Photo by Stefan Radtke
“The most successful organizations in every industry are committed to reinvention,” declares Linda Sanford, senior vice president of enterprise transformation at IBM in Armonk. “Companies that are willing to change are leaders.”
Sanford knows about change: She has led IBM’s ongoing reinvention of technology, operations, and culture for more than 35 years. The Chappaqua resident and mother of two joined IBM in 1975 after graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and has spent her entire career at IBM, holding so many different positions.
In 1995, she co-authored a book, Let Go to Grow: Escaping the Commodity Trap, detailing the reinvention, growth, and innovative leadership strategies that successful companies use. The book draws on lessons she learned while working at IBM during a crisis there in the ’90s. She was then heading the IBM mainframe division. During that time, IBM had become stagnant, no longer producing cutting-edge technologies. The chip technology and the product that Sanford was responsible for, the S/390, was at the center of the company’s troubles. Customers wanted new technology; they were complaining that the product was too proprietary. Sanford led the effort to create a better, user-friendly product—and IBM’s lab leaders did, delivering a whole new mainframe, a new operating system and product set to support it, as well as a whole new method for IBM to do future systems design. That was the start of a new era for IBM’s flagship mainframe, one of the most complete product transformations the computer industry has ever seen; the resultant technology is still in use today.
Sanford’s accomplishments and achievements have not gone unrecognized. She has been named one of the 50 Most Influential Women in Business by Fortune magazine, one of the Top 10 Innovators in the Technology Industry by Information Week magazine, one of the 10 Most Influential Women in Technology by Working Woman magazine, and one of the Top 15 Women in Business by PINK magazine.