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Brainstorming at Big Blue


My day at IBM isn't the 9-to-5 experience MBAs sometimes seek in order to avoid the grind of investment banking or consulting. Nor does it involve 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. marathons to get a pitch or a presentation out the door: It's somewhere in between.

It turns out the sun really does set, which I don't recall noticing when I was a banker before B-school. People are expected to give their all and make sacrifices for the good of IBM clients, but not to the total exclusion of a personal life. Our senior executives tell us, and personally demonstrate, that if you don't have a work-life balance you can't tap your full management potential. I've never known another company that believes that to its core.

TYPICAL WORKDAY:

7:30 a.m. -- I'm out the door and on the light rail to work in San Jose, Calif., probably using my cell phone to check voice mail along the way given that headquarters is three hours ahead in New York.

8:15 a.m. -- Ah, the morning "replicate" (synchronizing my laptop with the e-mail server). A few dozen e-mails, no doubt, lots of information to assimilate about new products, venture funding, new tools for the sales force. The e-mails that require responses usually need a bit more time, but before you know it, it's...

9:00 a.m. -- Time for the day's first conference call. Today the goal is to get the product-development team to agree on when to release a document about one of our products to the world. Our calendar [of such announcements] is so full, I want to be sure we can make a splash.

11:00 a.m. -- Lunch at the desk, and early. Picked up the habit as an investment banker in Atlanta, which is an early-lunch town. (Maybe it's that Coke they drink in the morning).

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