Q&A with CbDer K.C. Harbacek

By: Drake Diamond, Washington D.C

KC, thanks for taking time to provide insight to CbDers around the world. Before we get started, tell us a little about yourself (background, projects worked on, etc.).

KC: I am two year Business Transformation Consultant in the Federal Practice Area- Advanced Analytics and Optimization- and a Quadrant IV CbDer. I am the technical lead for a Federal project, and my team provides analytical support to their operations. I am also one of the DC LEAD Networking and Professional Development Committee Co-Chairs.
I am native of Chicago who graduated from the George Washington University with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Economics and Statistics in 2011. Prior to joining IBM, I was a Statistical Analyst at the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics.


Q: What advice would you give to new hires?

A: I would advise New Hires to take advantage of their on-boarding experience. Many of the IBMers you on-board with will become close friends. Become involved in the Consulting by Degrees community. I recommend the Local Enterprise for Activity Development organization that promotes community service, networking, and professional development initiatives for the CbD community in your base city.

Q: Can you give an example of how Consulting by Degrees has helped you progress in your career, be it via networking, project opportunities, et al?

A: CbD is a great entry program for new IBMers. There is a real strong sense of community, which has provided several opportunities to expand my professional network and obtain a comprehensive training foundation. The training that I found most valuable was the client communication modules. Several of my client engagements integrated advanced data mining methods, and having the ability to clearly present technical findings to clients with non-quantitative backgrounds was a valuable skill set.
Within Consulting by Degrees, I joined the Local Enterprises for Activity Development (LEAD) Organization as a Networking and Professional Development Committee member in November of 2012. Since that time, I have been a member of several teams that led professional development and networking events that were highly recognized within the greater IBM community. Currently, I am one of two Co-chairs that oversee the DC LEAD Networking and Professional development committee and I have had several opportunities to work with IBMers in both Commercial and Public Sectors at the management level. LEAD is an excellent organization to expand your professional network and develop relationships with IBMers outside your project team.

Q: What was the learning curve like for you?

A: I found the first six months on my first project were when I experienced the steepest learning curve. I on-boarded directly from orientation to the client team and had to learn my client’s business and develop my analytical skills to support my team’s operations.  After that period, my analytical skill sets had an exponential growth, and I began to operate with minimal oversight and obtained ownership of several key deliverables.

Q: What’s been the most challenging aspect of your project work?

A: The most challenging aspect of my client engagements has been understanding how to present commercial data utilized in many of my deliverables. At the client, I provided analytical support to multiple clients, and it was at times difficult to determine how the requested analysis was received by my primary clients, who were not acquainted with the database’s capability or the estimation methodologies.

Q: My sense is that IBM stresses initiative; the onus is on you, the individual, to take responsibility for your career- particularly your development. What are your thoughts regarding this?

A: I agree IBM does place the ownership of career development on the practitioner. This doesn’t mean that you are necessarily alone in shaping your career. I found that having strong relationships with your manager and having a mentor can be invaluable when you are developing your Career Smart profile and when you are submitting your application for a band promotion. Also, pursing eLearning opportunities and taking instructor led courses by members of your practice area can greatly enhance your analytical skills and can assist you in preparing for future opportunities.

Q: Describe the most rewarding project/deliverable you’ve contributed to. What made it so memorable, and what specifically was your role?

A: My most rewarding deliverable was constructing a data summary application that provided comprehensive industry, customer, and product analytics similar to Cognos’s primary functionality for the client. I was assigned this task by my Project Manager to identify trends for market research, a new area of engagement for our clients. The analytics tool tested my SAS and Excel modeling skills and pushed me to be highly creative in its design. I feel that its development and implementation greatly enhanced my SAS and Excel skills and allowed me to become the technical team lead.


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