Wow – this whole experience went by way too quickly. I’m sitting in my condo looking at my luggage bags, similar to how I was looking at them when I was packing to leave for Casablanca, almost 2 months ago. On this day, instead of anticipation, I’m thinking about what a special 6 weeks I just experienced. Something that I shared with some amazing IBMers, clients and even more impressing, the students of Casablanca that I was so fortunate to spend time with.
To say this experience changed my mindset is an understatement. I have always loved travelling. I have lived in Saudi Arabia, I take yearly trips with my mom where we, as I like to say, “just be” and now, I’ve worked in another city, doing something that could have long lasting impact to a city and country. This CSC placement only has me craving more. The world is a wonderful place full of amazing people and I want to explore it all…and I will.
Looking forward to sharing my experience with you and hope to connect soon. Enjoy the photos below.
It’s hard to believe that 25 days have passed and I’m sitting in my hotel room writing my final blog about my CSC experience.
I have mixed emotions. On one hand, I’m very happy that we’ve completed our assignment. We presented our findings and recommendations to INJAZ yesterday and today. Our recommendations were well received and we have gained INJAZ’s commitment to start implementing the highest priority ones right away. It is so encouraging that our work was deemed as valuable by the client. Often times you wonder if the work you do will actually make an impact. I truly believe after this experience that the work IBM has done will strengthen the foundation of INJAZ.
I say this all the time, IT hardware and software are enablers. IT enables businesses, Governments and NGO’s to operate their business with confidence so the employees can spent their time doing things that really matter. No employee one wants to spend their time waiting on Internet or tools, inputting data in multiple places or wasting time searching for information that should be available. Not only employees but users / clients / customers are impacted by poor IT as well. A streamlined IT process erases the noise and distractions. It is only when you have a solid IT foundation can an organization thrive and grow. Am I being too preachy?
I have learned so much since arriving in Casablanca on February 28th. And, I don’t think I will realize how much I have learned until I return home to Scarborough and get back in my routine. This is where the happiness turns into being sentimental. I will miss so many things here in Casa: the constant blaring of horns from the drivers, the heavy air that lingers from the Altantic Ocean, the chawarma that I have missed so much (ours in Canada is lack luster compared to here), walking to work everyday with my teammates, Edwin and Masa, the daily lunches at Ifrane and the server who hated us at first because we didn’t tip up to his standards but now greets us with a smile. So many things…
But I must not waste mental energy thinking about what will happen in the future, I must focus on the present and enjoy my last few days in Casa. Tomorrow is our last day at INJAZ. Thursday we will be participating in a Community Day with students from a local University. Friday will be spent at the IBM offices before we return to the hotel to pack.
I’m lucky to be spending a few more weeks in Morocco with my friend, Thia. We will be going into the Atlas Mountains, then to the Sahara desert, back to Marrakech, then down to Agadir for a few days of surfing in Tagazhoute. I will be posting some photos when I have access to internet on this extended part of my journey.
My teammate Edwin said that to me this morning and I laughed, and laughed. I told him how I have a reputation at home with friends / family, of always being late and he couldn’t believe that to be true. I have been on time for everything since I arrived in Casa (except this morning, LOL!!). If he said the same thing to my mom, dad, brothers, sister, friends they would all laugh as well.
So one more week until our project finishes and time has gone by so quickly. This week was very interesting. We had visitors including the president of Boeing Turkey, Bernie Dunn, and Sami Abdellaoui, one of the Moroccan youth who participated in an the INJAZ entrepreneurial competition last year. Sami told Bernie his dream was to own a 747 airplane. Bernie recognized that he couldn’t give Sami a real airplane, so he gave him the next best thing, a beautiful model of the fastest jet in the world, the Boeing 747. Sami is a student of Mohammed V University in Rabat studying Computer Science. He started his own business, with the help of INJAZ, called “Youth Yell”. “Youth Yell” gives the youth of Morocco an outlet to sell their art on promotional materials. Check out their Facebook Page here: https://www.facebook.com/YouthYell.
On Tuesday, our team was asked to participate in a jury process for evaluating applicants interested in joining INJAZ’s “Smart Start” entrepreneurial program. This program requires a viable business idea / product and students must pitch the idea to the jury for evaluation. Only 20 of the 24 applicants will be accepted. We listened to 3 groups of students each with 3 very interesting ideas. It was clear after sitting through each presentation that the youth here in Morocco are bright, have great ideas and are motivated to succeed. In my opinion, all of the groups should be admitted into the program but I overstand the reasons why not.
It’s so refreshing to see the impact INJAZ is making directly on the students. It really reinforces why we are here and the positive contribution our work will make on Morocco. Our project focuses on how INJAZ can reach more Moroccan youth, expand to more cities and grow their partnership (sales) division. We believe strengthening their IT infrastructure and strategy will help enable them to meet these goals. Our final presentation to the President and CEO is on Tuesday. We are ready!
