What’s The Buzz for January 2014

Here’s a quick snapshot of what YOU have been talking about for the month of January 2014. Top five discussions/posts on our blog,Twitter, and Facebook.

BLOG POSTS NUMBER OF VIEWS/ COMMENTS/ LIKES/ SHARES
IBM Infographic Cartoon: So Your Parent is an IBMer (Survival Guide for Kids) 1260
(Replay) IBM Launches New Watson Group in Silicon Alley 293
IBM Connect 2014 – Energizing Life’s Work 266
What Does IBM Watson Look Like?  Generated Art Face the Wave of the Future? 174
How Many Times Should You Try Before Success? (Infographic) – No 1 Top Tweet 161
TWEETS NUMBER OF RETWEETS
Jan 11 – 3 Things You Never Knew About #IBM #Creativity – #Games , #Art , and #Music 14
Jan 14 – #IBM led the world in #patent issuances for the 21st year in a row #infographic 12
(Tie) Jan 4 – #Coffee #Personality – What Does Your Favorite Coffee Say About You? #Infographic, Jan 4 – The no. 1 use of the #internet is #social & 94% go to #learn, Jan 19 – #Teamwork is the mother of invention 10 each
Jan 23 – No. 2 most popular Facebook post: #IBM conference call #cartoon 9
(Tie) Jan 3 – Never do things others can do and will do, if there are things others cannot do or will not do – Amelia Earhart quote, Jan 12 – RT/ @TheRealFredrikG: How to #work fast #infographic via @EntMagazine 8 each
Greater IBM on FacebookFACEBOOK POSTS NUMBER OF COMMENTS/ LIKES/ SHARES
Jan 7 – No. 4 on the @Greater_IBM 2013 countdown – Why IS #IBM Called Big Blue? The Uncertain History of a Colorful Nickname 72
Jan 9 - No. 2 on the @Greater_IBM countdown for 2013: #Infographic – How to Identify an #IBMer 72
Jan 23 – Greater IBMers, do you have a conference call today? The number 2 most popular Facebook post from 2013: #IBM conference call #cartoon 72
Jan 15 – IBM CEO Ginni Rometty keynote speech at NRF (photo) 47
Jan 10 – #‎IBM‬ ‪#‎Infographic‬ ‪#‎Cartoon‬ for ‪#‎FridayFun‬ – So Your Parent is an IBMer (Survival Guide for Kids) 43

- By Julie Yamamoto, Program Manager, The Greater IBM Connection

2013 Top Posts – The Greater IBM Connection

Here’s a quick summary of all our top 2013 posts across our blog, Twitter, and Facebook – thanks Greater IBMers!

BLOG POSTS NUMBER OF VIEWS
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty Shares Her Leadership Philosophy (Jan 10) 4782
Infographic:  How to Identify An IBMer (June 17) 4589
Video Tour:  Capturing the Character of the IBM Brand (March 21) 3424
Why IS IBM Called Big Blue?  The Uncertain History of a Colorful Nickname (Jan 17) 3286
 50 Years of Innovation:  IBM Honors 2013 Fellows (April 3) 2193
TWEETS NUMBER OF RETWEETS
How many times should you try before #success? #infographic (Dec 8) – (blog post link) 20
Top 10 #skills to #succeed in the 21st century #workplace #Infographic (Dec 29) – (blog post link) 14
How a 1995 #IBM decision changed your internet life today – reflections by Irving Wladawsky-Berger #tech (Apr 17) – (blog post link) 12
How will technology improve our lives in the next 5 years #IBM5in5 (Dec 17) – (blog post link) 11
 Tie:  Women in Technology: Consider Joining IBM #IBMjobs #hotjobs #tech (May 24) – (blog post link), #IBM is #4 on Forbes World’s Most Powerful Brands – http://onforb.es/P8Bk63 (Nov 9) 10 each
Greater IBM on FacebookFACEBOOK POSTS NUMBER OF COMMENTS/ LIKES/ SHARES
IBM Smarter pumpkin (Oct 31 – Photo) 454
Have a few calls today, Greater IBM? (Aug 21 – Conference Call Cartoon Photo) 444
“Develop your own initiative. Do something no one else has done.” — Thomas J Watson, Sr (Jan 4 – Photo Quote) 289
Of the 50 Most Powerful Women in New York 2013, as voted by Crain’s New York, look who is in the top spot (June 24 – Photo + Link) 287
50 years of innovation: IBM honors eight new Fellows (Apr 3 – Photo + Link) 247

