Xtreme Summer Begins – Week 1

Wow. My first entry to the blog and my first week in Raleigh, NC, has already flown by: a new place, new people, and stream of information mixed with bureaucracy, technology, and business. There is already so much to share, yet the summer is promising to be quick and exciting.

Let me begin with a brief introduction. I’m Tamara and I’ve just finished my first MBA year at Notre Dame. For the summer, I am an MBA IBM Extreme Blue Intern at Raleigh, NC.  Xtreme Blue is IBM’s premier internship program. Every year from around the globe, IBM picks a number of projects with potential to impact IBM’s products and services. For each project a group of 4 interns (3 software developers and 1 MBA) is tasked to develop a new top-notch technology and recommend a go-to market strategy for it. As you might have already guessed, I won’t be doing any coding. Even though MBAs are not required to have any hardcore tech experience, an interest and passion for technology must be there.  So basically it is a consulting project for IBM. They have ideas and a set of problems for us, and they brought us in with unique skills and fresh perspectives to provide insight and then bring those ideas to life.

To me, the consulting profession always seemed sexy, challenging, and ever changing. Your work is never the same routine, and it never lets you get too comfortable with what you do and what you already know. I guess I’m attracted to that feeling. My pre-MBA life was in the IT Consulting Industry back in my home country, Kazakhstan. Along with IT Consulting, I was doing a lot of Project Management. Post-MBA I plan to switch to Management Consulting. However, as technology plays more and more central role in companies’ business processes, it is practically impossible to think of any business problem without assessing a company’s technology capabilities.

We only have 12 weeks to complete our challenging quest. Really, we have no time to settle down and learn how to operate within such a giant organization as IBM. Luckily, IBM realizes that, and we get the super support available. We have our own Extreme Blue Lab, where the 3 teams this summer (total 12 people) will perform their magic. Ross and Jeff, our Extreme Blue Coordinators, made it possible for us to quickly plug in and navigate in the complicated networks of IBM’s internal systems within one day! We all got our brand new laptops, a few pretty cool gadgets, and some other IBM goodies including a jacket. An interesting fact about the jacket: it is an absolute necessity in our lab since it is VERY chilly with no option of climate control. My theory is that IBM makes sure our brains don’t get overheated, and are always kept at optimal capacity!

The first day or even week at a new job is especially exciting. I finally met my team: 3 bright computer science undergrads that were ready to jump into coding from our very first day. Their pace for coding had to be tamed as we don’t really know what exactly we are to create. So our CHALLENGE #1 – figure out what we are tasked to do and draft the war plan. Coming in, I only knew that my project will be related to mobile technology. My knowledge in this area is very basic, and I quickly realized, as any consultant would, I had to immerse myself into the mobile technology world and make good sense of it. Every day has been packed with meetings. It was great to learn that we are surrounded by many project stakeholders who are happy to address our questions and provide insights. I still have many questions; I only hope they are right questions that will open up new windows and doors to the final solution.

My brain was racing all week. I kept thinking of what Viva, our Problem Solving Professor and a consulting wiz, told us every class: “Before jumping to any solution, always answer 3 core questions: know your customer and the value your product will bring to your customer, how you can capture that value, and what core competencies does your company have to excel in this area.”

I yet have to answer all those questions, and that is my challenge for the next week among other fun stuff, like exploring many features of the most popular smartphones on the market, and playing Dance Dance Revolution with my Xtreme Blue fellows (I will follow up on that in my future blogs).


Posted in IBM

Just Getting Started

Hi, my name is Andrew (Drew) Elegante and I’m a soon-to-be second year student in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business MBA program.  Since getting my Computer Science degree at the University of Utah 9 years ago(!) I’ve been doing software development work with experience at a non-profit educational software company, a financial services firm, and a healthcare company.  I’ve chosen consulting as my concentration because I enjoy working with various stakeholders to build creative solutions.  Additionally, the variety of projects I would work on as a consultant appeals to me because I’m naturally curious.

Ideally I’d like to work on sustainability projects .  Working at Ikamva should help me meet that goal by positioning me for fall recruiting.  One of the reasons I chose Notre Dame was the opportunity to intern overseas with an NGO and I’m excited to be taking advantage of the opportunity.

Now onto the internship!  You may be curious about just what Ikamva Labantu is.  I haven’t hit the ground yet so I don’t have any hands-on experience but here’s what I do know.

Ikamva Labantu means “the future of our nation” in Afrikaans and was founded by Helen Lieberman, a well-known and respected white woman who worked to help end apartheid, to help combat the residual effects of Apartheid in South Africa’s townships.  Ikamva is headquartered in Capetown which is where I will be spending the summer.  There are 3 main thrusts of the organization:

  1. Tackling problems early by nurturing the development of youth through programs like Chess 4 Hope and Early Child Development
  2. Helping families, especially extended families, who are helping to raise Aids orphans by building self-reliant communities through initiatives like Masakhane
  3. Providing community areas, activities, and support for seniors in the townships, many of whom are raising children orphaned by Aids

My colleague Holly & I will be collaborating on developing a facilities management plan for Ikamva to help them better utilize their physical resources and hopefully help make the organization more economically sustainable.  I’m sure it will be a challenge but I’m looking forward to applying some of these new business skills I’ve developed over the last year here at Notre Dame.

Start Date: May 30, 2011!