Photo of IBM Fellow Chris Ferris

Chris Ferris

Chief Technology Officer, Open Technology

Chris is recognized as an expert in the architecture, design and engineering of distributed systems, and in open standards and open source development.

Who has been a major influence in your achievement of IBM Fellow?

Other Distinguished Engineers and IBM Fellows! From my earliest days with IBM, I’ve been fortunate to have close relationships with many of our senior technical leaders. Some — like Tony Storey and Rod Smith — have since retired or left IBM. But many others continue as valued colleagues, role models and mentors. IBM Fellow Jerry Cuomo stands out as someone I’ve worked closely with during these past few tumultuous years in the blockchain space. And I also must credit some amazing managers throughout my IBM career — people who have supported my career objectives and given me opportunities to connect with the broader IBM technical community.

What are your goals when you meet with clients?

I’m frequently asked to speak to clients about IBM’s open approach, and our investments in various open source and open standards initiatives. My goal is to help clients understand IBM’s governance model for managing open source contribution and consumption. I also work with product teams on client briefings — especially when the open-source angle comes into play.

One of my most memorable client interactions involved discussing IBM’s Hyperledger initiatives with representatives from a number of banks. I wanted to help them understand the value of the IBM Blockchain Platform, and really felt that I was able to connect with the clients and help cement their confidence in Hyperledger Fabric and IBM Blockchain.

The subconscious is a wonderful and mysterious thing — harness it.

What’s your advice for tackling tough problems?

Decompose the problem as much as you can, then iterate through different hypotheses/approaches. When you get frustrated, take a break. Do or think about something else. Go for a walk or to the gym and clear your mind. When I commuted to work, quite often a solution to whatever problem I was working on would pop into my head when my conscious mind was focused on driving. The subconscious is a wonderful and mysterious thing — harness it.

What are you most passionate about outside of work?

I have a number of non-work interests, including hiking, amateur photography and very amateur golf. But I suspect that the activity I’m most passionate about is tennis. My wife and I are avid tennis players (though she does get to play way more than I do). We love to play mixed doubles — especially when the other couple is a challenging match-up. Surprisingly, since we moved to Florida, I get less time on the courts than I enjoyed up in Massachusetts, largely because tennis here is almost exclusively played outdoors during the day, whereas up north, it was indoors and evenings, mostly.

We also follow the professional tour as much as we can. There’s usually a tennis match on the TV, especially during the majors. We also try to attend events when we get the opportunity. In fact, we just spent a beautiful day at the Miami Open with a few of our tennis friends and we’re hoping to get to the U.S. Open again this summer.

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