Archive for the ‘When She Speaks’ Category

Building and Reinforcing Your Executive Brand

April 12, 2014




FountainBlue’s April 11 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Building and Reinforcing Your Executive Brand. Below are notes from the conversation.

Whether they came from technical or marketing backgrounds, or took the college path after they started their career; whether they have worked at the same company throughout their career or switched industries and roles across companies, our inspiring and talented panelists thought carefully about how they came across to others, and how to message what they do for whom, making the message appropriate for their goals and their audience.

Whether they were coaching execs and team and others to help them present who they are in the appropriate context and language for the audience, or whether they were positioning and shifting their own brand as they evolved their career, they each recognized the importance that branding has on the trajectory of their career. Below is some advice they shared about building and reinforcing your executive brand.

Be Self-Aware and Authentic

  • Know who you are, what you stand for, what your strengths are before you communicate it. Always act in alignment with same.
  • Authentic, genuine communications will take you a long way in building relationships and resolving conflict.
  • Don’t covet the educational and technical pedigree or titles and salary of others. Build success on your own strengths and terms.

Be Strategic

  • Know with whom you’re communicating and the purpose of same prior to connecting with them.
  • Be other-centric. Listen more than you speak.
  • Know where you’re going and why, and be strategic, folding in the right support, mentorship, education, and results to help get you there.

Build Relationships

  • You can’t make friends during a crisis, and it’s hard to plan the timing for a crisis, so make a network of friends and contacts prior to any crisis.
  • Collaborate with responsible parties to focus on the fixes, not complain about the problems.
  • Know the political landscape without playing politics. Don’t be threatening to people, but do tell it straight, without an agenda. Know with whom to connect when to make those fixes happen.
  • Make those around you successful and look good, as that’s good for everyone.

Make a Stand

  • Promote for yourself in a way you feel comfortable about. Being too self-deprecating and unassuming may leave you out of the running, as someone who may not be interested enough or skilled enough or passionate enough to reach higher.
  • Have the integrity and vision and fortitude to do the dirty work, be the leader, even when it’s difficult. Make a stand, without attacking anyone and be authentic to who you are.
  • Have an educated opinion, based on your experience and outlook and background. But be willing to change your stance and opinion if necessary. Speak and tweet on points that may support your stance.
  • When you stick your neck out and have an opinion, sometimes you stand out and are a target. This can’t always be comfortable. So get support, resources, network and grounding to increase your likelihood of success.

Manage Yourself

  • Manage the emotional side of you so that you come across as rational, gracious and team focused, even when things don’t quite go your way. Sometimes it’s just a test to see how you would handle a difficult situation or decision.
  • Invest in yourself and your success, while supporting that of others in your group.

The bottom line is that your executive brand is the perception others have of who you are, and needs to be actively managed. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the way you handle the brand messaging mis-haps will be also a part of your brand. So be bigger, stronger, and better with every mis-step, and connect with those who will support you in that journey.

See also Katja Gehrt’s blog about the event at

Thanks also to our hosts at eBay, who have posted a video of the event.


Please join us in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s April 11 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Building and Reinforcing Your Executive Brand:

Facilitator Jerri Barrett, VP of Outreach, SENS Research Foundation

Panelist Shaya Fathali, Senior Manager, Technical Communications, Altera

Panelist Katja Gagen Gehrt, VP Marketing, General Catalyst Partners, former Senior Executive Communications Manager for Cisco’s President, Development & Sales

Panelist Tamara Lucero, Director of Inside Sales, Cypress

Panelist Emily Ward, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, eBay

Thank you also to our gracious hosts at eBay.

Agility – The Key to Building a Successful Career

March 22, 2014

March21PanelMarch21Panel2FountainBlue’s March 21 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Agility – The Key to Building a Successful Career. Below are notes from the conversation.

Our humble and accomplished panelists spoke eloquently about the career choices they made, and their leadership journey in the high tech world. They were a diverse panel, representing marketing, training, HR, and management, and they had various levels of education and background, from technical training to business degree. But they had many things in common: they embraced opportunities at every turn, and succeeded at many levels through many different kinds of work. They consciously made career choices, *and* they serendipitously accepted opportunities as they arose. Collectively, they share these kernels of wisdom to those of us seeking to be more agile with our career.

Know Yourself. Be confident and accepting of who you are.

1)    Know yourself and what’s important to you, and make strategic decisions based on what you know about yourself. Recalibrate as your needs and interests will change, but always measure opportunities based on what’s important to you.

2)    Double down on your strengths.

3)    Have the confidence to reach for stars, even if you don’t feel quite qualified and ready to do something.

4)    You don’t have to have a privileged background and the right education and money to make it to the top. You do have to do a great job and work well with others though, no matter what your background is.

