On Monday the real work began.
The opening ceremony for CSC Thailand 2 started at 930 AM. Time to suit up! I was excited to get the new suit on as I don’t get many chances to get this fancy. For full transparency, it has been a while since I had to put a tie on, so I spent a solid 10/15 mins watching YouTube videos and standing in front of the mirror getting it just right. I went with a half Windsor knot in the end.
As more and more people from the team began to arrive in the meeting hall, everyone look absolutely amazing! Sharp suits and beautiful dresses everywhere. As Chrys said, we all looked rich! I know I felt rich in the new suit and as some friends on Facebook mentioned I was a cross between an Art Dealer, or a spy and even John Wick. As nice as Keanu’s beard is, I think mine is a bit better but he’s got the edge with motorcycles and cars. For now…
The ceremony was a big event, attended by the Vice-Governor of Phuket, the mayor of Pattong among all the other distinguished guests from the various host organizations. There was also a gaggle of photographers, I think it was around 7 to capture every moment. After some introductions about the CSC program we had a little coffee and tea break and when we came back it was time for speeches from the distinguished guests and host organizations.
This was an interesting experience as most speeches were in Thai and were being translated in real time by our team’s translator. While we’ve been in Thailand for a few days now, this was the first time language was challenge. Even with the translator on the team, I found it somewhat tricky to give my attention to both the speaker and the translator. For some reason this never occurred to me as being part of experience, maybe it was the jet lag? Either way, our translator did a fantastic job so we knew what was being discussed. After each of the guests had their speeches and the organizations, it was the IBM’ers time. I didn’t realize that this was on the schedule, but at least it was a topic I knew quite well, some personal history and what I do at IBM. As most know I can speak endlessly about almost any topic but I was nervous. My voice tends to be loud enough, so using a microphone was new to me. The only microphone I’m used to is the one attached to my gaming headset.
Regardless, it went off without any issue and even got a few laughs when I mentioned one of goals beyond our scope of work was to gain 5-10lbs while here. There is a wealth of skills and experience from the IBM team, from a few years to over 30 years and across Research, IT, Sales and Marketing. Most of the others decided to use their newly minted Thai language skills which was often met with applause from the crowd. I knew I should have practiced when figuring out how to tie a tie.
After speeches we broke for lunch at the Novotel hotel restaurant, monster beats outlet Amor. There was no business talk, as we all knew that would be coming up after lunch so we took the opportunity to learn more about our customers and vice-versa. The customers were very curious about us, which is common in Thai culture. In some countries it would be considered rude to ask your age or if you’re married but this is normal. As most of you know I’m quite open and will even tell you more than you expected and sometimes even when it wasn’t even related to your original question. I’m proud of my history and my family and I’m always glad to share those details, even with people I just met.
After enjoying a wonderful lunch and great conversation we returned to the meeting hall to begin logistic discussions with our customers. This included gathering more details about the project, commute options, facilities at customer site and expected dress code. As we are working at a university, we were told informal would be sufficient, such as jeans and a polo or slacks and a button up. Perfect. Right in my wheelhouse. Our customer is an early starter, primarily to avoid the notorious traffic issues that can be an issue here. Waking up at 630 is not in my wheelhouse, but hey, the whole point of CSC is to get me out of my comfort zone and be challenged. I know a lot of people will roll their eyes about this, but when your alarm clock is normally set for 8 AM it’s a pretty drastic change.
Thankfully by this point my stomach had returned from whatever planet it was residing on temporarily, so I should be able to get a nice big breakfast in me to start the day healthy and awake. After nailing down all the logistics we closed up the meeting and then began the paparazzi. As a hobby photographer this I’m not used to being on the other end of the lens. I give much more credit to the celebrities out there who can hold a smile for that long. My face was hurting after a while and I normally am smiling most of the day back home.
One main item that stood out throughout the entire opening ceremony was how excited everyone from the Vice-Governor to the host organizations were to be part of the IBM Corporate Service Corps program. IBM has created an industry leading program that many other corporations have mimicked since its inception in 2008. From the government levels, many organizations were instructed to clear schedules to accommodate our time here and ensure we have the most support possible in order to provide the best results possible in our short 4 weeks in country.
It may only be my 3rd full day in Phuket but I can tell this is going to be one of the most memorable experiences in my life. Tomorrow we will be at the customer site and begin all our projects.
Here’s hoping I get a good sleep tonight.
Side Note: Maybe I’m a bit more emotional in this post because I received some fantastic news from back home in Ottawa. I woke up to messages from my mom, brother and sister in law with the news that I became an uncle. (^.^*)