tv The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations Bloomberg January 17, 2018 9:00pm-9:31pm EST
♪ david: at one point, your father left your mother. ginni: it was sudden, and my mother found herself with four kids, no money. david: let's talk about ibm for a moment. ginni: we are the champions for business. david: when you are meeting with president trump or other presidents, do you see that ceos are willing to say, mr. president, that is not a good idea? ginni: my experience is people are respectfully honest and give their opinions. david: do you feel a certain responsibility? ginni: women do need role models. we are still a small minority that run these companies. david: in the stay fit category. ginni: i do box with a person. the difference is he does not get to hit me. [laughter] >> would you fix your tie, please? david: people wouldn't recognize me if my tie was fixed, but ok. just leave it this way. alright.
♪ david: i don't consider myself a journalist. and nobody else would consider myself a journalist. i began to take on the life of being an interviewer, even though i have a day job of running a private equity firm. how do you define leadership? what is it that makes somebody tick? ♪ david: so, when you wake up in the morning, do you say, look at all that i have achieved and i am incredibly proud of what i have done? or do you say, geez, i have to go deal everyday with critics and other things? ginni: what a way to start. [laughter] ginni: ok. um, i don't think i had either of those thoughts on that first day. day ik on that first thought about, perhaps, what an honor it was and what a responsibility it is.
and i think, um, people forget that ibm is 106-years-old. and so, you really do get that feeling of -- you wake up that morning realizing you are a steward of something. so, a different feeling. david: at some point when i was growing up in the 1960's and 1970's, ibm was the dominant technology company in the world. and it just -- ginni: still is, david. [laughter] david: ok. ginny: ok. david: all right. do you think it has the same strength in the computer world that it had in the 1960's? ginni: to me, i would answer that ibm is great, but for a reason that you did not mention. um, i think the greatness of a technology company is if you can reinvent yourself over and over. and i say, we will watch and see, because it is one thing to reinvent yourself once, then twice, but do it three or four four, or five times. this is a really competitive industry that we are in, and i think we do something very unique. because it is one thing to have technology. it is another to have the know-how on how to use it. all right? so i feel what has made us distinctive in, while while we have gone through all sorts of products, i think the one kind of silver thread is that we really do help change the way
the world works, and i go back to the beginning in time, i mean, way back. ibm started -- it wasn't ibm actually at the time -- cheese-meat slicers, then it was clocks, tabulating, and then it was an era of, as you know, the mainframe, which was the back office. and then it reinvented itself again into software and services. and now we reinvent ourselves herself again. again.f to me, that art of reinvention and that dna is really what makes it unique. david: let's talk about your background for a moment. you grew up in chicago. and you have three sisters? ginni: two sisters and a brother. david: two sisters and a brother. ok, three siblings. ginni: yep. david: and at one point, your father left your mother, and your mother was not college-educated at the time, so how did she support four children? ginni: i continue to learn a lot from my mom. but i give my mom a lot of credit for all four of us. in that, as david said, my mother had a high school degree, but then quickly had us as children right after that.