- Posted by Julie Yamamoto, Program Manager, The Greater IBM Connection

IBM Alumni: Big Data Expert Gretchen Gottlich on Meeting Mandelbrot & other Tech Career Wins

Gretchen Gottlich, Enterprise Information Executive

Gretchen Gottlich, Enterprise Information Executive

IBM Alum: Gretchen Gottlich

IBM Tenure: 3 years

View Gretchen Gottlich's LinkedIn profileView Gretchin Gottlich’s profile

View Gretchen Gottlich on TwitterView Gretchin Gottlich on Twitter

Gretchen is currently an independent consultant running her own company, Wallace Rose Investments, LLC, specializing in leading the development and deployment of Big Data solutions across many industry sectors.
She also founded and maintains the @5280BigData Twitter site which provides a global Social Media distribution channel for the wealth of Big Data thought leadership, mind-share, start-ups, tools, and solutions in the Boulder/Denver region.   Gretchen also has a legal background and worked as a Regulatory and Compliance Manager in the Healthcare and Financial sector.   In her spare time Gretchen is finishing up her second Master’s degree in Communication and Technology management.  This semester she is studying Global Internet Law and thus being re-acquainted with her love of the rigors and cerebral machinations of law she is now also studying for her LSAT exam.   Her dream is to study Intellectual Property law at UC Berkeley on scholarship.

Gretchen has degrees from University of Maine, University of Arkansas, Indiana University, Denver University. She has also done executive MBA program work at UC Berkeley, College of William & Mary, University of Portland.

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When did you join IBM, and what led you to join the company?

I joined IBM January 1997.  My father worked as an engineer for GE and traveled around the world building Nuclear Power Plants.   When I “grew up” I wanted to be just like my Dad and travel around the world and “do important stuff” only  I wanted to work for IBM (How I knew this in first grade I don’t know ;).  Later after NASA ,a short stint at Fruit of Loom (designing, building and deploying their first intranet), and being a founder of an Internet start-up I decided my intellectual home was to work in “Information” and IBM was of course at the top of list.

What was the workplace like when you joined, and how did it change over time?

Back in 1997, I am not sure IBM the entire company had truly embraced the significantly disruptive effects of the Internet, the huge opportunities that would become available, and, specifically, how FAST products and services would need to be available to go to market.   From a strategic perspective, IBM totally “got it.” I was working at the Hawthorne lab at that time and lots of work on the WOM was going on (the ore-cursor to WebSphere).  Some part of the business understood the speed of change, but some still had yet to learn.

But very quickly under the leadership of Lou Gerstner, all IBM quickly “got it” and came up to speed in the global marketplace.  IBM is huge, and it was really something to see a Fortune 500 company move so quickly. One could say nimble.  And there again is another strength of IBM, the company can come together and move as “one.”

What did you like most about your career with IBM?

What I liked most about my career at IBM was demonstrating the embodiment of what it was to be an IBMer.  There was something enjoyable to me to know I was on “that” team and it challenged me every day to be the best that I could be as researcher and as a consultant.  You don’t hire IBM to not get top-line results. You hire IBM to get “it” done well and know that you have a technical team that will support you 24/7. The customer meant something.  The customer, that relationship was everything.

What were some of your more interesting roles and what did they entail?

IBM offered me many wonderful roles and opportunities.  However, I think two of best engagements.

I was an Asia/Pacific Senior. Enterprise Architect Consultant (Global Services) and worked in Canberra, Australia for one of the Government Ministries.    I led a team that in expanding the account by 17% within six months by implementing $1M USD web services integration architecture to support outsourcing efforts, utilizing COGNOS BI and performance management solutions.  We sold and delivered this solution using an “Agile like” methodology.  This was before the published draft of the Agile Manifesto in 2000.  This Agile like methodology was something I had created and fined tuned while at NASA and leading the Internet effort there.

