Make Your Own Rules

September 10, 2016 by

Screen Shot 2016-09-09 at 3.43.02 PM.pngFountainBlue’s September 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Make Your Own Rules. Below are notes from the conversation. 

We were fortunate to have such feisty, rule-breaking execs on our panel, representing a wide range of companies, experience and roles. They had much in common:

  • They are confident and clear on who they are and what they want to do.
  • They communicate directly and clearly to advocate for rule-changes.
  • They enlist support and advocates to make the case, highlighting the logical benefits and tangible results.
  • They challenge the status quo and question why things are done, while focusing on the best way things could be done.

Below is a compilation of their advice and recommendations.

Be Strategic

  • There are rules which are necessary, so accept them as such.
  • With that said, make a stand against social norms which limit what people think and how people perform. This benefits nobody.
  • Know yourself first – what you’re good at, what you’d like to do, what challenges you, what your limits are, etc. Then see the rules of the world framed from your perspective.
  • Know what to ask for in order to make small steps toward a bigger change.
  • Accept that sometimes you can’t change the people, the culture, the circumstances, and make the best of it or find a way to elegantly leave.
  • Set the expectations beforehand about what your values are, what you would put up with, what you stand for.

Be Collaborative

  • Know the motivations of those around you, especially if they are tied to rules that you think should be changed. Know also why others think a rule should be changed so that you can collectively advocate for that change.
  • Enlist the support of peers, mentors, champions and sponsors.
  • With that said, take ownership of your own career, your own battles.
  • Invite diversity, creativity and inclusion in the workforce.

Be Proactive

  • Take the initiative and define success criteria for a change you’d like to foster. Lobby with stakeholders to make that change stick. Adopt a culture, product, company that would be receptive to that sort of change.
  • Sometimes choosing to stay on the same path is like ‘playing with the pigs’, with the danger that you could get dirty. So stop choosing that same-old path and make the proactive choices which would set you up for success. 
  • Ask for specific feedback. Don’t let someone just say you need more scope or more visibility or more strategic vision or more networking ability. Have them define specific, achievable objectives.
  • Be plan-ful when you’re trying to redefine rules. Know why you want to do it, why other stakeholders also want it done, how it would be done, who would stand in the way and why, etc.,

Be Persistent 

  • Rule-breakers don’t always win. And rule-breaking is not always fun. In fact it’s sometimes painful. Accept that’s the case and be selective about which rules to change, which battles to fight.
  • Mindfulness, meditation and yoga may help people get centered and see some of the unconscious biases, the accepted assumptions which are limiting our realities. Question the unconscious biases and assumptions and perspectives we all have as they limiting what we as people, teams, companies and industries can do.
  • Embrace periodic refreshes in your life and career. Learning new things, adopting new projects will help build a larger perspective and more visibility and impact. Plus it’s more enjoyable.
  • Drivers, pioneers, integrators and guardians see the world from different lenses. Yet each plays a role in the changing of rules, and each must be brought into the larger game so that rules can be changed and those changes stick.

Our illustrious rule-breaking panelists are stand-out real-world examples of leaders who stand up and question and redefine the rules we live by, stretching the envelop of possibilities for each of us. We are in their debt.  

Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at PayPal and our panelists!

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Executive Coach, Tech Adviser and Leadership Consultant
  • Panelist Deepa Bajaj, Senior Director, Business Intelligence & Data Management, Finance Technology, PayPal and Head of Affiliations for Unity, Women@PayPal
  • Panelist Mary Emerton, Senior Director of Fulfillment Operations, Nutanix
  • Panelist Tonie Hansen, Senior Director, Corporate Social Responsibility, NVIDIA
  • Panelist Kaaren Hanson, VP Design, Medallia
  • Panelist Nithya A. Ruff, Director, SanDisk Open Source Strategy, CTO Office, WIN Board Member, SanDisk

Age of the Customer

September 7, 2016 by


FountainBlue’s September 2 VIP roundtable was on the topic of Embracing the Age of Personalization. Please join us in thanking our gracious hosts at Hitachi. The executives in attendance at this month’s roundtable represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Therefore, their perspectives on who the customer is, what the customers’ needs are, and how best to address them varied widely. Below is a compilation of their collective thoughts regarding serving the needs of the customer.

