Global Chief Technology Officer and VP | IBM Global Technology Services
A Technology Optimist
Bridget Karlin has had an outstanding career in the technology industry that spans 30-plus years and a résumé that includes several executive positions at a number of top companies. In the process, she’s racked up numerous awards for her achievements, such as the 2019 National Technology Humanitarian Award, the 2019 Women in Consumer Technology Legacy Award, the Industrial IoT 5G Innovators award, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality award, the Bell Labs Technology Innovator award, and, her latest, Dealerscope’s 2021 Hall of Fame award. But for Karlin, it’s less about looking into a rear-view mirror at a promotion and awards path and more about having a career filled with meaningful work that motivates her to keep going.
A Unique Entry into Tech
Karlin grew up in Los Angeles and was a self-described “adventure-seeker,” always looking for new trails to explore, mountains to climb, and places to run. She attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science/Business with aspirations to become a lawyer. After graduation, she took a job at a bank in order to pay for law school. Though it was a field far different than the one she’d find herself in years later, banking helped get her hands dirty in understanding new products that leveraged advanced technology ¬– a skill that would prove to be useful as she launched her own software company.
In 1984, Karlin co-founded Thinque Systems, which would soon become a leading U.S.-based provider of mobile enterprise applications for sales force automation (SFA) and field force automation (FFA). Thinque Systems expanded to 43 countries and became available in several languages. Top brands like Nestle, 7Up, Keebler, Anheuser-Busch, and many others were quick to adopt the new technology that helped get their products on the shelves when and where people wanted them. Karlin spent the next 13 years acting as President and Chairperson of the company, which was later acquired by MEI.
Intel, IBM, and Beyond
Soon after leaving Thinque Systems, Karlin became the General Manager of Intel’s Internet of Things (IoT) Strategy and Integrated Products Division, General Manager of the Intel Hybrid Cloud Services business and GM of Intel’s Data Center software portfolio. She was responsible for Intel’s IoT Platform and Product Portfolio Marketing, GTM strategies and for managing the commercialization of IoT partner-branded offerings leveraging Intel’s silicon, software and services that engage Intel’s ecosystem of partners to accelerate market adoption.
Karlin recalls an important piece of advice she was given by her boss at Intel, who said, “It’s not about what you want to be, it’s about what you want to do.” Karlin internalized this advice and applies it today in her management style at IBM.
“I always set up a management system where we have empowerment at all levels and opportunities for innovation in every role,” says Karlin. “It’s important to ensure that everyone has work that is both challenging and interesting to them.”
In her current role as the Global Managing Director, Chief Technology Officer and VP of IBM’s Global Technology Services business, Karlin is responsible for driving client digital transformation by leveraging AI, Automation, Cloud, Security and Open Source technologies, and for modernizing enterprise applications and infrastructure environments that enable new architectures, support cloud migration, containerization and re-factoring to operate on hybrid, multi-cloud, intelligent infrastructure services. Her efforts enable clients to benefit from increased security, cognitive efficiency, increased resiliency, continuous compliance with flexibility and control of their business.
Keeping IBM at the Forefront
Karlin has quite the workload, managing 750,000 servers alongside a global team of distinguished engineers, data scientists and advanced architects. She defines the technology vision, sets the strategy and provides the technical leadership that drives collaboration globally, keeping IBM at the forefront of the industry by building technical communities with developers and strategic ecosystem partners to flourish in thought leadership, innovation and business value to clients.
She leads innovation across the entire Software and Services Delivery lifecycle, leveraging Agile methods, DevSecOps and AIOps to facilitate the continuous engineering with continuous development and adoption of hybrid, multi-cloud capabilities across Network, Compute, Mainframe and Storage domains.
Karlin also makes it a priority to give back to the industry she loves and inspire others with her wealth of knowledge and experience. Karlin serves on the board of Dana Incorporated (DAN), a Fortune 500 company, and is the Chairman of the Executive Board of Directors of CTA/CES (the Consumer Technology Association). She also works closely with U.S. Government Administration and policy makers to influence legislation ranging from AI, Automation and Data Privacy to CyberSecurity and next-generation 5G, advising that policy keeps pace with technology innovation to enable business, environment and social transformation across a global marketplace.
“We’re living in an extraordinary time,” says Karlin. “It is the era of data and AI, and it’s transforming entire industries. I consider myself a technology optimist; I look at technology not just as a way to solve problems but for its capabilities in creating entirely new experiences.”
Prior to IBM, Bridget Karlin was general manager of the Internet of Things (IoT) Strategy and Integrated Products Division at Intel Corporation, where she also served as general manager for the company’s Hybrid Cloud Services. Karlin has held executive positions at a number of other technology companies, as well, including CompuCom Systems and Thinque Systems, which she founded. She also serves on Dana’s Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee along with the Technology and Sustainability Committee.