Archive for October, 2017

Peeling the Onion

October 30, 2017

OnionThe end of the year is a time to celebrate successes, reflect on learnings, plan for what’s next, and appreciate all that you have. This year, I see my gifts in layers, like the layers of an onion.

  1. I appreciate the roots of the onion, which connects it to the ground. It provides for our basic needs like food, water, air. I see the victims of the many disasters this year, from floods to fires to human-related calamity. My heart bleeds for them, and I feel grateful to have ongoing access to basic needs.
  2. The tough basal plate at the bottom of the onion is connected to the roots, and to me represents the basic connections between people which allows us to get along with each other, embracing our similarities and differences. We are all ONE, connected to the root, connected to the earth.
  3. The tunic of the onion – the paper-like outer piece – represents the infrastructure we often take for granted. I’m grateful for the predictable, stable infrastructure in my life – the rules, operations, processes, agreements, procedures, materials – which helps everyone make plans and get places and get things done.
  4. Then there are many ‘scale leaf’ layers of the onion. One of them to me represents the variety of people and experiences around me. Living in a dynamic and diverse region is in turns perplexing and annoying, while also being energizing and fun. I’m grateful for the diversity of people, thoughts and ideas which surround me.
  5. Another scale leaf represents exposure to the brightest, most creative technologists and professionals. I’m grateful for these brilliant others who have helped me to connect the dots in new, novel, different ways which benefit and serve others.
  6. Another scale leaf is the tangible results of connecting the dots – the technologies, products and solutions which have the ability to change the world. May we all be fortunate enough to have access to the tools and information and people who stretch my imagination, build my knowledge, exercise my mind and expand our outlook and perspective.
  7. The most unsavory, but also necessary scale leaf is the way which represents failure and under-performance. I’m grateful for the adversities in my life, and to those who helped me perceive them as a gift, a lesson to be learned, a stepping stone for what’s next.
  8. Another scale leaf represents the ecosystem of associates, family, mentors, and friends who help us overcome that adversity and be a better version of ourselves in many ways.
  9. The scale leaf closest to the center of the onion are the most trusted people – those who provide unconditional love, those who see you at your worst and at your weakest and stand by you still, those who provide support when you feel all alone, those who are just another piece of your very self.
  10. At the heart of the onion is the immature flower. It represents hope for the next generation and opportunities for the future and celebrates all things and people who help us each build and embrace a better tomorrow.

My wish for you is that you can choose an environment which welcomes measured risk-taking, applauds new ways of thinking, speaking and acting, and embraces opportunities for DOING things differently.


ISMAC is Where It’s At, SF

October 24, 2017



FountainBlue’s October 20 When She Speaks in SF event was on the topic of ISMAC is Where It’s At: Immersive, Security, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud. Our panel this quarter was quite diverse, representing a wide range of industries, backgrounds and perspectives. But they had much in common:

  • They shared a passion for doing things well, for doing things differently, for constantly raising the bar to better understand the needs of the customer, and to better deliver solutions which solve problems.
  • They each had a wide breadth of experiences, which they developed and learned from, and which proved invaluable as they continued on their professional and personal journey.
  • They generously and regularly shared their wisdom, advice and learnings to those around them, ensuring that they also benefited.
  • They had an innate curiosity, an astounding passion, and a drive to innovate, perpetuate, expand and grow. Therefore, each team and company and industry they worked with benefited greatly from their leadership and participation.

Below is their compiled advice on how to lead innovation, wherever you’re sitting at the table.

Be Strategic

  • Be consciously disruptive when it makes sense for the long term, and practical and efficient in your day-to-day operations, continually raising the question – how can this technology, this process, this team function better? What problems can we solve today and for tomorrow?
  • When an innovation goes wrong for whatever reason, own up to it, make up for it, learn from it, and move on!
  • Be careful generalizing innovation successes. What works in one context may not work in another. However, DO consider when an innovative concept may be applicable to another context.

