IBM Alumni Kathleen Butler: A #WomenInTech Leader Who Continues to Giveback


Kathleen Butler, IBM Alum, currently serving on Board of Directors for Alzheimer’s Association and the Christopher and Dana Reeves Foundation

Alum: Kathleen Butler
IBM Tenure: 35.5 Years 

At IBM, Kathleen was a member of the Integration and Value Team. Her last job was Vice President and Enterprise Process Owner for Global Sales and Distribution (S&D). She and her team focused on simplifying and integrating customer, business partner and tele-web facing processes to make it easier to do business with IBM and support revenue and profit initiatives. She held various executive positions throughout her career including sales, technical sales, marketing, process improvements and information technology systems.

Kathleen currently serves on the Connecticut Boards of Directors for the Alzheimer’s Association and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. In addition to giving back, Kathy enjoys spending time with her family and friends, particularly her nieces and nephews. For recreation she likes to water and snow ski, and play golf. She is finally learning to cook.



How did you become an IBMer:
I always liked math and computers so it was always my goal to work for the IBM. IBM was “it.”

I joined a local branch team in Long Island in 1974 after graduating from The College of Mount Saint Vincent – before there was even such a thing as a computer science degree. I was part of an incoming group of five new employees; four of us were women. We were the first big influx of women at the time. I worked in technical sales – being interested in the technology part of business.

Having been part of an early influx of women at IBM, how did you feel when they announced Ginni Rometty as CEO?
I worked for Ginni for a short time. She was great to work with and I respect her a lot. I was  thrilled when she was named CEO. I look forward to seeing where she takes the business.

What were some of the most influential roles you held at IBM and what did you take from them?
I enjoyed working in technical sales, helping find solutions for a wide range of “intermediate” system clients, managing 10-15 accounts at a time. It takes a great deal of problem solving and I had the opportunity to really understand IBM systems, software and networking. It was extremely valuable to all my future roles at IBM.

A role that I really enjoyed was when I became a Systems Engineer Manager.  It was my first time managing other people and it was fun to interact and learn from them. Many of those I managed were men who were older than me. I had to work hard to gain their respect. I found that putting people first was the best way to do that – paying attention to them, helping them grow, and finding ways for them to advance. It was important to not see things hierarchically and thought of myself as part of the team. It also helped that I had the experience, technically, to hold my ground. I knew what I was doing.

As a leader, I learned a lot from my experience as an Administrative Assistant (now known as an Executive Assistant). I worked very closely with executives to learn from their different leadership styles. I got a view of what they worked on and how they handled many different kinds of issues. Specifically, as an assistant to the General Manager of the General Manager, United States, I learned how you needed to adapt your style to various situations and that you needed to embrace change and take risks. This particular leader was the type who addressed issues head on and focused on taking away barriers. He wasn’t intimidating or loud. He made people feel comfortable so that they could more freely share their ideas.  He helped his team find the solution themselves, trusting their perspective and opinions. I knew this was the kind of leader I wanted to be.

Did you have a mentor and have you mentored others?
One of the greatest things about IBM is the opportunities you have to grow and progress your career.  I had some great mentors myself.  I’m grateful for the path I was able to take and mentored 15-20 IBMers at a time to help them advance their own careers. It is a very important role that I still hold for some women in China and Singapore, who I continue to work with to help show them all the opportunities they have open to them.

What have you been up to since you left IBM?
There’s a joke in retirement: “I don’t know how I ever had time to work.” This feels very true for me. I’ve been very active, particularly with the Alzheimer’s Association and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

IBM always instilled a sense of community engagement and giving back. In fact, I helped lead significant year to year increase in the Employee Charitable Contributions Champagne donations for my teams in 2007 and 2008.

After retirement, I joined the Connecticut Alzheimer’s Association Board after working with an IBMer whose husband was diagnosed and passed away from early on-set Alzheimer’s at 58. She faced so many challenges in her personal life but never let it show.. I wanted to help others who faced similar challenges and provide assistance to others like her.

Butler sister team Reeve CT

Kathleen Butler and her sisters at a Christopher and Dana reeve “roll-a-thon.”

