City Focus: Raleigh, NC
Home to one of the US’s leading tech research and development sites, Raleigh is a lesser known engine of American technological and cultural power
Named after Sir Walter Raleigh, who is widely believed to have introduced Europe to the humble potato, Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina and the state’s second-largest city after Charlotte. The city has a population of over 1.3 million people, is ranked by Forbes as the third best place in the country for business and careers behind Seattle, WA and Dallas, TX, and boasts a college attainment score of 46.2%.
While its bigger sister boasts the arguable ignominy of hosting the Charlotte Hornets, Raleigh’s most popular in-house sports team is the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, two-time winners of the Conference championships and winner of the Stanley Cup in the 2005-06 season. The city also holds six colleges and universities, including North Carolina State which ranked 279th in the 2019 World University Rankings. Ivy League member and world-leading university, Duke, is also found in Raleigh’s close neighbour, Durham.
“Raleigh is ranked by Forbes as the third best place in the country for business and careers behind Seattle, WA and Dallas, TX”
Along with Durham and Chapel Hill, home of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Raleigh is an anchor city of the Research Triangle Park (RTP), the largest research park in the country. As such, Raleigh is part of one of the most significant tech research and development regions of the US, housing over 300 companies who employ at least 55,000 staff and 10,000 contractors between them. To name just a few, firms to have established an office at the park include: Wells Fargo, the Army Research Office (ARO), GlaxoSmithKline, Credit Suisse, Bank of America, Biogen, Lenovo, Cisco, Dell EMC, Diamanti, IBM, eni, and Concord Technologies. Signifying the importance of the park to the US’s wider research and development scene, GlaxoSmithKline’s office is its commercial HQ in the US, while Cisco’s office at RTP is its largest outside Silicon Valley.
ARO’s presence is similarly reflective of the importance of the area, as the primary extramural basic research agency of the world’s most well-funded military force. With a highly competitive selection and funding process for pitches brought forward by private enterprise, educational institutions and nonprofits, ARO is a key component of the US military’s technological and scientific supremacy in combat and is considered vital to the continuing military leadership of the US on the world stage. Biotechnology leader Biogen, with revenues in 2017 exceeding US$12bn, conducts a significant portion of its medical technology research at RTP. Primarily focused on unearthing new treatments, therapies and even cures for neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, ALS, spinal muscular atrophy, and Parkinson’s, Biogen’s pioneering work stands to improve the lives of those suffering such conditions whilst offering hope that future generations will be spared them. Elsewhere, IBM has held an office campus at RTP since 1965 where the pre-eminent IT giant situates in-house tech development along with a host of its subsidiaries.
Raleigh has no shortage of cultural sites, leading museums, sports venues and recreational activities for natives and tourists alike. Chief, perhaps, among its historical locales is the North Carolina State Capitol, a Greek Revival-style building constructed in 1840, the grandeur of which extends beyond its architecture to the array of statues, plaques and busts of North Carolina’s most important historical figures. While the Capitol building is free to attend, those who book in advance can also see the home of the Governor, the North Carolina Executive Mansion, which was built in 1891 entirely from materials sourced in NC. Elsewhere, for the historically invested, the North Carolina Museum of History is one of Raleigh’s most popular tourist spots and features an extensive exhibit detailing the state’s history from ancient times through to the 20th Century. Further to that, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences offers an awe-inspiring visit for those with even a cursory interest in the natural world, showcasing the intricacies of NC’s environment, geography, flora and fauna with free entry.
“Raleigh’s position as a research hub and historical centre is augmented with the infectious Southern charm of its denizens”
On a more recreational basis, no modern American city is complete without a thriving craft beer scene, and Raleigh is replete with over 25 local breweries and, for more committed enthusiasts, its own beer trail. Pullen Park, the state’s oldest public park, offers plenty of space and natural beauty for those needing a break from the buzz of the city as large, with the Pullen Aquatic Centre, Pullen Arts Centre, and the Theatre in the Park all found within its boundaries.
Known to combine the qualities of a traditional Southern city with the technology and infrastructure of its larger, glossier American contemporaries, Raleigh’s position as a research hub and historical centre is augmented with the infectious Southern charm of its denizens. Getting amongst the locals is sure to offer the most authentic experience for those exploring this rustic yet progressive example of fine urban living.
For more information on business topics in the United States, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief USA.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.