IBM’s Rometty: ‘Your Data Is Yours, Not Mine to Give Away’


IBM chairman, president and CEO Ginni Rometty, one of the top women executives in the world – who also holds a B.S. in computer science and electrical engineering – knows a thing or two about technology, business and work. So, when the veteran IBMer, having been with the company since 1981, shares her thoughts on these topics, partners need to listen — particularly since the revamped IBM PartnerWorld Program, which shifted from a product-centric program to a competency-based one that rewards cognitive computing expertise, became effective in January.

In a fireside chat with Salesforce founder, chairman and CEO Marc Benioff at Dreamforce 2017, Rometty dove headfirst into the fundamentals about how a 106-year old company maintains a leadership position in the head-spinning world of technology.

IBM's Ginni Rometty

IBM’s Ginni Rometty

“You have to be willing to change everything about yourself except your core values,” she told the packed audience. “And, at its core, it’s about innovating technology and applying it to business and society. It was true then; it’s true today,” she added.

More specifically, though, Rometty noted that the company’s core values are: being dedicated to every clients’ success; innovation that matters for the company and the world; and trust and responsibility in its relationships.

Rometty pointed to data as being one of the core issues of our time – and the responsibility of how we treat data or artificial intelligence properly coming into the world – and said there are some very simple decisions that you make when you have core values.

“When you talk about trust of clients, I think clients have trusted us with their most precious asset, which is their data. … This is something that IBM has always believed – and for your clients and our clients that we share together, which is about 5,000 common [ones] – we say, ‘Your data is yours, not mine to give away.’ If it’s artificial intelligence, you own the insights, you own the algorithms. If it’s free flow of data, the IBM cloud was built so you decide what country the data sits in, not a government. Or if a government asks for access, we’re the only tech that can say that we’ve never given a government’s surveillance program access to that data,” said Rometty.

Both she and Benioff agreed that big companies have a responsibility to usher technology, such as AI, safely into the world. Some principals around AI that Rometty suggested everyone in the room adopt are: purpose — IBM calls it cognitive, and the purpose is to augment, not replace man; transparency — which requires training, but you can train bias if you’re not careful; who owns the insights; and the need for new skills, and the obligation that goes with that.

On the workforce front, both tech CEOs agreed about the need for skills training, and a public-private partnership to change the face of education. With the number of computer-science graduates falling way short of the need for technology workers (only one-quarter of high schools teach computer science; there were 43,000 computer science college graduates in the U.S. last year compared to the 5-6 million job openings in technology), Rometty talked about the new collar worker.

New collar jobs are those in technology that …

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