Right about this time a year ago, I was on my way to IBM Headquarters in Armonk for a meeting. It was a routine drive from Boston which I had done hundreds of times over the past 30+ years. That day was a beautiful Spring day with trees just budding along Interstate 84. As I was driving, without warning, I felt a voice telling me that I needed to make a decision to start a new journey beyond IBM, that day. Up to that point, I had not thought about retiring. But after going through multiple personal losses in the prior year, including losing one of my managers at the young age of 42 to cancer, and my mother-in-law whom I was very close to, to Parkinson’s, and reflecting that I was at the exact age my father was when he passed away, I decided to listen to my inner voice and turned in my retirement decision that afternoon.
Since that day, I have enjoyed all the things retirement affords you: the freedom to sleep in, the freedom to travel, the freedom to read and most importantly, the freedom to think. One of the things I came to realize through my thinking is how much IBM imprinted on me as a person. I remember my first IBM sales training session in Poughkeepsie, New York when our instructor talked about IBM Founder TJ Watson’s three basic beliefs: Respect for the Individual, Best Customer Service and Pursue Personal Excellence. I carried these beliefs into my job as an employee, a manager, an executive and now as an independent business owner. It is amazing how they shaped my thinking about how to treat people, to deal with customer situations and to better myself.
I think these three basic beliefs also guided me into dedicating myself to accessibility work. Accessibility is about using technology to enable equality, which is the fundamental way of respecting the individual, every individual. The best customer service translates into trying to listen and understand the needs of the disability community and then developing new ideas to bring about innovative solutions that make substantive difference. In order to achieve the first two, one has to always learn and do one’s personal best every single day, as this work is not just about technology or ones and zeros. It is about bettering humanity
As I move forward into my second year post-IBM, I want to share these beliefs more than ever, as I think we all can benefit from having some true and tested principles to guide us through this unbelievably complex and challenging time. Besides, by sharing this, it makes me proud to have been associated with a company that respected me as an individual, gave me an opportunity to pursue a business that I believe in and entrusted me and my team to deliver solutions and services that made a difference. For that I will always be grateful.