5)    Don’t judge yourself and put restrictions on yourself.

6)    Question the restrictions and limitations others put on you too.

7)    Surround yourself with people who believe in you, and help you believe in yourself.

8)    Have the confidence to speak your mind, share your opinion, even if you think others around the table may be more qualified to opine.

Your career is a journey.

9)    Your career, like life, is a journey: Learn from your mistakes; fail forward; don’t walk in the same river twice.

10) Choose to be self-sufficient and in charge of your own future.

11) Be strategic if and when you’d like to facilitate a career change. Do the research, ask questions, make connections, communicate your interest to others.

12) Wherever you next find yourself, you will find your way if you persevere, work hard, work smart, and are good with people.

13) Be clear about your motivations and intentions, and welcome the universe to provide you with serendipitous opportunities, while telling everyone you know what you want to do and why.

14) If you accept an opportunity which isn’t quite what you’re looking for, you may open up a whole new world of opportunities which might better fit your sweet spot.

15) Career change is often a multi-step process. Many people get frustrated that they can’t make the change they want in one foul swoop. Consider making one change at a time – either role or industry for example, pay your dues in that interim step, and plan for the longer term success of your career.

Support others.

16) The more we support ourselves, the more that we support the others around us.

17) It’s always about the people. Know who helped you get to where you want to go and show your appreciation. Consciously help others also to succeed.

18) Believe in others around you, and offer the kind of unconditional love and acceptance which helps you yourself to succeed and change and grow.

19) Lean in, share your challenges, your power, your experience.

20) Give generously in ways that energize you yourself.

In the end, remember that your career is more a jungle gym than a ladder. You may go lateral and around in circles. It may not be plan-ful, but you can see the equipment as a way to maximize exposure, learning and growth, in order to benefit all that participate.

Recommended Resources:


Please join us in thanking our generous hosts at Altera, and our speakers for FountainBlue’s March 21 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event on the topic of Agility – The Key to Building a Successful Career:

Facilitator Marsha Gastwirth, Wine Trail Escapes

Panelist Mercedes De Luca, Vice President & GM, eCommerce Sears Holdings Corporation

Panelist Jocelyn King, Head of Worldwide Corporate Marketing, Altera

Panelist Nancy Long, Executive Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer, Hitachi

Panelist Tracy Meersman, Manager, Global Channel Learning, McAfee

Panelist Alexandra Shapiro, Senior Director, Small Business Marketing, PayPal

Expanding Your Circle of Influence

February 15, 2014


FountainBlue’s February 14 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Expanding Your Circle of Influence. Below are notes from the conversation. Our panelists this month represented a variety of backgrounds from product management to CSR, marketing to engineering, and a variety of educational backgrounds and experience – some technical, some not so much, but they all had successes in the business arena, influencing with or without authority. They were generous in sharing their advice and insights, which are synopsized below.

  1. All successful leaders work with people from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and motivations. They take the time to understand the mindset, perspective and motivations of the people that they work with, and build a relationship with all stakeholders at all levels. They are great leaders for a cause, great cheerleaders for their team, authentic communicators to their range of stakeholders.
  2. Listen to all communications of others – the verbal, non-verbal, the things-that-said, the things-that-others-say-about-them. Use this along with direct communications to figure out what makes someone tick, what’s important to him or her, and work with her or him to create a win-for-all.
  3. People who are great at influencing others are authentic in their communication, transparent and clear about their motivations, invested in the success of the company, humble about themselves and what-they-know, and genuinely care about the people with whom they connect.
  4. Influencers embrace change, and find a way to communicate why change is good for all the constituents they work with.
  5. Leaders who influence broadly and deeply have a track record for making things happen and delivering results for and alignment toward a corporate goal. Often, they leverage data, including market research and social media data, to help influence decision-makers and implementers to align behind a vision or goal or cause.
  6. No matter what they are feeling, influencers don’t make it personal – remaining focused on the relationships and the results. This unwavering commitment, coupled with their credibility and authenticity helps instill loyalty and commitment from the people they work with, even if there isn’t yet a deep personal relationship.
  7. Rather than trying to impress others with who you are and what you do, focus instead on solving the problems of the people with whom you’d like to connect and you will make an impact on them.
  8. Help the people you work with focus on the business objectives, rather than distractions and personal agendas and platforms.
  9. Sometimes influence occurs in the incremental changes made. Make a stand for a goal, and accept every concession toward achieving that goal, especially if you can help someone take the credit for the results.

