On March 28th, Lewis Fowler was a sponsor at a fundraising event supporting The Gatehouse in Dallas, Texas called Hand Up for Success. The Gatehouse is a non-profit organization focused on helping women and children in crisis discover their new path for permanent change. They focus on establishing a safe and secure environment to address deep-rooted problems and enable permanent, positive change for its constituents. The Gatehouse provides up to 2 ½ years of support with education, childcare, vehicles (including gas and repairs), clothing, food, supplies, counseling, furnishing and health.
A highlight of this event was a candid conversation between Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, and Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T. What we rarely realize in the professional world is how many people have stories similar to the residents of The Gatehouse: people who rise from the ashes of terrible circumstances to become something incredible and inspiring. Events from Ginni’s childhood created challenges overcome only by her mother’s incredible courage, strength and tenacity. Ginni was a teenager and the oldest of 4 children when her father left the family. Circumstances like this can be debilitating and difficult to overcome; however, her mother rallied by working multiple jobs to provide the necessary income to support the family, and went to school at night to obtain her college degree. The resulting example was one that focused only on success, and emphasized the importance of education. These values were passed on to Ginni and her siblings, who went on to obtain their degrees and create high powered careers.
Today, Ginni is one of 20 women that account for 4% of the women CEOs in leadership at S&P 500 companies, and she is the leader of one of history’s most innovative technology companies in the world. IBM is focused on their next “moonshot”, a phrase coined by Ginni referring to IBM’s role in the 1969 Apollo 11 mission in which Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon. The moonshot of this decade for IBM is Watson. Ginni explains the concept of 3 eras of computers: the tabulating systems era, the programmable era, and now the cognitive era. IBM’s Watson is leading the cognitive era across industries and applications through the use of natural language processing and machine learning. Watson partners man and machine to create new insights leveraging unstructured data, resulting in more accurate diagnosis in the medical field, personalized results in consumer and automobile industries, and winning the game show Jeopardy in 2011 when pitted against two of the top champions.
The influence of Watson and the age of cognitive computing will revolutionize every industry. It will challenge our future and force us to reinvent ourselves. IBM recognizes this time as an opportunity to transform the way they do business. They understand that this magnitude of change is complex, and that innovation can be both invigorating and frightening. What does Ginni think it takes to make this happen? Boldness. Speed. Passion.
This era of reinvention is not one that will be easy. It will challenge the very core of our society and beliefs, and cause us to restructure the way we think and act together. We will be forced to discover new opportunities, and innovate at an unprecedented rate. It will take every perspective to fully understand and address what is coming, and to ensure that those less privileged or with poor circumstances do not become victims in the process. The founders of The Gatehouse understand that without a safe and secure foundation, the ability to prosper through this change will be limited, and that education is the key to participation in this process.