What does a typical work day look like for Kristie Curameng Bradford, MBA ’05? Well, there’s really no such thing — and that’s precisely why she loves her job.
“No days look similar,” says Bradford, director of intellectual property at IBM. “There are so many things I could be doing in one day.”
In her current role, she is responsible for monetizing innovations, from strategy development to transaction execution. Her focus is in quantum computing, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and monetization via Venture Capital and Private Equity channels.
In her prior role as a business development executive, Bradford led healthcare-specific mergers, acquisitions and strategic partnership for IBM Watson, the well-known supercomputer best known for beating out contestants “Jeopardy!” in 2011. Of course, Watson is much more than that – AI has come a long way in the past decade.
“I help businesses think about whether they need to grow via partnership, create a joint venture, or actually acquire a business outright,” Bradford says. “When you do any of that—whether it’s closing a deal or creating a strategy — the day-to-day looks very different.”
Business and technology are – by necessity – in constant collaboration. Bradford’s position at IBM provides the perfect opportunity to put her expertise and business acumen to use. But she also gets to be a student of technology who is always learning something new.
“One of the things that attracted me to IBM is that we use the word ‘transform’ and we mean it,” she says.
“When people ask me what it’s like to be a part of this company, it’s interesting because we’re asked to look at the same things people have been looking at, but almost in an upside-down, inside-out way,” she says. “It’s ‘how can it be’ versus ‘how it is today.’ Those are the fun things that we get to do.”
To those she mentors, Bradford says that understanding business fundamentals is as important as understanding innovation. “Lots of people say they want to join technology companies, and sign up for computer science classes,” Bradford said. She believes that today’s students should broaden their perspectives to include stages of business from the lab to the market, and understand how disciplines such as operations, sales and marketing, and finance translate to an innovation’s commercial success. “I think tech-savvy and business acumen will be essential for the next generation of Smith students.”
She also recommends taking time to strike a balance: building a successful and fulfilling career, while not forgetting the other cherished aspects of your life. She cites advice she received from her uncle, a role model in her life, as she was graduating from her MBA program at Smith: “Time is precious, and you don’t get it back.”
“Everyone else will prioritize themselves, so you must make sure to prioritize yourself,” she says. “Just take the time to be with the people that you love.”
–By Erica Spaeth. Spaeth is a 2023 MBA Candidate and a Forté and Smith Fellow. Originally from Potomac, Md., Spaeth worked in digital marketing, publishing, and most recently operations management, leading her to come to Maryland Smith.