CS Global Citizen in San Francisco

The company I work for, Credit Suisse, offers its employees the possibility to work for one of the NGO partners CS supports through its Global Citizens Program. I was offered the position at Room to Read to work on metrics for two weeks. This blog is a summary of my experience.

Click here to read the blog in chronological order

RoomToRead Gala at the Dolder in Zurich

What an amazing fundraising evening in Zurich at the Dolder!

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During the meal it was possible to bid for a wide range of objects and experiences through the Silent Auction. My initial bid was quickly overtaken by a colleague from Credit Suisse. I was happily suprised to see so many big names from Credit Suisse appearing on the board – all women from the higher echelons of power. The Silent Auction raised more than 100’000 Swiss Francs, greatly encouraged by John in the last seconds to pass the big round number.

The meal was absolutely delicious, accompanied by interesting conversations with people from around the world.

Chupa Phiri, Associate Director, C&F Europe and Africa, based in London, speaking to an author from Munich, Germany who made her children’s books available for the South African kids. The star guest Roshanara from Dehli, lower left, who made an excellent speech that got everyone to their feet in a standing ovation.

I had a great discussion with Chupa at the end of the meal. We both love working with Nancy Shyer, RoomToRead’s Director of Finance, and agreed that tight controlling of time tracking has to be done as efficiently as possible.


The highlight of the evening, after many exciting rounds of bidding, was the announcement that Zurich had broken its previous record and raised 783’466 Swiss Francs in one evening!

I feel encouraged to work hard toward my next raise and promotion to levels where I can donate substantially more than I did this evening. A humbling experience for me to be in a room with so many heavy hitters, not least among them John himself, who made his career long before the age of 35.

As a last surprising step we ended up in the after party in the bar of the Dolder, partying until deep into the beautiful starry night. Raisa Wachter, one of the organizers, fellow mathematician and ETH PhD graduate, with her husband and another Credit Suisse Global Citizen who volunteered at RoomToRead 2 years ago. And myself with John at the very end of the evening.

What an experience! An evening to remember!


When I came back to Switzerland I heard that John Wood himself would be holding a lunch talk in Zurich! Of course I had to go up and meet him, the founder of RoomToRead!

Nancy has also written to me regarding new metrics developments. Can’t wait until she’s back from vacation so we can continue to work together for this great organization!

Wrapping up

This morning I found out that the “bundle wrapping” method is not the same as the “scrunch everything” method. As much as I try to travel light, my bag just seems to get heavier and fuller and more difficult to close. And scrunched laundry does not pack down as well as flat and folded laundry.

I got it all in there and my personal item fits into the small bike bag so I made my way to the office along the usual route:


I did buy an extra strap to keep the bag from bursting in case I need to check it in anyways and the bag gets mishandled.

In the office Shane from IT took us through a pilot using Skype for Business. It went just like my usual team meetings at CS. Acoustics were clear, everyone could see the screen and share theirs. He did a great job comparing the other systems they’re using with the new version of Lync.

Then I brought my bike back to the bike shop in Chinatown.


And now I am working on putting all my final documents into an easily accessible folder and getting ready for my meeting with the CFO.


Here are some examples of books in Khmer that were produced in Cambodia. This is just such a great organization!

20160805_151019Here I am with my RoomToRead boss, Nancy. I really enjoyed working with her! We had some great conversations, moved the needle forward, and I just really appreciated the time she took for me to make this a productive assignment!

Off I go to the airport. I hope you enjoyed my blog. I certainly enjoyed writing it!


Metrics for “Metrics4Metrics”

It’s my second-last day and this morning’s meeting opened up even more questions regarding how to measure ROI on IT projects. It’s going to be hard, if not impossible, to fully complete a specific deliverable. As we saw this morning, a one-hour interview with one person on the project is nowhere near to getting a complete view, including all the data needed for the metrics. There’s just not enough time and capacity to interview all the stakeholders that need to be part of the ROI analysis in two short weeks. We did have a very good discussion on the purpose and ownership of the ROI metrics and this is helpful.

I do want to hand over a package that can be picked up by someone going forward. I want to capture the things we’ve learned in the various meetings and the experiments we’ve come up with the move the needle forward – moving one step forward in the use of metrics at this great organization.

The three areas I have been working on are:

  • “Investment per Child” metric – moving that to the next stage of maturity
  • “Measuring ROI of IT projects” – creating a document and setting up a process to capture that information
  • “Successfully Managing Remote Teams” – holding a workshop with the finance team and a first Skype meeting using headphones as a pilot for that new technology

My approach has been to do experiments in each of these areas to stimulate discussion. As the time invested has been small because of the time-boxed nature of this 8-day assignment, there is not a lot of vested interest in any particular result, and this allows conversations to be held without inhibition.

