One afternoon in 2002, the red light turned on on my office phone. I had a voicemail.
That morning, IBM had announced its acquisition of PWC Consulting, which was the largest acquisition in the history of IBM. I'd worked on one part of the PWC Consulting side of the deal. There was talk of some hotshot woman from IBM who led the whole thing.
Got to admit -- feelings were mixed.
On one hand, many of us were highly skeptical of how tech-driven IBM would manage a services business like ours. Rumors were that IBM had driven a very hard bargain. And I'd grown up in an IBM town and I'm a creative type. Talk about Big Blue and the "IBM way!" I was nervous of what I knew as a very rigid culture. My dad had always wanted me to work at IBM. Me? Not so much.
On the other hand -- a major unit, led by a woman? Intriguing. Almost... exotic.
The flashing voicemail was a bulk message to all PWC consultants, thousands of us worldwide:
"Hello, I'm Ginni Rometty. Leader of IBM Global Services..."
In roughly two minutes, she would welcome us to the IBM family, tell us we were very special, that we would retain the best of our culture, and -- make no mistake -- we'd very soon be part of IBM. No question about who was in charge.
As we each hung up the phone and looked around at each other from our cubes, the eyes were wide, jaws dropped and the comments were of wonder:
"WOW -- did you hear that?" and "Jeez, that woman leaves some seriously good voicemail."
It was electric. I'd until then and since never heard anything like it -- I'd always worked with very smart people. But this was a bit like watching a gold medal athlete in your favorite amateur sport. She was damn good, defining a new level of play. Yep -- in just a voicemail.
And for me and a few colleagues, it planted a seed -- a new vision of what a woman can be.
In the years since, a number of former colleagues and friends have worked in Ginni's periphery. Always impressed. Apparently she was very much the expected pick as IBM's next CEO, and it was just a matter of time.
And so this week the announcement came. It's a big deal for many of us.
Think about it. The CEO of IBM... is a woman? And so is Hewlett-Packard's? And to add to that, a gay man now helms Apple?
Talk about major progress.
There's some serious ratio-changing happening in the leadership of blue-chip tech America, and it's based on merit.
For a moment, let's pause to be thankful.
And then let's go kick some ass.
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