Honoring A Mentor

From his San Francisco Bay base, Kerrie L. Holley innovates at the very top of his field. As IBM’s chief technology officer for Services Oriented Architecture, Holley creates designs to mold computer software to fit the business needs of the world’s largest corporate enterprises. Last May, IBM named Holley, 53, an IBM Fellow, the company’s highest technical honor.

Services Oriented Architecture, or SOA, is a software engineering area where businesses meet their IT needs by assembling ready-made software components. IBM customers combine, share, and reuse modular software assets as if they were Lego blocks. SOA is Holley’s brainchild.

“Kerrie is as good a technical professional, as good an engineer, as anyone in this business,” says Donald F. Ferguson, an IBM Fellow and chief architect of IBM Software Group. A strong supporter of Holley, New York-based Ferguson says Holley’s design input helps IBM develop better software.

According to Ferguson, Holly’s exceptional work is due to amazing intelligence, the ability to communicate to both engineers and customers, and detailed knowledge of the specific business processes of different industries. Originally from Chicago, Holley attended DePaul University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a law degree.

His new status as an IBM Fellow gives him more influence on the direction Big Blue takes as a company. He now has more freedom to pursue projects that interest him and a stronger prerogative to shape technical development within IBM’s services line of business.

“It also, perhaps even more importantly, gives me a really great opportunity to positively influence even more so the careers of a lot of our technical leaders and professionals,” says Holley. “From a minority standpoint, it gives me even greater capital in terms of having some positive impact on that community.”

For James D. Jamison III, an IBM practice area leader in Denver, four years of mentoring by Holley has yielded two major career milestones. Jamison, who is African American, came to IBM equipped with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and electrical engineering, a master’s in computer science, and experience designing communications systems at Hughes Aircraft.

Holley helped Jamison attain certification, guiding him through the arduous process of becoming a Certified Architect of IBM. Holley next advised Jamison to pursue management positions that would give him more influence over what happens at IBM. Jamison was promoted into a management post, where he oversees 20 employees, including senior technical staff. “He’s had a tremendous impact on a broad number of people,” Jamison says about Holley.

Ferguson adds, “Lots of people at IBM aspire to be like Holley. He is an excellent example of what it means to be a professional in this business. He’s an extraordinary role model.”

Perpetually in motion, Holley expects to fly about 250,000 miles in 2006. Besides visiting customers when he travels, Holley meets people he mentors. Every year, he mentors 40 to 50 people, one-on-one.

As an IBM Fellow, Holley anticipates doing a lot more mentoring meetings, round tables, and conference calls. He’ll multiply his impact by interacting with larger groups during visits to professional organizations,