Ivana Mangione: IBM Blue—and Red Cross at heart

Ivana Mangione ready for a shift with the Red Cross


Ivana Mangione usually spends her days working in talent acquisition optimization for IBM Services in Italy. But nothing has been normal since her hometown, Milan, became one of the world’s epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic, so Ivana took a leave of absence from IBM to volunteer with the Italian Red Cross. “I never sleep,” she says. “We need to stop this monster.”

Ivana began volunteering with the Red Cross in 2016, after she was moved by the organization’s response to the earthquake that ravaged parts of central Italy in August of that year. As COVID-19 spread, she began spending most nights as a Red Cross ambulance crew member. These days, she splits her time between the ambulance crew and an operations role with the Red Cross psychosocial support team for the Lombardy region, which includes Milan.

Often covered in protective gear from head to toe, Ivana has ridden with ambulance crews transporting the sick. And when the psychosocial support team’s volunteer psychologists and therapists were flooded with calls from exhausted, worried volunteers and employees—and, increasingly, members of the public—Ivana brought her extensive management experience to bear.

“I used all the skills I’ve learned from my IBM family over 21 years as a manager. It was an instinct,” she says. She managed the support team’s regional operations, making sure its 50 staff members, who were working non-stop across four shifts, took the rest they needed. And she started documenting org charts, creating training materials, building relationships within the Red Cross and helping to manage the overwhelming workload. “No one was prepared for this type of remote support,” she says.

Ivana credits her IBM managers for encouraging her to take the time needed to help her city. “They have been amazingly supportive,” she says. “This is making me proud, and I appreciate even more than before how incredible we are. We sometimes forget this.”

The volunteer shifts are long, and the emotional toll is high. “Many of us got infected or had someone in their families affected,” Ivana says. “The number of contagions and the death toll overwhelmed all of us.” While Ivana’s training has given her valuable skills, the coronavirus is like nothing anyone has seen before. “How do we manage an emergency where we are both rescuers and victims at the same time?”

Analyzing the Data

Ivana says she knew from the start of the pandemic that IBM could apply its technological expertise to help Milan and other cities around the world. As the psychosocial support team faced an influx of calls, she says, “I knew that using technology, there was an opportunity to optimize the collection, analysis and sharing of data.”

She brought the idea to the attention of IBM leadership and, within days, a team of IBMers had developed a new tool that uses Watson Discovery to enable Red Cross psychologists to collect and analyze comments and assess meaningful data.

“My already strong sense of gratitude for IBM is now sky high,” Ivana says. “This has recharged me and given me strength and hope.”

Recently, she signed an email that summed up her dedication in the face of this ongoing challenge: “Thank you and stay safe, Ivana. IBM blue blood and Red Cross at heart.”

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