  • Companies can’t be everything for everyone. They must have a clear idea of which customers they serve and know how to serve them well, to the point of even anticipating their needs.
  • Serving the customer means also that the business must morph, depending on the needs of the customer. This in general means offering more customized professional services, offering platforms for customizations, offering integrated products and services, etc.,
  • Companies from all industries are better leveraging technology to deliver to the needs of the customer.
  • Companies must adhere to the policies and requirements of the company where their headquarters are located, as well as all the countries where their customers reside. Interactions and services may become quite complex and complicated.
  • Gone are the days when people await the formal glossy newsletter. Real-time, social communications and interactive mobile applications are the best ways to connect with your customers, partners and other stakeholders.
  • The attention span of the customer has gotten really short. Think about offering a 20 second sound bite as a teaser so that they will see a 14 minute video show.

Here are some predictions from our group of execs:

  • Pay-as-you-go software-as-a-service offerings will become an essential requirement for vendors.
  • Customer expectations will continue to rise exponentially and companies will be continuing to scramble to get customers the level of instantaneous, detailed information and analysis they seek.
  • The Intelligence of Things will be focused on solving real-world problems.
  • The role of the channel will become much more important and channel leaders will be chartered with translating the needs of the customer and simplifying and mapping these to solutions which are scalable, leveraging technology.
  • Immersion experiences will become more integral to better understanding the needs of the customer.
  • Ease of use and intuitiveness of flow will be so much more important as customers will have low tolerance for things that are too complex, confusing or complicated to be usable. It’s an Age of Convenience!
  • Configuration platforms will help customers customize to their own needs, following an architecture and structure designed by companies.
  • Companies which offer integrated services from soup to nuts will earn a large and loyal customer base.
  • Companies who can best understand and sell to niche international markets will see better returns. An example is Coke, who has a separate formula for different locations. In fact, most companies already do this, with the BMW3 series being an exception.
  • The same can be said for companies who can successfully connect with specific industry verticals.
  • There will be more money available in general, but it would be offered to fewer companies who truly understand the needs of the customer and seamlessly deliver to those needs.


    • 5 Tech Trends Redefining the Customer Experience, Information Week, August 2016 
      • Create Multi-modal instant content, integrating words, images, sounds and video.
      • Think of IoT as devices that provide the next major channel of communication.
      • Leverage data science to deliver differentiated and personalized experiences. 
      • Automate business processes with bots, agents and supervisors.

      • Invest in a modern microservice cloud architecture, where applications are divided into hundreds of independent microservices. 

    • The Age of Personalization: Why Curated Content Is Good For Business, Magnify Team, July 21, 2016
      • Personalization has transformed from a marketing objective to a larger value system that guides how we produce and consume content

From This Trickle Comes a Flood

August 22, 2016 by


The ability to create Something from Nothing is no small feat. New growth is an exciting, rare, inspiring and all-around very-good thing! I wrote a post last January on this topic, highlighting my humble roots as a first-generation immigrant and all the insurmountable obstacles we faced as a family, succeeding against incredible odds. This explains in part my passion for innovation and leadership, and my work at FountainBlue over the last decade, advising start-ups, coaching execs and running events.

But as my daughter heads off to college (UCLA playing sand volleyball, go Bruins!) and I look at what’s next for me, my emphasis will be more on growing ideas, concepts, leaders and organizations from its high-potential starting point to a wider, deeper and broader opportunity.

It’s not that I’m dishonoring the brilliance and energy and optimism of the newly-minted ideas and technologies, it’s that growing it will impact more people, energy and others. If you’re at the stage where you’re trickling in people, customers and funding, below are some thoughts to consider as you grow, with links to some of my recent posts.

