Small Town Girl Puts “International” in IBM

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(3 min read)

Growing up in a tiny town in upstate New York, Miranda Velonis knew two things: First, she was whip smart. Second, it was a great big world and she wanted to see it.

Step one was getting an education. As an undergrad at Bentley College (now University), Miranda majored in Accounting but with a big helping of Liberal Arts courses as well (she feels that the combination makes for a well-rounded business person).

While at Bentley, she applied for an internship at IBM in internal audit. IBM was taking only two candidates from a huge pool, and Miranda was the last candidate IBM spoke to. Let’s just say she impressed.

Miranda spent three months rotating teams and locations evaluating the controls around IBM’s internal processes. “I was very challenged, sometimes feeling completely in over my head, but the challenge is what motivated me. I threw myself into the work, learned as much as possible in a short amount of time and worked to prove that I could add value during my three-month stay.”

Her last rotation of the summer landed Miranda in Seoul, South Korea for three weeks.

“At the time the only stamp I had in my passport was from the Bahamas, so this was far beyond what I expected to get out of a summer internship. I couldn’t get enough of the different culture, spending the weekends sight-seeing, visiting the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, and basically eating my way around the city. I also learned how different the company profile was outside the United States.”

After her summer internship, Miranda was offered a full time internal audit position post-graduation.

“After three years in internal audit I moved to IBM Global Financing as a commercial business financial analyst then planning lead. My next step was Americas Sales & Distribution as manager of expense and resources. It was at that time that I expressed to my management my desire to go on an international assignment. I loved the experience I had working around the world in internal audit and felt I would really benefit from understanding how a geography – outside North America – operated. I found out IBM was looking for a forecast coordinator for the Growth Market Unit (GMU) in Shanghai, China. I jumped at the chance and found it was one of my favorite roles. I had the opportunity to work one-on-one with the geo general manager, learning how he led his sales organization and managed the business as well as how my insights and analysis could drive business decisions. I also had the opportunity to work with finance professionals from around the world, developing their skills, learning about their cultures and the way that business was transacted in so many different countries.”

From there Miranda became the Power Systems CFO, accountable for business performance of growth markets. “As my four years on assignment was coming to an end I was encouraged to reconnect with the US and I felt I needed Services experience, so I went out on a limb and competed to get the Worldwide Planning Manager role for the Global Technology Services business unit. Another role that was completely out of my comfort zone but a building block to making me a well-rounded finance leader. ”

Miranda left that role for a 4-month maternity leave (did we mention that during all this work Miranda balanced marrying her high-school sweetheart and starting a family?) and was offered her current role upon return – Director of Finance for Asia Pacific Systems and Global Markets Pricing based in Singapore.

Looking back on her years at IBM, Miranda says, “IBM appealed to me 17 years ago because of its global presence and the breadth of opportunities that would be available to me without having to leave the company. I have fully taken advantage of those benefits and found that IBM has so much more to offer. The appeal today is working for a company that is changing the way the world does business, being essential and knowing that I am contributing to those goals. IBM’s values align with my values. I am also energized every day that I am working to develop the next generation of finance leaders as well as encouraging more women to embrace finance careers and leadership positions.”

Recently, Miranda participated in an All-Hands meeting with Finance and Operations leaders across the IBM and realizes that, “What resonated with me is how Finance and Operation teams are creating solutions to internal business problems that are being marketed to our clients, thus changing the view that we are back-office support. The energy and excitement of those teams was contagious around the room. I think there is so much more opportunity for that to happen with the focus of our leaders on transforming our organization.”Stewarding performance, transforming the business, scaling the operating model, Miranda has checked off all the boxes – and shattered the glass ceiling while doing it.

Small town girl makes good – indeed!






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