A weekend in Capetown was a nice way to finish a trip to South
Africa.It’s very different from Johannesburg,
with more tourism and less Africa.Thanks to Christel, we had an action-packed
two days upon arrival Saturday morning. We got picked up by a driver, Mr Fish, who took us to our hotel to drop
bags, then on to the wine country.It
was raining slightly as we visited two small wineries in the town of Franchhoek,
and one in Stellenbosch.The views in
the wine country were beautiful.
From there we drove back toward Cape
Town as the weather cleared nicely.This was our chance to visit Table
Mountain, so named by its distinctive flat top. It is accessible via a rotating
cable car,and offers dramatic views overlooking the city and the area. With Cape Town’s
unpredictable weather, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity, and it was well
worth the trip.The views really are
magnificent from high above the city.It
was cold and windy up there, but we stayed until nearly sunset before taking
the tram back down.
Sunday morning the rain returned, and we took the ferry to Robben
Island.That’s where black political activists and
others were imprisoned during Apartheid.The most famous prisoner is Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years there
before his release in 1991 and ascendance to the presidency of South
Africa. His is a remarkable story, and 46664 is a
famous number, as he was the 466th prisoner to arrive in the year
1964.We toured the island, the inside
of the prison, and Mandela’s actual cell.The rain added to the somber mood of Robben
Because they are so much a part of South
Africa, we spent a lot of time on our trip inquiring,
observing, and talking about Apartheid, race relations, and the continuing
effect of both on the country.With us,
we were incredibly fortunate to have Renee, a black IBM
executive.I can’t speak for the others,
but through our conversations she helped me understand things about these
topics in new ways. We also had many
natural conversations like this with South Africans, black and white, and
gained a better understanding.
Getting back to Cape Town,
the rest of Sunday afternoon and Monday morning were spent walking around and
packing.Too quickly it was time to
leave and travel 24+ hours back to NY.
I watched Invictus again on the flight home.I had a very different perspective after our
experience in South Africa.The first time I saw it http://invictusmovie.warnerbros.com/dvd/index.htmla few years ago, I recall Morgan Freeman
excelling as Nelson Mandela.This time,
I noticed more of the background and sights.The union building we visited in Pretoria
was the set for some of the political meetings.Also, Matt Damon and the rugby team visited Robben
Island in Capetown to see Mandela's
cell.It was also interesting to see the
team visit a settlement and interact with the kids like we did at Ivory
I recommend seeing the movie, but more
than that, I recommend you visit South Africa.I hope to return soon.
Today we met early and for the last time in the York room at the hotel to complete the follow-ups on our work.We spent a lot of time over the past three weeks in the York room.It’s a bit small for a group of six and there will be no love lost leaving it behind.
It’s strange to be gathering for the last time, and eventually as the day went on, it became the last supper and then the final goodbyes.We didn’t know each other three weeks ago, and now we are old friends.Yesterday and today we signed each others Joburg books with messages like school kids.
I don’t yet know if ESC was life changing, but it was definitely the work experience of a lifetime.It was an intense, satisfying, exhausting three weeks filled with the opportunity to meet many new people and see many new things.Best of all, the work we did is already making a difference for the city of Johannesburg through the new ideas and plans we gave its officials.I’ll be keeping an eye out for news on the city and feedback on what happens next with our roadmap.
At midday we were hosted for a tour and lunch at the Joburg Zoo.Best of all, at least for me, was the chance to see the African Cape Buffalo.When we presented our report, we put in some local color and organized it into sections using “the big five,” (elephant, leopard, rhino, buffalo, and lion).We each owned a section and mine was aligned to the buffalo.
The big five are so named because they were the five most challenging South African animals to hunt, and any of them could turn the tables for the hunter to become the hunted.Apparently the African Cape Buffalo is very cunning and quite dangerous.
I almost missed the chance again to see a buffalo as it was not on the tour.Although they are in Pilanesberg, we did not see any the day we visited the game reserve.
Jurie spotted its location on the zoo map and I left lunch early in pursuit.After 3 weeks of working on the buffalo section, I figured I had to take one last shot.I was not disappointed and got a first hand look at a 4th member of the big 5 (we never saw a leopard).It’s got an intimidating look with a scowling face and a thick curled set of horns.The horns run in one piece with a thick band across the forehead.
We turned over our phones and said our goodbyes and thanks to Jurie.He was a big reason for our success and handled a lot of the scheduling and logistics to make our jobs much easier.We then spent the rest of the afternoon packing and catching up on email.
We met to go out in the evening, and for the first time in three weeks it was raining.We taxied the short distance to the Sandton convention center and went to Winex, an exhibit and tasting of South African wines.At various times, Subu, Renee, and I were each interviewed by a South African tv station and provided plenty of material for their segment on the event.
Following Winex, we returned to the hotel and had the last supper at Tivoli, an Italian restaurant next door.It was close with good food and became our most popular hangout when we had little time for a meal or were eating late.We must have eaten there a half dozen times between lunches and dinners and got to know some of the staff.
After that it was goodbyes as everyone is heading in different directions.I am traveling to Capetown for the weekend (as are Renee and Christel) before flying back to NY on Monday.Subu is meeting his wife to head north to Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls in Tanzania.Vania meets her husband to go to the Mauritius Islands.Pat is heading directly back to Houston.We won’t speak together again until our final ESC program debrief call in a few weeks.
