International business leader lays down roots as executive-in-residence at Miami Herbert

International business leader lays down roots as executive-in-residence at Miami Herbert

By Cibeles Duran

International business leader lays down roots as executive-in-residence at Miami Herbert

By Cibeles Duran
After several decades traveling the globe in executive roles, former CEO of IBM Asia Pacific Randy Walker chooses Miami as his home.
Randy Walker, former chairman and CEO of IBM Asia Pacific, reached the heights of corporate leadership as “a true global citizen,” as he describes himself, having lived on five continents, moved 23 times, worked in over 50 countries, and traveled to over 90 in total.

Growing up on a farm in a small town in northern Georgia, he could not have suspected the adventurous path that lay ahead. 

“I didn’t have a passport. I had never been on an airplane,” he recalls.

He found the inspiration to embark on international experiences when he met his wife, an interior design student in Atlanta while Walker studied electrical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She had grown up in Saudi Arabia, precisely the location of his first overseas assignment.

The opportunity came after a few years in the workforce. Walker had initially entered the technical side of his engineering track, but quickly found that he felt happier interacting directly with clients. He moved into consultancy and, in 1992, joined Deloitte & Touche. When leaders at the firm asked Walker to spearhead the implementation of the company’s Middle Eastern branch, he did not think twice. He moved with his wife and two toddlers to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, prompting a decades-long career that included traveling the globe with his family.

Today, he joins Miami Herbert Business School as an executive-in-residence, a role reserved for professionals whose breadth of experience brings expert insight of industry and commerce into the academic setting. In his new role, Walker serves as a mentor and coach for upperclassmen and graduate students, as well as a guest lecturer on topics that intersect business and technology. He also works with Miami Herbert Dean John Quelch and Business Technology Department Chair and Professor Robert Plant towards developing more technology-centric programs.

“Randy Walker brings the highest caliber of thought leadership to our business technology program,” Plant says. “His expertise and experience in technology-enabled business transformations help us blend practice and academia to provide our students with innovative curriculums and an authentic understanding of the industry.” 

The change marks a new path towards realizing his passion in guiding students to become leaders in the workforce, especially as they prepare for internships or to enter the workforce.

“I have had many great mentors, coaches, and bosses that have given me coaching, opportunity and made me who I am, and I have always wanted to give back,” Walker says. “I’m getting the opportunity to work on what has interested me for my heart and soul; a chance to go to my passion, which has always been coaching and mentoring and academia.”

Walker will continue to mentor in the professional sphere as well. As part of ExCo Group, he currently guides C-suite executives around the world. He also remains a consultant for IBM, which he joined in 1997 as general manager of business innovation services for the Asia Pacific region, moving between Japan, China, and Singapore.

In 2002, Walker returned to the United States to serve as executive vice president and board member of SAIC, a San Diego-based, Fortune 500 technology firm primarily servicing the federal government. But three years later, leadership at IBM asked him to return to lead an important acquisition in Asia. He again left the United States for Shanghai and Singapore to run the company’s consulting business, eventually advancing to the role of chairman and CEO of IBM Asia Pacific and later global managing director of sales and financial services. Carrying the responsibility of $40 billion in revenue, he led the financial services business, IBM’s largest segment, from double-digit losses to revenue growth.

Walker believes that his success is rooted in his commitment to identify and nurture talent. During his time at IBM Asia Pacific, he focused on building local talent and creating diverse teams that reflected the views of the various Asian countries with an IBM presence. 

“Surround yourself with great people, motivate them, and they will make you successful,” he advises.

He also credits his wife, son, and daughter for providing the support structure that he needed to accomplish global roles.

“We are very close as a family,” he says. “The grand adventure together has made us as close as we are. I would not have had the success in my career without the incredible support of my family”.

The Walkers remain close in Miami. They discovered the city when the couple’s son attended the University of Miami for his undergraduate degree. They “fell in love with the area,” Walker mentions, particularly for its international diversity. The Miami Herbert alumnus, ’15, has followed in his father’s footsteps as an international professional and now works for Samsung’s corporate strategy group in Seoul, South Korea. Their daughter, who works for Google, relocated from New York to Coral Gables during the pandemic, along with her husband and infant son, and now lives near her parents.

Settled in Miami and enjoying his family, new grandson, and his passion for mentoring, Walker plans to remain “inquisitive” and “a life learner.”

“Hopefully the next 35 years will be as exciting as the last 35 years,” he says.