An Interview With Ruth Dela Cruz, IBM Corporate Service Corps, Team Indonesia 3

When you go into a bookstore in America or the UK (yes, they still have them), you will find one rack of shelves with business books and another rack with technology books.  Most of the remaining racks, and two of the three walls, will be packed solid with varying genres of fiction.  If you ever get the chance to visit India or Singapore or China, make a point of walking into a bookstore there. You will find one shelf of international literary classics printed in English, another shelf of the same works in a local language, and a third shelf of literature native to the country.  The rest of the store will contain books on how to succeed in business, technology, a foreign language, or some other capitalist endeavor.  These cultures are driven to succeed; they don’t have time to indulge in fiction
As an American, I always have a certain amount of envy when I encounter someone from another country who can rightly claim to be one of those directly responsible for their country’s future.  Don’t get me wrong, there is no country in the world I would trade my passport for; I am deeply proud to be American.  But there are so many bright and talented Americans, people who are making bold innovations in every possible field of endeavor, that the times I feel directly involved with my country’s success are few and far between.  But in many of the places I have traveled:  India, China, Thailand, and Singapore to name a few, I routinely get the opportunity to work with people who are critical to their country’s success every day.  The passion such people feel for their country, and for the importance of their own role in their country’s development, is truly humbling.
Ruth Dela Cruz is one of these people.  She is an IBM’er from the Philippines, clearly identifies outsourcing as one of the chief mainstays of the Philippine economy, and obviously derives great satisfaction from being a part of that success.
Not that Ruth is all work and no play.  Her blog Ruthilicous is a chick-lit romp through the bustling halls of Philippine retail excess, and she haunts those halls with unholy glee.  And the blog has clearly struck a chord; she sports hundreds of thousands of hits, and I am left with the impression that retailers sometimes try to curry her favor by sending her samples of their wares to evaluate.
Ruth served in the IBM Corporate Service Corps as part of Team Indonesia 3 in Makassar, and is now an IBM CSC facilitator in the Philippines.  And somewhere between the office and mall, I was fortunate enough to chat with her and get her to tell us a bit about her experience.  So here then is my interview with Ruth.  If you enjoy meeting her, be sure to pop over to her blog and say hello.  As before, my questions are in plain text and Ruth’s responses are in green.
How long have you worked for IBM, and what is your role?
I have been with IBM for 4 and a half years. My current role is a Mobility Practitioner. Basically, I assist IBM US employees and executives during their assignment/relocation to another country (mostly Asia Pacific). I provide them guidance on the assignment policy, their entitlements and allowances, and I also authorize third party vendors to assist them in immigration, taxes, settling to the work location/country and shipment of their goods. Most of the people don’t understand the work that we do, but let’s just say that we are here to ensure that our assignees can focus on their jobs during the start until the end of their assignment.
What made you decide to apply for CSC?
I always want to do something meaningful but because of busy schedule and all other things that I do, I just couldn’t find time to do it, So when I found out that a manager in our team was sent to Tanzania for the CSC, I got interested and applied. Luckily, I passed and I was sent to Indonesia with 9 other IBMers from different countries.
Was it hard to win the support of your management team, given that they would lose you for a month?  How did you go about convincing them that this was a good idea?
My manager is very supportive, from the time that I told her about my interest, to the time I applied and accepted the assignment offer, up to when I was already in the host country and got back home in Manila. I moved to a new role in the same organization and I received the same support from my current manager. Even the Geo Lead of our organization was excited about this journey. When I shared my experience to the whole team, a lot showed interest and plan to apply in the next cycle.
Tell us about your deployment project.  What was your team asked to accomplish?
There were 10 of us in the team, and we were grouped by partners. I and Cheryl (USA) were assigned in the local hospital. We helped them in designing a project plan on how to implement a green hospital. The others were assigned in the Transportation Office, Marine & Conservation Team, Education Department and Local Library of the city of Makassar.
Were your day-to-day job skills of any use?  Did you have to learn new skills?
Yes, especially effective communication, collaboration and time management, as well as creating and conducting presentations. I learned new skills such as consulting and understanding cultural differences.
What were your team’s finished results?  How were those results received?
We created a project plan for the hospital, including recommendations on how they can implement the goal (green hospital), Change Management and creating a Mission Statement that would be their guide including establishing short-term and long term goals.
We saw that the hospital employees are very interested because they asked alot of questions. They are forward thinkers and passionate about the program…
What was the most surprising thing that you learned from your CSC project?
It is about cultural differences. There were perceptions in my mind regarding certain religion or race but by interacting with the people I met, I got to better understand the differences and appreciate one’s unique culture and tradition.
Do you remember anything in particular that touched or moved you?
Our visit to the Juvenile Detention Center where we taught the kids how to use computer and search information in the internet. They were so happy to see us. Their lives were probably changed because of our visit, but they never know their stories changed our lives forever.
And what was your single most rewarding experience?
IBM helps me reach my goal – that is, to show people that one need not be a celebrity, executive or in a top position to be influential and make a difference. The whole experience is rewarding. It was my first time to travel alone in another country and to live with people I just met. It was amazing that despite differences in religion, skills, age and race, we got to  understand and support each other to reach the same goal. If there is one thing that is common among us, it would be the IBM values. But we discovered new things, swam in the deep sea, sang songs, and traveled together. I learned to enjoy each moment of my life. Oftentimes, if I think of the IBM CSC Indonesia 3 assignment, I wonder if everything was just a dream – a beautiful dream. I wonder if I would see and be with those amazing people from Brazil, US, India, Mexico and Austria. The IBM CSC is one experience that I will never get tired of sharing. 

what makes a good candidate for the CSC?

I think a good candidate, or should I say, a good IBM CSC volunteer is someone who understands that his/her responsibilities doesn’t end after the assignment. He/she has to live with the learnings and values he/she has embraced from the experience. Oftentimes, it is not about how good you are in your current role, but how you relate to people, and how you adjust in the new environment, with different people you just met (and probably would not see again). A good IBM CSC volunteer knows how to embrace change and appreciate differences. 
Thanks very much for sharing your time and insight with us Ruth!
Time allowing, there are a number of things I’d like to get done here on the blog in the coming week.  I did a third interview with Delaney Turner, but this one was done over the phone and I need to transcribe it.  I want to talk more about the DOT and some of the other work they do.  And finally, I’ve started reading about Kunming in history and would like to share some of the things I’ve found with you.  So I hope to be talking with you all soon.
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