tv The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations Bloomberg January 19, 2018 6:00pm-6:30pm EST
not allowed to hit me. >> if i strained my me -- s traightened my tie, it would not recognize me. >> i said on the life of the interviewer even though i had the day job of running a private equity firm. how do you define leadership, what is it that makes somebody tick? when you wake up in the morning, do you say i am incredibly proud of what i have done. >> i do not have either of those thoughts on that first day. i thought what an honor it was and a responsibility.
you get the feeling you are the steward of something. david: when i was growing up in 70's, ibm was the dominant technology company in the world. >> it still is. you think it has the same strength in the computer world as it did in the 1960's? >> the great thing about a technology company is you can reinvent yourself over and over. this is a competitive industry we are in and we are going to do something very unique. it is one thing to have technology and another thing to have the know-how to use it. while we have gone through all sorts of products, the one silver thread is we can help
change the way the world works and i go back to when ibm started. it was cheese and meat slicers, then it was clocks and then it was the era of the mainframe and then we reinvented ourselves into software and service. and is part of reinvention that dna is part of the reinvention. david: let's talk about your background. you grew up in chicago and at one point your father left her mother and your mother was not college educated at the time. fourid she support children? creditt my mom a lot of for all of us. my mother had a high school
had us afterickly that. i was in my early teens when my was raising us alone. -- i was in my early teens when my dad chose to leave. 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 -- 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. that's 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 in families, like i think everyones, they pitched in, and my mom 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 --.
ms. rometty: i was. i've been to p.t.a. meetings, bugle lessons. david: did you get paid anything? ms. rometty: no, i didn't get paid. i probably should go sum that up. david: you had a scholarship to go to northwestern. ms. rometty: i did. 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. and they've said, sometimes they say i'm the under achiever. my three brothers and sisters are incredibly successful and that is really that work ethic by mom instilled in us. that, to me, is -- so when i went to northwestern, that was -- and i did have a scholarship because we all looked for ways to do that to put ourselves through school. david: your mother is still alive. does she call and tell you how great you're doing or say your other siblings are doing just as well? ms. rometty: actually she calls and talks to me about all the things normal mothers talk about. her biggest thing, this is a funny story about my mom. this past easter, she was at my house and i was having to leave to get to the airport and my mom
says, hey, before you leave, i have your annual report. and i've written you a little set of notes on it. great. i'm even going to get it from my mother on this annual report. you know, the first thing, of course, like a mom does is she looks at the pictures. and then, but, this year i was really quite -- my mom is, says, look. i loved this annual report. she goes, this annual report i understand what i.b.m. does. and it was 50 vignettes, 50 short little vignettes about how the world and professions and industries change because of watson, a.i., cloud computing, and how it'll 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. she gave me a report card. david: did you give any of these comments back tour colleagues at ibm? ms. rometty: yeah. i gave them all. sure. i have a large retail shareholder base. david: you graduated from northwestern and then although
you had a scholarship from general motors, you weren't required to go work at general motors but you felt you should. ms. rometty: yeah. this is, you know, these were wonderful programs and 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 they said, if i can get you, the deal was i'll pay your tuition, your room and board, everything, and someone going through school themselves, it was a professor who said to me, hey, you ought to go look at this program. in return, work there in the summers. otherwise no strings attached. so i had a wonderful set of internships with them. when i graduated i did feel a real sense of obligation to first go to gm. i had lots of other offers but to go to gm. i was a computer science and engineering degree. david: were there a lot of men -- women taking those courses in those days at northwestern? ms. rometty: what do you think? david: not that many? ms. rometty: no. i was probably the only woman in many of those classes even then.
david: so you're at general motors for a couple years and then hear of an opportunity to go to a company called ibm. ms. rometty: sometimes people think you have this long, thought out career plan. i'm sorry to tell you, i had been working at general motors and while i liked what i was doing i really fell because i liked technology it was this idea to be able to apply it to lots of different industries. it was as simple as my husband said look, i have a friend and his dad works for ibm. why don't you just call him? i think actually my husband set -- who set the interview up to be honest with you. david: a finder's fee or anything? ms. rometty: yeah. i'm still paying that finder's fee. so i went to the interview when i was hired. -- and i was hired. david: what area were you --? ms. rometty: i started out as a systems engineer and i worked in banking, insurance, and i had many experiences through my years. i remember i had gone into consulting so i learned a lot of things. 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'm going to get a new job and you're going to get my job.
