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Senior Vice President of IBM Systems and Technology Group and 2011 Black Enterprise Corporate Executive of the Year, Rodney Adkins (Photo by Rayon Richards)

Watson is nothing short of a scientific wonder, an intelligent machine designed for answers and human interaction. What gives Watson its edge is the workload-optimized system design based on IBM DeepQA software and POWER7 processor-based servers allowing for custom algorithms and terabytes of storage. The speed of its circuitry outpaced human reaction times. The computer displayed the remarkable ability to parse keywords in a clue while searching for related terms as answers and proved impervious to players’ psychological tactics.

The real winner may turn out to be society. The exercise demonstrated computing power to the nth degree that can be used in medical diagnosis, business analysis, and other critical functions currently performed by knowledge-based workers.

It took a brilliant human mind, however, to manage the creation of Watson. So if Trebek one day says, “The answer is the man responsible for oversight of the development of servers for the computer that won Jeopardy! and changed the world,” the correct question will be “Who is Rodney Adkins?”

As senior vice president of IBM’s Systems and Technology Group, Adkins, 52, is quite a technological marvel himself. Appointed to the position in October 2009, he oversees all aspects of IBM’s semiconductor, server, storage, systems software, and retail store solutions businesses. The company’s integrated supply chain, which includes global manufacturing, procurement, and customer fulfillment, also report to him. His 50,000-employee division generates $18 billion in annual revenues. Moreover, Adkins serves as a member of the IBM Operating Team, responsible for day-to-day marketplace execution.