future that don't even exist today, and they need to know that what they learn is transferable. In our Digital Economy group, we talked about the things they do online today, and how those hobbies and fun things are skills they can use in their careers, and how to translate those into strengths on their CVs.

At the end of our time, we got back together in a large group and students who wanted to addressed the whole group about what they learned. We believe that for the most part, they loved it. The best quote is from one young man who said "When I heard about this group coming to OFPPT, I thought it was going to be really annoying. But it was wonderful - thank you so much." The video below is Sue encouraging students to get up and talk about their experience, and one young brave women being the first of many to do so.

#ibmcsc #ibmcscmorocco5

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

IBM Giveback at Moroccan Vocational Training Centre - Dany Le Goaix

We had an interesting day today as the IBM team met with an agency called OFPPT. This a large govt agency in Morocco that provides Vocational Training across many job competencies as well as facilitating the finding of employment for its graduates.  We met in an assembly hall where we had some introductions from the various partners involved in the day and then split off into 3
groups.  Our IBM group spoke about digital media and how to best prepare yourself for jobs in a field where these roles are scarce in Morocco. Our theme was to keep growing their skills at school and out of school,  to look for opportunities while volunteering, and to not only grow their technical skills but remember the soft skills such as leadership and communication.

It was announced at the session that IBM will be looking to the OFPPT as a source of employees for it's Global Delivery Centre in Morocco which was great news for these students.  Today they have 30 staff and are looking to grow to 400 by 2017.

Our team got the students in a group circle and got them to stand and introduce themselves which I heard afterwards is not something they have done before.  The students were engaged and participated actively. Lots of good questions about students having a hard time leveraging their skills in the current Moroccan market. One student was looking to start a website for freelancers to link to potential clients. Several students spoke English quite well. Our student group which was in an IT stream was 90% male. My female colleagues reached out the women afterwards. Several students came up to us individually to get our email addresses to help guide or coach them.  Overall I was really impressed with their critical thinking. Given the chance, they will do well.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Catching You Up on Morocco and the SMIT Project - Dany Le Goaix

My blogs have fallen off with all the busy days we've been having.   Between long days at the client, tracking a restaurant down at night and getting to bed at a reasonable time it's been an effort to find time to blog.  Our client is about a 2hr trip one way and the travel has worn us out abit and used up workable hours. I thought that not having the responsibility and time requirements of family would have made this activity a breeze but that has not been the case.   I thought I would provide a summary of the past week to catch up.

From a Morocco perspective the country continues to reel me in.  The people seem genuinely happy, more so than back home in Canada.  As you walk through the markets people are smiling.  When you strike up a conversation they look to see how you like Morocco as they are proud of their country.   People are very hospitable and friendly.   The climate is nice;  a dry heat with clear blue skies about 80% of the time.  Moroccan food is delicious and very accessible - nothing is too spicy or strong in the flavour.   Kebobs, tajins (stewed meat in clay pots) and couscous are the main dishes.   Portions are always generous yet the population is on the lean side.

The IBM team here are a great group of people from all over the world bringing different skills and approaches to the teams.  I'm on a team with a Brazilian, Japanese and American women.   We have had a few challenges as our client communicates in French except for our main interface, Fatimah,  who spent 2  years in the US as part of her university degree.   We've had to very consciously be aware and pause and translate conversations into English.  This has helped the non French speakers stay abreast of the conversations.   In Morocco business is based on relationships and we were able to make some in roads this week by having lunch with Fatima.  She took us to a local restaurant where we had one of our best meals so far.  I had a local specialty,  an avocado smoothie which was DELICIOUS.   We are going to spend next Saturday with her touring the city of Rabat which she lives near and where we have been working.  She is bringing her 2 year old son along which is also a good sign that we have a good relationship with her.  Work relationships transcend the collegial very quickly here.

