Darlene Shamsid-Deen knows what it means to balance family and work. As a woman who worked at IBM Corporation for 35 years, Shamsid-Deen created a life for herself, one where seeing a Black woman working at a corporation was still a surprise.
“First, let me say that I have been very blessed by our Creator to have had many extraordinary experiences in my life,” says Shamsid-Deen. “Working for IBM was one of them. In the mid-1980s, I was married with children when I started at IBM.”
Shamsid-Deen worked as a secretary, which she mentions was her strongest skill set at the time. However, she didn’t stay in that box for long. Shamsid-Deen dropped out of college in her earlier years, but she had the resilience to go back and take college courses at night and weekends to work on her degree in Management Information Systems. This type of degree at the time was new as computers were just beginning to take hold in society.
“I was fascinated by the world of computer science,” says Shamsid-Deen. “I thought I could get into data processing or programming at IBM, but what I found was that technology sales attracted me far more.”
Shamsid-Deen states that in the ’80s, there were few women who were interested in computer science at the time and even more so, African American women. This was where she had to be convincing to those who could doubt her abilities.
“I had work to convince my management that I was serious, and after three years as a secretary, I landed an interview at the Madison Avenue IBM sales office with the only African American Branch Manager [who was a female] in a building of over 30 IBM branch sales offices.”
Shamsid-Deen was hired as a systems engineer trainee. She took part in the training courses that IBM had. All sales and technical sales trainees went through four training classes for up to a year, which depended on their skill level coming on board. Shamsid-Deen took nine months to get through her training and eventually graduated as an IBM Systems Engineer in the NYNEX sales branch on Madison Avenue.
Shamsid-Deen made an important decision to leave IBM Corporation where she had been working for eight years, to be a part of a smaller, but more important software company, the Lotus Development Corporation. However, she found herself working for IBM again once they bought the company she worked at. Shamsid-Deen retired in 2017, but she was rehired in 2018 as a part-timer working from home where she reviews and signs off on certain types of IBM sales documents for over 60 countries.
While Shamsid-Deen was attending college as an adult, going to Elizabeth Seton College for her Associates degree and to Pace University, there was a work-life balance and a great support system in order for her to accomplish her goals.
“I couldn’t have done ANY of this without being blessed with an absolutely phenomenal, loving husband who has been my greatest fan from the beginning, Elbert Shamsid-Deen,” says Shamsid-Deen. “He always encouraged me to ‘be all I can be,’ and made sure to help me remove whatever obstacle I encountered in trying to achieve a goal.”