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San Isidro, Argentina : A Walk to Remember

When they said we were going to visit a famous graveyard in the city of Buenos Aires, where Eva Peron’s body had finally been placed, I pictured rows of headstones in a plot of land and thought … well, it’s a way to walk around and grab a breath of fresh air. As we walked around a beautiful high brick wall that surrounded the graveyard, all I could think was geez… prime real estate in the middle of the city and it’s just for the dead. Does that make sense?  My own parents are in two different locations. My dad died when I was very young, and we buried him near his childhood home. And I had not visited him for decades, having only recently remembering where it was. My mom, died over twenty years ago, but her ashes, in a very small blue green glass urn, the color of her eyes, sits in my dining room cabinet, overlooking the family dinner table, where she always loved to be…. surrounded by food and family.  So for me, the use of a land for a graveyard was …. well not practical  I guess.

But when we turned the corner and entered the graveyard, my breath was taken away. It was edge to edge mausoleums,  that stretched to the heavens with ornate figures of angels, young girls, trees, animals and many religious figures and scenes.




Row after row, you could walk. Or sit at a bench under a tree. It was peaceful. It was quiet. As you look closely at individual mausoleums, and the design and incredible artwork …they seem to want to tell you their story. One tells you of the great pain of losing a loved one. The sorrow captured forever in stone. Another shows the great faith they have that they will be reunited with their loved ones, one day. Then there are those that are a tribute to a person, like the mausoleum of Eva Peron, who had several fresh bouquets of flowers, newly placed. And many visitors, like us, walked through row after row of these stories about people who had passed.

We talked about how times have changed,  and how so many children now move away from their childhood homes, as I did, and just aren’t near enough the family graveyards anymore to visit and pay tribute. So does it make sense to have graveyards? I look at the mausoleums, and each one in some way, stretches up to the heavens. Are they stretching towards home perhaps – where we all end up?  So maybe, these graveyards are a beacon to call us home, even once in awhile, to reflect on where we came from, and to remind us of the  stories from the people that preceded us.  And like a book, if you don’t read the preceding chapters, can you really understand the chapter you are in?  And so, if these graveyards in some way, can help us to write our own chapters , then they are worth every inch of real estate they sit on!

An immersive experience like the SCC, can really have a profound effect on you in ways you did not expect. It can change your point of view, attitude or even the way you think because you get to experience something in a way that you never have before.  So a parting note to myself — time to go visit Dad.


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SCC San Jose heads into 3rd week

The team took a brief respite this weekend, with a fun trip to San Francisco and also a hike along on the Mine Hill Trail.  The rest was needed after a full week of Design Thinking workshops, a community volunteer project, further stakeholder interviews and deliverable work.  Below are some pictures from last weekend (quiz: see if you can find something strange and out of place in one of the San Francisco picture).

As the team enters our final week, everyone is in full-gear to complete our deliverable assignments and look at the insights together to refine our overall recommendations to the City of San Jose.  The overall story and flow of the city recommendation is starting to take shape, and we are seeing connections across all of our research and data reviews.  Much work remains to pull off the final presentation and report, but we do believe the City of San Jose will be “Wow’d” with the output.

team SF reflectionSF pichiking Mine Hill pic

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Smarter Cities Challenge Busan – 3 rewarding weeks!

We have now completed our three week Smarter Cities Challenge (SCC) with the City of Busan. What an incredible experience and one of the highlights of my 16-year career at IBM. We interviewed over 50 people involved in disaster management, including various government agencies, academia, the private sector, and importantly citizens of Busan. We presented our findings and recommendations to the Mayor of Busan, who seemed pleased with our effort and who commented on just how much we were able to accomplish in such a short period of time.


Busan City, recognised as a thought leader in disaster management, has a solid foundation for managing disasters leveraging on great technologies available and importantly a great pool of experienced resources. We found out interviewees keen to share their insights and experience and they were a great group to work with. The last two weeks of the project were an intense period, gathering, analysing and documenting our findings, as well as developing some compelling recommendations to make Busan an even safer city. We did find some free time during the final two weeks to enjoy some of the sights in Busan, including Gamcheon Cultural village (pictured).


