How I Got Here
IBM’s CMO reflects on the role of failures and risks in her impressive career journey.
LOCATION New York City CHILDREN Auden, 9, and Cole, 7
Fifteen-minute meetings. Making quick decisions. Leading by example. That’s what’s helped Michelle Peluso win the respect of managers and reports—and get home to her family at a reasonable hour every day, despite her lofty titles and mountains of responsibilities. That’s not to say she hasn’t struggled along the way. “You don’t always get it right. You’re going to fail and mess up and disappoint your kids, yourself and your boss sometimes,” Michelle admits. “But it’s worth it to show the girls who come behind us that we opened the door for them even farther. You’ve gotta pick yourself back up.”
Case in point: In the wake of 9/11, the revenues on her now-defunct online travel company, Site59, hit rock-bottom. “We were a couple of blocks from Ground Zero. I had a devastated employee group. Our business model was in jeopardy. Investors were freaking out. We had stranded travelers. We had to operate on all fronts in crisis mode. It took ruthless prioritizing and incredible focus—with huge heart. I poured everything I could into motivating and inspiring the team. The greatest leadership lesson of my life came out of that.” Just a few months later, the business was acquired by Travelocity, which led to a senior vice president position there, and eventually, her next CEO gig.
Her advice to other working moms: “Bring your whole personality and authenticity to work. Take grace along, and find humor in it all.”
“Forgive yourself, learn what you can, and move forward with even more tenacity.”