My First Job: IBM 50 Years Ago

IBM Logo

Hard for me to believe, but I finished engineering school and joined IBM 50 years ago today, June 1. I was very fortunate to have many jobs during 35 years there. Introducing the IBM ThinkPad in 1992 was special, but my job as Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for IBM’s Internet activities was definitely the most exciting and rewarding assignment of my career. Some people called me the strategist, some called me a visionary, and some called me chief dreamer. My friend and former boss,  wrote a nice letter about my career where he coined a new word, e-tirement.

I feel very lucky to have worked with Internet technology because it was also my hobby. The best part of the job was that I got to work with a lot of very smart people, both inside and outside of IBM, and participate with key industry organizations such as the Internet Society, the World Wide Web Consortium, and the Global Internet Project. In 2008, I was named a Fellow of the IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. They said the recognition was for technical and policy development for the World Wide Web.

In late Spring, 1994, a grassroots team within IBM began to pursue a vision I wrote called “Get connected”. I described how I believed IBM could take advantage of the computer power available inside the company and on the Internet. The Harvard Business Review wrote a story about it in 2000 called, “Waking Up IBM: How a Gang of Unlikely Rebels Transformed Big Blue“. The Internet Technology group, I was fortunate to lead beginning in 1995 helped transform the company  into an Internet company which performed tens of thousands of engagements with customers, helping them “Get connected” to their customers using the Internet. We also did pioneering work with the Atlanta Olympic Games of 1996, which at the time was the largest website ever built.

The Internet became strategically important for IBM under the leadership of Lou Gerstner. Most CEOs in the 1990s did not get it, but Lou did. We coined the name e-business and intentionally did not trademark it. We wanted everybody to talk about e-business, and they did. It was a home run. 

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to give more than 100 presentations about “The Future of the Internet” to IBMers, customers, and to industry groups around the world. The feedback from people who visited my blog, which I started in 1995, was invaluable. Working on my weekly e-brief and interacting with people who visit continues to be a rewarding hobby for me. I learned a lot at IBM and shared the Internet experience through my first book, Net Attitude. A new version was published in January 2016.

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