Archive for the ‘When She Speaks’ Category

Millennials In Our Midst

June 12, 2015


FountainBlue’s June 12 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Millennials in Our Midst. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have wise and inspiring panelists representing a range of roles and functions, education and perspective, and companies and generations. Please join us in thanking our panelists for so candidly sharing their thoughts and perspectives on how to work with millennials in producing win-win, measurable results, engaging the full workforce.

Millennials will represent a progressively larger percentage of the workforce, a workforce which still includes four different generations with different backgrounds and perspectives. Considering the needs of each worker and focusing on strategically recruiting, retaining and developing them, while building bridges between them will be an ongoing challenge of forward-thinking leaders like those on our panel.

Born between 1980 and 2000, Millennials grew up surrounded by technology, the internet, social media. They are generally competitive, yet collaborative, passionate, yet easily distracted and disengaged, career-minded yet focused on making a difference, driven yet fun-loving, always-reaching for instant gratification, while also insisting on work-life balance.

Millennials are great at creative problem solving, and have the confidence to see things through, despite obstacles. Their can-do attitude, collaborative style, irreverence for titles of authority and fearless approach to problem-solving make them dynamic, energetic staff members who can add energy and diversity to a team, when managed well, and discord and hard feelings and fractionism if managed badly.

It is a challenge for corporate leaders recruit, retain and develop them. Some successful strategies include: 1) creating a culture that’s energetic and exciting, and work that is meaningful, 2) creating challenging opportunities for advancement and growth, while making a difference, 3) offering the ability to work flexible hours and work from home, to accommodate the interests and travel schedules of millennials, 4) providing opportunities for connections to leaders at all levels, and mentorship and growth opportunities that would stretch them, and 5) promoting and supporting the short-term advancement and growth of millennials. With these generalities in mind, remember that every company and every individual is different and as managers and leaders who factor in the needs and opportunities of individual team members will most likely succeed.

Below is advice offered by our panel on how to best manage and work with millennials:

  • Although stereotypes and understanding classes of people help in some measures, stop over-generalizing who millennials or any other class of people are. Treat everyone as individuals who have the same focus – being successful and happy, and help each one get from here to there. Help each person focus on delivering on their short-term goals while keeping an eye on their long-term goals.
  • Explain how each role and function contributes to the bigger picture, the larger goal for the team and company and industry.
  • Teach them the value of staying humble, and model the way.
  • Encourage them to accept leadership opportunities for community groups and causes for which they feel passionate.

Below is advice for leaders from all generations:

  • Make the time to build relationships at all levels, across both genders, across all generations, inside and outside of work.
  • People who give 110% effort in all assignments and produce measurable results stand out in a good way over those who give half-hearted efforts. They will be the ones who will be given progressively more responsible and interesting roles and tasks.
  • Be proactive and take initiative, but also be sensitive of how others might interpret it if you are overly eager and enthusiastic.
  • Be eager to contribute, yet patient about getting the opportunity to do so in a way that would stretch you and best contribute.
  • In communicating your brand and considering social media, use your best judgment and put your best foot forward. In addition, focus on what you want, not comparing yourself necessarily with others.
  • Take the time to know yourself and your strengths and aspirations. Use the magic of who you are to communicate your value-add and reach for those stretch opportunities that would help you grow.
  • Build on your transferable skills which can be taken into many different roles, functions, companies and industries, including: Communicating, Problem-Solving, Customer Service, Presentation, Skills, Management, etc.,
  • Know your long-term goal, but also accept that there will be a circuitous path to get there.

In the end, the millennials will affect the way we work and live, just now reaching 50% of he workforce. The workforce will be forever changed – it will be more informal, more collaborative, more innovative and creative, with fewer organizational layers. How will these changes impact YOU?


Please join us in thanking our speakers for FountainBlue’s June 12 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Millennials in Our Midst and our gracious hosts at Juniper.

Facilitator Pat Cross, Cross Apps
Panelist Gina Diaz, Director, License Management Services – Enterprise Accounts, Oracle Corporation
Panelist Camila Franco, Manager Product Management, StubHub
Panelist Marjorie Glover, Regional Director, Inside Sales Americas, Dell
Panelist Van B. Nguyen, Program ​Manager – University Talent Program, Juniper Networks
Panelist Christine Nguyen Vaeth, Global Services Marketing, Workday

Standing on the Shoulders of Mentors

May 11, 2015

May8PanelFountainBlue’s May 8 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Standing on the Shoulders of Mentors. Below are notes from the conversation.

