Mike Cooke is an Associate Partner in the Public Sector for IBM. Before joining IBM, Mr. Cooke had two decades of past experience, mainly government consulting, and different jobs that culminated in him getting the position he has now. He believes his degree helped him get good entry-level jobs, but he credits his rise to the vast experiences in all aspects of technology and consulting that he attained throughout the years.
Mr. Cooke made sure to emphasize that a central component to his ascension was the relationships he built. Even though relationship building is intangible and is not a step by step process, it is integral in any sector of business to gain resources and leverage to help you move up. Mr. Cooke says, along with his past experiences, the relationships he built along the years were key to him being hired into his high position today in IBM. He credits his large and diverse network to his social skills that he didn’t learn from a textbook in school, but rather through many experiences. Although these relationships are intangible, he believes it is one of the greatest successes in his life. His network let him keep up with the changing world because it stayed reliable and consistent.
Along with networking, he also talked about how goals are important to create a base for all the things you do and that people should set lofty goals so that they achieve a lot in the pursuit of them. But as they say, “aim for the starts… reach the moon.” He didn’t define success as meeting said goals – he actually said that it was perfectly fine not to meet them. The definition of success is not exact and is different from person to person. He simply believes that success is always finding something new to pursue and to make those around him happy with the work he does. This definition according to him, is constant intrinsic motivation that has much more value than measurable success.
Many people believe that successful people have had a passion for a single topic since childhood and that early interest is what led to their success. However, this is not the case with many since passion changes with novel experiences. With Mr. Cooke, he didn’t know that he was going to end up in the IT sector until after college. As a teenager, he actually wanted to play professional sports, an ambition lightyears away from consulting. After he realized that he couldn’t make a career out of sports he became interested in law, litigation, and politics which was the path he followed in college. However, the opportunity to jump into the IT field presented itself, and he took it.
One of his main influences outside the family were family friends because his parent’s network of relationships was diverse, giving him various inputs and perspectives that forced him to be well rounded, something he is grateful for today.
Despite all this, Mr. Cooke has made many mistakes and has had many failures throughout his career. Once, he was on a huge project with hundreds of consultants and members that seemed like it was going really well, but when it came down to it, it completely failed. Mr. Cooke illuminates that failures, especially those that happen when you were sure of success are great experiences to reflect upon to gain knowledge and insight on what to do differently in the future. He also mentioned that you must be careful to account for all factors in a project to make sure that it goes well and always to think many times before you act once.
Mr. Cooke believes that the most important thing that young kids should do is contrary to what some may think. He said that the most important thing is to figure truly what you want to do, not what others want you to do. True success only comes if you shape your career around your true self, not if you force yourself to do a certain career. He also mentioned that kids should foster their love for learning rather than simply building an unwieldy knowledge base because that is what will motivate you when you grow to be a successful business person yourself.