IBM volunteers arrive to troubleshoot Halifax

By Brendan Ahern, The Chronicle Herald, Oct. 2, 2018.

International IBM employees have arrived in Halifax where they’ll spend the next four weeks working on projects within government, academia, and non-profit organizations.

They are all a part of the IBM Corporate Service Corps which, since 2008, has been sending a select few of its employees abroad to troubleshoot and help improve the ways that local organizations respond to their communities’ needs and challenges.

Before dispersing to their host organizations, the 16 newly arrived IBMers gathered at Centre for Ocean Ventures & Entrepreneurship in Dartmouth for opening ceremonies.

“It’s beautiful and cold. Coming from someone who is used to the tropics this is pretty cold, but so far it’s been great,” said Fatima Sarah Tolentino from the Philippines.

Tolentino is part of the four-person team which will be working with the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia for the next four weeks.

“Last year we had over 7,500 clients come through our door,” says ISANS CEO Jennifer Watts. “We have about five or six different systems for intake. So, we want to see if we can coordinate those, see if we have some gaps in the way we do our delivery of service, and look at perhaps some more efficient ways of processing people that are coming through our organization.”

The three other organizations taking part in the program are NSCC, The Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship, and The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

The CSC program is supported by a foundation within IBM. It is considered a charitable endeavour where the newly arrived IBM employees work pro bono for their respective organizations.

“You need a dedication to volunteerism,” said IBM executive Rick Power about how employees get chosen for the CSC program. “And as someone who is going to go overseas, we’re very sensitive to take a look at their adaptability and whether or not we think they can fit into a high-pressure situation for a month.”

“You have one month to get the project done and hopefully have a little bit of fun while you’re here,” said Power.

So far, so good. The new arrivals spent Sunday touring downtown Halifax and McNabs Island.

Even though this is the first time they’ve met face to face, it isn’t the first time they’ve communicated.

“We have had previous sessions for the last month,” said Alexandra Tamef, who has flown from Romania to join Tolentino on the ISANS team. “We’ve gotten to understand each others’ strengths and how to best tackle the challenges within our project.”

“I don’t think it’s going to be a challenge,” said Tolentino “and I brought enough coats.”