Our panel was varied in terms of backgrounds and experience yet they consistently: 1) clearly communicated the value of mentorship, 2) candidly shared their experience and knowledge in ways that were inspiring as well as practical, 3) showed their openness, persistence and passion around both people and leadership, 4) consistently chose to embrace the serendipitously opportunities which arose and 5) modeled the way for fearlessly and courageously and continually raising the bar for themselves and those with whom they connect.

Below is advice they have regarding how to leverage mentorship to support your career and life goals.

  1. Know what you want and why you want it and then decide with whom you should connect. Being specific about what you need to optimize work, behavior and communication etc., while keeping an eye on your overarching goal might help you with both your short-term and your long-term goals.
    1. Know your blind-spots and areas of weakness/less preference and complement yourself with people who can help you fill the gaps.
  2. Be authentic and genuine in your communications. Focus on building relationships based on trust to a wide variety of people.
  3. Accept all stretch goals within reason, and if you have a purpose for it. It will help you see yourself and your world in a different way.
  4. In the same token, embrace diversity – people and things around you who are not-like-you. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it can have the up-side of being another kind of stretch goal for yourself.
    1. For example, every company has a different DNA, so if you move companies, embrace the opportunity to meet peers and others who can help you get integrated with the-way-things are done.
    2. Another example is that Millennials have so much to teach us in their team orientation, in their perspective about the leaders-in-charge, in their sometimes forward, unapologetic approach to solving problems. There are learnings there, especially if their mindset makes you feel uncomfortable.
  5. Be ever open, ever persistent, ever out-wardly focused, ever focused on paying it forward.
    1. Take the perspective that you can learn something from everyone.
  6. Be ever influencing who is in your sphere and how you are influencing others in your sphere, while expanding your reach selectively.
  7. Find and speak your voice, for the purpose of growing and sharing your knowledge, wisdom, brand and network.
  8. Look for different kinds of mentors, sponsors, coaches and allies, and leverage them for different reasons, while always keeping an eye out on ‘what’s in it for them’.
  9. Always look for and create win-win experiences for all. This is much more important than whether it’s a structured or unstructured mentoring relationship.
  10. Change is hard and inevitable. Having the right people with you and for you – those who help you embrace who you are *and* who you’d like to become – supports the journey for all.

In the end, YOU are the person who owns your career path and your success. So shape your experiences, plans and outcomes and take responsibility for it.


FountainBlue’s May 8 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Standing on the Shoulders of Mentors, and featured:

Facilitator Jacqueline Wales, Advisor, Author, Speaker, INNERFLUENCE and The Fearless Factor

Panelist Shaya Fathali, Sr. Manager, Technical Communications, Altera

Panelist Tonie Hansen, Senior Director, Corporate Responsibility, NVIDIA

Panelist Yasmeen Jafari, HR Business Partner, Intuitive Surgical

Panelist Leila Pourhashemi, Head of Product Operations, eBay Marketplaces

Panelist Ching Valdezco, Director, Strategy and Planning, HP Enterprise Services

Panelist Shobhana Viswanathan, Director of Product Marketing, Neustar, Inc.

Please join us in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts and to our gracious hosts at eBay.

Building and Reinforcing Your Executive Brand

April 10, 2015

April9PanelFountainBlue’s April 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Building and Reinforcing Your Executive Brand. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have inspiring, authentic, practical, courageous and resilient panelists who spoke so candidly about their brand and their work challenges and experiences. They ran the gamut, representing marketing, legal, sales, HR and everything in between, and they came from all walks of life, a myriad of life experiences.

It was remarkable when they spoke of their initial business experiences and the learnings they had from those experiences. It showed how women like those on the panel paved the way for the rest of us, and also that we have come so far so fast in the business and leadership world, so there is much to celebrate!

From their personal and professional experiences, they each began to understand and articulate their brand, with the intent of becoming more effective at what they wanted to become, what they wanted to achieve. The road was rocky at best, but resilience and perseverance were a hallmark of strength for each of our panelists, as they model how we can each remain consciously authentic to our brand, while also remaining in alignment with the goals of our company and our team.

They each advised in different ways that we should seek alignment with the company we select, so that we can bring out the passion in ourselves and in those around us. Alignment is not an easy thing to keep, especially when there will be others who will challenge us and push us to doing something with which we don’t feel comfortable. But finding the support, resilience and strength to stand by your values and principles will lead to your internal happiness and also to a more positive perception others have of you, and the effectiveness and value you bring to the table.

