Penelope Gardner

MBA '87

Relationship Manager, IBM Academic Initiative

What do you do professionally? 

I work for IBM as a Relationship Manager for the IBM Academic Initiative; this is part of IBM's outreach to its entire ecosystem of stakeholders including business partners, entrepreneurs and academia. I focus on the region of the U.S. that surrounds me—NC, SC, VA, DC, MD, NY, NJ, DE—ensuring university faculty leverage of a wide range of no-cost resources made available for teaching skills needed for a Smarter Planet.

What is the most enjoyable part of your job? 

I love visiting universities, campuses and grounds filled with thought leaders, the energy and commitment of students and faculty, and a contagious aspiration for excellence and hope-filled futures that is in the air.

What is the biggest challenge you face?

Continually overcoming any distraction from my primary focus, any obstacle that delays progress toward accomplishing my goal or being who I want to be in every moment; having the strength repeatedly to overcome.

What sorts of interesting places has your position taken you? Do you have a favorite? 

My career has taken me from places of interest that range from a facility that manufactured meters like those on the side of your house to  the construction sites of nuclear power plants; from a pool teaching handicapped how to swim to a park holding a city-wide special event; from marketing telecom in the U.S. to leading teams worldwide in telecom marketing from headquarters in Paris and Milan; from NYC looking down on the Rockefeller Plaza to working from my home office in RTP, NC. My favorite has been Paris; I always say, if I could have moved my family there, there I would be still there.

What is the best professional advice you've received?

Live your life, professional and personal, based on your core values.

Aside from your current role, what is your dream job?

I would love to travel the world as a motivational, spiritually uplifting speaker, serve as a facilitator or coach for partnerships or teams to learn to develop their alliances or relationships to be most effective.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I love the outdoors—hiking, biking, skiing, swimming, surfing and on and on.

What is the most important thing you learned during your time at Fuqua?

The thing I learned that has been most important has been the teaming required to accomplish anything of major scope; to recognize our strengths and compensate for our weaknesses through association with others through teaming; and appreciating that what we can accomplish with and through others is so much more impactful than what we can achieve alone. The sum is always greater than the parts. 

Who was your favorite professor?

There were a few, but the experience that stands out most was Arie Lewin. Ironically, Arie recently reached out to IBM for assistance in securing IBM's former CEO Sam Palmisano for an academic professional organization's annual recognition of outstanding leadership; I received the request for follow-up. Unfortunately, this was just as Sam was transitioning out of his position and he was not available to meet Arie's or the organization's needs.

What is your favorite Fuqua memory?

When the two years ended, and all of us felt a sense of the tremendous comraderie that had developed among us, the awareness that we'd accomplished something really major in our lives, and the sheer joy about the return of freedom that we hadn't experienced while working and going to school in the evenings.

What does Team Fuqua mean to you?

An enormous GIFT that I've been given and for which I will be forever grateful—the alums to whom I can reach out, the experience that we've shared even if not at the same time, an affinity for a value that Duke symbolizes and delivers, a commitment to afford this GIFT for generations to come.