Last weekend we were in the city of Fes. Fes was founded in 859AD and also has the oldest, functioning schools within the old Medina. I’m told the first King of Morocco (Idris I) is buried in Fes and he was closely related to the prophet Muhammad. So much history is to be discovered there. With our short stay, we really only had time to walk the well worn streets of the old Medina. With no shortage of vendors, food, candy and the donkeys, we spent hours getting twisted and turned around the narrow walk ways. I spent a lot of Dirhams on carpets, tea pots, homemade candy and more. My bank account is much lighter after our visit.
Morocco also has a thriving leather industry and we visited one of the tanneries in Fes. Check out the pics below.
Also, I’ve been told I’m not showing enough pictures of food. So these are for you, Sam.
FYI, some of these photos are from my teammates, Jette and Fabian.
I’m not a morning person, never have been, never will be (no apologies LOL!!). I get this from my grandmother (RIP) on my dad’s side who, while most grandmothers would be busy cooking at 5 / 6 am, instead said, “Don’t bother calling me before 11am, I’ll still be in bed”. So Saturday, when I was awoken at 5am by a rooster in Chefchaouen, I was not too pleased. However, I just rolled over and went back to sleep.
Chefchaouen is a beautiful mountain village in northern Morocco, famous for it’s blue walls and buildings. Blue paint is used, I’m told, because mosquitoes don’t like blue and therefore stay away from the houses. Has anyone heard of this? If this is true, why hasn’t Toronto or everywhere else for that matter, employed the same technique? Blue is is a nice colour, very cool and calming. Who wouldn’t mind blue buildings everywhere, especially if it would save everyone from mosquito bites?!
We enjoyed the day walking the Medina and the nights in a very charming hotel with extremely nice staff. Northern Moroccans speak Spanish (along with Moroccan), rather than French. This was the first time in my life, I used 4 languages in one day, French, Spanish, English and Moroccan (even if it was just hello, goodbye, please, thank you, etc…).
Sunday, we ventured out of Chefchaouen into nearby Akchour. Akchour is located in the Northern Rif Mountains (8000 ft. altitude at the highest point), and one of the mountains has a natural bridge, also known as “God’s Bridge”. You can see by the photo of the natural arch, why it’s garnered such a name, so we had to see it for ourselves. We hiked for about 1.5 hours to reach our goal. Once at the bridge, we enjoyed a drink, served by a local bartender at a makeshift hut, before climbing down the mountain and making the 7 hour trip back to Casa.
Back to work Monday. We ended last week with our redefined scope, our goals and activities we need to complete to prepare our final deliverable. The best news is, we believe we can truly positively impact INJAZ and help stabilize their communication system so they can sustain and grow their company. As an emerging economic market, empowering, motivating and training youth to be entrepreneurs is so important for Morocco. This will allow students to create their own opportunities rather than relying on foreign companies to provide jobs. It will go along way in the sustainability of the country.
Morocco is a very interesting country and in my, non-educated opinion, is primed to be a stable and developed economic market in the near future. The King and governments have done an excellent job with infrastructure. All of the roads that we have been on, even in the mountains, are smooth. There has only been one brown out since we arrived and it was only for 15 minutes. There is construction all over Casablanca, including building condos. One of our IBM CSC teams is working with the government of Casablanca on their long term strategy for growth and plans to become a major economic centre. Compared to other emerging countries I have visited, Morocco is on the cusp of greatness.
That’s all for now. Lots more work to do, but enjoying this amazing experience.
P.S. I found a tennis court (no surprise there) and I’m putting the racquet I brought to good use!! Red clay, baby!
Greetings from Casablanca! These last 5 days have been a whirlwind. Our group of 12 CSC members have met and spent some quality time getting to know each other. With the help of our partner, Boutaina from Pyxera Global, we have been able to experience the local Moroccan culture in and around our home (Park Suites Hotel, highly recommended should you come to Casa) through a guided tour and pointed places to visit. We have walked the 120+ year old streets, we have experienced the diverse culture that is Morocco, we have tasted the local cuisine, including my favourite, chawarma. There was goat brain at many street vendors, but I decided that was a little too adventurous for my taste.
