The mobile professional

Mar 25, 2008

Workplace Utopia may be no workplace at all. Kettering co-op partner IBM is leading the market in utilizing the mobile model to respond to a rapidly changing global business environment.

No more office space. No more traffic congestion on the way to work. Increased productivity and organizational success. Happier, motivated professionals. 

Some describe it as evolutionary. Others might call it revolutionary.

Whatever terms organizations use to characterize the mobile professional in today’s globally integrated enterprise, one thing is clear: mobility offers professionals the flexibility to provide services to customers more swiftly and efficiently than ever before while offering professionals a chance to balance life and work.

The growth of global organizations offering professionals mobile work opportunities is staggering. According to Worldwide Mobile Worker 2007-2001, a report published by the Interactive Data Corp. (IDC) in 2007, the global workforce population utilizing mobile technologies will increase from 758.6 million in 2006 to more than 1 billion in 2011, which represents almost 30 percent of the worldwide workforce.  

For IBM, one of Kettering’s key cooperative education partners, maintaining and enhancing the mobility of professionals in the field is critical to continued corporate success. The company, which is reshaping how it operates and conducts business in a globally integrated environment through the work of its mobile professionals, is a leader in the mobile professional movement.

The firm uses technological platforms that enable the connection of businesses, workflow, transactions, individuals and millions of companies and networked devices, and allows for the free flow of information and simpler integration of technologies and business processes. The goal: utilize technology to be more responsive and innovative in product and service offerings, and create greater efficiencies in conducting business with customers.

For IBM’s central region, several key partners in this ongoing movement are Kettering/GMI grads, explained Deborah Nemesi, vice president IBM Central Region, General Business and a member of Kettering’s Board of Trustees.

“Every professional in sales who deals with our customers every day are all mobile,” she said, adding companies, “should consider the use of the mobile model in order to survive in a rapidly changing global business environment.”

Kettering/GMI grads clearly show that the mobile environment can lead to important success for IBM.

Meg Selfe ’94, vice president of GM Infrastructure Integration Management for IBM Global Services, finds that working as a mobile professional is extremely beneficial for her customers. “It allows us to put the right skill set of the professional in the right position to help our customers quickly and efficiently,” she said.

“If the professional with a skill set that a customer requires is logistically many miles away, our global network capabilities allow us to connect very easily,” said Selfe. “It’s very powerful and when clients see that power applied in the right manner and what it can do to help them facilitate their business and processes, they recognize the tremendous benefit it offers and how it can accelerate their own globalization efforts.”

Karen Bachelder, Business Development executive for IBM Financial Services Sector and a 1981 Mechanical Engineering graduate, said that she also finds herself to be much more productive as a mobile professional instead of one tied down by an established office.

“Rather than spending countless hours on the road commuting to and from an office or client’s sites, I use that time to get the job done. Furthermore, it allows me more opportunity to spend time at the customer’s location, thus deepening relationships and providing better opportunities to solve problems and support our clients more efficiently,” she said.

“And it has allowed me to spend more hours with my clients while serving as the Girl Scout leader, Cub Scout den mother, and home room mom over the years. Managing mobility takes focus and discipline but provides incredible benefits,” Bachelder added.

For Leslie Morgan ‘81, who is also a mobile executive for the organization, there are challenges one must overcome to adjust to this sort of professional role. “When I was at General Motors, it was a very hands-on environment. But when I came to IBM and became a mobile professional, I encountered less face-to-face time with colleagues and had a challenging time my first year adjusting to this role,” she said.

But now some eight years later, Morgan couldn’t envision a different way.

“During my co-op at Kettering/GMI, I rotated through many company departments to achieve a broad view of the business, which taught me about how everything in an organization works together. It taught me the importance of collaboration and gave me a multi-dimensional approach to work, which I feel is very important as an IBM executive who works in a mobile environment. This sort of experience is great, but it’s not cut out for everyone. It takes discipline,” she added.

“The Kettering/GMI co-op and educational experience and the collaborative projects and work environment definitely made the transition to a mobile executive much easier,” Selfe said. “Learning practical skills combined with theory and how to collaborate with others are dimensions that Kettering excels at while other schools do not,” she added.

According to all of these executives, those with desires to become a mobile professional must remember one thing: balance.

“This sort of experience requires great discipline,” explained Nemesi. “In some ways, it can become addictive, since you are always available through mobile devices. So it’s really a two-way street,” she added.

But the benefits are tangible, she noted. The company saves money on office space and training expenses, among others, and responds to customer inquiries immediately with the right professional. In addition, mobility helps retain high quality professionals in the workforce when they are unable to relocate and for senior professionals approaching retirement, offers a wonderful transition while retaining the professional, who might work longer given the flexibility of mobility.

Ultimately, it comes down to the right person for the job. For Nemesi, the Kettering co-op experience provides graduates who are exceptional examples of how a mobile professional can indeed help the company succeed while allowing the flexibility necessary to keep family happy.  

Learn more about IBM.

Written by Gary J. Erwin