Working overseas

It has been a while ago!

Let me talk about my recent year at IBM.

My last project was a MS Dynamics project within Financial services in Birmingham (UK), which means I traveled back and forth from Sweden every week.

As most of the traveling consultants, my schedule looked like this:
Monday-Thursday Birmingham
Friday-Sunday Sweden

So how has it been here?
I would say it has been a fun experience but also a bit tiring. Since there are no direct flights, my flight hours has been less fun. Brexit did not make it more convenient either. Luckily, I had a fun team from different countries in my project. It has been fun choosing to stay at the same hotel and exploring food places in the evenings. When I rolled off my project, I received a joyful present representing who I am..

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Haha. Should I be proud or ashamed to be remembered as the crazy burger lover? My reaction was a good laugh when receiving this. Anyways, I really appreciate the thoughtful present from my great colleagues. The book was cool inside fyi 🙂

Birmingham is a cosy city – especially during the winter with their big Christmas markets. Okay, it’s not great that it is quite cold there at that time. But I am from Sweden so at least I could escape the snow (and even colder temperature) from here 🙂
I am a big city girl and usually, the bigger city the better. This does not apply for the UK. London is a bigger city but I feel more comfortable in Birmingham this time. Just start with direct flight routes please!


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Peggy Poon


The Unexpected Career

In the Spring of 2015, I happily and successfully earned my master’s degree in Computer Science from Monmouth University, New Jersey, USA. That moment was so special to my parents back home in Saudi Arabia because I was the first member amongst my family and relatives to earn a master’s degree. Typically, in Saudi Arabia, those who pursue top educational degrees will have better chances to find stable job opportunities. Those stable job opportunities can ensure being in the comfort zone for a long time. Therefore, the typical goals of getting married, having kids, and building the one and only owned house can be achieved faster and easier. Applying for a PhD in Computer Science was the ultimate goal that I have always wanted to achieve because of the continuous knowledge that I would gain and the academic life I would live. However, I had zero experience in the work environment and I needed to support my educational achievement with some job experience to expedite joining a company or a university after earning the PhD in the future. In the fall of 2015, I found my dream job in my beloved city at a well-known petrochemical company in Saudi Arabia. This dream job was the reason I delayed applying for the PhD because I thought it was the time, at the age of 28, to start the expected typical life alongside my goal to serve in the city where I grew up. At the same time, the IT job experience that I have gained in the petrochemical environment was great and provided me with great knowledge. It allowed me to join graduate programs, participate in shadowing rotations, participate in the International Toastmasters, manage industrial tools, and develop customized applications using different platforms. On the other hand, I was developing my skills in a routine work environment that might have led to a linear career growth due to the company objectives in the petrochemical environment. For example, the petrochemical environment might have provided wider directions and career positions to the chemical, electrical, industrial, and mechanical engineers than the IT engineers.

After one year, the unexpected career has knocked on the door to pull me out from the routine job environment. I was nominated to join the CbD (Consultant by Degree) program at IBM. I have always assumed that IBM is a company that was in the business of selling research results, advertisements, software, and hardware solutions. Therefore, joining such a company would require a decent number of years of experience and qualifications in the research, marketing and sales fields. In addition, traveling to the United States where IBM is headquartered will be a necessity to join such a great company. However, IBM has opened its office in Saudi Arabia and successful people have been able to join the company. The decision to join IBM MEA in Saudi Arabia was the transformation point in my life because of the unexpected IT career path and the offered learning resources and opportunities to gain knowledge and certificates including the IBM technological innovations, such as IBM Bluemix, IBM Design Thinking and Agile, and IBM Watson. These innovations do not only serve employees with an IT background, but they successfully give great chances to other professionals to progress in the future. In the CbD program at IBM MEA, I have been allied with awesome technical and mechanical engineers, salesmen, saleswomen, designers, and business administrators.

After completing one year at IBM MEA, I have realized that my goal of gaining job experience needs more than one great company to understand different types of job cultures, colleagues, locations, educational materials, and job roles. In my first year at IBM, specifically the CbD program, I have gained experience in different fields that might need five years in other well-known companies. For example, my job role has changed from an analyst to a consultant, which opened the doors for me as a consultant to climb the ladder to be a professional in different areas, such as strategy, digital, analytics, technology, and communication. In addition, I got a chance to explore other cultures from different countries, such as Pakistan, India, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, America, Canada, and Egypt. Now one year has passed and there is another amazing year left to graduate from the CbD program and I will blog about it with a great honor.