Outstanding! Outstanding! Outstanding!We finished our final report presentation Thursday night with the mayor on a very high note.The IBM South Africa general manager said he was “blown away” by the quality of what we delivered. We delivered a 16 slide final presentation, with a 97 slide detailed roadmap. Ten copies of each were bound, hand signed, and presented to the mayor along with CDs of all files.We also provided a 50 page written report. More specific feedback will follow when I return.We also got our Joburg books signed by the mayor.
I started Thursday with my last run in Joburg and completed my “big 5” loops of Mushroom Farm Park, then circled the long way around Sandton back to the hotel.The march of the African National Congress Youth League was coming through the area as I discussed yesterday, and even very early in the morning the police presence was already strong.When I got back to the hotel, they were rolling out razor wire as a barricade –yes, that’s right, not barbed wire, razor wire!I’ve traveled a lot around the world, and it is the first time I’ve ever been razor-wired into a hotel.They say there’s a first time for everything.
The marchers were expected to come through in the early afternoon and the hotel was taking no chances.We learned it’s the first time the hotel ever did this, so we felt special.
Likewise, across the street there were fence barricades being put up in front of the Johannesburg stock exchange.
Our meeting with the mayor wasn’t scheduled until 6 pm, so we had to stay away from the march so as not to have our travel interrupted.IBM security and Jurie made sure we were to be no where around the hotel when the main activity took place.They shuttled us off to Pretoria, about 40 miles away, to tour government buildings and other sites.Pretoria is the center of South African’s national government, so it was good to get a feel of a sister city while we are here.It is also known for being covered in purple blooming jacaranda tress this time of year.The plan was to have us return after the march went through so we could change for the meeting.
The best plans sometimes don’t work out.The march started quite late (apparently they didn’t attract as large a crowd as hoped:
http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Latecomers-delay-ANCYL-march-20111027).As a result, the marchers were now scheduled to arrive in front of our hotel at just about the time we planned to return to change for the meeting.We had to accelerate our schedule and return from Pretoria early.We got back and were given 30 minutes to go in and out, entering and departing via the underground parking garage because the front of the hotel and the road there were completely sealed off.We made it out in time and headed off to see the mayor.It was mildly exciting, although we were never in any danger and never actually saw the marchers.
One big day of presentations completed with flying colors, and one to go.Today was a great success in discussions with the senior CoJ public safety MMC and top officials including the chief of police and head of Emergency Management Services.Our approach and ideas, now complete, resonated really well.At the end of the meeting, we got more signatures in our books.
We followed with a late briefing of the local IBM team and the formal turnover of the project to them for follow-up with the city.A local IBMer from public sector who worked directly with us on the project to prepare for this turnover stated how favorable our engagement has been in improving and forging relationships with city officials.That was great to hear, and was one of the project goals in addition to completing the work itself.
With the help of the local team, we obtained bound copies of our slides and written report, in which we included a letter, delivering our results.We each hand signed ten copies of both documents which we will deliver tomorrow evening as we present the work to the mayor.
In celebration of Diwali, Subu organized dinner at the House of Curry.Three of us joined him and agreed to eat vegetarian for the meal.It was outstanding and we got Subu to explain the origin of Diwali, the philosophy of kharma, and Ghandi’s relationship with South Africa.
Subu befriended the owner in a few prior solo visits, and we were welcomed as honored patrons for the night.The owner, Eggie, is a huge man of Indian origin, very well connected in the city.He commissioned a large mural painting on several walls in his restaurant to show the history of Indians in South Africa as it paralleled the country’s history.Many leaders and famous people are depicted in the mural, which is very impressive.
On the way out after dinner, Eggie introduced us to a table of diners, some of whom were from the city government.We ended up talking and laughing with them for another 45 minutes, on a variety of topics including South Africa’s future, US politics, and India’s history.One of their group was an Indian man who got into an entertaining and lively debate with Subu, topped off with his repeated use of Subu’s full name, “Listen,
Subramanian, let me tell you what really happened so you can understand…”
What we’ve accomplished in the last few days (and weeks) is nothing short of remarkable.Our roadmap for Smarter Public Safety is very strong, and the first review today proved it.We’re wrapping everything up by midday tomorrow, planning to print and bind copies of our presentation and written report for a session with the CoJ Public Safety officials in the afternoon. This is aligned very well with the city's internal activities, and we are giving them a clear implementation plan at just the right time.
We got a nice surprise after a meeting with the city manager today:coffee table books on Johannesburg.They are really nice, and we already got our first autograph in them from the CIO.It looks like they’ll become our yearbooks from this trip, collecting signatures.They weigh a lot, which will push luggage limits.
We began handing out small gifts brought from our home countries to those who’ve helped us on this project.They go over well andhelp with the relationship building.That will also help reduce some weight on stuff we don’t need to bring back with us.
Tonight we got letters in our hotel rooms warning of a major protest march occurring in the area on Thursday.We can’t risk having our logistics disrupted so will leave early and return late to avoid the expected 10,000-20,000 crowd size.That reminds me, most buildings in Johannesburg have high walls with barbed or electrified fences on top.Our hotel is no exception.Sometime in the future, I hope there is a “take down the walls” campaign, but that’s not likely in the short term.
We’ll miss the warm weather and long daylight hours here, as they head into summer here.It was hot again today (35c).There are lots of nice flowers in bloom and the jacaranda trees have purple blossoms that brighten up the landscape.Most meals we ask for an outside table as it’s very nice weather all the time.It’s dry so that even when it’s hot, it’s not unbearable.
