“We are living in a generation of technologies where this combination of technologies will solve the “unsolvable” problems facing the world, and maybe even allow us to think about things that haven’t been thought about yet.” – Lauren States, VP, IBM Software Group
Leslieanne John, P-TECH student and IBM CAI intern, conducted a series of executive interview posts exploring topics such as the technical skills necessary for business today and preparing students for the future. She also looked into technical skills gaps and how technology integrates with education. Her fifth interview was with Lauren States, Vice President, Strategy and Transformation, IBM Software Group.
It’s easy to see why she’s so successful, I thought during my recent interview with Lauren States, IBM Software Group’s Vice President of Strategy and Transformation. To my surprise, she shares my interest in the positive psychological effects of music and my passion for reading. Lauren is an expert on what, in my opinion, is one of the most mystical and confusing aspects of technology: the cloud. With Lauren’s clear explanation, I found this “entity” not as hard to comprehend as it seems.
You were named one of the 25 Influential Black Women of 2006 by The Network Journal and inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame this year. How does it feel to receive these honors?
It was very gratifying because they are such extraordinary honors.
You have said on multiple occasions that your parents played a major part in your success. What is the best advice that they ever gave you?
Honestly, the best advice that they have given me was advising me to attend the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, which is one of the top business schools in the United States. I had always been an exceptional math student, but I didn’t really know what to do with that skill. Since my parents both have backgrounds in math, I trusted their judgment. Going to Wharton was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. Looking back at my experience there, I see that I endured a very rigorous curriculum in regards to math and critical thinking. This type of education is what prepared me for working with very complex technologies, and the critical thinking skills have helped me with problem solving. Also, when I was younger, my degree from Wharton was a really good credential to have to break into a great company like IBM in a competitive job market.
What continues to motivate you?
The notion that I am able to effect positive and material change – for employees, my clients, and our company. I am also motivated by the fact that there are a million more things for me to work on, so I don’t think I’ll ever be bored.
The simplest definition would be: a system that has the capability to diffuse technologies so that they can be accessed only when needed. I’m sure you use Facebook and some kind of email. All of that is up in the Cloud, and you don’t have to worry about making sure that you install and maintain them on your own devices. They’re always there, and they’re always readily available.
How has Cloud revolutionized the technology industry?
Well, it’s all about collaboration and the ability for people with different backgrounds to work across broad distances. The cloud also contributes insights that you can now gather with big data. These things are considered “disruptive.” Individually they are okay, but together I think of them as a force multiplier. So many things are happening now that weren’t even considered possible five years ago. We are living in a generation of technologies where this combination of technologies will solve the “unsolvable” problems facing the world, and maybe even allow us to think about things that haven’t been thought about yet.
What does a typical day look like for you?
In a day, usually I will have some interaction with a client or a partner. We have a lot of meetings both here internally within Software Group and with colleagues across IBM. Sometimes meetings will be face-to-face, but more often they’re teleconference calls. I also like to read every day to keep up with this very fast-moving industry. I’m reading my Twitter feed to see what’s hot, or tech magazines, or even magazines like the Harvard Business Review – that’s one of my favorites. I try to read a book every week. It’s quite a challenge. Then if I’m really lucky I get the chance to practice the piano at night.
What general advice would you give young people in order for them to be successful in their careers?
Build a network and reach out to people in that network, even people who are maybe more experienced, older, or more skilled than you. Then ask them for their help, because I really do believe that people are very generous and they want to help. You shouldn’t believe that there’s a barrier because somebody is successful. Those are the people who really want to say “Here’s how I did it. Here’s what I might have done differently.”
About Lauren States
Lauren C. States is Vice President, Strategy and Transformation for IBM’s Software Group Sales Division, responsible for the overall sales strategy and go-to-market for IBM’s software business. Prior to her current role, she was Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, IBM Corporate Strategy, leading the technical strategy for IBM’s growth initiatives with a focus on cloud computing, software, and systems technologies.
- Lauren States inducted into the WITI Hall of Fame (2014)
- Lauren States stories and interviews on Huffington Post, Forbes, CloudNow, IBM Smarter Planet blog
- Connect with Lauren on LinkedIn and Twitter
About the IBM Center for Applied Insights
The IBM Center for Applied Insights introduces new ways of thinking, working and leading. Through evidence-based research, the Center arms leaders with pragmatic guidance and the case for change.