I have a very personal connection to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. In 2003, while I was still with IBM, I suffered a spinal cord injury that left me temporarily paralyzed. But I was one of the lucky ones who got most of my function back.. I know that not everyone has that chance and I want to support those who face similar challenges.

I helped start the local Board for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation in Connecticut in 2010. We’ve held successful events, such as “roll-a-thons” for able bodied people to experience what it is like in a wheelchair. We’ve raised more than $100,000 this way. I was also able to help a former IBM colleague who had a traumatic injury by connecting her to the Foundation and mentoring her through some recovery. I am still in contact with her today.

IBMers have terrific skills.  If they have not done so already, I would encourage every IBM alum to consider putting their skills to work at a local nonprofit that they are passionate about. Most of the retired IBMers I know are doing that.


The College of Mount Saint Vincent honored Kathleen Butler, Class of 1974 with the Ad Laudem Dei awards October 24 2013 for her outstanding professional achievements and contributions to the community.

If you could share advice with a new IBMer, what would it be?
My advice would be:

1)  Always put the client first, then IBM, then your Function
2)  You are only as good as your people; so develop your people and help identify and Promote Diverse Executive Leaders
3)  Deliver on your commitments and measure your value to your client, IBM, function



– By Jessica Benjamin, Brand Systems Workforce Enablement

Announcing IBM South Africa Alumni Group

The Greater IBM Connection and the IBM South Africa team are pleased to announce the launch of the new South Africa LinkedIn group of our community. We’re starting this group as a way for our community of Greater IBMers to interact and network with community members in India.

To do this, we’ve partnered with an IBM Recruiting team in South Africa, led by Natasha Pillay-Bemath.

To join the South Africa group sub-community:

  • You must first join the global Greater IBM Connection community here.
  • Then request to join the South Africa Alumni group here.
  • Note: You must provide accurate information about your IBM employment on your profile so that your membership can be approved for both groups.

Thank you for your interest, and we look forward to you joining today!


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

the greaterIBM connection

CactusOne of the many innovations Sam Palmisano has spearheaded at  IBM is the idea of reaching out to "alumni". The first initiative was a few years ago when he hosted a reception for a group of former executives of the company. A few were retired but most were in senior positions in other companies. That was just the beginning and now the idea of reaching out has been expanded — big time. The number of past and present IBMers is probably close to a million people. Establishing communications with such a huge base can be nothing but a good thing for the company.


When I left engineering school and joined IBM in 1967, it was common to look for a job at a company and expect to stay there your entire career. Nobody thinks that way anymore. If you tell someone you were with a company for decades, they might ask "what’s the matter, couldn’t you find any other jobs?". Another change is that in the old days if someone left the company they were considered a traitor and barred from coming back. Today, there are many executives that left the company at some point, got some experience at one or more other companies, and then brought that experience back into IBM. Some have come and gone multiple times. The turnover has strengthened the company.


PeopleAnd now we have social networks. In the early stages there was a perception that social networking meant eleven year-old girls on MySpace. Now businesses are realizing that it is more likely forty or fifty year-old business people on Facebook and Xing and LinkedIn and Plaxo Pulse. The Internet has enabled everyone  to be connected to everyone. Whether it is reading blogs, posting to wikis, updating status on Facebook, or making new connections through viral invitations, it is clear that a big company like IBM has a lot to gain by "connecting" past, present, and  future  IBMers to each other and with the company. IBM calls it "the greaterIBM connection". On Monday evening the company hosted a greaterIBM reception at the Metrazur at Grand Central Station in New York. More than four hundred attended. It was good to reconnect with some colleagues I had not seen for quite a few years.


Business ConferenceWill social networking payoff in business terms? Nobody knows for sure but in my opinion it is certain — as soon as we see the New York Times run a front page story that social networking is a fad,  in trouble or peaking out we will have confirmation  that success is a sure thing. A short term inhibitor is that there are so many different social networks. As web standards evolve I am confident that we will have a world where people will create one profile and then be able to decide which part of their profile is accessible in which networks.