  1. Do the market research to know not only that customers are interested, but that they also have the budget, authority and NEED to buy. Without the larger commitment, you could create something and nobody would come.
  2. Don’t be a technology looking for a customer. Understand the view from the customer’s perspective and design something that would fit their needs and their limitations and requirements. In short, take a Cow’s-Eye-View-of-the-World.
  3. Know enough about the trends in the market to anticipate the needs of the customer in the context of these macro trends. Be that information junkie in this age of media! Read up on what’s happening with which leader and which company and why it’s relevant to yourself and others in your circle. Listen closely to those around you to see how they are impacted by what’s happening.
  4. Use that seventh sense to quickly read and assess and connect with people who touch them in-person, online, or over e-mail.
  5. Embrace core foundational beliefs as we emerge into an age of personalization and the fact that sifting the wheat from the chaff will help leaders and companies focus on the most relevant data.
  6. Make a plan that intersects market trends, technology solutions and passion, interest and energy in that space. First focus on the market, then the skills, then the passion.
  7. If Web 1.0 connects us at the IT and software layer, and Web 2.0 connects the communities and runs solutions to scale, then Web 3.0 does all this and adds a layer of revenues, a layer of interactivity, and a model for personalized solutions to the door.
  8. Consider new business models that leverages this age of digital, this age of the customer.
  9. Bridge silos to overcome innovation hurdles.
  10. Accept that change happens with any plan, for factors mostly independent of you, then roll with it.

May you find these thoughts useful. We also welcome your thoughts!

Your Good is Good Enough

August 19, 2016 by

KiralyGoodIsGoodEnoughKarch Kiraly is one of my heroes. He’s a three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, a winner of at least one tournament in 24 of the 28 seasons he has played, a medalist in tournaments held in 24 different states with 13 different partners, and one of THE reasons that beach volleyball has risen so quickly within the US and worldwide, for men and for women.

As if that’s not enough, he’s that star coach who has flawless technique, is strategic and mentally tough, and creates a culture that’s positive, energetic and supportive, not an easy task when you’re working with top athletes! He stood out again to me this Olympic season when China took the opening set against the American women’s team, in large part because of six American service errors in a game to 25.

Most coaches would have been pulling their hair out in frustration. But Karch said, “Your good is good enough”. It gave me goose bumps. It helped the team turn it around, winning the remaining three games 25-17, 25-19, 25-19.

It said to me that if you get out of your own way, your own head, you are better than you thought possible, and greatness is within your reach but only if you don’t over-reach.

Think ‘your-good-is-good-enough’ when:

  1. you’re waiting for someone to call you a Great Pretender;
  2. when you’re tweaking at something so long and hard you forget why;
  3. you settle for less than you’re worth;
  4. you don’t know what to do when opportunity knocks;
  5. you’re challenged beyond your comfort zone;
  6. your little voice tells you you’re not big, smart, strong, good, right enough;
  7. you’re waiting for the right time, moment, place, scenario to play at the next level;
  8. you think that someone else might be a better person for that raise, promotion, opportunity, project, etc.,
  9. you replay your failures over and over again; and
  10. you wish that something didn’t happen exactly that way.

Thank you Coach Karch, for helping me embrace what’s good enough in me.

Politics in the Workplace

August 18, 2016 by

FountainBlue’s August 12 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 dynamic panelists representing a wide range of perspectives, skills and educational backgrounds to speak on the politics topic. Their wisdom, energy and generosity touched us all. 

Below is a compilation of their from-their-trenches advice on how we can all better navigate the inevitable political situations at work. 

About Politics

  • Accept that politics is a part of life and have that positive, productive mind set as you manage the politics and ride those waves!
  • See the opportunity with every challenge, and help others to do the same.
  • Remember that thoughts lead to words, which leads to behaviors, which define your brand and reflect your values. Then manage, think, speak and act accordingly.
  • If others are wrestling in the mud, don’t necessarily join them in their game, but do understand why they are wrestling and help them disentangle from that fray and engage in a positive and productive direction. Ignoring the mud-wrestling might mean that you and others can become a victim, and that the energy lost in the wrestling would make the team and company less powerful, so respect the conflict and the positions of those engaging in the conflict.

