What’s it Like to be a CbDer in Japan or Italy?


What is the most interesting part of Consulting by Degrees? It’s a global program with an incredible diversity of intelligent people. Mai Sakamoto and Antonio Rossano tell us about their experiences in IBM Japan’s and IBM Italy’s CbD Programs in the May 2013 North America Newsletter!

Compiled by: Kristen Pratt


Consulting by Degrees Japan: Even though our Japanese peers are thousands of miles away, Consulting by Degrees in Japan program is very similar to the one in the United States. Like the US program,  a typical Japanese project is about 6 months long. But some things are a bit different; for example, there are about 80 Cbders in total and 85% of them are located in one city, Tokyo. The group meets twice a quarter for regular Consulting by Degrees meetings at IBM Japan’s HQ in Tokyo, Hakozaki. As in the US, general training in Japan takes place once every six months, but the initial on-boarding training is actually a bit longer. CbDers also are required to be fluent in Japanese and achieve the required level of “TOEIC” in English.


Mai Sakamoto

Tell us about the last project you worked on
“I am currently working as a PMO in a Financial System Implementation Project. We, the IBM PMOs, not only monitor tasks and schedules of each member/project, but also ensure the objectives and goals of each tasks are clear; we also support and advise on how to work efficiently and manage the stakeholders in order to advance the project. The project will have a Go-Live on May 7th, 2013, so I am working hard right now to reach that day with no delay.”

What is your best memory since joining IBM?
“The launch of Global Video Contest in a collaboration with US CbDers! Thank you very much for those who supported us.”

What sector are you aligned to?
“I am not aligned to any sector yet. For CbDers in Japan, sectors will be aligned when graduating the 2 year Consulting by Degrees program.”

What is your favorite part of being in the Consulting by Degrees program?
“I can be connected with CbDers from all over the world easily. Just like this newsletter!”

What has surprised you about either Consulting by Degrees or IBM?
The fact that when you try to achieve something big with strong passion, IBMers (even executives!) are willing to support you.”

What are your future plans?
“My life dream is to increase the smiles on kids’ faces, as many as possible, hopefully via education.  In IBM, I am hoping to find some hints and gain knowledge and skills to create a sustainable structure that realizes my dream.  I hope to  see how projects achieve their objectives and goals, gain insight into the  behaviors of executives and leaders at IBM, learn about the structure of corporations,  participate in pro-bono activities, and understand the real demands of children.

However, before working on my world level dream, I would first like to contribute to the Japanese society by helping Japanese companies do their business worldwide with confidence and ease. I am still figuring out the way to achieve this, but one thing that I am sure of is that I personally have to be a reliable global business person to achieve this goal. For the next 2-3 years, I will try to determine areas of growth and improvement for Japanese companies and how I can work collaboratively with people from all over the world.

If you have any ideas that would accelerate me to achieve these two big dreams, please reach out to me! Moreover I would love to hear YOUR dream!”


imageConsulting by Degrees Italy: “In January 2013, I joined IBM with 19 other peers from different backgrounds, but mainly engineering, business, and mathematics. While most of us are located in the Milan main branch, three of us are from the Rome branch. Consulting by Degrees is divided into quadrants. In each quadrant, we develop important professional skills in consulting and technology. Most of our learning modules relate to our primary ‘capability’, i.e. consulting, and also to more specific skills linked to the service lines we belong to. All of us meet at least once a quadrant. According to each service line, training sessions and training modules vary, but we all attended our on-board training together. But, as soon as our projects are defined, we continue the on-boarding phase directly to the job. My first project manager told me this on our introduction call: ‘I believe the best way for you to learn swimming is to push you directly in the water.’ And so it was my second week in IBM; I joined my project team directly at the client site.”


Antonio Rossano

What do you think makes Consulting by Degrees Italy unique?
“In Italy, a lot of attention is given to us since we are the first wave of CbDers after some time. Our introduction has been very hearty and enthusiastic. This is a great advantage, and, at the same time, we somehow have the natural duty to constantly give feedback to our Consulting by Degrees project manager and his team, so that they can identify how to improve little aspects of the program for the next Consulting by Degrees wave. Moreover, all of us have been personally supported by recruiters during the introduction phase. And, of course, the Italian Consulting by Degrees group is unique!”

What is your favorite part of being in the Consulting by Degrees program?
“I feel really lucky to be part of the Consulting by Degrees program. IBM represents to me one of the most ambitious companies to work for. I never imagined I would have the privilege to join IBM through a Graduate Program.

