Friday, November 4, 2011

What is Rometty Up Against As She Takes the Helm at IBM?

Ginni Rometty of IBM and interviewer Jessi Hem...Image by Fortune Live Media via Flickr“She’s tough. She’s demanding.”

That’s what IBMers who have worked for the company’s new CEO say about her. Of course, she would have to be tough, demanding, and a lot more than that to reach the top spot. In fact, the few women who have achieved this level of success have often been called aggressive and other terms that women generally consider unflattering.

There is no doubt about it – Virginia Rometty’s rise to the top spot is groundbreaking – both inside and outside of IBM. At IBM, she is the company’s first female CEO, and she is one of a very small club of female CEOs. But the few women who have achieved the top spot in technology companies don’t always fare well.

So, what is Rometty up against?

While she won’t officially take the reins until January 2012, this announcement comes with IBM stock at a near-all-time high. Rometty needs to continue to drive growth, certainly an enormous challenge in today’s economy.

Rometty is home-grown IBM talent, having joined the company in 1981 after a short stint at GE. Her background at IBM is in sales, marketing, and services. Knowing the inner workings of IBM, and IBM’s clients will surely be an advantage. But will she be able to hold her own as a technology leader?

Her direct reports were once her peers – all male with the exception of Linda Sanford – and many who were also considered to be in the running for her job. These include Steve Mills, the iconic leader of IBM’s Software and Systems Group and others who drive IBM’s technical strategy.

Rometty is going to need to draw upon the considerable talents of this team, while holding her own as the final arbiter and decision maker. Most importantly, she will need to continue to convince Wall Street that IBM has the right strategies and can deliver – something her successor, Sam Palmisano, did masterfully.


Liz Fichera said...

Good for her! It will be interesting to watch her progress as CEO.

Carol Kilgore said...

I hope it works for her.

Anonymous said...

I had a scary moment shortly after reading this yesterday. A friend was discussing the challenges she was having with a 3 year old - "tough and demanding". I am blessed with having been a parent and know that if you don't take care tough and demanding toddlers grow into dysfunctional children.

I'd be a lot happier if the boss was caring and promoted the team capability of their organisation.

I wish Ms Rometty success, she can bring happiness to a lot of IBMers if she wants.


Colette said...

Yes, it will be interesting to watch her be successful, and it will be interesting to see how changes (or doesn't change) IBM.

Peter, good point! I do think tough at 3 is very different than tough at 54, but we'll have to wait and see how this plays out!

E.J. Wesley said...

Such a tough market, but she sure seems up to the task! I'd be scared to death heading up a major tech operation in the current times; everything changes so quickly!


Colette said...

EJ, so true -- tough time to be heading a tech company!

Joanne said...

Wow, she's got her work cut out for her. But she seems up to the challenge. I have a feeling she thrives on it.

Anonymous said...

Whilst the leader of any organisation can have a critical impact, IBM's strength is their people. Teams at IBM over the years have revolutionised IT - the PC, Bar codes, etc. IF Ms R. nurtures and supports her talent she has a chance of surviving. If she presides over the recent, cut costs, buy shares to inflate the stock price strategy then there will be tears