About Yourself as a Leader

  • Know your values and stand by them – don’t compromise those values because a leader or a project takes you in that direction. Find or create another way, or decide that’s your walking point and forge an alternate path.
  • Embrace the learnings from all situations, particularly from those which don’t go as expected.
  • Be kind and empowering and collaborative with others for their success feeds to that of others.
  • Be calm, while also being firm, direct and fair.

Strategies for Managing Through Political Situations

  • Not everyone engaged in the conflict will be able to fall into the fold. But most people can disengage and commit if you ask in a way that benefits all. But for those who can’t do that, help them choose another path, for their energy would only bring everyone else down.
  • Be direct and transparent and vulnerable and open minded when working through politically-charged situations.
  • Do your homework and understand the motivations of all stakeholders. Put on your business hat and decide that best use of dollars and resources to get the job done, focusing on results and numbers rather than on political connections and promises.
  • Having those direct conversations in politically charged situations will help manage emotions, expectations and ultimately, productivity.
  • Choose a company and a team which values meritocracy in thoughts, words and actions. Do your part in helping that company hold that gold standard.

Lifting People Up Above the Politics

  • Spread your learnings to others in a way that benefits all.
  • Taking a hill is not as important as empowering others to climb the mountain.
  • Be that role model for others, aligning all to the short term and long term goals for the company. This sets the culture, the tone for the company.
  • Embrace feedback as a gift, a learning opportunity. Give the gift of feedback to others as well.
  • Make others feel welcome, valued and included.
  • Set up people, teams, and the company for measurement-based success.
  • Bring emotions down and logic up with every politically charged confrontation.
  • Help others embrace the discomforts which inevitably come with change, for change is a core trait for innovative tech companies.

All in all, to be successful in navigating politics, be:

  • other-centric, so that the perspectives of others feeds to your own understanding;
  • open-minded, so that you can see different sides of a problem;
  • positive and constructive, so that all can be productive;
  • cross-functional, so that people are engaged across an organization;
  • cross-company, so that collaborations exist between companies;
  • resilient, so that you can learn from your own mistakes and that of others;
  • the change you seek (Gandhi).

I’ll end with an image. If you have a basket of crabs, you don’t have to put a lid on them, for they would never collaborate with each other to get out of the basket! This is the embodiment of a political quagmire. To help make sure that bad things don’t happen to good people, rise above that basket, and work with each other to escape and find a new reality.



Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Samsung and our panelists!

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Executive Coach, Tech Adviser and Leadership Consultant
  • Panelist Shubha Govil, Head of Products, Cisco DevNet, Cisco
  • Panelist Sylvie Kadivar, Senior Director of Strategic Marketing, Samsung
  • Panelist Maricela Monge, Senior Director of HR, LifeScan
  • Panelist Eileen Sullivan, Vice President Project Management Governance, UXC Eclipse
  • Panelist Michele Taylor-Smith, Sr. Director Channel Marketing, Nutanix

Balancing Privacy, Security and Access

August 9, 2016 by

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 9.05.06 PM.png

FountainBlue’s August 5 VIP roundtable was on the topic of Balancing Privacy, Security and Access! Please join us in thanking our gracious hosts at Dell and our esteemed execs in attendance. Below are notes from the conversation.

