Keynote speaker Mike Ray, Vice President, Business Integration and Strategy, Integrated Supply Chain at IBM outlines the company's commitment to corporate responsibility. (Photo courtesy of Ruben Kogel of Photobooth)
When most of us think of IBM, sustainability and corporate responsibility are probably not the first words that come to mind. However, for those of us attending the Net Impact Conference on Oct. 11, IBM's Mike Ray, Vice President, Business Integration and Strategy, Integrated Supply Chain, was there to convince us otherwise.
As the keynote speaker at the conference, he outlined IBM's commitment to corporate responsibility and the various facets this entails, including a Global Service Corps, high school/associates degree programs and an integrated supply chain that requires all 29,000+ suppliers to adhere to sustainability and social principles set by IBM. It is clear that IBM's attention to corporate responsibility did not happen overnight. In fact, Thomas J. Watson, Jr., IBM Chairman in 1969, said: "We accept our responsibilities as a corporate citizen in community, national and world affairs; we serve our interests best when we serve the public interest...We want to be in the forefront of those companies which are working to make our world a better place."
In addition to highlighting IBM's role in the social space, Ray also had some words of advice for Booth MBA students. He encouraged students to not only consider the traditional social impact roles like those within non-profits and government, but urged students to consider corporate America. They have the resources to make a significant impact and do not make it a priority, so there is a need for socially-minded people to permeate these corporate structures.
Ray, a graduate of the University of Chicago GSB ('84), touted the caliber of students that Booth has to offer employers like IBM. He highlighted the incredible intellect and intellectual curiosity Booth students possess compared to their peers in comparable MBA programs. But as a word of advice, he emphasized developing skills such as presence, presentation, and even confidence in work settings, particularly from classes like LEAD that develop "soft skills," which he believes is a misnomer, as these are really concrete skills that will serve professionals for the long-term.
He argued, "There's an abundance of smart people, but there are few who can influence others and take that intelligence and execute strategically for the perfect combination."