We had the good fortune of connecting with Alison Rose and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Alison, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
A healthy work-life balance is essential, but not always achievable at the beginning of your career. In my personal experience, that balance has shifted drastically over the 6 years I’ve been with IBM. I like to think of work-life balance as something I can positively affect rather than a given. During my first 2 years at IBM I hustled. I chose to be the first one to walk in the door every morning and the last one to leave at the end of the day. It was absolutely exhausting, but in my experience, hard work does eventually pay off. Those long hours earned the trust of my peers and superiors and over time, that trust turned into greater flexibility of my work schedule, i.e., being able to work remotely one day a week, a highly unlikely option if I hadn’t proven my output in those first few years.

After committing 4 years to IBM in Chicago, I decided to exercise a relocation option. I chose San Diego, for no other reason than to live in a city of year-round summer. I knew there was an IBM office in Sorrento Valley, but a move to San Diego would mean working remotely full time, with the exception of work-related travel. In a sense, I had to start all over, building that trust and putting in long hours again. The majority of the new teams I was being put on were located on the east coast, which meant the first call usually started at 6am PST for me. But, by committing to waking up at 6am for my team, it also meant that I would end my day at the same time they did.

Working remotely calls for a greater skill set of boundary setting. In most cases, working remotely can lead to tendencies like working outside of normal hours and feeling like there is little separation between work and home. While it’s completely normal to feel that way, it’s important to combat it by setting up defined workspaces as well as specific but somewhat flexible work hours. Flexibility is the key word here. Some days are slow, and I take advantage of being able to have a long lunch at the beach, but when the stakes are high and I need to buckle down to get the job done, THAT is my top priority.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I got to where I am today by putting in long hours and strategic networking. Proving to others that I am a dedicated worker who can be counted on to get things done has taken me a long way in my career. I became sought-after by others for their projects because they knew they could rely on me to deliver great work products. I also became sought out for turning around troubled projects. With support from IBM, I was able to attend an Agile coaching training for which I received certification. The coaching tools I learned in this course helped me work with teams in a way that empowered the team to find solutions to problems on their own, rather than giving them solutions directly. Because of this, I am often brought onto projects that are complicated, not operating efficiently, and needing improvement to get back on track. It was not easy to get to where I am today, and it definitely took perseverance and commitment. There were some situations where I was assigned to projects that were less than ideal, but the dedication to those projects opened doors to projects that were a perfect fit. Strategic networking played a huge role in ultimately finding more of those types of projects. (What I mean by strategic networking is making a new connection through your existing network, or simply making the connection directly.) Go for what you want!

Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
Yes! There may be too many to name, but let me start by saying this: the largest single factor that caused me to fall in love with San Diego is the sheer number of activities available at any moment. I remember before relocating here, someone told me that it was possible to be skiing on a mountain in the morning and surfing at the beach in the afternoon. Until I experienced this myself, I refused to believe it could be true.

Whenever I’m planning the arrival of an out-of-town guest, whether it’s for a weekend or week-long stay, I always insist they arrive before sunset. There is no better way to kick off your first night in California than to take in a beautiful sunset over the water! I typically choose somewhere in Pacific Beach to make that happen, so they can participate in great people-watching while enjoying decent eats and better drinks. PB Shore Club is my personal favorite for this because of their great taco options – classic Baja fish tacos, lobster tacos, and more. Additionally, their Red Bull Vodka Slushy is a must-try. If time allows, I try to make sure my San Diego guests get to experience a hike at Torrey Pines, a walk through Balboa Park (especially to the Spanish Village Art Center and the rose gardens), a visit to the sea lions in La Jolla Cove, a morning at either the Little Italy or Hillcrest farmers market, an adventure out on the water via boat, paddleboard, or kayak, and depending on the time of year, a ballgame at Petco Park.

There are several other spots that definitely deserve recognition. Coronado Island is a great extension to San Diego and getting a nice drink at the Hotel del Coronado is a recipe for perfection; be sure to see the gorgeous homes that reside nearby. Seeking out the nightlife in Gaslamp Quarter will never disappoint. The longer the line outside, the greater assurance that time spent in line will be worth the wait! Don’t pass up a visit to Carlsbad in the spring to see the Flower Fields. This is an area expanding over 3 football fields filled with the Giant Ranunculus aka “Persian Buttercups” alongside amazing views of the ocean. And did you know there is such a thing as wine country in SoCal? Called Temecula, it is situated about an hour north of San Diego. I have only visited 2 of the 40 wineries located there, Callaway and Falkner, and neither disappointed. Definitely choose to detour any drives to quick pit stops at the Spruce Street suspension bridge, the secret swings in La Jolla, Windansea Beach, Mt. Soledad, or Harper’s topiary garden.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
It’s hard to choose just one Shoutout nomination because I attribute my success to so many things. I quickly realize, however, that I don’t have to look any further than my fellow IBMers (current and retired)!

If it wasn’t for my college mentor at Butler University, Jack Smith, I wouldn’t even be at IBM! So, Jack gets my Shoutout. He was a sales manager for IBM back when they sold “Big Blue” (I don’t want to give away his age too much; I know he’d appreciate that). After retirement from IBM, he began working at the university as a mentor for graduating seniors. A simple ask for a connection to an internship landed me an interview for a full-time position at IBM months later.

Fast-forward to my second year at IBM, when a peer introduced me to the person who I needed to know in order to join the Apple + IBM team – a team I had only dreamed about being a part of. While on this team my fellow IBMers advocated for my growth. All the while, IBM allowed me to network and explore other areas of interest and supported me in gaining the education I needed to further expand my growth.

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Image Credits
Alison Rose