4 invaluable career lessons from a long time IBM friend

Steve Schumer as a 40 year IBM leader is indeed “Super-IBM-Man”

One of the joys of my 31-year career at IBM was the many wonderful friends I made, several of whom I still keep in touch with. People often marvel over my tremendous 31-year stint at IBM, but you believe my good friend Steve Schumer has been there 40 years and is still growing strong?

Steve has had an illustrious career with “Big Blue,” but it did not come without some struggles and roadblocks. Yet Steve remains an outstanding professional with an undying positive attitude.

Recently, Steve presented his “4 Lessons from (almost) 40 Years” at the Hillsdale, New Jersey Career Networking Group. Steve sent me the link to the presentation on Youtube, and since career development programs for companies and organizations is one of my consulting offerings and since I consider Steve a close friend, I took a listen.

It truly was an excellent and very useful session! I will summarize his 4 lessons below and also include a link to the video which I strongly encourage you to listen to. And Steve shared so much about his own personal journey will so many cool stories, the time watching the video flew by very quickly

Not only is Steve passionate about his IBM career, he is also a 2015 inductee into the Green Bay Packers Fan Hall of Fame!

Lesson 1: Pursue something you’re passionate about. Absolutely, you are going to do your best work and progress in your career if you do something you truly love. When I do career mapping modules for my clients, often I discover that their most successful people are truly passionate about their work and their field. I once mentored a young man who was miserable in a high paying job that he cared nothing about, but when he went into a lower paying field he really loved, vocational joy returned to his life.

Lesson 2: Differentiate yourself by your questions and points made. With hundreds of people applying for and competing for every job, how will you differentiate yourself from the masses? Steve shared the importance of really researching the company, the industry and the job well so that you shine in the interview by asking intelligent and relevant questions. He shared some great stories of how he did this in his early job search.

Lesson 3: Don’t take no for an answer. Steve shares that one of the top 10 qualities for long-term selling success, including selling yourself, is tenacity; the strength to not give up, even against opposition. Steve is not advocating being argumentative here, but does share several examples of standing strong and not giving up, including a cool story about his son interviewing for a job.

Lesson 4: Personalize your network. In terms of connecting with others during a career search, never send out mass standard letters or emails. Instead, take the time to add a unique personal touch to your networking with each person. Steve shared how he utilized personalized networking during a very dark period of his career when he was being laid off, but managed to defy all odds and stay at IBM. What is cool is, after I listened to the recorded session and emailed Steve, he was able to retrieve the personal email he sent to me 11 years ago when he was going through this tough challenge.

Whether you are early, mid, or late career, do take the time to watch this insightful presentation (link) by Steve Schumer.

Leadership Insights from IBM’s North Carolina Senior State Executive, Tim Humphrey

Timothy Humphrey, IBM Vice President, Chief Data Officer and NC Senior State Executive

Note: See links to my past leadership lesson blogs from the Raleigh Chamber C-Suites series as well as the Triangle Business Journal’s Power Breakfast gatherings at the bottom of this post.

The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce holds its “C-Suite Perspectives” breakfast meeting several times per year and features area senior level executives sharing their leadership stories and insights. The November session with IBM Vice President, Chief Data Officer and NC Senior State Executive Timothy Humphrey provided another excellent session with several important leadership lessons.

After sharing his own unique career journey from NC State University to IBM to Lenovo and then back to IBM (sprinkled with a sense of humor – Tim labeled himself “a goofy engineer who cares about people”), Tim shared 10 main points organized within 4 topics. Here they are.

Topic A – The Foundation

1) Be Authentic. That is the foundation for all leadership, and Tim found that trying to be someone he wasn’t simply does not work.

Topic B – Personal Leadership

2) Build Diverse Teams. Diversity does drive innovation.

3) Engage Employees. It is important for leaders to set an example and create a culture that engages employees which drives positive business results. And build a culture where employees feel free to ask questions, get coaching and take chances.

4) Give Back. It is important for leaders to give back to the community. For example, Tim serves on the Wake County Boys & Girls Clubs Board of Directors and on the University of North Carolina’s World View Advisory Board.

Topic C – Personal Growth

5) Have a high performance mindset …. Even when no one is watching.

6) Have a vision and a long-term perspective.

7) Go beyond just networking and build relationships. Great leaders have a ton of strong relationships.

Topic D – Business Leadership

8) Focus on measurement and outcomes.

9) Visualize success and adjust your plan along the path as you need to.

10) Make data-driven decisions. It is important to remove bias, including seeking others’ opinions to assist with this.

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My earlier C-Suite Perspectives Leadership Blogs:

September 2017: Six Leadership Insights from a local “Fortune 1000” CEO – with Martin Marietta CEO C. Howard Nye.

November 2016: Learning about Leadership through Life – with Duke Energy NC President David Fountain

May 2016: Seven Insights on Leadership, Success and Diversity from Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good

Feb 2015: Raleigh Chamber of Commerce CEO Harvey Schmitt shares about leadership and collaboration

May 2014: Exploring Leadership, Talent Development and Innovation with a Local Senior ABB Executive

March 2014: Leadership Advice from a Senior Lenovo Executive