10. Above all, build trust with all the people you work with directly and indirectly, and deliver results in the name of the higher cause, rather than for your own personal motivations. The bottom line is that you should keep a bank of influencing skills ready for use, from listening to direct confrontation, from bartering to negotiating. Remember to focus on relationships between stakeholders, and delivering results in alignment with corporate goals. The successful influencer challenges the status quo, facilitates new ways of thinking and doing, and ultimately fosters change for companies and leaders, in a good way. Resources:


Please join us in thanking our speakers for FountainBlue’s February 14 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Expanding Your Circle of Influence, With or Without Authority and our generous hosts at LifeScan:

Facilitator Lucie Newcomb, President & Chief Executive Officer, The NewComm Global Group, Inc.

Panelist Tonie Hansen, Director, CSR and Sustainability, NVIDIA

Panelist Karen Pieper, Director of Synthesis, Tabula

Panelist Dawn Torres, Project Manager, CLS PMO, Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems

Panelist Kelly Vincent, Senior Director of Product Management, eBay

Work Life Balance

January 24, 2014

WorkLifeBalancePanelFountainBlue’s January 24 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of How to Throw More Balls Up Higher: Juggling Work-Life Balance in Demanding Times. Below are notes from the conversation. 

We were fortunate to have a range of seasoned executives with diverse experience in varying roles across organizations, functions and cultures, all as parents of young children, and all with high-impact roles within their organization. They experienced first-hand the work-life balance questions which riddle all of us with high-responsibility jobs in tech, whether we were new to the industry and role and company, or seasoned and experienced in many different roles, whether we are busy and childless or whether our child-rearing days are behind us or overwhelming us day-to-day.

  1. As a whole, our panel talked extensively about finding that inner peace, that inner direction which keeps them confident and grounded, and acting for that higher purpose, guiding them in their day-to-day choices, making conscious choices for things-that-matter to them. In addition, they knew how to feed themselves inwardly and outwardly, through hobbies, exercise, social time, meditation, etc., so that they can keep that centeredness and focus.
  2. They have the self-awareness to know what they want, to know what their strengths are, and the confidence to act on what they know to be true. Grounded in their knowledge and successes, they unapologetically ignore the inevitable naysayers and judgers and political-game-players who may make others question themselves and feel guilty.
  3. They were all good at what they did – putting in the long hours, delivering a track record of results, grooming and growing teams to make a difference. And they were good at setting boundaries so that they are not overtaken by their job, while also creating opportunities for those-on-their-team to also shine.
  4. When new roles and opportunities arose, they were plan-ful and strategic about whether it’s work they want to do, what they needed to do the job well, whether it’s something they are qualified to do, and
  5. Each role and project adopted by our panelists was embraced with enthusiasm and gusto, with the focus on engaging the team and delivering results.
  6. It’s not that things always go their way, but they are plan-ful about what they want and how to go about getting it, while focusing on the life part that’s so much more important. When the emphasis shifts back to work, then they focus on re-working the plan so that it works for all.
  7. They were all adept at setting boundaries and expectations about the times that they work, the kind of work they want to do, and overall how much they are willing to do on the job, for the job.
  8. They encouraged us all take a chance and not to be too complacent and comfortable where we are – to stretch ourselves to become all we can be, not later when life settles down, but now, when you have a chance.
  9. Cherish your relationship and your time with your kids, particularly when they are young. Your work can wait, people at work can go on without you, but if you’re not there for your kids, if you overpromise and don’t do what you say, it would impact your relationship with them.

10. They are experienced, connected and savvy enough to access networks and resources and support groups to help make things go smoothly at work and at home, delegating wherever possible, focusing on actions and areas where they need-to-be, always making the people-most-important-to-them feel that they are exactly that.

The bottom line is that they knew that work keeps changing – it will always be there, it is more flexible, like a rubber ball, and life – the people like family and friends and the things that matter more to you are more fragile, and need to be nurtured more, particularly in times of need.


Please join us in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts at FountainBlue’s January 24 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of How to Throw More Balls Up Higher: Juggling Work-Life Balance in Demanding Times:

Facilitator Nancy Monson, Nancy Monson Coaching

Panelist Monica Bajaj, Senior Engineering Manager, NetApp

Panelist Brenda Beiter, Supply Chain Operations Manager, Google

Panelist Heather Gordon Friedland, Senior Director Product Management @ eBay – Search & Discover Team

Panelist Jennifer Petty, Director, Operations, Cisco

Thank you also to our gracious hosts at NetApp.

Getting The Most Out Of Both You and Your Team

December 16, 2013


FountainBlue’s December 13 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Getting The Most Out Of Both You and Your Team. Below are notes from the conversation. 

We were fortunate to have a range of seasoned executives with diverse experience in varying roles across organizations, functions and cultures. They worked with companies and teams large and small, had training in tech and outside, with in-depth team management experience, particularly in tech companies and start-ups. Their top ten pieces of advice for getting the most of our yourself and your team are below.

