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IBM World Wanderers

Global integration brings new dimension to career opportunities

2009: Volume 2, Article 5

Not too long ago, most people moved from developing to mature markets when looking for better work opportunities. As the world has become "flatter," and corporations move towards a globally integrated model, those traditional trends are changing fast.

These days, companies including IBM, must move expertise and "talent" where it's needed most, depending on such factors as cost competitiveness, open business environments, and availability of skill sets. IBM's increased focus on the world's "growth" markets is one example of the company putting the "right resources in the right places - right now."

Countries in growth markets are focused on expanding infrastructures — from airports and subways to highways, buildings and stores. They are increasingly participating in the global economy, and have growing consumer populations. IBM's CEEMEA (Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa) region is a good example. It's IBM's most geographically diverse region, reaching from Vladivostok in Russia to Cape Town in South Africa.

IBM is offering unique career opportunities for employees with the right skills, who are interested in relocating, to help drive growth in the CEEMEA countries, and contribute to IBM's continued success. More than ever, IBMers are now able to transform themselves into global citizens: breaking the barriers of geographic boundaries, sharing best practices, contributing to local businesses, and enriching themselves from the culture and traditions of different countries.

Here's what four IBMers have to say:

Life in Prague

Picture of Michaela

Michaela moved from Austria to Prague/Czech Republic.

What specific job role do you have in IBM Czech Republic?

I am a Human Resources representative for IBM Czech Republic.

Why did you want to work abroad?

I always tinkered with the idea of living abroad and learning a third language, so when I heard about this job opportunity, the decision was very easy.

What was the most impressive experience (personal and job-related) you had in Prague/Czech Republic?

I was most impressed by my colleagues' warmth and availability in helping me get started, especially since I came to Prague not knowing the language, and without any contacts here. My local peers have truly welcomed me to their team. It helped me feel settled very fast.

Where do you see major differences to the working environment in IBM Austria?

Basically, I don't see any major differences to the working environment in Austria. The internal processes and working culture are very similar.

What do you miss the most when you think of your home country Austria?

I am missing my family and my friends the most, though phones and e-mails make it easy to stay connected.

What do you feel you've gained personally and professionally from your experience?

Above all, I hope to learn Czech, the local language, much better than I speak it now. Speaking the local language will be very useful in many respects - personally and professionally. Moving here provided me with a great opportunity to get to know Prague and the Czech Republic from the perspective of a resident. I have gained insight I never would have gotten as a tourist.

Exploring the Middle East

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Frank moved from Germany to Dubai.

What do you do in Dubai?

I am a System z IT architect for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region working in technical pre-sales support.

Why did you decide to work abroad?

After several four to six week stays in the U.S., I decided that I wanted to spend more time abroad. I realized that I truly enjoyed working on an international team. Last year, I learned of a job offer in Dubai. I discussed it with my family, and ultimately applied for the position. Although my family decided to stay in Germany, we see each other every six to eight weeks, and stay connected via the Internet.

What has impressed you the most so far in Dubai?

Most people are foreigners from all corners of the globe, representing all kinds of religions, traditions and patterns of behavior. I find that very exciting.

Where do you see the greatest differences between working in Dubai and working in Germany?

As even fewer IBMers work in Dubai than in Germany, it's easier to get things done and get to know everyone faster. My colleagues are very flexible, and optimistic, by nature. After all, every one of them has decided at some point to leave his or her home country for a while, and that does requires some degree of flexibility.

What do you feel you've gained personally and professionally from your experience?

Personally, I'll be coming home with the feeling that I've gotten to know some great people - many of whom I may now even be able to call friends. Professionally, it's been the experience of being responsible for such a large territory, and becoming very knowledgeable about the entire System z product range. And, I improved my English, a bit, as well.

Diving into the heart of Africa

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Manuela moved from the UK to Sandton/Johannesburg, South Africa.

What do you do for IBM in South Africa?

I am responsible for Strategic Outsourcing growth in sub-Saharan Africa. I drive signings and revenue across all existing base accounts. I also set up the first "Women in Blue" (women working for IBM) network in the country, and the participation and feedback have been awesome.

Why did you decide to work abroad?

Well, the world is actually my home. My mother is from Portugal, my father is from Iran, and I was born in France. I have already lived in more than seven countries, the latest being South Africa. I spent six years working for IBM in the United Kingdom, and when the opportunity arose in South Africa - a place I am very passionate about - I did not hesitate to take on the assignment.

What has impressed you most so far in South Africa?

Apart from the fabulous weather and amazing natural setting, above all, it's the people: Their warmth, their generosity, their passion, their diversity, their humanistic values - and their "Ubuntu philosophy" ("I am because you are")

Where do you see the greatest differences between working in South Africa and working in the UK?

The United Kingdom has the advantage of a long history of business experience, as well as many more resources available, both within the company and the country. South Africa has the advantage of being a growth country where customers have more funds. The issue is around the availability of experienced resources or resources at all. For instance, in South Africa one individual often performs more than one role, as there are simply not enough resources to close the gap.

What are you most looking forward to when you return to the UK?

Coming back to South Africa! But I do miss my friends and family.

What do you feel you've gained personally and professionally from your experience?

Personally, I have learned that people have to be treated as people, no matter what the situation is. Professionally, I learned how a business as a whole is managed, versus just taking into account one's individual role or business unit.

Where skyscrapers grow in green waters

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Cristian moved from Romania to United Arab Emirates (in Dubai).

Why did you decide to work abroad?

I like meeting new people, experiencing new adventures, and in general, challenging myself. This is not the first time I have worked abroad, and since joining IBM, I have worked on projects in the U.S., France and Saudi Arabia. I chose to work in Dubai because everyone is talking about the new financial and real estate opportunities and it's the headquarters of our new integrated operating team.

What was the most impressive experience (personal and job-related) that you had in Dubai?

I was most impressed with the warmth and open-minded attitude towards other cultures, and it was extremely interesting to see how local people talk about their culture and religion. I was also impressed by the tremendous growth and property developments that are taking place. One must see it to understand the level of change the country has experienced in the past decade.

What are the major differences in the working environments?

First of all, the working environment is much more "cosmopolite" in Dubai. IBM attracts a lot of expatriates from all over Europe, Pakistan, India, South Africa, etc., so people are exposed to different cultures, and they tend to appreciate the joy of discovering new things. The employee populations are about the same between the two countries, and the reporting lines are similar. I do find a high level of optimism and hard-working spirit, similar to Romania.

What do you miss the most when you think of your home country, Romania?

I miss my family and my friends. I also miss walking through the fallen leaves in autumn and looking at the incredible colour palette you can find in the Carpathians.

Which professional and personal benefit will you take from your stay in Dubai?

Professionally speaking, I am looking forward to exercising the project management skills I've acquired in the African territories, which I think are not yet tapped and represent a huge source of opportunities. Personally, I am sharing my experiences with my friends and trying to dispel some of the misconceptions about the Arab world. I have met wonderful people and consider many of them to be friends.

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