Top 100 Executives 2020: Virginia Rometty, Executive Chairman, IBM

Despite stepping down as IBM CEO in April, Virginia Rometty remains a potent symbol of what women can achieve in the tech sphere.

Despite stepping down as IBM CEO in April, Virginia Rometty remains a potent symbol of what women can achieve in the tech sphere.


When she became CEO of IBM in 2012, Rometty programmed an immediate and radical course correction for Big Blue. A home-grown exec – Rometty joined the New York headquartered company in 1981 – she has succeeded in dragging the IT giant into the Information Age.

In order to revitalize the computer company, the Chicago native implemented an ambitious and risky strategy, jettisoning the server and microchip activities which had made IBM’s name in the latter part of the last century and instead concentrating on cloud computing, big data, AI and cybersecurity, areas where IBM’s chief rivals, such as Google and Microsoft, had a considerable head-start. Undeterred, ‘Ginni’ as she is known to IBM staff, set about catching them up, first by divesting IBM of unwanted assets, such as Lotus, and acquiring SoftLayer and Red Hat, two cloud computing startups.

"2016 was a key year in the recent development of IBM, with the tech giant expanding into the burgeoning healthtech sector"

The 63-year-old has tapped into the reserves of corporate trust IBM enjoys in the telecoms and banking and finance sectors. This B-to-B avenue has lead to the signing of a number of lucrative contracts, not least of which a multi-year agreement with AT&T worth several billion dollars.

New markets
2016 was a key year in the recent development of IBM, with the tech giant expanding into the burgeoning healthtech sector, with the launch of IBM Watson Health and the purchases of Truven Health Analysis and Merge Healthcare for a combined 2.6 billion dollars. In parallel, Rometty repositioned the group via IBM Cloud Video, a department launched following the acquisition of Upstream, a video streaming platform.

Rometty’s successful transformation of IBM did no go unnoticed either, with Forbes magazine regularly ranking her among the top ten most powerful women in the world, which even saw her gain the unwelcome attention of the paparazzi in her native US.

But far from being a curio, Rometty will be remembered for making a big difference at IMB as, during her 8-year stint as CEO, she signed off on no less than 65 corporate acquisitions.

 

Read the full Special Report: Top 100 Executives 2020

For the third year in a row Leaders League has put together its ranking of the top 100 executives in the world. Covering five key aspects of the economy across five continents, we profile 2020's captains of industry.
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