Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Weekend visit to Marrakech

Our entire CSC team decided to travel together on the weekend to visit a nearby city - Marrakech. I coordinated the planning for the group for the transportation and the Riad (traditional Moroccan inn). The hotel helped us to hire a large van and driver for the 3 hour drive and the driver stayed with us for the weekend.

Our Riad was located in the market area so we could not drive up to the door. We disembarked with our luggage on the closest street and walked down narrow, high-walled cobblestone lanes to get to it. Vendors lined each side of the lane with small shops and there was a constant parade of motorcycles and scooters going past. It took some doing but we finally found the Riad and checked in. Because we booked late we had to stay 2, 3 and 4 to a room which cut the price down to about $30 per night each.

View of the "foyer" of the Riad from the balcony next to our room. Large courtyard with all the rooms surrounding.
After checking in we hit the square and quickly realized that in the frenzy of the market we would not be able to stay together as a group of 15. So we split into smaller groups and wandered about in search of food and entertainment. My Canadian colleague and I went together to a great restaurant with high mezzanines and balconies where we scored a table right next to the edge so we could watch the action in the square. I ordered vegetarian couscous and it was fabulous.

View from the restaurant, overlooking the square.

Veggie couscous - so delicious!

The next morning we gathered in the courtyard of the Riad for breakfast (coffee and pastries) and then coordinated a trip to the Atlas mountains. This was the highlight of my weekend - we ended up doing a hike up the mountain to some waterfalls with spectacular views. We lunched at a restaurant by the river, ordering more tagines and couscous. Then 3 of the ladies decided to try a camel ride. Our driver brought us back to the Riad and in the evening several of us ended up at a traditional Moroccan restaurant with local entertainment.

One of the few pics of me since I'm usually behind the camera.

View of the valleys in the mountains

The next day was spent touring parts of the city - the Saadien tombs, the Bahai Palace and more of the market. We took another lovely lunch on another balcony and then while others shopped I set out on a long afternoon walk to the more modern parts of town, and through some wonderful gardens.

I've posted all my pics on Facebook so feel free to send a friend request. For those who want "more pics" here - I've included some more shots of Marrakech. Enjoy.

In the bus - all 15 of us. Here are Lucy and Saikat hamming it up. Living together in close quarters with the same people all the time can be challenging.

Typical street vendor.

Ladies making Moroccan oil (Argan) the traditional way. Shelling the beans then grinding them up manually.

The co-op owned by the ladies who make the Argan products.

Selling bits and pieces to tourists - this is everywhere.

I did not attempt the camel ride but several of my co-workers did.

Roadside stand.

These restaurants were everywhere in the mountains outside Marrakech. Couches and plastic chairs set up next to (or sometimes IN) the river.

Restaurant owner waiting for customers to come and sample his tagines.

Another restaurant. Note the rickety bridge to get across.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

CSC Morocco 8 - Learning to work and play well together

Take 15 IBMers from 9 different countries who all do different jobs and have different skills and levels of seniority and experience and throw them together into 4 projects with 3 different clients; add in a mix of languages and culture and you have one big melting pot of interesting personalities and approaches. One of the goals of the IBM Corporate Service Corps experience is simply learning how to work together as colleagues in an environment that is often poorly defined and shifts rapidly in terms of priorities, expectations and deliverables.

In our subteam of 4 we've settled into different roles that I think form part of our "comfort zone", while we also push ourselves to take on different roles and responsibilities that stretch us.

Left to right - Janelle, Juan, Frank, Boris, Lucy, Jack, Saikat, Krishnendu, Glenn, Karen, Kim, Ye, Philip, Dina, Annie.

Karen - "The Translator" - I'm the only member of the group who speaks French so my role was easy to define. I'm the spokesperson for the group when we speak with members of our host organization who either cannot speak English or find it extremely difficult to communicate in English. I've also translated documents from French to English so the entire team can benefit from reading the data.

Saikat - "The Thinker" - Saikat is a deep thinker with a strong educational background and the ability to think broadly and strategically. He's taking all the various inputs from the client and coalescing them into a high-level strategy document, which will be used for 2 of the deliverables for the project.

Lucy - "The Organizer" - Lucy has strong organization and communication skills. She set up our Box file repository and maintains it so we don't lose any of our artifacts. She's also pulling together our disparate deliverables into one cohesive presentation. At the same time she's working on one of the major deliverables herself with great focus and determination.

