IBM Centennial

CMU alum Wayne Balta

CMU alum Wayne Balta (E'82)

This year marks IBM's 100th anniversary.

In celebration of this milestone, IBM vice president and Carnegie Mellon University alumnus Wayne Balta (E'82) returned to campus to give a special lecture.

An overflow crowd listened intently to his insights on what an organization needs to do to succeed in today's world.

Balta, who is vice president of corporate environmental affairs and product safety was joined by longtime CMU friend Robert Morris, vice president of IBM research. Following the lecture, the two answered questions from the audience.

"We don't view this as an occasion to celebrate our past, but instead, we are looking ahead and thinking hard about what our 100-year history tells us about our world today and tomorrow," Balta said.

"Most importantly we want to engage with existing leaders like you and many future leaders here in the audience today to share our perspectives and understanding about what individuals and institutions need to do to succeed in today's globally-integrating, technology-infused world."

Three lessons in particular are of special urgency for the world leaders of tomorrow to inherit and to decisions they'll need to make for their own organizations and communities, Balta said.

"The first is how an organization must change as the world economy changes. The second is how an organization must change in response to changes in technology. And the third is how an organization must actually remain the same at its core in the face of a changing world."

Balta says these insights are important for anyone in a leadership position. And he believes these insights are especially critical to the next generation of leaders and forward thinkers who are now charting their own paths as global citizens.

"One challenge we will all face at one time or another is how to reinvent your organization, whether it's a business, an arm of government or a university.

They are not permanent structures even when they are successful for a time. Rather, they are evolving organisms, and the job of each generation is to adapt them to a continually changing world."

Over the years, CMU and IBM have collaborated on a number of innovations. In the 1980s, a very ambitious prototype for a computing environment led to the creation of the Andrew computing network, and CMU became the first university with a completely wired campus.

Together, CMU and IBM continue to advance question and answer technologies and natural language processing. This joint research is likely to be as transformative as the Andrew networking project in pushing the capabilities of the technology beyond what we know it to be today.

A historic moment in the research was marked when IBM's supercomputer Watson made its first appearance at a university and went up against students from CMU and the University of Pittsburgh in the game of Jeopardy! on CMU's campus in February, before the national Jeopardy! show.

More recently, CMU has been working with IBM as part of its Smarter Planet initiative to create technology to help cities, governments and industries worldwide develop smarter infrastructure. The IBM Smarter Infrastructure Lab is part of the Pennsylvania Smart Infrastructure Incubator at CMU.

In addition, the company supports CMU in many ways, providing generous and direct support to faculty and students, and is a very strong recruiter of students. There are currently over 500 CMU alumni employed at IBM and over 40 faculty and students are currently receiving benefits and financial support from IBM.

"We are very, very grateful and hope the partnership continues to thrive on both sides in the future," said CMU's provost Mark Kamlet.


Related Links: Smarter Infrastructure | This is Jeopardy! | Civil & Environmental Engineering