The panelists ended by speaking about the business and technology trends ahead: Expect that the pace of change will accelerate, so be agile and embrace the chaos. Be nimble, transparent and open.

So whether you stumble into your brand by consistently being who you are, or consciously shift your brand as you move from one place/position/role/company to another, make stretch goals for yourself and those around you and authentically pursue those goals, accepting that fear is a given, and failure sets you up for the next success.


April9AudiencePlease join us in thanking our speakers for FountainBlue’s April 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Building and Reinforcing Your Executive Brand, and our hosts at Polycom:

Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue

Panelist Barbara Adey, Vice President of Business Development, HP

Panelist Amy Rubin Friel, Marketing Director, Nokia Technologies

Panelist Margaret Hughes – Sr. Director, NA Field & Channel Marketing, Dell Cloud client-computing

Panelist Laura Owen, Chief Human Resource Officer, Polycom

Agility – The Key to Building a Successful Career

March 20, 2015

March20Attendee (7)FountainBlue’s March 20 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Agility – The Key to Building a Successful Career. Below are notes from the conversation.

Our panel represented leaders from many different backgrounds across education, companies, industries and cultural backgrounds. But they have all consciously and proactively managed their careers, choosing and creating different roles and opportunities along the way. They generously shared their advice and kernels of wisdom.

  1. Know yourself – who you are, what you’re good at, what you’d like to do, where you’d like to go, consciously stretching yourself as you go. Consciously build a skillset and a mindset so that you can move quickly and agilely and land on your feet.
  2. Learn from your mistakes, and use those learnings to be wiser and stronger. Learn from mentors, advocates and supporters and also from people who don’t-think-like-you.
  3. Support the growth of others around you, for their success benefits all.
  4. Build relationships at all levels at all times. Lean toward working for someone who understands your core competencies and strengths, and believes in you and supports you in doing something new.
  5. Be open to the opportunities that appear in front of you, and also to opportunities which you could create yourself.
  6. Change will happen – you will change, the management will change, the technology will change. Be nimble and agile enough to manage and even anticipate changes in everything from technology to management.
  7. Be good at what you do, using effective, transparent communication, hard work and persistence to generate measurable results.
  8. Embrace the opportunity to learn from people across regions, across cultures, across roles, across industries . . . As a good listener, we can address the motivations and desires of the wide range of people we serve, no matter what our role or title is.
  9. Integrate the needs of the family, with that of their own professional goals, career opportunities will come and go but family is here to stay. In fact, having a child helps you raise the bar at work – it’s got to be a fulfilling, worthwhile job to be worth the time away from your kids.
  10. Position yourself for doing what’s new, based on what you’ve successfully done before, and purposefully stretch in new areas so that you can continue to grow.

The tech industries is evolving more quickly now, so agility will become much more critical going forward. Knowing what technologies are hot, what industries are worth pursuing, where you fit with the market and customer needs will help you proactively navigate your career.March20Attendee (6)March20Attendee (5)

Please join us in thanking our panelists for our Agility – The Key to Building a Successful Career, and our hosts at Cypress.

Facilitator Nancy McKereghan, Founder and CEO, Tangerine+

Panelist Sara Hepner, IIG Worldwide Sales Operations, Planning, and Development, EMC

Panelist Bien Irace, Senior Vice-President, Strategic Alliances and Partnership, Cypress Semiconductor

Panelist Judy Priest, Distinguished Engineer, Data Center CTO Office, Cisco Systems

Panelist Shilpa Vir, Lead Product Manager, eBay Inc

Panelist Josie Zimmermann, Director, Brand Amplification, Juniper Networks

Expanding Your Circle of Influence, With or Without Direct Authority

February 20, 2015

FebPanelFountainBlue’s February 20 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Expanding Your Circle of Influence, With or Without Direct Authority. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a wide range of panelists to cover our influence topic, representing an educational and operational background in engineering, marketing, program management, business development, and alliances. They’ve worked in companies large and small, and with execs at all levels, including the executive suites, and across all industries, geographies and roles. Our panelists generously shared their advice on expanding influence.

Relationships Matter

  • Build deep and meaningful relationships with people who matter. Understand their motivations and communicate clearly and transparently, working toward a common objective.
  • Be authentic in your communication and caring in your outlook.