you've got to go for an interview. you're one of the candidates. go to this interview. so i thought, hum. so i go to the interview. and he tells me all about the job and i'm sitting there and i think, boy, in my mind, i'm not sure i'm ready for this yet. this is a big job. just a little more time and i would be ready. and i said to him, may i go home? i would like to talk it over. give me overnight to think about it. and i went home and so i get home and my husband, he is sitting there and as usual i always say, you know, i'm talking, talking, he's like, mm-hmm. mm-hmm. i tell him about this interview. i said, but i wanted to go home and sleep on it. he goes, you think the man would have answered that question that way? i mean, i can remember it like it was yesterday. i said, no. and 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, 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 co-exist. and you have got to get really comfortable with being uncomfortable. it's when you learn the most. david: when you started doing these things, did you begin to think there was a chance that you could be the c.e.o.? did you think ibm like many companies were ever going to make a woman c.e.o.? ms. rometty: that never entered my mind that ibm would make a choice based on gender. for all my time there, there's -- ibm has always been the most inclusive company i've 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 the next job. david: when you are meeting with president trump or other presidents do you see c.e.o.'s are willing to say, mr. president, that is not a good idea, or let me give you my thought? ms. rometty: my experience is people are respectfully honest and give their opinions. and so just as if there are
david: lelt's talk about ibm. it is a hardware company, software company, consultant company, what would you say it is today? ms. rometty: keep going. right. when i say first off an enterprise company, right, we uniquely live at that intersection of tech and business. and then as you said, over time, we've built hardware. then we layered it with software. we integrated on to that services. now as i say we're becoming a cloud and a cognitive solutions company. there will be another reinvention of ibm in the
future. today it is about that. it isn't about the technology. it's cloud, a.i. right now. it's the why. as i say to all my colleagues, i feel like we're the champion for business. i'll 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's 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. to me this is companies to go on the offense now against start-ups, against disruption. you do it with that data. and you will need new tools and that's where a.i. comes in. david: one of the tools is what you call watson. ms. rometty: yes. david: watson is named after --? ms. rometty: our founder, thomas watson. david: now, watson got some attention because of jeopardy. ms. rometty: the game show. it is funny how many people still remember that. i really give us credit if i might for having sort of relit the world of a.i.
you asked what i did early in my career. i was an a.i. specialist at one time. that would be a couple decades ago. it isn't like a.i., itself, is brand new. there is a number of things that make it different at this point in time. what we did back then, it was 2011, with "jeopardy" and we had been working on a.i. for a good five years before. this gets back to this idea of if you're always moving to where you think there is value, in tech, we believed there would be value in this data and you had to be prepared for this world to do it cost effectively and, more important, you had to have technology that didn't get programmed. that is the difference. that's what watson and a.i. is. meaning what watson does, you don't 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 smartphone, you name it. watson, takes data of all kinds, understands, reasons, and learns over that data. that will help you make better
decisions. this is an interesting stat i think we're sharing. in the world, we think there is a market of $2 trillion for making better business decisions. 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. ms. rometty: a third are right, a third are not optimal, and third are wrong. it transcends everything. david: let's talk about the life of a c.e.o. of a large company. how much time are you on the road traveling now? ms. rometty: probably 50%. david: and customers are mostly interested in what when you meet with them, you're trying to tell them why ibm is better than someone else? ms. rometty: no -- of course, always, in some way, but i -- i think many clients look at us as a bit of a mirror image. i hear this from them. they're like, i can remember years ago they'd be saying to me, wow. so 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 rebuilt yourself around data and cloud. you have to change how you do the work. you have to work on who the people are that do the work. david: how do you measure your success as c.e.o.? is it share price? is it earnings? earnings per share? revenue growth? ms. rometty: what i am most focused on and the board is most focused on is transforming ibm for this next era, this next cognitive era. and so the sort of mile post that we put out there, 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 team created. at the same time, there's 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's 9-10,
10-10. that's why i both mirror and help them transition to the future, run their current world, transition to the future, and become the future. that is a really serious obligation. some of that doesn't grow as fast as other pieces. the new grows fast. 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. 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? ms. rometty: i always want to work on higher market capitalizations. the unfair part, i don't feel these things are sort of a burden in that way because what we do is different. it is this combination of having technology and then know how which means you have both of those things together. david: in every country you
