This IBM Executive Talks About Being Open to Change and Enjoying What You Do

Amanda Gosling is the Global Partner and leader for the iX Digital Strategy in IBM UK and Ireland. In this interview she discusses how her career developed, how she manages her work-life balance, and what advice she would give to others looking to follow her footsteps.

With Amanda Gosling

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To get us started, can you tell us about your background and career history?

I am originally from Australia, and like most people from that country, I went to Europe after finishing University – 10 hours after I finished my final exam! I loved London and decided I wanted to stay, so I went to the London office of Research International (where I worked when I was in Sydney) and joined their graduate scheme. In the years following this, I grew my career and moved around London, New York, and the US west coast working for various multi-national companies and agencies during the dotcom era.

In 2009, I started working in Ogilvy to run the IBM direct and digital business where we transformed the business by bringing the advertising and demand generation closer together to drive more business. Early in this role, an IBM client gave me an idea when he told me, “If you want to become a consultant, call me.” Three years later, I joined IBM iX in London.

In IBM, I was, at different times, assigned as the Global and European Leader for Strategy and Design. Back then it was a new division and a new practice, and it was my responsibility to form, lead, and develop IBM iX. I then went on to become part of the team that set up the Digital Strategy Service Line and became the Leader for IBM UKI.

In the past five years working in IBM, how has your experience been?

Working at IBM has been different from anything I have experienced before. The cultural transformation that it is undergoing is quite amazing. And to be a part of that while at the same time advising clients on their own digital reinventions is a unique and privileged role to play. It has also been interesting, challenging, and fun to be part of the team that is forging the re-evaluation of the IBM brand by our clients, moving into new business areas and reframing our relationships with them. I guess everyone across IBM is doing this, but to do it from an experience-led perspective rather than technology has been an interesting ride.

 What are the most rewarding aspects of your role?

Engaging with clients to expand our engagements from massive data center deals; having new people engage with the clients that enable us to have advisory and customer engagement relationships; and to really be part of the clients’ business future as well as their technology future. All this at a time when the distinction between those two areas is getting less and less – where your business strategy requires a resulting technology strategy, and bringing these together has been interesting. After all it is much more about the people. It is always about the people. You cannot fake this sort of expertise, it is not learned in a book or a simple training course, it is learning throughout a career that builds logically upon each other.

How do you manage your work life balance?

I think you have to enjoy what you do so it becomes more than a question of balance. I enjoy lots of things in my life, and work is one of them that needs to find its appropriate place. There are times when I am flying across the world (literally from UK to NZ) every few weeks, and it becomes important to take advantage of the opportunities in a new country, to have headspace and explore the culture there. It is these experiences that make us who we are, so taking advantage of them when you can helps with the balance. Other times, I am quite strict about leaving the office. I may work from home again given the global nature of my job but it is important to escape and be with family and friends.

Do you have any recommendations for employees aspiring to an executive career?

Bring your full self to work every day. Diversity comes in many forms and they are all important, so don’t shy away from bringing every part of you to your teams.

Don’t be afraid to break the glass. We need more people wanting to help our clients make the world better, and often it has to start with breaking the norm. Change makes progress, and makers make change.

What skills did you develop to get to where you are now and how did that make an impact on your professional growth?

  • Ability to see a new reality. This is important if you are working with people to create something new.
  • Thinking small. Being able to break down the big picture into all its “small pictures”. You have to be able to make things real for people, in normal terms, and help them see their role and their own success in it.
  • Things will rarely go in a straight line in a successful career. You need to be able to find the honour and fun in the most difficult situations or tasks, and be able to frame it in a larger narrative. This is what will get you through.
  • A point of view and a personality. People remember people, and work with people they remember. You will be remembered for your point of view and your passion.

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