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They are some of the leading thinkers, tackling some of the biggest issues in the marketplace. And IBM is lucky to count them among our numbers.

Business agility is a requirement of today's marketplace. And Manoj Saxena and Yvonne Perkins have unique backgrounds to help them to help businesses transform the way their people and processes work.

 


 

Manoj Saxena

Manoj Saxena likes speed.

Proof? He founded, managed and sold two venture-backed software companies within a five-year span: Exterprise, a business process collaboration software company acquired by Commerce One and Webify, a leader in industry-specific SOA middleware, which was acquired by IBM in 2006. In fact, he's called a serial entrepreneur.

So what is a man who thrives on thrill and risk of the startup lifestyle doing at IBM? Well, pretty much the same thing. Only now instead of an entrepreneur, he calls himself an "intra-preneur."

"I love creating and scaling markets," said Manoj. "And there's nowhere else in the world I can do this like I can at IBM."

In his current role as vice president of strategy & market development for IBM Software Group since 2006, Manoj is a bit of a mad scientist. He creates new offerings from the capabilities and products that companies acquired by IBM bring to the table. "I play mastermind with them," he said, taking components and focus areas from one and pairing them with tools and competencies from another, to create an entirely new industry-focused solution. It's a skill he learned managing business units at his first employer, 3M.

Born and raised in India, Manoj was hired at 3M in 1990 upon finishing his MBA at Michigan State. After eight years, he struck out on his own, first with Exterprise and then again with Webify. But it was in his early days at 3M that Manoj heard a phrase that has guided his professional life ever since.

"An office desk is a dangerous place to view the world from," he said, and as a result, Manoj ensures he spends as little time sitting at his as possible.

At least once a quarter, he visits IBM clients around the world, ensuring that he sees first hand how the companies are using IBM solutions and identifying new opportunities. He also schedules visits with the various venture capitalist firms that IBM works with—up to twenty startups and VCs at any given time. These firms have their fingers on the pulse of what's new and innovative, and Manoj likes see the pitches and look through the portfolios. He sees a great opportunity for creating new, disruptive industry solutions by combining the scale, credibility and global reach of IBM with the agility and innovation of early stage companies as IBM business partners.

Despite being out of his office most of the time, Manoj makes it a priority to stay in touch with friends and colleagues. Social networking is a boon to his efforts and he allocates thirty minutes a day for its use. He is a regular on Facebook, and LinkedIn is an integral part of his professional networking. He does use Twitter, though not heavily. "Twitter is more like a conversation in a bar," he said, distinguishing his sense of the quality of conversation on the platform. "Facebook is a conversation in a living room."

But the best connections he has are within the IBM community. "The amazing thing about IBM is the talent pool," he said. "I work with some amazing IBM Fellows and Distinguished Engineers, plus country managers around the world to understand the challenges of enabling Smarter Cities and finding ways to develop compelling solutions." And for those connections, Manoj is grateful for Lotus Sametime and the IBM intranet site, BluePages.

So what is on his to-do list now?

"I want to convert a smarter planet into a richer planet. We're working within the framework of the smarter planet campaign, and I want to find new ways to bring value to our shareholders through its applications.

Right now, that means a focus on Smarter Commerce industry solutions by combining existing IBM products with recent acquisitions of Sterling Commerce, Unica, Coremetrics, SPSS and iLOG and taking them to market in close partnership with IBM Global Services. And Manoj says there is no one else in the world that can pull it off like IBM.

When he's not masterminding new solution portfolios, Manoj is focused on his two daughters, now 13 and 16. And when he can, he gets back to his love of speed with auto racing. In fact, he's planning a cross-country race in conjunction with his own Saxena Family Foundation and Communities in Schools, the nation's largest organization dedicated to dropout prevention. The goal is to raise at least $100,000 for affiliates of the program by the summer of 2011.

Now that's fast.


 

Yvonne Perkins

In thirty years, Yvonne Perkins has changed her address many times. Her work has taken her from California to Texas to Connecticut. But one thing hasn't changed: her employer.

Since 1979, Yvonne has worked for IBM, and now she is a vice president with IBM Software Group in application and integration middleware software. She runs an organization that brings in US $2 billion a year, including development and business direction of products for the mainframe, Customer Information Control System (CICS) and IBM z mainframe for the IBM WebSphere brand.

In her career, various things have held fascination for Yvonne. Compiler technologies. Thin clients. And transaction processing facilities or TPFs. The former really gets her excited.

"TPF is a really interesting area," said Yvonne. "It only has a few clients, but they are big clients." Those big clients are in the financial sector and travel and transportation industry. And Yvonne works cheek-by-jowl with most of them. So she knows the ins and outs of what has changed in the industries―and what hasn't.

"I've got the chance to focus on one industry at a time and its challenges using a 30-year old product – and help to evolve it." Last year, Yvonne and her team made advancements with a new product based on TPF, moving it into China to support the high speed rail line. The best part, she said, is that it takes her off into so many different spaces. "This is a brand new offering. I get to see not only how rail is trying to transform itself, but learn how do we do business in China."

For her purposes, Yvonne says boots on the ground work best. But social networking tools are valuable for, oddly enough, the systems themselves.

"CICS has a Twitter account and a Facebook page," she said. "It's a great way to demonstrate that mainframes aren't outdated. It tells the story that the product is alive and new and features a lot of people who are young."

Alive and new is certainly the theme of IBM Z enterprise, the next version of z hardware. And Yvonne is at the center of it.

"This is the new mainframe," she said, "and it really delivers the system of systems." That means the focus is not on mainframes or blades, but whatever the enterprise requires. "We've never done this before. Everyone is still thinking either mainframe or blades. We're saying, "stop thinking that way, you can do both."

When not spreading the gospel of z enterprise, Yvonne is at work with another group of clients: rescue dogs. She volunteers most of her free time with a no-kill animal shelter near her home in Ridgefield, Connecticut. She arrives at 6am to let them out and cares for about 400 dogs a year.

And none of them ask about mainframes.