and i was in my early teens when my dad chose to leave. and, it was sudden. and my mother found herself with four kids, no money, soon to be no home, soon to be no food. and, she did, as i said, i learned, you know, she was so intent on not letting other people define who she was. and we had to do some things for a short time. she had to go on food stamps. we had to get help. i mean, that is what entitlement programs in this country are for in many ways. but she went back to school. i had to help. i was the oldest. she went back to school at night and learned a profession. in fact, she became head of the administration for the sleep clinic at rush presbyterian in chicago. but, you know, a lot of people and family, like, i think, everyone's, they pitched in. my mom, i think, really taught us. i would say the lesson i learned is never let someone else define who you are. she was never going to let that situation define who she was. david: you were the babysitter for your three --
ginni: i was. i was. i have been to pta meetings, you know, bugle lessons. all sorts of things. david: did you get paid anything for the babysitting? ginni: no, no, i did not get paid. i probably should go sum that up. david: you had a scholarship to go to northwestern? ginni: i did. i did. actually, i'm proud of my brothers and sisters all. we always said -- my mom never complained. she never said much, but we all watched by what she did. announcer: and they sometimes say i am the underachiever. my brothers and sisters have been incredibly successful, and that really is that work ethic my mom instilled in us. and so, that to me is -- so when i went to northwestern that -- and i did have a scholarship, because we all looked for ways to do that and put ourselves through school. david: now your mother is still alive. does she call you and tell you how great you're doing, or does she say your other siblings are doing just as well? [laughter] ginni: actually, she calls and talks about all things normal mothers talk about, right? david: she does not ask about ibm? [laughter] ginni: her biggest thing -- this is a funny story about my mom. so this past easter, she was at my house, and i was having to leave in the middle of the day to get to the airport.
and my mom says, 'hey, before, before you leave, i have your annual report, and i have written you a little set of notes on it.' i am like, 'great, i'm even going to get a report card for my mother on this annual report.' [laughter] ginni: because the first thing, like a mom does, is she looks at the pictures. and then -- but my mom says, "look, i loved this annual report." she goes, "this annual report, i understand what ibm does." and it was 50 vignettes, 50 short little vignettes, about how the world and professions and industries change because of watson, about ai, about cloud computing, and how it will make life better. right? my mom goes, 'this is -- now i understand.' and then she had some comments about the look and the paper type and other things, so she gave me a report card. david: did you give any of these comments to your colleagues back at ibm?
ginni: yeah, i gave them all. yeah, sure. [laughter] ginni: i have a large retail shareholder base. yeah. david: you graduated from northwestern. and then, although you had a scholarship from general motors, you were not required to go work at general motors, but you felt you should? ginni: yeah. this is -- these are -- some schools and these were wonderful programs from companies in that day and age. this was an effort to get women and minorities into businesses. and at that time, general motors had a program which was they went to some of what were the best schools and said, gee, if i can get you -- the deal was i will pay your tuition, your room and board, everything. and someone going to school themselves, a professor said to me, hey, you ought to look at this program. and in return, work there in the summers. otherwise, no strings attached. so i had a wonderful set of internships with them. and then when i graduated, i did feel a sense, a real sense of obligation to first go to gm. i had a lot of other offers, but to go to gm. i was a computer science and engineering degree. david: were there a lot of women taking those courses in those days at northwestern? ginni: what do you think? david: not that many? ginni: no. i was probably the only woman in many of those classes, even then. david: so you are at general
motors for a couple of years. and then you hear of an opportunity to go to a company called ibm. ginni: it wasn't, as sometimes people think, that you have some long thought-out career plan. i'm sorry to tell you it was, i had been working at general motors, and while i liked what i was doing, i really felt, because i liked technology, it was this idea of to be able to apply to lots of different industries. and it was as simple as my husband said, hey, look, i have a friend and his dad works for ibm. why don't you just call him? and actually i think it was my husband who actually set the interview up, to be honest with you. david: did he get a finder's fee or anything from you? ginny: yeah, i am still paying that finder's fee. [laughter] ginni: so i went to the interview, and i was hired. david: what area where you initially? ginni: i started out as a systems engineer. david: ok. ginni: so i was a systems engineer. and i worked in banking, insurance, and i had many experiences through my years. and i remember i had gone into consulting, so i had learned a lot of things, and it was time to do another job. and the story i always tell is that i worked for a gentleman,
