The Next Generation Workforce

September 16, 2014 by

Ring of many hands team

The age of personalization will provide filtered, data-driven, relevant and actionable reports so that people, teams and businesses can better serve their customers and partners and other stakeholders. As businesses and business models morph in this direction, we will see a corollary shift in the workforce, reflecting these changes. Below are some anticipated trends.

There will be fewer full-time employees and Contractors Will Rule.

  1. As there are fewer full-time positions available, hiring managers want to make sure that the person who is hired is actually the right person for that job. Hence, there will be a marked increase in the temp-to-hire trend.
  2. Some workers like the opportunity to work flexible hours of the day, of the week, of the month, and some companies and hiring managers like only offering seasonal jobs, or only hiring to supplement current workforce for clearly identified pockets of time.
  3. There will also be an increase in per-project consulting, as there are fewer full-time employees and there may be less of a need for specific types of projects.
  4. Additionally, there will be an ongoing need for services not part of the core business function, be it operations or HR management or IT support.

The Roles We Assume at work will shift.

  1. There will be a greater need for generalists, people who have moved across functional areas and have the intelligence, efficiency and competence to work and communicate with a range of other people and groups.
  2. With that said, there will also be a need for people who have deep expertise in specific areas, particularly when it comes to mission-critical areas such as security and software development and technical oversight and leadership.

An Collaborative, Consultative Leadership Style will be favored.

  1. Leaders who are collaborative and consultative by nature will better communicate and engage with a diverse and broad range of stakeholders.
  2. Leaders who are visionary and inspirational in their thoughts, words and actions will command respect and attract the best people.

There is an increased need for workers who are Strategic Thinkers with Global Experience.

  1. Workers will be rewarded for shifting across industries, across geographies, across roles. Their range of experience will help them better understand the business, the needs of the customer, and better perform under a range of circumstances.
  2. Workers who have a broad and deep network are more connected with others and more influential.

For more information about the data behind the predictions above, or for a consultation on what-these-trends-mean-for-YOU, please contact us at

Women Making Their Own Rules

September 15, 2014 by


FountainBlue’s September 12 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Women Making Their Own Rules, featuring:

Facilitator Brenda Rogers, HR Strategies

Panelist Erna Arnesen, VP Global Channel & Alliance Marketing, Plantronics

Panelist Petra Hofer, Chief of Staff to Mark Carges, eBay

Panelist Xiaolin Lu, Fellow and Director of IoT Lab, Texas Instruments

Panelist Shveta Miglani, Talent Development Manager, Sandisk

Panelist Monica Shen Knotts, Senior Manager, Senior Manager, Enterprise Technology Strategy, Cisco

Please join us in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts and to our gracious hosts at Texas Instruments. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a range of women leaders on the panel. There was much diversity as they represented different companies, different educational backgrounds, different cultural experiences, and divergent paths to success within the corporate sector, but they also had much in common:

  • They consciously made their own rules for success, in environments which did not necessarily embrace women in leadership in general;
  • They rose to positions of impact, where they influence the executive direction, strategy and tactics for tech organizations across the valley;
  • They have touched the lives of many, and supported the growth of those around them;
  • They are clear, inspiring and direct communicators who speak from their heart and their experience, for the good of all.
  • They have changed roles, perspectives, product lines, and even industries, and continue in their forward growth personally and professionally.

They were generous enough to share their advice and wisdom.

  • Women who make their own rules don’t always get what they expect from doing so, but those who do it well, always benefit from doing so, and positively impact those they touched because they did so.
  • Being open to what others think, say and do helps you understand where others are coming from and why specific rules are in place. Understanding the purpose of these rules helps anyone break them in a way which makes better sense for all, should that be the choice.
  • Focus on whether a rule should be broken, and what the long term and short term consequences are for breaking these rules.
  • Build relationships with others so that you can socialize a concept before you take actions to shift, change, transform a rule.
  • Understand the spoken and unspoken rules, and always question whether these rules are the right rules and why.
  • Do what it takes to keep yourself and those around you engaged and impassioned, even if it means stirring the pot and breaking a few rules.
  • Know yourself and the values you stand for, and keep connected with that core self, as it will help you see rules which are overtly or subtly imposed on you, rules you may not necessarily choose to shape you or the direction you choose.
  • Be courageous enough to transcend social and other rules, letting your results and impact speak louder than social norms.
  • Consider the motivations of others who support or obstruct you from the breaking of rules.
  • Communication is key. Know your message, your purpose and your audience before you break any rules.
  • Celebrate creativity and innovation: Embrace the opportunities to think, speak and act differently. Do the uncomfortable by surrounding yourself with people who don’t think like you.

