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.


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



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

IBM Mobile App Round-Up


Here’s a round-up of IBM Mobile Apps. Do you know of any others? Submit your comment to let us know, and we’ll add it to the list.  Learn more about IBM Mobile First.

Mobile App
Category Description Download
Minds of Modern Mathematics Education Interactive journey on the timeline of the history of math based on IBM’s 1964 World’s Fair exhibit ‘Mathematica: A World of Numbers…and Beyond’ designed by Charles and Ray Eames.  The app offers biographies, milestones and images of artifacts culled from the Mathematica exhibit as well as a high-resolution image of the original timeline poster.
IBM Think App Education Shows how early tools have evolved into modern advances that make the world work better — healthier populations, greener energy and safer, less congested cities. The app is for people of all ages who love science, history and technology — think of it as an “innovation time machine.
IBM Smarter Planet Mobile Apps Business, Content Download these new apps to keep information, links and multimedia related to Smarter Planet—and our new initiative The Social Business—always at your fingertips. The apps include content optimized for your device from, the Smarter Planet blog, our Tumblr sites, YouTube, the IBM Centennial Icons of Progress project and more.

  • Smarter Planet
  • The Social Business
  • Creek Watch
IBM Institute of Business Value (IBV) app Business, Research, Content In this application you will have access to the latest thought leadership from the IBM Institute for Business Value, including our C-suite Study series, business function and industry papers. You will be able to download and maintain your own library of content important to you, and will have access to regular content updates. Select C-suite Studies feature enhanced content, including industry and country points of view, videos featuring C-level executive insights, additional data, and links to relevant IBM capabilities.
IBM Mobile First Apps Business, Productivity, Communications These mobile apps are built around mobile interfaces to help you get the most from your IBM solutions. Collaborate or access your system anytime from your mobile device. Engage the right people, drive innovation, and deliver results. Manage your hardware remotely, gain faster access to your PC email, calendar, contacts, and more.

  • IBM Connections
  • IBM Sametime
  • IBM Flex System Manager
  • IBM Cognos Mobile
  • IBM Business Process Manager
  • IBM Content Navigator
  • IBM Notes Traveler
  • IBM Smartcloud Meetings
  • IBM Lotus Symphony
  • IBM Digital Analytics
  • IBM Sterling Control Center Mobile
  • IBM Sterling Document Tracking Mobile
  • IBM Sterling InFlight Data Mgmt Mobile
  • IBM Sterling Integrator Mobile


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

IBM Technology To Help Critically Ill Children Around The World

Every year, nearly 7 million children under age 5 die from preventable causes. The medical knowledge to treat these children exists, yet the delivery of effective care is impeded by the global shortage of 4 million medical workers (1.5 million in Africa alone).  While the traditional approach to medical education has brought world-class care to many patients, Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) recognized a need to extend medical knowledge beyond the walls of medical institutions and schools.

OPENPediatrics1Partnering with IBM, BCH has pioneered the world’s first cloud-based social learning platform — OPENPediatrics — which aims to connect physicians and nurses from all resource settings across the world around the sharing of best practices in the care of critically ill children. The platform, which includes IBM’s social networking, cloud, data analytics, video, and simulation technologies, will be made available at no cost to any interested clinicians around the globe.  Today, over 1000 doctors and nurses are testing OPENPediatrics in 74 countries (343 hospitals) around the globe.


To Learn More:

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

Twitter Chat April 25 4:30 EDT: Education and the THINK Exhibit

How do you inspire your students to be innovators in their daily lives? Join today’s discussion to chat about an effort underway to build an integrated educational experience that includes exhibitions, apps, and lesson plans. The IBM THINK exhibit, which recently opened at Epcot in Walt Disney World, extends globally into free, hands-on lesson plans for middle and high school teachers.

Photo credit: Terry Cuffel, Corporate Visual Services

Photo credit: Terry Cuffel, Corporate Visual Services

Using the IBM THINK app, students explore how progress is shaped through a five-step process and participate in hands-on lessons to help them become innovators in their own right and to take actions that can help them become forward-thinking citizens of the world. Get all the details, including Guest Experts and Topic List, for today’s event.


