Anna Johansson– An Inspirational Executive

Inspirational Executives Series – IBM Europe.

This series consists of interviews that profile executive IBM’ers across Europe to demonstrate how one may successfully build an executive career in this increasingly demanding market.

Juggling work, life, and family commitments is a daunting challenge, but this series reveals how, with careful time management, flexible leadership, and a willingness to embrace challenge, IBM can support successful executives throughout Europe to succeed in every aspect of their careers.

Anna Johansson– IBM Executive Partner – Global Business Services,  Stockholm, Sweden.


Anna is an Executive Partner for Global Business Services in Sweden.

Anna Johansson - PhotoHer career trajectory has been dynamic, exciting, and genuinely inspiring. After graduating from the School of Business, Economics & Law at the University of Gothenburg in 2000, Anna has spent the past sixteen years working for various multinational organizations. She began her career as an Application Consultant at Volvo, became a Consultant at PwC two years later, and then joined IBM as part of their acquisition of PwC in 2003. At IBM she has gone from Senior Managing Consultant, to Associate Partner, to Executive Partner in the past thirteen years.

This interview discusses how Anna’s career has grown over the past sixteen years, how she manages her work-life balance, and what advise she would give to others aspiring to an executive career at IBM.

What is your current role at IBM
I am the Account Partner at one of our large Client accounts in Public Sector. You can look at that role from many angles;

  • from a Client perspective I am supporting my Client in taking them on the next step in their transformation journey ensuring that IBM provide them with the innovation and delivery capability to do so;
  • from an IBM perspective I hold the ownership and accountability of the account and am responsible for revenue & profit as well as business development;
  • and from a people perspective it is ensuring that the consultants on my account have a foundation to deliver at their best and get the development opportunities they need.

In addition to my Account Partner role, I am also fortunate to be the Enterprise Applications Consulting by Degrees Leader in Europe. Consulting by Degrees is IBMs Global graduate program and the purpose of this role is to ensure that consultants in our Enterprise Applications (SAP, Oracle, Microsoft) Service Line gets a unified experience of IBM and the program no matter where in Europe they reside, and that we from a Service Line perspective provide sponsorship to ensure the consultants get integrated into our business. The program is grooming our future business leaders and working with our graduates as a true inspiration – so the future of IBM is bright!

What are the most rewarding aspects of your role?
Talking to our graduates, I often get the question “what is your best career tip?” and my response is “find out what you are passionate about”. Throughout the years I have realized my passion is problem solving. In the past it might have been solving a math problem in high school, and now it could be finding a solution to a Client challenge or successfully completing a negotiation. Looking at multiple angles of a challenge and figuring out a solution – at best together with my colleagues – is my passion and what I get to do in one way or another on a daily basis.

You’ve been with IBM since 2003. What has the company done so well to keep you for the thirteen years?
Our CEO Ginny Rometty has said, “growth and comfort do not co-exist”. At IBM I have been given continuous opportunities to “get in at the deep end”, and get uncomfortable, whilst being surrounded with people that has had a belief in me and helped me develop through those challenges.

How do you manage your work life balance?
I believe you need to love your job, but your job can’t be your only love – you need to have a second love; a hobby, sports, friends or family.
I also try and live by “the Balance Sheet analogy” that a former mentor taught me. Look at your personal life like you would a Balance Sheet. Just like in business, your personal Balance Sheet has assets and liabilities, you need to make sure they are in balance because if your liabilities overcome your assets you go bankrupt. To me, this is not about having a check list or detailed plan (and believe me I am a check-list-person!). It’s rather a mental picture, and once in a while taking 5 minutes to contemplate on whether my liabilities are starting to overcome my assets, and if so what do I about it.

Do you have any recommendations for employees aspiring to an executive career at IBM?
IBM has conducted a really interesting study called ”Your Journey to Executive” (2013), where 450 IBM executive women in 30 countries were interviewed on their path to IBM Executive. The conclusions of the study really resonates to me in terms of what it takes to become an Executive at IBM; Visibility, Planning & Work/Life integration.
To me, Visibility is not about ”showing off”, but rather a) taking on challenges and thereby showcasing your capability, and b) building a network around you; peers, managers, mentors, sponsors that sees potential in you and that are willing to invest to see you grow.
When it comes to planning, careers are not handed to you, in IBM or anywhere else, you have to take charge yourself and in order to be in charge you need a plan. What “a plan” means is individual, but with a goal, a plan, and making sure you “practice what you want to get good at” you will get along way.


Check out previous editions of this series below.

Gill Wiggins – An Inspirational Executive.

Sarah Bernuit – An Inspirational Executive.

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