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IBM executive trades office for Tanzanian wildlife mission

Special to the Times

Special to the Times

UPPER TAMPA BAY — For the next four weeks, David Kinsey will immerse himself in east African culture. He will trade his suburban Highland Park home for rustic living quarters in a Tanzanian outpost lodge. He will dine on meals of rice, meat and the cornmeal dish ugali.

"I've traveled to various places around the world," said Kinsey, a business unit executive with IBM. "I really wanted an experience like no other."

Earlier this year, IBM rolled out a corporate version of the Peace Corps in an effort to improve employees' leadership skills, increase the company's global presence and help communities worldwide. More than 5,000 employees applied for a spot in the program, but only 100 people from 33 countries were selected for the company's inaugural Corporate Service Corps.

Kinsey, 37, was one of them — the only representative from Tampa and one of just two from Florida.

"There's a lot more than just making money and improving my life's status," he said. "There's always been something inside of me that has said, 'I really want to drive toward something bigger than myself, to do something great for humanity at least at one point in my life.' "

Rather than lay out sales strategies for IBM, as he has done for the past 12 years, Kinsey will work with the African Wildlife Foundation, which advocates protection of wildlife and their land.

"My job will be helping to paint out a strategy for where we take the African Wildlife Foundation over the next five and 10 years," he said.

Kinsey left Oct. 16. He spent 36 hours on a flight that took him from Tampa to Newark, N.J., then Amsterdam, before landing in Tanzania. A 15-hour shuttle bus eventually took him to his destination, the city of Arusha.

He created a blog so that neighbors, his wife and two children, 5 and 7, could follow him before and during his trip.

In one post, he talked about the 18 vaccinations he had to submit to over the course of four months. "Arms got tired for a while," Kinsey said in an interview a few days before he left Tampa.

Fourth-graders at Douglas Jamerson Elementary plan to correspond with him online, too. IBM employees mentor students at the St. Petersburg mathematics and engineering magnet.

Kinsey will post daily updates on his site, but because Tanzania's Internet connection is so poor, he expects to upload two or three entries per week.

"It's slower than dial-up," he said. "You write it out, press send, sit back, have a drink and a conversation, maybe a meal and then it will be up."

Rodney Thrash can be reached at or (813) 269-5303.

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IBM executive trades office for Tanzanian wildlife mission 10/23/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 1:32pm]
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