Not many days left, and running hard for three weeks with low sleep is catching up.I feel a good collapse coming on once we finish.I've worked for it, earned it, and nobody's going to deprive me of it. I’ve also been in this time zone long enough to get adjusted, so switching back is going to take a few days. This has been an amazing experience, but the time to return to reality is approaching.
Today was a wfh marathon.That’s work from hotel, (not work from home) as we spent the whole day here locked up in a conference room.The best thing was it was really hot today, by far the hottest day yet, and a few of us worked in shorts.We split off for a while, but spent the beginning and end together.At the conclusion, we have our main slides in good shape, appendix in reasonable shape, paper about half done, and detailed roadmap spreadsheet to follow.With a good effort tomorrow morning, we should get pretty well there and tune over the next two days.We have a first presentation tomorrow late afternoon at 5 pm with the CIO, and one last high priority interview to complete just before that.
I gave Renee a hard time when she strolled in right at 8 am followed by one of the waitresses carrying a plate of breakfast with a metal cover.The restaurant would not let her carry her own plate of food in the hotel.She entered like a VIP with an entourage following with the details.
Pat discovered today was Vania’s birthday.Late in the afternoon Pat and Renee walked in with a couple of pieces of cake with lit sparklers.We met late at 8:30 pm and all went to dinner at an African restaurant where Vania also got African face painted and serenaded by local drummers.
The South African wines offer a lot of variety, and some are quite good.Early on we worked out a system to keep track of which brands were the best.Christel was taking pictures of the labels, but after a few days there was no recollection of which specific bottles had been the best.So we added a rating system to the label pictures of 1 to 3 fingers and the more fingers, the better the wine.There’s never a complete consensus, so Christel as the photographer is the final arbiter, since she will own the photo.I’m usually the hand model, and lately there have been a few 1 ½ and 2 ½ ratings, so I’ve had to be dexterous.
Today is Sunday, and two weeks are complete, with one to go.We have a lot to do in the next 3 days as we begin presentation reviews late on Tuesday.As a result, we’re getting together at 5 pm today for a team review that’s likely to last into the night.We all know we’re very well positioned in our work, we just need to close strongly and get a bit of luck on our side to ensure all the final reviews hold on calendars.
As I was sitting at breakfast early today, I noted it’s always strange to be on the road on a weekend.Most business travelers get home for the weekend, and weekend travelers are usually couples and families having a good time.So it’s an odd feeling to be alone and out of place when everyone else appears to be doing something ordinary.It’s especially odd when you’re in a strange land.
Over the years, I’ve spent many weekends away in a lot of foreign cities.During the work week it’s not so bad, as things move so quickly you don’t really have time to notice.On the weekend, things slow down a bit, and you realize you really are far from home.It’s not the worst thing if you can do some touring, and you just do it, but it feels weird, a little like being a nomad.
Today is more business mixed with pleasure.We made a run over to Rosebank and the Sunday African craft market that we missed last week due to our safari trip.We heard a lot about it, and it didn’t disappoint.There were hundreds of vendors, selling just about everything.I spent about two hours there before heading back with a few things.
One of those things was a small bag of ostrich biltong, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biltong.Biltong is something like jerky, basically dried meat with flavoring.It’s pretty tasty, and at least the ostrich variety has very little fat.On days like today when end late and a big meal would be too much, it’s a dinner substitute. At the GDS 2040 launch on Thursday night, they had bowls of it alongside peanuts and potato chips as snacks. When in Rome...
Saturday we had to mix business with pleasure.As a result, we started early, on the pleasure side, of course.We traveled out to the Cradle of Humankind (http://www.cradleofhumankind.co.za/index.html).It’s a World Heritage Site displaying and explaining the origin of humans in Africa based on archaelogical discoveries in the area.It’s fascinating to see the displays and read the history.It says we're all descended from the same common female African ancestor. I believe that was Meryl Streep*. The view from the top of the site is also quite beautiful and gives a feel for the surrounding savannah and its original inhabitants long ago.
*co-star of Out of Africa with Robert Redford
From there we moved on to LesediCulturalVillage, http://www.lesedi.com/.At Lesedi, there are five recreated villages of different groups that formed the population.Each displayed its own architecture, customs, and clothing.There was a tour of the villages and a chance to try a few local delicacies like dried worms (high in protein and yes, I did) and a grain and bean paste that was a diet staple (not bad).After the tour, there was a lively display of native dance and an African buffet lunch.
We got back to business by mid-afternoon, and by 7 pm I finished my draft deck of slides.That was fortunate, as Subu and I went to see a very popular South African play, Chilli Boy, http://www.joburgtheatre.com/show.asp.It was our first venture into the CBD at night, and we were warned to go only to the theater and back by taxi.We did, the play was good, and the rest of the trip was uneventful.The city of Johannesburg is very beautiful at night.The Nelson Mandela bridge is lit up in colors, the skyline is attractive, and despite its reputation, this place has tremendous potential.Our smart safety roadmap is sorely needed.
The city offices are located in what is called the central business district (CBD).Like in a lot of cities, it used to truly be the center of business, but due to crime and safety concerns, many businesses moved out to other places.As a result, what remains is an area with mixed use, blight, and hope to regain its former glory.In the meantime, it also houses the city offices to show of confidence in the area.As we travel into CBD each day for interviews, we see a mix of street scenes.
We had some excitement on Wednesday when someone peered into our van while we were parked at a traffic light, then opened the door.We usually keep it locked, but somehow it was left unlocked.It was unexpected and one of us was pretty startled, enough to do some light screaming.That also frightened the person who opened the door.It turned out to be innocent enough, as our van was mistaken for a public taxi, which are multi-person vans following defined routes, and the individual was just looking to get in for a ride.There’s never a dull moment.
