Krista Shibata is the Lead for #IBMSTEM4Girls initiative, which is part of IBM’s corporate citizenship team. After graduating university with a science degree, she joined the business world. She has held a variety of positions within IBM over the past 10 years. In her current position, she is dedicated to encouraging girls to go into the STEM fields through school and extracurricular programming. Check out the hashtag #IBMSTEM4Girls on Twitter to learn more.
My favourite quote is, “Everything happens for a reason.” I’m a true believer that if something didn’t go the way you wanted or planned, at some point in the future you’ll understand why that door didn’t open – because something better was waiting down the path.
When did you start your career path and why did you choose it?
I took a very non-linear path to where I am today. I came to IBM as part of an acquisition, but I made the decision to stay. I’ve had a variety of opportunities here because people could see that I could solve problems, get new products launched, build teams. My science degree equipped me with competencies and skills that have helped me in my career no matter where I went.
Along my career journey, some things I have learned are:
- Trust in your ability to learn new things. I always believed in my ability to learn. When you believe that, and if you have other skills that you bring to the table such as working well with people, multi-tasking and seeing the big picture, you can learn the new stuff.
- We as women need to realize that we don’t always have to do it ourselves. We need to rely on our teams. I have a huge network of people. If I don’t know how to do something or where to find something, I know somebody who can help me get what I need done.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. You learn way more from failure than you do from success. Take a risk because even if you fail at that risk - you’ll learn more than if you took something that was easy and in your comfort zone.
What or who helped you get you to where you are today?
We as women need to own our careers and own our successes. But we also need people who can be our advocates, who can help get us visibility in the right places. At IBM, there’s been one individual – a man – who has been integral to me learning to believe in myself and in my skills. Early on in our working relationship, I would thank him for getting me recognition. He would respond, “You’re doing the hard work, I’m just making sure your work is being recognized.” At a company as large as IBM, it’s important to have an advocate in a position of power who can speak up on your behalf for raises and promotions.
Senior women need to be advocates for younger women. Women have not had a history of being advocates of other women. For senior women in positions of power or management, we need to become advocates for the girls who are coming up behind us. We need to stick together.
What are some challenges that you faced in your career?
My biggest challenge was when I decided to have a family. I was a workaholic. When I had kids, it was hard to find the balance of how women “had it all.” I truly don’t believe that we can have it all, all the time at any given time. It’s always a compromise. You’re always giving up something at some point and that’s ok. But I had to come to that conclusion on my own.
When you look around the room in meetings, do you see enough diversity?
I’m very lucky that at IBM, we have a lot of diversity in gender, race, ethnicity, religion, LGBT, etc. We are recognized as leaders in Canada, North America and around the world in our hiring practices and our quest for diversity. Do we have room for improvement? Absolutely.
That’s why I’m passionate about the pipeline of girls and underserved populations going into STEM. We don’t have enough university graduate women applying for jobs. One of my areas of focus as the lead for IBM’s Women in Technology initiative, specifically our #IBMSTEM4Girls initiative, is how can we get more girls staying and graduating in STEM so they feel that they belong and want to apply for STEM jobs. Every day, I am excited to work on developing programs and establishing partnerships and networks of how IBM can help engage girls in STEM. Last year, we had 4,200 girls go through various programming including private movie screenings, conferences, one-day workshops, teen clubs, teacher education sessions, school lunch clubs and robotics competitions in 14 cities across Canada. I am supported by over 450 IBMers who deliver this programming as volunteers and do it out of the goodness of their hearts.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t sweat the small stuff because in the grand scheme of life, working until 10pm at night to finish something is not going to change what goes on. I’d tell myself to take risks earlier because failing is ok.
What do you see as the value of organizations like Women in Communications and Technology?
I think it’s important that organizations like WCT exist. As much as we’ve made progress for women, we need to have the support for each other and for women. This kind of organization is important and gives value to the work that we are doing.
You can connect with Krista on Twitter @KristaShibata. For more information on