Saturday, July 30, 2016

2016 Workplace Pride Conference

Thursday was the IBM LGBT Leadership workshop and yesterday IBM co-sponsored the 10th annual Workplace Pride conference.  The event was held at the former 19th century Amsterdam Stock Exchange.  The aim of the conference was partnering with other businesses to drive social change with LGBT inclusion.  #wpcon2016

The first speaker was Robert Biedron who in 2011 became Poland's first openly gay parliamentarian.  In 2014, he was elected mayor of Słupsk making him Poland's first openly gay mayor.  His story was very inspiring.  He was right when he said "LGBT rights are like beautiful flowers, if you don't take care of them, they will die."

Afterwards, Marianne Zwagerman, a well-known Dutch journalist, moderated an executive panel focusing on leadership in LGBTT workplace equality.  The panel was made of of the General Manager of IBM BeNeLux, the CEO of ABN AMRO, the Chief HR Officer of ING Group, and the Global General Manager for Talent & Learning at

Team IBM at Workplace Pride
There were interesting breakout sessions held by different companies like Ikea, ABN AMRO and  These two days were inspiring and defiantly made me feel proud to be an IBMer.  

Friday, July 29, 2016

2016 IBM European LGBT Leadership Workshop

This week I'm fortunate to attend a couple of diversity workshops in the Netherlands.  Yesterday was the 2016 European LGBT Leadership Development Workshop which was held at IBM Netherlands Headquarters in Amsterdam.

This was the first time that the rainbow flag was flown at the IBM HQ in the Netherlands.

It was great to meet with 50 IBMers from across Europe (and Israel).  There were people from the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Austria, Ireland, Italy, Slovenia, France, Switzerland, Hungary, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Israel, and Czech Republic.

Studies show that being in the closet, and not brining your authentic self to work, makes a huge difference.  It can impact an employee's productivity, job satisfaction and overall engagement by up to 40%.  This 40% is huge especially when more than half of all LGBT workers hide their sexual orientation at work.  It's just good business to take care of your people.

There is a higher degree of social acceptance and legal protections available to LGBT individuals in Western Europe than in Central or Eastern Europe.  The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) has a rainbow map that shows the legal and policy developments in Europe.  The UK comes in at 81% while Russia is quite low at 7%.  Czechland is the most progressive of the former Iron Curtain countries coming in at 32%.
2016 ILGA Rainbow Europe
There were a number of interactive workshops and panel discussions.  We got to hear from the IBM General Manager of BeNeLux, who is a straight ally, and out executives from IBM, PwC, and Post NL.

I participated in a Gay Leadership workshop in Atlanta way back in 2004.  One of the speakers then was one of our out execs.  In one of the breakout sessions she said a couple of things that have stayed with me over the years and I've quoted her over the years.  She now lives in the UK so it was especially nice to see her again and I got the opportunity to thank her for her advice all of those years ago.

Today is part 2 with IBM co-sponsoring the 10th Workplace Pride conference.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Verdict is in

The verdict is finally in on the Kevin Dahlgren case.  This is the American who was accused of murdering four of his Czech relatives, here in Brno back in 2013, and then hopping on a flight from Vienna back to the USA.  He was apprehended upon landing at Washington Dulles Airport.

The Czech government asked for his extradition and after two years he was sent back to Brno in 2015.  I still hear that this is the first time ever that the USA extradited an American citizen to Czech Republic.  However, no one seems to remember that this was the first time that the Czechs ever requested extradition of an American.

He refused to testify at his trial in the regional court in Brno.  Today the judge sentenced him to life in prison.  After the verdict his lawyer immediately filed an appeal and the case will now go to the appeals court in Olomouc.

Update:  In March 2017, the original ruling was upheld in court.

Update:  On 11 January 2018, Dahlgren killed himself in his jail cell using the bedsheets.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Back in Slovakia...again

Nové Slovenské národné divadlo
Well, big surprise...I'm back in Slovakia...again.  All I have to say is that it's a damn good thing that my Slovak team is so awesome otherwise these 6:20 AM train rides from Brno would start getting old.

Every time I go to see my Bratislava team I walk past the new Slovak National Theatre.  I've walked past it for years so sooner or later I really should go inside.  The theatre opened in 2007 and is near the Danube.  It has three theatre spaces for opera & ballet, a drama hall and an experimental theatre space, which can seat 1,700 spectators.

I still need a reason to go see something at the old theatre in the centre.  Oh well, sooner or later I guess.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

2016 Bohemia Jazz Fest

The Bohemia Jazz Festival began in 2006 as a way to promote world-class jazz here in Czechland.  The week-long festival takes place in public squares in seven Czech cities - Prague, Brno, Liberec, Tábor, Písek, Plzeň, and Domažlice.

Bohemia Jazz Festival is one of the largest summer music festivals in Europe.  Best of all...the concerts are all free.

One of this year's performers is Harold López-Nussa Torres from Cuba.  Here's a video I found out on YouTube of his trio performing at Náměstí Svobodý the other night.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Stag Night

The other day Ján surprised the guys at work by us know that he and his girlfriend, Markéta, are getting married at the weekend.  Just a small ceremony with their families.