It’s About the Customer

  • Being customer-focused is the heart of innovation. Delivering to the trends of the market and the needs of the customer is integral to the success of companies.
  • Technology is so pervasive and growing so rapidly that it’s difficult to stay ahead of the curve. Having a finger on the pulse of market trends and customer needs will help leaders design and develop relevant and customizable technology solutions.
  • Focus not so much on the sexiness of the technology, but rather on the potential appeal to the customer. Even if it’s the next best thing to sliced bread, if nobody buys it, it’s not an innovation which is sustainable.
  • Understand there may be an aversion to adoption before you design and develop a solution. Understanding why the aversion exists might lead you to a more relevant, more promising solution.
  • When appropriate, think not just about your customer, but also about your customer’s customer. 
  • Provide omni-channel solutions which take into account the desired communication channels of the customers (web, mobile, social media).

Be Collaborative

  • Build an ecosystem approach to innovation, which invites input from marketing, sales, operations, finance leaders from within the company, plus partners, vendors and customers outside the company.
  • Speak in the language of data to make your case to all stakeholders. 
  • Make friends in places high and low. You never know who will be instrumental in bringing an innovative idea to market – it takes a village!
  • Find a way to fund your novel idea from grants, executives, investors, etc., It’s hard to innovate without the resources to support that innovation.
  • Embrace diversity in your team as it will stimulate innovative-out-of-the-box thinking.

Below are some innovation ideas worth exploring.

  • Develop a solution which can lead a transition from paper to digital in volume for any one industry at a time. The slow-adopting industries might be the most challenging, but may have the most potential for adoption.
  • IT and IoT innovations which make life easier and more automated will abound and change the way we work and play.
  • Artificial intelligence, machine learning, bots and devices will continue to flourish in the marketplace. Creating a platform where they can interact, a standard which keeps them secure and interchangeable may be a great opportunity ahead.
  • Infrastructure solutions including storage and security will become increasingly more important.
  • Process innovation is a form of innovation which can’t be ignored. It will ensure that the right products and services efficiently get into the hands of the right customers.
  • Online learning will be hot, both for corporations and for individuals.
  • Collaborative communication solutions will continue to abound, solving problems across the enterprise.
  • Small businesses will adopt enterprise-level solutions which help them innovate better, collaborate better, serve customers better.
  • The empowered consumer will have much power – they will be wealthy, specific and demanding. This spells opportunity for those who can efficiently deliver personalized solutions.

The bottom line is that we can each facilitate a culture of innovation by making it SAFE to think differently, rewarding those who communicate differently, and celebrating those who are doing things differently – like creating new widgets, gadgets, and systems.

Please join me in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s October 20 When She Speaks event was on the topic of ISMAC is Where It’s At: Immersive, Security, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud and our gracious hosts at AppDynamics.

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue, CMO, 888 Steps
  • Panelist Michelle Chen, PhD, Executive Director, Business Development & Licensing, West Coast Innovation Hub, Merck
  • Panelist Yvonne Chen, Head of Marketing/Sr Director of Marketing, Udemy
  • Panelist Shanthi Ramamurthy, Managing Director, Accenture Technology
  • Panelist Alexandra Shapiro, CMO, BigCommerce
  • Panelist Megan Slater, VP of Business Technology, AppDynamics

ISMAC is Where It’s At: Immersive, Security, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud!  

October 12, 2017

FountainBlue’s October 12 When She Speaks event was on the topic of ISMAC is Where It’s At: Immersive, Security, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud!  


We were fortunate to have such a talented and diverse panel, so passionate about innovation and leadership. Although they represented a wide range of companies, backgrounds, education and roles, they had much in common. 

  • Each was curious and passionate about math and science and learning, even from a young age, even when a technology is complex and evolving.
  • Each was brave enough to keep raising the bar, competent enough to keep delivering results, connected enough to keep sharing results to larger circles of others.
  • Each shifted and evolved and grew in many ways, trying different technologies, roles, and companies.
  • Each continued to push the technology envelope in new ways, with an eye on the needs of the customer, and an eye on the needs of the market.
  • Each has delivered tangible and useful products and services to happy customers and growing markets, and plans to do so on a grander scale.

Below is their compiled advice on how to lead innovation, wherever you’re sitting at the table.