Communication is Paramount

  • Be passionate in your thinking, communication and actions in order to engage others to do the same.
  • Ask the right questions to make sure that you understand the needs and motivations of your stakeholders.
  • Communication is more about listening than it is about speaking.
  • Ask for the support you need to succeed.
  • Using ‘I’ language is less threatening.

Be Strategic

  • Regardless of where you sit at the table, what your role and title are, what your responsibility is, etc., make a difference with what you think, say and do.
  • Do your research to understand the people, the dynamics, the company, etc., in order to best understand which measurable results would most matter to customers.
  • Pre-meetings before the actual meetings may help you better manage an outcome.

Focus on Delivering Results

  • Communicate clearly in writing and enlist the buy-in, focused on delivering specific results.
  • Put the needs of the team above your own needs in your thoughts, words and actions.

Manage Your Emotions

  • Manage your emotions so maintain the respect of others, especially when stakes are high. Try rolling your tongue at the back of your teeth if you feel tears, or curling your toes and standing taller.
  • Separate yourself from the situation and try to understand the feelings and motivations of others.
  • Remember that what’s more important than being right is the good of the team, and the results delivered by the team.
  • Sometimes when emotions run high, the best move is to let it go and carry on.

Be Other-Centric

  • The needs of the customer are paramount. Deliver to those needs and keep them happy.
  • Speak the language of your partners – in messages and communications they can understand and respect.
  • Wield Your Influence with Care. If you get things done you will get noticed and will likely influence others without your awareness.

A suggested multi-step process for influencing an outcome:

1) assess the situation – what’s the influencing style? analyst, driver, collaborator, etc.

2) remove the barriers – territory, language, biases

3) making the pitch – problem, causes, recommendation/actions, benefits (PCAN – credit Wharton)

4) getting the commitment – in writing, with an accountability element and peer/social pressure

Please join us in thanking our hosts at EMC and our panelists for FountainBlue’s February 20 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Expanding Your Circle of Influence, With or Without Direct Authority:

  • Facilitator Lucie Newcomb, NewComm Global
  • Panelist Ellen Butler, Director, CxO Thought Leadership & Content, VMware
  • Panelist Minoo Gupta, Senior Director of Engineering, CITRIX
  • Panelist Maria Schaffer, former Cisco
  • Panelist Jennifer Stephenson, Software Product Manager, Altera

How to Throw More Balls Up Higher: Juggling Work-Life Balance in Demanding Times

January 17, 2015

JanPanelFountainBlue’s January 16 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of How to Throw More Balls Up Higher: Juggling Work-Life Balance in Demanding Times. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a wide range of panelists to cover our work-life integration topic. They had different educational backgrounds, career paths, and family choices. They each lead from a different role, in a different tech company. Yet they also had much in common: 1) they chose to work in tech companies and rose to positions of influence within these companies; 2) they chose to complement their work life with a full calendar of responsibilities and commitments outside work, including family; 3) they made tough choices when they needed to; and 4) they freely and generously shared their stories and words of advice with us.

They told us collectively to:

Make the Right Career Choices

  1. Choose a job and role for which you have a passion and have skills to contribute.
  2. Work with managers and companies which would help you achieve your personal and professional objectives.

Continue to Grow

  1. Seize every opportunity to learn and grow. Be open to experiencing new things and new perspectives. But be realistic about managing the time and responsibilities to ensure that you can succeed if you take on *too* much.
  2. Manage life like a roller coaster – things go in waves, in ebbs and flows. Give a little here, take a little there, and choose to intentionally coast sometimes.
  3. Learn from your mentors, sponsors and others around you.
  4. Lower your standards and broaden your perspective if that would help better integrate work and life.
  5. Learn to ask for help. And be prepared to also help others. Above all, don’t judge yourself or others for needing help.
  6. Make and take the time for yourself, so that you can be more ‘present’ and ‘prepared’ for the other things of importance.
  7. Surround yourself with the network of people who will believe in you, be there for you, and accept you. Beware those who would judge you for the choices you make.

Get the Support You Need

  1. Enlist the help of others around you, especially for delegating the less important things.
  2. Clear and transparent communication between work, home, community, parent, and other parties will help you navigate a path to success, even when circumstances are difficult.
  3. Set clear boundaries and expectations on all sides, and live by those boundaries, while also remaining fluid about them as your priorities will evolve and change.
  4. Leverage technology to facilitate efficiency and communication and results.
  5. Leverage Employee Assistance Programs, and other corporate offerings which may help you navigate a particularly difficult time in your life.

