Rometty is currently IBM's senior vice president and group executive for sales, marketing and strategy. She will take up her new position on January 1, 2012. She succeeds chairman, president and CEO Samuel J Palmisano who at 60 has reached the age for retirement, but will remain chairman of the company.
Palmisano said Rometty would be perfect to lead IBM into its second century. "She has spurred us to keep pace with the needs and aspirations of our clients by deepening our expertise and industry knowledge. Ginni's [Virginia] long-term strategic thinking and client focus are seen in our growth initiatives, from cloud computing and analytics to the commercialisation of Watson [an artificial intelligence computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language]."
Rometty is currently responsible for sales, revenue and profit in 170 global markets. She joined IBM in 1981 as a system engineer, holding a bachelor of science with honours in computer science and electrical engineering from Northwest University. She later became senior vice president for Global Business Services, in which role she lead the integration of PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting to create a team of 100,000 business consultants and services experts.
Palmisano has held the role of CEO since 2002 and became chairman of the board in 2003. According to IBM, during his time as CEO, Palmisano oversaw the transformation of the company from a multinational to a globally integrated enterprise with operations in about 170 countries.
"Sam had the courage to transform the company based on his belief that computing technology, our industry, even world economies would shift in historic ways. All of that has come to pass. Today, IBM's strategies and business model are correct," Rometty said.
IBM stated that, under Palmisano's leadership, the company increased in pre-tax earnings almost five times, generated over $US100b in free cash flow, and invested more than $US50b in research and development.