IBM’s Perna on the Importance of People

Forrest ChristianManaging, Organizations Leave a Comment

eWeek interviewd IBM’s Janet Perna as she retires this month (“Interview: IBM’s Perna Predicts Changes in What ‘Data’ Means”). She’s been with the company for 31 years, and in that time became one of the leading forces behind databases. Her closing comments about what she is really proud of is interesting and worth hearing.

[eWeek:] Looking back, what are you really proud of? The Informix acquisition? The self-managing database

That’s a tough question over a 30-year period. The thing, the most sustaining achievement, is the team you leave behind. It’s the people. The people really make this business what it is. When I look at it I look at the technical team, the sales team, the executive team that I’m leaving behind that will carry this on, not only on behalf of IBM but on behalf of customers and partners. That’s truly the legacy: Can what you’ve built sustain itself?

I’m very proud of the team, the organization, I’m proud of the business we’ve built together. We’ve taken it from a business of less than $1 billion to a multibillion-dollar business. We’ve significantly increased the size of the team. And moving from a database technology to where we are today with information integration, content management, and master data management, to all the acquisitions we’ve done, and our ability to integrate all the companies we’ve acquired through the years.

That’s tough from many perspectives: from people coming in, to people who were here, who continue to embrace new teammates, new colleagues. For me it’s about the people who are here and their support and the culture of dedication.

That I’m the most proud of. And that does result in good business.

At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about. That’s what it is.

Can what you’re building sustain itself after you’ve gone? Or have you created a culture dependent upon its creator?

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