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IBM’s CEO is looking for renaissance hires in Baltimore

IBM Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano

IBM Corp.’s CEO says the company wants to hire, and it’s looking for Baltimore-area graduates.

Samuel J. Palmisano, who has headed the New York-based technology company for nine years, spoke Tuesday to a crowd at Johns Hopkins University detailing how he wants his work force to grow. Palmisano started his career with IBM in 1973 in Baltimore, after graduating from Hopkins with a degree in history. Palmisano, 59, also attended Calvert Hall for high school.

“We’re always in the market for talent,” Palmisano said. “We want people to be excited about something, but to have an appreciation for other curriculars.”

The company has still been hiring in the recession, though last year’s total of 65,000 new hires was flat for the company, Palmisano said. Last year the company employed 400,000 globally, and 105,000 in the U.S., which is down by 30,000 from 2003. Its hiring in India has increased by 9,000 to 75,000 total jobs in that time.

This year marks IBM’s 100th anniversary, and Palmisano’s speech before students and professors at Gilman Hall was the first of a lecture series the company will hold in various locations this year.

Palmisano said he’s not only looking for a high level of education, but also for well-rounded and globally minded employees. The company spends $800 million a year on training, and helps pay tuition for employees who further their education, he said.

“Our employees aren’t always going to be working on the latest consumer gadget, but if you think coming up with a Nobel Prize idea is exciting, come to use,” Palmisano said. “We’re about progressive policies.”

Employees who are able to work with societal issues and other cultures are key to doing well in the company, he said. Palmisano served as senior managing director of operations for IBM Japan for a few years, and lead the company’s global services division before being promoted to chief operating officer in 2000.

The company’s CEO also spoke about the ways IBM’s ideas have helped shape the past century and how the firm is positioned for the 21st century. He attributed some of its successes to programs that focused on executive training and sending employees to different countries to expand IBM’s “societal relationships.”

The company has more than 7,400 openings globally, and more than 2,000 of those are based in the U.S. Jobs in the U.S. range from experienced IT specialists, engineers and analysts to entry-level jobs for software testing.