by Edie Stern
IBM Distinguished Engineer, Tivoli Analytics and Event Management
Remember when you wondered if you’d make it through your first week at IBM? You did it, kiddo, and you’ll have more than 35 years with IBM. You’ve worked hard, and you’re smart. That’s been a decent combination. But there are a few things that will take you a while to figure out, so let me give you a little advice.
Have confidence in yourself. Have persistence and commitment, and you’ll develop the skills to be a leader. Oh, and when Momma told you to be modest, she meant to exempt performance reviews. Your managers will have a good opinion of you, and it’s ok to show them you have a good opinion of yourself too.
No one is a mind reader around here, so ask for what you want. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. When you know what you want to do, ask for the job. It’s ok not to know what you want to do, but look for the ‘sweet spot’ — look for work you want to do, that will have an impact if it succeeds. After all, you’re going to work very hard to make your projects successful. So, if those projects are wildly successful, you want it to mean something. And hey, make sure you have customer interactions. You’ll learn that the best projects, the best stories, and the big excitement comes from solving real problems for real customers. Customers give you the reality check you don’t always get in the lab, and an irreplaceable outside viewpoint.
You’ll be lucky. Almost every job you’ll have is “the best job in the company”. At least that’s how you’ll feel about them at the time. However, occasionally you’ll end up with a stinker of a job, and a distinct lack of enthusiasm for it. Suck it up and get the job done; only once will the product you take over turn out to be internally documented in Swedish.
You’ll work with the best, the brightest and the most knowledgeable colleagues. Revel in it; these folks are fun. What other company has the talent to work on predicting changes in premature infant health, manage digital advertising insertion, evaluate advanced battery technology, make 300mm wafers, and manage network performance for networks with millions of resources? Plus, play piano at the concert level, build turkey fryers, and star in a reality TV show.
IBM is so big, it’s almost like a country of its own. That’s a tremendous advantage. Little companies can’t often afford to invest in research, or patents, or plan for the long haul. In IBM, there are always interesting projects and jobs to be done. You’ll have lots of different jobs and careers and never have to change employers. You’ll work on PCs (like a 5100 only smaller), telephony applications,remote healthcare monitoring, and even big 18 wheeler trucks, not to mention being part of a team that earns a technical Emmy.
You’ll get lots of help along the way, and you won’t always be able to pay it all back. No problem — you can pay it forward. There’ll be ample opportunity to give advice and guidance to those that are a little less experienced.
It’s a big adventure, and you have a lot ahead of you, both hard work and fun. Isn’t it great that we get to do this for decades?
Best…Edie P.S. You’ll really like the patent work, so don’t wait so long to get started on that!