I’m just back from the annual gathering of my particular tribe inside of IBM and I figured I’d take the time to tell you, loyal readers, actually what I do for a living. I’ve occasionally mentioned projects here but never actually talked about what I do. This is not because of some corporate policy. In fact, IBM’s external blogging guidelines are some of the most liberal in the industry. Many of our executives blog externally and quite candidly. Internally, blogs thrive for personal use, project teams, and professional topics.
I work for IBM’s Corporate Community Relations, a name which really doesn’t do a good job of describing our mission in the company. In a nutshell, we’re the group responsible for demonstrating innovation that matters to the world (as opposed to innovation that matters only to our company or to our customers, for example). Our programs are what might have traditionally been considered philanthropy or corporate social responsibility, but really that suggests a disconnect from the business itself. IBM Corporate Community Relations is not a function of corporate marketing but rather a group within our Innovation and Technology management line. Why is this important? Because we don’t view corporate citizenship as merely an extension of our brand. Of course, it is that in part — what you do is as much your brand as any logo or slogan — but addressing social, educational, and humanitarian problems is a lot more important than marketing. As a company of 330,000 employees in over 170 countries our “community relations” efforts have to amount to more than sponsoring the local Little League team or cutting checks to charities. Here’s a smattering of what we do.
On Demand Community – IBM’s tool for matching employees to community volunteer efforts and for preparing them with materials and training. Hours volunteered earn credit towards making a cash grant to the community organization. Amazingly successful: 60,000 employees are signed on as volunteers with over half coming from outside the US. Over 3,000,000 volunteer hours logged since the end of 2003.
Transition to Teaching – First-of-its-kind program to address the shortage of high quality math and science teachers in America. As part of the pilot IBM will pay the tuition of employees interested in leaving IBM for a career in education.
World Community Grid – Our program for solving computation-intensive projects in the life sciences. The current project FightAids@Home allows people all over the world to contribute idle processing power on their own machines to create a distributed virtual supercomputer powering the search for a cure for AIDS.
TryScience – Long-running science meta-museum with activities and virtual field trips for children and educators. Also a successful kiosk program distibuted to museums worldwide.
Web Adaptation – Project to donate accessibility technology for web users with vision and/or motor skills impairment.
¡TradúceloAhora! – Education-focused automatic online machine translation for English and Spanish, soon to providing instant e-mail translation.
IBM Crisis Response - Among the myriad ways IBM assisted during the Asian tsunami and US hurricane disasters of the past year, we shipped thousands of biometrically-enabled PC’s for tracking of displaced persons that tied into a system for first-responders and aid organizations to use during recovery. For Katrina, among other things, we developed the employment opportunity portal called Jobs4Recovery. Unlike many companies, IBM refused to capitalize on the public relations aspects of recovery assistance, which is why you won’t find much information about our crisis programs.
The Genographic Project – Supercool collaboration with National Geographic to map the dispersal patterns of humans out of Africa (and by extension the nature of human diversity) by analyzing the inherited mutations in indigenous peoples worldwide. Public participation is encouraged; you can swab your cheek for placement on the world migration maps. Think of it as macrogenealogy.
Well I suppose I didn’t answer the question about what I do, in particular. For the valiant few who have made it this far in a too-long post, I’ll note that I manage all the programs in CCR that relate to cultural heritage. This includes, obviously, Eternal Egypt above plus two truly exciting new projects which I can’t yet talk about but which very careful readers of this site might have an inkling about. I work with project managers, developers, and designers and of course with our partners to deliver these types of projects. It is a great gig, I have to admit, getting to work in high technology and culture at the same time.
Recently, our CEO Sam Palmisano remarked that “the world won’t look at you as a great company if all you do is make a lot of money.” I suppose you could say that the goal of my team in IBM is to make it that great company.
My goodness, you’d think I was paid to do that. What ever happened to bloggers who dish the dirt on their employers?
Less feel-good posts coming, promise.