Each woman nominated for a feature interview answers a few short questions about IBM and her career. Here’s what Shelley has to say about working at IBM.
What made you decide to work for IBM?
When my father was dying I resigned a fantastic job I loved as a senior executive in government developing international trade. When it came time to return to work, I had several offers and one was from IBM to work in their public sector. As part of a previous transformation executive role I had been a client of IBM for several years and had been exposed to some of IBM’s best and brightest as well understanding some of the complexities of IBM. IBM stuck out the hard times of transformation with us as a client, which was not easy to do. The combination of the opportunity to continue to work on complex and noble public sector problems and work with really smart people for a company I respected was irresistible.
Have you had any valuable mentors? How have they helped you in your career?
I have been privileged to have mentors throughout my career of all different sorts. Some mentors have stretched me to grow personally and professionally, some have been sounding boards and coaches helping me through challenging business problems or difficult political and power dynamics. Some have championed me internally to take on new roles, some have been completely outside the organization I was working for at the time and focused more on helping me learn to lead or balance my career and life. All of them who have helped me share the following traits:
- They were coaches versus solving problems for me
- They challenged me to think differently and from perspectives other than mine
- They asked me more questions than they answered
Has IBM opened the doors to any new experiences for you?
Working at IBM has opened up new experiences for me. While I had worked in global portfolios and other countries and with other cultures, the deep global integration on a day to day basis was a new experience for me. Learning to build teams across the globe and breaking through some of the bias and barriers within our Canadian teams and even my own attitudes and biases was a challenge. It is a critical skill in today’s global economy, and even more so within our company.
What advice would you give to our new IBMers?
Take advantage of the generosity of IBMers. When I joined IBM 5 years ago, I couldn’t believe how generous people were with their time regardless of how senior they were. I could send a note or make a phone call to request help understanding something, an interest interview, or needing help solving a problem – the responsiveness was incredible. IBMers give to each other and they do help each other succeed. Set a goal for yourself each quarter to reach out and connect with IBMers who aren’t directly related to what you are working on, build a network and tap into their knowledge and generosity.
What makes you proud to be an IBMer?
The two things that immediately come to mind when I think of what makes me proud to be an IBMer. One is about what IBM does in the world that really matters and the second is about the kind of incredible individuals we have at IBM.
The first is that our company invests in things that make the world a better place. The examples that make me proud are working with clients on ground breaking and noble projects like solutions for preventing and managing epidemics, mapping the genome for cancer research, and supporting cities like Cape Town in developing strategies for managing social assets.
The second is about people. I am motivated and proud when I have the opportunity to work with individual IBMers who consistently demonstrate the following hierarchy of values:
- Put the client first and do what is right for the client
- Put IBM second
- Put their business unit or specific role third
- Put their personal short term metrics fourth
While our corporate emphasis shifts from quarter to quarter, the individuals I have worked with who exemplify these priorities succeed because they maintain this focus in all circumstances. As a result, they are trusted by the client, trusted by their colleagues and executives, and trusted by their teams – and without exception, they all deliver consistent long term results to both clients and IBM.
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