By Yetunde Oluwatuyi
With the present political atmosphere and trend around the world, it is obvious that the era of the deafening silence of women in the society has gone with the wind. The energy that women have brought to the political, economic and social scenes is unprecedented in history. The same energy is clearly evident in IBM, only that ours spans over several decades and across different continents.
I am from the southwestern part of Nigeria, precisely of the Yoruba tribe. I completed my undergraduate studies in Nigeria before I came to the US in 2013 to further my education. I obtained a Master of Arts degree in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota. During my graduate program, I had the unique opportunity to intern with this prestigious company. I must say that the experience I had was really invaluable, hence, my enthusiasm to return when I was offered full-time employment. Major myths have been dispelled since I joined this prestigious company and that amazes me every time I think about it.
A Myth Dispelled
One myth I had was that coming to work as a foreign person in the US would be very tough and that it would be difficult to be immersed in the culture of the company – I worried that I may not have a voice. This myth was quickly dispelled during my internship. In July of 2014, Ginni Rometty, IBM’s Chairman and CEO, requested to have a round table discussion with interns from Africa. I was fortunate to be invited to that round table discussion and her interest and passion for Africa is unparalleled.
One of the nine IBM practices –- “Listen for need, envision the future”— was demonstrated right in front of me by the CEO! When I learned about the carefully planned business strategy that IBM is implementing in Africa, I was not surprised. As an integral part of the IBM Leading to Africa (L2A) program and a member of the HR Leadership Development Program, I will be going back to Africa to support our business strategy in that region.
Growth becomes almost inevitable with the quality of support, resource and wealth of knowledge in IBM. From my internship experience up until now, I have taken on several incredible roles –from being a Learning Consult Intern to being a US Diversity Compliance Specialist, a Program Manager and faculty member of the MEA HR University and to leading a Cognitive Build project. It is incredible how much I have grown in such a short period of time with IBM. The depth of expertise and people’s genuine interest in my career growth have gone a long way in my development. I have had access to mentors from whom I have learned invaluable lessons.
As a female, I can boldly say that I have been treated as an equal. Coming from a patriarchal society, I thought it was going to be more difficult for a woman to thrive in the business place in the US – let alone take any leadership role for projects and assignments. Well, that myth was once again dispelled! The enterprise wide Cognitive Build project gave me the opportunity to hone my leadership skills, and I did not let that opportunity slide. I was amazed by the support and cooperation I got from my team members for this project. While our project did not get past the funding stage, I consider it a great accomplishment to be allowed to thrive and to contribute to IBM’s growth.
What the future holds…
“Growth and comfort do not coexist…,” these were the words I heard from the CEO during our round table discussion on Africa. Without a shadow of doubt, my future with IBM will continuously be filled with great learning opportunities, speckled with challenges.
My story reflects that no matter your lack of experience, role, age, location within IBM, there is always room for growth and development.
As a woman, I believe that dedication and passion in the right environment gives more room for growth. IBM’s investment in the career growth of women in the business place is very inspiring.In this era where women are taking their rightful place in the society, IBM is leading the way.
I have never felt more proud to be a woman. I have never felt more proud to be an African. And I have never felt more proud to be an IBMer.
Yetunde Oluwatuyi is a Diversity Manager at IBM.
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