First ‘superchemist’ Ed Engler threw corporate hierarchy to the winds, then IBM promoted him for it

None of his IBM colleagues would have ever guessed that Edward Engler was about to turn his career upside-down on that February day in 1987. But looking back on it, the signs were there.

Everyone knew this about Engler: The 39-year-old chemist was moving smartly along Big Blue’s management track. Already a second-tier manager, he had four laboratory directors reporting to him and was well liked by both his bosses and the scientific staff.

Everyone also knew that there was something a bit different about Engler as a manager. Unlike many of his peers, as he stepped up the corporate ladder he had never quite lost his hankering for the bench. Every now and again, Engler would feel the old urge to tinker, and when it got the better of him, he would just...

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