What IBM Seeks In An MBA Hire

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Historians refer to the 20th century as “America’s Century.” America’s military commanded the skies and seas. Its culture spread globally through television and the internet. And from automobiles to antibiotics, America’s innovations stirred billions of imaginations, inspiring the world to expect more.

In business, you could call the 20th century, “IBM’s Century.” They helped to launched the personal computer and internet revolutions. They helped NASA place men on the moon. And IBM’s innovations spurred developments from personal banking to wireless transmission.

Looking back, you’d probably laugh at how antiquated their breakthroughs seem today: Electric typewriters, floppy disks, magnetic tapes, and punch cards. And just drop IBM into a conversation; you’re bound to conjure up 1980s images of PCs and software. Well, think again. These days, IBM is about expanding intellectual capital over moving product units. Think R&D, consulting, project management, and infrastructure development. And they’re fearlessly innovating in the most promising fields: nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and data analytics.

You’ll find IBM everywhere, in education, government, defense, and healthcare. They’re tracking disease outbreaks, pinpointing oil reserves, and mapping DNA strands. They’re creating computers that mimic how people think (and unseating chess and Jeopardy champions in the process). While Google and Amazon grab headlines, the 21st century is shaping up to be IBM’s century as well.

You've come a long way, baby

You’ve come a long way, baby!


IBM has always been the place to be, mainly because they’ve walked the walk. They were among the first companies to provide insurance, vacation time, and training to employees. And their inclusive policies on race, disabilities, sexual orientation, and sustainability were often 20-30 years ahead of their time. That’s one reason why survey-after-survey ranks IBM among the most admired companies. And if you’re an MBA looking to make an impact, IBM is a great place to start.

In 2011, IBM celebrated its 100-year anniversary. If you walk around one of Big Blue’s offices, you’re bound to run into employees who’ve worked there for 20 or 30 years. And that’s not by accident. Ask around and you’ll hear similar themes. Many will rave about ‘working with some of the smartest people around.’ They’ll tout the work-life flexibility, resources, and support. Of course, they’ll mention the variety and high level work they do. They’re always learning and sharpening their skills to stay on the forefront.

One of these employees is Eletta Kershaw, a 30-plus year veteran of IBM. Kershaw is the IBM University Recruiting Manager. Since 1998, she has been responsible for persuading the best-and-brightest MBAs to join IBM. And boy does she have a story to tell this year!

IBMs Think Exhibit at Disney's Epcot Center

IBMs Think Exhibit at Disney’s Epcot Center

In July, Apple and IBM announced a partnership to integrate big data and analytics capabilities with the iPhone and iPad – and they just announced their first batch of business apps. In October, Twitter and IBM forged an alliance to data mine billions of tweets to help companies foster outreach and engagement with customers. Also this year, IBM opened up its Watson headquarters in New York City’s ‘Silicon Alley,’ which comes standard with a research lab and business incubator. Just imagine what 2015 might bring.

So what does IBM look for in MBA candidates? What can they expect in the recruitment process? And how can MBAs stand out in their first months on the job? Check out Poets&Quants’ exclusive interview with Kershaw to learn more.

What types of programs does IBM recruit MBAs for?

We have several leadership development tracks for MBAs, including a global program for future general managers and another track for corporate finance. We also have strategy consulting, analytics, and also marketing tracks within our corporate team, product marketing and software and services sales.

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