IBM leadership program targets millennials in the channel

SAN DIEGO – Whether you like it or not, the so-called millennial generation has entered the workforce and is now in a position to move up into leadership positions at many organizations.

In fact, IBM Corp. projects that by the year 2020 – remember, that’s just five years from now – millennials will be the dominant generation in the workforce, comprising 70 per cent of it. That will be just as true of IBM itself as it is of the channel partners that it works with, and to develop the next generation of leaders and collaboration with its channel, it launched the IBM Emerging Leaders Initiative at PartnerWorld in February.

At IBM Amplify, program champion Mike Gerentine, global vice-president of channel marketing at IBM, says the program has so far recruited 40 millennial participants – 20 from IBM’s staff and 20 from channel partners that work together in a buddy system. They’re collaborating together the way colleagues normally would, via conference calls, in-person meetings, and perhaps some SnapChat sessions involving customizedBitmoji.

Hannah Egan, product strategy specialist, IBM Marketing Solutions is an example of a millennial taking on leadership at IBM.
Hannah Egan, product strategy specialist, IBM Marketing Solutions is an example of a millennial taking on leadership at IBM.

While the generation born 1980 or later has sometimes got a bad rap as being too self-involved and entitled, Gerentine says they actually aren’t that different from other generations.

“They are more social and digitally savvy, but they still want to work in a collaborative environment with people,” he says. “We hope to create a groundswell in business partner firms” to start developing leaders for the future.

So far the program is focusing on non-technical employees, those in functional roles of marketing and sales, and the participants are being asked to take on two projects within IBM.

They must be evangelists of IBM’s internal social app, Gerentine says, and become experts of its new digital marketing platform, helping other employees deploy it and then put it to use.

Activities the 40 digital natives have taken part in so far include an interactive session showcasing Watson technologies, the natural-language interpreting technology that was made famous by becoming a Jeopardy champion. The program participants also had an interview with a millennial designer on the IBM Verse team, and have had sessions to discuss their perspective on mobile, cloud, and social technologies.

In an article introducing the program, Gerentine describes the program as critical. “IBM believes millennials are essential to helping define future needs and interests in the technology marketplace,” he writes. “I’m fully committed to ensuring that Emerging Leaders have a voice. Our companywide share new technology solutions with them, listen to their feedback, and learn from their insights.”

The program is expanding. There’s an open call to recent college graduates that are now working at IBM partners, or the employers that hired them, to get in touch with IBM. A nomination form is required to be filled out for consideration to take part in the program.

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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