IBM sees the potential and is investing the time and resources to build a large and active network. The possibilities are endless — collaboration on projects,   networking to hire or get hired, crafting deals, referrals to and from IBM and its business partners. As a bonus,  social  networking is fun and  good for morale. I look forward to continuing to be a  part of the greaterIBM connection as  it evolves. Upon e-tirement in 2001 after nearly four decades at IBM, I  don’t really feel like I left anyway! The stories that I have been writing since 1998 over at the patrickWeb blog fall into a  number of categories. One section is devoted to "IBM Happenings". I am sure I will also be writing  and linking at the greaterIBM connection along with  others. Cross linking will increase the overall  "connectedness". That’s what the web is all about. I am really proud  that IBM is taking networking and the blogosphere so seriously.


Related links
        bullet the greaterIBM connection

bullet Greater IBM Wiki

Insights From Core Connectors Events: Vienna, UK

We recently spent some time in Europe talking to current and former IBMers about the Greater IBM network.  I wanted to share some of what we heard and learned from the several dozen people who took the time to meet with us in Vienna, Frankfurt and IBM’s Hursley Park lab.  (Many thanks to Sandor Barany, our social network’s ultra-connector, for organizing the Vienna event, and reaching out to so many current and former IBMers, especially in the important emerging market of Eastern Europe.)


Wonderful Wien

The good news: in listening to hundreds of IBMers, past and present, from all parts of Europe, there seemed to be genuine appetite to be connected to the human network of people who share an IBM heritage. In some sense, the culture of being an IBMer does transcend the business organization.

There was also broad consensus, among both current and former IBMers, that new Web technologies, and the interactions they enable, could provide benefits to all participants. The majority of people seemed to perceive that there was an essential benefit to enabling current and former IBMers to connect with each other.

Many good ideas and insights on how to improve greaterIBM surfaced in our discussions in Vienna. Three examples:

1) Develop some kind of automated match-making based on profile comparisons to introduce people to one another
2) Make Premium Accounts Opt In: offer them to all who say they are willing, on their honor, to build the network by inviting in others, and enriching it by active participation: contributing to dialogue in the forums, creating events, introducing members to each other, etc.
3) Give members a set of clear, simple value prop talking points to use in persuading others to join

Food for Thought in Frankfurt

The challenges:  For former IBMers, trust in an alumni social networking program is a real issue. They want to be part of a network that offers them very concrete, and crystal clear, value proposition, and are, at least initially, wary of such a program being more for IBM’s benefit than their own.

As strongly as many alumni IBMers may identify with Big Blue, in some cases from careers spanning decades, there is understandable skepticism….”if in the past, once someone left the company they effectively fell off IBM’s radar, so what’s different now?”

The short answer is that many social and business trends have made many organizations realize that their former employees are an important constituency in today’s incredibly networked economy.

if IBM can show that it is serious about creating a new kind of relationship between alumni and current IBMers, and offer substantial services and features that will benefit participants,  many of the people we talked to seemed to hunger for such a redefinition of the IBM ecosystem, and the opportunity to leverage the global fraternity of IBMers.

In fact, one of the surprising things I heard was that alumni wanted to have a real inside perspective on IBM…”give me access to BluePages (IBM’s intranet directory) and w3″ was a common refrain.

As my colleagues have noted from a range of sources, alumni IBMers have high expectations for IBM. If the company wants to really create a meaningful community with its large pool of “graduate” IBMers, it will have to dig down deep and really deliver on every front with rich features, services, content and commitment.

I think we can deliver on all kinds of reports, events, promotions, research projects, collaborative projects and the like, to make this case, and to show that being part of Greater IBM will be an enormously beneficial experience and asset for all.

(Of course, members of the network have to be part of that productive equation, and are equally encouraged to start initiatives that will feed the interests and needs of other Greater IBMers.)

When we succeed, the Greater IBM Connection will be a step toward turning IBM “inside out” for those such as corporate alumni who want to have a productive, interactive relationship.

This mixture of interest and uncertainty was echoed in questions about how serious IBM was about reaching out to alumni, and whether the company’s culture really could be open enough to involve them in activities, projects and innovation efforts.

