David Thomas (Fall ’18)

Distinguished Guest Lecturer

A Leader Talks About Leadership

During November 7-9, the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering 2018 Fall Leader-in-Residence, David Thomas (ISE ’71, ME ’72), discussed the most critical aspects of leadership with faculty and students at the college and across the UF campus. Discussions with young faculty leaders centered on Thomas’ experience building effective teams to enhance success. He also met with faculty chairs to confer about a program in data analytics. Thomas enjoyed time in one-on-one meetings with members of Industrial & Systems Engineering. During his final day, he joined other industry leaders to participate on the Dean’s Advisory Board.

From breakfast with student leaders to discuss engineering leadership in organizations to meetings with students in the Engineering Leadership Institute and Engineering Innovation Institute classrooms for Q&A sessions, Thomas made a strong impression that will power the New Engineers to transform the future.

He also gave two presentations to students. The first seminar, open to all students at UF, focused on “Learning to Lead without Authority,” emphasizing that this leadership characteristic is common due to the organization within large companies. Thomas stressed the importance of building coalitions, expressing enthusiasm, being supportive of teammates, and being confident without cockiness.

The second seminar, geared more specifically toward engineering students, looked at “Leadership and the Innovation Challenge of Organizations.” Here, Thomas discussed the difficulties of integrating innovation into substantial companies. He gave examples from his career at IBM, covering their evolution from large mainframe computers to PCs and relating how they re-invented themselves to succeed. Thomas noted that building long-term sustainable organizations is a leadership function, with strategy development and corporate culture as all-important drivers.


About David Thomas

During his 28-year career with IBM, Mr. David Thomas rose to a prestigious leadership position as a Senior Vice President and Group Executive. He joined IBM’s Corporate Executive Committee, which oversees all worldwide business operations.

After leaving IBM in 2000, Mr. Thomas served as Chairman and CEO of IMS Health until 2006. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board for Fortune Brands Home and Security, Presiding Director of the Board of Directors of Interpublic Group, and Vice-Chairman of the Fidelity Investments Board of Trustees. He served on the University of Florida Board of Trustees from 2013-2018.