IBM Launches NYC Bluemix Garage With Former Azure Exec

Led by a former Microsoft executive, IBM opened a new Bluemix Garage in New York City to focus on blockchain, fintech and financial services.

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Shawn Murray was perfectly happy as the senior director of Azure digital sales at Microsoft, as he had been with the company for 18 years—continually moving up the ladder.

Then Murray got a glimpse of what IBM was doing with its Bluemix platform and its outreach to developers, and he decided to make a change. Murray joined IBM as worldwide director of Bluemix and Blockchain Garages.

Speaking with eWEEK this week about the launch of IBM's latest Bluemix Garage in New York City, Murray said it was IBM's focus on design in addition to its cloud and developer focus that won him over. Steve Robinson, general manager of IBM Cloud Platform Services, who had a key role in establishing the IBM Bluemix Garages, helped recruit Murray away from Microsoft—where he'd spent the last seven years leading Azure sales both in the enterprise and the ISV spaces.

"I was pretty happy with my role at Microsoft, but once he told me about the garages and I started digging into what they do here, I knew this was the place for me," Murray said in an interview. "Because what they've done at IBM is truly magical."

Murray said IBM has combined the technical capabilities and the roles of the developers and the architects with designers who have Ph.D.'s in psychology and design thinking, and it has built this entire method around how to build apps in an innovative way.

"Microsoft just didn't have that," he said. "They could help you build an app. But IBM's difference is that whole process and the design thinking."

The design element is what made a difference for Murray. For example, one of the Bluemix Garage engagements Murray sat in on was a small startup out of San Francisco that had a complete idea and knew exactly what it wanted to build. IBM had the company come to the garage for a design thinking workshop to help it visualize what it was trying to solve and what experience it wanted its end users to have. And the design workshop, the startup abandoned the idea it initially had because it realized that what it was trying to build wasn't really what it was trying to solve.

"That's the differentiator for us," Murray said. "We have the combination of designers who can think through challenges. Not just visual designers, but experience designers, and we bundle that with architects and the developer assets that we have. So for me personally, it was just a perfect fit."

IBM is indeed serious about design. In April, Big Blue established a new Distinguished Designer program and placed it on the level of the company's 2-decade-old Distinguished Engineer program. IBM recognizes design as a technical craft that is as critical as engineering to the long-term success of the company and a key driver of value for its customers, said Fahad Osmani, talent director for IBM Design.

IBM Design is three years into its mission of driving a culture of design within the company. The company has built what it claims is the world's largest design team, with 1,250 designers and 29 design studios around the world. Designers work on multidisciplinary teams on IBM products; digital engagement platforms for customers via the company's digital agency, IBM Interactive Experience (IBM iX); and branding and marketing initiatives.