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Celebration of Service

Project management skills help stage life-changing learning opportunities

IBM employee Beth Karos uses her project management skills to coordinate the Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair

Seven years ago, IBM software support manager Beth Karos had her first experience with the Pittsburgh Regional Science and Engineering Fair. Like any good IBM project manager type, she immediately began making suggestions on how to make it run better. Now, the software support manager is an On Demand Community Service Leader. On Demand Community is a global community that combines the skills of over 175,000 IBM employee and retiree volunteers with the power of access to IBM technology, training, and support.

Beth was drawn to the Service Leader role while scanning IBM’s internal On Demand Community website for volunteer ideas. She was intrigued by the expanded IBM Celebration of Service Grants options available this year, and said "I thought the Service Leader role seemed to match very well with what I wanted to do with the Science Fair. So I just went ahead and did it." Her project management skills "also helped make it a perfect fit."

This year, Beth is organizing the fair’s volunteer recruitment. In April, she helped solicit and coordinate the 100-plus community volunteers who staged a life-changing learning opportunity for more than 1000 children from 25 counties in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Included were nearly 30 IBM employees that Beth recruited as part of her Celebration of Service commitment.

Planning for Science and Engineering Fair recruitment

In preparation for the science fair, Beth drew on her project management training and the new Service Leader Tool Kit available in the On Demand Community to help recruit IBM employees and other community volunteers for the event.

To recruit and communicate with the IBM volunteers, Beth utilized the volunteer recruitment tools within On Demand Community. "I absolutely plan to do all this again next year," she says, and is already giving thought to the volunteer staffing needed for the international science fair, which will bring in more than 1,600 high school students from nearly 60 countries, regions and territories.

The Volunteer Activity Management tool that IBM makes available as part of On Demand Community helped Beth recruit and keep in regular contact with IBM volunteers before the April science engineer fair. In a region where most of the volunteers work remotely, "the fair turned out to be a really nice chance to actually see many of the folks you work with," she says.

Beth has no children of her own, but she finds the science fair competitors' enthusiasm to be contagious. "The kids get so excited about this stuff, you can't help but feel the same way," she says.

She also relishes the chance to make IBM and IBMers better known in her community.

"Kids today seem to know all about Microsoft and Apple, but they don't seem to know as much about IBM,” she notes. “I think this is one fun way to help change that."

Planning even more activities

Beth has also applied for a team Community grant for the science fair, and IBM was a Gold Sponsor and provided two awards for projects that fit within IBM's general interests. One is an "Optimal Keyboard for the Disabled, " designed by a student intent on helping a friend overcome the challenges of cerebral palsy; the other a “Homemade Cipher" encryption device that demonstrated the student’s understanding of technology in privacy protection.

The Pittsburgh Service Leader is following up with a "lessons-learned" breakfast session with IBM volunteers during the June 15 IBM Celebration of Service Day. She describes it as a combination of thanks for the fair and preparation for next year’s even more ambitious Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The world's largest international pre-college science competition is coming to Pittsburgh in 2012 and Beth and her cadre of volunteers will be there.

Beth and other members of the IBM Pittsburg Super Women's Group – as they call themselves – will also be busy with another Celebration of Service Day event, volunteering for a number of projects at the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. As you’d imagine, they appear to be very well planned.

IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.