On IBM and Seeking out Mentors, Sponsors and Coaches

Ok. First, I’ll confess. 

When I was outside IBM, I pictured it as a big AND slow moving ship….too slow for the speed I like to move at.

I pictured grey haired blue-eyed men navigating the big ship carefully in rough waters somewhere in the middle of the ocean and keeping it not only afloat but also flourishing after a century.

In a day and age when companies are born and dead before I can saw the word IBM, IBM has lived on for a long time.

A century. Over 100 years. IBM has stayed afloat and re-invented itself.

Stop. Breathe. Think about that..for a moment. 

Hit rewind…

I saw one of my first IBM computers in a very tiny lab during my undergraduate days in Trichy (South India).

Trichy is a very hot city throughout the year. Well, except for the monsoons. 

So, the precious IBM computer had to be placed in a tiny lab which was air-conditioned 24 hours to prevent the internal components from melting over.

I had to leave my shoes outside the lab to ensure the dust wouldn’t get inside the computer’s openings (remember, floppy disk days).

My fascination with IBM started then.

Fast forward now..

With that context, let me tell you about what happened on Wed this week.

I showed up to a webinar series that Janine Sneed, Chief Digital Officer, VP of Customer Success IBM Cloud and Cognitive Software runs as part of an internal organization called GROW (Guidance, Resources, Outreach for Women). 

Get it….Grow Women! What a fun name?!

Janine and her co-sponsors of GROW have taken it upon themselves to invest in women.

Janine had invited Linda Brown, Executive Succession & Development Partner to talk to women this Wed on the need for mentors, sponsors and coaches.

Given Linda’s experience in recruiting, talent management, workforce management, leadership development, mentoring, retention, and diversity….she killed it.

Everything you need to know to not only have a meaningful career, but also grow and pay it forward…Linda managed to coach in 50 minutes.

Here are a couple of snapshots of what Linda shared.

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Alright, that brings me to my observation

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Perception Error #1: Picture on the left

What happens when we perceive the world, not as it is, but as we are.

Perception Error #2: Picture on the right

What happens when we view a situation disparately.

Learning – We have to use our meta-cognition and real-experience to self-correct perception issues that are rampant in our understanding of the world.

And, that brings me to the story I want to share with you today.

My outside perception on IBM was SO wrong.

I have realized that in my last couple of years here.

IBM is a FAST moving BIG ship.

IBM is not a big AND slow moving ship. It moves faster than speedy me. I have to run to keep up with IBM’s innovative trends (AI, cloud, security in every industry you can name).

Every day, I rush to work after drinking my single cup of coffee (with milk, of course).

I do it because IBM is what I love the most….people…talented people…passionate people…driven people.

IBM is PEOPLE.

IBM has people that I love to learn from and collaborate with.

There is not one single day that is easy. 

But, I know that every single team member that I work across cross-functionally (across this planet) is trying their best to dig their oar in the rough waters and move this big ship forward in the right direction for our clients and IBM.

IBM is INCLUSION.

IBM believes in many different views, many different voices, many different colors at the table. 

IBM believes every body needs to bring their full self to the workplace, and engage in a world of inclusion. A four-time Catalyst award recipient, IBM was recognized in 2018 for the advancement of women in business.

I know what you are saying to yourself “Ambal, tie up the loose ends, as you always do in every story. Tell us about about the grey haired blue-eyed men who navigate the big ship carefully in rough waters.”

Not to worry. I haven’t forgotten.

As far as the grey haired blue-eyed men who I have learnt bleed blue and operate with the singular and unwavering focus to change the world by serving one client at a time…..well, they love hearing stories of how my parents mortgaged their house to buy their daughter a one way ticket for her to go build a life in the land of dreams. They tell me the most precious stories of their childhood. They tear up and give me a big hug when I open my heart to them and talk about my arduous journey to “the land of the brave and the free”. They also crack up when I joke about how frugality is written all over my South Indian genes. After all, grey haired blue-eyed men who navigate big ships…are people too…with big hearts.

So, let me wrap it up.

I know now.

I know at IBM “diversity” and “inclusion” are not brand gimmicks.

I know because IBM not only includes me but invests in me. (Eternally grateful to these 2 stalwarts – Julie Lockner, Daniel Hernandez)

IBM invests in me.

Me. 

A nobody.

A South Indian girl.

A poor South Indian girl.

A poor South Indian girl whose big-bright-shiny-eyes opened up wider when she saw that first IBM computer in a tiny lab.

I am an IBM-er and I am proud of it.

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