Recruiter Q&A: Will Reale, IBM

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William Reale is a regional leader for IBM's Summit Program,  the company’s sales and leadership development program. Reale is responsible for identifying candidates with leadership potential and ensuring that new hires, across functions, are engaged and prepared to be successful IBM citizens. IBM is the largest technology and consulting employer in the world, with more than 400,000 employees serving clients across the globe. Below, Reale shares details about the company's Summit Program, what it’s like to work at IBM and the qualities that set an MBA student apart from the pack.

Please tell us about your position with IBM and your involvement in the recruitment process.

IBM invests heavily in training. In the Summit Program, we bring new hires in for a period of six months and run them through foundational training that includes interactions with project owners, clients, landing teams and others. Everyone gets this same foundational training. My job is to make sure that once someone lands on a team full-time that they’re as prepared as they can be. Right now, I have 55 people, a mix of undergrads and MBAs. I work for the Dallas hub (there are seven hubs throughout the company), and everyone goes through a hub for training. People can go through whichever hub they want to, and there’s a huge community element to it. In 2015, we brought in 350 people, and this year the goal is 450. Our strategy is to continually bring in fresh talent. There are simulations and conferences that take place throughout the training, lots of hands-on opportunities and even an apprenticeship in which they apply what they’ve learned in the field. The Summit Program is designed to help people build a strong foundation and then apply those skills to quickly become successful.   

Why do you think IBM is so popular with MBAs?

I worked for seven years before going back to business school. Coming out of my MBA, I wanted to be able to apply what I had learned, and at IBM, that’s what we’re doing. It’s like a case study, that’s exactly what these jobs are like. You have to be able to do analysis, engage with the client and encourage them to save money. 

IBM has led the world in patents for the past 22 years. We’re doing cutting-edge stuff. We have a partnership with Apple. We just acquired the Weather Channel. IBM has access to all the Twitter data—no one else does. We invest in people. There’s lots of opportunity for growth and movement within the company. I’ve had four jobs within my 10 years here. We’re present in 157 countries, so there are lots of chances for international experience. IBM is a place to come and have a whole host of experiences without ever leaving the company. There are people who’ve been here a long time, and people are often shocked by that longevity. People actually want to stay here instead of leaving. 

Provide a brief overview of IBM's MBA recruitment process.

With our regional hub model, we have target schools. TCU is one of my target schools. We do a lot of outreach at our target schools—conducting information sessions and then interviews. Our offers for both internships and full-time positions are extended through that process. I’ll be interviewing for internships starting in January then we’ll be back on the campuses in the fall. The process should be pretty quick from there—extend offers with the opportunity to start mid-year and in the summer. 

What are some of the top skills and characteristics considered in IBM's hiring decisions?

We have a core set of values: Dedication to every client's success. Innovation that matters for our company and the world. Trust and personal responsibility in all our relationships. 

We want people who have the ability to interact with others, self-starters, motivated individuals, entrepreneurial, with the ability to make informed decisions and who understand the business and can apply that knowledge. Our candidates should be conversant in IBM’s offerings and the problems we can solve for clients. They need to be able to listen. We really want people who are coachable. People who come in and think they know everything, that’s generally a problem. We want people who are intellectually curious. They need to be independent but also collaborative and with a global perspective. There’s a component to what we do that people can feel really good about, and most millennials want to work for a company that has a bigger mission. 

What are some of the common career paths for the MBA graduates you hire?

We do our best to align their skill set and their interests in their first job. From there, it’s all about doing a good job. If you do a good job, opportunities will open up. A lot of it is about your career management. There are a lot of mentorship opportunities at IBM—sky’s the limit—but you have to be able to execute. There aren’t many companies where you can have the breadth of career that you can at IBM. 

How can MBA candidates differentiate themselves?

Know why you want to work at IBM. Understand our strategy and why you find that exciting. Tie our business and your experience into what you want to do. Be enthusiastic, and have positive energy. Be open to the fact that you might want to have a career in sales. Everything you learn in sales is applicable to everything you do in life. Have a story about why you want to do sales, and be confident about it. 

What strengths do you see in the Neeley MBAs you have hired?

I like the size of the school a lot. It helps me get my arms around it. The career office is really good—great to work with, very organized. The students seem really engaged and have good experience. They seem to have a handle on business decorum—you don't often see that anymore. Neeley is a school that’s on the up. I like schools that are pushing to get better.

What advice would you give prospective MBA students who are interested in your career field?

Don’t think that just because this is a large company that you can’t be an entrepreneur. Be humble, authentic and coachable. Being arrogant and aggressive might get you a quick deal, but we’re looking for trusted partners and longstanding relationships. We have to think long-term. 

Are you looking to make a career change? Learn more about the Neeley School of Business or apply now

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