Inside the “20 yard” line: Looking back and looking forward- my retirement

As happens a lot in life, things- well life-  got in the way of my 2011 photo blogging objective. However, I hope to be back on it later this month- when I have a lot more free time to pursue my various interests! I posted this blog entry to an internal IBM blog I have been writing (called “Occasionally Ramblings”, as I only write when the mood strikes me!), but also wanted to share it with friends and colleagues outside of IBM.


With my final day with IBM less than 20 10 days away, it seems like the right time for a little reflection…

It seems like only yesterday I received that letter from IBM offering me a job in a small independent business unit called IBM Biomedical Systems, starting salary $19.6k- which was more than most of my professors in college were making! I still have that letter in my file. A couple of months later I was headed to Plainsboro NJ, with all my worldly possessions packed in my ’64 Chevy II- a car that was almost as old as I was- and wondering how I had gone from nursing to a job selling medical devices for IBM.

Flash forward- Four years in Biomedical Systems. Fifteen years in IBM healthcare industry. Eight years in GBS marketing which started with a manager asking me to “go do some thought leadership”. A couple of years in IBM Research playing working with virtual worlds. A few years in the CIO Lab creating the Innovation Fund and Innovation Hubs. And finally, the biggest challenge of my career, as the global leader for  Secure Workplace of the Future and Mobility. A long way from my healthcare roots, with no regrets. I could never have imagined I would have ended up here, 32 years later, after a move to Atlanta, marriage to the man (an IBMer!) who convinced me to take the job in Atlanta, and five very different careers.

For those who have asked me these questions- and those who weren’t sure they should ask – here are the answers to the  “top 5” questions-

  1. Was it your choice?  yes, Yes, YES!
  2. What made you decide to do it now? In a word, perspective. While on vacation with Bill and some time to reflect on our past and our future, I realized that I still had a long list of things I wanted to do- and work started to feel like it was getting in the way. So it was time to start working on my “things I will do when I have more time” list.
  3. Do you have another job? No, unless padding my resume with travel, photography, tennis, volunteer work and learning how to sleep past 6AM count as a job.
  4. What are you going to do? See #3! My husband Bill and I are also considering options for where to retire to, and right now Hilton Head, SC is at the top of our list. Of course, cleaning out 24 years worth of “memories” from our current home is a precursor to any move…
  5. Aren’t you too young to retire? Well, since I was only 12 years old when I joined IBM in 1980, I can’t argue with you on that one

So what have I learned? Follow your passions, but don’t be afraid to try something new. Work hard to become an expert in your “field”, but be willing to start all over to expand your expertise and your value to the company. Take what you learn in one job, but figure out how to apply those skills to each new challenge set before you. You’d be surprised how much healthcare industry experience can help you in figuring out how to develop and promote marketing thought leadership, and how both of those skills can be applied to virtual world research, and how all of that experience can help you survive and thrive in a company like the IBM ! And finally, don’t rely on someone else to make things happen for you- your success is up to you. Or not.

To all my friends and colleagues who will carry on without me- good luck, and may you be as lucky as I have been to have a long and fascinating career, doing things you love to do, and then retire when the time is right for you, feeling satisfied with a job well done.

Yep, this is how I feel…


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2 Responses to Inside the “20 yard” line: Looking back and looking forward- my retirement

  1. Sarah Siegel says:

    Karen, mazel tov on opting to retire! I really loved working with you during the OpenSim and Sametime Connect phase of your career. It was playful work, for sure. Enjoy earnest play from here onward!

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