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On this issue of The Inspirational Executive Series, we are featuring Ana Paula, General Manager for IBM Latin America, as she shares her view on being an IBMer, her interests outside of IBM, and some great advice for aspiring executives.
The Inspirational Executive Series consists of interviews with our executive IBMers to demonstrate how you can successfully build an executive career in this increasingly demanding market. Juggling work, life, and family commitments is a daunting challenge, but this series reveals how, with careful time management, flexible leadership, and a willingness to embrace challenge, IBM can support successful executives to succeed in every aspect of their careers.
About Ana Paula
Ana Paula has a 20-year international experience in the IT industry, and has devoted her career to strategic business development, operational excellence, change management of large and multicultural organizations and innovative leadership. Since joining IBM in 1996, Ana has held a series of leadership positions such as Services Director for Financial Services Industry for IBM Latin America, Vice President Software Group for IBM Brazil, and Vice President Software for IBM Greater China Group.
In 2017, she returned to Latin America as General Manager for the regional technology services organization. In July of the same year, Ana was appointed General Manager for IBM Latin America responsible for all the operations of the company in the major countries across South America and Mexico.
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What skills and experience have you developed over your career to lead you to this position?
I started my career as a Sales Rep in IBM and have since done a number of roles which have enabled me to build on my skills and experience. Then I moved on to bigger accounts in the Financial Services Industry in our large office in São Paulo. I went from sales rep to business unit manager and after 10 years, I had an international assignment in the US as the Chief of Staff for our General Manager for the Americas. It was a great opportunity to see the company from a strategic perspective, develop relationships and a network that would help in in future roles and see how a senior executive of the company operates in their day-to-day.
15 months later, as the assignment finished, I returned to Latin America to our Services organization (Global Technology Services) running Strategic Outsourcing. This was my first job managing a full P&L with the mission to identify and develop new businesses, grow existing clients, approve investments, optimize cost structures. Certainly a very fascinating role given the breadth and complexity as well as the opportunity to manage a business end-to-end.
After that, I ran Software Group for Brazil with responsibility for all the software brands and services which opened the door for another assignment – Software in Greater China Group. Experiencing a whole different culture in a country so different from my own allowed me to significantly broaden my perspective, both professionally and personally. It expanded my horizons and made myself more resilient but also allowed me to develop something I have never experienced before…being vulnerable. Needing other people to accomplish the most basic things (like going to the bank), makes you humble and teaches you how to ask for help. I returned back to Latin America last year, first running GTS Latin America for a few months and then taking up the General Management role for the whole region.
What is your favorite thing about being an IBMer?
I love being part of a company that has had such an impact on the development and progress of humankind. IBM never stops doing amazing things, it is constantly evolving and defining the future.
Can you tell us about the work you do outside of your role as GM LA at IBM, for example the work with JA Americas?
I am a member of the board of JA Americas—a non-profit organization focused on the professional development of young students—which a very rewarding role I thoroughly enjoy. It is great to see the students develop as a result of our mentoring and advice which covers a range of topics such as the skills of the future and talent.
Outside of IBM, what are your hobbies, interests, and passions?
I love being with my family, traveling, riding a bike, trekking, skiing, dancing.
Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself?
I read my horoscope every day – just for curiosity J.
How do you manage your work life balance?
Doing what I love is a good start. Also, I set a few slots for my personal activities and when I’m doing them I’m 100% into it.
Do you have any recommendations for employees aspiring to an executive career at IBM?
Think long term (i.e. where you want to be in 5, 10 years…), but execute to deliver short term results. Develop a good network of supporters and people who can sponsor you – seek as much feedback as you can get. Take risks. Learn from mistakes. Don’t hide behind the processes, challenge the status quo. Finally, always be true to yourself no matter the circumstances.
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