very good mentor, and he said to me, hey, i am going to get a new job, and you are going to get my job. you have got to go for an interview. you are one of the candidates. go to this interview. so i thought, hmm. i go to the interview, and they tell me all about the job and i am sitting there and i think, boy, in my mind, i'm not sure i'm ready for this yet. this is a big job. right? just a little more time, and i would be ready. i said to him, i said, well, may i go home? i would like to go home and talk it over. give me overnight to think about it. and i went home, so i get home, and my husband, he is sitting there, and as usual, i always say, i am talking, talking, and he's like mm-hmm. [laughter] ginni: and i tell him about this interview. and i said, but -- i said i wanted to go home and sleep on it. he goes, do you think a man would have answered that question that way? i mean, i can remember it like it was yesterday. i said, no. i went in the next day, and, of course, i took the job immediately. and the man, who had been my
mentor, who suggested it to me, he said to me, he goes, don't do that again. i said, i understand. and it is what formed this basis for me that i think has guided my whole career, which is growth and comfort never coexist. and you have got to get really comfortable with being uncomfortable. it is when you learn the most. david: when you started doing these things, did you begin to think that there was the chance a chance that you could be the ceo? or did you think ibm, like many companies, were never going to make a woman a ceo? ginni: no, that never entered my mind, that ibm would make a choice based on gender. never. i mean, ibm has -- for all my time there, it has always been the most inclusive company i have known. when you interview others, do they feel like they -- i never thought about that. i always felt you do great in your current job, it earns you the right to your next job. david: when you meet with president trump or other presidents, do you see that ceos are willing to say, mr. president, that is not a good idea, or let me give you my thought? it might be different than yours. ginni: my experience is people are respectfully honest and give their opinions. and so, just as if -- there are
♪ david: so let's talk about ibm for a moment. it is a hardware company, a software company, a consulting company. what would you say it really is today? ginni: keep going. right. [laughter] ginni: when i say first off an enterprise company, right? we uniquely live at that intersection of tech and business. and then, as you said, we built, over time, hardware. then, we layered it with software. we built integrated onto that services. and now, as i said, we are becoming a cloud and a cognitive
solutions company. and there will be another, you know, sort of reinvention of ibm one day in the future again, but today, it is about that. and it is not about "the" technology. it is cloud. it is ai right now. it is the "why." and as i say to all my colleagues, and i feel we are the champion for business. right? the champion for business. i will tell you what i mean by that. right now, if you ask me to pick one word what ibm is reinventing around, i would tell you it is the word "data." there is gold in that data. and to me, we are on the verge of companies being able to use all that. and this, to me, is for companies go on the offense now against startups, against disruption, you do it with that data. and you will need new tools, and that is where ai comes in. david: one of the tools is what you call watson. ginni: yep. david: watson is named after -- ginni: our founder, thomas watson. david: ok. watson got some attention because of "jeopardy." ginni: it is funny how many people still remember that. in fact, that was -- i really
give us credit, if i might, for having, sort of, relit the world of ai. you asked what i did early in my career -- i was an ai specialist at one time. so that would be a couple of decades ago. so it isn't like ai itself is brand-new. there are a number of things that make it different at this point in time. and what we did back then -- it was 2011 with "jeopardy" -- we had been working on ai for a good five years before. and this gets back to this idea of if you are always moving to where you think there is value in tech, we believe there would be value in this data, and that you had to be prepared for this world to do it cost-effectively, and more important, you would have to have technology that did not get programmed. and that is the difference with what our -- that is what watson and ai is. meaning what watson does -- you do not say, "if this, do that." every device you have has been programmed "if this, do that." somebody had to tell it what to do. your smart phone, you name it. watson takes data of all kinds,
understands, reasons, and learns over that data. and that will help you make better decisions. this is an interesting stat i think we are sharing. in the world, we think there is a market of $2 trillion for making better business decisions. and some of it is rooted in the plain, fundamental fact that when you and i make decisions -- you may be better at this, david. david: not likely, but -- ginni: a third are right, a third are not optimal, and a third are wrong. it transcends everything. david: let's talk about the life of a ceo a large company. how much time are you on the road, traveling, now? ginni: oh, i, you know, probably 50%. david: and customers, they are mostly interested in what? when you meet with them, you try to tell them why ibm is better than somebody else? ginni: no. david: no, you don't do that? ginni: of course, always -- well, in some way. but, um, i think many clients look at us as a bit of a mirror image. i mean, i hear this from them. they are like -- i remember years ago, they were saying to me, wow, this is a lot of change. and i can remember saying, be careful, i think this is coming to a theater near you.