The biggest takeaway is that we are not alone. Nobody has it all, all the time. But investing in yourself and getting support for all that you do will help you manage your work-life integration objectives.

Please join us in thanking our hosts at Dell and our speakers for FountainBlue’s January 16 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of How to Throw More Balls Up Higher: Juggling Work-Life Balance in Demanding Times:

  • Facilitator Jerri Barrett, Vice President of Outreach, SENS Research Foundation
  • Panelist Maryam Alexandrian – VP Global Sales, Channels & Field Ops, Dell Inc
  • Panelist Serpil Bayraktar, Principal Engineer, Chief Architect’s Office – Development, Cisco
  • Panelist Sondra Bollar, Software Development Director, Oracle
  • Panelist Niki Hall, Vice President of Corporate Marketing, Polycom
  • Panelist Vijaya Voleti, Senior Engineering Manager, PayPal

Getting The Most Out of You and Your Team

December 13, 2014

Dec12Panel2FountainBlue’s December 12 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Getting the Most Out of You and Your Team. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have impassioned, articulate and inspiring speakers on our panel, representing a range of perspectives and approaches to the leadership and management of teams. They represent different backgrounds and career paths, different styles and experiences, yet they had much in common:

  • They did not necessary plan to be managers or leaders, yet they figured out how to successful lead and manage, and discovered that working with a team helps people achieve more than they could as an individual contributor, no matter how brilliant they were in that role.
  • They always put their team first, and took the time to build relationships, understand the needs of the people they work with, and advocate for the support and resources so that each member and the whole team succeeds.
  • They understand their own strengths and weaknesses and that of their team members, and worked with their teams so that they collaboratively deliver results.

Below is advice offered by this wise and experienced panel:

  • Develop your learnings and expertise – there is no substitute. It will help you be confident and persistent and garner the respect and admiration of the right people.
  • Help set the direction and priorities, and let your team members figure out how they can deliver on it. Separating the what and the how helps leaders go from good to great.
  • Trust your team to deliver. And respond appropriate if they do or do not.
  • Raise the bar high and give people stretch goals to keep them motivated, committed and connected.
  • Be positive and transparent and authentic in your communications – it’s all about relationships.
  • Walk the talk and model the way – show others how they can be proactive and productive despite challenging situations.
  • Really care about each team member, in thoughts and words and actions. Be compassionate and flexible, especially with your high-performers.
  • Share the credit for success, accept the responsibility for challenges.
  • Find the support you need so you can focus on the larger picture. Mentors and sponsors can help to do that. Having support at many levels will help you think through the problems you’re facing and the options for resolving those issues.
  • Give people on your team the opportunities to grow and lead and stretch.
  • Establish, communicate, respond to ground rules. The team should know why they are there and what the consequences are for breaking them.
  • It’s not so much about gender or style or knowledge, but about what you do and what results you provide. Focus on the tasks at hand and why you’re doing what with whom, and the other stuff will take care of themselves.

The bottom line is to be open to and prepared for change – for yourself and for members of your team. Change is not personal but happens to a company all the time, especially in industries that are fast-moving like tech! Help your people to respond proactively and positively to changes.

And in order to lead through change managers and leaders must be likable – the kind of authentic, transparent and trustworthy leaders who put others in their thoughts, speak clearly of their intentions and follow through on their projects and programs, delivering tangible results.

Please join us in thanking our gracious hosts at Applied Materials, our partners at UCSC Extension, and our panelists for FountainBlue’s December 12 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Getting the Most Out of You and Your Team:

Facilitator Christina Trampota, Managing Partner, CGM Squared

Panelist Azlina Ahmad, Sr. Director of Engineering, Violin Memory

Panelist Chunshi Cui, Business Development Director, Dielectric CVD Division, Applied Materials

Panelist Kamini Dandapani, Director of Engineering, LinkedIn

Panelist Lakshimi Duraivenkatesh, Director of Engineering, Retail Promotions Platform, eBay Inc

The Business Case for Diversity

November 14, 2014

November14PanelFountainBlue’s November 14 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of The Business Case for Diversity. Please join us in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts and to our gracious hosts at Symantec. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a wide range of perspectives and experience represented on the panel. Our panelists had different educational and professional backgrounds and experiences, but they shared a wisdom about the importance of diversity for the individual, team and company perspective. They each shared personal stories of how they were different than others around them, and how that actually worked well in supporting their personal and professional goals. Each panelist had somebody who cheered them on and inspired them to embrace what was different about them, and nurture that diversity and strength.