The second exciting project was when I worked with the NA Transportation Global Services team.  I was on the team that did the “Watershed Study” which provided research and forecast how the Internet was going to completely distribute the Travel Industry sector.  The team interviewed research scientists at MIT and also traveled to London, Stockholm, Singapore, and Paris to interview corporate leaders in Travel Industry around the globe.  Those were some very exciting times when the Internet was “very young”.

“Bottomless wonders spring from simple rules…repeated without end.” - Benoit Mandelbrot

“Bottomless wonders spring from simple rules…repeated without end.” – Benoit Mandelbrot

And I have to add a third.  This memory is very close to my heart.  I was at the Hawthrone Lab in New York and was sharing with a colleague that I had just finished The Fractal Geometry of Nature by Benoit Mandelbrot and that I had found it quite fascinating.  My colleague calmly replied, “Oh yes Dr. Mandelbrot he is upstairs on the second floor.” I was so excited I believe I forgot excuse myself from the conversation before I flew upstairs, raced down the hallway looking at the name tags on the doors and when I found this cerebral GOD I tapped lightly on the door and asked if I could come in.  I believe all I could do was just gush like some silly teenage girl meeting Justin Bieber.  One of the richest rewards with working for IBM was being able to meet incredible minds that were contributing to Research and Development.

What has been your experience working as a woman in the technology industry?

It has had its ups and downs.  I can’t say any one region was more challenging than any other.  Issues that many women face in the workplace are perhaps more to do with a particular someone’s viewpoint and not geography.   I have worked for many large IT companies and I will say that although IBM is fantastically large there was always a sense that you as a person and an employee were cared for.  And I put person first there deliberately.  There was always this wonderful pride of being an IBMer.  We all were/are professionals.

What characteristics, skills, or attitudes set you apart and helped you be successful?

I have a very good ability to see the strategic business value of a technology.  I am also extremely adept at listening to the customer and understanding (really hearing) the pain the customer is having.  One thing that I believe set me apart from others early in my career at IBM is that I quite readily reached out to others, companies, scientists, business owners and asked lots of questions.  I wasn’t afraid to not know the answer and ask the questions.  The value of this came into play with program management.  I get things done.  Period.

What were some of the most important lessons you learned – from both successes and failures? Who/what were the most influential to your careers?

Oh, wow I have far more failures in my career than successes =).

  1. Define the requirements not the solution. It’s important to listen to the customer and understand what the customer requires/needs and not jump into an immediate solution.  For example a customer might require/need transportation from point A to B.  The customer might think they need a car, when in fact Light Rail might fulfill the need especially if maintaining a small carbon footprint is also a requirement/need.
  2. The relationship with customers is built on trust. Trust is EVERYTHING.
  3. Professionally, when you do what you truly enjoy, energy is infinite and the resulting value is magnified.   It’s the best feeling in the world.

Major influencers on my career range from Einstein, Mandelbrot, Mrs. Goggins my third grade school teacher, Carnegie, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Alien(s), the original Star Trek series, and TQM Training.

What advice would you give to Greater IBMers to help them be successful in their career? And is there anything specific to women? 

My advice to up and coming IBMers is to learn all you can both technically and business-wise with the wealth of resources that IBM offers.  Remember it’s an honor and a privilege to be part of IBM and you’re in good company. (All double entendres intended).

For women, the fact that Ginni Rometty is now CEO and Chairman I believe says it all.  Our time is now. Go make it happen.

Why did you move on from IBM and do you stay connected – with the business or your colleagues?

I moved on from IBM because I was in a hurry to reach for the brass ring and I felt I needed to advance faster. In hindsight, I left too soon and/or I never should have left. I sometimes think I wish I knew then what I know nowJ. I do stay in contact via some Linked In sites but not so much at a personal level.

Tell us about your work today and what you’ve taken from your experience at IBM to this role.