The THINK App (Flickr set of photos)


- Posted by Regan Kelly

New Webcast: Succeeding Faster with New Online Support

The new Service Request tool is here, and that means getting support from IBM has never been easier. To learn about using the SR tool create and track PMR in the Chinese language, be sure not to miss a new educational Webcast, April 19th: 4 a.m. EDT (New York).

The tool’s new online features can help users not only to locate the answers to known problems, but also to open a ticket faster and more easily. In fact, the tool enables users to summarize the problem, with details, and submit it – all through one single process. This means that IBM can perform a review of problem before contacting the user, and to involve other technical resources to help resolve more complex problems if necessary.

tivoliAttend this upcoming education to get the details you need on using these great new features of IBM Online Support. Let us help you succeed faster!

To Close the Widening Skills Gap, Focus on STEM Must Intensify

“According to IDC, almost 1.7 million cloud-related jobs went unfilled in 2012 due to lack of training….Depending on how we react, this is either a tech industry crisis, or a tremendous economic opportunity.”

In this article from Citizen IBM, Fordham University computer and information science professor Frank Hsu assesses the changing frontier of information technology, arguing for STEM-focused curricula and hands-on learning to enable students to “build the intelligent and advanced infrastructure made possible by open cloud across mature and emerging economies, and truly build a smarter planet.”

Frank Hsu, Fordham University

Frank Hsu, Fordham University

The bottom line? If we are to close the widening skills gap caused by new technologies, then our focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education must intensify.  Read more.

Be sure to follow @citizenIBM on Twitter:



- Posted by Regan Kelly

Watson Leadership Lesson 4: Unleashing Potential Through Education

IBM Schoolhouse, Endicott NY, 1930s

IBM Schoolhouse, Endicott NY, 1930s

IBM’s legendary President Thomas J. Watson, Sr., was a leader of unbridled optimism. “This business of ours has a future,” he noted in 1926, just 12 years after he joined IBM. “It has a past that we are all proud of, but it has a future that will extend beyond my lifetime and beyond your lifetime.”

Much of that optimism was based on his faith in the knowledge, abilities, and character of IBM employees. “Very few persons throughout the country have seen our factory, our School, our Laboratory, or our World Headquarters Building, and the only way they have to judge the character of IBM is by the character of those who represent us.” But he recognized that IBMers were not born – they were made. To that end, he believed that one of his chief responsibilities as IBM’s leader was to unleash the collective potential of his workforce. One of the ways he did that was by placing great emphasis on employee development.

Watson was fond of saying, “There is no saturation point in education,” and he backed those words by building an educational infrastructure that was second to none. IBM’s tradition of investing in employee development dates to 1916 with the creation of the IBM Education Program. Over the next two decades the program would expand to include management education, volunteer study clubs, training for the disabled, and the construction of an IBM Schoolhouse in Endicott, New York in 1933. So deeply ingrained in IBM culture was the notion of personal development, that starting in the 1920s, IBMers began forming after-hour study clubs to increase their knowledge of their professions and the company’s business.

Watson’s emphasis on employee education was not the benevolence of a paternalistic leader – he saw clear business value in this investment in his workforce. “When a man stops studying, stops acquiring knowledge about the business or profession in which he is engaged, he doesn’t stand still,” Watson said. “He starts going backwards.” And backsliding was something every IBMer had to avoid … even Watson himself. “I found out years ago that because I gave so much of my time to my own business I was getting into a rut. So I decided to get out and see what other people were doing, to broaden my mind on business in general and see what I could bring back and apply to my own business.”

IBMers took Watson’s edicts to heart. Between 1938 and 1952, 40% of Endicott employees were enrolled in classes, covering 33 subjects. By 1954, IBM Education worldwide was running more than 50,000 students (internal and external) through its programs. In 1961 alone, 17,000 employees participated in voluntary study courses.