Sameer W Mulla


What do you know about IBM Watson?

m5xbsgp3zxjvkztcxo4oDisclaimer: this article is my own opinion  and research and doesn’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, beliefs,strategies or opinions.


A key buzzword round IBM and in the Cognitive world is ‘Watson’. Watson is a super computer which combines advanced Artificial Intelligence and analytical software for unprecedented performance as a “question answering” machine. Watson is named after IBM’s founder, Thomas J. Watson.

Basically, Watson parses questions into different keywords and sentence fragments in order to find statistically related phrases. It then searches its extensive databases for results and answers  the user’s question or input with high accuracy. The more you use Watson, the smarter it gets as it learns from your input! Watson can be used as chatbots, to improve customer service and as  cognitive analytics system amongst multiple other uses.

Here’s a great introduction video about how Watson works;

Watson originally rose to fame when it won the US show Jeopardy in 2011 against former winners Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings.  You can view the win below;

A further in-depth study can be found Here

The videos below also offer a deeper insight into Watson’s capabilities.

Today Watson offers a variety of services as detailed below;

  • Watson Conversation

Quickly build, test and deploy bots or virtual agents across mobile devices, messaging platforms, or even on a physical robot to create natural conversations between your apps and users.

  • Watson Virtual Agent

Quickly configure virtual agents with company information, using pre-built content and engage customers in a conversational, personalized manner, on any channel.

  • Watson Knowledge Studio

Teach Watson to discover meaningful insights in unstructured text without writing any code.

  • watson iconExplore Watson APIs

Use Watson language, conversation, speech, vision and data insight APIs to add cognitive functionality to your application or service.


Watson has been used by the medical, business and even fashion industries in a variety of ways. You can discover different cases of Watson in action – Here

Check out a tonne of more information about Watson and Cognitive on the IBM Youtube channels;


I hope you learnt a bit more about Watson- ‘Til the next time!


~Ruth Websdale

Ruth Websdale

IBM Business Consultant



Being Agile (Part 1 – Foundation)

The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.[1]

Being agile is being mindful. Mindful of the present (Openness); Mindful of those around you (Empathy/Respect); Mindful of uncertainty and fear (Courage); Mindful of the underlying goodness of every moment (Trust).[2]

Agile Values

What are your values?

Being agile is built on five core beliefs.

Respect: The backbone of agile teams. Without respect then everything else falls apart. Respect is the glue that holds everything together.

Openness: The limbs of agile teams. What is your body language like? Are you accepting of others, their faults, their quirks, their ideas, their values? Being open means sharing, collaborating, smiling, being curious.

Trust: The gut of agile teams. The more vulnerable you are the more people trust you. If you put yourself out there then you will be able to build more trust. Oxymoronic, right? When you give off an air of invulnerability then you become unapproachable, less human thus you create a barrier for others to trust you.

Courage: The heart of agile teams. Our values are not just the values we believe and practice as individuals but the values we walk past. If we see a lack of trust or disrespect happening around us and walk past it then that becomes our value. We must be prepared as individuals and teams to overcoming the uncomfortableness  and call out disrespect, lack of trust, close mindedness and that takes courage.

Empathy: The eyes and ears of agile teams. Are we engaged listeners? Do we see with compassion? Instead of judging the things others are not good at we can instead help people to learn the things that we are good at.[3]

Agile Principles

What are your principles?

Being agile builds on top of the five values by establishing 3 key principles.

Clarity of Outcome: The clear outcome is your north star. Let it guide you; align your team towards it. Remember a clear outcome focuses on the customer and business value.

Iterate: Listen, iterate, learn, think, and course correct. Be lean, fast, adaptable, and flexible. Do not worry about perfect, it does not exist rather strive for continuous improvement.

Unleash innovation: Empower your teams to be self-directed and create a culture of collaboration. You will become more flexible, fault tolerant and innovative this way. You never know where that next brilliant idea will come from.

