Ece (left) and Cemal (right), and two other IBM volunteers, helped students develop skills to improve creative and critical thinking.
Ece (left) and Cemal (right),
and two other IBM
volunteers, helped students
develop skills to improve
creative and critical

At the end of 2016, IBM CEO and Chairman Ginni Romenty coined the term “new collar” jobs to describe highly skilled employees who may not necessarily have four-year college degrees. She said, “What matters most is that these employees – with jobs such as cloud computing technicians and services delivery specialists – have relevant skills, often obtained through vocational training.”

In Turkey, two IBM volunteers recently played a role helping young students develop their “new collar” skills when they led a workshop in design thinking.

“The students we met were in the web design program at Maçka technical and vocational high school ,” says Cemal Günekbay, a digital transformation consultant for IBM in Istanbul, Turkey.

“The students are skilled in the technical area, but they needed help in the soft skills such as how to identify requirements, how to find the right idea for the right need, how to combine function with usability—so we chose to run a session on IBM design thinking.”

Design thinking draws on logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning to develop ideas and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user or customer.

Left brain, right brain

Cemal and Ece Hamzalioglu, learned about the opportunity at Maçka from the IBM corporate communications and corporate affairs manager in Turkey.

“Ceyhun Gocenoglu was aware of my willingness to join volunteer activities,” says Ece, an business transformation consultant also in Istanbul. “In one of our regular discussions, he told me and Cemal about the project. I felt excited not only because it was a chance for students to learn more about IBM and our approaches in the market, it also offered me a chance to strengthen my skills.”

The session was held earlier in 2017 over a two week period and was attended by over 30 students.

“I actually didn’t know a great deal about the school at first,” says Cemal. “But while we were there, I could see an opportunity to provide the students with more up-to-date technology, equipment, and curriculum.”

Two other IBM volunteers in Istanbul, Kemal Kestelli—an IBM managing consultant, and Baris Abi—an IBM campaign manager, first provided the class with principles in project management and a perspective on current and future trends in web design.

“The planned sessions were interrelated with what Cemal and I did,” says Ece. “The overall program was related to the student’s web design class, so we organized the sessions to provide them with an end-to-end overview about web design projects including the project management, web design, new approaches, technologies and trends.”

The full day session by Baris provided a view about the marketplace, web design, new technologies and tools. And Kemal, who has extensive project management experience, reviewed the phases required to conduct a project by using a real project example.

Those sessions helped set-up the next meeting led by Cemal and Ece.

Big ideas and creativity

Before the design thinking workshop, Cemal and Ece had learned the students were challenged on building creative user-centered designs, and that they had less knowledge on current implementations and applications in the market.

The students had been working in teams on various projects—a mobile app to create music using virtual reality glasses and instruments, a social networking platform based on hobbies learned by a smart system, a website that suggests recipes based on the visitor’s ingredients.

Using design thinking practices as shown by the IBM volunteers, the students learned to define problems and create innovative solutions and ideas.

During the session Cemal and Ece showed real world examples of exceptional design, demonstrating how the user is often the inspiration for big ideas. Then the volunteers gave a series of “crazy ideas” to the students about the project they were working on, and challenged them take the far-fetched concepts to a more feasible level.

“In this way, the students could see and visualize how the theories are applied in the market and industries,” says Ece.

For Cemal, the project was actually a small scale replica of the IBM design thinking workshops he has facilitated for IBM clients.

“The planning of the workshop, the preparation, actually holding the workshop, participant interaction—all of those have their roots in my experience with the client engagements,” he says.

The experience of the two volunteers was evident in the reaction from the students.

Cemal says that, “They were really engaged and insisted we extend the session for an extra hour and a half without asking for a break. At the end, the students were ready to practice more with us, and asked for more resources so they can continue exploring IBM design thinking.”

“All of us have been in these students’ positions once and faced the same difficulties,” says Ece. “Therefore, it was a great chance to support them with their challenges. Above that, seeing the level of engagement in this project was amazing.”

Ece feels strongly that her project background and experience helped her to be prepared and to transfer knowledge to the students as effectively as possible.

“It was an honor to be a part of this initiative. I would love to see projects similar to this and to take part in them as well,” says Cemal. “I believe all of us have a responsibility to give back to the community for its betterment; a society only can move as fast as its slowest member, after all.”

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