IBM elects pirate-foiling Navy vet to board

No, nothing to do with software theft or blockchain. Four-star admiral helped rescue Captain Phillips from the, er, Big Blue

Embattled IBM has called on a military veteran to help provide some “leadership skills” as the corporation continues to shape-shift from a legacy tech vendor to one fit for the new world.

The board at Big Blue has elected a new member: Michelle J Howard, the first female to become a four-star admiral and the first black woman to take control of a ship*, recently retired from a 35-year career in the US Navy.

Howard hung up her uniform for the last time in December '17, when she was commander of the US Naval Forces in Europe and Africa, and the Allied Joint Forces Command in Italy.

She is known for leading the mission in April 2009 to rescue Captain Richard Phillips after he and his container ship, the Maersk Alabama, were seized by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. The rescue, which was performed just three days after she landed the job of heading up a counter-piracy taskforce, was later depicted in the movie Captain Phillips, with Tom Hanks in the role of Phillips.

She said in an interview that "every Marine out [t]here was focused on Mr. Phillips. We were all trying to figure out how best to handle the mission. We had an American citizen trapped on a life raft with pirates."

We imagine Howard will soon know how that feels.

Howard is currently the J.B and Maurice C Shapiro visiting professor of International Affairs at George Washington Uni, where she lectures on cybersecurity and global policy.

IBM chairman, president and CEO, Ginni Rometty, issued a canned statement on the latest recruit who will take on the board role from 1 March:

"Her [Howard's] leadership skills, international perspective and extensive experience with cybersecurity and information technology will make her a great addition to the IBM board."

IBM's board consists of 13 heads including the retired CEOs at American Express, United Parcel Services, and the current chief execs at Emerson Electric and Johnson & Johnson. Howard will be the fourth woman on the panel.

She joins IBM's top table at a time when the company continues to try to offset declines in its traditional hardware, software and services lines with growth in the Strategic Imperatives: social, mobile, analytics, security and cloud. ®

* Specifically, the USS Rushmore

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