Archive for August, 2016

From This Trickle Comes a Flood

August 22, 2016


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

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

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

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


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.