Archive for December, 2020

Men Who Open Doors 2020 Reunion

December 22, 2020

FountainBlue’s 2020 Men-Who-Open-Doors reunion meeting included three panels of male sponsors as well as the nominating women! Below are notes from the conversation.

Whether you were one of the honored men opening doors, or one of the women who nominated them, your efforts in creating and growing a community of sponsoring male leaders are critical to perpetuating this great cause.

We are in agreement that championing more diverse leaders and innovators can do everything from helping us all be more creative and more innovative to helping us ALL be more human and more sensitive; from helping us ALL be more communicative to helping us ALL be better decision-makers and problem solvers.

Indeed, our sponsoring executives agreed that having teams of people with diverse backgrounds make for better shorter term and longer term results, as proven not only qualitatively and quantitatively by volumes of industry data, but also from their direct personal and professional experience.

Each sponsoring executive has a different driver for perpetuating the cause. They have each had role models which showed them the ‘why’ and helped them find the ‘how’, while communicating the benefits in a way which made sense to others.

And each sponsoring executive developed strategies and plans which addressed the immediate and longer-term personal and business challenges. 

They each also remarked on how the most successful sponsored leaders were the ones who were most engaged, the ones with the most initiative, the ones with the most openness, and the ones who were most appreciative – regardless of gender or background.

Below is a compilation of best practices they shared for driving more sponsorship within and throughout an organization.

  • It is a journey, not a destination. Celebrate your progress and keep building on your successes.
  • Create communities, model the way and share your best practices.
  • Speak openly about your successes, your challenges and your strategies. 
  • Companies who are consistently aligned in thoughts, words and actions from the top-down, from the bottom-up will make more progress more quickly. 
  • It’s easy to get tired of initiatives which take a long time to change – like moving the needle in terms of gender equity and diverse workforce representation. But focusing on the positive progress and managing things like Gender fatigue will lead to improved results.
  • Leaky pipes are an issue – help women and men with diverse background stay the course, be confident, and make forward strides, especially when they are discouraged by inequities.
  • When you embrace women into teams at all levels, you may find that they may be more empathetic about the personal needs of the team, while also addressing the technical, business and operational challenges.
  • Regardless of gender, background and other inclinations, help your people be more confident that they can succeed even with reach-goals. It’s good for them, good for their teams and good for the organization.

We closed with an interesting perspective – one that we hope will give everyone a reason to embrace Sponsorship of women and others with diverse backgrounds in 2021:

  • A more diverse team will be more creative, more persistent, and more resourceful in dealing with a future that we can’t predict – our next normal.

See the light. Be the light. Spread the light.


Harvard Business Review, Dec 2020: Why Aren’t We Making More Progress Toward Gender Equity


Planning for 2021

December 15, 2020

FountainBlue’s December 15 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of 2020 and Its Impact on Planning for 2021’.  Please join me in thanking our panelists for their participation and insights. 

  • Amber Barber, Lam Research
  • Roxanne dos Santos, Samsung Research America
  • Maranda Dziekonski, Swiftly
  • Ronald Goossens, ASML
  • Karthi Gopalan, Maxim Integrated
  • Thenu Kittappa, Nutanix 
  • Louise Lamb, Coupa Software
  • Debbie Shotwell
  • Amanda York, Lam Research

We launched the discussion by talking not just about the social, political, economic, and cultural impact of everything that has transpired, but also discussing how we as leaders and organizations have benefited.  

The events of 2020 helped us to see how fragile, how inter-connected we are to each other. Like a house of cards, systemic issues arose in America’s economic, political, social, operational systems as a direct and indirect result of the global pandemic. Everyone has been impacted directly and indirectly.

Yet we must also exclaim at how resourceful and resilient individuals, corporations, teams and technologies have been through these challenges.

  • Technology and innovation rose to the challenge, providing solutions which keep us connected and working securely and efficiently. Indeed the adoption of digital systems has surpassed expectations because of the necessity to do so around pandemic-related circumstances.
  • Technologies and companies have actually increased their revenues and projections as a direct result of the increased need for technology and innovation. This trend just keeps growing, as demand gets bigger and broader.

Key to the success of organizations and leaders is how we treat our people.

  • Thinking, speaking and acting like your people are your primary resource builds trust and credibility as well as productivity and sustainable earnings.
  • Involving our people in identifying and solving problems builds engagement and involvement as well as commitment.
  • Work with your people to help them be more resilient, more adaptive, more receptive, more collaborative.
  • Listen with empathy, with the sincere intent to be of service and provide support, tools and resources in a format which is digestible to the people served.
  • Solicit feedback and input. Genuinely talk to others and sincerely ask for feedback and input on a wide range of topics.
  • Arm your people with dialogues, resources, skills so that they can better understand the people they manage and lead.
  • Be more open-minded, more tolerant and expand your definition of what’s acceptable and professional as the line between personal and professional further blurs.
  • Be more agile in understanding and solving problems, more inclusive on who gets involved in the process.
  • Each resource may be double-edged swords, so customizing what people get and how they receive it would serve everyone well.
  • Teaching and supporting others on how to better lead and manage is a great investment.
  • Companies and managers who have not been good to their people will see massive turnover when the economy returns and jobs become more plentiful.

