Thursday, July 7, 2011


Kim Wilde, Tisabamokkha and tears

Destination: Phnom Penh

Humming Kim Wilde’s “Cambodia” song, I am getting ready for a special trip. In a few hours, I will leave for my assignment in Phnom Penh under the umbrella of the IBM Corporate Service Corps (CSC) program. #ibmcsc A team of nine people from around the globe, with diverse professional experience, will come together in the capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia (ព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជា in Khmer) for a month and work with local businesses and NGOs on business, technology and society challenges.

More than a 1,000 fellow IBMers have participated in CSC assignments globally. We are the first team to visit Cambodia and hope to lay ground for future engagements. After three months of preparation which flew by faster than you can imagine, we are ready for our journey and looking forward to getting together as a team and meeting our clients and the team from Australian Business Volunteers (ABV), the non-government, not-for-profit international development agency which manages the program locally.


While looking for a fancier name than “Team 1” we came across the folktale of Tisabamokkha, a famous teacher in Takkasila, and a great king, who ruled over a rich kingdom and was looking for ways to protect his kingdom and his people.

The king, the beautiful queen, their four chief ministers, and the royal astrologer learned magic with Tisabamokkha and were taught the art of turning themselves into all kinds of animals and heavenly beings. When they got lost in the forest of Takkasila on their way home and were starving, they decided to use their magic powers to transform their bodies into a royal tiger: The four chief ministers turned into the four legs of the tiger, the astrologer into the tiger's tail and the queen into the tiger's body. The tiger's head was left for the king himself. The tiger was stronger and more powerful than other animals, and he was so happy with the wonderful new life that he never returned to his kingdom.

What we liked about the story is that it emphasizes the idea that people must cooperate for the common good, and remember their responsibilities to give back to the community. Likewise, working on a CSC assignment is also about cooperating and giving back. The CSC program was announced in 2008 by our CEO Sam Palmisano and aims to provide skills, talent, and capabilities to communities in emerging market countries while helping IBMers gain valuable experience and skills for working in a global environment. Participation is completely voluntary, but once you accept the assignment it does require a fairly significant investment in time and resources for preparation and while in country.


One of the hardest parts is leaving the family behind for a month, even more so during vacation season when the kids are home. The boys took it easy and quickly returned to playing with their toys after kissing me goodbye; it was yours truly who had the eyes filled with tears. Thank you to my family for allowing me to explore what previous teams described as one of the best experiences that you would have as an IBMer, and thank you to my colleagues and management for the support and encouragement.

PS. We will also post updates about our month in Cambodia on our team blog.

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