New Experience – IBM Executive Service Corps Assignment – Da Nang, Vietnam
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I'll be using this blog over the next 3 weeks or so to chronicle my experiences with something very different from my normal job. I have been given a great opportunity to learn about emerging markets, help out a growing city, and experience a new culture, all rolled into one. IBM has a Corporate Service program called the IBM Corporate Service Corps. Through this program, IBM sponsors groups of IBM employees to work with local governments in emerging markets, to bring new technology and capabilities to these areas so that they can grow in a smart and efficient manner.
I've been accepted into this program and have just started a 3 week assignment in Da Nang, Vietnam. For those who are not quite familiar with the area, Vietnam is in southeast Asia, roughly half way between India and Japan. Da Nang, Vietnam is near the mid-point, north-to-south, of the country, on the coast of the South China Sea. Da Nang is the third largest urban area in Vietnam, with about 1 million people. Hanoi, in the north, and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), in the south are much larger.
Our goal, while here in Da Nang, is to work with the local government to find ways to improve three areas of critical infrastructure: water management, transportation, and food safety. Within these three, I will be focusing on food safety, along with my IBM colleague, Eileen Doherty. We will learn much more about what challenges Da Nang faces in these areas as we work with government leaders over the 3 week assignment.
My travel to Vietnam started early on Tuesday morning (5AM from the house, 7AM flight) from Raleigh, NC USA (-5 GMT). After a 4 hour lay-over at JFK airport in New York, I took a 13.5 hour flight to Incheon, South Korea. The flight path for this flight took us very near the North Pole, flying over Canada, Hudson Bay, the Arctic circle, Siberia, and China before landing in South Korea at 4PM local time – on Wednesday afternoon. After another 3 hour lay-over, we took our final flight, 4.5 hours more, to land in Da Nang, Vietnam (+7 GMT) at 10PM on Wednesday evening. Since the US is on daylight savings time right now, Da Nang is 11 hours ahead of the current time in Raleigh, NC.
My first impressions of Da Nang were very good – the airport is very modern, customs officials are very nice, and the people are quite helpful. This promises to be a very interesting 3 weeks!