IBM’s Celebration of Service: My Service To My Community

Last week, IBM turned 100 years old.  I blogged about my thoughts about the big birthday in my post:  Happy Birthday IBM!! My thoughts as IBM turns 100   In that post I talked about IBM’s three beliefs.  One of those beliefs is all about providing excellent service to customers and others.

As part of our Centennial celebrations, our CEO, Sam Palmisano, asked all IBMers to pledge to volunteer at least 8 hours of community service and then post out on our social platforms about our experience doing community service.  IBMers around the world have been tweeting (search on #IBM100 or IBM and #COS) and blogging about what they did for their service time.  This post will describe what I have done to help my community as part of this celebration of service.

Ever since my daughters entered our local school system I have enjoyed helping out in the schools.  As a father, I have always been in a sea of moms. I have seen very few dads volunteer at schools.  I think all those dads out there are really missing something. 

When my daughters were young, I conducted an “Art Awareness” class for each of my daughter’s Kindergarten – 2nd grade classes.  This was a monthly class that was about 10-15 minutes art education and then 30 minutes of a related art project.  It helped the teachers out a little by giving them a break.  For me, I got tremendous satisfaction out of seeing the artist in the children come to life and even more satisfaction when the students would send me cards at the end of the year thanking me for teaching the Art Awareness sessions.

Daily Herald - Ventrella 19Feb2011The last four years I have been involved in running a career day event at Plum Grove Junior High School (my community’s local junior high school) titled W.O.W Day.  W.O.W. is short for “Widening Our World” and is designed to be a career day event that provides information about careers and practical knowledge to the 800 students attending the school.   The last two years, I have been the PTA Chairperson for this event, coordinating over 30 parent volunteers, 35 career speakers, and working with the school’s staff to ensure a well-run event.  I have probably put in 300 hours easily over the last four years planning for and holding this event.

The event, usually held in mid February, starts off with an assembly for the students.  We find an assembly speaker that can deliver a strong and inspirational message to the students that they can accomplish anything that they put their mind to.  This year I secured Michael Ventrella as a speaker.  Michael won the NBC Biggest Loser Season 9 Title in 2010.  Michael delivered four key messages:

  • Believe in yourself. You can achieve anything.
  • Set goals. Picture how you will feel when you achieve them.
  • Break goals into smaller pieces. Focus on the first small piece.
  • Surround yourself with family / friends that believe you can achieve your goal and can support you

After the assembly, the students are scheduled into 4 consecutive 40 minute career presentations/workshops that they have chosen from a list of 35.  During October – January I seek out and find 35 different career speakers from the parents and communities.  Then I work with those speakers to help them develop their presentations which should help the students understand what the career is all about and what type of experiences and education is required to enter that career.  I’ve learned that students like sessions that are 1) interactive, 2) have things they could touch or experience, and 3) were delivered by a speaker who was upbeat and passionate about the topic.

Here is an example subset of the 35 career sessions we had at this past February’s event

  • Comic Book Artist
  • FBI Agent
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Optometrist
  • Registered Dietitian
  • U.S. Army
  • Astronomy Science
  • Veterinarian
  • Engineering
  • Retail Fashion
  • Guitarist
  • Astronomy Science

Putting on an event like this took a bunch of nights and weekends of planning.   However, I get so much satisfaction knowing I have had a small part in helping our students understand what types of careers await them.  Junior high school is a very critical time in their lives.  The career day provides them with information on some of the many potential careers awaiting them after their school years.   I think the biggest benefit of the career day is that it helps our children understand that even at just 13 and 14 years old, they need to start taking responsibility for their future careers.

So that’s my story of how I volunteer my time back to the community.  Providing service back to the community is part of the fabric at IBM.  It’s part of our DNA.