In between interviews today, we got a tour of the women’s prison at Constitution Hill from the MMC (Member of the Mayoral Committee, an elected official), Mally Mokoeno, who was jailed there for 9 months in solitary confinement during the race riots of the 1970s(http://www.economist.com/node/4269771) .She was then quite young, and yet her memory of the details of the experience is very vivid.She told us detailed stories of her incarceration, and we were amazed she was able to go back to her actual prison cell and relive the memory.She told of how she was allowed out of the cell for only 30 minutes of exercise daily.She told of the miserable food, sleeping on the hard cement floor with only a blanket underneath, and the dehumanizing treatment from certain guards.It was a powerful experience for us, and a real life testament that the scars of apartheid run deep.Yet it was also great to see Mally is able to return, even though we can’t really know why or how.
It may have been Friday afternoon, but we had to come back to the hotel for a 5 pm team meeting to start looking over early slides for our final presentation deck.We were displaced from the hotel conference room typically reserved for us by a weekend bridal show.We met at a table near the pool and got our business done anyway.So much for happy hour.
Things did get a bit happier later on Friday night when we made a trip to Carnivore (http://www.carnivore.co.za/) billed as “Africa’s greatest eating experience.”It was a game lodge theme restaurant, borrowing from Brazil’s churrascarias to serve native meats on giant skewers, sliced onto your plate.We had crocodile, impala, kudu, and a variety of other tasty treats.I’m happy we went for the experience, but wouldn’t rush back – we already visited better places to eat game.
Thursday night we were invited to attend the launch of GDS 2040http://www.joburg.org.za/gds2040/gds2040.php .GDS stands for Growth and Development Strategy, looking toward the year 2040.It’s the city’s newly launched vision of the future, and strategy to get there.
In just a week and a half, we’ve almost become a part of the upper echelon of Johannesburg society.There were several thousand dignitaries, officials, and other key members of the social scene in attendance, along with the IBMESC team.We received a special invitation associated with our project.Among these members of the Joburg elite were a number of officials we’ve interviewed, so it was nice to be recognized and have the chance to chat.I was happy to see the city’s Chief Information Officer wearing our button when we were talking and photographed together.
It was also quite a launch party, held at SoccerCity, a stadium used for the 2010 World Cup.There were food, drinks, music, dance, and fireworks.Of course there were a few speeches too, but it was mostly a festive affair.There was a native drum positioned at each seat, and attendees, including the IBMESC team members, beat the drums for applause, and on cue in certain songs.We had a blast.
Our mayor, Parks Tau, reviewed the GDS 2040 collaborative input process, and the highlights of the strategy.He spoke about the next key step to translate it into the coming 2012 annual integrated development plan for the City of Johannesburg (CoJ).We have an opportunity to influence that with our project work.Then he led a group of youths toward a soccer goal positioned at midfield in the stadium.A ball was kicked into the goal to light up a giant “2040” and fireworks appeared over the stadium.
That closed the formal ceremony, but the launch celebration party continued inside.On the way in, we met the mayor on the stairs and congratulated him on the launch.He asked how the project work was going and we set up next week’s final presentation.Inside, there were large white boards and containers of paint.To mark commitment to the strategy, attendees dipped a hand in the paint and put a palm print on the board, then signed next to it.We joined in, of course, and certified our commitment to Joburg GDS 2040.If all turns out well with our project, we will have a role in its execution.
We got the attempted tourist scam at a restaurant late last night.It was a native African restaurant in the small mall attached to our hotel.The waiter brought over the wine list and menu.He recommended a bottle of wine, which he also brought to the table.It turned out to be the most expensive on the wine list.When we said we’d rather have this one or that one instead, other less expensive choices on the list, he said each was sold out.It appeared the expensive one was the only bottle of wine available.Then he proceeded to tell us that the prices shown on the menu were not the real prices, because they had been changed.We’d get the real prices on our final bill.He appeared serious, and it was almost comical he was trying this on seasoned travelers.So we just walked out without ordering anything with his expensive wine bottle still sitting on the table.We ate at another place nearby.
Today was hump day, Wednesday of our second week, the midpoint of our three week project.It was another day traveling around the city, first at IBM for another round of mentoring, then Renee, Vania, and I traveled to city offices across town for interviews with city officials, while Pat, Christel, and Subu stayed at IBM and conducted interviews with key people who agreed to travel there.We all reunited for a late afternoon 2.5 hour session with a top ranking official and several others from related areas.Sorry I can’t be more specific.I will point out that this official asked me for extra Joburg ESC team buttons (see Holiday Lighting entry: https://www-304.ibm.com/connections/blogs/RonJoburg/entry/holiday_lighting_already3?lang=en_us ) for her children. And that's given me an idea for one of our recommendations...
The long days are running together now, and we’re feeling the pressure of the deadline.We really have to finish at least two days early, meaning Wednesday of next week, to begin final reviews.We had a night session to revise our day-by-day calendar, and a minor panic is setting in with the amount of work ahead of us.We hoped to work late and save as much weekend time as possible, but there’s too much to do for that to happen.Everyone’s a little on edge, but so far the “testy” interactions have been minimal.
