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11 innovators elevated to our highest level

The 2014 IBM Fellows represent a microcosm of IBM’s diverse global organization. Their backgrounds vary—from a village in southern India to the holy city of Jerusalem to a small town in central Kentucky. From different starting points, today these 11 leaders in their respective fields have reached the same destination—the rarefied ranks of IBM’s all-time technical giants. Meet the 2014 class of IBM Fellows.

IBM Fellows

Tamar Eilam

Tamar Eilam

IBM Research
Senior Manager, Virtualized and Cloud Infrastructure Management
Research Scientist: Computer Science

Tamar Eilam doesn’t put much stock in career planning.

“I never planned to become an IBM Fellow,” the new Fellow said. “I believe in just focusing on doing what you are passionate about at present, and enjoying it!”

Focusing on the journey and not the destination has proved a winning philosophy for the native of Israel, who has spent her entire 13-year IBM career at IBM Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

Small in stature, the research scientist has made a big mark on “patterns of expertise” technology, which automatically provisions complex workloads based on a declarative “desired state” description. Her work formed the foundation for the IBM Workload Deployer appliance, IBM PureApplication Systems and IBM SmartCloud Orchestrator.

Deep expertise in deep computer science

Tamar and her team supply the deep computer science required to push to the next frontier in cloud computing. “One key focus for us is the language and tools for representing and manipulating workloads in the cloud. The workload layer in many cases gives IBM an advantage over other competitors in the cloud space.”

IBM is well positioned now to lead the next generation cloud technologies, asserted the new Fellow. “We’ve made some very bold steps with the acquisition of SoftLayer, our investment in OpenStack and in the DevOps area with the acquisition of UrbanCode. Customers are willing to make significant changes in their culture to transition to this new agile world. Our challenge is to engage with customers early on, deliver functions in chunks that are easy to consume and keep evolving to provide more value.”

From a mother, a model mindset

For Tamar, the oldest of three girls, a love of learning and the sciences came naturally. Her mother was a microbiologist, her father an anthropologist. “My father died when I was 8 years old,” said Tamar, who grew up in Jerusalem in the 1970s and ‘80s. “My mother is a strong, determined scientist who always pushed us to study hard.”

Early on, I was given the opportunity to take the stage, to stand in front of decision-makers, and express my opinions and ideas.

After high school and a mandatory two-year stint in the Israeli military, Tamar spent seven years at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, earning a doctorate in computer science while interning at the IBM Haifa lab. Before she had even defended her dissertation, IBM Research offered Tamar a job and she accepted, relocating to New York.

“When I came here, I was a new immigrant from Israel, and IBM Research gave me the support I needed to make that transition,” said the Manhattan resident. “Early on, I was given the opportunity to take the stage, to stand in front of decision-makers, and express my opinions and ideas. I’m really grateful and very excited to be named an IBM Fellow.”

Tamar Eilam
Tamar Eilam in her own words

What advice do you have for other women technologists?

Women tend to be shy about expressing their opinions. I say, don’t be shy. Express yourself. It’s very easy to get discouraged. But be persistent. IBM Research allows the freedom to innovate. If you have the right ideas and you are persistent and flexible about it, you can eventually be successful in transforming your ideas to business value.

What do enjoy doing outside of work?

Hiking, climbing, recently I started sailing. Last year, I took my two kids (ages 9 and 5) on a hiking trip in Death Valley, California. My daughter told me, “I just want to climb mountains. Take me to climb as many as possible.”

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Dark chocolate.

What was your worst job?

In the Israeli army, I spent a month making gas masks in a factory. That was the worst definitely. Fortunately, I never had to test my product.

Last book you read?

Long overdue, I finally read Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? by Lou Gerstner. I liked what he said about IBM Research being the soul of the company. That’s still true. Right now, I’m reading The Phoenix Project and Release It!

What’s on your playlist?

I like jazz. Even Broadway tunes. I have eclectic tastes.

How would you like to be remembered?

I don’t think it’s productive to think about it. Enjoy the journey, enjoy who you are and be kind — that’s the only thing.

Year by year