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Leading a global team

September 2014

Kelly Teal, MBA ’01, strongly believes in giving back, and this summer, the IBM Corporate Service Corps (CSC) program allowed her to do just that.

As part of an 11-person corporate team, Teal spent four weeks in Southeast Vietnam, working with the Đồng Nai province’s Department of Science and Technology to help its employees improve their business skills. Teal, along with two IBM team members, delivered training sessions on project management, communication, negotiation and presentation skills.

“My favorite part of the experience was the cultural exchange with the people I met from Vietnam and with the IBM team, who came from all over the world,” she says. “It was an intense four weeks and there was a lot of work to do. However, we did take time to go out to dinner as a team and try all the local foods.”

After the program ended, Teal traveled throughout Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand with her husband, Randy, and their 11- and 9-year-old children, Ben and Erin.

The Teal family during their travels

“We got to do once-in-a-lifetime type of things,” she says. “We saw temples that have been around since the year 900 and took a cruise in Hạ Long Bay, which was, without a doubt, one of the most amazing experiences of my life.”

Back home in Wellington, Florida, Teal serves as project manager for acquisition IT infrastructure integration at IBM, where she has worked since completing her MBA in 2001.

Following commencement, Teal accepted a position as business analyst. In that role, she became an expert on several internal applications, evaluating the needs of end-users and writing support manuals for those applications. After about a year, she was also charged with managing the finances of her 100-person department.

“One of the main skills I learned while getting my MBA was how to work in a team, and that is something I use every day in my job,” Teal says. “When we’re on virtual teams comprised of people all over the world, it’s a lot harder to build up trust and comradery. Being able to pull the team together to problem-solve is critical to the success of a project.”

In 2008, she was appointed a worldwide financial analyst, charged with the financial oversight of 20 internal applications and $17.3 million in funding. From there, she moved into operations management before landing her current role in 2011. Today, she leads a global team to effectively integrate the IT infrastructure of acquired companies into IBM.

“My advice to recent MBA graduates is to take risks,” says Teal, who also holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from UB. “At IBM, I keep taking on roles that challenge me and moving into areas I am not familiar with, and I capped it off by moving to Vietnam for a month. Every time I took a risk, I learned and I grew.”

In addition to giving back and visiting some incredible sites, Teal says her CSC assignment strengthened her teamwork and leadership skills even more.

“Sometimes it’s hard to see things from someone else’s point of view, but when you’re working on a team with strong leaders from different countries and presenting to people from another culture, you really have to step outside of yourself,” she says. “The experience made me much more aware of my own biases and taught me to step back to look at things from other perspectives.”

Written by Matthew Biddle