Virginia “Ginni” Rometty’s appointment as President and CEO of IBM in 2011 was a landmark event at one of the most storied companies in the world and an icon of American technology innovation. But her ascension as the first female CEO in Big Blue’s 100-year history had “zero to do with progressive social policies,” Rometty’s predecessor Samuel J. Palmisano said at the time. “Ginni got it because she deserved it.” Now, Rometty faces pressure due to IBM’s most recent earnings report, which failed to hit industry expectations, in a rare misstep for the company.
A perennial fixture on Fortune‘s annual list of the most powerful women in business, Rometty was named to the 2012 TIME 100 list of world’s most influential people. (None other than Marissa Mayer wrote Rometty’s citation, calling her a “tremendous inspiration.”) A graduate of Northwestern University, where she earned a degree in computer science and electrical engineering, Rometty joined IBM in 1981. Two decades later, after rising through the corporate ranks, Rometty would play an instrumental role in IBM’s $3.5 billion purchase of consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was a key part of Big Blue’s transition from hardware to services, a shift that has rejuvenated the Armonk, N.Y.-based tech giant.