Corporate Service Corps – In the beginning I had a plan…

Chilling out on the Plains of South Dakota.

Summer 2013. It was a typical day in the office, or should I say in my home office after a regular day at work. #ibmcsc peru

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Having a reasonably senior role at IBM I spend most of my time on a Client site developing Client relationships. As is often the way, the many non assignment IBM activities were being completed after hours, over a plate of dinner and sometimes a cheeky little beer.

I opened one of the regular IBM Communication emails and I saw ‘Corporate Service Corps’ as a headline. I hadn’t heard of Corporate Service Corps before and could have thought it was yet another aspect of IBM that had little impact on my immediate priorities on my assignment. But for some reason I was compelled to read on.

I know it’s a cliche, but I almost stopped breathing. I couldn’t believe it. ‘This is why I’m here!’, I thought.

A little extreme…? Let me explain.

The Corporate Service Corps was launched in 2008 to help communities around the world solve critical social problems. It’s about social responsibility.

But, let’s not forget, IBM is a business, so it’s also about creating leaders in emerging markets.

The Corporate Service Corps (CSC) selects IBMs top leaders. They are dispatched around the world, to emerging markets, where they spend four weeks in groups of 10 to 15 to help solve economic and social problems of their selected community. Teams work collaboratively with local government and community counterparts to understand how to implement socially responsible business practices with measurable results in a global context.

So far, the CSC programme has sent over 2500 participants in over 250 teams to more than 37 countries around the world. IBM is big and it’s global. The participants come from over 60 countries.

So what’s that got to do with me? Well, you see, a long time ago I had a plan.

I suppose I can blame my parents. Without realising it, my parents instilled a very strong sense of adding value to the community. What can I give rather than what can I take. Not that they performed any huge heroic deeds of altruism (apart from being parents which is enough in itself), but they did demonstrate by example in the many voluntary acts of support in the community. They remain humble and always encourage humility – although they now love to tell everyone just how amazing their grandchildren, my lovely six nephews and nieces, are, but that is only to be expected.

At 18 I left home to study a degree in Theology and Religious Studies. Despite my mother’s disappointment, I wasn’t ‘religious’, but the subject fascinated me and gave me the opportunity to think rather than be told theory. I was able to consider the origins of religion, from primitive to established, and the impacts on the community and the world. It was during my degree that I became interested in Native American Religion and in 1989 I was fortunate enough to spend some time volunteering as a Youth Councillor on a Sioux Indian Reservation with the Sioux YMCA in South Dakota. I will never forget the sense of elation as I helped the children develop their own self worth. Those golden moments when a child came running through the forbidden ‘adult only’ area just to find and tell me, only me, what a most amazing day they had just had.

Some of the Class of 1989 - councillors  and children.
Some of the Class of 1989 – councillors and children.
Living quarters for 3 months
Living quarters for 3 months
A room with a view
A room with a view
Chilling out on the Plains of South Dakota.
Chilling out on the Plains of South Dakota.

From this experience I knew my goal in life: to work for Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), or for OXFAM, or for some other charity based in the developing world and fighting global poverty.

However, at such a young age I also knew I had no real skills and limited life experience. Apart from being a ‘nice person’, what could I really offer? Would I end up being a burden, a ‘wanna-be do-gooder’?

I needed a plan. Get some skills, demonstrate I can do something, then offer that to who-ever needed it most.

You might have thought with the experience I had in South Dakota that I might become a teacher, but I had very little appetite to teach state curriculum Religious Studies. Instead, I was fortunate enough to find a job close to my parents – I’m sure the community network had a helping had – and I started my career as a junior Systems Analyst at Rolls Royce. I did a little voluntary work in the evenings – the Soup Kitchen, teaching English as a second language – but I soon became sucked in to the corporate life of work, holidays, work, promotion, work, work, work.

The plan seemed to have been forgotten. Occasionally I thought about it, but what I really thought was, what developing community would want my skills? However, without me realising it, I was growing a solid base of key skills that are required to drive through solutions for any form of challenging problem.

And then, many, many years later, dare I say nearly 25 years and a lifetime later, as I read about the CSC Programme, and I was reminded: wasn’t that my plan? …. and this time I thought, I can do that, I really do have something to offer.

Series - Corporate Service Corps

  1. Corporate Service Corps – In the beginning I had a plan…
  2. CSC – From Application to Acceptance
  3. Team Peru 3: Final Week of Preparation
  4. Team Peru 3 meet in Trujillo
  5. Team Peru 3 get down to work – Cámara de Comercio y Producción de La Libertad
  6. Pyramids in Peru
  7. Trujillo Montage
  8. Team Peru 3 visit an Organic Farm
  9. A ‘Smarter Cities’ Community Day in Trujillo
  10. A cheeky weekend to Cajamarca
  11. Our time in Trujillo comes to an end…

One thought on “Corporate Service Corps – In the beginning I had a plan…”

  1. Wow, what an amazing and inspiring story Laetitia. I hope you have a fantastic time in Peru, and that you’re really able to make a difference.

    I think senior people in the corporate sector have a lot to offer the voluntary sector, so it is great to see your skills being put to use in this way! :clap:

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