Create your own opportunity says IBM Fashion Industry Leader

Dr. Dario de Judicibus, European Fashion Industry Leader, IBM Smarter Commerce
Dr. Dario de Judicibus, European Fashion Industry Leader, IBM Smarter Commerce

“I try to do something different every day. I do not wait for the opportunity – I try to create it.”

Dr. Dario de Judicibus is the European Fashion Industry Leader for IBM Smarter Commerce Italy, specializing in Business Strategy, Knowledge Management, and Social Networking.  He has written more than 250 articles in several magazines and newspapers, published 6 books, and speaks regularly at national and international conferences.  He is also a prolific IBM inventor with 7 patents to his name.  Prior to IBM, he worked at CERN (Geneva, Switzerland), Stanford, and DESY (German Electron Synchrotron), and he has a Laurea in Physics, High Energy Particles, from Florence University in Italy.

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The Greater IBM Connection:  When did you join IBM, and what led you to join the company?

I joined IBM in 1986.  I had just graduated and completed mandatory military service as an officer.  At the time, there weren’t a lot of good opportunities in Italy in research, so I was looking for a company that also did research.  IBM had a very strong research lab in Rome that I was interested in joining.  Because of my extensive background and research experience (CERN in Switzerland, SLAC at Stanford, and DESY in Hamburg), I was immediately hired, but that research lab closed after a few years, so I moved to a different job.  In my 27 years with IBM, I have had many different jobs, both technical and non-technical, but the real reason I love this company is the opportunity to interpret and create my job description as I wish.  In fact, I am what today is called a ‘Wild Duck‘. It is not always easy to operate independently in a company that has very strict processes at times, but I must say that I am never bored.

What were some of your more interesting roles and what did they entail?

I’ve had a lot of different worldwide roles in IBM, but some of the most interesting and exciting for me were when I was practically inventing a new global practice from scratch.  For example, in 1993, when every software developer in IBM was continuously reinventing the wheel for every project, I founded the Reuse Shop, which was the first IBM group to create software libraries of building blocks that could be used to develop products.  I later took on managing the first Intellectual Property initiative (ICM) for Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, and Israel.  Then, in 2010, I became Fashion Industry Leader, first for Italy and later on for Europe, creating the first IBM Retail Practice and market segment focused on the Fashion and Luxury Products Industry.  Being a pioneer is not easy, especially when you really have no frame of reference to operate from, but it’s also extremely exciting to land in a totally new world and explore. There’s not many companies in the world that give their employees such an opportunity.

What was the workplace like when you joined and how has it changed over time?

One of IBM’s strengths since the 80’s has been the collaborative environment and sharing of expertise.  We didn’t have the same kind of sophisticated social sharing tools that we have today of course, but IBM has always had a global network of expertise, internal forums, and a set of tools to share documents and experiences.  So, even if the means were primitive as compared with today, somebody in some region of the world was always available and willing to help solve a problem.  It was a really big family.  Now the tools are more sophisticated and make it a lot easier to leverage extended networks of expertise, but the core IBMer attitude of willingness to help/volunteer and share your expertise hasn’t really changed.  This is the greatest asset we have in our company – our people.

What does a typical day look like for you now?

You might be surprised, but I do not remember a single day of work looking like another… Every day is a new challenge and a surprise.

Image Credit: Venture Beat (The Internet of Things is coming, and IBM wants to be at the center of it)

Image Credit: Venture Beat (The Internet of Things is coming, and IBM wants to be at the center of it)
Image Credit: Venture Beat (The Internet of Things is coming, and IBM wants to be at the center of it)

Is there any project or initiative you’d like to tell us more about?

Well, probably the Fashion Alliance, where I developed a new marketing channel approach.  Rather than thinking of our business partners simply as an additional channel to sell IBM solutions or their solutions based on IBM products, I created an ecosystem of several companies, each one strong in a specific area, working together like a football team.  In practice, I was able to solve customer problems by assembling this team of third party competencies, coordinated by IBM, who were stimulated to work with each other.  One of the solutions we developed was a family of products based on biometrics, not for security purposes, but for marketing.  One example was the Smarter mannequin, which was also one of the first elements of a vision I developed in 2010 called Total Reality.  To understand the concept, imagine taking the web and removing all the interfaces you currently use to access it – computers, tablets, and even smartphones.  Now substitute those devices with everyday objects such as rooms, tables, cars, or appliances like a refrigerator or an oven.  Suppose that your interactions with the object will be reflected as data changes in the web and the changes in the network data will also influence the objects themselves and how they interact with you.  A network of objects, communicating with human beings and even with each other – that is Total Reality.  Of course, objects not only have to be smart but also aware of what’s around them – that is, they must have some primitive sense or basic intelligence.

(Related:  IBM Smarter Planet ‘Internet of Things’ and IBM ‘Internet of Things’ solutions)

What do you like most about your career with IBM?

Autonomy in my work. In most cases I am the manager of myself.

What characteristics, skills, or attitudes have set you apart and helped you be successful?

Curiosity, lateral thinking – that is, thinking outside the box, willingness to take risks, and focus on the customer point of view.

What were some of the most important lessons you learned?

Whatever we do must have an objective and a measurable result, but, once you have planned the action necessary to achieve that goal, forget it, and try to do your work to the best of your ability.  When you are running a race, you don’t need to think about how far away the finish line is – only have confidence in yourself and in the skills of people working with you.

What would you do differently if given the opportunity?

I try to do something different every day. I do not wait for the opportunity: I try to create it.

(Infographic credit: IBM Big Data & Analytics Hub)

What do you see are the major upcoming trends in your field?

Mobile is changing the way we relate with the web and therefore all the resources that are available through the web – people, information, tools.  We are always connected and we continuously exchange millions of pieces of data even when we are not aware of it.  We are just at the beginning of this new era, but if we can figure out how to analyze all the weak signals hidden in this world of Big Data, we will have the ability to harness incredible power. So, the real challenge is the ethical aspect, not the technological one. I think that, in the future, we will have to ask ourselves how to develop ethical rules that will balance the need to handle this power of Big Data responsibly while still maintaining the independence and autonomy of the web, which is its major value and its founding mechanism of evolution.

Tarpaulin Photograph by Dario de Judicibus
Tarpaulin Photograph by Dario de Judicibus

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Really a lot of things – I like to try new things often.  I have practiced the martial arts since I was a child (judo, karate, aikido, kung-fu, krav maga, and archery). I also enjoy windsurfing and tennis and am currently practicing fencing and body building. Some other hobbies include the guitar, photography, and writing (I’m a published writer of essays and novels).

What advice would you give to Greater IBMers to help them be successful in their career?

Real innovation is in your ideas. Technology may help and may sometimes create opportunities that were impractical in the past, but real innovation is always born from brains. However, to have a good idea is not enough. To make it a real thing requires a lot of work and very practical attitudes. My model is to be a pioneer. A pioneer must be a visionary because, if you are not a visionary, you will never leave the safety of your own home to discover what lies beyond the mountains.  However, a pioneer must also be a very practical individual because, if you don’t have a good head on your shoulders, you won’t survive more than one day when you are beyond the mountains.

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Originally published on The Greater IBM Connection blog in Jan 2014

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