Director, Accelerated Cognitive Infrastructure
Bachelor of Science, Master of Science and Ph.D., Electrical Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Hillery is a respected industry expert in next-generation memory technology.
What does being named an IBM Fellow mean to you?
I think IBM expects Fellows to have a broad perspective — working across business units, looking outside IBM to bring in different perspectives and providing direction in new technology areas. Every day, I work with and learn from an incredible team across IBM Research and IBM Systems, and I look forward to continuing to help steer our technical strategy and to broaden our impact in cloud.
Current project that excites you most?
Right now, we’re working to pull together compute infrastructure that is cost-performance advantaged for cognitive workloads, largely in the areas of machine and deep learning. My current projects span multiple areas from cognitive and storage to cloud and Watson. Seeing separate teams form a new understanding of each other’s technical areas and together come to a better solution is always the part of my job I enjoy the most.
Advice for tackling tough problems?
One of the reasons I came to IBM was that I was deeply impressed by the extent of knowledge at IBM across many different disciplines. I enjoy working on interdisciplinary projects, and knowing that I could always find someone who had mastery of a topic I was interested in was a huge plus to me. When I start to tackle a tough problem, one of the first things I do is try to learn from those who have thought about the problem before, and then try to build on that knowledge; try to connect in pieces from adjacent domains, and explore directions others haven’t previously pursued. In that sense, I think humility is one of the most important steps in tackling tough problems — being willing to learn from others’ knowledge and missteps, being willing to team with others to help solve the problem, etc.
What’s your passion project?
I’m passionate about helping others develop their leadership capabilities, and have invested a lot of my personal time in this. I’ve been blessed with four mentors who have invested in me since the start of my time at IBM, so I try to consistently make time for mentees. I currently have a mentoring focus on technical employees at our international R&D labs and on those making career transitions into cognitive areas.
I also participate extensively in the technical community outside IBM, serving as a program committee member and conference organizer. Making the time for technical community service is important, as it also helps keep us connected to the technical pipeline, helps foster IBM’s reputation in the external technical community, and helps keep skills and knowledge fresh.