2011 in review: How I spent my Centennial
Delaney Turner 270003RQ8K Delaney.Turner@ca.ibm.com | | Tags:  ibmsoftware ibmwatson ibm100
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It’s a lot easier to celebrate a century than it is to stay in business for one.
A lot more fun, too.
Back in January, IBM Chair, President & CEO Sam Palmisano called 2011 “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity [for IBMers] to reconnect with our company...what we stand for and value... [to] show the world what makes IBM and IBMers unique.”
From where I sit, I think we delivered.
This was not a “top-down” Centennial Celebration. Rather – and by explicit design – it was open, accessible and easy to share. Whether by connecting to their favorite Icons of Progress, participating in one of the 5,000 Celebration of Service volunteer projects or by simply tweeting with the #ibm100 hashtag, IBMers took ownership of the Centennial and quickly made it their own.
For my own part, I was proud to lead a group of 30-plus IBMers and friends in a skills building workshop series at the Ottawa Mission. Our efforts led to a $15,000 grant to help the Mission bolster its education, employment and skills training for my city’s most vulnerable and at-risk citizens. On a lighter note, my post on the IBM Selectric set off an email trail that connected collector/restorer Jordan Armstrong with an increasingly rare motor clutch bushing (IBM part no. 1236572) that he couldn’t find anywhere else:
As I am sure you know, the Selectric is an incredibly durable machine, one that with proper care and maintenance could last practically forever, which is my hope. With the Selectric I recently turning 50, I hope to have and restore many more machines up to it's 100th birthday. If I should be so lucky. Could you please forward this message to someone, anyone, who perhaps would know of a supply in some deep dark corner of an IBM warehouse?
"Change everything except your beliefs"
In 1962, then-CEO Tom Watson Jr. remarked that “to survive and achieve success, a company must be willing to change everything about itself except its beliefs.” I’d argue you could apply the same idea to your own career. With Transformation as a dominant theme in the Centennial celebrations, I made important changes of my own.
Most importantly, I changed jobs. After nearly a decade in Business Analytics, I made the transition to a new role with IBM Software. So far, I believe, the move has paid off. My new role brings with it new and expanded responsibilities. As a result I’ve taken big steps to broaden my perspective on our business and develop my skills in innovative new ways. The past six months have been phenomenal.
The biggest transformation, however, is yet to come. Next year I will participate in the IBM Corporate Service Corps. Modeled on the Peace Corps, the “CSC” pulls together diverse teams of IBMers from around the world and sends them for a month to emerging markets around the world. While there they work in communities with NGOs and local leaders to improve their economies and make their cities smarter. Many participants call it the most significant event of their lives. I can’t wait.
The best is yet to come
Next month, Palmisano will cede IBM's top job to Ginni Rometty. The move was applauded by observers and earlier this month IBM was afforded a vote of confidence by one of the world’s most demanding investors.
I, too, believe the company’s best days are yet to come. Warren Buffet has his reasons; here are mine:
Compelling vision: In the most unsettled and uncertain age in decades, our ongoing Smarter Planet strategy offers a way for companies, governments and IBMers to solve the toughest challenges we face as a society. Like no other company, IBM understands that our world is growing increasingly instrumented, interconnected and intelligent. Like no other company, IBM views the confluence of these trends as a tremendous opportunity to transform and improve the way the world literally works. From New York to Stockholm and within industries as diverse as retail, healthcare and banking, IBMers redoubled their efforts with clients, partners and community organizations to make their processes, systems and people work smarter.
Relentless innovation: Watson – the latest IBM “Grand Challenge” - captured the public’s imagination when it bested Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, the two most successful Jeopardy! contestants ever to pick up the signaling button. But Watson was no mere novelty. IBM’s value proposition is to create and provide innovative solutions to our clients - solutions they can’t get from anyone else. Watson’s unique union of natural language processing and computational prowess opens new avenues of potential for IT architectures and advanced analytics to solve previously insoluble problems. Today, a mere eight months after its prime-time debut, Watson is at work in a real-world situation, sorting helping clinicians in Texas deliver patient care by sorting through and analyzing reams of medical information with ease.
Passionate people: IBM is most commonly thought of as a technology company. But what made the Centennial remarkable was its human dimension. The first Centennial video, 100 X 100 told the story of IBM’s technological innovation not in arcane terms but in human ones. As the film progresses from clocks to punch cards to Deep Blue and Watson, we see human stories – full of risk, courage, even humor. In the second, They Were There, retired IBMers recount stories of their own experiences and how through IBM they were able to change the way the world works.
The final video, A Culture of Service, showcases how IBMers use their skills and abilities to make a positive contribution to the world. The quality and commitment of IBMers has for me been the biggest discovery. Rare is the week when I don’t meet another exceptionally talented and committed individual.
Carry it forward
It's been a remarkable year for me at IBM. I am tremendously proud of this company and what it’s achieved. I am unduly excited about the possibilities it offers me to learn and grow. At the same time I’ve been humbled by the tremendous generosity, enthusiasm and dedication that my colleagues have shown me in helping IBM move forward toward its goal of making a positive difference in my own backyard. As it enters its second century, IBM can draw from the lessons of its first for the confidence and perseverance it will need to succeed. Through my experience of its Centennial, I know I can draw on these lessons to succeed in my own career as well.