Memorable quotes from our dynamic panel:

  • Be the bamboo that bends but does not break.
  • Prove yourself in the boardroom, and go in wearing your Birkenstocks.
  • Ignore the voice on your shoulder that keeps telling you that you’re in over your head.
  • Assume positive intent from others who question your words, thoughts and actions (even if you know they don’t have your best interest in mind). It will help you be courageous enough to break a rule that must be broken.
  • Strategy, empathy, and passion are magical elements of the emotional intelligence you need to break those rules.
  • Effective rule-breaking must be a conscious, strategic choice.
  • Eggs will break when you make an omelet. Be prepared for the backlash, but also embrace the possibilities and up-sides.
  • An acronym for FEAR – false evidence appearing real.
  • Be respectful and appreciative of those who come before you, breaking the ground. Namaste, I honor you by bowing down


Ten Shades of Innovation

August 12, 2014 by


Innovation drives progress, stretches possibilities, expands thinking and revenues – it is the antithesis of complacency. The quest for innovation keeps people and companies current and vibrant. Pushing the innovation envelop keeps staff and customers alike engaged.

But how do you continue the quest for innovation when it’s so much easier to remain complacent and do what’s-worked-in-the-past? What kinds of innovation are there and how do you lobby for innovations that matter? Below are some things to consider in leading innovative thinking and acting.

Incremental Innovations

1. Faster – It’s a given that when an innovation takes off, like a personal computer or a cell phone, there will be innovations which would make the solution faster (with memory and broadband for example), more versatile and robust (with applications and storage for example), leading to increased adoption and markets for complementary products (like accessories) and services (security and access).

  • The iconic example of this type of innovation is around Moore’s Law: over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years.
  • Chance favors the prepared mind. Louis Pasteur

Which pervasive innovations continue to rise in adoption and what solutions could be sold to those markets?

2. More Cost Effective – The technological and design innovations around materials, design, integration and development will make it increasingly more cost effective to adopt these tech innovations by a larger target customer base.

  • An increased knowledge of semiconductor materials and manufacturing processes has led to efficiencies for design and production and distribution, making technological solutions more widely available for lower costs.
  • Don’t confuse the art of the possible with the art of the profitable. David Tansley

If products in your market have become a commodity (like solar panels), what tech or process innovations would set your product line apart?

3. More Complex – Along those same lines, with the advancements of technologies and processes, more complex, integrated solutions become available and desirable.

  • We went from room-fuls of servers for (comparatively) miniscule amounts of data to gigabytes on a stick. Our cell phones can do more in complexity and processing than the Hubble telescope was designed to do.!
  • Some men look at things the way they are and ask why? Some men dream of things that are not and ask why not? Robert Kennedy

Think not about complexity for complexity’s sake, but about how being able to do complex things can help solve problems, even ones we didn’t know we had.

Process Innovations

4. More Streamlined Processes – Manufacturing and operational innovations supporting the design, production and distribution to those innovations are additional ways to innovate to gain market share.

  • While not the sexy original innovations that entice entrepreneurs and execs, focusing on this will drive revenues and market share.
  • Innovation is not the product of logical thought, although the result is tied to logical structure. Albert Einstein

What’s blocking your company from more efficiently executing and what can you and your team do about it? How would you better and more quickly serve the customer if you did so?

5. More collaboration – Collaborating with partners of all ilks, from distribution to development to advertising, will help innovators better understand and serve the ecosystem of partners, and get products and services into the hands of customers.

  • The Japanese define a keiretsu as a set of companies with interlocking business relationships and shareholdings, an informal business group and loose collaborative alliance.
  • To go against the dominant thinking of your friends, of most of the people you see every day, is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform. Theodore H. White

If we were to map our ecosystem of stakeholders, how could we each better and more collaboratively work with each other to better serve each other?

6. More Comprehensive – Moreover, deeper partnerships with a larger range of partners can facilitate the delivery of more comprehensive solutions to a broader range of stakeholders.

  • Service management has expanded and evolved from isolated fixes to comprehensive solutions which address deeper problems and systemic and infrastructure issues. The evolution of end-to-end IT services is an example of this and is impacting the traditional boundaries of IT, applications, groups and even organizational issues including governance, management, cross-group collaborations, etc.,
  • Just as energy is the basis of life itself, and ideas the source of innovation, so is innovation the vital spark of all human change, improvement and progress. Ted Levitt

If we embrace a systemic, collaborative approach, how could companies better focus on delivering their core competencies while ensuring that the customer’s needs are addressed end-to-end?