This month’s execs represented a wide range of industries, roles, functions and company sizes. Thus, their perspectives on balancing privacy, security and access varied based on their current and past experience and their view of the future. But they shared many common viewpoints:

  • Data and apps are used by everyone everywhere and controlling who uses which app, and what data is used where is impossible! The proliferation of devices, IOT sensors, big data analytics, mobility and cloud solutions is making the security of our corporate and personal accounts so much more important AND so much more precarious now than ever before. 
  • Choosing security may mean investing more time and money to make sure that the right information and funds is being transferred to the right entity or account. 
  • Choosing security often means investing more into proactive planning as well as reactive management should breaches occur.
  • Security breaches are bound to happen, so planning for them, anticipating specific scenarios, mitigating risks, and responding thoroughly and quickly and transparently are a necessary and integral part of running a company, and managing your personal data.
  • It’s amazing how easy it is for the bad guys to get into a system, to access sensitive information. There are companies who employ people full time to do just these things. And also companies who spend many man-hours hacking into their own vulnerabilities to keep ahead of them!
  • Security and access are so important in the eyes of corporate leaders that many times privacy takes a back seat. 
  • Corporate and IT leaders are challenged with the need to educate their staff about security protocols and processes, while also making it easy for them to access the networks and devices and data so that they can efficiently get work done! It’s even more challenging when leaders are dealing with a wide range of staff members and cultures with many different and fervent thoughts about following protocols!
  • Compliance with protocols and standards is difficult at best as there are no standards across states, across countries. Yet, compliance is required, as it’s incumbent upon companies to be proactively secure, and transparently communicative should there be a breach!

Below are some collective thoughts on what you can do to proactively balance privacy, security and access.

  • Look closely at the scenarios when someone is identified as an owner of something (like a car for example). In some contexts, it’s necessary to know, and in other cases, it’s an invasion of privacy to know. Consider making all necessary-to-know contexts (which owner of a 2016 car must be contacted regarding a recall notice for example) mostly automated, between machine-to-machine, while making most no-need-to-know scenarios (which Starbucks locations or grocery stores are most visited for example) managed by the owner, so they define who gets access to this type of information. 
  • To respect the privacy of users while also understanding trends, consider aggregating data usage for specific locations, genders, backgrounds, etc.,
  • A Knowledge-As-A-Service or Data-As-A-Service model empower users to control who has access to their patterns of behavior and usage and even charge interested others to get that information from them.
  • Reward people for successfully hacking into a system, to help keep in front of the professional hacking companies!
  • Do understand the preferences of your customers so that you can anticipate their preferences and tendencies, but don’t keep enough data so that their privacy is compromised.
  • Limit access to sensitive data only to those who need-to-know, and know why and in which contexts they need to know.
  • Particularly sensitive areas around data include healthcare and children. Both areas have many support groups and many policies managing how data is used and exchanged. 
  • We have enough data and information to be able to mitigate risks and manage and understand risk profiles, and even anticipate security breaches. There’s a business opportunity to serve companies charged with managing the security of their data and assets.

As leaders, be the conscience of the company and fluctuate between the big picture and the execution pieces to proactively navigate that balance between security, access and privacy.

Building Hope in a Time of Change

August 3, 2016 by


Change happens. It’s a part of life, especially if you work in a Silicon Valley based tech company. I recently participated in an all-hands meeting for a company undergoing massive changes real-time.It’s a testament to the leadership team that shares have soared amidst all this change. And it’s a further testament to the leadership team that the all-hands panel discussion was planned to help address questions and fears of staff around the world. Featured on the panel were a wide range of leaders from different locations and roles. All these leaders were new to me, and as with any new leader, my first question is ‘who are you’ The response to that first question was resoundingly clear: they are each authentic, experienced and passionate leaders invested in the success of their people and their company. They have led and persevered during and beyond their time at with their company, and generously shared their wisdom and advice – see notes below.

Be the type of resilient leader anyone would want on their team.

