April 15, Rabat, #IBMCSC #CSCMor10 #IBMCSCMorocco10 #CitizenIBM
As part of our assignment we have been asked to meet and mingle with students from the University of Rabat to provide them guidance on a choice of careers. We commence this exercise together as a team of 15 volunteers and subsequently divide ourselves into four tracks. These students, numbering about 100, are mostly pursuing their Bachelor degrees but there are a few Masters students as also a few teachers. They have been selected for their proficiency in English language but this means we end up talking to mostly students majoring in English.
We get started around 10 a.m. Karima and Liz take the opening session and explain IBM’s Corporate Service Corps program; IBM’s presence in Morocco & Africa and the recent MoU signed between IBM and the Government of Morocco to establish the P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) program, an innovative global education model aiming to provide students a clear pathway from high school to higher education to career and addresses the nation’s skills gap. Morocco is just the third beneficiary country, after the U.S and Australia, for this program. After our introduction, we shuffle and start parallel track sessions. The four tracks are i) Technology Trends ii) Marketing & Sales iii) Communications and iv) Consulting & Project Management.
I have chosen to be a part of the Consulting & Project Management track. I am joined by Beth, Hisashi and Luciano and we are amidst 20 young minds who are interested in learning more. Beth and I are part of the consulting sub-track whilst Hisashi and Luciano focus on Project Management. Beth starts the session, speaking about how she, as an internal auditor, has a consulting bent of mind except that in her case her customers are all internal. She dwells on Issue Based Consulting, a proven method, used by many consultants.
I go next, and I decide to start my session with a story. I find starting with a story a great way of getting your audience hooked. I speak about ‘lateral thinking’ by revealing my own experience. In 1993, there was a breakdown in India’s financial system. This was caused by a (mis) interpretation of an ambiguous operating guideline in trading of securities and management of client funds. This misinterpretation was endemic to the banking system and not peculiar to the Australian bank I was working for. It so happened that I had moved to the Retail banking division two years prior to set up a high net worth individual investment management service and although our positioning was different from the Investment bank, we were dealing in the same securities. My bank was embroiled in a major conflict with India’s central bank when the latter showed us the rule book with the correct interpretation. Amidst this chaos, my department seemed to have got it right but that did away with the bank’s defense that the regulator had got it wrong. In fact, I never looked at the regulation; we worked backwards from what worked for all our stakeholders. At that time I realised I was thinking laterally and that I wasn’t cut out for vertical or hierarchical thinking. The seeds for my journey into consulting were sown.
So, what exactly is lateral thinking? It is the ability to perceive a situation in a totally different way using a combination of intuition, imagination and logic. It relies on concepts and dominant – not exhaustive- ideas and follows an out-of-the box approach. I take pains to clarify that lateral thinking complements and is not opposed to hierarchical thinking and that it’s a matter of aptitude. I touch upon IBM’s Design Thinking methodology which is one example of lateral thinking.
I pass the baton onto Hisashi. He shifts gears to discuss project management. After all, what good is consulting if recommendations are not executed. Hisa talks about what constitutes project management; its various steps and the everyday tools, methods and skills required for successful execution. He also introduces the group to the world of ‘agile’ but then leaves it to Luciano to get into a deep dive. Luciano explains the fundamental idea behind agile; how it varies from a traditional, ‘waterfall’ (sequential) approach and how a more flexible approach to project management in a dynamic environment can even reduce project risk.
Later, we collectively take a Q&A session that lasts longer than we expected. The students have got a lot of food for thought. We end our session with a group photo and the feeling that this was time well spent