The IBM facility here may be the most protected, yet beautiful site I’ve seen of many around the world.It sits behind high walls and a steel gate with security guards out front.Inside is a multi-level building forming a perimeter around several courtyards.The largest surrounds the cafeteria on the lower level, and contains gardens and a koi pond.It also has a patio and tables, making it a nice place to eat outside.That’s where most of us held our 1:1 mentoring discussions.
Another very long day.We started with mentoring at IBM, of
high potential people selected by the local management team.The idea is for our experienced ESC
team members to pass along advice that can help the careers of these
individuals.With the growth
opportunities that will be realized in Africa over the
next ten years, top people will have great chances to achieve career
advancement.I was very impressed with
my first mentee, and expect we will continue our discussions going forward
about once per quarter.We will each
meet with a second mentee tomorrow morning.Next we held several round tables with other top performers before
leaving IBM for interviews with city
One of my interviews today was with a top public official
who was imprisoned for being an activist during the apartheid struggle.At the end of the interview, she started
talking about aspects of her life.She
said her imprisonment lasted 9 months.She told us she was forced to stand for the first seven days and seven
nights, and at times was beaten.After
that she was placed into solitary confinement before eventually being
released.She promised to show us the
prison cell, when we tour Constitution Hill.http://www.constitutionhill.org.za/
It was a captivating and emotional story, and we stayed another 45 minutes beyond the allotted time to hear it. The Constitution Hill visit is going to be an intense experience.
No photos today, but here are a couple of short videos of the elephants we saw at Pilanesberg Game Reserve:
Today was a long day, and we didn’t get out until 7pm.That wasn’t the end, just an opportunity for dinner break, then back at it.The good news is, not only are we going to deliver something significant for the city of Johannesburg, we are likely to extend the IBM frameworks for Smarter Cities. We are apparently breaking some new ground with our approach.I say apparently because so far we’ve not found prior work in some areas in our scope.
But I said I wouldn’t talk much about the project, so what else happened?Well, not much per above, although four of us walked over to Mandela Square for dinner.Each day they are adding more holiday lighting, although it’s only mid-October.
Knowing we were going to work for the city of Johannesburg and the mayor, I had 50 small lapel buttons made before leaving home at a site I found on the internet.They are a big hit, and in addition to the team wearing them to show support for the city, we’ve handed them out to the city officials we meet, a few of the local IBMers, and some of our support team members like Juri, our daily driver, and the security guard at the city offices.We tell them we’re making them a part of our team.
From the city website, I grabbed the emblem of “Joburg, a world class African city,” and centered it over a background of the skyline.On top it reads “IBM ESC” for the executive service corps.On the bottom is “South Africa.”It’s a subtle way to show support for the city, and seems to go over well. The emblem is widespread across the city, on buildings, signs, and publications. Each day before we leave the hotel, there's an informal check of who is not wearing their button.
We went on our “safari” today to Pilanesberg game reserve . http://www.pilanesberg-game-reserve.co.za/It was about 2 hours drive outside of Johannesburg, and we left before 6:30 am and got back at almost 7:30 pm.In between we toured the South African countryside outside of the city.The landscape is very open and beautiful, with some resemblance to the American west.It’s typical “savannah” for Africa. You see a mix of scenes as you drive, including impoverished settlements, many people walking, and cows and goats crossing the roads (our mini-bus nearly nailed a large cow in the road and had to break at high speed to avoid it).There are other scenes of fruit trees, lakes, vistas, and expensive high-end properties.
Touring Pilanesberg was very interesting.The park is the fourth largest game reserve in Africa where a variety of mainly native species are free to roam.You drive slowly on mainly dirt roads that run through the park, and peer out into the landscape, looking for something atypical to the grass, trees, brush, and dirt forming the background.That is frequently an animal, but other times just a log or rock.It’s a lot like hunting, because you need to constantly look carefully or you will miss something, or like fishing, because you never know when or if something is going to happen until it does. It’s also a little like Jurassic Park, a very large “natural” environment managed by humans, and I couldn’t help but make the comparison.
We had a successful day measured by the number and variety of animals we spotted, but just two were among Africa’s “Big 5.” (The Big 5 are lion, leopard, elephant, African buffalo, and rhino.)We spotted wildebeest, impala, kipspringer, zebra, ostrich, guineafowl, hippo, wart hog, giraffe, elephant, waterbuck, rhino, crocodile, kudu, and springbok. So that’s at least fifteen different species including elephant and rhino from the Big 5, but no luck finding lion, leopard, or buffalo.
The elephant sighting was the best of all.It was just before noon and we’d not seen any of the Big 5 to that point.We stopped at one of the watering holes which have a “blind,” an observation area protruding from the edge of the water. Shortly after our arrival a group of giraffes walked up on the far side of the water to drink.We also saw elephants moving in the brush, but they were well hidden.We watched and photographed the giraffes for a few minutes, and then the elephants began to move in.They walked as a group out of the brush and up to the water.There were at least ten, several of which were still young and very small.From our viewpoint, they appeared to cross in front of the giraffes, which remained in the distant background.
The elephants drank for a while, each sticking its trunk into the water, sucking in a large amount, and putting its trunk up to its mouth to pour it in.It was fascinating to watch.Once they finished drinking, they marched off in a row back into the brush.As we drove away from the area, the road got closer to their path, and we got a closer view.They stopped to eat by pulling down foliage from large trees, and stuffed big bundles of leaves and branches into their mouths.The trees shook from the force they used to pull down their meal.
At a game reserve, timing and luck are everything.Had we been at this watering hole 30 minutes earlier, or 30 minutes later, we would have missed the entire elephant encounter.
