Path to Leadership with IBM Managing Partner Dr. Shue-Jane Thompson

It's Women's History Month, and as we reflect on the progress and accomplishments of countless women, we sat down with Dr. Shue-Jane Thompson, Managing Partner at IBM. We talked about her path to leadership, obstacles to executive leadership, and IBM's partnership with Palo Alto Networks.

When asked about her career in cybersecurity, Shue-Jane noted that her journey into the industry was not a straightforward path. "I was originally going to school to be a meteorologist – one that was very fond of writing computer programs." She was always asking herself what more she could contribute. "I thought, why not leverage my forte in understanding networks, mainframe systems, and programming and turn that into something beneficial for mankind?"

It was then that she gave up her full scholarship to her Ph.D. program in meteorology to open an IT consulting firm. As the early internet landscape evolved, IT professionals, like Shue-Jane, were on the frontlines of a new security era. Zero-day hackers were finding their way to obtain sensitive data through network and infrastructure backdoors. Shue-Jane's early experience in the cybersecurity space involved going to court to present forensic data in hacking or other cybercrime cases.

"What intrigued me was that not only were we enabling mankind to live better lives, but we were also actually defending and protecting them through this entire security ecosystem."

From there, she, a female technologist, took on this undertaking to protect and defend clients with mission-critical systems for large defense companies, like Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and now IBM, where she is a managing partner and senior executive.

Thinking Ahead: on the path to executive leadership

When asked about her path to executive leadership, Shue-Jane emphasized the need to follow “instinct” and be “authentic”. "I'm the type of person who believes in taking total ownership of my career." When pursuing a career opportunity, she starts by finding a company whose strategies and decisions align with hers. "I trust my instinct,” she notes. "You have to be really honest about whether or not the position is the right fit for you, as your instinct would tell you."

To take control of her career, she religiously makes career plans at 18-month intervals – a tip she picked up from working alongside military officers who rotate jobs every 24 to 36 months. As part of these plans, she fulfills her current role while looking to positively influence those around her: bosses, peers, direct reports and others. By investing in others, Shue-Jane can ensure she's working collaboratively and positioning herself and others for joint, long-term success.

Shue-Jane's path hasn't been without obstacles. As an immigrant from Taiwan and a woman in a male-dominated industry, she's faced unconscious bias throughout her career. But, she chooses to see the positive, noting that she "really believes that every challenge is secretly an opportunity."

Shue-Jane let us in on her secrets to overcoming the biases and challenges she faced:

  • "Authenticity. Be you and celebrate your identity. It's exhausting to be someone else, especially when all eyes are on you."
  • "Be humble but not unconfident. Being humble is where you appreciate yourself, but you make room to appreciate others more."
  • "Bring people forward with you. Genuinely care about your people, and everyone will benefit."

Shue-Jane's parting wisdom for professional and personal success?

Take care of yourself. Prioritize health and happiness over other factors.
Have a plan, and be accountable to that plan (and yourself). Don't let
people defeat you or give people an excuse to defeat you. And finally,
you must be your biggest advocate.

Palo Alto Networks and IBM — A Partnership Forged for Customer Success

Shue-Jane accredits much of her professional success to thinking ahead and positioning herself and her team for long-term success. Similarly, the relationship between Palo Alto Networks and IBM is grounded in forward-thinking innovations to impact our customers collectively.

She sees the partnership between Palo Alto Networks and IBM as a way to bring an expanded portfolio to best serve our customers. "By combining two robust sets of offerings from strong companies, we can better serve our customers than ever before." Thanks to this partnership, customers can now leverage state-of-the-art security capabilities and service platforms to best defend and protect their valuable assets.

Avoiding vendor lock-in will be a particular advantage for customers. Shue-Jane notes:

Our customers will recognize that they will not be locked down by a
single company or a proprietary tool set because they now have two
companies that want to jointly invest in them. Richer offerings and a
greater pool of qualified professionals to support our clients!

The secret to growing this partnership will be ‘laser-focus on our
customers together!’ As a good consulting approach, we carefully
listen to our customers and collaborate closely with them to ensure we
understand their pain points truly before we co-design needed
resolutions. From there, it will be exciting to see both sides come
together to solve problems in innovative, collaborative ways.

For more information about our relationship, see our alliance webpage.

Check our other "Women In Tech" profiles and meet other inspiring women propelling business.