Leadership Comes From the Top

1. Have a vision and direction – the why that would motivate a team to achieve greatness, the north star which keeps everyone focused.
2. Support the executive team in modeling the values of the company. But as you think globally with great values, act locally, and providing the time and resources necessary to achieve goals.
3. If the executive team is less than supportive of a team-based model, a second option is to create a protected micro-environment where teamwork and collaboration are valued. This may not be the best long-term option, but would work for the short term.
4. Successful team leaders have functioned in many roles at many levels, working with a wide range of people. They find a way to gain the respect of those they work with, and create an environment of trust and respect and a can-do spirit, as well as a track record for delivering results.

Direct, Clear, and Transparent Communication is a Key to Success

5. Communicate directly, clearly and regularly about roles and responsibilities and measuring success. Successful team leaders are positive and supportive when things work and decisive and clear if a pivot needs to occur – communicating the what and the why.
6. Revisit and revise your goals and objectives, roles and metrics as the team, organization and project evolve.
7. Inspire, Connect, and Empower through regular communications to your network of stakeholders.

It’s Always About the People

8. Assume positive intent from people you’re working with, and take the time to know who they are and what their motivations are. Be open minded about who others are and how they do things. In fact, having people who don’t think like you on the team can actually be a *good* thing.
9. Empower everyone to lead to the best of their ability, no matter what their role or your role is within a company.
10. Facilitate the transfer of people between and within groups to help optimize their success.

The bottom line is that successful teamwork is about having great people working collaboratively to deliver clear results, serving a purpose that inspires, and an appreciative customer base.


The Business Case for Diversity

November 11, 2013

FountainBlue’s November 8 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was the topic of The Business Case for Diversity. Below are notes from the conversation. 

We were fortunate to have a wide range of experienced and passionate panelists who provided insights, suggestions and advice for creating a business case for diversity. Although our panelists represented a wide range of perspectives from HR to strategy, from legal to program management, they spoke passionately about the need for embracing diversity, and the business implications of doing so effectively.

Our panelists had a wide range of upbringings which helped them appreciate and embrace diverse perspectives from an early age. Whether they stood out physically as an immigrant or whether they had the same superficial similarities as those around them, from an early age, they have each appreciated how different they are from others, and how every has unique perspectives to be considered.

Throughout their career, our panelists have traveled across cultures and continents, representing a range of perspectives and viewpoints and business units, always advocating for clients and staff, ever translating the communication of those swimming-against-the-mainstream viewpoints, ever looking for the business advantages for doing so. They consistently spoke not just about the importance of strategically embracing diversity, but also about how to do so tangibly and measurable so that it continually engages the needs of the customer, and serves the people, operations and processes of the company.

Our panelists today believe that strategically embracing a diverse range of perspectives will help create more robust solutions, and done well, facilitate healthy debate and engagement, as well as an environment in which those viewpoints are invited and welcomed. This type of corporate culture builds loyalty and welcome innovative, out-of-the-box thinking as well – both undebatable contributors to the bottom line.

Diversity in the workplace has become so much more important over the past two decades as technology, business, and customer needs are evolving much more rapidly than ever before and the focus is prominently on creating value for the evolving and growing niche customers globally. There were many specific examples about needing a team who can speak the language and understand the culture of global customer bases in order to understand customer needs, negotiate deals, and otherwise engage with critical partners from around the globe.

One of our panelists mentioned the different layers of diversity: the primary layer, things that we can’t (easily) change such as age, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity, the secondary layer, related to geographic, income, work style, communication style, and the tertiary layer such as organization, position, union, management, and status. Incorporating a range of stakeholders with primary differences and engaging a range of stakeholders from different secondary levels (geography, role, styles) and then focusing on shifting the organization and the culture to embrace diversity at all levels is a worthwhile challenge for companies focused creating an ongoing business case for diversity.

Below is some specific advice from our panelists about creating a business case for diversity:

  1. Identify your niche audience and understand how to create value for them.
  2. Recruit people from your team who would understand the thinking and needs of that niche audience.
  3. Be open to those who don’t think like you, and encourage and reward others in your team and network to do the same.
  4. Create tangible results that measure success, which might include numbers around retention, sales, community and partner engagement, or other factors.
  5. See beyond the stereotypes and respond to the way people think, speak and act. Always question your own assumptions about stereotypes and embrace those situations which break your view of what’s expected.
  6. Change is difficult for some people and for some organizations. Making the business case for change will assist in transitions to new strategies and practices.
  7. Think act and speak your mind, and show how your thinking differently is good for yourself, your team and your company. Step into what is scary, and be confident that your thinking differently will make a difference.
  8. When someone makes assumptions based on your gender or looks, take the high road and prove your value.
  9. Mentors, supporters and networks facilitate the success of people who think differently. Recognize, respect and honor who has done this for you, and choose to do something every day to support others.
  10. The more diversity is successfully embraced in your organization, the more effective the business case for diversity as success begets success.

