IBM has tapped Virginia Rometty to succeed outgoing CEO Sam Palmisano from 1 January 2012.
Rometty, who joined IBM as a systems engineer in 1981, becomes the veteran firm's first ever female CEO and alongside HP's Meg Whitman, will become one of the most influential women in the industry, if not the most influential.
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During her 30-year career with Big Blue, Rometty rose to become senior vice president and group executive for sales, marketing and strategy, with accountability for sales, profits and client satisfaction in IBM's 170 global markets, as well as its worldwide results, global strategy, marketing and comms functions.
In a previous role as senior vice president of IBM Global Business Services, Rometty masterminded the acquisition and integration of PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting in 2002, and received plaudits for merging two remarkably different corporate cultures.
Sam Palmisano said: "She brings to the role of CEO a unique combination of vision, client focus, unrelenting drive and passion for IBMers and the company's future. I know the board agrees with me that Ginni is the ideal CEO to lead IBM into its second century."
He added: "With every leadership role she has strengthened our ability to integrate IBM's capabilities for our clients. She has spurred us to keep pace with the needs and aspirations of our clients by deepening our expertise and industry knowledge.
"Ginni's long-term strategic thinking and client focus are seen in our growth initiatives, from cloud computing and analytics to the commercialization of Watson."
Rometty also paid tribute to the outgoing CEO, saying: "IBM's strategies and business model are correct. Our ability to execute and deliver consistent results for clients and shareholders is strong. This is due to Sam's leadership, his discipline and his unshakeable belief in the ability of IBM to lead us into the future."
Palmisano became CEO in 2002 and oversaw Big Blue's exit from its PC, printer and hard disk drive businesses, investments in emerging markets and technologies, and the launch of the vendor's Smarter Planet strategy, among other things.
He will remain with IBM as chairman of the board.