Lessons From a Technology Strategist

Lessons In Mastery

Kerrie Holley, IBM Fellow and Global Business Services Chief Technology Officer

The forecast for Kerrie Holley’s future could have been bleak–and one that is all too familiar for a young boy raised by his grandmother in a tough urban setting. But enrolling in Chicago’s Sue Duncan Children’s Center at age 7 made a difference. Young Holley excelled in math and science and quickly realized that he could change the direction of his life. “I learned at an early age that the only way I was going to escape poverty was through my own efforts,” says Holley, IBM Fellow and Global Business Services chief technology officer. “I knew very early that it was going to be fundamental to get an education. It was definitely a goal of mine to finish university.”

Holley, who holds a B.A. in math and a J.D., both from DePaul University, joined IBM 26 years ago because he “wanted to do something really special in the industry,” and he has. Numerous achievements burnish his résumé: He improved the technology that has become a function of how we use the ATM; he created the first e-commerce site for a major retailer; and he advanced the technology for a system called Service-Oriented Architecture, or SOA, a process by which an application can serve a variety of functions for an organization, thereby improving its efficiency. In 2006, Holley’s innovative contributions earned him the designation of IBM Fellow, the company’s highest technical leadership position. Here he examines how the industry has changed and what professionals need to consider to remain relevant in a competitive global environment.

What is Service-Oriented Architecture?
All companies have large investments in information technology to be more effective. But companies are finding over time that they’re spending more of their money maintaining existing systems and spending less on innovation. That was the genesis of SOA: How can we change that economic equation? How can we enable companies to spend more on innovation and less on maintenance? That’s where the value is going to be in the 21st century. So, we looked at some of the challenges of how we built software in our marketplace [and learned that] we want to do the very same thing that kids do with LEGO bricks. We want to take these LEGO bricks as shapes and build new shapes.

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