The problems we face in the next normal are not known or predictable, but the learnings from this year of great change will increase the likelihood that we would together rise to the challenge.

  • There may be a hybrid model for returning to work, so management and leaders need to figure out how to deliver everyone what they need to optimally perform.
  • The decision-making process will be much more nuanced as we factor in so many more things that are important. 
  • Be deliberate and intentional on all things that matter, particularly if it directly impacts the health, safety and happiness of your people.
  • Collaboration across organizations and countries is helping companies build a more versatile, flexible and robust supply chain and deliver a wider breadth of offerings and solutions. 
  • Productivity has not waned much, despite the disruption to on-site work. But the productivity gains are not sustainable, so we must make sure that we manage for empathy and balance, and provide resources to make working from home easy, and respectful balance to support separation of work and life.
  • Companies and teams that ‘follow the money’ will see where the business opportunities are, especially if they are nimble enough to not just see the new needs of their customers, but resourceful and committed enough to deliver same.
  • Through this year of chaos and disorder, we each have plenty of time to contemplate What’s important, Who’s Important, and What We’re Going to Do About This. 

We closed the discussion looking at the upsides of the challenges we faced this year, and reflected on how we each found opportunities to be more resilient, more creative, more resourceful, more human, and even more connected through these challenges. Indeed, in the face of potential Doom and Gloom, we found and created Black Swan effect.

Investopedia: Understanding a Black Swan –

A black swan is an extremely rare event with severe consequences. It cannot be predicted beforehand, though after the fact, many falsely claim it should have been predictable.

Black swan events can cause catastrophic damage to an economy by negatively impacting markets and investments, but even the use of robust modeling cannot prevent a black swan event.

Reliance on standard forecasting tools can both fail to predict and potentially increase vulnerability to black swans by propagating risk and offering false security. ..

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a finance professor, writer, and former Wall Street trader, used the 2008 financial crisis and the idea of black swan events to argue that if a broken system is allowed to fail, it actually strengthens it against the catastrophe of future black swan events. He also argued that conversely, a system that is propped up and insulated from risk ultimately becomes more vulnerable to catastrophic loss in the face of rare, unpredictable events.

Investopedia: Understanding a Black Swan –


Men Who Open Doors

December 11, 2020

FountainBlue’s December 11 When She Speaks program was on the topic of Men Who Open Doors. We were fortunate to have such inspirational, passionate and diverse men for today’s When She Speaks program on the Men Who Open Doors topic. They spoke passionately about why they are committed to the cause of including women and those with diverse background, and the business benefits for doing so. Each panelist was nominated by awesome women leaders who benefited from their support. In general, these men shared many common qualities.

  • They are authentic, passionate and driven leaders committed to driving the business and empowering their people.
  • They have a wide range of perspectives and wisdom, earned from deep and diverse experience.
  • As inspiring and committed leaders, they are continually involved in participating deeply and giving back passionately.
  • They are each exceptional leaders, extraordinary fathers who put their people first – in thoughts, words and actions.
  • Their focus is not just on the individual women and men who would benefit from their support and sponsorship, but also for the product, for the team, for the organization as a whole.
  • Although they are respectful of those in charge, they are creative and resourceful in making their point and shifting the needle forward to create more impact.

Although they represented different companies and role, they each spoke to the business imperative of embracing diversity within their teams, their organizations.

  • Leveling the playing field will help put the best candidates in the best roles.
  • If the focus is on shareholder value, then having a diverse workforce consistently reflects improved shareholder value.
  • Having diversity of thought is a great cure for Groupthink, which is clearly and consistently a barrier to innovation and even problem solving and decision-making.
  • Doing the right thing builds culture, builds trust, builds credibility.
  • Speaking authentically for choices made around doing the right thing builds confidence and loyalty within and outside the organization.
  • Women are generally more engaged and committed to an organization and role, as reflected by corporate surveys. (Perhaps men feel equally passionate and committed, but may be less likely to show it with actions/commitment/tasks.)
  • The injustice of a double-standard is a blow to corporate culture.
  • Complex problems need to be solved by diverse teams. 

Below are some best practices shared to help companies open more doors for women and those with diverse backgrounds.

