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IBM’s New CMO Michelle Peluso Talks Watson, The Cloud, And Ethics Of AI

Previously CEO at Gilt, Peluso leads the way forward for 105-year-old IBM.

IBM’s New CMO Michelle Peluso Talks Watson, The Cloud, And Ethics Of AI
Michelle Peluso, CMO, IBM Photo: Timothy O’Connell

Previously the CEO of Gilt Groupe, which was acquired by Hudson’s Bay Company last year, Michelle Peluso was named IBM’s chief marketing officer in October. Peluso, whose résumé also includes stints as CEO of Travelocity and global CMO of Citigroup, is now tapping into her consumer expertise to promote IBM’s cloud and Watson cognitive technologies. “This might be counterintuitive,” she says, “but I think of us as a challenger brand. We’re at an interesting junction where B2B and B2C have blended. Expectations users have of technology and interactions with companies have shifted.”

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One of Peluso’s goals is to apply lessons from her last job to IBM’s culture. “At Gilt, you had designers, data scientists, marketers, and models coming together—the intensity of the left- and right-brain collaboration was awesome,” she says. “That’s part of what I’m trying to bring to IBM.” Peluso is already introducing new practices. For example, teams now attend sessions during which they review and refine their work using only their mobile devices, which offers them a better sense of how consumers actually interact with the brand.

Given IBM’s focus on the fast-moving field of artificial intelligence, Peluso will have to keep experimenting. “All of a sudden you have all these issues raised about the ethics of AI, what is it going to do for jobs, what kind of education and training we need,” she says. “What IBM is working on will have an impact. It’s a fascinating place to be. You have all the trust and history of IBM, and then you’ve got this whole new world.”

Best Recent Tech Development

“The way STEM education and robotics and coding are showing up in children’s toys.”

Worst Tech Development

“I’m over apps. As companies get really good at native browser-based capabilities, the need for juggling 100 apps in your life will go down.”

Advice She’d Give Her Younger Self

“Be bold, embrace risks, do the hard things, and just have grace. Pick yourself back up.”

Area For Improvement

“For better or worse, I have a brain that really churns. I’ve been thinking about ways to make sure I’m really present when I’m with my kids and work colleagues—slowing my incessant multitasking nature.”

How She Stays Productive

“I’m extremely focused because I want to leave at 5. Time I waste is time I’m not with my family. That’s a very high price.”

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