The bottom line is that diversity in the business perspective is not so much about moral and social justice, doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. It’s about being profitable and competitive *and* doing the right thing – morally and fiscally – for all stakeholders, from staff to customers to management, need to feel included, and valued and respected, and supported for our differences. The more our actions, words and thoughts reflect this objective, the more engaged and successful our stakeholders will feel, and the better the results we deliver.


Women Leading Innovation

October 14, 2013

Oct11-2  Oct11Panelists

FountainBlue’s October 11 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Women Leading Innovation. Below are notes from the conversation.

Our panelists this month were both brilliantly eloquently and provided practical, candid and stimulating advice for us around innovation. They shared these top ten truths about innovation.

  1. Innovation stimulates business change, offering new products, markets, processes, messages, energy and information that creates momentum and shifts the business in a good way.
  2. Innovation occurs across the organization, not relegated just to R&D teams, but also involving processes and operations, marketing and markets Innovation is a matter of timing – delivering a new product or service for an audience in need, with the ability to pay for it.
  3. It takes a village to innovate, so bring the right people in the right roles, and together focus on doing what’s best for the company in the short term and in the long term. For example, designers love being given constraints and parameters within which they can innovate, and researchers are great at identifying markets while data scientists could tell you what your innovation results are, what your aggregated and niche current and future customer base is looking for etc., Everybody has a piece of the puzzle.
  4. Successful innovation has a foundation of relationships across stakeholders, and executive buy-in, as well as engagement across the board. So develop partnerships with stakeholders across and within the organization – particularly at the executive level and facilitate collaboration and engagement across and between groups.
  5. Welcome people who think and act differently into the team and ecosystem. That uncomfortable feeling they bring to the table may be the nub of an idea which sparks innovation.
  6. Some people mistakenly think that innovation is about creating the new new. Creative and original thinking are great, but you must also have structure within which to innovate. Much has already been invented, but reusing the proven technologies in new ways for new markets provides opportunity for all.
  7. It is hard for some to embrace disruption. Some may have to stretch their thinking. Some may be uncomfortable about the impact on the brand. Some may question whether the new way of doing things can be done, or is worth being done. Sometimes the resistance is so overwhelming across the organization that innovation can’t take place.
  8. Policies and rules and protocol must be followed, particularly when you’re representing a big company, and negotiations and processes may take longer for approvals. Corporate Innovation must take place respecting these parameters. However, too much corporate processes and policies can stifle innovation, with Kodak being an unfortunate case in point. Specifically, Kodak, the company which invented digital photography got leapfrogged by other companies who could innovate in that area, and became bankrupt despite their promising early edge in a huge market.
  9. Be cognizant of the many stages of innovation, from the open plateau, sky’s the limit perspective of the start-up or early projects, to the socialization of projects through the management team, through the iteration of versions and strategic feedback of early adopters through the input of channels and alliances. Different leadership, management and technical skills are leveraged at different levels. The innovation leader must lead throughout the process, building relationships and credibility along the way.
  10. Innovation is never easy – it takes vision, perseverance, and pushing through failures in order to succeed. Succeeding in innovation process despite the obstacles is its own reward, particularly when the bottom line agrees.

Our panelists shared this practical advice for those who want to better embrace innovation across their organization.

  1. Adopt projects for which you feel passionate, for you will be working on it through thick and thin for many months and perhaps years to come. Plus the innovations you help to make happen will also certainly impact your company’s, your team’s and your personal brand.
  2. Focus on doing the right for the company in the short term and in the long term.
  3. Timing’s everything. The people and company may not be ready for an innovative idea or concept. Pick your battles. Perhaps you can pick up that same baton another day, when the market and customers and infrastructure are more receptive and ready for that new innovation.
  4. Be persistent.
  5. Be open.
  6. Lobby for support.
  7. Challenge the status quo, in a way that helps people become more open, without feeling threatened.
  8. Carry the project from beginning to end and always focus on creating measurable results
  9. Think forward about what your innovation successes will say about you, your team and your company.
  10. Have the network and resources to support you as it will never be easy, and may be a long road ahead.

In the end, our panelists concur that to be an innovative leader, you must have the vision to want to change the way something is done, the courage and persistence to lobby for it to happen, the proven results from current and past projects to show why something is a good idea, and the network and support to stand behind you, the corporate culture which would welcome this behavior, and, most importantly, the communication and leadership skills to bring it all together, with a focus on driving bottom-line business results, engaging all stakeholders, serving current and anticipated customers.