My work day is much like any consultant’s work day: there is a mission, there are planes to board, hopefully there is a road-map, there are politics to manage, and internet services to implement and integrate to meet customer requirements.  I do whatever it takes to get the job done.

What I took away from IBM was “knowing” with complete confidence what it was to be and equally important how to be an exemplary consultant with professional integrity.

What do you see are the major upcoming trends in your field and how do you stay attuned?

Big Data and all that fits under its umbrella.  I host a Twitter site called @5280BigData. The purpose of @5280BigData is to promote Big Data concepts, tools, and services developed in the Denver/Boulder metro region among global Big Data Research and Development and business communities. Companies I interact with a regular basis are Hitachi Data Systems,  SendGrid, Precog, FUSE, GNIP, Unvirsity Colorado Denver/Boulder, Tagwhat, Trueffect,  Techstars and Big Data organizations in London, UKI also write and present papers at conferences. A couple of my favorite available online:

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Related:

Posted by Jessica Benjamin, Brand System and Workforce Communications, IBM CHQ

IBM Infographic Cartoon – So Your Parent is an IBMer (Survival Guide for Kids)

Did you experience growing up with a parent who is an IBMer?  Or perhaps you are guilty of having done this to your kids?

Cartoon by Jessica Ramirez

Cartoon by Jessica Ramirez, a software designer/developer at IBM

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Related:

–Posted by Julie Yamamoto, Program Manager, The Greater IBM Connection

IBM Marketing Vice President Teresa Golden Retires – Always Stay Curious!

Teresa Golden, Vice President, Digital Transformation, for IBM Global Technology Services (GTS)

Teresa Golden, Vice President, Digital Transformation, for IBM Global Technology Services (GTS)

“At IBM, if you are curious and have the right level of dedication, you will never be bored!”

IBM Vice President, Teresa Golden, is retiring after more than 34 years with IBM.  Teresa is Vice President, Digital Transformation, for IBM Global Technology Services (GTS) where she is engaged in enhancing the GTS Web presence and client experience through digital channels.  Throughout her career at IBM, Teresa has held multiple executive, managerial and staff positions in marketing, finance, business strategy and planning across multiple lines of business including business process and IT services, software, UNIX systems, personal computers, printers, multimedia and the Internet.  She was involved with one of IBM’s most important inventions, e-business, as Vice President, e-business marketing, where she played a key role in extending IBM’s market leadership by driving initiatives to increase consideration and preference for IBM as an e-business solutions provider, leveraging the entire portfolio of hardware, software and services.  IBM had 10,000 e-business customers by 1999.  She later held executive leadership roles for IBM Learning Solutions, IBM Global Technology Services, and  IBM Global Process Services. where she was a key driver in bringing IBM solution and service teams together to further IBM’s leadership in the market.

Teresa earned an MBA from Pace University and a BA from the College of Mount Saint Vincent.  She is married with two grown children and a grandson.

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IBM Poughkeepsie is located in New York's Hudson Valley (Photo Credit:  IBM)

IBM Poughkeepsie is located in New York’s Hudson Valley (Photo Credit: IBM)

When did you join IBM and what led you to join the company?

I joined in July 1979 as a junior systems analyst in Poughkeepsie, NY.  Having already worked in the technology industry for 4 years, just completed my MBA and recently moved Dutchess County, NY, I was looking for a new opportunity.  As a 2nd generation IBMer, I made my father very happy when I opted to join IBM.

What were some of your more interesting roles and what did they entail?

I’ve enjoyed most of my roles over the last 34+ years.  One of the ‘fun’ roles early in my career was as a Graphics Marketing Support Representative during the infancy of computer-aided business graphics (e.g. 3279 and 3277 GA).  In that capacity, the Poughkeepsie-based Graphics Support Center conducted client briefings, held education classes for IBMers and participated in business shows about business and CAD/CAM graphics.   I am also very proud of the work my team did in my two stints in e-business marketing.  At the time, we were focused on re-positioning IBM as a leader in the technology industry.  And I also truly enjoyed working in more of a ‘start-up’ environment as part of IBM Learning Solutions, which focused on the emerging business opportunity of e-learning.  We established IBM as a leader in this space by developing a point of view on the Future of Learning, leveraging IBM’s experience in Leadership Development and applying a broad marketing mix to promote our capabilities while driving real business results.