  • Change is inevitable. Choose to bend but not break. See change as an opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Focus on the positive opportunities implicit with each change. It rarely goes as planned, but with the right mindset, it can go better than you could have imagined.
  • Whether you choose to focus on social, physical, spiritual or community activities outside work, find ways to stay centered during times of change.
  • Have a broader perspective so that you can navigate inevitable changes, whether that involves connecting with others outside work, focusing on others’ realities which make work challenges seem small, or comparing your own challenges with those less fortunate.
  • Identify the facts and accept and focus on what you can change, and what needs to happen so that the change is effective.
  • Manage your perspectives and emotions throughout a change. It’s a waste of energy to assume negative intent in times of change. Find out the facts, and assume positive or neutral intent so that you can proactively manage the change.
  • Accept that wherever you are is where you are meant to be. Be fully present in each moment.
  • Learn from your own mistakes and transfer those learnings on to others.
  • Build relationships wherever you go. Don’t bucket someone as all-negative. Be open that she/he might change, or might be different in another context. And even if he/she is no better than you thought, she/he might wind up being your boss, so you have to make the best of it. Never burn a bridge.

Support others as they navigate through change.

  • Model the way as a leader, no matter where you sit at the table, even if there’s no table. Have confidence, faith and trust in the change at hand, and work hard to deliver to that shared commitment.
  • Regardless of who you’re talking to, and what level they are at within the organization, communicate proactively, transparently and candidly. Don’t sugar-coat it. Don’t be vague. But do be as positive as you can be.
  • Proactively manage your emotions and coach others on how to do the same. Nobody wants complainers and naysayers. It’s OK to be a safe haven for those who need to talk it out, but not OK if that turns into a grouse session.
  • Stick to the facts. It’s easy to make up stories or assume negative intent if you don’t stick to the facts. Help others do the same, sifting out what actually happened from what the perception/interpretation is of what happened.
  • Privately call others out for their snarky remarks, their negative body language, their passive-aggressive actions, their deflating energy, etc. Be that mirror for them and show them how their behavior is affecting themselves, those around them, and the bottom line results.
  • Communicate the positive results created since the last change, and say that the current change offers a new opportunity to deliver beyond what anyone may be expecting.
  • Be that glass-half-full optimist. Even if things go the-way-not-preferred, consider what the best case scenario would be.
  • Encourage and support those around you to understand and manage their stress during change, and to craft and own their plan for navigating through the change.
  • Appreciate the perspectives and backgrounds of others so that you can help them navigate through the change.
  • Assume that change will happen and develop pre-planned change-mitigation strategies. This will help you get through those layers of shock, denial, arguing, etc., which might naturally come with unexpected changes.
  • Paint a detailed picture of the worst-case scenario and talk through it, to help understand that it may not be as bad as you might think, especially if you’re plan-fully aware of it.
  • Some people don’t have the experience and background to know how to persevere through adversity. Consider it an opportunity to help them navigate a change, and help them see the up-side of that adversity/change.
  • Never say that your reality is worse than theirs.

In conclusion, I’ll quote Shakespeare ‘to thine own self be true’. Regardless of what change comes forth, know who you are, where you are going, and what can be learned with every change.

I follow the first question with a second one: ‘where are we going from here and why’. The response I personally have to these leaders is ‘anywhere you’d like to go, I trust you to lead the way.’ May there be more leaders like these out there and may their company and all they touch continue to thrive.

What Kind of Leader are You?

July 19, 2016 by


Everyone wants to be a leader, and in a perfect world, we are all great leaders. The best leaders know what type of leadership is needed for any circumstance, and she/he knows how and when to best excel, and who can complement his/her own leadership style. I find it helpful to understand the types leaders I most respect, especially as I notice that each one shines under different circumstances.

1. The Beacon is the leader that shines the way. She/he doesn’t get into the details but inspires because of a vision described or an impossible task performed, or both.

2. The Cheerleader is the leader that believes unconditionally in the person, the team or the cause. He/she is ever the person to pick up everyone after a failure, a set-back, an unintended result. The resilience and optimism is contagious and necessary for the success of any project.

3. The Anchor keeps everyone focused on the values and the goals of relevance to the team. She/he carries that moral compass and measures and communicates the results generated.

4. The Devil’s Advocate helps vet new ideas to help ensure that they fit the mission and vision of the project or organization and that they are practical, considering the resources available.

5. The Mediator resolves issues between team members by smoothing feathers, by clarifying communications, by facilitating compromises and re-focusing everyone on the shared mission and vision.

