The past three weeks in San Isidro have been bittersweet for me. I have had one of the best SCC experiences ever and as the project comes to a close I am feeling sad because so does the SCC program. IBM made a commitment in 2011 to work with 100 cities on their most pressing issues and we have far exceeded that promise! I have had the amazing opportunity to work on the SCC program since its inception. I was fortunate to be a local citizenship manager when the pilot projects were chosen and my County of Mecklenburg in North Carolina was one of the first pilots in November of 2010. Then I was blessed to be given the opportunity when the program officially began in 2011 to be a part of the program team, working on each project’s logistics. I helped build the program in a small way from the ground up. I had the pleasure of being a part of a really amazing team of bright and enthusiastic people – Jen, Sophia, and Lyle to start and then later Andel and others who had amazing ideas and knowledge about how to make cities smarter. I like to think they kept me young and kept me on my toes.
The best part of the SCC experience has been getting to work with and know all of the amazing IBMers who have participated in the projects over the years, from the local citizenship managers to the members of the teams. I have always been amazed that you can put a group of IBMers together after only meeting virtually a few times and they bond quickly; the San Isidro team has been no exception. Then, after a week of meeting stakeholders and learning about the issue, the ideas and solutions come to life just as quickly as they formed their bond. The brilliance of our teams and those of the people running cities around the world is truly awe-inspiring. I have learned from them all – about their cultures, their passions in and outside of IBM, but also about what drives them. I can say for every SCC team, the drive has been to make a difference in society – to give their all and come up with recommendations that are actionable and can help a community thrive.
Here in San Isidro we are helping the municipality plan for renewable energy, but what we have discovered along the way is that it is not just about lowering the cost of energy spend, but it is also about helping those less fortunate to start to help themselves. Isn’t that what we all want to do in this world, make it a better place for everyone!
Our team in San Isidro has just two days left. I am treasuring every moment with them. Yesterday I watched them present their recommendations at a high level to the Mayor and some of his leadership team. This was our final checkpoint with them before they present the findings and recommendations on Friday to a larger audience of stakeholders and citizens. Mayor Posse was so impressed with what the team has accomplished in just two and a half weeks and stated how vitally important their work is right now for San Isidro. It was such a proud moment for me on so many levels. I was proud of what the team developed and presented, proud of being an IBMer and of our company for supporting this type of philanthropic work and proud that I have been a part of this amazing program that has helped Mayors on so many pressing issues.
It isn’t over yet! Still two more days of refining the recommendations, reviewing the presentation and of course enjoying the company of the team, the city staff and the citizens of San Isidro.
Tuesday we conducted a Design Thinking workshop for the stakeholders we have interviewed as part of our project with the city. The day was extremely productive. At the end of the day we had the opportunity to visit the I0T lab at the IBM Martinez site, where the workshop took place.
EMMA wearing her IBM badge
We have had the pleasure of working with German Santini, during our time here. He is one of the brilliant people we have met at IBM in Argentina who are using their off time to develop an IoT lab. They are a group of dedicated IBMers who spend nights and weekends coming up with ideas on their own and developing some really cool stuff. We had the opportunity to meet Emma, a robot they printed! That’s right, printed using a 3D printer that they built. She can do some amazing things thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers who were able to enlist their manager to give them some space to learn, create and invent on their own. Here is a video of the creation of Emma. What is most amazing is that these dedicated employees who work in many different areas of IBM, did this on their own time. Seeing Emma in action was amazing and very inspiring, but meeting the men and women who created her from a role of plastic cord and code was even more amazing.
We had the opportunity on Wednesday to be inspired again. The team met the governor of Buenos Aires Province, Maria Eugenia Vidal. She was at Central Hospital of San Isidro where we installed the IoT devices to announce some new health initiatives in the province. Before she departed from the hospital Dr Posse, Mayor of San Isidro took the time to make sure we met her and he shared about our work in San Isidro. We felt very honored to be included. She is the first female governor in the provinces history and has already made some amazing progress in her short term in office.
L-R Marcos Melis, Paul Sidhu, Kim Reheiser, Dr. Posse, Mayor of San Isidro, Carolyn Marsh, Raquel Godoy, Governor Maria Eugenia Vidal, Anne McNeill, Nancy Greco, Rajesh Phillips, Lucas Tinta, and Eduardo Garcia Beaumont
Each Smarter Cities Challenge team is chosen based on their expertise and experience to tackle an issue. We gather a globally diverse team of professionals to participate in the projects. Because the teams are global and IBM is a very large enterprise, typically the participants have never met or worked with each other. We are only together for three weeks to tackle the issue and prior to arriving in San Isidro we had only met via our pre-work video sessions. It is imperative we quickly bond as a team.
What better way to get to know each other and become a close team quickly than by learning the national dance of Argentina, the Tango! On Saturday night, we all traveled to Buenos Aires for a surprise tango lesson. The team thought we were just going to observe a tango show. At first everyone was shy and not sure if they could master the steps. Once we all took direction from the expert dancers we were laughing and tripping together over our own feet and each others.
The ladies practicing our part of the dance, while the gentleman get verbal direction on their next steps.
Rajesh and Carolyn practicing to the music.
We found the steps to be difficult, but once we watched the show, we learned that what we did was the most basic 8 step. We have one team member, Rajesh who took to the dance quickly and the rest of the team felt by the end of the lesson that he was ready to master some of the more difficult steps. Daily he asks when we will tango again. Perhaps we will find another time to dance, once we finish our work ahead.
This will be the first in a number of posts about my experience with the Smarter Cities Challenge project in San Isidro, Argentina. I will be with the SCC team throughout the project and look forward to sharing my personal experiences of my time with the team and with the beautiful city of San Isidro.
I arrived yesterday just ahead of the team, who will start arriving this evening and through tomorrow. For all of us, this will be our first time in Argentina. Two things we all knew when we gathered for our first call as a team a few weeks ago… Argentina is known for their beef and their wine. What I have learned in just a day is that the people of Argentina are very welcoming and friendly. From the cab drivers to the checkout clerk at the grocery store, everyone has had a warm smile and welcoming attitude. I think our team will be very happy here for the duration of the project.
Before I tell you about the issue we will work on, I want to tell you about my partner here is Argentina who has been helping me prepare the team for their assignment. Raquel Godoy is the citizenship manager for IBM Argentina and has been working closely with the city to get ready for the team’s arrival. I thank you so much Raquel for all you have done to help prepare for our arrival and work with the city of San Isidro. This project would not be possible without you!
Now to tell you about the work we will do – As part of the modernization plan for San Isidro, the city seeks to focus on renewable energy in public buildings and social housing, which will allow the city to create savings, contributing to the care of the environment to improve the quality of life of the citizens. IBM will work with San Isidro to become a more sustainable city and educate its citizens to become more energy efficient and proactive in the care of the environment.
While this is a big task for our team, they are up for the challenge (no pun intended). My next post I will introduce you to the team. Tomorrow once everyone arrives we will go and meet Mayor Posse. He is being very generous with his time by meeting us on Saturday, even before the official project begins on Monday. He is extremely committed to the issue and I can’t wait to meet him tomorrow.