Archive for June, 2014

Managing Stress

June 20, 2014


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

1. Get a broader perspective.

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

2. Be analytical about the problem.

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

3. Identify the players and their motivations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Choose your battles.

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

8. Create a new normal.

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

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

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

10. Know when you consciously decide to do so.

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

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


Millennials In Our Midst

June 14, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advice for getting millennials integrated into your workforce:

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



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

Facilitator Camille Smith, Work In Progress Coaching

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

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

Panelist Pegah Kamal, Social Media Marketing Manager, Aruba Networks

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

Panelist Amy Papciak, IT Project Manager, Cisco


Next Generation of Retail

June 3, 2014

It is now common knowledge that customer analytics will help retailers better understand and anticipate shopping behavior. Based on McKinsey’s Me Commerce and the Future of Retail findings, retailers can provide tailored product recommendations increase shopping volume by 5-10%, improve supplier negotiations, reducing costs by 1-2%, and schedule promotions for multiple locations increasing sales volumes by 1-2%.

Based on that same report, the EBITDA growth rate for grocery retailers focusing on customer analytics is 11% vs 3% for those who don’t, and 10% vs 2% for big box retailers who do it. There’s a 10% increase in volume when ad campaigns are personalized, and 75% of NetFlix content is based on personal recommendations.

But if we could understand what happens *after* the product is brought home, we can better serve the customer, better anticipate her/his needs, and better connect them with the new types of products which may be of use for them.

What it would take is sensors to track and report on what’s happening, volumes of data and the capacity to integrate and manage it, applications that filter relevant information, actionable reports based on preferences, programs to ensure that various stakeholders receive relevant, meaningful information, as they define it, and the applications and processes to ensure that goods are cost-effectively transferred to the customer?

If we could bring it all together, we would better understand what’s in the ‘black box’, what’s behind the curtain, what happens after products are brought home. And if we know that, the world of retail would be forever transformed.

Description Point of Purchase Point of Use
  1. Understand customer behaviors and preferences.
Understand the volumes (quantity, location) and types (sizes, colors) of merchandise purchased. Know not just what was purchased but also whether and often it was used and when you are running out.
  1. Use aggregated data to see and even predict buying trends.
Aggregated point of sale purchases show purchasing trends and help retailers make educated predictions on what will sell and how best to engage with the customer. Supplement point of purchase data with usage patterns at home to more clearly identify trends and make educated predictions on future purchases.
  1. Proactively manage supply.
Supply each store location on specific styles, colors, sizes and brands based on past purchase patterns. Use both purchase and usage patterns and information to manage store supply.
  1. Target new product introductions.
Experiment with new styles, colors, and products based on past preferences. Understand which experiments work, based on who’s buying and how many are buying. Extend the experiment beyond the point of purchase to the point of use. Who’s buying and using something how often and with which other products?
  1. Recommend other products based on current and past purchases.
Coupons for similar products from the same or different manufacturers presented at the point of purchase. Coupons at the point of use would be more compelling as they are sent when a product is running low, not just provided at the point of sale when you have a fresh supply, and it’s not a given whether it would be used at home, or how long it would take to use it.
  1. Tailor product recommendations and coupons.
Provide tailored product recommendations based on purchase patterns and know which categories of people and which specific individuals take advantage of these recommendations and coupons. Provide tailored product recommendations and coupons based on usage patterns and also time them based on how much of the product is remaining.
  1. Encourage feedback.
Invite customers at point of purchase to go online and report on shopping experience and reward them with coupons for doing so. Invite customers who don’t use products purchased to give feedback on why not. Offer coupons for feedback and even replacement product if it makes sense.
  1. Manage inventories.
Use analytics at point of sale to manage inventory proactively. Couple POS data with POU data to augment your data set and better manage inventory.
  1. Report purchasing trends to retailers and manufacturers.
Provide detailed analytics to retailers so that they can stock their shelves and manufacturers so that they can understand and predict the needs of the consumer. Add point of use information to see which purchased products are actually used, which ones are used in conjunction with which products, etc.
    10. Negotiate with suppliers on volume orders. Better negotiate with suppliers on volume orders as you better understand purchase patterns. Add point of use data to increase amount of data you have to anticipate product orders.


What are your thoughts for the next generation of retail? E-mail us at