6. The Negotiator is the leader who works with those outside the group to gather more energy and resources so that results can be realized.

7. The Translator helps ensure that people from different backgrounds and perspectives are speaking a common language and working toward a common purpose.

8. The Ambassador advocates for the project or cause to ensure that there are sufficient resources and time so that results can be generated.

9. The Prodigy is the learner and next-generation leader who will carry the torch for future projects. He or she is curious and energetic, open-minded and multi-faceted.

10. The Leader of Leaders have a touch of each of the above, and knows which facet to turn on when to make things happen.

What type of leader are you? Which circumstances require what type of leadership?

Career Agility

July 18, 2016 by

July15WSSSFPanelFountainBlue’s July 15 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership in SF event was on the topic of Agility: The Key to a Successful Career. Below are notes from the conversation. 

We were fortunate to have such a dynamic panel of women leaders representing disparate roles and companies. Each panelist had a compelling perspective, a poignant voice, and each authentically, candidly and generously shared their journey and their learnings. They had the following in common:

  • They all started out with something small, which grew as they succeeded at each opportunity. Sometimes that led into deeper responsibility in similar roles, and sometimes to something different altogether.
  • They got noticed for their abilities by those who mattered, and these people were able to craft opportunities for them which were able to further stretch them, and the organization as well.
  • They fearlessly embraced the unknowns as they strove to become fully realized beings. They plowed ahead despite the fear. Their go-for-it mentality inspires us all.
  • They know their priorities and their values and don’t compromise on them. 
  • They know their strengths and select opportunities which allow them to lead with their strong suit(s).
  • They insist on always growing and learning – for themselves and for those around them.
  • They make sure that they add value wherever they’re working, whatever their job description. 
  • They are passionate about what they do and consistently stretch themselves and others on how it’s done.
  • They are curious and open-minded about the perspectives of those not-like-themselves.

Below is advice that they shared with us regarding embracing opportunities to advance and realize your professional potential.

  • They wisely touted the usefulness of a full and broad network which helps gain both access and perspective. But a network is also a two-way street, and they generously reach out, give back, mentor and support others in their network as well.
  • They repeatedly mentioned that we must all know what our brand is – what we do for whom and why we are passionate about doing so. Being cognizant of your brand and proactively reaching for what’s next can help you transcend from one job to another, from one role to another, from one industry to another.
  • Be aware of what you’re looking for, and be specific about what you’re looking for, so that others around you can help you realize that vision. 
  • Wherever you are is where you are meant to be, unless you decide it no longer is. Then it’s on you to do something about it.
  • The best lessons in life are often the hardest lessons. Learning from these tough lessons will make you more agile, more resilient, more effective. 
  • Choose opportunities and lessons which would expand your knowledge and perspective. Hiring and working with people not-like-you is a good way to do so, as is traveling to places before unknown.
  • Walk a mile in the shoes of others so that you can support them in their journey as well. With that said, watch your back and don’t succumb to the manipulative games of self-serving others.
  • Work hard, do good work, work your brand, and seize the opportunities that present themselves to you. Being prepared helps set yourself up for receiving lucky opportunities and having courage helps you to open the door when someone or something’s knocking!

Below is advice for those looking at what’s next for themselves career-wise.

  • When you’re looking for what’s next for yourself career wise, reach for what you’re looking for and make the case on why you are the best candidate for the role.
  • Ask for help from others – nobody is ever alone, unless they elect to be that way, or allow themselves to think that way.
  • Be positive, always gravitate to something rather than running away from something!
  • Stare down the worst fears. Break it down so that you understand the fear, and let others help you gain a perspective beyond the fear. 
  • Compromise on the little things (it might be title, salary, corner office etc.,) so that you can reach for the things that really matter to you (impact, passion, result, growing something from nothing, independence).
  • Sometimes career agility must take place from the employer side. Be creative in finding ways to keep top talent engaged and present
  • As you’re hiring, consider the skill side (what someone can do) and the style side (how they get things done). Training on skills is easier than training on passion and coachability. 