“In this day and age, education is the one Master Key we can depend on to open the door to future progress, “ Watson said in 1930. “The future of the International Business Machines Corporation, and of every person connected with the Company, depends not upon the amount of time we spend in study; but upon what we learn and upon our ability to transfer our knowledge to newcomers in the business so that they may keep step with the pace of IBM—a pace which is constantly increasing!” In the 80 years since, little has changed.


Paul Lasewicz, IBM Corporate Archivist

Paul Lasewicz, IBM Corporate Archivist


The January 2013 theme for The Greater IBM Connection is ”leadership”, and The Greater IBM Connection will be sharing various tips, tools, stories, and resources on this topic.

Have You Heard of Coursera.Com? Top Universities Offering Online Classes for Free

coursera2Have you heard of  They have partnered with 33 leading universities around the world, including Duke, Vanderbilt, Stanford, University of London, to name a few, to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.  Their vision is to provide everyone in the world with a world-class education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.  Here are some of the upcoming classes that Greater IBMers may be interested in:

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


The January 2013 theme for The Greater IBM Connection is ”leadership”, and The Greater IBM Connection will be sharing various tips, tools, and resources on this topic.

The Skills Gap: U.S. Requires a New Educational Model for Economic Growth, Says IBM’s Stan Litow

Linking educators and employers is key to economic recovery and maintaining American global competitiveness

by Stanley Litow, IBM Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs and president of the IBM International Foundation, in U.S. News and World Report

Author Stanley Litow

Although the latest U.S. employment numbers are trending positively, there remain deep and systemic issues that have made fuller economic recovery elusive. Chief among these is the disconnect between the availability of skilled workers and the tens of thousands of good jobs waiting to be filled. Our understandably intense focus on restoring full employment in the current down-cycle economy has led some to relegate education and education reform to the back burner.

But we do so at our peril. The fact of the matter is that a redesigned and stronger educational system is essential to a sustainable economic recovery. We do ourselves—and future generations—a disservice if we fail to acknowledge this critical relationship.

Teachers and administrators say students are more focused with the shorter week, but critics are skeptical.

Recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Education indicate a significant increase in high school completion rates. That would have been great news had it happened more than 40 years ago, when a high school diploma still was either a ticket to a middle-class lifestyle or meaningful preparation for postsecondary education. In 1970, nearly 75 percent of people with only a high school diploma were middle class. But that’s ancient history in a world where the time between generations shrinks every year. In less than 10 years, fully two thirds of all middle-class jobs will require postsecondary education or training. Workers with only a high school diploma—including the 75 percent of community college students who fail to complete their associate degrees—will have few opportunities to earn more than poverty wages.

According to The College Payoff: Education, Occupations, Lifetime Earnings report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, the United States currently has 29 million middle-class jobs that require at least two years of postsecondary education or training, with an additional 14 million jobs coming online over the next 10 years. These current and future jobs span industries such as healthcare, information technology, business, professional services, and office and sales support. In addition, many of these jobs offer entry to lifetime careers, especially for the 30 percent of community college graduates who go on to complete their bachelor’s degrees.

It is clear that education is firmly linked to economic growth. But simply funding education without reforming it is a mistake. To achieve education performance results that are meaningful in today’s economy, we need to commit to both support and innovation. We need to retool our school systems to enable businesses, educators, and communities to collaborate on strategies that leverage diminishing resources to the greatest advantage for our young people.

Two initiatives that have the potential to maximize educational performance and create solid economic value are career and technical education (CTE) and a new approach to professional apprenticeships. Implementing these programs via deep collaborations across businesses and education systems at all levels could refocus billions of dollars of current funding on innovative solutions to the challenges facing our young people in the 21st century, and offer larger numbers of them a ticket to opportunity.