FountainBlue’s October 11 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Women Leading Innovation, featuring:

Facilitator Karen Catlin, Principal, Karen Catlin Consulting; Co-founder, Femgineer; Advisor, Athentica

Panelist Marlene J. Begay, Supply Chain Director, WW OPS Supply Management, Oracle

Panelist Daniela Busse, Ph.D., Director/Design Futurist, Samsung Research America – Silicon Valley

Panelist Athena Maikish, PhD, Global Director, Business Analytics, Reporting and Data Science at StubHub

Panelist Monique Morrow, Cisco Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Services Platform Group (SPG)

Panelist Amy Warner, Business Unit Manager, Precision Analog Group, Texas Instruments

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.

Women Who Make Their Own Rules

September 16, 2013

Sept13OwnRules (1)

FountainBlue’s September 13 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Women Making Their Own Rules. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to be in the midst of brilliance – witnessing and absorbing the enriching, inspiring words of our incomparable panelists, and laughing, nodding and exclaiming as we strive to integrate their wisdom into our day-to-day activities.

Our panelists represented women of backgrounds from humble to privileged, from engineering to legal and marketing, yet they all had much in common:

  • They rose to a level of impact and prestige that directly and indirectly impacts the success of their organizations, their teams and their networks.
  • They started by first knowing themselves, and brought that self-awareness to bear in strategizing career and life decisions.
  • They proved themselves in ways large and small, quantatively and qualitatively, and influenced the success of all they touched in ways unimaginable, sometimes even by themselves.
  • They generously shared their strategies, wisdom, tools, and time with promising others.
  • They succeeded by building relationships and understanding the motivations of those they touch.
  • They constantly strive to improve themselves, leveraging the people and resources around them while also benefiting same.
  • They ARE that beam of light that makes you want to be a better you, and gives all a brighter hope for the future, seeing the best in ourselves, those around us, and the possibilities for all of us.

Below are their top ten kernels of wisdom shared by our panel about women who make their own rules.

Know Yourself

1. Know yourself, your values, and your needs. These are your non-negotiables, so make a stand behind them.
2. Everyone has their own story, their own challenges. Leverage yours to get to where you’d like to go.
3. Know why you’re making your own rule, as it would necessarily mean that you’re breaking an existing rule. Who is making the existing rule? How would your own rule better benefit all stakeholders? What’s the strategy to get the right people to buy into the new rule? How do you best execute, follow-through, correct, etc?

Prove Yourself

4. If you focus on yourself and your own needs first, you will then be in a better position to help others get there too. So, first prove yourself before you aspire to make your own rules. People won’t follow you and let you make your own rules unless they can believe in you, and in the way you would follow through and execute.
5. Mistakes happen – focusing on the learnings will help narrow in on what will work in the short term and the long term. Perseverance and grit and having a tough skin will help you rise above your mistakes and increase the likelihood that you will be able to forge change with your new rule, particularly lasting change. So follow through and make something happen, despite the challenges, the errors, and especially when it’s difficult to do so.
6. Communicate your best practices and your results so that others beyond you and those immediately around you can also benefit. Speak the language of the audience to which you’re communicating – ride that balance between appearing over-confident and arrogant and appearing

Stretch Yourself

7. Embrace the uncomfortable as the best learnings lie there. A good way to embrace the uncomfortable is to welcome and encourage others who-don’t-think-and-act-like-you-do to also make their own rules, provided that it’s also for the greater good.
8. When people see the promise in you, understand why they are giving you that next challenge, determine if it’s the right strategic next-step for you, and create your own rules to get from here to there, on your own terms, in your own way, especially if it makes you uncomfortable to even think about doing so!

Stand and Deliver

9. Humor is a brilliant way to share wisdom and learnings and create bonds between people.

Make It Bigger Than You Are

10. Think well beyond money, title, position, power, and more about making a difference, making your mark on the world on your terms. Doing things for the greater good and communicating why it benefits others and how they can participate will engage the right stakeholders to help change rules, for the betterment of all!

In the end, remember that it’s not a destination, it’s a journey, so strive to make it one full of happiness and learnings. Use our illustrious examples of how you too can share your successes and challenges and help you gain the strength, fortitude, resources and perspective to achieve results benefitting others.


FountainBlue’s September 13 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Women Making Their Own Rules. Please join us in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts and to our gracious hosts at Cadence.