  • Giving everyone a chance to succeed and perform will raise the waters for all. 
  • Hiring gritty go-getters is many times better than hiring someone who checks off all the qualifications boxes.
  • Err on the side of asking uncomfortable questions. Pushing our assumptions and biases in a respectful way is a critical part of fostering change in a good way.
  • Consider using return-ship programs to recruit women who might be interested in returning to the workforce after taking a life-detour for example.
  • Sympathy and words are not enough. Actions will speak more loudly.
  • Alignment of thoughts, words and actions is an imperative if you want others to genuinely below in the commitment to the diversity cause.
  • Consider leveraging an internship program with diverse candidates and hiring graduates from these programs.
  • Hire the best candidate, the best athlete for the role.
  • Put your neck on the line if you need to. Making a stand for a candidate who delivers will speak volumes for yourself, for the candidate, and hopefully for your bottom line.
  • Build the self confidence of all your candidates, whether they are from diverse or more standard backgrounds.

The bottom line is that these men truly open doors for others in all senses of the word. Their integrity, their passion, their results shine through, inspiring us by example, and highlighting successes worthy of replication.

Please join me in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s December 11 Men Who Open Doors program, our hosts at Coupa Software and our nominating professionals.

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue 
  • Panelist Chris Allexandre, Senior Vice President & Executive, Renesas  
  • Panelist Ronald Goossens, Senior Director of Marketing, ASML 
  • Panelist Gabe Perez, VP Coupa West Sales, Coupa Software
  • Panelist Sajid Sadi, Vice President of Research, Head – Think Tank Team, Samsung
  • Panelist Nathan Sheranian, Senior Director Human Resources, Freshworks 
  • with opening remarks provided by Sheryl Chamberlain, Director Alliances, Coupa Software, Board Chair Coupa Empower

Smart Cities, Smart Buildings

December 11, 2020
FountainBlue’s December 11 VIP roundtable : ‘Smart Cities, Smart Buildings’

FountainBlue’s December 11 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Smart Cities, Smart Buildings’, conducted online with introductory remarks provided by our host company at Amazon. Below are notes from the conversation.

Today’s participating executives represented a wide breadth of industries and roles, across the spectrum of technology – from semiconductors to fabs to end consumers. Each brought an interesting perspective about the opportunities for smart buildings and smart cities.  

We launched the discussion talking about the technology innovation explosion around semiconductors, networking, storage, software (AI, Advanced AI, ML) which facilitates the adoption of Smart Building/Smart City solutions. The pandemic and its implications are also accelerating the development and adoption of technology.  

  • Whether it’s on the edge, in the fog or in the cloud, it’s always about the data. But we need to make sure that data is relevant, timely, filtered, and targeted in its delivery in order to provide maximum benefit for all stakeholders, with actionable recommendations based on pre-defined requirements and parameters.
  • Balancing privacy, security and access remains of paramount concern. Individuals, cities, countries, companies will differ in terms of their sensitivity levels and options for managing these elements, but each entity must take these factors into account.
  • Whereas we may have many ‘Smart Building’ use cases now, to help us manage our day-to-day activities at home for example, we are farther away from the management of ‘Smart Cities‘ as this would take coordinated infrastructure development and collaboration. This might be easier in China, where there might be mandates and requirements, but in Western countries where many parties get a vote, it’s a much greater challenge. 

Below is a compilation of best practices to ensure sustainable implementation and execution of Smart Building initiatives.

  • Minimize latency issues so that selected users can efficiently receive not just the data, but the recommended actions based on the data received.
  • Focus on the most relevant use case, and solve that specific problem, which can be expanded to solve other problems.
  • Focus on the short term wins around Smart Buildings, then expand to other use cases which leverage the same technology, but outside the home, or at work. 
  • Focus on the long term play around Smart Cities, but build standards and collaboration to ensure the coordinated implementation of solutions.
  • Create model solutions including model cities and intersections to test solutions and technologies and their relevance and effectively for individual types of users. 
  • Develop integrated solutions to help employees better manage their logistics and planning around meetings and development or operations.
  • Create Smart Home/Smart City solutions which focus on the goals of safety, efficiency and quality of life, while conserving energy and optimizing performance.
  • Take advantage of smart building solutions which speak to current pandemic-related challenges including robotic automation for warehouses, disinfection management which keeps humans safe, commercial deep cleaning.

We ended the roundtable with some key open-ended questions:

  • What are the opportunities around the challenges posed by 2020 – the year of the pandemic and the myriad of resulting implications?
  • What are the long-game solutions around Smart Buildings/Smart Cities which take minimal investment dollars, so that we can prove value/warrant investment?

Please join me in thanking our hosts at Amazon, and our participating executives. 

The Next Normal

December 7, 2020

FountainBlue’s December 4 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘The Next Normal’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. 

