In just over two weeks I will be getting the first details about my assignment in Kunming. I’m really looking forward to being introduced to my team mates and learning about what we will be asked to accomplish in our time there. Between now and then there are a couple things I’d like to do on this blog. I am setting up some conversations with people who have done CSC before, so I can share with you some of their insights and observations. Also, some good friends of ours in the US have a daughter who grew up in Kunming. Unusually, they did not adopt her as an infant, but at age 13. She has since grown into an amazing woman, with all the force of character she had when my wife and I first met her. I have asked if she would be willing to contribute her reminiscences, and hope to be able to share these with you soon
There is one last post I want to make about the application process though, and it centers on the subject of timing. When I first heard about the CSC in 2008 I wanted to join right away. But Nigel, my manager at IBM cautioned against it. I can’t say that I really understood his reasoning at the time, but Nigel has given me some very good advice over the years (not all of which I’ve followed :-) ), and management support is a critical part of the acceptance process, so I decided to let the matter lie.
In retrospect, it was clear that Nigel was right. I had just returned from a long overseas engagement, and for me to ask immediately to be placed abroad again would not have created a positive impression. In many ways I have struggled to find a home within the domestic UK practice in IBM. Fortunately the sheer size and diversity of IBM has allowed me to make a positive difference and perform well anyway, but I am acutely conscious of the need to make more of an impact in the UK than I have so far in my career. Nigel has told me this directly many times over the years, but I’m thick and it took a while to percolate. This year I returned to a role that is purely UK-focused and directly contributing to the UK practice, and when the invite for this year’s CSC came out, I realized it was the right time, and Nigel agreed.
So for those of you thinking of doing this or something like it, I offer you the benefit of hindsight. Be brutally honest with yourself. Is this the right time? What impression will your desire to do this create with your management team? If you think they will be upset or resentful, take a year to win their support. Put yourself in their shoes and ask some hard questions. To lose your services for a month comes at a cost to them; what benefit to they gain in return? When you can answer that question in a convincing manner, you will be ready.