Canadian Daniel Chan is going abroad to provide aid to a developing country, but rather than food or money he will be giving out something just as valuable: Leadership skills.

Chan, a client manager at IBM, will be part of an IBM Corporate Service Corps team heading to Vietnam to teach business leaders valuable leadership and development skills to help strengthen the local economy, increase economic opportunities and improve access to learning resources for the local business community.

Chan says the opportunity to impart his own experience and knowledge to up-and-coming leaders in a developing country was too good to pass up.

“I would say that I’m a pretty adventurous guy and throughout my IBM career I’ve been involved in education and training roles, so I’m truly excited for this opportunity to develop global leadership and experience,” Chan said.

While in Vietnam, Chan and his team will be living and working in the city of Danang, a much smaller, less Westernized venue than metropolises like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.

The move is deliberate, as businesses in smaller cities need the most help.

Chan says it’s all about showing local leaders how they can take their business global.

“It’s exciting to engage with local companies knowing we’re going to assist them to be more competitive in a global economy,” Chan said.

Chan’s team will include IBM employees from the U.K., Germany, the U.S. and Mexico. The trip will be the first of six scheduled for the next three years, with 12 project teams totalling 100 people being sent to Romania, Turkey, Ghana, Tanzania, Vietnam and the Phillipines.

Each team will spend at least one month in each country, with several months of preparation beforehand and post-trip work afterwards.

Dave Robitaille, manager of corporate citizen affairs at IBM, says interest in the program was extremely high among IBM employees. More than 5,500 people applied worldwide for the 100 available positions.

“We like to joke that it was more difficult to get into than Harvard,” Robitaille said.

IBM is working with local non-governmental organizations in each participating country to ensure the program suits local business needs.

Robitaille says the need for exporting leadership skills is just as important as other forms of assistance developing countries need to flourish in the world economy.

“What the future demands is that we have people who are able to cross time zones and cultures to be effective in the emerging global economy. We are developing the skills of these people as global leaders,” Robitaille said.

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