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

Panelist Kamini Dandapani, Director, Software Development, eBay

Panelist Tina Jones, Senior Vice President, Global Human Resources, Cadence Design Systems

Panelist Duy-Loan Le, Senior Fellow, Texas Instruments

Panelist Mona Sabet, Founder, Viblio

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

August 13, 2013


FountainBlue’s August 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, 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 a wide range of perspectives on our panel, representing a variety of backgrounds and experience, a breadth of industries, geographies and roles, a range of approaches and strategies for addressing the topic. Our panelists shared their insights of the panelists, offered with poignant humor and candor. The conversation was a rich contrast between the leadership and competence and specific suggestions of our panelists, and the candid and humorous communication of advice and stories about what they did well, what they recommended, how they faced issues during their professional career, and why they made the choices they made.

To begin the conversation, the panel noted that politics involved competing interest groups or individuals for power, resources and influence.

There was the good politics, which makes people want to follow leaders of integrity and competence, who stand for the needs of all, the success of all, and facilitate collaborations so that all benefit. The good politics may rile you up, in a good way, and engage you to push your own limits, expand your thinking, manage your judgments, and passionately act with those-not-like-you to forge change for the greater good of all. Not all politics is bad, and good politics fosters positive change, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

There was the bad politics, where self-serving people in positions power put their own needs before that of others. This can get especially ugly when resources and influence are limited, as is the case in many tech companies. People can get pushed under the bus, maligned over miscommunications and misinterpretations of words and acts, and worse.

There was the ugly politics, which could just be amplified bad politics where someone is an unwitting victim, where the wrong people or strategy win influence and power and bring down people, teams and companies, where good politics with people of the best intentions go awry, when bad things happen to good people.

As such, our experienced panelists offer the following top ten kernels of wisdom about navigating politics in the workplace:

1. Accept that politics is a given – where there are people, there is politics, at work, at play, and especially in a corporate tech setting.

Our panelists were generally married with kids and a rich social life, and compared and contrasted politics in the workplace with that at home, noting that politics in the workplace was not innately aligned. With politics in the workplace, you don’t necessarily have the best interest of all in mind, you don’t have the same goals, or the desire to compromise. You don’t assume that you will stick things out, work together in the long run.

2. No matter the political circumstance, act with integrity and authenticity, and stand behind the values you hold dear, even if it means that you have to leave your current role, group, organization.

Our panelists have each done so in her own way, even when it meant leaving their colleagues, their project, their organization. Yet their actions and choices make them more valuable, more respected by their peers, and their words and actions have in the end, been integral to their learning and success.

3. Build a breadth and depth of relationships so that you can better navigate politics.

Our panelists agreed that building a strategic breadth and depth of relationships will help you navigate whatever the political waters may hold. They emphasized doing more the guy-thing, having many more lighter relationships with people you are willing to help, who are willing to help you on a professional level, to expand your network.

4. Core to building deep and broad relationships is understanding the motivations of others.

Our panelists emphasized that for any political challenge, you should identify all the stakeholders and what their motivations are for the positions they espouse. They suggest that we proactively manage the action-reaction cycle of relationships by listening, doing the right thing, and making people feel good about themselves. In addition, understanding and solving others’ problems will help build good will,

5. Communicating clearly and directly is essential to managing any situation, politically charged or otherwise.

Frame your objectives and intentions and communicate them based on your understanding of the motivations of the audience, to help support alignment and positive momentum.

6. Building a successful track record with a wide range of people, in a wide breadth of roles adds to your credibility, and helps you gets offers for and succeed in increasingly complex leadership roles.

Your track record will give you the credibility to try new and different things, so ensure that you can succinct tell the story of the problems your team faced, the solutions that worked and the quantifiable results that matter. Indeed, the best way to manage perceptions of you is to deliver tangible, measurable results consistently.

7. Stay centered and focused on doing the right thing for the right reasons, especially when it’s tough to do so.

Conflicts will arise, so focus on the data and issues, and try to diffuse the emotions, unless it’s constructive to the conversation. Know where your buttons are, where you might be hypersensitive and/or biased, and be open to new ways of thinking and doing things, even if it’s an idea offered by someone you don’t necessarily like.

8. Be proactive and strategic when handling with politically-charged situations.

Sometimes making a stand for the little things means that the bigger conflicts won’t happen. Sometimes thinking strategically will help anticipate and manage a situation before it becomes counter-productive. Sometimes thinking and acting strategically will get the right people involved and engaged. Have the confidence to speak up and lead.

9. Don’t expect perfection from yourself or from others.

Accept and expect best efforts, and don’t be disappointed with yourself for making the wrong decision, looking bad, inadvertently saying or doing the wrong thing. Mistakes give you an opportunity to learn, grow and do better. In the same token, don’t be too disappointed with your colleagues and their missteps.

10. Adopt a positive attitude – make it fun and interesting.

Your openness, frame of mind and your outlook will determine how effective you are in navigating politics in the workplace. So if and when things go south, try to give others the benefit of the doubt. Try to take the high road and learn from each encounter. It will help keep you positive, resilient, and ultimately successful.