I leave in exactly 24 hours. What did I accomplish in the last 7 days? Applying the “moving the needle forward” metric to what I did:

  • Many meetings were held that moved the various discussion topics to the next level
  • A new way of thinking about the basic metric was introduced – there are many metrics that can be applied and each metric answers a different question. One metric can’t answer all the questions
  • Tension surrounding the use and abuse of metrics was diffused as the purpose of various metrics were discussed
  • Several experiments were made in each area, moving the body of knowledge forward and providing more material for evidence-based discussions (new metrics, capturing benefits, Skype user manuals)
  • Remote Working Workshop results were captured and the workshop itself brought many issues and possible solutions to light
  • A framework document and a ROI benefits-capturing process were conceived
  • The Finance Team all got headphones 🙂 and tomorrow we’ll do a remote working experiment using the new headphones increasing success with remote working

I’m quite happy with how much I managed to move the needle forward. I’ll spend the rest of my time completing the documents with the notes I have taken and storing them centrally so Nancy and the rest of the team can access them.

In the meantime a few pictures from last night.


A fun evening at the Punchline Comedy Club


The Bay Bridge at night, riding my bike home in the cold.

Oh, the boss boss just sent an invitation to an hour-long meeting tomorrow. Due to the week-long training she and most of her team they were on, and the pressure of closing the books using the new system, this is a big compliment that she is willing to devote so much of her time to me tomorrow at the end of such a stressful week!

The blues

After working non-stop, through lunch hour and into the evening I was exhausted last night. There are so many more questions than I could possibly answer in the next 3 days! Good thing Peter remarked that he thought the lunch meeting had gone very well. That was encouraging.

I rode my bike around in the pretty northern part of the city, trying not to get hit by trams, buses or silent electric cars. I crossed Lombard street at some point but didn’t see the part that’s on all the postcards.

This morning I allowed myself to sleep in and take it easy. The bike ride to work was invigorating, and my adrenaline levels went way up when I was almost hit by a super fast moped. So many big roads and traffic from all directions!

I get an email telling me that my idea of donating Cambodian language books to the Kantha Bopha hospital system run by the Swiss doctor http://www.beat-richner.ch doesn’t look feasible since Room to Read doesn’t sell its books. I am disappointed, thinking of all those poor kids lying bored in their hospital beds. Iwould go crazy without my Kindle to distract me. How much pleasure it would give the kids to get a brightly colored children’s book! Would that encourage them to improve their reading skills? Would they share it with other kids? Create new clients for Room to Read? Could medical tips such as “Wash your hands before eating” be illustrated in a children’s book and reduce the number of sick kids? It’s not to be (for the moment). Sigh.

Now I have to focus and round things off. Make a plan for what I think they should continue doing after I’m gone. Think about how I want to stay in touch after I go back to Switzerland.

I propose to my husband that we try out the Skype for Business system with his personal computer. We agree on a time and I set up the Skype call, taking notes as I go along so it can be used in a future training. It works immediately and it’s very strange to talk to my husband from within the office. I usually keep my private life and work life totally separate – but this was the best way to test the possibility of how Nancy can connect with me in an efficient way after I’m back in Switzerland. It was a good test for the training & testing session on Friday. (And it was nice to see my husband – I miss my family!)

I figure out how to make my favorite screen capture tool work on my Room to Read computer (open OneNote and use windows-shift-s. It allows you to capture the moment when you have a drop-down menu open and you want to copy-paste just that part into a training document. My TechnoTip of the week for my PM Team in Giubiasco.). I send the document over to Shane from IT for review.

I grab another Caesar salad and join the others in the lunch room. Several interesting discussions go on around me – travelling, the Economist, learning to read a foreign language, living in and around SF, the fog. Nancy comes in at the tail end and joins me for lunch. She relays some nice things Shari had said about the meeting I had led at lunchtime yesterday and that lifts my spirits tremendously. Apparently just getting that set of management people in one room discussing metrics in a productive manner and agreeing to work together on this was a big step forward. I was very glad to hear it – I love creating order out of chaos and collaboration out of a disparate group of people. There’s always that feeling of hopelessness in the middle, when things are unstable and seem not to be going anywhere. Then things start to fall into place.

As I had already prepared for my 2 o’clock meeting I could spend some more time with Nancy discussing other aspects of the company.