Orthogonal Innovations

7. New markets – Another way to facilitate innovation is to open up new market opportunities for proven innovations widely embraced in specific geographies, within specific audiences to solve specific problems.

  • The more adoption there is, the easier it is to expand market share to current and new geographical and profile markets. However, the more difficult it might be to see those other new markets and opportunities, as the current ones are still doing so well.
  • Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought. Albert von Szent-Gyorgy

There may be policy and technical hurdles, and of course the inevitable communication hurdles obstructing this adoption into new markets, but the opportunities will be there for those who are persistent, should there also be a need and a pain in that new market.

8. New Purpose – Proven innovations in one market may serve a new and original, or the same purpose in another market.

  • Consider how process innovations in the semiconductor market may impact development innovations in the clean tech or healthcare sector for example, or how IT can revolutionize healthcare.
  • Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative explorer looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport. Robert Wieder

What old solutions can be applied in a whole new way and change the way we all look at things and do things?

Original Innovations 

9. New Technology and Application – The telephone, the personal computer, the horseless carriage are all touted for being original innovations, far different than what-existed-before.

  • If your quest is for that original innovation, consider the detailed profile of your target customer and the painful need which your solution would serve. Get that funding behind the customer validation and design to the requirements of your target audience.
  • All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered. The point is to discover them. Galileo Galilei

Keep a log of what-you-wish-you-had. Read and experience much. And consider how your thoughts and ideas might come together so that you see the same thing in new ways.

10. Accidental Innovations – Most people dismiss the accidental innovations as they are difficult to plan, but note that innovations such as the chopsticks were designed based on necessary (it was too hot to eat something from the file so a man used two sticks), Botox was intended as a heart medication, Kevlar was originally meant for tires, Nylon quickly went from toothbrushes to stockings, and the list goes on.

  • Embrace the purposeful innovations while encouraging the accidental ones.
  • We shall not cease from exploration, and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. T. S. Eliot

What do you use every day and what other purposes could it serve?

Many leaders think that innovation is only about one shade of innovation, only the new-new. So we hope that this article helps you consider other options and methods for thinking about what innovation is and how it can impact your company. We close this month’s blog a final thought: Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking we can get on with creating the future. James Bertrand Happy Innovating!

The Search for Purpose

August 12, 2014 by


Happiness is tied closely to a sense of purpose. Whether your goals are for your professional, personal, or spiritual fulfillment, this search for purpose may present itself as a buzz-in-the-background, a undefined longing, or as an in-your-face insatiable achiness, an emptiness beyond fulfillment.

Some never figure out whether to search or what to search for. Others never knew that they had to search. The lucky ones found that purpose without a search.

But for those of us who want to visualize and realize their purpose, here are some guidelines and thoughts to structure and fuel your journey.

1. Passion – You can’t find your purpose unless you know where your passion lies. Find or rediscover that which you love, unfiltered by the parameters you and others are setting for you. You can decide later whether what-you-have is practical or profitable or sustainable or even silly. Start with identifying what you love and go from there to guide it in a sensible direction.

2. Curiosity – Be open-minded about who-you-are, what-makes-you-tick, and what-makes-the-world-go-around. Exploring areas of discomfort and newness can open up whole new facets of possibilities, as will opening up networks of people and resources.

3. Self-awareness – Know what you’re good at and what you’re not, what makes you happy and fulfilled, where you can learn and grow, and how others can support you as  you grow. Having self-awareness is essential to growing and learning with purpose.

4. Discipline – Nothing worth having is easy. Having the discipline to work hard and apply yourself to a specific purpose and cause is another essential element for happiness and success. There is no substitute.

5. Perseverance – Without passion, and the discipline to achieve something, there’s no momentum. And even with both, it takes perseverance and persistence to keep trying despite disappointments, disapprovals, barriers, rejections and other obstacles.

6. Practicality – Most people start with what’s practical, rather than exploring what they are passionate about. But if you should start that way, make sure that what you’re passionate about is also practical, especially if it’s related to your professional goals. If there’s no market need for that-which-you’re-passionate-about, explore the intersect between what you like and what people would pay for.

7. Experience – Having experience personal, professionally and spiritually helps you clarify your purpose. Without experience, it’s much more difficult to find your fit. So rather than focusing on what-you-did-wrong-when, focus instead on what’s ahead now that you know yourself and your world better.

8. Support – It’s hard to find your purpose, or even to know to search unless you have the foundational emotional, physiological, and financial support you need. Make choices to meet your needs and surround yourself with supportive people.

