The Armonk, N.Y.-based tech giant reported its 18th straight quarter of declining revenue, but both earnings and sales actually beat analysts’ estimates. That was mainly due to growth in the company’s cloud and analytics business—which is what Rometty focused on during her moderated conversation with Fortune editor Alan Murray in Laguna Niguel. That and, of course, the ups and downs of steering her company through a massive transition.
“Some companies are high-growth,” Rometty told the audience. “We are high-value.”
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Many shareholders would opt for the former rather than the latter, but Rometty seems to have secured time to carry out IBM’s (IBM) transformation. Still, even as the company brings new and promising products like Watson, a cognitive computing system, to market, IBM—and its stock—remains under pressure.
Rometty talked about Watson’s growing use in healthcare, primarily in the field of genomics and cancer diagnosis and treatment. Watson can also be used to assist in retail and financial services, among other sectors. But does that mean that artificial intelligence systems like Watson could take over our jobs? Yes and no, said Rometty.
“If you step back and look at technology from every era, it has displaced jobs but also created a lot of jobs,” said the CEO. “One day we’re going to look back and whatever this era will get called, it’s going to put a premium on math and science.”
The debate on skills and jobs is an important one, said Rometty, who also answered questions on politics (“Trade is good,” according to the CEO).
“We have a big responsibility to help here [in education],” said Rometty. “We should prepare our future workforce differently. It isn’t just advanced STEM degrees. There are many jobs you can do without advanced degrees. I’m very optimistic on what can be done.”
For the past 36 months, Rometty has taught a monthly, virtual class to IBM employees across the world. “The idea is getting in people’s minds, refreshing your skills,” she said.
While Rometty didn’t endorse either presidential candidate, she did have some guidance for them both, saying the focus should be on issues like education and retraining employees and diversity and inclusion.