Frank - "The Details Man" - Frank has been plowing through lots of data, websites, pages and content to do research related to one of our major deliverables which is a "current state" assessment of the client's existing web portal. He has great energy, motivation and integrity and he provides needed reminders to the rest of us about maintaining our client focus and ensuring we stick to our mandate of "corporate social responsibility".

It's a privilege to work with these other dedicated IBMers who are displaying so many of our IBM values and practices, especially: "Unite to get it done now" and "Listen for need, envision the future" and "Put the client first".

Monday, March 14, 2016

Taking Care of Business - Week 1 at Attijariwafa bank foundation

We kicked off our official Corporate Service Corps work assignments last Monday with a large group meeting at the IBM office in Casablanca. Our group of 15 is divided into 4 subteams and assigned to 4 different projects.

IBM Corporate Service Corps - Morocco 8 - arriving at IBM Casablanca to meet our host organizations for the first time.
Here is a photo of "Subteam 1".We are very fortunate because our client office in Casa is a 2 minute walk from the hotel and we have a very welcoming and attentive host organization.

Subteam 1 - Saikat (India), Lucy (Mexico), Karen (Canada) and Frank (US)
Our subteam completed its first successful week with our client - Attijariwafa bank foundation. Attijariwafi bank (AWB) is the largest bank in Morocco and also operates in many other African and European countries. Our host is Amina Ben Amar - the Director of the foundation.

"No progress without social profitability" is one of the mottoes of AWB. The bank demonstrates, through its foundation, a strong commitment to young people by providing access to the arts and actively supporting education initiatives. Development of youth is the mission of the foundation and they have developed their strategy around two key areas:
  • Culture, fostering openness to art and culture
  • Education, promoting and enhancing knowledge

Our IBM team with our client host - Mme. Amina Ben Amar (in her office)
We are working on a Re-envisioning exercise for one of the websites (portals) that the foundation built many years ago. Here is the extended team including the 2 content developers for the current portal.

From left to right - Lucy, Saikat, Fatima, Jamal, Amina, Frank and Karen.
I'll continue to post updates about our client experiences. AWB is known for its impressive art collection and displays around the building. Here are Saikat and Lucy posing beside a sculpture of a horse:

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Day 2 - Meet the team and the local Program Advisors

Today we spent the morning as a team getting to know each other and getting a briefing from our local Program Advisors - Imane and Nisrine from Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT). We also met Sidi, our local IBMer in charge of Coporate Citizenship for North Africa (he is based in Morocco).

We were treated to a lovely 3-course lunch at the hotel - I think we're all going to gain several pounds here in Morocco since food is a main focus. I am loving practicing my french and I'm becoming accustomed to the local accents.

Funniest story from today - I went up the lift with another man and spoke to him automatically in french. After we exchanged a few greetings he asked me (in french) - do you speak English? I answered - "Yes". Turns out he's from Montreal. I came all the way to Casablanca to meet a guy who lives 2 hours away from me. Small world.

Our first team walkabout Casablanca - the local Pizza Hut. Note the bicycle delivery vehicles out front :)

One of the local patisseries.


The night-time view from the rooftop bar at our hotel - spectacular.

Another view of from the rooftop.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Arrived in Morocco - settling into Hotel in Casablanca

My flight from Montreal to Paris was late so I barely made it onto the flight from Paris to Casablanca. There was a long customs line and luckily I hooked up quickly with the driver assigned to bring me to the hotel. Unfortunately I never found the 2 fellow IBMers who were supposed to be on the same flight, so not sure what happened to them. Hoping to connect with the rest of my team this evening.

Air France flight from Montreal. It was -20 degrees when I left!

This is about all I saw of Paris - rain, darkness and lots of airport hallways. I'll have to come back!

The view from my hotel room balcony. I can't wait to explore Casablanca!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Ottawa (Canada) Weather - Snow storm the day before travel

Getting ready to pack for my Morocco trip - I leave at noon EST on March 3. Here is a photo taken on the morning of March 2 - we're having a little snow storm in Ottawa!

This is a picture of my back yard - pool and hot tub are covered in snow. Looking forward to warmer temperatures in Casablanca!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Morocco - Getting Ready

Still lots left to do to get ready to leave for Morocco. Tonight's job - create a packing list and start packing!