Restored IBM 3277 Display terminal (Photo credit:  IBM System 3 Blog)

Restored IBM 3277 Display terminal (Photo credit: IBM System 3 Blog)

What was the workplace like when you joined, and how did it change over time?

When I started, the 3277 display terminal was ‘new’ technology!  Some of the first reports I created used JCL (Job Control Language)!  Subsequently, there has been a marked acceleration in the pace at which decisions are made and a shift is where and how work gets done. Innovation is now happening much closer to the client versus primarily in the development labs.

What do you see are the major upcoming trends in your field?

In marketing, it’s all about becoming more personal and reaching target audiences primarily through digital, including mobile, channels.  Being able to capitalize on this will be key to marketing success in the future.

What does a typical day look like for you now?

Today, regardless of my physical work location, I can be productive as long as I have my laptop and a network connection.  I’m often on calls with other IBMers around the globe early mornings into late evenings but the pursuit of excellence remains the same as when I started.

Photo Credit:  HD Desktop Wallpaper Blog

Photo Credit: HD Desktop Wallpaper Blog

How and where do you find inspiration?

I personally love the quiet associated with being outdoors in nature to think things through and/or develop the next course of action.  That said, I’ve often been inspired by some incredible IBMers who envision the future and encourage others to stretch their limits.

What values are you committed to?

The Golden Rule:  Do unto others as you wish others to do unto you.

What did you like most about your career with IBM?

I really appreciated the relatively fast pace of the technology industry with the opportunity to continually learn and apply new skills.  At IBM, if you are curious and have the right level of dedication, you will never be bored!

What qualities have you most appreciated in the people you have worked with in the past?

I tend to be very operational and thus truly appreciate individuals who are visionary and can motivate others about the impact that our work can have on individuals, industries and the world.

How do you show others that you believe in them?

Always acknowledge good work and the time that is expended in creating it.  Spend time with individually with team members talking through how/what they learn from their work and continually improve.

technologista2What has been your experience working as a woman in the technology industry?

The world has changed so much for women.  When IBM contacted me regarding my initial interviews, my father told me that I would not be hired because I was pregnant!  Thankfully, that prediction did not come true.  In the early days, there were very few women in professional roles.  Now, the IBM work force is more representative of the human population.  When my children were young, working from home was not an option.  Technology today offers so much more flexibility enabling work to be more smoothly integrated with ‘life’.

How did you achieve work-life balance?

I never really got to a work-life in balance.  However, with the help of my husband of 38 years, we muddled through, raised two wonderful children and survived!

What dreams and goals inspired you to succeed?

Throughout my career, a common goal has been to be in a position to leave a role and/or a team in better shape than when I found it.  At the end of the day, we all just want to make a difference!

What characteristics, skills, or attitudes set you apart and helped you be successful?

I seem to thrive in environments where I can help create order out of chaos.  This ‘skill’, which most likely was learned growing up as the 3rd of nine children, has served me well.

How did you get where you are today?

I’ve recall being fascinated with technology in grade school, fueled by my father who used to talk about computers at my school.  During college, I opted for business, math and programming courses and even spent a summer working for IBM as a tape librarian in a data center.  After graduation, I worked for two other technology firms before I joined IBM as a junior systems analyst in Poughkeepsie, New York.  I can’t say I ‘planned’ my career but looked for roles that I found interesting, typically focused on new growth areas, that enabled me to work for and with people I respected and knew I could learn from.  I never hesitated to switch divisions as I knew it was an opportunity to learn about different aspects of this company – resulting in an exposure to hardware, software and services.  I fell in love with marketing because it is always at the intersection of sales, development and finance and thus provides a good view of what is happening both internally and externally.

Who influenced you the most and why?

My father, now a retired IBMer, who opened the door to the possibilities of technology and encouraged me throughout my career.

Did you have any mentors, and, if so, how did they help you?