and so this idea -- i believe our transformation mirrors what every company is going through. you rebuild yourself around data and cloud. you are going to have to change how you do the work, and you're going to have to work on who the people are that do the work. david: how do you measure your success as ceo? is it share price? is it earnings, earnings-per-share, revenue growth? ginni: what i am most focused on, the board's most focused on, is transforming ibm for this next era, this next cognitive era. and so, the sort of milepost that we put out there is, as i said -- part of the portfolio is we build new products and services, which is now 42% of ibm, which is $34 billion. it had double-digit growth. that is a very important set of new offerings that that team created. at the same time, there are other things we do for clients. i mean, david, i think people forget we run the banks of the world, the railroads of the world, the airlines of the world. you know, it is nine out of 10, 10 out of 10.
and that is why i both mirror and help them transition to the future, run their current world, transition to the future, and become the future. and that is a really serious obligation. some of that does not grow as fast as other pieces, and the new grows fast, but we, if anything, it is to help people transition era to era. so the measurement is as we build the new businesses and that we keep moving to higher value. that is our distinct value proposition. david: does it bother you ever that you have more employees, more revenue, more customers all over the world than companies like, i assume, apple or amazon or facebook, but they have higher market capitalizations? does that strike you as unfair in some ways or something you have to live with? ginni: i always want to work on higher market capitalization. so, the unfair part -- i do not feel these things are, as you say, sort of a burden in that way. because what we do is different. right? it is this combination of having technology and then know-how, which means you have both of those things together.
david: every country you visit around the world, i assume, if you want to meet the prime minister or president, you have no problem getting into do that? ginni: yeah, but you don't abuse that. i mean there are some really important issues around the world. almost every government we talk to around cybersecurity. very important issues around things like digital trade. and then the other ones, it has been about workforce skills. when you look at why is there divisions between people and why is there inequality, every time, you will trace this back, and it will be about skills and opportunity. david: so when -- ginni: that is what we have been working on. david: so when you are meeting with president trump or other presidents, do you see that ceos are willing to say, mr. president, that is not a good idea, or let me give your my thought? it might be different than yours. or people are kind of quiet whenever any presidents are around? ginni: no, my experience is that people are respectfully honest and give their opinions. just as there are times with every -- whether a president or a prime minister -- where we agree, and there will be times we do not agree. and in our case, here as an example with the paris agreement, we believed that america should stay in there.
and so we shared our viewpoints on that. the issues that are important, right, to our business and our clients. ♪ david: do you feel a certain responsibility as a woman ceo to mentor other women and to speak out on issues relating to women? ginni: you always want to be noticed and rewarded for what you did, your contributions. you know? and i would always be, this has got nothing to do with gender, right, almost blind to that. i really came to learn and see that -- how important it is that there be role models. and you have to accept the fact that you are a role model on the appropriate things. ♪
♪ david: so do you think that for a woman to rise up to be the head of ibm had to be better than the men, or do you think it really didn't make a difference? ginni: i do not think in ibm it made a difference. david: people who are subordinate who come to you and you don't like their ideas, do you ever, you know, yell at them, scream at them, which men quietdo, or are you just about it and tell them quietly their ideas are no good? how do you tell people you're not happy? ginni: well, i am not a screamer. never was. david: you don't throw things? something like that? ginni: no, no, i don't think i've ever thrown anything. but i have always believed in the way to challenge things is to challenge them. it is the intellectual.