In the end, it is clear that politics is inevitable, and can be handled to your advantage, and that of your group, product and company. Enjoy the journey, and support others in their journey.



Please join us in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts for FountainBlue’s August 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Politics in the Workplace: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly:

Facilitator Pat Obuchowski, Chief Empowerment Officer, InVisionaria

Panelist Shubha Govil, Sr. Manager Product Management, Cisco

Panelist Carolyn Herzog, Vice President, Legal and Public Affairs (LPA), Symantec

Panelist Charlotte Tueckmantel, Director of Product Line Management, EFI

Panelist Kelly Vincent, Senior Director of Product Management, eBay

We would also like to thank our gracious hosts at Symantec.

Leveraging Social Media for Work and Play

July 13, 2013


FountainBlue’s July 12 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was 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 on our panel, and that our panelists shared their insights, suggestions and advice with poignant humor and candor. They spoke from a broad range of perspectives, learnings, trainings and experience and each humbly brought their insights and advice on the whole new frontier of social media, and how each is bravely making a mark and shaping the evolution of communication-as-we-know-it.

Our panel represents professionals from communication, engineering, media, training, and other areas. Each panelist traversed a range of roles in an assortment of tech companies of various sizes, and finds herself working in a corporate setting leveraging social media to communicate to a range of stakeholders. Each also has been actively involved in creating and maintaining a social personal preference as well. Below are some guidelines and advice for leveraging social media for work and play.

Remember that social media is a whole new frontier – there are no experts, and the early adopters and leaders are helping to define guidelines, policies and rules for optimizing communication. Below are some guidelines for doing so:

  • Be clear about what you want to communicate to whom, and how you go about doing so, in alignment with your objectives.
    • Be authentic in your communication.
    • Jump in, but only after you’re ready with your message, and ready with a response from the community.
  • Remember that there are a range of stakeholders, and a range of communicators.
    • Help communicators at all levels message to their target audiences and help them align their messages with corporate standards.
    • If you set up a social media presence, maintain it and be there for each target audience. Follow up and follow through to serve your customers.
    • Do the research beforehand to know who your customers are and how best to communicate with them.
  • Train the communicators and help them understand the impact and range of their communications.
    • In the end, you can have policies and standards in place, but you have to trust the judgment of the communicators.
    • Set limits on communications – look at worst case down-sides of a message-on-the-edge-of-protocol.
  • Mitigate risks, but remember that life happens. Be prepared to address any downsides of communications which may have inadvertently damaged relationships.
    • Have a plan for when bad things happen.
    • If life happens, try to make the best of it, and see it as an opportunity to build alliances and relationships.
  • Build communities of stakeholders and target communications to these niche audiences, while empowering their active engagement.
    • The keys to a successful community are continuity – people have stable, consistent ways to connect and communicate with each – and dialogue – people actively talk to each other, following established guidelines for the group.
    • Building an actively engaged set of communities helps corporations understand and connect with stakeholders at all levels.
    • Empowering communities to participate in product definition, feature requirements and to communicate their evolving needs will help companies continue to meet the needs of the customer. It is more effective and more cost-effective than the one-on-one surveys or user group input.

Social media tools worth considering:

  • LinkedIn: get your profile up and connect with your colleagues
  • FaceBook: important for social and personal connections
  • Instagram and Pinterest: important as social media evolves toward more graphics and video oriented tools
  • Twitter: Tweet about your activities and follow influencers
  • position yourself as a content expert by curating and retweeting what others are writing about
  • Blogs: express your opinion and gather a following
  • Google+ and Google Circles: targeted communications to pre-defined niche audiences
  • Radiant6: tool for measuring social media impact
  • Hoot Suite: helps you coordinate your social media presences and communicate selectively to them

Social media opportunities:

  • Enterprise solutions around social media
  • Graphic and video solutions for social media
  • Efficient ways to leverage communities to define customer needs and product direction

In the end, the message is clear: the social media landscape is new and evolving. Choose to be social-media literate and know how social media will impact you and your company, for it is here to stay.


Thank you to our panelists for FountainBlue’s July 12 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Leveraging Social Media for Work and Play:

Facilitator Kim Wise, CEO, Mentor Resources

Panelist Perrine Crampton, Community Programs Manager, CITRIX

Panelist Aimee Kalnoskas, Worldwide Community Digital Editor, Texas Instruments

Panelist Shveta Miglani, Deputy Director for Training, Globalfoundries

Panelist Olivia Shen Green, Manager, Business Ops, Engineering Talent and Culture, Cisco

Please join us also in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts and to our gracious hosts at Cisco.


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