Collectively, they shared the benefits of having diversity within a team: 1) the ability to reach out to a broader range of partners, customers, and other stakeholders, 2) the ability to better keep pace with an increasingly social, increasingly global world, 3) the ability to recruit and retain more diversity within the organization, 4) the ability to add to the bottom line and decrease ROI, and 5) the ability to incorporate different approaches and perspectives in solving problems.

Each are experienced and exceptional managers who provided advice on how to integrate people-who-think-differently into a team, how to communicate in a style that works for the other party, how our unconscious biases are limiting our own performance, how to move executives forward in their own journey around diversity, how to communicate the importance of diversity to people and teams, how to focus on meritocracy and cut through the subtle biases, and most importantly, how to see the value from people who think and act differently than the typical white male we might find in a technology company.

In the end, our panelists encouraged women to support other women and others who embrace diversity. But they warn that it’s not about gender or ethnicity just to be different – it’s about leadership and performance of the individuals themselves, and putting a diverse range of people in the roles where they can best perform and deliver results.

Please join us in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s November 14 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of The Business Case for Diversity, as well as our hosts at Symantec:

Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue

Panelist Hillary Barnhart, Senior Director, Business Operations, AGS Equipment, Applied Materials

Panelist Preethy Padmanabhan, Sr. Manager, Solutions Management, Marketing, Dell Wyse

Panelist Sheri Rhodes, VP of IT Global Applications, Symantec

Panelist Olivia Shen Green, Manager, Business Operations. Engineering Talent & Culture | Stanford Management Science & Engineering, Cisco

Women Leading Innovation

October 10, 2014


FountainBlue’s October 10 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Women Leading Innovation. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a range of panelists from different companies, roles, educational and functional backgrounds, and perspectives on the table, all with such deep and successful experience around innovation. They shared their perspectives on what innovation is:

  • Innovation is sometimes in-elegant, taking a more circuitous path, rather than taking the planned course.
  • Hence failing quickly and failing forward is an essential component of innovating.
  • Innovation comes from the top down – leadership needs to believe in it and empower it from the bottom up.
  • Innovation comes from the bottom up, from any chair – leadership needs to encourage original, out-of-the-box thinking, no matter who has what role or title.
  • Exposing yourself to new ideas and people may lead to thinking, speaking or acting differently may lead to a innovative business solutions or ideas.
  • Collaboration is a key ingredient of innovation, whether it’s internal with your team and organization or with the ecosystem of partners, providers and customers.
  • Innovation is a moving target – what’s innovative today will soon get outdated. Continue to focus on technology advancements and the needs of the customer to help ensure that innovations remain relevant.

They generously shared their wisdom and advice about innovation.

  • Communicate the larger purpose and story, in order to receive the resources, people and funding for innovative projects.
  • Innovative leaders welcome a range of perspectives on to their teams and extended teams, so have an open mind-set and culture, team and organization attracts and retains the best innovators. With that said, it’s difficult to facilitate this out-of-the-box, rule-breaking mind set within a corporation, so walk that fine line so that you stay within the culture while lightly pushing the boundaries.
  • Take a customer-driven perspective and understand the needs, pains and problems of the customer, so that you can improve their user experience and support their objectives. (Women may have an edge here, as they are naturally more empathic and other-focused.)
  • Adopt an inclusive mind set, facilitate a culture of innovation for your team and organization, and help create tangible opportunities to share ideas and fund innovation facilitates innovation within corporations.
  • Be warm and accepting of yourself and surrounding yourself with others who support you for who you are will help create a more open, safer culture of innovation.
  • Focus on program innovation rather than project innovation so that you can coordinate across departments and deliver across the life cycle of the product, and continue to serve the needs of the customer. If you focus just on a one-time project development, you may not get the long-term support you need for the product to succeed, and you may not get integrated support from all departments throughout the product life cycle.
  • Manage how much energy is invested in any innovation idea. Make sure that it’s needed and practical now, or plan for adopting a concept in the future.
  • Define and communicate boundaries of time and energy to protect your personal life, while supporting the innovation goals for yourself and for your team.
  • Get the support you need to remain positive, flexible and innovative, whether it’s within your corporate women’s group, within an external growth, amongst your community and friends, etc.,
  • Be willing to be uncomfortable! Innovators buck the status-quo – that may make YOU uncomfortable, but it will certainly make many others uncomfortable, and successful innovators know how to manage that for themselves, their teams, their customers and sponsors.

