Corporate Service Corps

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IBM takes workers across the world

By Michael C. Juliano, taff Writer
Article Launched: 10/02/2008 02:59:26 AM EDT

Stamford resident Tom Agoston left today for Vietnam on a tour of duty to help businesses in the emerging country.

Upon arrival, Agoston, an IBM employee, will join seven of his IBM co-workers from around the world in Danang, a city of about 750,000, as participants in IBM's new Corporate Services program.

"This is an opportunity for me to take off my IBM sales hat and help a small country," said Agoston, an external relations manager for IBM Communications in Armonk, N.Y. "I'm going to learn from them as much as they're going to learn from me."

Tom Agoston, who is going to Danang City, Vietnam as part of IBM's new Corporate Services Corps, for one month. His work will involve information technology, international trade and general business. (Paul Desmarais/Staff photo)

Agoston and his fellow employees will work with the local chamber of commerce to create training programs in information technology and international business management.

Agoston, an IBM employee since 1991 who travels to Japan to visit the family of his wife, Yukari, said he enjoys experiencing other cultures.

"It changes my perspective and I grow as a person," he said.

Agoston went to Singapore in 1983 as a visiting scholar with the Henry Luce Foundation to conduct a comparative study of the telecommunication industries in Singapore and the United States.

Three years later, he went to Tokyo as a Fulbright Scholar to conduct research and write a book on the relationships between Japanese telephone companies, the country's Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, IBM and AT&T's Japanese headquarters.

From 1991 through 1993, Agoston, who has a law degree from UCLA, was a program manager for Tokyo's IBM Global

Network - Asia Pacific. He returned to Tokyo two years later as an Internet services manager for IBM, where he started Internet services in nine Asian countries.

From 1997 to 1998, Agoston went to Tokyo as a program manager for IBM to manage third-party content for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics Web site.

"I love to live and work internationally," he said.

Agoston, who has lived in Japan for a total of seven years and speaks Japanese, said visiting other cultures teaches him about himself and the United States.

"It gives me the ability to step away from my own culture and identify the lens through which I see the world," he said.

IBM spokesman Clint Roswell said the seven other employees are from Austin, Texas; Canada; Mexico; Australia; India; Brazil and Hungary.

"They'll have greater knowledge and expertise in dealing with clients and how we operate in a globally integrated world," he said.

Roswell said other IBM employees who have participated in the three-year program, which started in July, return from other countries saying how they have gained so much from the experience.

"I've had people come back and say how they've learned about working with diverse team members and cultures and what it takes to succeed in a global economy," he said. "You can't get that experience just sitting at a desk, whether it be in Stamford or Armonk."

Participants go through two months of training before leaving the United States and then teach what they've learned to the next team for two months.

Stanley Litow, the program's vice president, said IBM's goal is to have 600 employees with leadership qualities participate in the program over the next three years.

"In three years, we'll have a network of people who have global leadership experience and will be able to lead the company in new directions," he said.

Litow said the program is designed to benefit the employee, the country being visited and IBM and is a model that has received considerable attention, including mention by former first lady Barbara Bush at the White House's recent Service Summit.

"This is a program that a lot of people are interested in," he said.

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