Imagine the 3 principles as light (clarity of outcome), earth (iterate), and water (unleash innovation). Imagine yourself as a plant. The light helps you grow straight and upright. The earth helps you stay grounded and spread your roots deep and wide. The water will nourish you so that you will eventually produce delicious low hanging fruits that will benefit others.

Agile Practices

What are your practices?

Being agile provides a toolbox of practices that can help guide and align teams to the values and principles. You pick and choose the right tool that is most suitable for the job at hand.


Figure 1: Kanban Board One of The Agile Practices.[4]


A Japanese teaching on how you learn a technique.

The idea is that a person passes through three stages of gaining knowledge[5]:

  • Shu: Follow. The student follows the process as described with no focus on the underlying theory.
  • Ha: Break. The student begins to branch out. She starts to adapt to make the process better, learning from other sources and integrating that learning into her practice.
  • Ri: Transcend. The student isn’t learning from other people, but from her own practice. She creates her own approach and adapts what she’s learned to her own context.

Stage 1: Focus on concrete steps to imitate.

Stage 2: Focus on understanding principles and branching out.

Stage 3: Transition into self-directed innovation.

Being agile will enable you to maximize your abilities and to produce top notch quality on time. It will remove the shackles that have chained you, slowed you down, and dampened your creativity.

Best regards,
Wisam Al Abed
(Reviewed by GrĂĄinne Dolan and Amira Elias)



IBM Agile Academy Training

[1] Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Available at: [Accessed: 28 Nov, 2016]

[2] Babauta, Leo. The Path of Fearlessness. Available at: [Accessed: 28 Nov, 2016]

[3] Updates to the Scrum Guide – The 5 Scrum values take center stage. Available at: [Accessed: 8 Dec, 2016]

[4] Harel, Shirly Ronen. Power of Sticky Notes. Available at: [Accessed: 28 Nov, 2016].

[5] Fowler, Martin. ShuHaRi. Available at: [Accessed: 29 Nov, 2016].

The “thing” in Banking: from electric shock to counting steps

Imagine a wrist band that gives you a real electric shock if you overspend. Sounds scary? Sounds too intense? Sounds like something you wouldn’t try?

This wrist band is the latest technology developed by digital financial solution company Intelligent Environment, who claims to be the first company in the financial sector to apply IoT in banking.

Here is how this “shocking” IoT banking platform works.

1) Consumers log into their credit card or bank account.

2) They connect their device (which is a wrist band developed by Pavlok) and set a spending limit.

3) When users are on the verge of reaching the limit, their phone will display a notification informing them that they are about to overspend.

4) If users go over their limit, Pavlok will deliver an electric shock to their wrist (of course one can set the intensity of the shock from a scale of 0-10).

Now, imagine you are a die-hard shopaholic, would you not be interested in trying out this wrist band, which might help you break your old habit and get your personal finances back on track?

Pavlok might be an extreme example of how IoT could fundamentally shape the way people manage their finance, but it serves the purpose of highlighting the importance of IoT as a disruptive force.

Payments is no doubt the first child of IoT and Banking. One prominent example in the market is: Groceries by MasterCard – an IoT application available with Samsung Family Hub Refrigerators. The story is not new:

You stand in front of your smart refrigerator, which has sensors that can easily detect whether you need another gallon of milk for your family. Groceries by MasterCard integrates with FreshDirect or ShopRite e-commerce platform and orders the groceries for you automatically and effortlessly. There is no longer the need to open the fridge to check each item manually and then run to the grocery store to purchase them. How would you pay? The actual payment is, of course, made from MasterCard, which goes through NFC technology served by Coin, an official MasterCard partner who brings payment to a wide variety of fitness bands, watches, and smart wearable devices.

Samsung is not the only digital giant who is eyeing IoT payment. Amazon Dash Button and VISA have also been building payment capabilities into everyday items.

Application of IoT in banking will no doubt produce data – massive amounts of data – and it is up to us to find a smarter way to analyze these real-time contextual customer engagement dots, irrespective if they are structured or unstructured.

