By Samuel T. Clover ’91
An old joke among IBM employees is that the acronym stands for, “I’ve been moved.” While it once had a pejorative edge, in today’s global economy moving means opportunity. Over the last seven years, Patrick Kelly ’88, currently IBM’s director of recruiting for North America, has helped hundreds of people—including many Lafayette grads—secure highly competitive positions all over the world.
And in July last year, he finished a two-year recruiting stint in Shanghai, the headquarters of IBM growth markets unit, which has eight emerging market teams that collectively include 140 countries.
Although not a predictable career path for a metallurgical engineering graduate, the stage was set in 2002, when the consulting company Kelly was working for was acquired by IBM. Within two years he took on new responsibilities as a recruiting leader, and by 2008 the Shanghai opportunity opened up. His office in the 88-story Jin Mao Tower, one of the city’s signature skyscrapers, was a great place to watch Shanghai’s building boom happening to prepare for the 2010 World Expo.
“I’d go out of the country for two weeks to go to Dubai, or somewhere that was part of my responsibility, and I’d come back and there would be a new building.” he says. “They worked 24/7. They just have an unlimited workforce. The pace at which things grow and happen is mind-boggling.”
Kelly, his wife, his two children, and their German shepherd moved back to the United States last year, settling in Newtown, Conn., and he’s eager to continue working with Lafayette students through the career office. He says they tend to be among the best-performing IBM employees—even if some of them have unusual approaches to interview questions.
One amusing answer involved a financially well-off student who responded to Kelly’s question about his ability to communicate “He said, ‘Let me tell you about that, Mr. Kelly. I come from money.’ I’m wondering where he’s going with this. ‘You know, my mom has been married so many times that whenever I wanted to go anywhere or do anything, I had my two stepdads and my mom and all these other people to communicate with to keep them in the loop about what I was doing and where I was going. I’m an excellent communicator.’”
The student ended up getting the job.
Marta Murczek ’06, currently a managing consultant for IBM’s SAP HR practice, also survived the interview process with Kelly. She credits him for helping her see the possibilities of working for a global company.
“One of the first things I noticed about him when we met was his excitement and passion about his work,” Murczek says about their initial meeting in 2006. “After hearing about his experiences within IBM and the opportunities that IBM offered him, I knew that this was a company I would love to be a part of.”
When Kelly graduated from Lafayette, he was commissioned as an officer in the Army to fulfill his ROTC commitment and served four years in West Germany. He knew he wanted to travel, and his engineering skills helped him obtain a position as a maintenance officer in an armored cavalry squadron.
“I had roughly 15 shops under my control,” he says, “and they fixed anything from small arms and radios up to tanks and cranes and everything in between.” Here Kelly learned to look at what he had and what was coming in from customers, then check to see whether the right parts were on hand and assess whether the right people with the right skills were available to make the repairs.
During his active duty, he saw the Berlin Wall fall, served briefly in the first Gulf War, and earned an MSBA from Boston University, which had set up a special overseas program for military personnel in Germany. When he returned to the States, he began work in supply-chain management for laparoscopic instruments with Johnson & Johnson.
“I was sent to help start up a plant in Juarez, Mexico,” he says. “I lived in El Paso, Texas, so for two years I drove over the bridge every day to work.”
In 1999, Kelly joined PriceWaterhouseCoopers as a managing consultant first in e-business executive education and later in corporate and operations strategy. In 2003 when IBM acquired PwCC, the ability to size people up that Kelly had developed turned out to be just the skill he needed. Since 2006 when he began recruiting at Lafayette, he has met with dozens of Lafayette graduates resulting in 31 hires and seven summer internships.
He stays in touch with many of them to offer advice and support. Jacquelynn Molzon ’08, who has worked in 10 countries since she started with IBM’s SAP practice, says, “Mr. Kelly recently offered me some tips from his experience working in Asia,” which has helped her as the division “starts to engage and bring resources onto the team from the region.”
Though Kelly enjoys his current position in the U.S., he admits he’d like to work abroad again before his children reach their teenage years. The next level of recruiting, which comes with a vice president title, would require him to learn human resources management skills. But returning to his roots in business strategy is attractive to him, too.
“Pushing into growth markets, you need strong talent acquisition strategies,” Kelly says, “because if you can’t find the people fast enough it doesn’t make sense to go there.”