On a more optimistic note, most we talked to recognized that IBM can drive great societal level innovation when it sets its mind it.  They only hoped that the ideal for greaterIBM was backed up by a plan to match it.

Sandor Barany, superconnector

Of course, some of those who have been involved in the network during its pilot phase these last few months pointed out that most people are time starved, and will only participate to the degree that they feel that their time is wisely invested, which puts further onus on the network having immediate and personal value.

We are conducting as much serious research as we can, but all members can help Greater IBM become what they need by sharing their thoughts…in Greater IBM’s forums, in email, and in disucssion with other members.

Finally, our listening tour reinforced the notion that greaterIBM has the opportunity to be a global program, but it must also have a local focus to make the service most relevant to clusters of member, and that the program needs to create regular in-person events to feed the creation of the trust and social capital that only face-to-face, real human interactions can engender.

To that end, in Vienna we discussed how the growing group based ther could be the spark for a kind of regional initiative to drive innovation and business throughout the emerging market of Eastern Europe. Fortunately, there has been strong growth of members joining Greater IBM throughout the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and the rest of this exciting region.

Making Virtual Connections in Hursley Park

All this, and similar, effort needs is a spark, and a few enterprising people to step up and get such a open source  type of innovation community rolling.

2007 is fast approaching, and our network is growing toward the tipping point that will help it become a proactive organization fueled as much by the energy of its members as it is by the support and commitment of IBM.

So let’s create something Great, together, as we roll into that new year.

Welcome to the Frontier!

Fellow greaterIBMers, let me introduce you to the frontier. We are witnessing the start of
two initiatives that will be very big: greaterIBM, and the birth of the 3D internet with IBMs $10M play in virtual worlds, announced by IBM’s CEO Sam Palmisano on Tuesday in Beijing. Both initiatives share two key similarities… they are both moving very fast and the models are not “more of the same” from IBM. Let me share the recent story of a couple of greaterIBMers

They decided to run a greaterIBM virtual bloc party in Second Life. One of them learns how to build things in Second Life, builds a greaterIBM Headquarters in 2 weeks in his spare time for $20. They reach out to the community around them to get involved as they really need their help to run the event smoothly and to draw on their expertise. They run the event, which becomes the top story on IBMs intranet, gets mentioned in the New York Times, BusinessWeek and CNet. The builder is immediately requested to write a best practices document and consult with 2 major multinational companies on how to run successful events in Second Life and receives requests from around the world to collaborate with other initiatives.

As part of his preparation for the event, the builder investigates how to use a more sophisticated way of videoing the event, and finds a tool in SL, which costs the huge sum of $0.70! He enlists the help of a colleague who figures it out, makes a short
film of the Bloc Party
which they edit and post on YouTube. It gets hundreds of viewings and is used by IBMs Media Relations group

Four weeks later, Sam Palmisano is due to make an appearance in the virtual Forbidden City IBM have built. The bloc party cameraman is called on to run the virtual camerawork and films Sam, switching between 10 virtual cameras for a live video feed watched
by 7000 IBM employees across China!

Elapsed time from nowhere to subject matter experts: 6 WEEKS!

greaterIBM is at the same stage of development. This is gold rush time and you can hitch up your wagon and join in right now. We have a big mandate to make this happen from IBM but we’re only currently at 850 people. If you formed a community in greaterIBM, for example around Healthcare, by searching for a few like-minded people, ran a couple of conference calls using the events function (ask us and you can use our number), you will be the de-facto topic healthcare leader in The Greater IBM Connection. When the
membership has risen to 5, 10 or 50 thousand people next year, you could be
providing insights and business opportunities for your company from a community
of hundreds of people across the world. People could be emailing you to join in and collaborate with your team and opportunities you never envisaged could open up for you.

Take a 5 minute coffee break, grab a pen and blank sheet of paper and open your mind to the possibilities. Also, watch this space and next week we’ll will show you one way you can get involved with BOTH greaterIBM and IBMs virtual worlds initiative, make incredible new connections, and have a lot of fun!