The 2 o’clock was with Jonathan,  Director of Shared Services, and the topic was determining the benefits and ROI of the new CRM system. I reused the form from last week and I worked it as an interview, writing down his thoughts and asking him occasional questions. In one hour we had filled all 9 pages – super efficient!. I ran a spell checker over it,  reorganized some paragraphs and gave it some more structure, and sent it off. Bingo, another deliverable. We’ll be discussing it at 8:30 tomorrow morning, so no sleeping in for me!

Only 3 pictures from last night – I was too tired to take more and didn’t run in to the touristy part of Lombard Street.

The Pyramid from two different angles, Coit Tower. No, I did not bicycle up the hill to the Tower :-). Note the almost bright blue sky – no fog last night and you could feel it. It was much warmer.

I better prepare for my 8:30 tomorrow morning. What are my findings and recommendations? Hmmm … what to say

I received feedback on the CRM Benefits and ROI document I had sent out earlier and created a new one for a future project. Together with the one we did last week we’ll have three examples to look at for inspiration. In the end, these documents should serve a well-defined purpose and be tailored for that.

It seems that there are three stages:

  • the business case stage – the reason it is decided to go ahead with the project
  • the deployment completion stage – what does it look like now that the solution is available. Before we go on, let’s record the costs of implementation and training.
  • reaping the benefits stage – how are the benefits being realized 6 months or a year after deployment. Can a dollar figure be put on this?

Note that what I do in my daily CS life – the project implementation phase – is completely missing. It’s just what’s needed to move from one stage to another but not important in itself. Hmmm … interesting perspective.

Collect my thoughts, write them down, print out what I need for tomorrow morning’s meeting. Done! I end the day feeling much better than at the beginning.



Starting off week 2

Sarah from Finance and I hit the ground running this morning, looking for data that could complete the experiments we set up last week. A lot of the management team is at a training all week, so there is not a lot of capacity for doing extra things. I was sent the financial data going back years – what a job to find the numbers I need!

For the management meeting I pulled the intermediate results together in a PPT and did my best to balance between not repeating the things we covered last week while at the same time allowing two people who had just come back from vacation to get up to speed with what I’m working on.

The OneDrive way of saving and re-accessing documents still has me a bit confused. If I click on a link I want to open the document in the same way that I saw it last time, which means in edit mode and not in presentation mode. I’m sure I’d get used to this and find a deterministic way to get the document the way I want it in the long term … but  I have less than 4 days left and want to maximize my productive time, so it’s a bit frustrating.

On Friday I’ll host a “Remote Working with Headphones and Defining Next Steps” session – using the new Skype set-up and the headphones we just ordered for the finance team. Even though we’re all here in the office I’ll do it the way I run all my meetings at Credit Suisse. I find it to be very efficient – sharing a screen with everyone, making notes as I go along, getting input from everyone, and getting good acoustic quality with the headphones.  I can’t understand how they managed to lead teams remotely without headphones! So maybe this is a quick win that will be a tangible added benefit of bringing me all the way over here.

At lunch time, the only available time slot for the people attending the supervisory course, I presented the intermediate results, asking for some clear focus to finish the week. Several times I had to bring the discussion back to the immediate deliverables as opposed to continuing a deep dive about one of the fascinating aspects of the metrics we’re working on.

On the one hand it’s impossible to generalize and devise a scheme for all the metrics – on the other hand diving in and defining a very specific metric that answers a very specific question takes a lot of time, energy and data. I didn’t get such a clear steer on what they want to see although everyone is very enthusiastic about the need to have these discussions.

So I feel a bit stuck – how do I find the balance between rounding things off and capturing it all?

In the meantime, I’ll post some pictures of the great weekend I had with a friend down south of LA.

Laguna Beach – beautiful beach coves, funny trees.

Sunset over Newport Beach, pluots (a delicious plum& apricot hybrid) and freshly chucked oysters, all things that are difficult, if not impossible, to get in Switzerland|

And of course pictures from the ball game!

20160728_194450Too bad the Giants lost, but the view from the nose-bleed seats was spectacular!20160728_200950Note the kayaks in the water, waiting for a home run ball to  splash into the water. It’s where I went kayaking last week.

Team members who came along. Thanks a lot for organizing it! It was a great experience.

Some more pictures of downtown San Francisco:

I better stop this immediate positive feedback experience – updating my website – and go and look at some hard financial data.

Rounding off week 1

I made sure to leave in time to take a few pics on the way to the office.

Along the Embarcadero with my bike, passing the Port and riding up California Street (counterclockwise from bottom right).

At this morning’s meeting with Peter (Associate Director of the Research, Monitoring and Evaluation team) we designed an experiment for a metric to measure investment per impact. He got the impact data, based on improvements in fluency rates, and as 20160728_090646soon as the finance team has the time we’ll get the investment data.

