Innovating Through Inclusion: Building Technological Solutions for a Global World
Sophie V. Vandebroek, PhD
Technology Executive and Electrical Engineer
1986 Fulbright Foreign Student from Belgium
Sophie V. Vandebroek (left center), as the first visiting scholar for the MIT School of Engineering, focused on engaging engineering students and peers in the school’s outreach and diversity activities.
Dr. Sophie V. Vandebroek has driven innovation and growth at some of the world’s most important technology companies. As a Fulbright Foreign Student from Belgium, she received her PhD in electrical engineering from Cornell University in 1990. In the years since, Vandebroek has worked in leadership roles at multinational companies including IBM, Xerox, and IDEXX Laboratories, and holds 14 United States patents. Throughout her impressive career, she has always emphasized the benefits of working with diverse and entrepreneurial colleagues from around the world.
Vandebroek’s international experience, especially her Fulbright, has been pivotal to her success. She served as Chief Operating Officer at IBM from 2017 to 2019, where she led strategy and operations across IBM’s 13 global laboratories. These laboratories employed 3,000 researchers working to create technology to transform society, specifically artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and quantum computing.
Before her leadership role at IBM, Vandebroek had an extensive career at Xerox serving as Chief Engineer, Chief Technology Officer, and Corporate Vice President for more than 25 years. At Xerox, she worked with centers in Canada, Europe, India, and the United States—always remembering the value of cross-cultural collaboration to advance research in AI and automation in transportation, healthcare, customer care, education, and other industries.
Vandebroek used her professional experience to drive innovation at a center of American ingenuity: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 2017, she helped found the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, dedicated to “pushing the frontiers of artificial intelligence and translating breakthroughs into real-world impact.” The Lab’s research portfolio of more than 80 projects emphasizes data-driven approaches to understanding language and the visual world. She furthered her connection with MIT as the inaugural School of Engineering Visiting Scholar in 2019, where she mentored entrepreneurs and encouraged diversity and inclusion—no doubt influenced by her time as a Fulbrighter at Cornell.
Throughout her career, Vandebroek has made the well-being of her professional communities a priority. She has advocated for greater work-life balance in tech, and helped to recruit, mentor, and champion Xerox employees who identify as LGBTQIA+ and people of color. For her efforts, she has been recognized by the Xerox Women’s Alliance, the non-profit organization Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, and received the Inaugural Lifetime Diversity Leadership Award from Xerox in 2016.
Vandebroek has also advanced global collaboration through her founding of Strategic Vision Ventures, where she shares her expertise in working with transnational clients. She continues to serve on multiple boards across the world, including in the United States, the Netherlands, and Belgium.
Dr. Sophie V. Vandebroek reflects on her motivation: “I was always striving to be part of a brilliant community of people I could learn from.” Learning and growing through Fulbright, driving innovation, and championing employees, it’s clear she has done just that.