I’ve had multiple mentors, both male and female, throughout my career.  One of them sponsored and helped me get my first executive role, Others have been wonderful ‘sounding boards’ to help me work through specific challenges I was facing.

Did you act as a mentor to others, and, if so, how did you help them?

I’ve mentored numerous IBMers over the years.  Hopefully, I’ve provided them with a different perspective to think about and potentially act upon.  Often, I’ve been a ‘sounding board’ and/or a source of encouragement.  I have learned so much from my mentees making the time investment worthwhile.

What advice would you give to other women in tech to help them be successful?

Don’t lose sight of your priorities.  Work will always be there but your family will grow up before you know it.  Take the time to enjoy the special family moments.  You now have the flexibility to do this.  Take advantage of it!

What were some of the most important lessons you learned from your IBM career?

IBMers are so talented but we all have a different combination of skills that can be applied to the task at hand.  Appreciating the differences and applying them where appropriate is fundamental to getting the most out of a team.

What would you do differently if given the opportunity?

I’d love to work on addressing some of the challenges associated with our current educational system.  Education is the door opener to opportunity and is critical to the future success of our nation and the world.  (Learn more about IBM education initiatives)

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy spending time with my family – especially with my 5 year old grandson.  I seem to recharge quickly when I’m outdoors with nature but a good book will also capture my attention.

(Photo Credit:  Ellis' Forest Management Greenhouse Nursery)

(Photo Credit: Ellis’ Forest Management Greenhouse Nursery)

What are some of your plans after retirement?

I’m looking forward to having the luxury of time to spend with my family. In addition, I hope to be able to read more, start a vegetable garden, furnish/landscape our new home in upstate New York, and learn about forestry management.  The possibilities are endless!

Any words of advice for Greater IBMers?

Regardless of your role, get as close to the customer or the ‘market’ as you can.  Having a deep understanding and appreciation of the ‘real-life’ issues that our clients are facing is fundamental to coming up with an approach that addresses their challenges.

Video Courtesy of IBM Smarter Marketing

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Related:

–By Julie Yamamoto, Program Manager, The Greater IBM Connection

IBM Alumni: Jerry Holl Shares Lessons Learned from 3,634 Mile Bike Journey

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Jerry Holl, IBM Alum and adventure seeker

IBM Alum: Jerry Holl

IBM Tenure: 12 years

Jerry Holl is a sales professional with over 30 years of experience in business, including sales & sales management positions for IBM, Moore Corporation and Piper Jaffray, Inc. From his extensive cross-industry experience, he’s gained a wealth of information on businesses, business models and best practices. Jerry has a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering and an MBA – both from the University of Minnesota.

Jerry recently completed a 3,634 mile solo bicycle journey from Alaska to Mexico. Details of the journey and access to his daily blog written during the journey, a raw unedited stream of consciousness often written laying in a tent at night after a 100 mile day.

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When did you join IBM; how long were you an IBMer?

I joined IBM right out of graduate school and was with the business for just under 12 years. I had studied geological engineering in undergrad and then got my MBA. I did some work as an economic analyst for a large oil company, but quickly knew it wasn’t for me.

I wanted a career that would let me engage with people and the greater world.  I just knew a sales role best matched my personal characteristics.  So, I approached and was hired by IBM as they are the prominent ‘Harvard’ of sales organizations.  They also embody the values and practices that are important to me.  IBM products and services made a huge impact for the customers in the mid-size businesses where I sold, and were transformative to those businesses.  I liked the big ticket (for those customers) big impact aspect of selling into those businesses.

What were some of your roles and duties with the company and what did you find most satisfying?

I worked in field sales and marketing, first as as salesperson, then a marketing manager, and finally as a branch marketing executive serving as an IBM branch leader.  IBM was a great match for me. I was there during a high period of growth for mid-range systems …so I was able to deal with all aspects of customers’ business problems and opportunities across all industries. Due to the cross-industry selling, I was able learn about their business models in a high level and fundamental way. It was tremendously educational.