Our project has evolved to a point where we are doing a business process mapping exercise of their tourism project life cycle.   As we do this we are capturing the sustainability inputs and outputs through each part of their value chain.   Sustainability in this context is about ensuring tourism projects have a non-impact / positive impact on the environment, socio-cultural and socio-economic conditions.   We are also separating out sustainability indicators/criteria from sustainability measurements.  We will include these as part of the process mapping exercise.   As well we will provide some organizational change management recommendations with regards to putting some teeth in their mission statement that sustainability is the heart of any tourism project and the Moroccan Tourism looks to have sustainability as a key differentiator from other countries in the battle for tourist dollars.

Finally a shout out to Nabil our contact from IBM and Imane from DOT,  the company who works with IBM to find these projects and get IBM on the ground.  These individuals display the skills and behaviours that we are looking to learn on this experiences.   They are open, approachable and are able to calibrate their approach to the situation.  Imane has made calls to executives to remove roadblocks and Nabil has advised us on our approaches from a cultural perspective.  So far that has been the key learning experience for me in making the cultural adaptability exercises real and not text book.  I can myself approaching my global colleagues differently now that I'm not in my western context.

Over and out.   

Monday, May 5, 2014

Really understanding it all (Laurie Miller)

We've now spent five full days with our new friends at OFPPT - the Vocational Training organization in Morocco - and we "get it." While the challenges they're facing aren't potentially life-threatening like those of our fellow teammates who work with ALCS (the AIDS foundation) or CHU (one of the local hospitals, where they are working on tightening up the pharmaceutical distribution process), the things we're working on with OFPPT do affect the quality of life in Morocco - for thousands of young people who might otherwise choose not to work, and for those already working who have the opportunity to enrich their lives through additional learning at work.

On Friday, we visited the OFPPT center in downtown Casa, where we talked with students in the Building sector learning area. I was struck by the number of women in this industry who are learning about the construction industry - fully two-thirds of a CAD/CAM class was filled with women learning about architecture and building construction there. There was one computer for every two or three students, and all were hard at work learning when we arrived.
Next we went to a wood working shop, where students were learning to make furniture.

Then, we headed over to the design school, where students were learning some old forms of decoration, that might be used in a home on walls or as the basis for a design on furniture. I talked with a few students there - one said she was here because after a year at university, she realized she could come to OFPPT for far less money, learn the same trade, and be done in a couple of years instead of four, with a better opportunity to get a job. Another young woman told me that she wants to open her own design business, and that this will be great training for that. And a third said she loves art and drawing, and this is a way to do that and make a living simultaneously.
We then went to the metal working area, where students were working on metal joints for some sort of rebar structure - I'm not going to pretend to know all about that - and the young man I talked to said that he was already working in this area, but he knows he could get a higher salary if he learned from OFPPT, so he's spending the time (I think his curriculum is six months long) to have the diploma, to raise his standard of living. And another boy - just 15 years old - was learning the trade to secure his future.
So we're finding that for the students already in OFPPT, they like it, they see the value, and the returns are great. The issue we're working on is how to get the word out - how to reach the people who aren't enrolling, whose parents think that OFPPT is not good enough, whose friends believe that this sort of learning is just 'second best' to a University education.

We've nailed down our statement of work with our client, and we're beginning to make some inroads in the headquarters organization to understand the process of communications, and how we can help. More to come!

#ibmcsc #ibmcscmorocco5 #morocco5 #whatlaurieloves

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Getting to know our client (Laurie Miller)

We've been working with our client now for two days - it's a really interesting assignment. We're working with the government organization to help them change the public's view of vocational training. They offer so much for people to learn - from equine care to aeronautics to networking to restaurant management and everything in between. We're really impressed with how much there is for them to share, and we're trying to figure out how to get the 'word out' to people at how broad the learning is, and little it costs.
Our plan is to create a very comprehensive communications plan that will address many people of different ages and walks of life, and help people understand what the possibilities are for learning and for their futures.
We're also getting to know our teammates - everyone is so very interesting and is sharing stories of their lives, one by one. What a great group!

Looking forward to traveling to Fes tomorrow.