Today’s CTE programs replace what we used to call vocational education—now an outmoded model. Twenty-first century CTE programs must emphasize public-private partnerships between educators and employers, and ensure that school curricula are academically rigorous and economically relevant. Working together, educators and employers can structure course content and classroom experiences to create a seamless link between education and careers. One such partnership is the collaboration among the New York City Schools, The City University of New York, and IBM on New York’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), a grade 9-14 school that confers both the high school diploma and an associate degree in technology. Now entering its second year, P-TECH is achieving exciting results that are both replicable and scalable nationwide. The core concepts of this initiative are embodied in the U.S. Department of Education’s Blueprint for Education Reform.

Adopting a new approach to professional apprenticeships enables us to link education to employment in another important way. In Enterprising Pathways: Toward a National Plan of Action for Career and Technical Education coauthors IBM and Opportunity Nation suggest repurposing Federal College Work-Study funds (currently about $1 billion that provides on-campus wages for nearly 1 million college students) to help pay salaries for off-campus jobs that are directly connected to the students’ academic majors and intended careers. Replacing “cafeteria work” with meaningful professional apprenticeships with a built-in funding source, these new-model work-study jobs could be in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors. But these jobs must be designed to build skills, not just provide funds to pay tuition; they can and should do both. The distinguishing characteristics of these jobs would be the opportunities they would offer for college students to learn relevant skills to advance their learning and careers.

Working together to connect education to careers, educators and employers will help millions of our young people prepare for both higher education and meaningful lifelong employment. The United States has a distinguished history of adapting educational requirements to evolving market demands to maintain a competitive and stable economy. America enacted historic initiatives that increased mandatory education from eighth grade to high school, and later enabled broad access to higher education via the GI Bill. Both were education initiatives that fueled unprecedented economic growth. Just as we did in the past, it is now time for us to invest our efforts and resources in new educational models that will grow the skills of our young people and strengthen America’s global competitiveness.


What steps do you think should be taken first?


Educating Tomorrow’s Adults: One Teacher’s Journey

Here Jamillah Seifullah – a teacher at New York’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) – shares her perspective on the importance of teaching her students to be critical thinkers and lifelong learners. Jamillah Seifullah

Teaching Lifelong Learning Skills
The role of educating young people is no longer the sole responsibility of the classroom teacher. As educators, we often try to teach 21st century children with 20th century methods. This often does not work. I have spent many weekends modifying and reworking how I differentiate content, infusing technology, inviting experts into my classroom, and setting up the physical space I teach in to discover what will work best for my students.

I have always included projects in lesson planning because that is my background. As a mathematician, I know that the application of theory lies in physics and engineering. Modeling is the most important aspect of students’ demonstrating understanding.

This year, I have been looking at how to teach through using projects rather than having projects be supplemental to a lesson. The current project in my Algebra 2/Trigonometry course at P-TECH is to build a Ferris Wheel. The students began the project on paper with sketches and equations, and are now constructing a model of a Ferris Wheel from cardboard, toothpicks, skewers and a simple motor. As I could not find a project to match my vision, the students started with the basic instructions and will have to design and figure out the best way to make this work with some input from myself and a fellow Ph.D. candidate from NYU Polytechnic, who comes in to help with Robotics.

In the past, teachers had a clear idea of where their students were heading. There was a small pool of professions from which they could choose. These days, our challenge is to prepare all students for a future we cannot begin to perceive, and for careers that have yet to be created. In essence, teachers are called upon to educate “Elroy” – the inquisitive boy character from the popular 1960s cartoon called The Jetsons. The Jetsons takes place in the year 2062. Despite the show’s depiction of a robot-controlled world as utopia, I wonder what life will really be like for our students 50 years from now.

P-Tech students at work on a group project

Today’s 10th graders will be near retirement age in 2062. Will we have educated them to be successful in the world that lies ahead of them? The only way to accomplish that feat will be to teach young people more than simply how to test well. We need to teach our students to be lifelong learners who employ critical thinking in pursuit of their passions, interests and careers.