Every day in sales felt like a field-trip.  I needed to really understand their business and problems to find solutions that would work.  And I got to work very closely and collaboratively with customers to come to the right solutions. This took a certain kind of attitude and curiosity.  Customers can tell when you truly have their interests in mind. They will open up and want to do business with you when you are more concerned with solving their problems and capturing their opportunities as opposed to just making a sale.

I was successful in my roles and I attribute that to a combination of putting client first and holding high professionalism standards — doing things on the up and up.  It’s essential to follow through and do what you say you will do.  I also had a real personal hunger to succeed and a love of the job.

I credit IBM with providing my best foundational business experience.  In regards to my career, it was a time of my highest learning and highest growth.  Ultimately, I left IBM because I grew as much as I could in the local branch and was committed to staying in Minnesota.

Did you have any mentors? Are you still connected with your former IBM colleagues? 

IBM attracted very high quality individualsMany of them remain great friends today.  You couldn’t help but grow and develop strong business practices just being around those individuals.  As a sales manager, I was constantly mentoring my team.  My style was very hands-on: teaching, developing, getting in the trenches and getting involved in their deals where necessary.  Part of mentoring and training is to show people how to advance the ball, not just tell them.

I gained many insights specifically from a couple Branch Managers. When you have a great leader you learn through osmosis as you see how they professionally handle situations.  And, I also learned what not to do from less effective managers.

Being so large, IBM had a lot of important structure to maintain standards and control to make things work. But sometimes those structures were too cumbersome and weren’t right for certain customers.  That’s when you need to take some risks and push for change.  With so much structure, you have to be adaptable and break structure where appropriate to put the client first.

Conversely, in my roles outside of IBM, I experienced what it was like without structure.  It was often chaos. I took what I learned from IBM to create the mechanisms and practices that help improve productivity and quality, building structure for a bunch of cowboys.

You want “wild ducks,” but not adverse wild ducks; you want those who use strong judgement to bridge the gap between customer and your own business interests, creating a win-win for all parties.  There is never a need or reason to leave a wake of problems in any of your dealings.

What did you want to do after your IBM career? What are you doing today?

I continued to work in sales and sales leadership, then in financial services sales.  But after I paid off my house, my kids’ education, and all my major commitments. I needed new ‘explosive’ growth.

I wanted to do something off the wall, something completely different, something where I couldn’t help but grow.  As one friend called it to be big, hairy and audacious.  And I wanted it to be constructive, healthy, and to test the limits of my capabilities. I wanted it to be remote, solo, physically grueling, and drop-dead gorgeous scenery.  So, I decided to take a solo bike journey from Alaska to Mexico.

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Jerry in Oregon on his biking adventure.

I conceived of the trip and left in about a 3 week period.  Why wait; why over-plan?  I hadn’t specifically trained for this journey.  I didn’t even think that much about it.  I was just confident I could do it. And, if I wasn’t in biking shape, I’d have plenty of time to ride myself into shape!  My experience at IBM had given me confidence in my ability to deal with situations that came my way.  I used the same ability in this circumstance.

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Biking trip pit stop at Big Sur.

There was  risk, but it is what I wanted.  And, it would require me to persevere even when I might not want to.  I encountered challenging terrain, 20 bears, other wild animals, traffic, brutal headwinds and changing weather.  I also re-discovered that people are really-really good!  Everybody along the way who saw my exposure and effort went out of their way to try to help in some little way, whether it was giving a candy bar, filling a water bottle, or providing information and directions.

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Jerry on the San Fransisco Bridge on his bike adventure.

Prior to this journey, I had never ridden my bike for more than 25 miles.  And, had never ridden a loaded bike with all my gear.  I just had to dig in …and it was very rewarding.  Sometimes I ran short on resources, simple things like like food or water, but I always found a way; discomfort is not danger.

When I left on the trip, I was ‘mechanically disadvantaged.” I never took the time to learn the basic mechanics of my bike.  Embarrassingly, I didn’t even remember (from childhood) how to change a tire, patch a tube, and had no idea how to fix a broken chain.  I broke my bike chain in the middle of nowhere in Alaska and just by blind luck, a female biker rode up who had a manual.  She was a godsend as we both figured out how to reconnect my chain with a spare link and repair my bike.  I dislike mechanical repairs and figured that during the trip I would just have to figure out the ‘mechanical’ problems as they occurred.