Below are my own takeaways from existing research:

  1. Banks cease to be the sole partner in people’s financial life. There are manufacturers who need to be engaged and prepared – no matter if it is furniture, phones, wearables or geo-locators. All devices need to be smart in collecting data and taking smart actions. Why? If the device is not well-maintained or has the wrong attributes, the level of data collected will not help banks achieve the level of personalization that will delight its customers.
  2. Secondly, data analytics must be integrated at scale so that the customer journey is not just wishful thinking. By analyzing data collected from numerous devices and sensors, banks need to figure out who the customers really are, what products they prefer, and their lifetime value. For example, if the fridge has smartly figured out that the customer needs to purchase milk, banks also need to know which card and loyalty program customers prefer to use. In other words, banks should not rely on data collected from a few traditional channels, but aggregate all inputs to portray a complete customer persona that is unique to that customer.
  3. Security is a diehard concern for banks. One of the risks in IoT banking that has been brought up is the level of authentication and authorization needed when engaging a customer. However, I tend to agree with another school of thought, which believes that IoT will serve as a game-changer for banks to KYC customers. How? With devices that easily identify someone’s biometrics, customer’s onboarding becomes completely digital, secure, and frictionless.

In conclusion, with the right device in the right context, banks cease to be a distant figure that exists only in branch or on a smart phone, but in people’s everyday life. IoT banking will allow banks to obtain a new level of understanding of the needs of both consumer and business clients, reaching a new level of customer intimacy.

Author: Shuyao Kong


Reviewed by Wisam Al Abed

IBM Design Thinking

“Good design is good business.” – Thomas Watson, Jr.

Despite commonly known, design is not just about appearance. Design is a method of problem solving.

Designer Richard Seymour defined design as ‘making things better for people’ during the Design Council’s Design in Business Week 20021. This statement emphasizes the human centricity of design. Good design begins with understanding the user. If a design does not meet user’s need -despite how beautiful it is- it does no good.

Putting an emphasis on design helps businesses to create valuable product and services. The Design Management Institute’s 2014 results showed that over the last 10 years, design-led companies have outperformed the S&P by 219%2.

Design Thinking

The importance of design has resulted in development of “design thinking” as an innovative way of thinking and working. Design thinking is a human centric, design-based approach for creating solutions. It integrates the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.3

The typical approach for design thinking has four steps:

Understand: Understanding and developing empathy for users.

Explore: Generating potential solutions for users’ problems.

Prototype: Transforming ideas into concrete experiences.

Evaluate: Evaluating and deciding whether to move forward with an idea or generate alternative solutions.

Figure 1: Standard Design Thinking Model

The standard Design Thinking model was too linear for the needs of IBM and our clients, where continuous innovation is paramount. In order to adapt the methodology to fulfill enterprise needs on speed and scale, IBM enhanced the current methodology and created IBM Design Thinking.

IBM Design Thinking

IBM Design Thinking is created for understanding people’s needs, forming intent and deliver outcomes at speed and scale.

The first principle of IBM Design Thinking is focusing on the most important user outcomes. User is team’s main guide all the time in any phase of a project. Second principle is to have a multidisciplinary team with business, design and technology capabilities in order to collaborate fast and smart. The third principle is to restlessly reinventing by treating everything as a prototype. Ongoing simulation of the user experience by prototyping is key to continuous evaluation of the success of the design.

In order to reflect an agile and continuous delivery mindset, IBM Design Thinking has been established in a Loop model. It is a continuous loop of observing user, reflecting with the team and making the ideas real for user.

Figure 2: Continuous Loop of IBM Design Thinking
  • In the Observe stage team get to know user, user’s needs and success measures. Observe also consists testing ideas with user at each step of the project.
  • In the Reflect stage team understand the capabilities of the team and their stakeholders. The team aligns on their purpose and things learned in the Observe stage.
  • The Make phase is giving form to ideas and realizing the ideas that makes user’s life much more easier and experience much more better.

Teams practicing IBM Design Thinking knows that it is better to start early on giving form to ideas in order to see shortcomings and obtain feedback from user for improving the concept.

In order to deliver meaningful user outcomes and scale the Loop to even more complex business environments, IBM Design Thinking enables complex teams to align on the most important user outcomes, bring stakeholders into loop and work with real users in the project (Sponsor Users) to stay true to real world needs.

For more information on IBM Design Thinking, please visit our official website for IBM Design Thinking.