Things got even busier toward the end of the week than they already were and I haven’t blogged in a few days.Now it’s Saturday and I’ll catch up a bit.One week is already past, and it felt slow at midweek given the long days and nights, but now that it’s over, it also seems it went quickly.
We are very deeply involved in our work project now, having taken the first few days to sort it out while talking to the city officials and local IBM team.We have just 10 work days left, and really less than that since we need to finish most work a few days before our final presentation to the city. We built a schedule of what needs to be accomplished on each day between now and the end.Next week is going to be brutal, with many interviews to be completed, analyzed, and integrated into the overall Smarter City roadmap.We’ve also got to work some today, to catch up to where we wanted to be at end of week 1.I won’t write much more about the project, which is better as I was told the last few entries were getting boring.
So I’ll focus on things that happen outside of the project.Running around the hotel is dangerous, and you do need to run fast, but not for the reasons you might think.It’s dangerous because the cobblestone sidewalks are coming up in places from tree roots and things, and you really need to watch where you put your feet.You need to run fast to cross a few intersections and in weekday traffic, the cars zip by and come at you on the left side of the road, opposite the US.I found “Mushroom Farm Park, a couple of blocks away, and running there is much better.It’s about a half mile around, hilly, but safe and well kept.Once you get going, the altitude still catches up on the hills – not yet acclimatized, but this should be great ski season prep.I run every second day, and in between have visited the small gym.There’s been no shortage of food here, and the daily exercise is the only way to fight it off, and survive the long hours.
There’s a mini version of the Wall St protest going on this morning at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, which happens to be right across the street from our hotel.I asked one of the photographers about it, and it’s basically a similar gathering.There were a lot of political signs, and I wondered what was going on.It appears peaceful.
We got in a few hours of shopping in the middle of the day by taking the subway, Gautrain, one stop to Rosepark on the other side of Sandton.It’s a modern system and very comfortable.At the Rosepark mall, lots of gifts and souvenirs were purchased, including some at an appropriately named store, “Big Blue.” It sells South African designer goods, not computers.
For anyone wanting other perspectives on the trip, a few of my teammates are blogging:
Things finally came together today and our team jelled.We were given a tour of the city for a good
part of the day, returned for a few hours of work at the hotel, and had dinner
with the CIO.
The city government and local IBM
wanted us to get a feel for the city of Johannesburg.All of the tour was interesting, but the
highlights were the Apartheid Museum
and the visit to Vilakazi Street.We got to spend only an hour at the museum,
but it was a powerful hour.Clearly you
could spend all day there, and anyone traveling to Johannesburg
as a tourist should.It captures the
significant history before, during, and after apartheid.Entrance to the museum begins dramatically
with a ticket randomly assigned to identify each entrant as “white” or
“non-white.” There are separate
entrances for each, depicting different conditions of South
Africa citizenship during the time.I was identified by mine as “non-white”Inside, the museum depicts the reality of
apartheid, and as I said, it is powerful.An hour is not enough.
in Soweto is billed as the only
street in the world where two Nobel Prize winners lived (Desmond Tutu and
Nelson Mandela).We toured Mandela’s
house, where he lived before being imprisoned, and where his wife and children
continued to live (under police harassment) while he was there. Vilakazi Street
is also a highlight for local culture like restaurants and shopping.Finally, it’s near the site of the 1976 race
riots and Hector Pieterson’s shooting (one of many).
Anyone old enough will likely remember the famous image depicted in the
memorial, of a bleeding 13 yr old Pieterson being carried immediately after
being shot by the police.http://www.soweto.co.za/html/p_hector.htm
When we returned from the tour, we locked ourselves in a
conference room for a few hours.First
we worked out how to operate more effectively as a team. Then we hashed our plan for the project, how
to frame it, and how to make it meaningful at several levels for its different
clients.We created two slides that explained how
everything would fit together and what we would deliver.Dinner would be the first test of our ability
to get buy-in on our approach.
We chose the Bull Run Restaurant next to the hotel, since it
was recommended and we’d not yet eaten there.Our goal is to avoid repeating restaurants in the area until it becomes
absolutely necessary.So far that’s
been easy.Dinner with the CIO was a
success, the plan went over well, and the food was great too. It was especially interesting to hear a local
person’s perspective on the current state of South
and what effects of apartheid are still felt.It was heartening to hear the
pride and hope he holds for the country and its people.
1.Attended a few morning sessions of the IBM Smarter Industries Symposium held today in JHB.I’ve spent parts of the last six months or more working on a Smarter Planet market study, and was very interested to hear how we’re communicating this topic in a place like JHB.We also got to hear from Steve Forbes, the keynote speaker (and former US presidential candidate).The session was very well attended, worthwhile, and I’ll comment further privately.
2.2. Spoke with kids at Ivory Park School, in an underprivileged area.More on that below.
3.Met with the head of JHB city safety program for a few hours, and got a lot more depth and background on what is happening there, and what is needed.We spent the bus ride back to the hotel in a lively debate on the implications for project scope and direction.
4.Reviewed extensive documents on the JHB 2040 plan, and a summary of a recent Smarter Cities event held here.These papers are lengthy, but come in very handy as significant background for our project.
The trip to Ivory Park school was great, in that we got to do a little bit to help provide motivation and advice to a very underprivileged group of junior year (of high school) students.It was also eye-opening and difficult, to see the environment and learn half the kids don’t get enough to eat on a regular basis. We took our bus about 30 min drive to the outskirts of JHB.The area was a combination of formal and “informal” settlements.Informal means unregistered housing (ie shacks set up on someone else’s land), but both were highly impoverished.