Well there's no way that the boys were going to let him off that easy.  You can't get married without a stag night.  So after a couple of hours they pulled together an impromptu sendoff.  Ján was told to show up and to be sure to have a helmet.

Ján and his helmet
The first event was to show up at the Starobrno brewery to ride the beer tram.

The Starobrno Brewery is the successor to brewery founded in 1325.  In the later 19th century is was remanded Starobrno, which means "old Brno".  In 2009 it became a part of Heineken.

The beer tram is exactly what it sounds like - a pub inside of a tram.  The trams sits 38 people, another 17 can stand, there are plenty of cup holders, a bar, music, Wi-Fi, and there's even a loo on board.

The tram can follow any of the tracks in Brno so you just tell the driver what part of town you want to ride in.  We booked the tram for an hour.

My first Czech stag night.  11 chaps, 30 litres of beer, and 1 hour.  Challenge accepted!

After the ride, and those 30 litres of beer, we had dinner at the brewery.  It was later followed by more traditional stag night activities, also known as going to a strip bar.  Sorry, no photos from the strip bar.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

University Graduation

Brno University of Technology Faculty of Business and Management
Today was a very special day.  I got to watch two of my guys receive their master's degrees.  Congratulations Jakub and Ladislav!!  The guys graduated from VUT, the Brno University of Technology.  They earned their Ing (engineer) degrees in informatics and management from the faculty of business and management.

It wasn't exactly what I was expecting.  I'm not sure if all Czech graduations are the same or if it's just how VUT does it.  I'm used to the everyone participating in a big graduation ceremony, people's names are called, they receive their degrees, and the graduates throw their caps in the air.  The whole ceremony can last hours depending on the number of graduates.

Here they had what almost seemed like express ceremonies.  The graduating class is broken down in to groups of 30 students each group gets their own ceremony.  The 30 graduates all marched in followed by ten professors and the dean.  There were a couple of speeches and then each student's name, and their hometown, was announced as they received their degrees.  There was quite a bit of pomp and circumstance involved.  I'm surprised that each student's didn't have to kiss the dean's ring.

Academic titles are a big deal over here.  I kept hearing the word "bachelor" and then I figured it out.  As each graduate was called, they were called by their current degree title and complete name.

The whole ceremony took just over 45 minutes.  As we were leaving the next group was getting ready to go.  They've got this graduation ceremony thing down to a science.

I'm glad that I had the opportunity to go and I'm very proud of the guys.  They've worked their asses off for the last two years. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Back in Slovakia

I'm back in Slovakia again.  Big surprise.  Just a couple of days of meetings in Bratislava.

At least from the 23rd floor of the office there is a great view of the castle.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

7 Years in Czechland

Friday was my seven year mark in Brno.  I just wasn't actually in Brno on Friday in order to really mark the occasion.  I was up in Helsinki for Eiko and Tommi's wedding.  I got back home on Sunday evening and had to work on Monday.

Fortunately today is 5 July and it's St. Cyril and St. Methodius Day which means a day off.  It also gives me time to realise that I've been here for seven years.  Seven years!  Where has all of the time gone?  It's a good thing that I love it here.

Thank you to everyone who has helped make this adventure in Czechland so great.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Eiko & Tommi's Wedding

On Saturday we were in Finland to watch Eiko and Tommi get married.  It was great to be able to join in on all of the festivities.

When we were in Helsinki in 2014 we visited St. John's Church which is the country's largest stone church.  Who would have thought then that this is where Eiko would tie the knot?

This is actually their second of three weddings.  They had a civil service in Stockholm and this was the full blown European wedding in Helsinki with Tommi's family.  In January they will have a Japanese wedding with her family in Tokyo.

Eiko is Japanese and Tommi is Finnish.  They met in graduate school in Spain and now live in Sweden.  So of course they were going to have an international wedding and their guests represent 16 different nationalities.

The reception was a great blend of traditions from across the globe.  One Swedish tradition is that when the bride leaves the room, all of the men cling their glasses while all of the women line up to kiss the groom.  When the groom leaves, the women all cling glasses and the men line up to kiss the bride.  

It was also a great chance to catch up with Liz and James after their wedding.  The midnight sun for sure helped make for some great photos.  It was a beautiful wedding and a wonderful weekend.  We're so happy that we could join in and share it with everyone.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Midnight Sun

We're in Helsinki this weekend for Eiko and Tommi's wedding tomorrow.  It feels like we were just at Liz and Jame's wedding and now it's time for Eiko to walk down the aisle.

One interesting thing going on, besides this also being Helsinki's Pride weekend, is the midnight sun.  Also called "white nights", this is when sunsets are late, sunrises are early, and it never really gets completely dark.  While the sun sets for a while, light can be seen on the horizon.

Around the summer solstice the sun is visible for 24 hours but this is way up north closer at the Artic Circle.  Most of Scandinavia experiences these white nights, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden, plus Greenland, Russia, Alaska, and parts of Canada.

This photo was taken at 11 PM and as you can see it is still very much light outside.  The night sky is defiantly more blue than black.

Our hotel has blackout curtains so I don't think it will be a problem getting a solid night's sleep before all of the festivities begin tomorrow.