Client Delivery of IBM Design Thinking

Leaders, project teams and companies can leverage IBM Design Thinking to develop breakthrough solutions and gain competitive advantage in this digital era of empowered users.

IBM Interactive Experience (IX) is the client delivery team for IBM Design Thinking. IBM IX team designs and develops experiences with clients using IBM Design Thinking approach and its design artifacts. One example is the partnership with Peru’s largest bank Banco de’ Credito. The bank redesigned their end-to-end web presence utilizing IBM Design Thinking. Another example is partnership with Citi group. Citi group designers and developers were educated with IBM Design Thinking in order to provide responsive design for its applications. As a result, the bank successfully provided exemplary user experience across its applications.

If you wish, you can have more information about IBM IX and contact IBM IX team from here.


IBM Design Thinking University
IBM Design Thinking for GBS Internal Community
1 What is design. Retrieved from
2 The Value of Design – Design Management Institute. Retrieved from
3 About | IDEO. Retrieved from


About The Author

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 11.34.47

I am a CbDer from 2015 batch in Turkey, who leads the establishment of the MEA CbDer Thought Leadership program. This is my first thought leadership article and it gives me great pleasure to be one of the authors and to share expertise on an interest topic that I feel strongly about.

My interest in IBM Design Thinking stems from the IBM Design Bootcamp I participated in last year at IBM Dubai. Since then, I have been trying to improve my understanding of the methodology by doing research and applying regularly on my projects. I desire to grow my experience on this topic and to become an IBM Design Thinking coach.

Recap: ThinkIT Week June 2016

Hi all,

Apologies it’s been a while since I posted anything- IBM work and life suddenly sped up!

Back in June I had the opportunity to get involved with ThinkIT, an event run by IBM to encourage young girls to be interested in studying STEM subjects. There is still a huge gap between the amount of women working in the tech industry and this is a subject I am extremely passionate about. A friend of mine was part of the organisation team and informed me of the event earlier in the year. Given my previous interest and work with the Girls Who Can team it was obvious to me that this was a fantastic opportunity to share my having studied IT and working in the tech industry with young girls. Various two day sessions were being run across the country at IBM sites and volunteers were needed to run the groups of girls.


IBM ThinkIT Twitter

 The event I chose to help with was a two day event in Hursley where I would be a team lead for a group of six girls- each from different schools. There were a series of challenges and activities to work through daily with the teams, composing of a variety of themes such as web design, design thinking, team building games and marketing.

 I knew there would likely be a decent variety in what the girls would already know about IT and I was determined to make the subject accessible and fun and to get everyone in my group participating.  We began with a fun ice breaker to introduce the girls to the concept of thinking like a programmer. I had to act like a robot and have the girls instruct me how to make a jam sandwich. It was my job to be as difficult as possible to get the girls to really think about what a computer could understand and how they needed to define variables, such as what the jam was! After a bit my group really got the concept and we successfully made a sandwich.

  The rest of the first day comprised of a basic wiring session, where the girls got to learn how to wire up and then program a card reader, a fun design thinking session where we came up with a smart criminal catching concept we’d later be working on and presenting and a brilliant murder mystery challenge which focused on logic and code cracking. All the while it was my responsibility to provide support and teach the concepts to the girls. We had overall presentations given before the group sessions but I still needed to be able to answer questions and help with the challenges. I greatly enjoyed sharing my IT knowledge with the girls in such a fun and accessible way and it was great to get them thinking about future careers at IBM.

  The second day focused more on marketing and then making a mock web page for our project. We would then we having an ‘expo’ where all teams presented their ideas at the end of the day.  The girls had bonded more by the second day and a lot of great ideas were going about!

  IBM is very proud of its ThinkIT event and with good reason- it is a vital focus on the next generation and getting them interested in technical careers- especially at IBM.  After all, if young people don’t know about IBM and what we do, how will they know they can get involved with placements and schemes!

I was very keen to contribute to sharing my knowledge with the teenage girls and greatly enjoyed the event and the opportunity it gave me. This was a fantastic knowledge sharing opportunity and I had great feedback from my group who told me I should be an IT teacher because i’d make the subject fun!

I definitely hope to get involved with ThinkIT again next year!

IBM ThinkIT Twitter


-Ruth, Technical Consultant@IBM