I have to say it was really hard to leave the wonderful city of Busan which I have become very fond of. Even harder was to leave the our SCC team of 5 members, as well as other supporting members, many of whom I have established good and hopefully lasting friendships with. I do however look forward to seeing my family whom I have missed greatly for three weeks, and getting back into my regular day job. I am truly impressed with the caliber of IBM people we gathered for this project and which supports the reason why I have so much respect for IBM. I highly recommend to my fellow colleagues to seek opportunities to work on a corporate citizenship assignment like this.

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My journal of SCC busan – Days 18 – 21

DAYS 18-19

This is the final round. Everything must be ready for important milestones which kept us quite busy. In the morning of Day 19, our third checkpoint was scheduled with the global SCC team to follow up on our progress and to help on whatever last item asking for support. We reported how well went our last meeting with Bae Kwang-hyo, Director General of Public Safety Department, and received warm congratulations for that achievement.

In the morning of Day 20, the most important milestone was scheduled, as this was the final presentation of our work in front of the Mayor of Busan. So we worked hard the day before to prepare a presentation summarizing the most important aspects of our recommendations, keeping in mind that all this needed to be translated. So the effort was also about making sure that the messages delivered in Korean were perfectly reflecting was we wanted to say. Here the role of KeeSeon was instrumental as we understood that there are different Korean languages, the daily life one and the one used for communications with official bodies. To make sure that we our messages will be well received, we had a first rehearsal with our liaison person from the Busan city, and then were invited by Bae Kwang-hyo, Director General of Public Safety Department, to meet again with him for clarifying some technical aspects that he was not comfortable with after our second checkpoint with him. This was the opportunity for me to build a short powerpoint presentation (full of animations) illustrating through real use cases what is hidden behind the words “Descriptive”, “Predictive”, “Prescriptive”, “Internet of Things”, and “Blockchain”.

DAY 20

On the D-day (Day 20 if you follow me….), we all gathered in a large room of the City Hall and delivered our final presentation in front of the Mayor and around 30 other leaders of the Busan community, followed by almost a one hour Q&A sessions. Interestingly many comments and questions we get during this session were acknowledging the relevance of different aspects of our recommendations. As you can imagine, this was then followed by a photo shooting session, both indoors with officials, and also outdoors for the media.
To celebrate this important milestone, we gathered for lunch in a very nice Chineese restaurant with all the team, and for lunch in a wine bar where our skills to manipulate corks in some close-up tricks were benchmarked.

DAY 21

But the work was not completed as the most important remaining piece was to finish our full report that was started since more than 10 days. Thanks to all the preparatory work done so far, we avoid falling in a “panic mode” situation with an excessive remaining workload and were all happy to complete that task by Day 21 at 3PM.

So it is now time to get ready for leaving Busan, with a loooooong travel tomorrow to be back home, meeting with our family and friends.

This has been a fantastic experience, where I have been so happy to meet and work with people who were unknown to me three weeks ago and who are now part of my “best friends”. Some tears have dropped when Ji-Hyun left us, and others will fall later today….


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My journal of SCC Busan – Days 15-17

DAYS 15-17

If I am grouping these three days together, it is simply because they were all devoted to our second checkpoint with Bae Kwang-hyo, Director General of Public Safety Department. This is an important meeting as we have for the first time disclosed our recommendations and received feedback from Bae Kwang-hyo to get fully prepared for the final presentation in front of the Mayor. So we capitalized on all the “recommendation shaping” work done during the previous week, that we summarized into a presentation four our one-hour meeting with Bae Kwang-hyo. Obviously we had to take into account that this presentation will be translated from English to Korean, leaving us half the time to present, so asking us to be very focused on the key messages we wanted to pass.
Saturday and Sunday were thus devoted to this preparation work, while the full morning of Monday was spent for the final editing (and translation) of our presentation, followed in the late afternoon by the meeting. A great team work where our diversity of skills, experiences and cultural roots helped us to eventually build a presentation which was very well received by Bae Kwang-hyo.

To make all this happen, we had to keep our brains in an healthy condition, thus allocating some time to rest. On the afternoon of Saturday, we visited the charming Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan, which departs from the other areas of the city of Busan, as shown on the picture below, with small, colored houses.
And to celebrate a successful presentation, we had the pleasure to be invited for dinner by Bae Kwang-hyo, Director General of Public Safety Department, with his staff in a nice restaurant. This was a very rewarding dinner, where our host acknowledged the work done so far, and asked us to further help the city of Busan after completion of our SCC mission.
On our way back to the hotel, we went to the top of one of the mountains of Busan, where we enjoyed a vivid view of Busan by night.