It is very interesting to see how to set up an experiment, get the data together for it, run the numbers and then try to understand what the outcome means. Is a big number good or bad? How big should it be? Do we divide or multiply? Do we sum per total children, teachers or schools? Will a decision be made based on this number? How does it change over time? How can we make the sample size bigger? What else can we compare it to?

One of the basic questions is: how do you measure impact? How do you sent up a control group to measure against?

The afternoon meeting with the GEP – Girls Education Program – people showed how hard it is to collect the data. How can you show that a girl has better life skills? How can passing the final exam scores help when the exam is in English and the girls aren’t taught English? This requires a whole different kind of intervention.

At lunch time I took some pictures of the surroundings:

The lobby of the office and the neighboring building as seen from the 15th floor.

The ballroom on the 15th floor and other neighboring buildings.

Tuesday, when I’m back, will be a busy day., starting off with a meeting with Finance and then a brainstorming on the topic with the management teams. I better finish off my slide set for that meeting now so I have time to incorporate any finance updates Tuesday morning.

My brain is feeling a bit squished from all the different aspects, facts and figures. I am sure I don’t have all the information I need to make a complete picture of the situation but I’ll pull together what I’ve gathered this week as a starting off point.


Tonight a whole group is going to the baseball game. Here is my ticket:

Into the Zone

I made it into this time zone – a whole night’s sleep, without waking up in the middle of it! That meant I didn’t get into the office early. I took my time to find a bike path that didn’t involve going up the wrong way of a one-way 4-lane street, or pushing my bike along the sidewalk through the morning hordes of people getting to their offices. It took a few wrong turns but in the end I managed to bike along the beautiful Embarcadero.


A surprise early morning meeting with the boss-boss almost caught me out and I was just on time. She had seen the stuff I produced the day before and wanted to talk to me about next steps. We had a great conversation about having not just one metric, but many metrics, and how those metrics could be extended and applied. I left the meeting feeling super-engaged and appreciated. I feel like I’m in the “zone” from a work point of view as well.

However, I now had less than an hour to prepare for the meeting with the head of Research, Monitoring & Evaluation and the heads of Finance. I pulled together a PPT with the input I had been gathering plus the input of the meeting with the boss-boss in the morning. We had a very productive conversation, building on the work I had done with Nancy before I came. Some things are further advanced than I thought – they collect loads of data. Other things have not yet been developed (extending the metric back as far as the data goes). We have follow-up meetings to work on this.

After another delicious Caesar salad lunch I prepared for the workshop on “Successfully Working with Remote Teams”. It’s what I do all day in my daily job and I’ve co-led a 2-day course on that at CS as well. Since I had only an hour and a half for the workshop I decided to apply the Six Thinking Hats method. This worked really well – the team was totally into it, some great topics came up and the meeting ended on a very positive note. I wrote up all the results and sent them off to the participants. This was a secondary goal for my assignment and a lot of fun. I even got some ideas to use at my own remote team meetings. (Hi team – sending greetings from another time zone to you all!)

I’ve been invited to go to the baseball game tomorrow night at the AT&T baseball stadium. I used to live across from a baseball diamond in Calgary and have thrown the ball around with my kids. This will be a whole new experience for me tomorrow.

Here some pics from on my way home:


The cold fog rolling in over the port and the Bay Bridge in the twilight.

Another day on the coast

My bike gives me the freedom to go a bit farther out and visit the coastline each day. As Switzerland doesn’t have an ocean border this is a unique opportunity. The ships are much larger than anything “back home” – they are huge. Having grown up in Calgary I feel right at home here in San Francisco and love the easy-going way of working together.

My work day started with an early morning meeting with the management of the IT department. We had a great brainstorming session and some ideas about how to measure the full benefits of IT projects. This is a topic in my other job as well – I suppose it’s that way everywhere. Here, however, I am the one driving the format, and I’m not the one who has to fill the document out. This increases the responsibility to not waste anyone’s time. It’s an interesting experience to be on the other side – setting and not suffering the metrics. Hopefully my healthy skepticism about metrics will ensure that they don’t get abused.

I send off a first draft to get some feedback before I end up going in a completely wrong direction. How formal should documents be here? How does version control work? So many little things that I do without thinking “back home” require actual brain use to figure out how to do it here.

I go off for another delicious Caesar Salad and eat it in the lunch room with the others, feeling part of the team.

In the afternoon I work a bit on this blog and write up the notes of yesterday’s meeting with the International Operations team.

On the way home I pass through the financial district – such tall buildings …


A look up California Street, where the office is located.

Looking up, at the historical tram on California Street, and my trusty bicycle in front of more tall buildings.


Arriving finally at the port of San Francisco.