IBM’s Rometty: 'Your Data Is Yours, Not Mine to Give Away'

A company's core values are critical as emerging technologies come onto the world stage.

Lynn Haber

November 13, 2017

4 Min Read

IBM chairman, president and CEO Ginni Rometty, one of the top women executives in the world – who also holds a B.S. in computer science and electrical engineering – knows a thing or two about technology, business and work. So, when the veteran IBMer, having been with the company since 1981, shares her thoughts on these topics, partners need to listen — particularly since the revamped IBM PartnerWorld Program, which shifted from a product-centric program to a competency-based one that rewards cognitive computing expertise, became effective in January.

In a fireside chat with Salesforce founder, chairman and CEO Marc Benioff at Dreamforce 2017, Rometty dove headfirst into the fundamentals about how a 106-year old company maintains a leadership position in the head-spinning world of technology.


IBM’s Ginni Rometty

“You have to be willing to change everything about yourself except your core values,” she told the packed audience. “And, at its core, it’s about innovating technology and applying it to business and society. It was true then; it’s true today,” she added.

More specifically, though, Rometty noted that the company’s core values are: being dedicated to every clients’ success; innovation that matters for the company and the world; and trust and responsibility in its relationships.

Rometty pointed to data as being one of the core issues of our time – and the responsibility of how we treat data or artificial intelligence properly coming into the world – and said there are some very simple decisions that you make when you have core values.

“When you talk about trust of clients, I think clients have trusted us with their most precious asset, which is their data. … This is something that IBM has always believed – and for your clients and our clients that we share together, which is about 5,000 common [ones] – we say, ‘Your data is yours, not mine to give away.’ If it’s artificial intelligence, you own the insights, you own the algorithms. If it’s free flow of data, the IBM cloud was built so you decide what country the data sits in, not a government. Or if a government asks for access, we’re the only tech that can say that we’ve never given a government’s surveillance program access to that data,” said Rometty.

Both she and Benioff agreed that big companies have a responsibility to usher technology, such as AI, safely into the world. Some principals around AI that Rometty suggested everyone in the room adopt are: purpose — IBM calls it cognitive, and the purpose is to augment, not replace man; transparency — which requires training, but you can train bias if you’re not careful; who owns the insights; and the need for new skills, and the obligation that goes with that.

On the workforce front, both tech CEOs agreed about the need for skills training, and a public-private partnership to change the face of education. With the number of computer-science graduates falling way short of the need for technology workers (only one-quarter of high schools teach computer science; there were 43,000 computer science college graduates in the U.S. last year compared to the 5-6 million job openings in technology), Rometty talked about the new collar worker.

New collar jobs are those in technology that …

… don’t require a Ph.D. or a lesser university degree. One IBM initiative underway is called P-Tech (Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools), a grade 9-14 education (no cost) model where graduates complete a six-year program, including an associate degree in STEM. One hundred schools have been participating in the program with 100,000 students expected to complete it.

“Give them a curriculum, give them a mentor electronically – and 300 companies are donating mentors, not just us – as well as a chance at a job — and jobs that are two times the median job salary. We’re doing this on four continents now,” Rometty outlined. In the U.S., 10 states are participating. IBM has other workforce growth initiatives such as apprenticeships and veteran training programs.

With all of the talk about new collar job initiatives and U.S. hiring, IBM has been criticized for thousands of layoffs and for the swelling ranks of overseas employees.

The fireside chat also touched on Quantum computing and blockchain, and the idea of responsibility for how it’s used.

“Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should do it,” Rometty said. Benioff agreed.

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About the Author(s)

Lynn Haber

Content Director Lynn Haber follows channel news from partners, vendors, distributors and industry watchers. If I miss some coverage, don’t hesitate to email me and pass it along. Always up for chatting with partners. Say hi if you see me at a conference!

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