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Thank you IBM for your training and commitment to success and excellence – by Steven R. Gerbsman an exIBMer for life

Forty Nine years ago this month, I earned the right to be selected to hired by the IBM Corp. As I look back on my business career and during my lectures at the various Business Schools, I always end with, “thank God I am an IBM trained salesman”. IBM gave me the confidence to be the best I could be, an understanding of the values of ethics and integrity and an appreciation and understanding that attitude, desire, ability, consistency and pride are the foundations of success.

By background, I graduated from Hunter College in New York City with a BS in Accounting. I was at best an average student, but had an inner desire to find success. Since I was not sure of my goals upon graduating and as an accounting major, I was hired by a local accounting firm. After just four days of visiting clients, carrying the briefcase of a Partner and doing tax returns, I realized that this was not for me. I resigned, went to Baruch Graduate School at night and interviewed numerous companies in various business fields.

I was introduced to IBM by the Career Counseling and Placement Bureau at Baruch and had an interview scheduled with an IBM manager. During the late 1960’s, the profile of an IBM hire was either from an Ivy League school or Officers in the Military. As a 22 year old, I was neither. During my first interview I scored high on the placement test and proceeded to impress, as I was told by the interviewing manager. Seven interviews later, with 2-3 interviews being the norm, I was hired as an IBM trainee. I was consistently told that I was “raw” in background and experience, however I had demonstrated persistence and aggressiveness in seeking the job and all my interviewers saw something in me.

I was hired the last Friday in May, 1969 and the following Monday, I received orders for active duty in the US Army National Guard for mid July, where I eventually was honorably discharged as a 1st Lt. One week after being hired I was sent to the first of four 4-6 week training courses. During this time IBM instilled in me and the other trainee’s the beginnings of our foundations for success. We were between the ages of 22-27 with 1/4 of the class being woman. We were raw in sales and business skills, but after numerous individual and group presentations and training sessions, the group began maturing into the IBM culture of professionalism, customer commitment and service and being results oriented. We also learned, as we did all through our year long training, about “asking for the order” and “closing the deal”. It was instilled in the group a phrase that I use to this day –“you must earn the right to ask for the order”.

During my training, I was fortunate to have my first business mentor, Sam Albert, who was my marketing manager. Sam was a high ranking college tennis player and a successful IBM salesman, but most important he was a manager of people. Sam guided, directed, led, managed, trained and cajoled his team to success. He reinforced the principles of “ethics and integrity” and the foundations of a successful IBM marketing representative. Under his initial guidance and prior to my leaving IBM in 1971, I sold 32 new accounts in 29 months and was recognized numerous times as an IBM sales leader and as a district trainer for new hires.

I mention all this, as almost 50 years later, I encourage under graduate and MBA graduate students to focus on having the pedigree of working for a world class company that has the training and discipline available for future success. With the emphasis on “entrepreneurship” at most or all MBA programs, I encourage the students to “work for a pedigree company” and learn what it means to be successful. I suggest that during their initial working career they learn how to make a sales call, close and order, collect receivables, purchase product, service a client, understand gross margin and profit and loss statements etc.

I am proud that my pedigree is the IBM Corporation and that my skill base and values were nurtured and taught by them.

Thank you IBM – with respect and appreciation from an exIBMer.

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