May 30, 2017 | Written by: Johnson Liu
Categorized: Community | Customer Stories
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Upon returning home to the United States, I reflected on my experience on the Corporate Service Corps Indonesia 7 team. Through this, I realized how career- and life-changing my time in Indonesia was. Prior to my deployment, I had a small sense of the project, the culture, and the other IBMers on the team, despite the weeks of pre-deployment work I had undergone (https://www.ibm.com/blogs/bluemix/2017/03/bluemix-garage-developer-corporate-service-corp-participant/). After my CSC project ended, I can say how grateful I am to be part of the CSC experience and being involved in collaborating with the local community. In the end, our team add three very different contributions to three unique host organizations. After one month abroad, the Indonesia 7 IBM team has become a second family to me.
Overall, participating in the Corporate Service Corps was amazing. Of its many strengths, the collaboration across the IBMers, the the non-profit, and local clients was one of Indonesia 7’s best attributes. IBMers brought with them technical and business expertise; the non-profits shared their knowledge of the community and its needs, which helped guide us and our work; and the clients graciously hosted and cotextualized the issues at hand and validated the solutions we helped create.
Assisting Bogor Agricultural University with Cloud, Data warehouses, and development best practices
Upon arriving to Indonesia, our team was divided into 3 smaller squads. Each squad had a different client, objective, set of challenges, and, ultimately, solutions. The first squad worked with Yayasan Cipta Mandiri, a local youth non-profit that prepares children and teenagers with life and technical skills, like cooking, design, business, and English. The second and third squads worked with Insitu Pertanian Bogor (IPB) – Bogor Agricultural University’s (IPB). These two squads were paired with IPB’s IT and Computer Science departments, respectively. The second squad was tasked with improving the processes and technologies used by the IT department and with helping build and maintain a data warehouse. The third squad helped the computer science department and students understand emerging technologies and soft skills to help their career and technology projects.
Bert-Jan Werkman from the Netherlands, Ying Wu from Canada, and I, an American, composed one of the two IPB teams, and were assigned with building a data warehouse, establishing best practices for application development, and optimizing database performance.
Our opening meeting with the IT management staff at IPB raised many concerns to us. The team mentioned that they had limited knowledge of what a data warehouse was, and described frequently facing security breaches where hackers would steal data from their academic servers or deface university websites. Our squad also noted several areas where developers from IPB could improve their development skills and team communication. Developers were not guided by any methodology or set of practices. IPB management was also very concerned about local natural disasters that affected their data center like fires, floods, and earthquakes. In fact, on our second day on site, a large fire broke out in a server room. The fire destroyed multiple network switches, IT servers, and backup servers which only reinforced the need for a disaster recovery plan and a migration plan to cloud databases.
During the CSC, I was able to bring what we do in the Bluemix Garage to the solutions and ideas we offered to the IPB IT team like doing pair programming, doing daily stand ups, doing design thinking to understand problem statements and scenarios, and bringing existing IT infrastructure to the cloud or a hybrid cloud model.
We had four weeks to deliver a final presentation and finalize transferring our project. The first week consisted of meetings with directors from the IT infrastructure, application development, and database administration to understand their existing architecture. We also held informal interviews with developers and IT administrators to better understand their current needs. Our conversations would help prioritize delivering a solution that was culturally, organizationally, and financially appropriate.
During the second and third weeks, we conducted a series of workshops and informal trainings for the entire staff. We took advantage of weekly team-wide meetings, and piggy-backed our workshops on cloud, agile methodologies, data security, data warehouses, and information management.
Our first workshop focused on the different agile methodologies available. We discussed agile, extreme programming, and the IBM Cloud Garage Method to explain the various approaches to development. We held a mock “stand-up” that day, and eventually went on to do stand-ups for the rest of the month. During the workshop, we walked through setting up a cloud runtime and database using Bluemix.
The data warehouse workshop helped define what a modern data warehouse looks like and we arrived at decision to make small tweaks to their reporting database, which would ultimately reduce costs. Also, to ensure a better disaster recovery plan, we recommended some potential data warehouse / data analytic cloud solutions like dashDB on Bluemix.
By the end of the project, we learned about how a university in Bogor, Indonesia operates and the key issues that universities in the area face. Natural disasters like floods, fires, earthquakes, and volcanos often provide network, power, and application failures frequently. Moving applications and databases to the cloud was something we helped the university understand and how the migration plan might work.
Our squad recommended short and long term plans for IPB’s data warehouse and cloud solutions for their existing solutions that will ultimately raise their academic and university effectiveness. The IBM CSC team has been collaboratively working with the IBM Indonesia technical team on long term cloud solutions. In the end, I learned how to work with Indonesians and how incredibly friendly and welcoming everyone at IPB was. Each meeting always opened with afternoon tea and snacks and each meeting began with an opening introduction and summary of the meeting and concluded with a summary of the topics discussed and next actions. I learned the value of collective thought and the value of bringing in opinions of the entire team before a decision.
Make your own impact
The people and the IBMers I worked with in Bogor, Indonesia left a profound impact in my life. I was immersed in Bogor’s rich culture and learned its history, as well as that of the island of Java in Indonesia. During the weekends, we had local tours where we were able to learn with local organizations to about their businesses and how they wanted to grow with business and technology. One of the most memorable moments of our trip was when we got to visit YCM – a local youth organization that trains underprivileged youth about business and English speaking skills and they had an “IBM food cup” day where we each got to share our country’s dishes and sing songs from our own countries. But above all, the impact we had on the university and the organization simply by introducing agile methodologies is one of the most significant outcomes of this trip.
To other IBMers: the application process for CSC is opening soon. The experience itself can be career-defining, by bringing together your passion for volunteerism and your business and technology skills from IBM in an emerging economy. You are able to build meaningful relationships with other IBMers across the world and directly support a local community with its own projects.
Candidates are selected through an internal application process, which opens at the end of May. To learn more, search “Corporate Service Corps” in our intra-network, where you will find eligibility requirements and more stories like mine.