A business trip for a cause
IBM teams help foster emerging economies
By KATHERINE DIAZ
firstname.lastname@example.org Posted: Aug. 4, 2008
Jerry Seubert’s next clients, 12 time zones away from his Milwaukee office, won’t have to put up a dollar — or, more precisely, a dong, the currency of Vietnam — for the services they’ll receive from IBM Corp.
Seubert, who has worked for the world’s largest information technology company for 13 years, flies to Vietnam at the end of this month as a member of IBM’s Corporate Service Corps. His team will work with the chamber of commerce in the port city of Da Nang on small- and medium-business development.
“This will be the challenge-of-a-lifetime opportunity for a person like myself,” Seubert said.
International Business Machines Corp. created the Corporate Service Corps program to increase its global influence, improve employees’ leadership skills, help local communities, and foster the economies of emerging markets. In sending some 600 employees on volunteer assignments overseas, the company will spend as much as $250 million in time and services over three years, said Stan Litow, IBM’s vice president of corporate citizenship.
Seubert and his eight other teammates, who hail from places as far flung as India and Hungary, have spent the past three months learning about Da Nang’s business climate and each others’ expertise.
Seubert, who started with IBM as an engineer in the software division and now works in sales, will focus on two projects in Da Nang. In addition to working with the chamber of commerce on business development, he’ll prepare local college students for careers in IT sales.
“We’re helping students, faculty and staff better understand the types of sales training that people need, how the IT world is developing,” Seubert said.
In all, IBM is sending 12 teams to work in Romania, Tanzania, Ghana, Turkey, the Philippines and Vietnam.
The first group to deploy returned from Romania this past weekend. Employees had to have high performance ratings to be selected; 5,000 people applied for the 100 slots available in the first round of the program.
IBM worked with nonprofits to identify projects to undertake in the host countries.
The company estimates that Da Nang will receive $250,000 in consulting services from Seubert’s team.
“We need to learn a lot more about Vietnam to have our business grow there,” said Robin Willner, vice president of Global Community Initiatives for IBM. The company already has operations in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Seubert and his team will spend a month in Vietnam and two months doing follow-up work when they return home. While there, he’ll blog on the company’s Web site so colleagues and anyone else who’s interested can follow the team’s work.
In the meantime, Seubert is adding to the list of facts he didn’t previously know about Da Nang’s business climate — such as the six-day workweek — and looking forward to skills he’ll gain from the experience.
“I’ll be able to be a better consultant to my customers,” he said.
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.