Amparo Moraleda – Senior General Manager, IBM

Amparo Moraleda

IBM’s Global Gal: Amparo Moraleda talks to PINK about running five divisions for Big Blue.

By Taylor Mallory

Set to take the stage with female heads of state and international business leaders at the Global Summit of Women, to be held June 14-16 in Berlin, Amparo Moraleda is the most senior female general manager at IBM. After nearly two decades with the $103 billion company, Moraleda now lives with her husband and two daughters in Madrid, where she runs IBM in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Israel and Turkey.

Moraleda, 43, began her career at IBM as a systems specialist and spent the next decade in numerous managerial roles – including engineering, sales, marketing and finance – in Spain and other European countries. Next, she spent a few years in the U.S. as executive assistant to Louis Gerstner, then president of IBM Corp., which she says gave her the opportunity to become vice president of integrated technology services of IBM Worldwide and then, at just 36 years old, to become general manager of Spain and Portugal in 2001. Four years later, she took over three more countries.

Moraleda talks to PINK about the status of professional women in Europe and what it takes to succeed in an increasingly global business climate.

PINK: What’s it like to be a woman corporate leader in Europe?
Amparo Moraleda: I believe that the number of women execs in Europe is lower than in the States, and we have a long way to go to catch up. There are many social and historical reasons. In the absence of a good childcare system and family support, it’s been difficult for women. But there is great focus and sensitivity to change this. Laws are being developed to improve the participation of women in executive ranks. And women have progressed more since the childcare systems changed and since men began helping more in the domestic arena. I’ve always felt very respected at IBM. There is no gender discrimination as long as you’re talented, which allows you to work your way up the ranks.

PINK: What do you hope to accomplish by speaking at the Global Summit of Women?
A.M.: I believe that each of us – every woman who has achieved certain milestones and has been able to differentiate herself in the business world – has a duty to become a role model for other women and to show it’s possible to be successful [and have] a personal or family life. Women lack role models. Many think it’s impossible because they don’t see a lot of women doing it. And I want to share that success is about determination, resiliency and passion – and working for a company with equal opportunities and where people are valued for their talent.

PINK: How do you balance your demanding job with being a mother?
A.M.: If there was a magic answer to that, I would be a rich woman. [She laughs.] I would write a book and just teach people how to do that, rather than working in this job. But there’s not a recipe. You have to reinvent on a daily basis how you cope with unexpected situations at home and at work. It’s about being resourceful and disciplined with time management. The key word in Life/Work balance is “balance.” Sometimes my family needs more of my time, and sometimes I need to work 24 hours a day. And technology helps working moms in intellectual jobs because it allows you to work from home in a very transparent way. At IBM, we trust and really evaluate our employees by their results rather than physical presence in the office. When I have to travel or work late, I have to do that. When I don’t, I go home at a decent hour and work in my home office.

My children [ages 10 and 12] don’t need me as much physically as they did when they were babies; they just need me there. If children have a question, they don’t write it down and remember to ask Mom when she gets home. If you’re there, they ask. If you’re not, they lose the question forever.

PINK: What is your biggest challenge at work?
A.M.: Being able to adapt myself and the organization I lead to the new challenges in this global economy. The current business environment demands different answers than it did even a decade ago. IBM constantly reinvents itself, many times setting the agenda for the industry. We have to be responsive to new players in the IT space, and know how to get the best talent and use our resources well. We know the markets we serve. My personal challenge is being able to continuously drive innovation. In 2004, we brought to Spain the No. 1 supercomputer in Europe, MareNostrum. I’m very proud of that.

PINK: What is the secret to your success?
A.M.: I take risks and have never said no to an opportunity, even if it meant moving my family to another country. Women often believe we’re not capable enough or don’t know enough to accept a particular assignment. But men rarely think they’re not qualified. I encourage women to take the risk of failing – or you’ll never prove yourself. And my secret weapon is that I have always surrounded myself with people who are better than me. I only want people on my team whom I would love to work for in the future.

PINK: How do you motivate your employees?
A.M.: I try to involve my management team in all business decisions and major projects. People need to feel part of a project and that their contribution is important and appreciated. I dedicate a significant amount of time to making sure everyone understands our objectives and how she or he can contribute to the goal. And I spend time on recognition – not just awards and salary increases, but recognizing in front of the organization the individual contributions of my team members.

PINK: Who inspires you?
A.M.: I don’t have many idols. I have close role models – my grandmother and my parents. And I admire the former Chairman and CEO of IBM, Thomas Watson Jr., whose commitment to success changed the industry. And great thinkers like Einstein. I am inspired by people who have been able to look at the world through different windows and not see the same things as everyone else – people who’ve found new ways to understand things. I like reading biographies of people like that because you can learn from their experiences.

PINK: What’s the best advice you’ve ever given?
A.M.: Be yourself. Everything that made you successful up till now will make you successful in the future. Be aware of your weaknesses and then leverage your strengths. Great leaders understand their weaknesses and compensate for them with their skills – and surround themselves with people who are strong in those areas. I am creative but not very organized. I need close to me a good CFO and operations manager to put structure around my creativity. I mean, I’m an engineer so I have some structure, but I always like to throw ideas on the table and have people around who can help me craft and refine them for implementation.

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