Katia Vaskys: "Open hybrid cloud will be the epicenter of corporate IT evolution"
General Manager of IBM Brazil since January 2021 and the first woman to lead the blue-chip giant in the country, Katia Vaskys discusses the importance of digital transformation, the key role of diversity in advancing innovation and what to expect from IBM Brazil in 2021.
Leaders League: What are your main goals as the new general manager of IBM Brazil? What will be your main challenges in this role?
Katia Vaskys: The purpose of IBM and of IBMers (as we call ourselves) is to “be essential”. Being essential to our clients and to wider society via our teams. This is what drives my activity as general manager of IBM Brazil. In this sense, three objectives are key. The first is to guarantee the well-being and motivation of our staff, awakening their curiosity, creativity and entrepreneurship. Innovation happens through people and an agile culture is instilled by unlocking this spirit in each professional, generating strong, qualified and motivated teams. Additionally, one of my objectives is to help Brazilian society prepare for the digital economy, via educational projects and support for associations and community initiatives, which seek to foster scientific thought, technical abilities, inclusion and transform society. Last but not least, contributing to the success of our clients and business partners, by offering a rich ecosystem for the exchange of experiences, solutions and services, ensuring competitiveness, security, agility and intelligence, supported by open hybrid cloud computing and artificial intelligence.
Undoubtedly, my main challenge is managing the talent within IBM and in the wider market. Investing in the development of young talents, preparing teams for a culture of continuous learning and an agile mentality, and offering resources so that they may balance their personal and professional lives. Results are delivered by motivated and happy teams.
Diversity and inclusion are essential paths to innovation
Considering the pandemic’s revolutionary impacts on traditional work relations, what is the importance of digital transformation for Brazilian companies? What are the first steps towards digitalization?
I always like to point out that digital transformation is a consequence of behavioral change, we are going through a unique period of renovation in human history, especially regarding our interpersonal interactions and business processes. The pandemic accelerated this scenario and sped up digitalization.
In this context, cloud computing takes on a key role to ensure that businesses and people can safely work from anywhere. In my view, cloud computing is truly the most important enabler for digital companies. Adopting open-standard architecture allows for the swifter use of data and the application of advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and automation to several types of work. In a recent study we carried out with IDC Brasil, we found that over half of Brazil’s companies plan to adopt hybrid cloud environments before 2021 is over.
It is worth highlighting the importance of process automation via artificial intelligence. Due to the challenges brought about by the pandemic, automating workflows and applying smart solutions to corporate processes has become urgent to ensure operational efficiency and competitiveness. Companies which scale the value of their data with AI will be in pole position to become what we call cognitive companies, which are those which use smart and predictive capabilities to increase productivity and, consequently, improve client experience.
As the technology sector remains a male-dominated field, what do you believe is the impact of your appointment as the first-ever woman to lead IBM in Brazil?
It is a great sign of progress to have more women in positions of leadership, in technology or any other sector, but we know there is still much to be done for us to have equal gender opportunities. My nomination for the role of General Manager at IBM Brazil is only one of the several internal changes which the company has made in recent years, regarding this necessary scenario for greater inclusion. We see diversity and inclusion as essential paths to innovation, as it only truly happens when different people – in age, social class, gender, ethnicity or culture – unite to find solutions.
Diversity and inclusion initiatives are very important and necessary for us to create a workforce with equal opportunities and in which all of our professionals can reach their full potential. At IBM, we have affinity groups called BRG (Business Resource Groups) which consist of volunteer employees that debate general interest topics, share experiences and difficulties and think about initiatives which promote respect, contribute to a more diverse and inclusive environment and empowers group members both professionally and personally. The BRG Women’s group regularly meets to debate general interest topics and potential projects which promote gender quality in the workplace.
I also see education as a bridge to inclusion. We have invested in programs to impact the technology ecosystem, intentionally attracting diverse talents to the industry as, for example, the Open P-TECH initiative for public middle-school students from technical schools. These initiatives lead to the inclusion of young girls and awakens their interest in technology.
As an executive sponsor of IBM Brazil’s diversity and inclusion team, what kind of initiatives can we expect from the company in the near future?
IBM is a company which has diversity in its DNA and was a pioneer in inclusion initiatives. We believe diversity generates innovation – and this is one of our core values. As such, we will continue investing in our diversity and inclusion programs to increase hiring opportunities and the development of new talents as well as to create learning experiences for inclusive practices and behavior.
IBM has a global inclusion initiative via its aforementioned Affinity Groups, which contribute to a more diverse and inclusive company environment. At IBM Brazil, we have six very active groups: Afro-Descendants, Women, LGBT, People with Disabilities, Cultural Diversity (which includes refugees and expatriates) and Work-Life Integration. An especially transformative activity which is promoted by these groups and which will continue in 2021 are the Reverse Mentoring sessions, during which group members share with executives and other teams, insights on their everyday experiences, inviting them to reflect on the intentional attitudes which we all practice in our day-to-day.
Over half of Brazil’s companies plan to adopt hybrid cloud environments before 2021 is over
What new initiatives can we expect from IBM Brazil in the coming months?
Open hybrid cloud will be the epicenter of corporate IT evolution. In this current scenario of uncertainty and rapidly changing markets, our clients seek solutions which safely make their businesses smarter and more responsive. And this will be our main focus, alongside artificial intelligence and automation. These are two technologies which will streamline work and innovation in all sectors and are top priorities for business leaders. We are also 100% focused on expanding our ecosystem to offer business platforms based on these enabling technologies.
Specifically regarding cloud computing, IBM’s focus on the digital transformation of companies, via artificial intelligence and open hybrid cloud, intensified when we acquired Red Hat last year and, more recently, when we announced the operational launch of our first IBM Cloud Multizone Region (MZR) in Latin America, an important expansion of our global cloud computing presence. A range of infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and storage solutions are already available, which helps to provide security, data protection and backup and recovery systems. Throughout 2021, we will have other platform service options to help clients swiftly implement architecture and critical mission applications in hybrid cloud environments as well as AI capabilities with IBM Watson, blockchain, IoT and analytics.
With regard to artificial intelligence in Brazil, the use of IBM Watson Assistant, a virtual assistant technology based on AI, doubled in 2020 to support increasingly humanized communication channels and accelerate the transformation process of our clients during the pandemic, helping organizations to manage peaks in consumer demand. Many companies are already searching for even more advance ways to use AI to face future challenges, such as plans to return to the workplace and the “new normal” for client and employee relationships. And IBM will support them in this process.
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