The energy and buzz around these two initiatives is huge at the moment. How much opportunity would you like? All you have to do is a little work and you can be a 21st century pioneer!

IBMers and IBM alumni join greaterIBM here.

The Information On Demand Conference and Blended Networking via Greater IBM

IBMer, Jack Mason, IBM Strategic Communications & The Greater IBM Connection Executive Producer


Next week’s IOD Conference in Anaheim is a prime example of how The Greater IBM Connection will add value to the in-person networking at such business events.

The network we’re building will give IBMers, past and present, who may meet each other at such large gatherings (more than 5,000  people are expected at the IOD Conference, one of IBM’s largest events)  to stay connected with each other through the online network we’re building.

Of course, people are bound to continue making connections through traditional mechanisms like business cards. What’s different about Greater IBM as a new kind of business social network is that once two people meet and say “let’s connect through Greater IBM” they will not only have each other’s contact information, but more insight into to each other through the richer profiles all members control.

What’s more, they can also see each others contacts, and perhaps find ways that they are already connected to each other through a common friend or colleague.

From the start, we’ve envisioned that Greater IBM should be an example of “blended networking”…a community that enabled in-person events to become more valuable by enabling current and former IBMers who meet in a variety of realworld circumstances to be able to follow through and interact with other through a robust online directory.

Of course, sometimes this will be contacts between current and former IBMers, with the prospects of leading to new business opportunities for each.

But sometimes Greater IBM will enable former IBMers to connect with each other (or even current IBMers who might not otherwise get to know each other, which has already happened to me in the process of helping launch Greater IBM.)  In either case, the value of people being able to extend their contacts and relationships is clearly strategic in today’s highly networked world of global business.

So, if you are one of the thousands of current or former IBMers attending next week’s IOD Conference, you might consider joining the network today, and encouraging  the Greater IBMers you meet at the event to keep the connection going via this promising new platform.

Join Greater IBM Today 

To invite a current colleague or former IBMer into Greater IBM, share this invitation link with them:

Once you are both in the community you can create a Connection with each other that will become part of your social networking profile.

An account team’s “Alumni Philosophy”

IBMer, Nils-Carsten Huber, Global Business Services, Senior Consultant Strategy & Change

Nils started his career at Hamburg Savings Bank as a Credit Analyst and was promoted in 1998 to Branch Manager.  Before coming to IBM in 2003 he was a Strategic Performance Improvement Consultant at Pricewaterhouse Coopers.  Nils is now a Senior Consultant at IBM and a member of the GBS key account team for Deutsche Post World Net/DHL/Exel.

The first of our three IBM genes is the IBMer’s dedication to every client’s success. Unfortunately, there are several ‘opportunities’ where you can directly observe how important it is to recognize a departing colleague being our customer in the next moment. Frequently, this former colleague is a decision-maker and his/her decision to take on a new position might be influenced by the perception of being valued, informed and treated with dignity during her/his exit at IBM. In my opinion, “just letting them go” is not appropriate.

In our account team for the worldwide logistics leader, DPWN, we have shared this insight for several years. In any case, we aim to know who is a former IBMer (or one of IBM’s affiliates, acquisitions, etc.) and also our client. We keep an overview in our CRM database.  We aim to establish a personal contact between a member of our account team and the alumnus to keep the relationship alive.

For example, once or twice a year we socialise with our alumni clients at a dinner, thus, establishing an “alumni community”. At the dinner, alumni can meet people who share their common history. Moreover, we regularly inform our alumni of developments at IBM and we share insights like the IBM CEO Global Study or the IBM Global Innovation Outlooks.

And it pays to live this philosophy: DPWN has been a GBS client for about 15 years. Over 50 percent of our VIP contacts are alumni. Alumni hold a remarkable portion of our signings; alumni frequently act as advocates in bringing ideas and IBM business to our client, and last but not least, alumni give honest feedback and help us to optimize ourselves in caring for our customer.

Thus, I want to congratulate IBM for the “GreaterIBM” communication programme. It is one more component in the relationship to our alumni and a great opportunity to rebind them to IBM and to show them that we care. I am looking forward to be a part of “GreaterIBM”.