Category Archives: Ballarat – Australia

Bye…Bye…Ballarat, It certainly has been an experience of a lifetime.

Yesterday, was our final presentation to the City of Ballarat Council, Officers and City leaders. I think our findings and presentation was received well, and feedback was good. While we present our findings and recommendation, there is much work to be done, and I see this as a new beginning. As we bid farewell to a city that has been our home for past three weeks, we take a part of Ballarat with us to our homes. City of Ballarat welcomed us with open arms, gave our team full support and access to its best minds, subject matters experts and facilities. Our final presentation concluded with a photo shoot opportunity with city leaders, historic landmarks, deep discussions on our findings and future of waste management in Ballarat. Our team, which I think is one of the most talented set of individuals and best of IBM, worked tirelessly to put our best into this Smarter cities Challenge – Ballarat. While we all are excited to head back home to our families, and regular routine, we have a lot of memories and souvenirs from this great city. We are going back for now, but we are only a   click and e-mail away. I intend to keep tabs on the progress on our work effort and on new friends we have made during our stay. I would also like to take this opportunity to thanks the Council, residents and Officers of the City of Ballarat for their hospitality and opportunity to work on this important issue.

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I wish all the best to the City of Ballarat and it’s residents.




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Survivor : SCC Ballarat

Today marks the last day of our smarter cities challenge in Ballarat.  At our first briefing back in March, we were told that a smarter cities challenge half work project / half reality TV show.

Thankfully there have been no cameras in our workrooms, but there is very much the parallel of being placed in a new challenging environment with a group of strangers and having to work together to achieve the goal.  Just as in reality tv shows, this is when the magic happens.

It has been an amazing opportunity working with my IBM colleagues on this project.  We walked in, eager to help and learn – and slowly we understood the challenge we were facing.  Anaerobic digestion, leachate,  kW/hour, bio-solid digestion, calorific value ???    This was going to a VERY fast learning curve.

This is when the diversity in the team and the skills we all brought came in handy.  Our more technical colleagues rapidly become something close to subject matter experts in all things waste.  Those less technical, myself included, tackled the equally important issues of people & process – and slowly things began to drop into place.   We were blessed with great team dynamics, the trust to have open debates and active discussions and no one was above doing the coffee run or taking minutes of the meetings.    No need for tribal council …. no need to vote anyone off!

We were extra blessed with the support of our IBM Citizenship Manager who was such a valuable member of our team.  In addition to her day job, her ability to engage with a wide cross section of the public provided us with diverse perspectives on waste across the city.   We can’t forget to mention our “angel” Jen from ABV who helped manage our logistics, delivered lunch each day and made coming back to our workroom a happy surprise each night with snacks, and the australian humour tacked to the fridge.

No perspective of teaming would be complete without recognition of our wonderful team at the Ballarat City Council – Ange, Leon, Sean, Lauren and Anthony….  they have been a wonderful collaborators, advisers and partners.

At our grand finale presentation today – it occurred to me how lucky I have been to have had the opportunity to have this amazing experience, acquire a deep body of knowledge around waste management and meet and work with an amazing team!


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Thanks to Everyone… and Goodbye for Now


Well – it’s that time, we’re finally getting ready to put a wrap on the Smarter Cities Challenge in Ballarat. We had our final presentation with Council this morning, and all in all I think it went very well. Even after all our work, it was a bit intimidating to present in front of all of the experts who we interviewed in the first place. The feedback from Council and all of the stakeholders has been overwhelmingly positive. Maybe we did learn something after all :).

Joking aside – it has been pretty amazing to see the volume of work produced and knowledge that can be accumulated when 5 people are locked in a hotel for 3 weeks and asked to tackle a particularly difficult problem. Lots of coffee, snacks, and wine later we’ve come out on the other side, and it’s a bit sad now to think that the experience is almost over. We’re off to dinner tonight, and then hop on our various airplanes to go back to our day jobs. Challenging as this was, the past few weeks have been a truly amazing experience, and I think we’re all better off for having gone through it.

Thank you to Mayor Philips (who we discovered today actually reads this blog), Ballarat CEO Anthony Schinck, and all of the Council members and city officers for their help and support throughout the engagement. I can’t think of a better client to work with, and I do hope that we are able to provide them some solid direction and recommendations that they can build on. Thanks too to all of team Ballarat: Nitin, Ravi, Josh, Kylie, and Miranda – it’s been truly a pleasure and an honor to work with each of you. And finally a thank you to the community of Ballarat. We have experienced exceptional hospitality and welcome (even when mangling coffee orders) everywhere we went. You have a truly lovely city that we will all remember for a long time!



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Life is too short to drink bad wine!!

Since I was left behind  on the coffee run… I decided to try something next door!!


It is all good!!



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Behind every successful Smarter Cities Challenge team ……

It’s been a long couple of days …. yesterday we spent 21 hours in front of our laptops synthesizing over 100 discussions, international case studies, reports, research and our brainstorming into our final deliverables.