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My journal of SCC in Busan – Days 10 – 14

DAYS 10-14

Here comes the second week of our SCC engagement, which started by an important checkpoint with the Director General of Public Safety Department. This checkpoint was aimed to validate the scope upon which we will continue to work for the two remaining weeks of our study. We obtained full consensus as Bae Kwang-hyo, Director General mentioned “I realized why IBM is the world best IT company through your insights. I was surprised on your focus area. If you need additional interview or support, please let me know. We will invite the interviewees who participated in our project to the final presentation”. So a warm feedback acknowledging the relevance of our scope and of the associated argumentation.
The second week is in theory associated to the consolidation of all the findings we collected during the first week. In fact our second week was rather a transition week as we continued to have some few interviews as some of them didn’t take place during the first week. All together we had the opportunity to meet with more than 50 representatives from more than 25 institutions of the Busan city, covering the city municipality, the academia, the private sector and the citizens. As you can imagine a thorough source of information that was articulated by the five of us as a collection of 329 “findings” that we recorded in a spreadsheet. The challenge then was to perform a deep analysis of all these findings to eventually derive a set of recommendations for the city of Busan. We did that with an iterative approach, starting to associate the finding with “themes”, then “sub-themes” and finally with “domains”. A painful exercise, but which paid off at the end as it greatly helped grouping and segregating all these findings to define four domains and seven recommendations. Once this was done, most of our time was spent to start drafting the final report, first working altogether to ensure consistency across the different domains and recommendations, and then splitting the workload between us for editing the report.
The days were lasting a lot, typically from 8 AM to 10 PM, but always with an excellent atmosphere where we all learned about the subtleties between the American, Canadian, Korean, Norwegian and French humors.
Hopefully we also had some time for escaping from this demanding activity, the most memorable moment being the dinner that we had November 1st with Andrew Chang, Country General Manager of IBM Korea, and his staff. Andrew is a very nice fellow, very accessible, who learned us a lot about the Korean culture and business habits.

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My Journal of SCC in Busan – Days 8 & 9


And finally the first week end is there. Time to rest, but more importantly time for further immersing in the daily life of the Busan population.
As we spent all the week so far indoors for the official opening and for the different interviews with Busan municipality leaders, all the team was happy to spend a full Saturday outdoors. Most of the day was devoted for a urban walk along the coastal part of the “Galmaetgil Trail” (Seagull Trail). The Galmaetgil is a series of 21 trails that wind along the city’s coastline and through its avenues. The courses have been developed over the past several years and have proven popular for both locals and visitors alike. Walking the Galmaetgil puts hikers in touch with Busan’s natural beauty, along with giving them an appreciation for the city’s fascinating urban history and modern design.
The team decided to split into two groups, as understanding that we were not all trained at the same level for this type of “hiking”. The “bedridden male” team with Tony, Sebastian, Yongwhan and Frédéric left the hotel at 10AM while the “athletic female” team with Madhuri, KeeSeon and Joanne left the hotel at 11:30AM. The first team started his walk in a lovely harbor with local fishermen selling their fishes and shells.

We went then along the coast to reach the magnificent Haedong Yongung temple where the two teams gathered.

After a Korean seafood lunch, we continued our journey up to reach our final destination, the Haeundae Beach, after 25+ kilometer and near 400 m cumulated elevation. Nice experience for each of us, with different pains in the legs.

The day was clearly not over as we enjoyed the Busan Fireworks festival on the Gwangalli beach. One of the best fireworks I have ever seen, rich of a vivid combination of sounds and lights.


For the morning we have scheduled our “Community services Event”, as our Corporate Social Responsibility activity, which was held at the Centum Venture Town. This was an amazing opportunity for all of us to mentor middle and high school students, from 10 to 16, all as student announcers and volunteers in Busan English Radio. I was simply really surprised by the enthusiasm of all these young girls and boys, and more important by the relevance of the questions we were asked to answer. Some of them were really tricky to address, showing how the Korean youth seems to be more mature than their counterparts in Western Europe or North America. According to the Korean hospitality and culture, we received several nice gifts from them, and were invited at the end of the session by all the present moms to take photos with their own children.

After a team lunch in Busan down town, the afternoon was partly spent for souvenir shopping in the typical local Gukje market, and commuting back to the hotel for some remaining work on our SCC project.

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