To me, the mechanical issues were discrete problems with known ‘how-tos.’  Although I didn’t (and still don’t) have the mechanical skills that was not a reason to not go.  More interesting to me were the mental situations and decision points without discrete how-tos, such as how to read my mental condition, physical condition, strange encounters, road and traffic hazards, frontier bandits, and wild animals, which required constant situational decision-making.  In a funny way, all of my IBM experiences contributed greatly to dealing with these mental situations.  I couldn’t realistically prepare for most of them. I  just had to make judgements as I encountered them, but, I just felt confident and capable of figuring them out as I went.

I kept a daily blog about the trip, and have subsequently written a manuscript which I intend to eventually publish as a book.  Basically, I want to encourage people to not let their life just happen to them, but to take control and actively build your own path and future.  Although there was occasional real danger, mostly it was exhilarating joy with occasional blissful hardship and discomfort (which is not danger – know the difference).  Don’t be afraid and frozen with the prospect of failure, rather, turn it on its ear and look at the tremendous reward if/when you’re successful.  It’s intoxicating.

Most people have more skill than they think they do.  So, in addition to writing about my adventure, I’ve also written a sales training program. It’s a practical and pragmatic step by step approach on how to conduct complicated large ticket, long sell cycle sales based upon all the lessons I’ve learned in my professional career.  My unique training describes  the steps of the sales process and the ‘art’ of what the salesperson needs to perform in each step.   It organizes the methods for a salesperson to take their intrinsic baseline skills and trains them how to effectively advance the ball and make the sale.  All with the customer’s interests at heart.

The bottom line:  Don’t fear the unknown. Take your skills and run with them.  Don’t over-think and over-plan. Get in the game and adjust.  You’re better and more capable than you think you are and, if you never get on your bicycle you will never know if you can do it.

Do you have key advice for those still advancing their careers?

  1.  Find where your heart is.  There is money in every profession if you are the best …but you won’t be the best if you don’t love it.  Be honest with yourself.   Ask yourself if you can get excited about this?
  2. Get in the game. Go.  Don’t over think, over-plan, or worry about others being better. You will always need to get better …and you will.
  3. Don’t think about specific jobs. Think about what skill-sets you’re developing in your role and how they apply to your passions and future – both personally and professionally.

I’m really passionate about sharing what I’ve learned with others. In addition to sharing my insights via the bog and my sales training, I’ve also started a business to help people who are looking to change careers.

I can help advise anyone who is contemplating or making a career change.  I have an advisory service to help individuals shine and differentiate themselves in an interview. I am also available to speak to groups about leadership lessons learned on my solo bicycle journey from Alaska to Mexico.

Finally, I have developed and delivered a very practical and pragmatic sales training program focusing on the interpersonal aspect of persuasion and influence in the sales process …in my view this is the toughest and most rewarding part of the sales process.

You can contact me if you have interest in any of my stories or work via LinkedIn.

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Related:

- By Jessica Benjamin, IBM Brand System and Workforce Enablement, CHQ

20% Off Holiday Savings for IBM Alumni and Retirees (in the US)

holiday deals

Dazzling Holiday deals on IBM Certified Pre-owned PCs for US IBM Alumni and Retirees
If you’re an IBM alumnus or retiree based in the US, you can enjoy a savings of 20% off all PCs, monitors and accessories plus $40 off PCs and $25 off monitors now through December 31st.  Just use the coupon code “ibmalum”.

There’s a wide selection of laptops, desktops, monitors, and other parts and accessories from Apple, Lenovo, HP, and more. In addition, free shipping and free product warranties are offered with all purchases through December 31st.  Get fully refurbished PCs at a fraction of the cost of buying new.

To learn more and buy today, visit our site:  www.ibm.com/shop/alumni and use the coupon code “ibmalum”

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–Posted by Julie Yamamoto, Program Manager, The Greater IBM Connection, via Program Contact Debbie Wildgoose