9. Connected – Surrounding yourself with a supportive network will give you the strength and resources and perspective to continue the search.

10. Led – Beyond the general network, having experienced and open-minded, someone you respect, someone you trust implicitly, support you in your search will help you think through your options and you company in your journey.

Best of luck with your journey, and kudos to those who have the courage and grit to continue the search.

Politics in the Workplace: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

August 8, 2014 by

August8PanelAug8Pix (2) Aug8Pix (5)FountainBlue’s August 8 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Politics in the Workplace: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have such an experienced and diverse panel, who came from a range of backgrounds representing engineering, legal, management, each with in-depth experience leading in tech companies, each with varied experiences working with and for a wide range of leaders at all levels. They collectively shared these kernels of wisdom.

  1. Politics is not good or bad – it’s just the use of power and social networking to benefit a person or team or organization. There are times it could be bad because of the intent, where someone unfairly benefits for example, because those with merit aren’t getting the credit for work well done. But if the game is played fairly and well, right and good will prevail.
  2. Embrace politics as an opportunity to build influence and relationships. Don’t get stuck into thinking that putting your head down and doing good work will be enough, or that politics is for self-serving, self-centered, power-hungry others.
  3. When faced with a political challenge, consider if you can accept the political environment and dynamics, if you can change it in some way, or if you need to leave because you can’t make it work.
  4. If you decide to change things, be strategic about what you want to change, why it needs to be changed, who is involved in making these changes, when and how it would happen, etc.,
  5. Politics is part of the journey of life, so don’t treat political incidents as transactional happenings, rather as relationship and trust-building opportunities.
  6. You are in a stronger political position if you and your team deliver based on the needs of the organization and product. From there, leverage communication and negotiation skills to further your product, team and organizational success, preferably in collaboration with others and in alignment with corporate goals.
  7. Find the win-win in every political challenge, in every M&A opportunity, in every conflict.
  8. As you rise within an organization, you will no longer just represent yourself or your project – you will also represent your team, your product and your organization. Navigating the politics will be as much of your job as delivering the tech project. It will enable your team to have the backing, support and resources in order to do so.
  9. In a tech corporate setting, the politics often centered around the product and lobbying for the resources and influence in order to support the successful delivery of that product. Help your company and team focus on the customer, rather than on personality issues and conflict and personal agendas.
  10. When leading change in a politically charged environment such as an M&A, help leaders remain unbiased, focus on delivering quality products and services, and rise above the gossip, back-stabbing and gripe sessions which can be so debilitating.

You know that you’re good at politics if:

  1. You continue to work with your team to complete projects that benefit the company financially and technologically, focusing on delivering to the needs of the customer.
  2. An expanding body of people come to you requesting advice and support for organizational issues which may not necessarily impact you and your group directly.
  3. You find yourself listening long and deep, and sharing your advice and network to help others solve their problems.
  4. You gain brownie points for helping others, rather than using your authority and power to force something to happen (which actually costs brownie points).
  5. Your sphere of influence expands: you have a growing network which thinks highly of you, and a growing network of stakeholders involved in the work you do.
  6. You get really good at helping people better understand the motivations of others and thinking through their political circumstances.
  7. You remain focused on the bigger picture, the needs of all the other teams and stakeholders. Your team and product may not always win a battle, so focus on the larger picture – with a focus on the needs of the customer.
  8. You remain other-centric – always finding out what others need and find a way to leverage your resources, knowledge and influence to support and help them. Adopting a help-me-help-you attitude will build trust and relationships.
  9. You feel your influence spread in a good way, well beyond the people with whom you directly connect.
  10. You remain true to your morals and values, and ever communicate and negotiate with authenticity.

The bottom-line advice to leaders at all levels is to leverage your influence to remove roadblocks, to build alignment, to move the needle forward. In short, use politics for the good of your team, your people, your product, your company.



Please join us in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s August 8 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Politics in the Workplace: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, as well as our hosts at Cisco.

Facilitator Deb Kaufmann, Deb Kaufmann & Associates, Inc.

Panelist Sondra Bollar, Software Development Director, Oracle

Panelist Ruth Gaube, Vice President and General Counsel, Samsung Information Systems America

Panelist Vijaya Kaza, Senior Director of Engineering, Cisco

Panelist Karen Pieper, Senior Director of Synthesis, Tabula

Panelist Angie Ruan, Head of Retail Engineering, PayPal

The Tech, Logistical and Business Innovations of Internet 3.0

July 31, 2014 by


Throughout our age-of-personalization series, we reported on the evolution of the internet, with the 60s which brought on the decade of semiconductors, the 70s which was the era of the personal computer, the 80s, the with the prominence of networks, the 90s, the with the rise of the modern internet, and the 00s with the prominence of social networks, and asked the question ‘what will the next decade bring’?

