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When Armonk resident Virginia “Ginni” Rometty spoke to graduates at her alma mater, Northwestern University, last year, she told them that “growth and comfort never coexist.”

And Rometty should know. The 59-year-old chairman, president, and CEO of IBM is challenging, even changing, what have been company mainstays for decades. She’s betting on cloud computing, mobile technology, social networking, cyber-security, and artificial intelligence — specifically Watson, IBM’s robot — while divesting parts of Big Blue’s legacy business, such as microchips and hardware.

Rometty, who has been married to her husband, Mark, for 36 years, “has vision and foresight, and she’s not afraid to take risks,” says Laura Persky, graduate-program director at the Manhattanville College School of Business. “She has a very good sense of what’s coming in the future.”

That’s why Rometty is the first woman ever to head the Armonk-based company and its 400,000 employees, who span 170 countries. She’s also a regular fixture on Forbes’ list of the World’s Most Powerful People. If you want to know how many times or which years, just ask Watson, the 2011 Jeopardy! champion.

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