  • Keep taking measured risks and reaching for stars. Technology will keep changing the world.
  • Surround yourself with people who can support you, and reach out to them frequently and strategically.
  • Find or create projects which would allow you to collaborate with others.
  • Be highly focused on what you’re doing AND deeply connected with others in your partner ecosystem.
  • Map your direction, chase with enthusiasm and perseverance.
  • Be detailed enough to do a great job and productive enough to get things done efficiently.
  • Manage the relationships and networks around your project and proactively manage support for your innovation project at the meeting and prior to the meeting.
  • Build relationships before you need favors and resources.
  • Build a brand and reputation of success worthy of funding and supporting.
  • Try the entrepreneur, corporate AND investor paths and see where you best fit.
  • Identify opportunities to integrate technologies across products, across teams, across companies.

It’s exciting how technology has shaped our world in the last few decades. And there are so many more opportunities ahead. We concluded the discussion with some thoughts on how to remain human in this digital age:

Core to the success of any innovation is the relationship between the people collaborating on the project. And core to building deep relationships is genuine, open, transparent communication – like the conversation we had at this event.


Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at PayPal and our panelists for  FountainBlue’s October 12 When She Speaks event, on the topic of ISMAC is Where It’s At: Immersive, Security, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud.

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue
  • Panelist Serpil Bayraktar, Principal Engineer, Chief Architect’s Office – Development, Cisco
  • Panelist Preethy Padman, Director of Business Operations – Global and Strategic Accounts, Nutanix
  • Panelist Gayathri Radhakrishnan, Head of Product, Catalina Labs, Inc
  • Panelist Arthi Rajan, Senior Director, Strategic Risk Partnerships and Credit, PayPal

Collaborative Innovation

October 6, 2017


FountainBlue’s October 6 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Innovation Collaborations’. Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Techlab Innovation Center and 888 Steps, who provided on-site support and helped lead the interactive discussion.

Below is a compilation of ideas and thoughts from our conversation.

‘Innovation’ comes from many surprising backgrounds, roles, faces and places. Below are some best practices to facilitate and encourage that openness to innovation for your team and company:

  • Begin with the end in mind, and persevere to gain measurable returns, despite the obstacles.
  • Create collaborative solutions to complex problems which would benefit all parties. Measure outcomes, communicate wins, and engage larger ecosystems of partners and people.
  • Have a curious, humble mindset and be eager to learn from those not-like-you. With that said, make sure that the technology and strategy is validated by the data before adopting.
  • Be customer focused. Innovation won’t mean anything if it’s not solving something of interest to the customer.
  • Build traction and credibility by enlisting the support of partners and customers. The ‘fre-nemies’ mindset should be focused on win-win results, and repeatable processes, and based on clear and transparent communication. 
  • Choose a range of professional experiences – between roles, between companies, between industries. It will help you be more inter-disciplinary and connect the dots.
  • Be clear on the type of innovation you’re working on. It’s not always just about the technology innovation. Process, business model, operational, communication and other efficiency upgrades can also lead to great results.
  • In this global world, you must work with companies and leaders from other cultures. Knowing tendencies of others will help people, products, teams and companies to succeed.
  • Established companies must embrace new technologies to stay relevant and current. In turn, emerging technology companies must understand the processes, people and operational challenges which stymie the adoption of new technologies for established companies. 
  • Recruit and train people who work hard, produce results, AND are open to change. Four free ways to encourage team members to get training for new technologies and processes include: 1) talk about the new materials, 2) explain why learning new materials need to happen, 3) organize and index the training materials and 4) highlight successes. 

Below are predictions for some innovation opportunities ahead.

  • Open source solutions will be a big part of innovations of the future. Services behind the open source solutions will be where the money is.
  • Security and cryptographic solutions will be integrated into all solutions.
  • Practical IoT use cases will be adopted by companies looking for the next level of automation and efficiency, provided they are convinced of measurable and early ROI.
  • Blockchain solutions and the decentralized-network thinking behind them will start a new paradigm for innovation. The challenge now is to develop practical, easily-implemented applications for blockchain in many industries, from healthcare to finance to banking.
  • Artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics will be integral to most solutions. We need the data in order for the automated programs to run.

Innovation is occurring at an increasing pace, making it difficult to adopt. It will continue to take experienced, open-minded leaders connecting in transparent conversations and projects to facilitate collaborative innovation across teams, companies and industries.