As we pondered the question, while blogging, researching, interviewing and curating data through our series, we find ourselves focusing on identifying and supporting successful companies who are leveraging technology – networks, databases, aggregated information, sensors and processes –  people –  stakeholders and communities representing the voice of the customer – and processes – operations, logistics, methods and transactions, in order to more efficiently serve an ever more selective and discerning customer base, demanding the delivery of personalized solutions. This direction is both inevitable and pervasive, impacting industries ranging from retail to financial services, clean energy to healthcare IT, affecting all of us in every part of our day-to-day life, establishing a new reality.  The macro conclusions, observations and learnings to date are summarized below, with opportunity questions and comments.

Tech Innovations in the Age of Personalization

1. Data will only grow and get more complex. Yes, it’s about the data, we have oodles and oodles of it, coming out of our ears, detailing everything from our web search habits to buying and texting patterns, from time spent in a room to preferred heating temperatures, from average speed on freeways to average expenditure for each trip to preferred stores, in preferred months, at preferred times of day.

The key to adding value through data is to first capture and integrate data from multiple sources, generate an actionable report for targeted users, measure outcomes and impact, and correct as you go. Engaging a community will be key to generating data that is relevant and connect stakeholders who can work collaboratively to serve members of the community.

2. Sensors will become even more pervasive, not just in what-we-already see for everything from home energy monitoring to health diagnostic tools, but the integration of sensors between each other, and the embedding of sensors even within the body will change the way we live, work, play and think.

The standardization of sensor technology and the data generated from it will generate integration opportunities. The winners will be companies that can integrate multiple data input from sensors, sift out the noise of the data, and provide an actionable dashboard for paying users.

Logistical Innovations in the Age of Personalization

3. Companies that can efficiently deliver personalized orders to the door will reign supreme. Thank you Dell for revolutionizing the supply chain process, making it on-demand. Thank you Google and Amazon for raising the bar beyond that, and aggregating the delivery of products to the door so efficiently and conveniently.

The key to profitability is to aggregate standard, off-the-shelf products and deliver them in concentration urban areas, in relative frequency to ensure efficient and excellent on-demand customized orders are fulfilled with sufficient margins to command profitability for the organization.

4. With that said, there will be an opportunity for those who serve niche audiences and even rural locations. It will be difficult without the fulfillment centers of Amazon, the retailer relationships of Google, and the brand of both.

Perhaps SnapDeal, the largest ecommerce marketplace in India, can compete while focusing on another tech-philic and concentrated market. Perhaps other organizations can focus on high-volume, specialized, high-margin needs for another affluent niche market. Perhaps another successful company can focus on efficiently serving the specific needs for rural populations.

Business Innovations in the Age of Personalization

5. The way we look at revenues will change, and the lines will blur between transaction, membership, advertising, and subscription revenue models. The successful companies will find synergistic opportunities that will leverage the success of one revenue stream to fuel the momentum of another, while providing wins for all stakeholders. The key is not around the revenue opportunities, but about the way to better understand and serve the customer, the ability to build a community serving your customers, and creating that virtuous circle where serving communities and customers provides increasingly more value.

What can we all learn from the Amazon example: a $299 annual fee for Amazon prime, which includes free same-day and early morning delivery on grocery orders over $35 as well as free two-day delivery on select items, a free Kindle e-book lending library, and an unlimited video streaming through its FireTV solution.

6. The way we sell will be forever changed. No longer are we in an age of buying-what-you-don’t-need, with money-you-don’t-have, to impress people-who-don’t-care. Successful sales people will be more customer-oriented, more tech-savvy, more proficient with social media and communications in order to create communities and distribute information efficiently, more collaborative, working with other stakeholders internally and externally and more proactive, with a clear view of their value-add: understanding the specific needs of customers, and working to tailor solutions to address these needs.

What if we selected for people with this techno-philic, progressive mindset to lead our sales efforts? What if we successfully partnered these sales stars with marketing leaders to help them communicate the message to targeted audiences? What if we all sold, not matter what our title was? What will happen to those who can’t embrace this mentality?

7. Relationship management solutions will help people connect with each other, remember each other, and communicate with each other – for the benefit of both parties. Savvy professionals will also use these relationship management tools as communication platforms for their message and brand and target prospect and customer bases as well.

