Category Archives: Burlington VT, USA

Reflections from SCC-BTV – Celebrating teaming and learning


Lutt, Len, Isabelle, Christian, Gaby, Robert
photo by Karen Pike,

We shared unforgettable experiences and learning, and made one of the best teams any one of us had ever been on.  THANK YOU, Smarter Cities Challenge – Burlington, for the opportunity!

As the assignment wrapped up, I polled the team to share more about our individual experience and the insights we were gaining from our time as a SCC-Burlington team.   Here is a fresh look at our reflections from April 2013… and I’d bet they all still hold true for us all.


Adding Value

  • There are many ways to make a meaningful contribution

Sharpening Skills

  • Communication skills: value and importance of being concise and to the point, for impact
  • Stakeholder Management: critical to gain buy-in, engage continuously and close the loop
  • Critical thinking: applied and increased ability for analytical thinking / system thinking
  • Industry knowledge: learned about smart grid and the Energy and Utilities industry, and what it means to deploy a full Smart Meter Infrastructure in reality, plus first hand view of a wood chip based energy production plant, and a geothermal installation
  • Public Sector client experience and learning about the complex structure a city has to deal with to manage funding and decide for projects


  • A real team is always “more that the sum of its parts” (Aristoteles)

    2013.04.18-19 019

    Farewell breakfast with our wonderful hosts and clients from the Office of the Mayor staff

  • Humor is not a secret ingredient for success 😉


  • great way to allow 6 IBMers from different countries and professional background to cooperate and focus on one complex topic with many elements entirely new to all team members
  • confirmation that IBM’s talent pool is really unique – our team was, from the first hour, ready to meet every challenge and was never down.
  • fantastic (awesome!) to see how this team of six (jet-setting) experts jumped into an unfamiliar subject and accomplished such a high quality level output, in a timely manner
  • experience in high-performance team creation, especially when facing an objective with a hard stop that requires the definition of roles and responsibilities to be fast and without the chance to take long discussions and negotiations
  • outstanding support from the SCC program and local IBM staff


Cultural Awareness

  • very interesting to get a deeper insight regarding the everyday life in the US (culture, expertise, businesses) – people there are much more relaxed and friendly

    Champlain Chocolate "Thank You"

    Champlain Chocolate
    Team “Thank You”

  • learning about American culture was also really good to invite re-thinking some of native country’s behavior
  • deep insights how the society and political system works in a US state

Personal Growth

  • mindful practice of letting go for the greater good
  • hard to not serve in core capacity (the “sales guy”), but it offered the chance to sharpen skills like listening, focusing on one subject and acting as an integrator
  • how to exercise patience, humility and perseverance to achieve an objective


  • meeting IBMers from all other the world, what rich personalities do IBM hire!

Fun Facts:

2013.04.18-19 096

Shelburne Espresso

  • there are various different “right” ways to make Mozarella
  • squirrels are of significant importance (inside joke)
  • if you search for it, you can find decent espresso in Burlington / Vermont
  • enjoying the beauty of the area, and lake Champlain, and the changing spring weather, which made each day so alive


  • unique and rich experience of being able to focus on one topic for 3 weeks
  • high positive visibility for IBM in Burlington and Vermont communities (launch event, local TV appearances:, press coverage)
  • extending IBM network, getting to know top IBM professionals outside my business unit
  • getting to know great people in Burlington, Vermont, and global IBM
  • participating in a challenging project where we could be the agents of changes to improve the quality of life in an entire city
  • experiencing in real life what “making a smarter planet” truly means

PASSING IT FORWARD (ways to apply program learning on the job)

  • referencing SCC experience and insights when working with Public and / or E&U Sector clients
  • sharing SCC learning experience with my team and colleagues
  • leveraging on new events where leadership and team building would be required
  • sharing the challenge of deploying a SG infrastructure as well as the transportation challenge with clients
  • helping my employees, colleagues and management to adapt key learning on our daily work:
    • act even more as ONE team
    • be focused on people
    • overcome business inhibitors through cadences & processes

For a longer stroll through MEMORY lane, check out a 7-min video we played before our presentation to share our experience:

#smartercities Challenge


1 Comment

Filed under Alumni reflections, Burlington VT, USA

Engaging for Optimal Outcomes

Two busy months have flown by since the Burlington Smarter Cities team wrapped up our final presentation and said our heart-felt “thanks” and “good-byes” with our clients at the City of Burlington, and among ourselves.

What a journey it was!  Reflecting back, it’s truly a rare experience when a team comes together so quickly around a common goal, and gives its all so readily and passionately to achieve the best possible outcome.