and so, i always feel, look, you need to know what you are talking about. and so, to me, i have no trouble being the one to ask questions, and i think that is the best way to challenge things. david: so do you feel a certain responsibility as a woman ceo to mentor other women and speak out on issues relating to women? ginni: yeah, this is an interesting question i think, david, because i have grown to be comfortable with that role, about being a role model. because i think many of my colleagues would all say, and maybe it is a bit of as we came to our businesses, you always want to be noticed and rewarded for what you did, your contributions. i would always be, this has got nothing to do with gender, right? almost blind to that. and over time, though, i really came to learn and see how important it is that there be role models. and you have to accept the fact that you are a role model on the appropriate things. and so, that, too, was kind of, um, at one point, another image
that sticks out in my mind. this is maybe 10, 15 years ago. i was down in australia. i was giving a financial services presentation. i thought it was doing an ok job , ok job at this. in the end a couple of people came up to me, this man, afterwards and i thought he was this man is going to tell me, this is great, or he disagrees. and he said to me, looked at me, and said, i wish my daughters had been here. and it is funny the sort of moments that you remember. and i always remember thinking -- that is why you do have to realize any of us in these positions of any kind of influence, we are a role model for someone, and women do need role models. we are still a small minority that run these companies. they need role models to say, yep, that is possible. i can be that. it is hard to dream to be something if you don't see other people like it. david: are you disappointed or surprise that if you take a fortune 100 or fortune 200 companies, there are relatively few female ceos still? ginni: yeah. i still -- i would have hoped by now that there would be more, right? and so, i think this is a very conscious effort. in fact, we make a conscious
a very conscious effort. one of the biggest things is to keep women in the workforce. and so, there is no doubt, when women have children or ailing parents -- there are many reasons that women will come in and come out of the workforce. and one of the things you can do is do everything you can to both keep them in, and your odds are much higher of their ability then to keep going. we even, one of our newest benefits is shipping breastmilk for babies for mothers who are nursing, so they can keep working if they want to. and so this idea of keeping women in the workforce, to me, is one of the most important ways to then create the pipeline for these roles. david: now ibm has a tradition of ceos retiring earlier than other companies. is your thinking that you will do it for a bit longer, and what would you do after you left as the current ceo? ginni: yeah, well, um, i would say -- i wasn't going to say my age, and then i am always reminded it is public information, you know. [laughter] ginni: but it is not a rule for us.
it is not a steadfast rule. there has been some tradition, but i am not retiring now. david: ok. ginny: my work isn't done. david: ok. ginni: and so i will still be here for quite a while. and what am i going to do then? after? david: would you ever go into government or something? ginni: i don't even think about that right now. david: in the stay fit category, you are a golf -- ginni: does that mean you think i look fit? david: you are fit. ginni: thank you. [laughter] ginni: that is how you get a compliment. [laughter] david: you are fit. but you are a golfer. ginni: that does not keep you fit. [laughter] ginni: my husband loves golf. i have great respect for golf as a sport and its long, really tradition and history. i do not have the time to be very good. and so, the other way i really do -- and people don't think this is funny, the other thing i do is boxing. david: boxing? ginni: that is something i can do in short spurts on an everyday basis. david: does somebody dress up like apple or microsoft and you get to box them, or you don't do that? [laughter] ginni: i do box with a person. the difference is he does not get to hit me.
[laughter] david: oh. ginni: i only get to hit him. david: so as you look back on your career, when you are at northwestern, as you look back on it, what would you say is the secret of your having risen? ginni: i think it is this idea of being a constant learner, of always being willing to say to yourself you don't know everything and you can learn something, from whoever. david: so when you finally do leave, maybe many years from now, ibm, what would you like to see as your legacy? ginni: well, look, i think, not necessarily about me, about ibm. that, one more time, reinvented for the next era. uniquely positioned at this technology and know-how, and that we do change. just like it was the moonshot or the social security system, that we have had that impact on health care, on education, on making this world safer. right. if we help the companies of this world both themselves reinvent and run better and have an impact on society, that is a great day. ♪
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