My background is very similar to the path of our students at P-TECH. When I went to a specialized STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) high school, my mother was unable to help me with my math homework after seventh grade. My mother
was my first teacher however, and an excellent one. She instilled in me a love of learning and creating. Many of our students, for various reasons, do not have someone like my mom in their lives. Therefore, we who take on the job of “educating Elroy” need to go beyond teaching content and recall that we teach people. What kinds of global citizens do we want to help shape?


Before I became a teacher, I was a software engineer at a major telecom company. I began my college experience at Borough of Manhattan Community College and after completing my degree, I transferred to The City College of New York – a four-year CUNY school. As I completed my undergraduate degree, I looked into what fields were lucrative for a bright young math major. Computer programming and the back rooms of analytics and technology on Wall Street were two that interested me. I was made an offer in both fields. At P-TECH, students take the content courses any New York State high school student must take, but they also take Workplace Learning where the soft skills of an information technology (IT) career are taught. Our school is STEM focused, giving them a competitive background for any field they choose to pursue. I wish P-TECH existed when I was in high school. As the kids say, I would have “killed it!” It was not until much later in life that I realized STEM had given me unique options.

I remember being at an awards dinner while I was an undergraduate. We were seated by department, and since no one else showed up for mathematics, I was sitting at a table alone. I am sure I presented a sad picture. I looked around, considered my options, and was determined not to waste the opportunity. I randomly sat at a nearby table, and immediately felt intimidated. Here I was, a young black woman from the South Bronx, sitting at a table of important business people from backgrounds that I assumed were nothing like my own. Although I was outside of my comfort zone, I started talking to the man next to me. It turned out we went to the same high school! He introduced me to his wife Christine, who was a vice president at a major telecom company. I charmed her with my wit, and she told me to call her. I called, but she never called me back. Nevertheless, I was determined to succeed. I knew this was my chance for a real shot out of poverty.

I had left my illustrious job as a cashier at J.C. Penney to go to college when I found out
I was going to be a mom. I was on welfare and took out a small student loan to live. I was the oldest of six children, the first person in my immediate family to go to college, and responsible for helping my mom financially. My dad was a drug addict and out of the picture. I was determined, and called Christine the telecom executive for months. She finally called me back with three offers, and I began a paid internship shortly after that.

During my internship, three men who worked near me took me under their wings and mentored me (shout-out to mentors!). They taught me about stocks, how to invest 16 percent of my pay in my 401(k) every week and forget about it (Thanks, Dave!), and how to dress to be taken seriously. I also was advised to wear my afro “normally,” which meant straighten it (Jim, I forgive you). Whenever I told someone what I did for a living, they would respond: “You don’t look like a software engineer!” That response made a huge impression upon me, as I was one of only two African-Americans in my department, and the only African-American woman for a while.

One of my mentors informed me that the CEO was a City College alumnus and that he had spoken to students there recently. My mentor half-jokingly said I should contact the CEO, so I did via email. The CEO responded that he wanted to meet me. I was horrified. I emailed Christine, and requested she coach me for the meeting. The CEO was a white male millionaire for goodness sake, running a Fortune 500 company! The CEO and I met for 45 minutes, and it was amazing. He told me that he had grown up in The Bronx, and that he’d beaten up nerds like me in school. He was very down to earth. I left that meeting with a new perspective on building relationships and making sure to have the skills to take advantage of new opportunities.

I also left that meeting with the CEO’s personal support for me to go anywhere in the company I wanted. I chose Information Technology. With the CEO’s recommendation, I was hired as a computer programmer. I was in the IT department for eight years before leaving to pursue what I believe is my purpose: educating our youth. Knowing that IBM has created a partnership that affords a similar experience to so many students, and that I am a part of having this model be successful, brings my work full circle.

Jamillah Seifullah is a former software engineer, landscape architect and mother who teaches at New York’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH).

Related Resources:

Infographic: “Do the Math”: How a STEM Education Is a Formula for Success

Low-Income Students, STEM Education, and Post-secondary Success

How I Attracted Nearly 300 Kids to AP Computer Science

Design-Based Learning: A New Paradigm for STEM Education