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By Alicia Lamb and Megan Zhu
As a fresh college graduate, I was excited to start my first job as a consultant in IBM’s Global Business Services. After a few weeks of training, I officially started to work out of the San Francisco office. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and unsure of how to navigate such a large company, so I was eager to find a mentor or a support group. I thought it might help to seek out other women who had been in my place so I could connect with them, learn from their successes and failures, and also comfortably express some of my questions and concerns. After searching through IBM’s internal portal, I learned about a community group that has a mentor matching program for women practitioners in IBM’s Global Business Services.
I filled out the interest survey and was matched with a great mentor within a few weeks. After a few conversations with my new mentor, I learned that the mentor program is a subset of a much larger organization called SWIFT: Successful Women Inspiring Future Talent.
Founded in 2016, SWIFT aims to create an inspiring network of women who can contribute to supporting each other’s personal growth and career development. This is a dynamic community of practitioners from different practices and roles within IBM’s Global Business Services in North America. What began as a community for women in Enterprise Applications expanded to include those in the Cloud Application Innovation (CAI) and Cognitive Process Transformation (CPT) growth platforms in 2017 and 2018, respectively. SWIFT is now comprised of over 4,000 women from GBS North America!
What I love is the diversity of SWIFT’s initiatives: a mentor program filled with inspiring women from all walks of life, member events like happy hours, to lunch & learns across the country, and monthly calls where senior leaders share their personal career journey and reflect on other topics of choice. SWIFT also has a Board of Executive Sponsors that is comprised of leaders who are invested in the growth and support of the community. I enjoy interacting with fellow women IBMers through different SWIFT initiatives—it’s stimulating and truly enhances my work experience.
I was excited to be a SWIFT member but wanted to take my involvement one step further by joining the SWIFT Core Committee. There are four unique teams committed to promoting SWIFT’s initiatives, which are explained in more detail below.
The Community Engagement Team publishes a monthly newsletter to summarize community activities and encourage member engagement. In addition to an active Slack Workspace with several channels, SWIFT also has a Community Site with member spotlights, HR topics, a mentoring wiki, and more. This aspect of SWIFT is important to me because it offers an abundance of resources and allows me to stay plugged in with other members of the community.
SWIFT Monthly Call
The SWIFT monthly call is one of my favorite things! Not only are the monthly calls a great way to hear community updates from SWIFT leaders, but it is also an opportunity to hear from a guest speaker. There are a variety of monthly call topics such as work-life balance, diversity at IBM, data science, IBM Watson. One of my favorite calls was with Catherine Malkova who shared her career and life journey—how she immigrated to America, managed her career, and became a successful partner at IBM all while navigating grad school and family life.
I recently attended a San Francisco SWIFT event where I roasted s’mores around a bonfire with other SWIFT members. It was such a fun and memorable experience since it’s not every day that I can mingle with like-minded professional women and just talk about life! I was given advice on everything: how to make the most out of travel points, best practices during my first year at IBM, and even where to shop for the most versatile work clothes. These events are organized by location leads in cities including Chicago, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas, and Baton Rouge, and they are perfect opportunities for members to meet and grow their network. Previous events have included happy hours, lunch and learn, guest lecture speakers, and more.
The SWIFT External Relations team is dedicated to promoting SWIFT’s eminence, and their efforts make a huge difference. Thanks to them, more and more people are familiar with and knowledgeable of SWIFT and its many initiatives! SWIFT is proud of its growth and what it stands for, and as a member, I feel encouraged to share stories about SWIFT. The External Relations Team looks for opportunities to collaborate with other organizations or teams to promote other engagements. For example, we just had to opportunity to sign up to be an IBM Ambassador, a program through IBM’s Talent Acquisition Group, where we can share more about our experiences as IBMers.
The mentor program has been a game changer for my IBM career because I can speak one on one with a woman who has been in my shoes and made the same decisions that I’ve had to make. I touch base with my mentor regularly, and SWIFT provides resources that can help take the mentorship experience to the next level. This program promotes professional socialization and personal growth and now involves more than 1,000 participants! Pairing cycles are hosted twice a year to ensure pairings remain relevant.
In conclusion, we believe in SWIFT’s mission and continue to be inspired by fellow members. SWIFT undoubtedly played, and continues to play, an important role in helping us navigate IBM – we have made friends, found mentors as well as role models, and have participated in engagements that broaden our knowledge, experience, and network.
Interested in working at IBM? Stay connected by joining our Talent Network.
About the Authors
Alicia Lamb (right) and Megan Zhu (left) are both consultants in the CbD Program. Before joining IBM in the fall of 2017, Alicia was a recent graduate of Princeton University and Megan a graduate of New York University. Both currently serve on SWIFT’s Core Committee. When they are not working, they enjoy being outside, traveling and of course, eating dim sum.