What do you look for when you’re assembling a team? What’s the most important skill you look for? These were the questions asked from the 2014 class of IBM Fellows. See what they have to say.
“You might think it would be stochastic optimization equations, but it’s really something much simpler… curiosity. You have to be fascinated with what’s driving things for our customers. You might say, sure I know this retailer, I buy my coffee there. But do you really understand their business and what drives their customers’ behavior and patterns? What are they saying on social media? How does the weather impact customers’ behavior? Once you start taking this customer point of view, you can find insights in the data. It still takes some smart people to think through all the angles and understand the math. But it all starts with curiosity. That’s what I look for in data scientists.“ IBM Fellow Michael Haydock, Business Analytics & Optimization.
“I always look for the problem solvers—even if the person is not necessarily right for the position I’m hiring for. Is the person a thinker, a leader, someone who is going to make a real impact? You are going to work with these people a lot of hours, fight with them over concepts and work late into the night. You have to have the right person who will fit within the culture.” IBM Fellow Sandy Bird, Security Systems
“To me, it’s not what you know and how smart you are. It’s your attitude. How well are you going to fit into the team? If I ask you to do something new, are you going to go figure it out on your own? In the SO world, you encounter all sorts of challenges. You can work through anything, it’s all about attitude.” IBM Fellow Rhonda Childress, SSO Delivery
“The tendency is to look for the highest grade point average. Some of the best engineers I’ve ever known have not had the highest GPA. I look for people who love challenges and are not put off by something being hard. It actually stimulates them. I’ve known brilliant people who have a hard time when something is hard. I look for people who don’t limit themselves. They have confidence in their abilities. They know they can do more than it appears. In my experience, there are the critics and there are the solvers. I don’t want to hire critics. I want people who look at tough problems and say, have you tried this? Have you looked at the problem another way? They make good engineers. There’s not much business value to IBM for solving what is simple. The opportunity is in those challenges that seem almost impossible.” IBM Fellow Andy Walls, Storage Systems
“First, passion. You need to have passion. Everything else can be learned. If you’re at IBM Research, you’ve already cleared a high bar in terms of general technical and scientific knowledge. The passion is what will set you apart, and keep you interested in your work. Another piece of advice that relates to this is from the manager who put me in my current role. She told me ‘you will get as many ideas from the people who work for you, as you could ever come up with alone.” IBM Fellow Shiv Vaithyanathan, Cognitive Computing
“The capability to innovate, to think out of box, the ability to take risks. I like those kind of folks. Not the people who are trying to come up with reasons for not doing something without actually giving alternatives. Very often, you don’t have time to think, through every single turn. You have to take a risk, you have to go forward, adjust as you go. Especially in this market—things are happening too fast to see that all t’s are crossed and i’s dotted.” IBM Fellow Namik Hrle, Information Management