To our surprise, the Ivory Park School sits amidst the area like an oasis.It’s a fairly modern brick structure, clean and well kept, with mowed green lawns.Across the street is the beginning of the settlements, and a complete contrast.
The kids were in clean, impressive uniforms, and seated in an open auditorium area under canopies.They were well behaved throughout, and seemed like regular kids anywhere in the world, despite the circumstances.We were told there would be 400 kids, and there certainly were a lot, although I don’t know if it was quite that many.We started with a welcome and introductions.We spoke beforehand about what we could say and how it might be received. Several team members used the introductions as the first opportunity to try to get across messages.
We spent most of the remainder of the time taking questions from the kids.They asked what subjects they needed to take to work at IBM, whether IBM offered scholarships, what IBM was doing for underprivileged neighborhoods, and whether it mattered what background you came from to work at IBM.It was a lively discussion, and we each took turns answering or adding to answers.The students gave up part of their lunch period to have this session, so we ended after nearly an hour.The principal closed things, with a plea to IBM to keep working with this school (we will).We brought a bag full of treats and thanked the kids for being a great audience and told them each would get one, to be distributed in the afternoon by the teachers.
Most difficult of all was, before she dismissed the students to lunch, she told them they were going in at the end of the period and there wouldn’t be a lot of food left.She asked that they let the neediest kids eat first, and that some of them who didn’t need it as much should just take an apple. That was a sobering reality that despite the positive question session, life for these kids is filled with challenges every day.We left the area in the bus, and drove back to our lives. I wonder whether they got their treats, and what each is doing tonight.
Today was our first full work day, and we went from slow to
full speed in a hurry.We started with a
trip to the city government offices, and got a briefing from the assistant
CIO.Then we worked for a couple of
hours in a conference room, starting to scope our work, debate exactly what we
are asked to do, what is needed, how to do it, what is possible, where we could
end up, what the city already has, what IBM
South Africa has already done, etc etc.All of the two months work prior to arrival came into play as we tried
to recollect all the documentation and calls we had.Then we conjectured what else is needed and
how we could get it.
It was an intense few hours, and quite an interesting
exercise to observe if you were a bystander.We had six type A personalities, none with much shyness, all trying to
figure out the basic challenge as well as how to work together without a hierarchy.It was quite interesting.There were probably a lot of similarities to
Sunday’s World Cup quarterfinal rugby match that South
Africa narrowly lost to Australia.We had quite a scrum, but fortunately not as
many broken hearts afterward.
Around 1 pm we
headed out to lunch with the Asst CIO, where we were introduced to the “rock
shanty” (non-alcoholic drink with mineral water, lemon, and bitters – very
good), tips on sightseeing and local culture, and more on the JHB smarter
cities activities. Then we went back to IBM
for a meeting with an HR partner on IBM’s South
Africa workforce.Next came a briefing with IBM’s
public sector team that has been selling to the City of Johannesburg.As you might imagine, that was a lively and
insightful discussion and further shaped our thinking.
We headed back to our hotel to change into full business
attire for a 6:30 PM meeting across
town with the mayor and his staff.We
had heard a lot about Parks Tau, whose 5 yr term just started on July 1.Meeting him was very positive, and it
appeared we got off on the right foot.We made it clear for the next 3 weeks, we are working for him on this project.We also got an in-depth view of the
expectations for this project, and as usual, hearing it straight from the
client and interacting was invaluable.
On the way back, we stopped for a late dinner at a casino
resort complex near where we had been.I
was thinking we should have just gone back to the hotel to eat, given it was
late, and then we entered this place.It
was like stepping into the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas,
and taking a stroll through the manufactured streets of Italy. Dinner turned out to be a lot more
interesting and energizing than expected – this Johannesburg
has plenty of surprises.
We had a meeting with the Country GM today and got more background on IBM’s business in South Africa and the plans for our project.This is a public blog and I won’t be able to discuss much detail.It appears there are reasonable expectations set, with a lot to be worked out as we get underway.Our schedule for the coming week is set, but we’ve been cautioned to remain flexible as details may change quickly if meeting times or dates need to move.If all goes well, we will meet the mayor of Johannesburg on Monday and begin meetings with other city officials too.
After about 90 minutes, our meeting ended, and given it was Sunday we headed out in a small bus to the “LionPark.”LionPark is an animal park located on the outskirts of Johannesburg.It has a drive-through section and a smaller walk-around area.Unlike similar parks in the US, like Six Flags, none of the animals were behind fences, not even the lions.
I’m generally not a fan of zoos or exhibits that use animals to entertain people, but I have to admit this was pretty cool.We arrived just after the lions were given their Sunday meal of large chunks of animal meat.It allowed for some very close up shots, and given they were preoccupied, increased our bravery to open bus windows for unobstructed views.In addition to lions, we saw cheetahs, zebras, onyx, giraffes, wild dogs, meerkats, hyenas, and last night’s dinner favorites:springbok and ostrich.
The smaller part of the park included the opportunity to “pet a cub” (lion).The lion cubs were the size of medium dogs, and that was big enough for me.The one we petted was surly, and swatted at your hand.Fortunately, the cub did no damage, but it got your reflexes working to pull quickly away.
