Lauren C. States is a 2015 Advanced Leadership Initiative Fellow at Harvard University.

Previously, States has held numerous executive positions at IBM Corporation, including CTO, Corporate Strategy, VP Strategy and Transformation, VP Technical Sales for IBM’s Software Group.

Ms. States is a member of the Executive Leadership Council. She is on the Board of Trustees for International House, New York, on the Advisory Board for Mobiquity Inc. and is the Advisory Board Co-Chair for the Women In Technology Foundation B~STEM Project.

She received the Federal 100 Award in 2012 and was recognized at the Black Engineer of the Year Conference with the Pioneer Award in 2013. In 2014, she was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame. GetVoIP recognized States as one of the most 25 Influential Women in Cloud in March 2015.

Black Wharton Undergraduate Association had a chance to talk to Lauren about her career in the tech industry.

Black Wharton: You're very accomplished. Can you just tell us a little more about your work experience?

Lauren: Thanks! I spent over 35 years in the tech industry working for IBM.  I really enjoyed the experience and would describe my path as a portfolio career. I worked across the business in key senior leadership positions including technology, strategy, transformation, sales and talent development. Some of my roles included Chief Technology Office in the company’s corporate strategy function, Vice President overseeing the software business’s 5,000+ technical sales force and Vice President on a company wide-transformation, responsible for skills development of our 38,000+ global sales force.

I’m currently an Advanced Leadership Initiative Fellow at Harvard University. The program is designed for executives who want to apply their experience to significant issues such as education, public health, environmental issues, or other ways to impact society.  I’m focused on math literacy and improving the pathways for minority students to participate in STEM related careers.

Black Wharton: Black Wharton is officially recognized as beginning in 1985. What was the organization like during your undergraduate years?

Lauren: We were very enthusiastic about our futures and wanted to support each other. We had the opportunity to visit several companies including Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City. It was all very exciting!

Black Wharton: How did you get into the tech industry as a Wharton student?

Lauren: My father encouraged me to attend Wharton because I was very good at math. I started out in accounting, but had the opportunity to take a programming class and fell in love with coding. I decided to major in Decision Sciences and developed strong critical thinking and analytical skills. When IBM came on campus recruiting, I was interested in their Systems Engineering job. They made an offer and I started in the Manhattan office.

Black Wharton: What was it like being a woman of color in the tech industry in those days?

Lauren: You know, I never saw that as an issue. Growing up, I had always been one of a kind or one of a few. I saw the tech industry as an opportunity for growth. My philosophy was to consistently deliver strong business performance. Sure, sometimes I found myself in inequitable situations, but in the long run consistent performance was the measure for my success. I’m proud of the contribution I’ve made to the industry and grateful for the recognition I’ve received. I plan to use my success as a platform to support and encourage others. There is incredible opportunity in the tech industry and I want to inspire young people to participate.