  • 2020 – A Story for the Ages – Debbie Shotwell
  • Collaborating to Create An Agile and Resilient Supply Chain – Amanda York, Lam Research
  • Optimizing Operations and Facilities – Aaron Campbell, OhmniLabs
  • Rethinking Business Strategies and Business Models – Krista Pavlakos, Renesas 
  • Embracing a Decentralized Workforce – Louise Lamb, Coupa Software
  • Predictions for the Next Normal and How to Prepare for It – (everyone choose ONE)

We launched the discussion by talking about the social, political, economic, and cultural impact of everything that has transpired and its impact on the people, the companies and even the industries impacted by the changes. All speakers agreed that this is not just a moment in time, but a seismic shift in the way we work and live.

  • We will never look at viruses and germs in the same way. Whereas before we might have pushed through and work as warriors when we are sick, we now would rather not infect others and take the time to stay home, responding digitally, or just stay home for self care.
  • We will be more agile, more labile with the way we manage our business and technology processes, the way we manage our relationships and our people. An iterative approach to managing would make us more effective as leaders and managers.
  • We will all be more strategic with our business strategies and business models – not just more agile, but also more creative, more resourceful, more resilient, and more collaborative.

Below are some best practices shared by our panelists.

  • Leveraging digital technology to deliver customized services has helped small companies get big, big companies get bigger, and everyone get more customized services more quickly. Indeed, the events of 2020 have greatly accelerated the adoption of the digital experience at all levels.
    • To build more digital dexterity, innovate your technology, respect the speed of innovation and provide real-time support.
  • Strategically coordinate between internal and external teams to proactively manage and lead through change.
    • Manage the rhythm and cadence of communication and change.
    • Align the various ecosystems of stakeholders.
    • Ensure accountability and clear communication on measured outcomes.
  • Partnerships with customers and vendors, partnerships across teams and organizations will help develop win-wins when the game changes in unexpected ways, through this and future pandemics and their associated other disruptive challenges.
  • To build employee involvement and engagement through times of great change, provide transparent, proactive communication and updates, challenge them to participate in strategy and execution and innovation challenges, where relevant, make them feel valued, and provide opportunities to learn and have fun.
  • To stay relevant during these extraordinary circumstances, you could Outwit others, or Outplay others, but more important than that is the ability to Outlast others – the resiliency and ability to pivot are key.
  • Measuring important data will help us to focus on managing the impact of a pandemic (or just about anything) on our people, our processes, our operations.
  • With every challenge comes an innovation opportunity. Leveraging collaborations will lead to more original innovations. Finding niche opportunities and adjacent markets may be a silver lining through this period of great change.

The bottom line is that we will all be more cognizant of our impact on people, on what matters to us most, and be more humane, more human as we now better understand what’s important.


In Search of Truth

December 1, 2020
In Search of Truth

How do we know what is ‘True’?

How can we act without knowing what’s True?

What can we do to validate what’s True?

Who do we work with to honor the Truth, and take action based on the Truth?

These and other tough questions come to mind in this year of great change. So many ‘Truths’ have been questioned. What we thought we knew is not quite so. Who we thought we were, who we knew our friends to be is much more fuzzy than we could have imagined.

As we look with hope to a brighter new year, let’s contemplate what Truth is, what Truth means, how we can collaboratively act on what’s valid and True for the good of all.

  1. First validate that you’re working with the Truth. Consider the sources of information, the agenda of those who might voice something less than true. Taking that moment to make sure that you’re working with True News will save you time and energy.
  2. Question your traditions, your perceptions, your faith, your authority figures, the media, your experience, even your reasoning and your judgment as you seek the Truth. Unveiling your biases, understanding your automatic responses, knowing your background will help you introspectively identify, acknowledge and embrace the Truth.
  3. Live your North Star – your values, your purpose, your goals. Align your thoughts, words and actions to that North Star, factoring in the identified Truths.
  4. Only connect and collaborate with others with information and data which is vetted as TRUE.
  5. Connect with the right person who can embrace the Truth and strategize, plan and act toward achieving a goal which would benefit all.
  6. Connect at the right time, and focus on a common purpose.
  7. Be Constructive and Supportive of the people involved, the cause adopted – with every conversation and action.
  8. Continually consider the implications of the strategies, plans, messages and actions adopted and make adjustments as necessary.
  9. Follow through, and grow the team, initiative, purpose, cause.
  10. Learn lessons well, share and document your findings. Grow the impact. Make a difference for the betterment of all.

We’ve all taken a beating from all the shocking changes of 2020. I am thankful for all the people who have helped me be more fully myself, for the health and safety of the ones I love best, for the opportunities to continue to learn and grow, and help others to do the same.

Here’s to a Happier, Healthier and Much Improved 2021!