David Gee, 32
The turnaround in IBM’s fortunes led By CEO Louis Gerstner would have been impossible without grass-roots agents for change like David Gee. Under Big Blue’s old regime, innovation was often stifled by a reluctance to embrace and exploit ideas from outside IBM. Gerstner let in new blood. Gee joined IBM in 1995 from Dun & Bradstreet, soon establishing himself as a proponent of an emerging Sun Microsystems technology: Java. This platform-independent computer programming environment, now the lingua franca of the Internet, has been a cornerstone of IBM’s successful push to make itself an e-business behemoth.
In managing IBM’s Java initiative, Gee was responsible for "building a team, working with customers, developers, analysts and influencers the world over, and truly establishing IBM as a leader in open standards and e-business," notes Mike Lawrie, general manager of IBM’s operations in Europe. Gee also managed
Alpha Works, IBM’s online research lab, which promotes new Internet technologies (mostly Java-based). His evangelizing proved so effective that IBM now has more than 3,800 Java professionals developing applications--an effort on a par with Sun’s. Earlier this year Gee was given a vote of confidence with a new position in Paris as Lawrie’s executive assistant, a job title often on the fast track for joining IBM’s top management ranks. Could Gee be an eventual successor to CEO Gerstner? You read it here first.