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Icons of Progress

The First Salaried Workforce

No product, idea or achievement is possible without our most critical asset—the collective thought capital of hundreds of thousands of IBMers. The expertise, technical skill, willingness to take risk and overall dedication of IBM employees has led to countless transformative innovations through the years. Meet team members who contributed to this Icon of Progress.

  • Thomas J. Watson Jr.

    Thomas J. Watson Jr.
    “There are many things I would like IBM to be known for, but no matter how big we become, I want this company to be known as the company which has the greatest respect for the individual.”

    Thomas J. Watson Jr. was born in 1914, the year his father became president of C-T-R Corporation, which later became IBM. Watson brought IBM to the forefront of the technological age. Under his leadership, the company grew to become one of the most respected corporations in the world. Watson's professional career began at IBM in 1937. He left the company to serve in World War II as an Army Air Corps Pilot, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel. After the war, he returned to IBM and was elected president in 1952. Four years later, he succeeded his father as chief executive officer, holding the office until 1971. During that time, IBM's gross revenue surged from US$892 million to over US$8 billion. A business legend, he was considered “the greatest capitalist who ever lived” by Fortune Magazine.

  • John J. Bricker 

    In 1958 IBM's director of personnel, John J. Bricker, proposed to Watson the unprecedented move to an all-salaried U.S. workforce.