Nicholas Donofrio, senior vice president of Technology and Manufacturing for IBM Corp., is excited about the future and the boundless opportunities and challenges it offers.
Donofrio, who holds seven technology patents, shared his thoughts with business, computer science and engineering students during a recent visit to The University of Texas-Pan American.
"The truth is, it's not what you are anymore; it's what you can accomplish," said Donofrio, a speaker at spring commencement. "It's not where you come from but where you want to go. It's not how much you have but how much you have to offer."
To Donofrio, the only certainty about the future is a "constantly increasing pace of change." Entire career fields will be completely redefined and new ones created.
As such, he advised students to always keep an open mind, expand their horizons, embrace change, and be flexible. They also must keep their "senses" - sense of history, sense of balance and sense of humor, he said.
"You must embrace good ideas, regardless of who created them or where they came from," Donofrio said. "Being a team player is essential here. It's far more rewarding to be a member of a championship team than to stand in the winner's circle all alone."
Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez, president of The University of Texas-Pan American, said bringing business leaders to the campus helps spread the word about the quality of the institution, especially its students.
"What I really appreciated was the time that Mr. Donofrio spent with our business, computer science and engineering students," said Nevárez. "As a top administrator for one of the world's largest businesses, he was able to provide an insider's perspective on what major corporations need and want in prospective employees."
Donofrio said that while the Hispanic population in the United States has become the largest ethnic minority, it is behind in harnessing the power of technology. But, he added he expects to see that change.
"I learned many things during my visit, things that touched my head as well as my heart," he said. "In just a very brief visit, I learned far more about the Hispanic culture than I would have imagined, including the positive outlook for the Rio Grande Valley. It was exciting to hear about UTPA's potential and to learn how much the University is likely to grow in the coming years."
Donofrio is a member of the executive committee that runs IBM, one of the largest companies in the world.
"It is a tribute to UTPA that he came down here to speak and spent so much time visiting with our faculty and students," said Roland S. Arriola, vice president for External Affairs. "It shows that UTPA is beginning to be recognized for what it has to offer not only to Texas but also to the nation as a whole."
Alan Bermudez, a senior electrical engineering major from McAllen who will be in an upcoming summer and fall IBM co-operative, agreed.
"I like the way he is so dedicated to IBM and has stuck with them for so long," Bermudez said. "A lot of engineers I've talked to have said it's common to change jobs, but Mr. Donofrio has stayed and continued growing with IBM. He's also really into technology and supports new, innovative ideas."
Donofrio said he enjoyed meeting with students.
"My visit to UTPA was a richly rewarding experience, not only for the opportunity to address the graduates at commencement, but also to invest time with so many bright students armed with the enthusiasm and the tools to make a real and positive difference in the world," he said.
"I'm deeply grateful for the wonderful hospitality I received during my visit - from the university leaders, to the faculty, to the students and their families. Everyone went out of their way to make me comfortable, and I greatly appreciate that."
Donofrio leads the strategy for developing and commercializing advanced technology across the company's global operations by overseeing IBM Research, the Personal and Printing Systems Group, the Integrated Supply Chain and Integrated Product Development teams, and the Import Compliance Office.
Also, Donofrio is on the IBM Executive Committee and Strategy Team, leads the IBM Technology Team, and is IBM Academy of Technology Board of Governors chair. Having joined the company in 1967, his career has risen quickly through numerous technical management and executive positions in the product divisions.
"He's a very good role model," said Candi Roxas, UTPA director of University Development. "He's somebody that students and graduates should get to know and follow in his footsteps.
"We were lucky in that during his visit, Donofrio actually got to meet and spend time with a group of students and was available for one-on-one career counseling. He gave them valuable information about what lies ahead in the technological field."
Donofrio had equally high praise for UTPA.
"Without question, UTPA is a rich garden that must be constantly cultivated - as a source of quality education for the Hispanic community, and as a source of outstanding talent for American industry," he said.
"Overall, it was moving to see a University with so much commitment and foresight in its preparation for growth and in recognizing the needs of the community."
In March, The Institution of Electrical Engineers - the largest professional engineering society in Europe - recognized Donofrio with the Mensforth International Gold Medal for outstanding contributions to the advancement of manufacturing engineering.
Among his numerous memberships, Donofrio is chairman emeritus and board member of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, a fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, Bank of New York Board of Directors and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Board of Trustees.
Donofrio earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1967 and a Master of Science in the same field from Syracuse University in 1971. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in engineering from Polytechnic in 1999.