After our last checkpoint with Council this afternoon, we walked past our favourite coffee shop “the bean barn” and saw this sign.    Behind every successful person is a substantial amount of coffee…..  we took this as a great sign as we placed our afternoon orders.


To celebrate the penultimate day of our challenge – we had our team “welfie” in the coffee shop while we waited for our much needed coffee supplies!


The sign on departure :


Sit down.  Drink some coffee.  You are going to be fine!

If you happen to be in downtown Ballarat ….  drop in and enjoy the great coffee here.

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Foodie in Aussieland…an Ode to Vegemite!

Today is our final day in preparation for our Final presentation to city of Ballarat, and while we all are heads down focused on Waste Management recommendations, decisions assessment framework and Digital waste Strategy. While there is a lot going on, I would like this post to be about Food! One of the joys of traveling is trying out different kinds of food a country has to offer, and foods represent rich culture, history but also the gastronomy of the region. Australia like many countries also has a rich smorgasbord of foods to choose from. History and some by the immigrants who call Australia home influence some foods. I have had a good fortune to try some good food here, ranging fro the Australian classics such as:

  1. Lamingtons – This square-shaped sponge cake is coated in a layer of chocolate icing and desiccated coconut.
  2. Fish n’ chips – yes they are not French fries as they call in US, they are simply called Chips
  3. Pavlova – meringue-based dessert that has a crisp crust and a soft, light inside. It’s often decorated with whipped cream and fresh fruit. For a guy with no sweet cravings, this was simply delicious.
  4. Tim-Tam – name may sound like a café (I am obviously taking a stab at Tim Horton’s – Canadian Coffee chain) but these are local favorite. much-loved chocolate biscuit is made up of two layers of chocolate-malted biscuit, separated by a light chocolate filling and coated in melted chocolate
  5. Meat Pies – You can’t tell anyone you’re Australian unless you’ve eaten a meat pie. The flaky package that contains simple pleasure is the epitome of Australian food. I have realized that every country has a version of meat pie – some call it Samosa (India), is US we call is Turnovers or pies and Empanada is a vernacular used in South America. No matter the form factor it is worlds favorite snack.
  6. Dumplings — there are many varieties, and  you can try them steamed or fried..or both…
  7. And more..

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These are to name a new, and while I tried them all, there is one thing that is quintessentially Australian and a breakfast staple – and that is – Vegemite. It has been close to a month in Australia and there has not been a day where I did not start with Vegemite on toast, eggs or event used it as a secret flavoring agents in curries on few occasions that I got to cook in Australia. Vegemite is as Australian food as it gets. Vegemite is deceptive, to some it looks like a yummy chocolate spread only to surprise with a savory taste on first bite, to others it is a weird dark brown paste that has a immense health benefits as it is rich in Vitamin B and other minerals. This simply amazing dark brown paste that we so dearly call “Vegemite” comes from leftover brewers yeast extract, with some spice additives. Vegemite is a like a universal spread that finds it way on toast, crackers, sandwiches and anything savory you can think of. Vegemite is not just a dark brown spread, there have been several legal battles to stake a claim on this breakfast staple history, origin and brand.

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I’d like to end this post with marketing campaign of J Walter Thompson’s marketing jingle – Happy Little Vegemite:

We’re happy little Vegemites

As bright as bright can be.

We all enjoy our Vegemite

For breakfast, lunch, and tea.

Our mummies say we’re growing stronger

Every single week,

Because we love our Vegemite

We all adore our Vegemite

It puts a rose in every cheek.


Have a great week ahead!





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Ballarat Bites : Our culinary experiences


While I will leave it up to my colleagues to make their observation around the more “Australian” food sensations*, we have certainly enjoyed the quality and variety of the dining options that is available to us in Ballarat.   We have enjoyed rooftop bars, lakeside dining, some spicy Indian, gourmet pizzas and beautifully fresh Vietnamese meals.    We have, without exception, enjoyed friendly service and delicious food each night.  We may, however, not be so welcome back at the lovely Thai restaurant after eating them out of their week’s supply of chilli.  Revenge was had by the pizza restaurant whose legendary Johnny Cash “Ring of Fire” pizza beat the guys into submission.

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From a team building exercise, these nightly breaks have provided a strong basis to build on the team culture and dynamics as we have the opportunity to brainstorm and discuss across our shared table and experience.   It is also teaching us to be creative as we work through the complexity of requirements : Spicy vs No so spicy, vegetarian, gluten free.

Some of our favourite experiences are :

Indian :

Vietnamese :

Pizza :

After work drinks :

Friday night drinks :

Sunday brunch :

Vegemite :

*While I LOVE my vegemite, the diversity of ways in which my colleagues are enjoying it is interesting.  Vegemite, jam and banana sandwich anyone ?

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