IBM SCC team with Mayor Weinberger
photo by Karen Pike,

The results were a powerful manifestation of what a group of motivated high-performing individuals could achieve in partnership with a vested client.  Great collaboration by SCC Burlington team and all who contributed to the final report entitled “IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge Burlington Report.”  Our detailed recommendations were submitted April 20 and we were glad to see the polished (ready to submit to the City and publish) report by the end of May.

The final presentation and report highlight the team’s recommendations focusing on harnessing the local talent pool and the abundance of renewable resources to enable Burlington to achieve its GHG emission reduction goals. The overarching recommendation – to establish Burlington as a leading “green tech city” – ensures alignment of all initiatives, energizes the community, retains talent and inspires the development of new technologies and businesses.  The result is a strengthened economy, new ways to attract tourists through demonstrations of green technology and a more attractive city.  The ultimate outcome is for Burlington to become an integrated, data aware, thriving city that is recognized as a leader in green technologies.

Read the team’s executive presentation and the full report at


Read more from some of the closing session (April 18, 2013) press coverage:

CCTV Burlington Channel 17 – Burlington Mayor’s Press Conference: Closing Presentation by IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Global Team (04/18/2013) @

Mayor Miro Weinberger and IBM officials provide a closing presentation of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge engagement. Hear the IBM global team’s recommendations on how Burlington can become an even better, greener place in which to live and work through increased reliance on and use of sustainable, renewable energy sources.

Burlington Free Press: IBM analysts offer recipe to make Burlington a ‘smarter city’ @

IBM Advises City: “Make Burlington Synonymous With Green Tech” @

Fox 44 TV: IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Team Leaves Burlington, VT Thursday @

WCAX TV Burlington: IBM’s “Smarter Cities Challenge” comes to Burlington @

#smartercities Challenge

Comments Off on Engaging for Optimal Outcomes

by | June 20, 2013 · 6:11 pm

Succeeding with our strengths: Burlington, VT

The Smarter Cities Challenge team arrived in Burlington, VT on Easter Sunday with tremendous1 - SCC Blog 1-001enthusiasm and drive to immerse ourselves in a new environment and make a difference… And what an experience it’s been!  Feel very fortunate to be in such a wonderful city and to have outstanding support from the local hosts, stakeholders and the SCC program.
Already half-way through this incredible journey, we are tirelessly engaging with Burlingtonians from government, business, education, non-profits and the community, absorbing information and focusing our energy to derive the best possible recommendations for a place we’ve grown so close to.

SCC Burlington Kick Off

SCC-Burlington: (L to R) Len, Lutt, Gaby, Marian, Sophia, Isabelle, Christian, Robert

The team is truly a “dream team,” I could not have imagined putting together  different people in a way that more perfectly complements our strengths and motivates us to do our best.  I am completely inspired by the caliber of leadership talent and am learning at every step.  Everyone is committed and working very hard, but we also play hard, and naturally have come to make the most of our intense routine and international sense of humor, and balance our strong personalities and diverse styles,  to ultimately enjoy fantastic camaraderie.

*   *   *

We started strong, conducting over 30 interviews in our first week.   We had the opportunity to tour several facilities – demonstration sites of renewable energy use – including the local biomass generation plant.  Everyone we’ve connected with has been open and generous with their points of view and helpful resources.  It’s especially rewarding to feel the positive energy and passion for sustainability that the city shared.

McNeil Biomass Generation Plant Visit

McNeil Biomass Generation Plant Visit

We met with the Mayor and his staff, representatives from several other government departments; utilities; local college, university, high school and teaching hospital staff and students; small business owners, non-profit organizations; community members; activists; and local IBMers.  We listened, took notes, asked questions, listened some more, asked further clarifying questions, … and repeated over and over again, to gather as many relevant perspectives and ideas as possible.

For the weekend, we took a break and enjoyed a gor1 - SCC Blog 11-001geous sunny day.  We had a surprise in store when we pulled up to the “Bread and Butter” Farm in nearby Shelburne, and were invited to figure out how to make mozzarella cheese – without instructions – to demonstrate our teaming journey.  The team passed the “test” in flying colors – clearly graduating into “performing” quality – and made delicious cheese, which we got to sample along with our lunch at the Shelburne Vineyard.  Retired IBMer – turned winemaker and vineyard owner Ken, and his wife Gail, were gracious hosts and shared a flavorful sampling of their local wines.  What a treat!

#smartercities Challenge


Filed under Burlington VT, USA