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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)

To produce such testimonies, Adkins has developed a multidisciplined structure to guarantee top-flight performance. He develops “macro-teams,” bringing together marketing professionals from different business units to track trends that drive product requirements; customer counsels that test concepts; and development teams that work with IBM research to figure out technological capabilities and potential for new inventions. “That’s when we end up creating new products, new solutions, and new software that aid us in that innovation around the pain points,” says STG General Manager Adalio Sanchez of the department’s knowledge-based leadership. “Rod knows diversity of discipline, diversity of thought is a very powerful thing. This is a business that tries to drive and create new products, that quite frankly takes advantage of the best minds.”

Sanchez has known Adkins since the pioneering days of the PC business when the two line managers met during a breakfast meeting in Boca Raton, Florida, in 1984. Over the years, he has witnessed Adkins’ growth from an engineer to a corporate leader. Sanchez, who has been a peer during much of that time, now reports to Adkins. “One of the hallmarks of Rod’s leadership style is that he is open and flexible. You can speak your mind with Rod. Oh, and by the way, he is very good at putting you in your place when you need to be. But you don’t get to these kinds of levels without doing that.”

The Master Engineer
Attired in a blue-on-blue windowpane suit, white pique shirt with monogrammed French cuffs, ice blue tie, and cufflinks, Adkins takes us on a tour of STG at IBM offices in Somers, New York. He’s fighting a fever and sore throat but, true to form, he doesn’t let a cold interfere with the task at hand. His review of the company’s technological history coincides with his own corporate trajectory.