How are you using LinkedIn to grow your network and stay in touch with your network? How can Newsle help you keep tabs of members of your network who make headlines? How can LinkSV give you a bottom-up view of who’s who whether your target companies? How can each be integrated into your content curation and creation efforts? What new relationship management solutions and processes would be helpful to you?

The Needs of the Customer

8. Companies and people will find to elegantly navigate regulations and policies, making it seamless for the customer throughout the prospecting, sales, integration and support periods. In addition, savvy organizations will make it easier for customers to work with them, while remaining in compliance with their own regulations.

Navigating policies and regulations are inherently a part of local and infrastructure solutions, whether it’s related to city, state, national or international requirements. Making it easier for companies to provide and deliver service locally will drive the economic development for these regions. And leaders who welcome simplified procedures and processes leveraging technology to remain in compliance will support the development of regions and organizations alike.

9. Deputizing passionate customers to deliver products and services is an interesting new trend which may take off. Whether you are enlisting vetted passengers to become drivers as in the case of UBER or Lyft, or whether it’s creating pre-ordered, recipe-d, nutritious, customized meals through services like Blue Apron, the key is that local, talented people with time and desire are blurring the lines between customer and provider.

What if we brought this concept to healthcare . . . if doctors or nurses offered concierge services and even made house calls to check in on you or your aging parents?

What if you had an on-call tech support person to fix or configure your home network and entertainment systems?

10.  Delegating the small stuff will get BIG. If we’re all so busy between work and play and life, who will do the essential little stuff for us, from feeding the family to walking the dogs? We need not just a Siri on your phone who may answer your questions or add to your task list, but someone who might actually pick up a few items at the store, get the oil changed on your car, and make sure that the kids get from school to activities and back.

Technology can help calendar and coordinate and find the best resources, but it takes physical bodies to get things done, and competent, reliable ones to get them done well and efficiently, and business acumen to scale concierge services that would be attractive for busy professionals. 

Couple this need with the concept above of deputizing passionate customers and where’s the win-for-all business? How will it scale and continue to serve all?

In conclusion, as we emerge into the Age of Personalization, the leaders will be those who can cost-effectively deliver customized products and services to the door of discerning users, leveraging technology to collect and analyze data, and to optimize the distribution of same. Tech, logistical and business innovations will be core to that successful solution, and the focus on the customer will remain more important than ever.

E-mail us at with your thoughts.

Embracing Change

July 31, 2014 by


Change is a way of life, as inevitable as it gets. Sometimes it’s change you want and have pushed for. Sometimes it’s sudden, sometimes it’s welcome. Sometimes it’s long-overdue, sometimes it’s for the better. Regardless of what the change is and how it takes place, embracing and welcoming the change is a growth opportunity in general. Below are some suggestions for how to accept and integrate the changes in front of you, and integrate them into the next leg of your journey.

  1. Accept that nothing is permanent, that everything will pass, no matter how good or not-so-good it is.
  2. Push yourself to grow and evolve and change. Explore the uncomfortable, go for stretch goals. Consciously welcoming change will help you accept the changes that happen, regardless of whether you had a role in making them come about.
  3. Surround yourself with people that aren’t quite like you. Do things that stretch your horizons.
  4. Fondly remember highlights and accomplishments and think of current changes and challenges as a stepping stone to what’s next.
  5. Laugh when a life lesson keeps coming back to you, and you finally hear the message.
  6. Combine two disparate things in your life or connect two very different people in your life and see what new synergies arise.
  7. Surprise someone by doing something differently than you’ve ever done before. Do something backwards or sideways to get a new perspective.
  8. Pretend that an unwanted change is exactly what you were looking for, until it actually becomes just that.
  9. Remember times when unwanted changes winded up better than you had expected.
  10. Make the next change an opportunity to find the next new you.

May the next changes in your life lead to opportunities beyond our imagination.

Leveraging Social Media for Work and Play

July 12, 2014 by


FountainBlue’s July 11 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Leveraging Social Media for Work and Play. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a wide range of perspectives for our panel, women leaders representing marketing, strategy, management, diversity, and social responsibility. They are impacted by social media through their daily work and working with internal staff, executive management, as well as customer communities. Their vision and leadership drive social media successes for their companies, and they generously shared their advice and wisdom with the audience.

1. Social media will forever change the way we communicate – respect its power and its impact, and integrate it into your everyday work and play.

  • There is no avoiding social media. People will use it and develop an opinion and perspective because of how you and your company are perceived. So embrace it and learn how to integrate it into your daily life.
  • Communication is two-way and immediate – more a conversation than a mandate.
  • Impact is probably broader than you intended.
  • Impact is immediate and can spread rapidly.
  • Impact will probably live longer than you expected.
  • Messages will reach people you don’t know.
  • Whether or not you know someone, he or she will have an opinion of you based on what you communicate on social media.