Our dynamic and amazing panelists are challenging us to to be career-agile, to reach high to be all you can be, first by knowing yourself, then by constantly reaching and growing yourself and all those around you. 


Please join us in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s July 15 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership in SF event, on the topic of Agility: The Key to a Successful Career as well as our gracious hosts at StubHub! 

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Coach, Adviser and Consultant 
  • Panelist Laura (Danckwerth) Bermudez, Director of Software Development for StubHub Social & President of eBay Women In Technology
  • Panelist Melissa Daimler, Head of Learning + Organizational Development, Twitter
  • Panelist Carole Gum, VP Global Campaigns, AppDynamics
  • Panelist Alexandra Shapiro, SVP, Marketing, PR and Communications, Bigcommerce
  • Panelist Miriam Warren, VP of New Markets, Yelp

Being Human in an Age That’s Digital

July 12, 2016 by

tablet in hand

‘Going Digital’ has become that buzzword, that panacea to today’s business strategy challenge. As well it should be . . . to some extent.

There’s no denying that we need to automate the data, set up the hardware and network infrastructure, but that doesn’t mean that we should de-value the human and let AI and analytics trump the judgment and skills of humans.

Experienced humans DEFINE the right problem.

1. If we let automation and software solve the problem, and you’re addressing a symptom or the wrong problem, the solution will leave you right back where you started . . . or worse.

2. Humans can conduct the interviews with the stakeholders who have that problem and understand how each stakeholder is affected, and how each group works with other groups. This is a necessary step to solving any problem. And not something that can be delegated to something digital. You can, however, create interview templates, document results, share documents with stakeholders, and in general, collaborate to create documents and automate the sharing and updating process.

3. Humans with deep experience, that tribal knowledge, have witnessed a wide breadth of problems. Creating libraries of modules to address elements of common problems just makes sense. Knowing which modules to leverage how is also something not to be delegated to something digital. But managing the updating of those modules can be automated.

4. Getting buy-in from all stakeholders from the DEFINE stage is not something you can delegate to anything digital.

Experienced humans DESIGN the solution to the defined problem.

5. Experienced humans leverage findings from the DEFINE stage to DESIGN a solution which meets the objectives of major stakeholders, in alignment with corporate goals. Designing a solution is an opportunity to validate the design proposed from the ‘define’ phase. If changes need to happen, experienced humans have the judgment to know if the DEFINE phase needs to be revisited, or if the DESIGN needs to be tweaked. Again, this is not something which can be delegated to something digital.

6. Designing, validating and testing a scalable solution which addresses current and anticipated needs takes an experienced team of humans. But these experienced humans integrate analytics to ensure that the results are measured real-time, and create the automated processes to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.

7. Getting the buy-in from all stakeholders for the DESIGN is also not something that can be delegated.

Experienced humans lead the BUILD of the solution. 

8. Builds can not be automated, no matter how sophisticated and detailed the program specifications are! But having modules, scripts and processes in place will help humans more efficiently implement that build, and coordinate development with others who are doing the same.

Experienced humans effectively TEST the solution. 

9.  Sure scripts can be set up to test whether a build is working in measurable terms. But the human knows what to measure, when to measure it, and what success looks like. Having a detailed understanding of what’s-to-be-tested and measured makes it easier for humans to oversee the automated, ongoing testing of a solution.

Experienced humans effectively DEPLOY the solution. 

10. No disrespect to all the digital programs and automations leveraged throughout the process, but it will again take a human to know how and when to deploy to which audience, and also how to support any of these customers following the deployment.

In the end, throughout the development process, it’s the human who needs to decide which digital solutions and tools can help do what. And the next time you, as a human, fear that something that’s digital will replace you, think about what it means to be human, in an age that’s digital.

Special thanks to Patrick Lesandrini, author of IT SHIFT – Providing IT and Business Transformation Services for his contributions to this article.