Truly marking an end of an era at IBM, executive vice president Steve Mills has retired from the company.
Mills, 64, whose most recent position – attained in January 2015 -- was executive vice president of software and systems, spent over 40 years at IBM, having joined the company straight out of college. Mills joined IBM in 1973 after graduating New York’s Union College and held a variety of leadership positions throughout his IBM career. He retired from IBM on Dec. 31.
Prior to his latest role, Mills was Senior Vice President and Group Executive of IBM Software Group for 14 years. Mills played a leading role in the growth of IBM Software Group since its inception in 1995. In this capacity, he was responsible for directing approximately 110,000 employees spanning development, manufacturing, sales, marketing and support professions. For the past three years, hardware and systems were added to his responsibilities. With the addition of systems, Mills was responsible for IBM's products that contribute $40 billion of IBM's revenue and provide critical infrastructure that powers more than 100,000 enterprises around the world.
Under Mills’ leadership, IBM launched a series of acquisitions that included more than 30 software companies since 2001. Mills instilled a strategy whereby IBM would fill “holes” in its platform by acquiring software companies with expertise IBM needed. This has been especially true in the big data, cloud and analytics spaces.
Known as a fierce competitor true to Big Blue, Mills promoted IBM’s solutions at any opportunity. He did not mind calling a competitor on the carpet for missteps, yet he also saw the value in partnering with competitors when necessary and forming alliances. In an early display of this, back in the SOA Web services era, Mills once shared the stage with then Microsoft chairman Bill Gates to demonstrate IBM’s and Microsoft’s web services interacting with each other.
With that same mindset of “coopetition,” Mills began to push IBM toward open-source software. After former CEO Lou Gerstner ushered in the Linux era at IBM, Big Blue adopted a strategy of steadily supporting, building and using open-source software – often taking the lead in contributing to projects. For instance, the popular Eclipse IDE came out of IBM and Big Blue was a founding member of the Eclipse Foundation.
IBM Software Group was where Mills flourished. In an interview from 2003, Mills said: “The idea of creating a true software business within IBM predates the creation of the Software Group. We began to build out our portfolio in the early 90s when Janet Perna went off to build the DB2 workstation offering in 1991. We delivered in 1993. We delivered products like MQ and what had been our VisualAge tool set in the 1992, 1993 time frame. So there were some activities that had taken place prior to the creation of the software group, which occurred in 1995.”