On Monday, we went to the IBM offices in Casa, where 2 years ago, our CEO, Ginni Rometty, opened the first “Client Centre” in Northern Africa. When you first walk through the doors, in a cube, is a Power8 Server! So of course, I have a new profile picture. I also had the opportunity to educate my team about Power8, as well as the storage they had showcased – XIV and Flash. Apparently, Flash is a differentiator in the Moroccan market and the local team is excited about the functionality, especially when attached to P8 to compete against Oracle. Ok, enough sales…
We met our clients on Monday afternoon. Since then, we have been interviewing employees, stake holders and partners, to define the scope of our project. I am working with INJAZ Al-Mahgrib, the exclusive Junior Achievement partner in Morocco. INJAZ delivers “learning by doing” education to middle school, high school and university students. It’s a very important program for the youth of Morocco and INJAZ has been recognized worldwide for their success and outreach. I am happy to be a part of their success. http://www.injaz-morocco.org/
I entitled this blog, “Yes, I don’t understand” to illustrate the subtleties of the English language that I take for granted everyday. My team members consist of Masa, from Japan, and Edwin, from India. English is not their first language, nor is it the first language of our client. So the interviews we conduct and discussions we have need to be in very clear, basic English to avoid confusion and misunderstanding. “Yes, I don’t understand” means someone doesn’t understand But, if I was to convey the same message, I would say “no, I don’t understand”, a double negative. This can be interpreted differently by someone new to English. So you can see the challenge that could be faced when people with different backgrounds work together. I’m happy to say that as a team, we are very understanding and patient.
This evening was spent at the Medina (The Old City). This is a large market with goods that can be purchased (clothing, shoes, oil, tea pots, jewellery, food, etc…) The vendors have very aggressive sales tactics. Perhaps I have much to learn from them. haha. They are also keen and experienced negotiators. Again, another skill I can hone here. But, I would have to say, the most interesting part of our walk had to be Jordan eating snails as well as seeing a chicken being slaughtered. I wasn’t expecting either but appreciated the experience.
Hope everyone is doing well. Enjoy the photos below and feel free to leave comments.
Me in front of the Power8, 824 an SVC and a Power770. For those non technical readers, the 824 and 770 are the servers I sell. The SVC is a SAN Volume Controller, that virtualizes data held in multple, separate storage systems.
The IBM CSC Morocco 6 team with our clients and local IBM representatives
At the INJAZ offices.
These are empty snail shells from a vendor in the Medina. My teammate, Jordan enjoyed a bowl full.
I’m sloooooowwwlllyyyy getting ready to leave for Casa on Friday. I knew I had to buy a backpack for Morocco as we will be taking some weekend trips and I will be backpacking (kind of) after my assignment. I also had to purchase a sleeping bag. I went to Mountain Equipment Co-op, downtown Toronto this weekend. It’s a pretty cool, not for profit, retail store with everything you can imagine for the outdoors. I had already researched the pack, but decided to venture into the sleeping bag section. I was so shocked to see sleeps with price tags over $300!!! I couldn’t believe my eyes! I asked the gentleman in the section more about the technology of the bags. Needless to say, I was there for about 30 minutes learning about the rating system, the reason for higher prices, etc… And, of course, it ended up with me getting in one. hehe. I left the store without buying a sleeping bag because I couldn’t justify the price. BUT, I had a good time trying them out. I ended up buying a Roots (Canadian clothing brand) sleeping bag from Canadian Tire (large Canadian retailer) for $40!! It’s bulky but I think it will be fine for just one night 🙂
So after much procrastination, I finally started thinking about packing tonight. I say thinking because I actually haven’t put anything in a suitcase. I have simply pulled some items off hangers and took clothes off shelves. I will start the process of the packing strategy, most likely, on Thursday. I also made a list of things I have to do before I leave. I thought the list was small, but it’s growing at a high rate of speed. I’m not worried though, I will get it done. Thankfully, I have finished all of my CSC pre work!!
I think I am last minute because my current role has taken up a lot of my mental capacity. I have one more, very important, client meeting on Thursday. I will probably run out of the meeting feeling like a kid on the last day of school before summer holidays, when the bell rings.
My flight is Friday at 6:25pm. It will be here in the blink of an eye.
For those who do not know, In 10 days I embark on a journey filled with unknowns! I head to exotic Casablanca, Morocco, on the North African Coast. I applied and was accepted into IBM’s Corporate Services Corps (IBM CSC). The CSC is a hybrid of professional development and service, deploys 500 young leaders a year on team assignments in more than 30 countries in the developing world. We engage in two months of training while working full-time, spend one month in the assigned country tackling a social issue, and then mentor the next group for two months. So far, IBMers have completed over 1,000 projects.
My project officially begins, in Casa, on March 2nd.
I am a private person by nature and this assignment requires me to BLOG!!! Those that know me are aware that I do not like putting photos or anything personal on social media. My Facebook / Twitter statuses are limited to the play-by-play of a sporting event, promoting my passions (Lafontaine and Born Hungry), commenting on human rights issues or expressing how tired I am! LOL. None of these posts really go into detail about me. I’m pretty much faceless (aside from the few photos I have on Instagram) and I like it that way!
So now I have to blog. This is very difficult for me but in the spirit of IBM and the Corporate Services Corps, I am putting myself out there!!
So welcome to my blog. Feel free to follow along with me and my experiences. Would love to hear from you too.