In the end, successful innovators want to stretch themselves, stretch what technology can offer, stretch their view of the world – and others benefit from their successes.


Please join us in thanking our hosts at eBay and our speakers below:

Facilitator Christine Kohl-Zaugg, Founder & CIO, BluBubble

Panelist Serpil Bayraktar, Principal Engineer, Chief Architect’s Office – Development, Cisco

Panelist Tasneem Brutch, Ph.D., Software Architect and Director of R&D, Samsung Research America

Panelist Gayathri Radhakrishnan, Director Strategy & Corporate Development, Dell Software

Panelist Kirsten Wolberg, VP of Technology, PayPal

Women Making Their Own Rules

September 15, 2014


FountainBlue’s September 12 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event, on the topic of Women Making Their Own Rules, featuring:

Facilitator Brenda Rogers, HR Strategies

Panelist Erna Arnesen, VP Global Channel & Alliance Marketing, Plantronics

Panelist Petra Hofer, Chief of Staff to Mark Carges, eBay

Panelist Xiaolin Lu, Fellow and Director of IoT Lab, Texas Instruments

Panelist Shveta Miglani, Talent Development Manager, Sandisk

Panelist Monica Shen Knotts, Senior Manager, Senior Manager, Enterprise Technology Strategy, Cisco

Please join us in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts and to our gracious hosts at Texas Instruments. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have a range of women leaders on the panel. There was much diversity as they represented different companies, different educational backgrounds, different cultural experiences, and divergent paths to success within the corporate sector, but they also had much in common:

  • They consciously made their own rules for success, in environments which did not necessarily embrace women in leadership in general;
  • They rose to positions of impact, where they influence the executive direction, strategy and tactics for tech organizations across the valley;
  • They have touched the lives of many, and supported the growth of those around them;
  • They are clear, inspiring and direct communicators who speak from their heart and their experience, for the good of all.
  • They have changed roles, perspectives, product lines, and even industries, and continue in their forward growth personally and professionally.

They were generous enough to share their advice and wisdom.

  • Women who make their own rules don’t always get what they expect from doing so, but those who do it well, always benefit from doing so, and positively impact those they touched because they did so.
  • Being open to what others think, say and do helps you understand where others are coming from and why specific rules are in place. Understanding the purpose of these rules helps anyone break them in a way which makes better sense for all, should that be the choice.
  • Focus on whether a rule should be broken, and what the long term and short term consequences are for breaking these rules.
  • Build relationships with others so that you can socialize a concept before you take actions to shift, change, transform a rule.
  • Understand the spoken and unspoken rules, and always question whether these rules are the right rules and why.
  • Do what it takes to keep yourself and those around you engaged and impassioned, even if it means stirring the pot and breaking a few rules.
  • Know yourself and the values you stand for, and keep connected with that core self, as it will help you see rules which are overtly or subtly imposed on you, rules you may not necessarily choose to shape you or the direction you choose.
  • Be courageous enough to transcend social and other rules, letting your results and impact speak louder than social norms.
  • Consider the motivations of others who support or obstruct you from the breaking of rules.
  • Communication is key. Know your message, your purpose and your audience before you break any rules.
  • Celebrate creativity and innovation: Embrace the opportunities to think, speak and act differently. Do the uncomfortable by surrounding yourself with people who don’t think like you.

Memorable quotes from our dynamic panel:

  • Be the bamboo that bends but does not break.
  • Prove yourself in the boardroom, and go in wearing your Birkenstocks.
  • Ignore the voice on your shoulder that keeps telling you that you’re in over your head.
  • Assume positive intent from others who question your words, thoughts and actions (even if you know they don’t have your best interest in mind). It will help you be courageous enough to break a rule that must be broken.
  • Strategy, empathy, and passion are magical elements of the emotional intelligence you need to break those rules.
  • Effective rule-breaking must be a conscious, strategic choice.
  • Eggs will break when you make an omelet. Be prepared for the backlash, but also embrace the possibilities and up-sides.
  • An acronym for FEAR – false evidence appearing real.
  • Be respectful and appreciative of those who come before you, breaking the ground. Namaste, I honor you by bowing down



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