2. Given the above, be strategic about how you leverage social media in work and in play. Make sure that the message is clear, is in alignment with your values and your goals.

  • Leverage social media to get the word out, cost-effectively, engaging communities strategically.
  • Know your audience and be clear what your message is to that audience, and what results and engagement you’d like from that audience.
  • Focus on the business objectives for the social media campaigns/messages and deliver measurable results.

3. Leverage the power of social media and the analytics behind it to amplify the voice of the customer, to translate their desires to your internal teams, to connect one with the other.

  • Know what you’re measuring and why. Communicate that to the right people and plan accordingly.
  • Don’t count on automation and reports for making judgment calls about the community and what they are saying.

4. If a social media message brings negative response:

  • Develop and communicate a social media triage plan.
  • Leverage your relationship with the people who are responding badly.
  • Understand where they are coming from, and make them feel heard.
  • Diffuse the situation.
  • Decide whether it’s best to take a conversation offline, respond directly, ignore it, etc.,

5. Respect the person delivering the message.

  • Don’t try to control or over-manage the way people communicate. Let her/him have an authentic voice.
  • Do help them keep in alignment with corporate policies and strategies.

6. Train your internal staff to embrace social media.

  • Have clear policies in place.
  • Set up templates.
  • Provide materials and examples.
  • Encourage execs to lead the way.
  • Leverage what they are already doing, already comfortable with to bridge into social media communications, brand and message.
  • Refresher courses and ongoing tips would help most people more successfully embrace social media.

7. Build engagement and involvement within the communities, connections across communities.

  • Nurture your most involved community members and convert them to become advocates.
  • Deputize members of your team to represent different perspectives in the community. For example, having developers manage developer communities would make sense.

8. What you say across social media platforms will impact your brand, how others perceive you, so be proactive about understanding, communicating and managing your brand.

9. Connect with a larger group of people – across generations, across cultures, through the power of social media.

10. Create campaigns that leverage the power of communities and social media to spread the word, while saving money and increasing impact.

The bottom line is that social media is not a fad, it’s here to stay, changing the way we communicate and connect with each other, blurring the lines between personal and business, between employee and customer, and broadening and expanding and engaging all.


Please join us in thanking our hosts at Visa and our panelists for FountainBlue’s July 11 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Leveraging Social Media for Work and Play:

Facilitator Natascha Thomson, MarketingXLerator, Co-Author of 42 Rules for B2B Social Media Marketing Book

Panelist Christina Gleason, Director, Global Digital Strategy, Visa Inc.

Panelist Pegah Kamal, Social Media Marketing Manager, Aruba Networks

Panelist Petra Neiger, Senior Director, Integrated Marketing, Polycom

Panelist Keren Pavese, Program Manager, Western Division Office of Sustainability, Community Outreach & Diversity Councils, EMC Corporation

Panelist Mary Anne Petrillo, Strategic Marketing and Media Partnerships for Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility

Managing Stress

June 20, 2014 by


STRESS! It’s a part of life, especially if you like to live life on the edge! If you’ve chosen a life of leadership in tech, embrace stress as a part of the life you’ve chosen. Here are some thoughts on how to say address your stress head-on.

1. Get a broader perspective.

Do what you need to do to rise above and beyond your current reality. Who can mentor, guide, support and coach you through a difficult situation? Consulting with an outside party on the dynamics causing your stress will help you shift it from an emotional issue to a tactical problem to resolve.

2. Be analytical about the problem.

Drill down in the short-term and long-term causes of the problem, as well as the derivative causes and effects of the problem. Objectively, what are the options for solving the problem, what are the implications of these options, what is the best way to move things forward?

3. Identify the players and their motivations.

Have the org chart but consider the dotted line relationships as well as all the alliances and causes threading the players together. Lean on someone you trusted to help you ferret out the motivations of all the players involved.

4. Analyze the string of events which have led to the particular situation.

Look at the current situation and past similar situations, identify trends and themes and commonalities.

5. Reflect on your history with the type of stress you’re experiencing now.

Focus on your feelings around the stress. When did you feel similarly? What was the situation? Who were the players? What are the trends? What can you learn? How can you leverage your past successes and experience to deal with what’s in front of you now?

6. Tie into the resources that can support you in addressing the stressors – people, situational and environmental.

With the data from above, make a plan-ful approach for dealing with the current stresses, and consider what changes need to happen to help make sure that there are fewer causal factors for the stress in the future, and changes you can make in yourself so that you’re more resilient and more purposeful in dealing with the stress.

