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

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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

How Many Times Should You Try Before Success? (Infographic) – No 1 Top Tweet

Image Credit:  Anna Vital

Image Credit: Anna Vital

Have you heard that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to really become good at something?  Or that the first book by beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss was rejected 27 times by publishers before it finally achieved success?  Our number one top Tweet for 2013 was this infographic by Anna Vital that demonstrates how many times should you try before quitting in order to achieve success.  It’s much higher than you might think.

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Related:

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

Top 10 Skills To Survive in the 21st Century (Infographic) – No 2 Top Tweet

Image Credit:  eLearning Infographics

Image Credit: eLearning Infographics

Our number two top Tweet for 2013 was this infographic by eLearning Infographics that demonstrates the type of skills needed to survive in the 21st century.

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Related:

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

IBM Connect 2014 – Energizing Life’s Work

ibmconnect2014v2

Companies are changing the way they work today. The combination of social, collaborative and mobile technology infused with behavioral science and analytics is incredibly powerful – especially when it is delivered in the cloud.  IBM Connect 2014 will provide insights on how to apply these principles to your business.

dilbertAs an added bonus for Dilbert fans, Dilbert creator Scott Adams will be speaking at the event.

Register now

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Kevin Cavanaugh, Vice President of Engineering Smarter Workforce at IBM, shares his thoughts on why you should attend IBM Connect 2014

And if you aren’t able to be in Orlando, don’t let that stop you from joining in the conversation – learn more about how to get social

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Related:

–Posted 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

Work Burnout in A Virtual Team? Here’s How to Avoid It

(Image Credit:  B2C)

(Image Credit: B2C)

The workplace of today is ‘always connected’ and yet, strangely, often disconnected with the prevalence of technology and global virtual teams. With mobile devices keeping us plugged in anytime, anywhere, it’s easy to keep on working, and working, and working, until you lose all sense of balance and separation between work and personal life. The to-do lists and inbox never seems to get any shorter, and you may never get to know your team in person. Enter the age of Burnout Culture in the Virtual World. Where you are always just one click away from your never-ending projects, but you’re working on them in isolation. Here’s some quick tips on how to avoid work burnout in a virtual team:

(Image Credit:  Mother Nature Network)

(Image Credit: Mother Nature Network)

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Related:

- By Julie Yamamoto

#GreaterIBM Big Data Tweet Chat Preview: Is Data Science Your Next Career? on 12/4/13

BigDataCubeThinking about a career as a data scientist?  You may soon become one of the most sought-after people in the  industry.  Think about this – the data scientist career is projected to grow by 18.7 percent by 2020, and Big Data is expected to be a 53.4 billion industry by 2016 (Source, VentureBeat).

So what is a data scientist exactly and what kind of skills are needed to succeed in this career?

Chat Recap Here

Join the conversation as The Greater IBM Connection (#GreaterIBM) hosts a Tweet Chat on the topic of Data Science careers on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 from 12pm-1pm ET.  (Alternate link to join if Twubs is down = http://tweetchat.com/room/GreaterIBM)

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Panelists

Our panelists for the Tweet Chat will be Jim Kobielus and Tom Deutsch

Jim Kobielus, IBM Photo Credit:  Data Informed

Jim Kobielus, IBM Senior Program Director, Product Marketing, Big Data Analytics (Photo Credit: Data Informed)

James Kobielus (@jameskobielus) is an industry veteran and serves as IBM’s big data evangelist. He spearheads IBM’s thought leadership activities in Big Data, Hadoop, enterprise data warehousing, advanced analytics, business intelligence, data management, and next best action technologies. He works with IBM’s product management and marketing teams in Big Data. He has spoken at such leading industry events as Hadoop Summit, Strata, and Forrester Business Process Forum. He has published several business technology books and is a very popular provider of original commentary on blogs and many social media.  Prior to joining IBM in 2012, Jim worked as a Senior Analyst on Big Data at Forrester Research and an editor at Network World.  To learn more about Jim, see the links below:

Tom Deutsch, IBM Program Director - Big Data and Advanced Analytics

Tom Deutsch, IBM Program Director – Big Data and Advanced Analytics

Tom Deutsch (@thomasdeutsch), IBM Program Director in Big Data & Analytics, has more than 20 years in the industry.  As a veteran of two startups, Deutsch is an expert on the technical, strategic and business information management issues facing the Enterprise today.  Most of Tom’s work has been on emerging technologies and business challenges, and he brings a strong focus on the cross-functional work required to have early stage project succeed.  He played a formative role in the transition of Hadoop-based technology from IBM Research to IBM Software Group, and he continues to be involved with IBM Research Big Data activities and transition from Research to commercial products. Tom created the IBM BigInsights Hadoop based product, and then has spent several years helping customers with Apache Hadoop, BigInsights and Streams technologies identifying architecture fit, developing business strategies and managing early stage projects across more than 200 customer engagements. Tom has co-authored a Big Data book (Harness the Power of Big Data) and multiple thought papers.  To learn more about Tom, see the links below:

So, please join the #GreaterIBM Tweet Chat on 12/4/13 from 12pm – 1pm ET as we discuss “Is Data Science Your Next Career?”. You can join at twubs.com/GreaterIBM

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IS DATA SCIENCE YOUR NEXT CAREER questions:

  • Q1: Why is the data science field growing so much?
  • Q2: How would you define ‘data scientist’ as a profession?
  • Q3: What are the hottest specialties for data scientists?
  • Q4: What type of skills, education, and aptitude are needed to become a data scientist?
  • Q5: What are the chief pitfalls to avoid in building a career as a data scientist?

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#GreaterIBM Tweet Chat

Date: Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Time: 12pm – 1pm US ET
Join the Tweet Chat: twubs.com/GreaterIBM
Hashtags to follow & engage in the conversation in real-time: #GreaterIBM

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About #GreaterIBM

The Greater IBM Connection is IBM’s global business and professional network that brings together current and former IBMers around the world. As the evolving technology industry increasingly calls for relationship led sales, marketing, branding, and recruiting, The Greater IBM Connection provides a tremendous opportunity to stay connected and engaged with market influencers. We hope you join and contribute today!

Related Big Data Tweet Chats

You can continue to follow Big Data discussions via the following Tweet Chats:

IBM Blu Every other Wed 1-2pm Big Data #ibmblu
CXO Mon 12-1pm Big Data Customer Experience Optimization #CXO

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Additional Resources:

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