Joel Spieth is the general manager for IBM’s burgeoning cloud for industry, which seeks to establish a billion-dollar cloud industry focusing on finance, government, health, and telecommunications. IBM is the first vertical cloud built for industry-level projects that exceed other commercial systems’ capabilities and appeal to regulated workloads. With only seven percent of the current market in the cloud, Joel is leading an area of exponential growth and bountiful opportunity.

Graduating in 1994 with a degree that mixed history, political science, and legal administration, Joel did not always see himself working in the cloud. Initially, he thought he was headed into printing systems engineering, a program only offered at three schools in the country at the time, of which he chose Ball State University. While putting himself through school, he decided to change his course towards law. During his walk home from the LSAT, he decided that it was time for a significant change in direction. Through the advice of his roommate, Timothy Stoner, Joel entered the CICS program due to his passion for technology. What followed led him to a successful career launched by the world-class competitive programs offered at Ball State.

What experiences or critical lessons from your time at Ball State proved helpful in getting where you are now?

Frank Groom’s class on telecommunications changed my life. I loved hearing about the law relative to telecommunications in his class. Dr. Steele had a leadership management course in which we read what seemed to be a book every week, and I learned so much in that class on business strategy and management, and that’s the class we had the Anderson Consulting challenge. The Challenge was where the partners went through a Request For Proposal competition where we formed teams of six, worked all night long, and then presented our response. Whoever won got a job offer and a scholarship. I won and went to work at Anderson. It was my first real career in technology.

What advice do you have for students at Ball State who may wish to follow in your footsteps?

My advice is to find something you love, and it will bring you happiness and accelerate your growth because you love doing it.

The second thing is, never stop learning. Technology changes rapidly, and it can be effortless to learn, get a job, and become complacent. This career will not allow you to do that. You will end up stuck and frustrated. You have to have the attitude of a lifelong learner to differentiate yourself from the masses. The third thing is always networking. By that, I mean people networking. Keep in touch with your fellow students and continuously broaden your network. As your career blossoms, people hire people they know into critical roles. If you don’t know the right people, it is more challenging to go after dream positions.

Can you remember a class or an experience that changed your life?

The Anderson Consulting challenge changed my life. I got a job that set me on my entire career path. It was a life-altering twenty-four hours.

What instructor made the most significant impact on you, and why?

Frank Groom’s growth mindset left the most significant impact on me. Most of the kids in his program weren’t technical and didn’t want to be; I’m a geek and an engineer, and Frank was an engineer. I found him through Dr. Steele, who saw it as more of a management consultant class, and I found his growth mindset very inspirational.

How did Ball State contribute to your success in life?

I got a world-class education that left me well ahead of my peers. My ability to solve complex problems and operate at a pace with depth and understanding beyond my peers was evident due to my education at Ball State.

Why have you continued to maintain a relationship with your alma mater?

I want to be helpful. I want to help more than writing a check.

What are your passions outside of work?

Concerts, I’ve been to over 500, and my kids. I’ve got a 19-year-old and a 12-year-old. I love the outdoors, fishing, hunting, and sharing those things with them.

“Spotlight On:” is a story series produced by the Ball State University Foundation in which we discuss current events, University news, and the importance of philanthropy. To read past stories, click here.