7. Choose your battles.

Is the underlying cause of your stress a battle worth waging? If so, do so plan-fully. If not, suck it up!

8. Create a new normal.

Accept that stress is a part of life. Learn to embrace low-level stress as a learning opportunity, and to nip high-risk stress in the bud through relationships and proactive choices.

9. Escape, but don’t give in, unless you consciously decide to do so.

If it’s a battle you choose, and you need a break emotionally, take one. Do what it takes to re-energize and refresh yourself. Don’t roll over, or you will invite a harsher battle.

10. Know when you consciously decide to do so.

If you elect to roll over, do it on your own terms, and know why you’re doing it, what’s next for you, and most of all, what you learned about yourself.

Best of luck to you, as you manage your stress. Squeeze all the pleasure from every stressful encounter you experience!

Millennials In Our Midst

June 14, 2014 by

June13Panel (1)FountainBlue’s June 13 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Millennials In Our Mids. Please join us in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts and to our gracious hosts at EMC. Below are notes from the conversation.

Our panelists represented a range of tech companies, with leaders from many backgrounds and roles, representing different generations – working with and as millennials, all with experience at many different levels within and outside tech organizations and start-ups and consultancies. They have worked with a range of people, leaders, teams and companies, and have generously shared their wisdom and advice.

We started the conversation talking about what a millennial is and what they had in common. Our panelists agreed that although we should not stereotype millennials or any generation group, and we should not mistake lack of experience with traits of being a millennial, and we should not think that all millennials are equal, millennials do have some similar traits.

  • Millennials like to chase ‘bright, shiny objects’, in the work context and outside it. To motivate a millennial on the team, speak about projects so that they are motivated to participate, and allow them to move between and within groups to help retain and develop them within the company.
  • Millennials are known by some as the ‘trophy’ generation, where they are used to being winners. When reality hits in the work context, and they are no longer winning at everything, or winning because they show their best efforts, it would take some getting-used-to for them. So, sandwich criticism and help them embrace feedback as learning opportunities while continuing to stroke their egos.
  • Millennials creatively problem solve collaboratively with others. Give them big picture descriptions for meaningful projects (focus on the why), and avoid telling them what to do and how to do it.
  • Millennials love technology and devices, and communicate and connect differently than those of other generations. So accept that they communicate differently, but help them brand and message who they are and what they do in a professional manner. However, when a millennials’ love-of-devices makes them appear unfocused and un-engaged in meetings, someone should help them understand how he/she is coming across and make different choices.
  • Millennials may be more experienced and less fearful of trying new things, especially around technology, so use this to your advantage.
  • Millennials have an entrepreneurial streak, and enjoy both technical and business challenges.
  • Millennials love to continuously learn and grown. The other side of that is that they need to feel continually challenged in new ways, so they may hop from job to job, role to role. But if you understand that, you can create those roles for them and help them navigate through different jobs within the company.
  • Millennials tell it the way it is – they are clear and transparent and direct in general. This is great, but some may need a lesson in strategy or tact, in order to be perceived as a respectful team player.
  • Millennials want to know the why of things, and want to see the metrics and the data. Explaining projects with this context will help them understand its relevance and impact.

Our panelists espoused these truisms, regardless of which generation you represent:

  • Communicate, collaborate and connect with each other – build a relationship, work as a team.
  • Accept other viewpoints and perspectives will help us all learn and grow.
  • Customer-focused people, teams and companies win business.
  • Find your passion, and work with those who share that passion.
  • Communicate and message your brand, what you stand for, in a way that resonates with others.
  • It’s all about the attitude – be willing to work with the team, do what it takes, learn as you grow, work with others to make something great.

Advice for getting millennials integrated into your workforce:

  • Have millennials do a shadowing visit before they join, so they get to know who’s in the company, what the culture is like, and what the work is like.
  • Do cross-generational mentoring, especially if it would help bridge disconnects between engineering and sales, for example.



Please join us in thanking our hosts at EMC and our speakers for FountainBlue’s June 13 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Millennials In Our Midst:

Facilitator Camille Smith, Work In Progress Coaching

Panelist Lori Burningham, Manager, University Programs [UP]Community & Learning, eBay

Panelist Kim Chrystie, Sr. Manager, Advertising & Brand Strategy, EMC

Panelist Pegah Kamal, Social Media Marketing Manager, Aruba Networks

Panelist Almitra Karnik Sharma, Senior Product and Solutions Marketing Manager, Twilio, Inc.

Panelist Amy Papciak, IT Project Manager, Cisco



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