Alumni Merit Award: Virginia M. Rometty (McC79)
Ginni Rometty admits that when she was still a Northwestern student, she didn’t have the slightest inkling of the remarkable journey that was in store for her. Some 30 years later, she still seems a bit taken aback by it all.
“I never would have guessed that I would be fortunate enough to meet with hundreds of corporate and government leaders every year, travel millions of miles, and now help lead a company with revenues higher than three quarters of the countries in the world,” she says. “Much of what I have accomplished, I owe to Northwestern.”
Rometty is senior vice president and group executive for IBM Global Sales, Strategy, and Marketing, overseeing the 170 markets around the world in which the company conducts business. She says one of the joys of her role with IBM is the ability to help provide innovative solutions to major societal issues around the world, such as harnessing renewable energy, reducing urban pollution, and developing micro finance programs.
Her interest in taking a leadership role to solve the pressing issues of our time is also evident in her affiliations outside of IBM. Rometty is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent nonpartisan think tank committed to the study of U.S. foreign policy and international affairs.
She has been named one of Fortune magazine’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business for five consecutive years, and made Forbes magazine’s list of 100 Most Powerful Women—among such notables as Queen Elizabeth II, Hillary Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey—for two years in a row.
On the surface it might seem strange that a degree in computer science and electrical engineering would be the precursor to a life so intertwined with international business and global politics. Yet Rometty said the problem-solving skills she first developed at the McCormick School have proven invaluable.
“When I look back on my time at Northwestern, and then through the course of my career, I recognize that the most valuable thing I learned here was how to solve problems,” Rometty explains. “Not just engineering and science problems, but how to apply myself to any type of problem. In a word, I learned how to step back and ‘think.’”
How highly Rometty still thinks of Northwestern is unmistakable; she serves her alma mater as a newly-appointed member of its Board of Trustees.
Ginni Rometty is married to Mark Rometty.