Students often get out of the ‘university world’ to join the ‘world of work’ and suddenly feel kind of alone or somehow ‘unprepared.’ I consider the best aspect of being part of the Consulting by Degrees class is what I call the ‘group factor.’ I can always share my opinions with my peers, talk about everything from project-related issues to career goals and skill assessments to Friday night-out. I think that for us, fresh grads, this is a very important aspect: you can always have someone to talk with because you can be sure that he or she can perfectly understand what you are talking about!”

How often do you travel to the client site?
“Since my project is related to a software implementation, I usually stay at the client’s site for the whole week.This is good as my team has developed a good relationship with the clients; in addition, time is optimized as every need or technical issue is solved or at least identified as it occurs.”

How long is a typical engagement?
“The engagement length of projects is different, typically shorter for Strategy and Transformation and quite longer for ERP implementations. However, typically for the Consulting by Degrees program, a maximum length of 6 months per project is set for us, in order to gain more exposure and experience from different sectors and project types.”

Tell me about the last project you worked on?
“A major Italian bank had started a deep reorganization of its marketing operations, in particular the way its clients are targeted by marketing campaigns. Through the full implementation of the IBM Unica solution, the way clients will receive both product offers and support will change.

Our client perspective is twofold. On the one side, it’s a commercial perspective: by optimizing client behavioral targeting, through real time marketing based on deep dynamic customer insight, the bank will raise average campaign ROI, by detecting easily the right campaign to be proposed to a certain customer.

On the other side, there’s an informative perspective. Through the collection of real time dynamic information coming from different interaction platforms (BVI, IVR, Call Center), our client can build a strong focal point on each customer, in order to strengthen its customer base, and build on this knowledge to apply successful strategies to prospect new customers.

The two perspectives are deeply interconnected, both in structure and in time: Information exploitation brings commercial gains, and successful commercial strategy brings more valuable information to the Company. The two aspects run together simultaneously, as real time information is used to propose commercial packages”

What sector/service line are you aligned to?
“I’m in the Application Innovation Service line. I’m involved in the Smarter Commerce initiative, and my official position is Package Solution Consultant, in particular for IBM Unica. IBM Unica is a platform that helps marketers plan, design, execute, measure and analyze multi-wave, cross-channel and highly personalized marketing campaigns.

Of course, my skills and tasks do not all fall within my service line; as a GBS consultant, my future projects may touch other spheres or service lines, such as Strategy & Transformation or Business Analytics and Optimization, and other initiatives, such as CxO, proposals or even recruiting support for the further Consulting by Degrees waves.”

What is your best memory since joining IBM?
“Well, one of my best memories is before I actually joined IBM, and this is the day I was informed that I was officially “on board.” The introduction days were great, as all of us met and began chatting and acting like “eager beavers.” If only we could see a tape of us during those early days; we would certainly find it amusing. From a professional perspective, I remember very well my first days at the client’s site, warmly introduced by my team colleagues and my tutor.”

What has surprised you about either Consulting by Degrees or IBM?
“I was somehow surprised by the vastness of the IBM expertise area. It’s amazing how many business needs may be covered by IBM applications or services. I believe it could be hard nowadays to find a top-level mid-sized/large company executive that never dealt with IBM, at least once.

I believe this variety is a great opportunity for us in Consulting by Degrees, since the areas of expertise constitutes for us a wide territory to move through as we take our path forward.”

What are your future plans?
” Like the rest of us, I have plenty of ambitions for the future. I want now to focus deeply on today. I believe my priorities are now on my project, on my team, and on my first quadrant as Consulting by Degrees.

Of course, all of this has to be done with an eye on the future; in particular, as I read the advice on some of our network blogs, I know I need to begin to figure out into what Specializations and Business Unit I may find my place at the end of the program. The role of experimentation and finding what you like to do is, of course, the most important point for us.  And, of course, my ambition is to have the opportunity to rotate as much as the business can “bear,”exploiting as much as possible my current skills and sector knowledge.

In the long run, I’d like to work abroad. As our GBS General Manager stressed in his Consulting by Degrees introduction speech, we are in a global company. My hope is to become as global as possible, since there’s no better way to gain experience and skills. I hope to be able to contribute to IBM targets in every country and culture, being always open-minded but at the same time focused and committed to results.”


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