Scores of well-wishers from Australia’s IT industry have paid tribute to IBM veteran Michelle Richter who died aged 53 last month.
Sydney-based Michelle spent 25 years with IBM, having joined there as a graduate in 1990, and was responsible for spearheading its cloud and channel marketing across Asia Pacific and emerging markets in her last role.
Her partner, Michael Wicks, told ARN that Michelle understood the IBM business from “all angles” having held numerous roles throughout IBM during her 25-year career.
“When she moved into a senior marketing role, she was able to articulate the requirements for pushing the IBM brand forward because she really understood what was needed from the business,” he explained.
“She wrote channel strategy for them. She defined roles and processes for them. She rolled out a whole new process for them in A/NZ and that was adopted as a standard worldwide by IBM.”
In addition, Michelle also took an active interest in mentoring up-and-coming talent, especially young women. “She thought she had a good platform to help promote women in a predominantly male IT space,” Wicks said. “She was a supportive presence to all her people, but she was very passionate about promoting women in the IT space. She would say: ‘I want to work for these girls someday.’”
As a person, Wicks described the mother-of-three as “vibrant and full of energy”. Having left IBM in 2015, she spent much of her time working in her children’s sporting community, which included coordinating junior player development at the Drummoyne water polo club.
“She didn’t like sitting around and not keeping her mind active,” Wicks added.
Michelle battled a rare form of cancer for 18 years, but was determined not to “make a big deal of it”, Wicks added.
Following news of her death, many from Australia’s IT community paid tribute to Michelle.
Mark Latchford, who worked at IBM from 1982 until 2016, finishing as general manager for technical support services, told ARN that Michelle’s “personality combined with her professionalism made an impact” from the moment she joined.
“Many of Michelle's peers who joined at the same time still talk about how she combined her knowledge of computer science, with her natural humour and empathy to motivate the entire cohort through arduous entry-level training and onto great contributions to IBM, its clients and the industry,” Latchford said.
“Michelle left us all way too early. As we at IBM knew well, she put her family first and foremost in her life, despite working intensely. The industry joins with her IBM family in sending their admiration, respect and love to the family as they continue on the journey of life as Michelle would have wished.”
Comments meanwhile flowed in on LinkedIn. “Such sad news,” wrote Darren Gilchrist, now a senior business analyst at Westpac. “Michelle convinced me to move from IBM Perth to Sydney back in 2000. A wonderfully strong, determined woman who had a very compassionate side as well. No doubt she will be missed by many.”
Another former IBM employee, John Kimlin, who is now a director at EY, also added he was deeply saddened by the news of her passing. “Michelle made it “real” for a lot of us and brought a human element to what she did,” he wrote. “Deepest condolences to her clan from my clan.”
Michelle is survived by her partner Michael Wicks and her children Connor, 19, Brandon, 15, and Sienna, 12.