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Insights: Meet Ginni Rometty in Her Own Words

September 20, 2019 00:00 AM UTC
- Updated May 01, 2020 20:10 PM UTC

The Chairman, President, and CEO of IBM was interviewed ahead of Most Powerful Women 2019.

[MUSIC PLAYING] I'm Ginni Rometty, chairman, CEO, and president of IBM. [MUSIC PLAYING] I started out as an engineer, having gotten a degree in both computer science and electrical engineering. And then worked at both General Motors and IBM. And over that time frame, I've done everything from very technical jobs, obviously as a engineer, up through many, many different roles in general management. And one of the greatest common threads as I think back was every job. I took, I just thought about what can I learn from this. And if I just focused on that, I'd be prepared for whatever was next. [MUSIC PLAYING] My very first job, if you put aside things like babysitting and lifeguarding, believe it or not, I sorted mail, third shift, for the US post office. I certainly learned the value of an education. That with the right education, you could then do whatever you wanted. A little bit later after college, though, my very first job was working for General Motors. I have to say, while I like cars, I am not passionate about cars as other people are. And it was what I learned at that time, what I was passionate about was taking IT And applying it to lots of different industries. And in the end, so much of our life is working. It matters to do something you're absolutely passionate about. [MUSIC PLAYING] Well, there was never a watershed moment that I can remember saying to myself, gee, I want to be CEO. But what I do have is a really strong memory, throughout my whole career, that anyone in IBM could be anything or anything they wanted to be in IBM. And that to me, I think, always gave me that feeling that just keep going because you can be whatever you want to be. One of the things I've tried to do is live by a couple leadership themes, lessons, that I have sort of accumulated over my time as a leader. The first one is, and it's really one I learned from my mother, and it had to do with what I watched her do to bring up four kids all by herself, which was never let anyone define who you are. The second lesson, I would say, I actually learned from my husband. And it had to do about having more confidence about taking on risk. And I would call it growth and comfort never co-exist. And that's what gives you energy to go forward. And then, the third, I would tell you I learned it from Ken Chenault, but actually, it came from Napoleon. And it's, I think, a wonderful thing as you run bigger and bigger organizations. Always define reality. But then give hope. [MUSIC PLAYING]