I made it through the 15 hr flight to Johannesburg, landed at Saturday morning, and am now at our hotel.First impressions on the drive in were varied:generally it looked typical Western, with signs of wealth in some places and poverty in others.No striking features to the land, slight rolling hills and more open than treed.The temperature is warmer than I expected for spring, at least 75F and maybe 80, with lots of sun.
The hotel is in Sandton, one of the nicer areas of Johannesburg: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandton.The accommodations are adequate, but not opulent.The hotel doesn’t look large from the outside, but there’s more to it toward the back.There are palm trees in the garden and an outdoor pool, but nobody’s swimming because the water is still cold.The breakfast buffet was pretty good, with lots of western, continental, and local choices.The gym is marginal with some broken equipment.
We had a logistics meeting at in the lobby but only two of us, Kristel from the CIO’s group in IBM Belgium, and I made it.We met Gavin and Juri.Gavin is from the organizing company, managing a lot of the set up for this trip.Juri is an ex-JHB police officer.I describe him as the Crocodile Dundee assigned to babysit and keep us out of trouble.They gave us our mobile phones and cellular USB connectors.Then we headed out for a short tour of the neighborhood and lunch.
We walked a few blocks to Nelson Mandela Square, which was very impressive.Most impressive was the 25 foot statue of Nelson Mandela.
Nelson overlooks his square, which is bordered by open air restaurants, and has a dancing fountain in the center.The fountain attracted plenty of kids on this hot day.Next to the square is Africa’s largest shopping mall (so far).This mall would be large and upscale in any western city and was busy on Saturday afternoon.We had a nice lunch at one of the open air cafes and heard more of the background on the city from Juri and the plan for the coming week from Gavin.
After lunch we walked around a little more then headed back to the hotel.Kristel and I decided to keep moving to stay awake, dropped our stuff in the rooms, and went back to the mall.Later on we met up with two others in our group:Renee, from Tivoli Marketing in NY, and Subu, an IBM Fellow from Microelectronics, also based in NY.Gavin returned too and the five of us had dinner at an African restaurant on Mandela Square.We shared choices that included Ostrich steak and Springbok medallions.
Not a bad first day: flew in from NY, got photographed with Nelson Mandela, and ate Ostrich and Sprinbok for dinner. This is a long entry because I'm up in the middle of the night and not time adjusted. I hope I can fall back to sleep before morning or it's going to be another long day.
After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb” Nelson Mandela
It's a good
thing I like to hike up mountains (and ski down).Getting ready to leave is a big hill climb.
Today's the last day before tomorrow's 15 hr
flight from NY (JFK) to Johannesburg (JHB).We finally got the long awaited security briefing on our last prep call
early this morning.Maybe they waited
until the end, as there's no turning back now?
it wasn't bad at all.Basic stuff, like
most places, esp NYC.I asked about
running in the area of the hotel.The
security guy said as long as you run fast, you should be ok.Actually he said if you run in daylight, you
should be fine.Fast it will be.
interesting facts on JHB from Wikipedia at link below.
A relatively advanced city, more resembling
one in Europe than other parts of Africa
Almost 3M people and over 7M in surrounding
area, who represent a wide variety of social and economic demographics
Elevation is over 1700 meters, over a mile
high, atop a plateau
Relatively dry, moderate climate with avg
October temps between 50 and 75 Fahrenheit
Has over 10 million trees, and is the
largest man-planted forest in the world
I'm going to Johannesburg, South Africa, in two days for a three week assignment with the IBM Executive Service Corps (ESC). Five other IBM executives and I will form a team to work on a project for the city of Johannesburg. We know we will work on a roadmap (plan) to make Johannesburg a "Smarter City," building on other work already underway. What exactly we'll be doing, we don't really know. We assume we'll figure it out quickly once we get there. Let's hope we're right.
Each of us applied to the ESC, a branch of IBM's Corporate Service Corps. We were fortunate to be selected for what is promised as a "life changing experience." (I kind of like my life the way it is). With the help of IBM's CSC leadership team, we've prepared for the last two months with briefings on Johannesburg, IBM's Smarter Cities Strategy, and other related topics. By now, we should be ready for this. But I'm at an IDC event in Boston and I need to get home and pack; I leave in less than 48 hours.
Background on IBM's ESC/CSC:
"IBM's Corporate Service Corps (CSC) provides strategic and practical counsel to governments overseas on a pro bono basis for issues that intersect business, technology, and society. The program's benefits and skills match Africa's need for highly skilled problem solvers, as the continent is in the midst of a long term process of building out its technology infrastructure, as well as its civic, business and social institutions. The selection process for IBMers to participate is more competitive than Harvard University's admission process. And the skilled counsel and expertise that participants provide to clients is impactful.
Since the program's inception in 2008, IBM has dispatched 1,200 of its top employees on over 100 engagements in 25 countries. The CSC portfolio has broadened and in 2010 IBM created a variant of the program, called Executive Service Corps. ESC deploys more senior executives on more advanced engagements in more developed markets. And in 2011, IBM launched the Smarter Cities Challenge, a program inspired by the Executive Service Corps and the advanced assistance it provides. Over the next three years, it is dispatching teams of Executive Service Corps-level IBMers to 100 cities, half in emerging markets and half in developed ones.
Had the assistance the teams provided African countries been billed commercially, the value of IBM's contribution would have exceeded US$10 million. Overall, the assistance that IBM teams provided countries worldwide would be valued at least $25 million. The actual outlay in expense per team sent is slightly more than $100,000. IBM will double the number of emerging leaders it sends on pro- bono assignments to Africa during the next three years, and plans to send roughly 600 employees to Africa through 2015."