John J. I. Chisholm

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36 Corporate Governance-Business Controls Adviser – IBM Corp., White Plains, N.Y.

A self-described company man, John Joseph Inman Chisholm plays his cards close to the vest and keeps cool in times of crisis. “Life does not afford us the luxury of reacting to its events. Therefore, I must remain smart to know that I must interact instead,” says the 36-year-old business controls advisor for IBM America’s sales and distribution division. His low-key demeanor leaves an impression he tries to counter. “I don’t want people to think I am much farther ahead of them. I am the opposite of everything they think I am,” explains Chisholm, who has been with IBM since 1997. Perhaps the secret to Chisholm’s success is his work ethic—he arrives at 5:00 a.m. and leaves at 8:30 p.m. and always has an eye towards efficiency.

In 2003, Chisholm wrote a 110-page proposal to create an integrated automated system for managing internal controls and disclosures, a process that taught him valuable management lessons. “I learned I have to know and accept my limitations. Once I gave [members of my team] clear direction of what my needs were, I had to know when to give up that portion of the project so I could move on to something else. Productivity comes when you’re doing exactly what you need to do,” explains Chisholm. In 2004, he was given the green light to lead a cross-functional team of finance, operations and IT specialists to implement the initial phase of his proposal.

Chisholm grew up in Montgomery County, Maryland. He earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and finance at American University in 1992 and a law degree, specializing in corporate and labor law, in 1995. He worked in Atlanta for a year before joining IBM as a senior financial analyst.

Chisholm encourages his fellow employees and the young executives he mentors to invest in their personal development. “I ask them what, above and beyond their 40 hours, are they doing to improve their skills? Are they learning and growing incrementally?”

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