visit around the world i assume if you want to meet the prime minister or president you have no problem getting in to do that? ms. rometty: yeah but you don't abuse that. there are some really important issues around the world. almost every government we talk to around cyber security, very important things around digital trade. the other one has been about work force and skills. when you look at why are there divisions between people and inequality, every time you will trace this back and it will be about skills and opportunity. so that's what we've been working on. david: when you meet with president trump or other presidents do you see that c.e.o.'s are willing to say, mr. president, that's not a good idea or let me give you my thought, it might be different than yours, or people that are kind of quiet when any president is around? ms. rometty: no. my experience is people are respectfully honest and give their opinions. so just as if there are times with every -- whether a president, a prime minister -- where we agree and times we don't agree. and, you know, in our case here as an example, with the paris agreement, we believe that america should stay in there. 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 c.e.o. to mentor other women and to speak out on issues relating to women? ms. rometty: you always want it 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. 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: did you think you had to be better than the men or didn't you think it made a difference? ms. rometty: i don't think at ibm it made a difference. david: if people who are subordinate come to you and you don't like their ideas do you yell or scream at them which men often do or do you quietly tell them? how do you let people know you're not happy? ms. rometty: i don't think i've ever thrown anything. i have not a screamer. -- i am not a screamer. i have always believed in the way to challenge things it is to challenge things, the intellectual. i have no trouble asking the questions and i think that is
the way to challenge things. david: due feel as a -- do you feel a certain responsibility as a woman c.e.o. to mentor other women and speak out on issues relating to women? ms. rometty: this is an interesting question, david, because i have grown to be comfortable with that role about being a role model. because i thank many of my my colleaguesof would all say, and maybe it is a bit as we came through our businesses you always wanted 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. that, too, kind of at one point
is another thing 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 i had done an ok job at this. and a couple people came up to me afterwards and this man i thought was either going to tell me this is great or he disagrees and he looked at me and he said, you know, i wish my daughters had been here. it's funny the sort of moments that you remember. and i always remember, i think, that's 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's possible. i can be that. because it's hard to dream to be something if you don't see other people like it. david: are you disappointed or surprised, you take the fortune 100 or 200 companies there are relatively few female c.e.o.'s. ms. rometty: i would have hoped by now there would be more. so i think this is a very conscious effort, one of the biggest things is to keep women in the work force.
and so there is no doubt when people have, when women have children, they tend to, or ailing parents, you must do whatever you can to both keep them in and your odds are much higher with their ability to then keep going. we even, one of our newest benefits is shipping breast milk 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 work force, to me, is one of the most important ways to then create the pipeline for these roles. david: now, ibm has a tradition of c.e.o.'s 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 c.e.o.? ms. rometty: yeah. well, i always say, i wasn't going to say my age and then i'm always reminded it's public information. you know? but it is not a rule for us. it's not a steadfast rule.
there has been some tradition. i am not retiring now. my work isn't done. and so i'll still be here for quite a while. what am i going to do then, after? david: wow ever go into government? ms. rometty: i don't even think about ta right now. -- that right now. david: in the stay fit category, you are -- ms. rometty: does that mean you think i look fit? david: you are fit. ms. rometty: thank you. that's how you get a compliment. david: you're a golfer. ms. rometty: that doesn't keep you fit. my husband loves golf. i have great respect for golf as a sport and its long, traditioned history. i don't have the time to be very good. and so the other way i really do, and people sort of don't think this is funny, the other thing i do is boxing. david: boxing. ms. rometty: that is something i can do, short spurts on an every day basis. david: like somebody dresses up like apple or microsoft and kind of, microsoft and you get to box them or you don't do that? ms. rometty: i do box with a person. the difference is he does not get to hit me. i only get to hit him.
david: so as you look back on your career, when you were -- as you look back on it, what would you say is the secret of your having risen? ms. rometty: i think when i look back, i think it's this idea of being a constant learner, always being willing to say tourp, you do notto yourself you know something and can learn something from whoever. david: so when you do finally, many years from now, leave ibm what would you like to see as your legacy? ms. rometty: look. whether or not it's about me but 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 moon shot or the social security system that we've 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's a great day. ♪
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