Monthly Archives: January 2015

Monthly Mentions: January 2015

A new feature on this blog, Monthly Mentions, will recap my publications and citations for the month. My goal is to share broadly my thoughts on women in technology leadership, cloud technology, entrepreneurship, and more.

In the press this month, I published:

Why 2015 Will Be the Year of the B2C Cloud on SYS-CON Media

5 Keys to Gaining the Edge in the Start-up Game on The Huffington Post

5 Tips to Convert Cloud Skeptics on Cloud Computing Journal

On my blog this month, I wrote:

Why 2015 Will Be the Year the Cloud Improves Your Work Life

This Month on HuffPo: 5 Keys to Gaining the Edge in the Start-up Game

What Does It Mean to Be a Leader Who Molds Consensus?

Taking on Sexist Comments in the Workplace

I’m featured in:

4 Trends in Workplace Communication on CMSWire

Lastly, I’m quoted in some great pieces, too, including:

Use of ‘Over-the-Top’ Communication Apps in the Workplace on Software Advice

Most Business Owners Won’t Give up Sex for Business Success on Small Biz Daily

Top 5 Enterprise Cloud Computing Predictions for 2015 on Latisphere, the Latisys corporate blog

Taking on sexist comments in the workplace

Early in my career, I was the only woman in a meeting full of male executives. Though I was as much a participant as anyone else around the table, the visiting executives from Japan pretended I did not exist – until the moment that one of them turned to me and asked me for some coffee. They just assumed that I was an assistant, not a stakeholder, since I was the only female in the room. At the time, that sort of behavior was typical of what I experienced in meetings, sort of like something out of the show Mad Men: “My girl will get you some coffee.” I don’t get asked for coffee anymore, so hey — we’ve come a long way! Or have we?

The statistics on women in board positions remain dreary; we are still way too outnumbered. And on a fairly regular basis, we continue to be on the receiving end of comments about the lengths of our skirts or the height of our heels. Those comments get old fast. I used to think that sexist remarks were something I could ignore. I would say to myself, “I won’t let this behavior stand in my way.” But the more I think about it, coming up with an action plan for how to address these situations is important to paving the way toward work environments that will succeed in attracting and retaining more women.

To that end, we need to look at the problem of sexist comments in the workplace in a way that will make a positive difference. As a leader, I know that creating a warm, welcoming, fair environment for all employees is an important goal. Thinking about this constructively, I wonder: if a man was the only male executive in a meeting, would he be uncomfortable sharing a table with an otherwise all-woman executive team? He might be. It’s not strange that it’s taken a while for women to get comfortable. Anyone outnumbered is going to feel a bit uncomfortable. The difference is that men don’t receive the type of negative comments that women do.

It’s important to note that there’s a lot that we need to do to make sure that when there are women around the table, they are more included. That will be the subject of other blog posts. Meanwhile, there are things that we can do right now to make sure that women change the dialogue when sexist remarks are made.

There are ways to speak up and change the tone of male-dominant meetings without being rude or confrontational. For example, the next time someone says “among us boys” while I’m in a meeting, I’m going to be quick to chime in with “and among us girls, too.” I earned my seat at that table, and I won’t be discounted or dismissed. And when someone tells me for the umpteenth time “don’t look at it like a woman,” my reply will be “why not? It might actually help!” I’ve written a lot about valuing diversity in the workplace, and it’s time to recognize again that we all have valuable perspectives. I can share that and help us all move forward.

Now, it’s your turn. Have you had sexist remarks made to you in the workplace? What would be a constructive way to respond if those remarks were made again today?

What does it mean to be a leader who molds consensus?

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I’d like to think about one of his great quotes: “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” What does it mean to be a leader who molds consensus?

At RingCentral, I seek to mold consensus in a few key ways. Consensus, by definition, means “agreement.” In a corporate setting, this translates to an alignment of purpose. Setting common goals and working toward them brings a company into alignment. This has to be done on a global level as well as on a department-level or on a project-by-project basis. Measuring on common goals gives clear indicators when things are falling out of alignment. Good leaders know how to set good goals and how to manage them so that their companies stay on-track.

Molding consensus isn’t as easy as setting and measuring goals, though. A very key piece of it is making sure that those around you have a voice in the process. Did you see Selma, the biopic on Dr. King that’s in theaters right now? Note in that movie how, when Dr. King made decisions on how to move the civil rights movement forward, he didn’t make any decision – whether to march or not, whether to visit the White House again or not, etc. — in a vacuum. He sought input from those around him, from his “team,” regularly. He molded consensus through asking those around him to voice their positions and to provide solutions. Since they shared common goals, they compromised on methods to reach them much more easily. Consensus is best achieved through that commonality as a starting point.

That said, those who disagree and who are not part of the “consensus” play a valuable role, too. Consensus cannot be forced. By way of an example, think about the differences between Dr. King’s movement and that of Malcolm X. Both shared and worked toward a common goal of civil rights. Dr. King built consensus through “negotiate, demonstrate, resist.”  Malcolm X attempted to build consensus “by any means necessary.” Both leaders were valuable to the civil rights movement. That said, think: for which one would you have rather worked?

In today’s workplace, different forces can work toward common goals. After all, groupthink can be stifling while competition can be healthy and can drive innovation. A good leader always will bring end results back to one unified team and purpose, though. Molding consensus involves acknowledging different inputs but also must make sure that anyone on the “losing” end of a competitive atmosphere is always given another chance to succeed the next time around. This is how we remain the same team, ultimately: by feeling like we all have a voice and a shot at a solution or goal as a part of a bigger unit. There’s no room in consensus-molding for fear but there ought to be some for risk-taking, as long as it’s understood and gated with frequent milestones.

Lastly, what does a leader seeking to mold consensus do with “superstars?” Encourage them! Guide them to collaborate, though. They need to understand that without team buy-in, long-term success is not viable. Leaders also need to address those who aren’t necessarily superstars but who may be stubborn. Help those folks to understand their motivation and their role within the sense of the team.

Setting and measuring goals, having an alignment of purpose, and being welcoming of different voices, competition, and risk-taking all serve to create an atmosphere where consensus is not something to be sought but, rather, is something that just is central to the ethos of a company. Good leaders can mold this in a sense very true to the work of Dr. King, through negotiation and demonstration and through resisting anything contrary to the shared end-goal.

How do you mold consensus in your workplace? 

This month on HuffPo: 5 Keys to Gaining the Edge in the Startup Game

This month on the Huffington Post, I discuss keys to achieving start-up success. Being aware of what is takes to succeed in start-up leadership is critical not only to reaching success but to staying there, too. There are no secrets to what I do. In fact, paying attention to what successful start-up leaders have done and continue to do will yield a fountain of valuable information. Recent New York Times pieces, including one on Stanford’s class of 1994 and a related Op-Ed, have examined some of those who’ve “made it,” as well as some who haven’t, in a way that might make success in the start-up game seem intangible. Not so! Read my piece on HuffPo to learn how you can use the five keys of skill, hard work, history, difference, and luck to your advantage in the start-up game.

What keys would you add to my list?

Why 2015 Will Be the Year the Cloud Improves Your Work Life

Predictions are everywhere as a new year begins. Just like with weather forecasting, guessing what lies ahead in tech can be tricky. After all, the climate can change at any given moment.

That said, I’m confident 2015 will be a bigger-than-ever year in tech. We’ll see significant expansion in cloud-based enterprise solutions that give both workers and their companies maximum flexibility.

Here’s what I look forward to this year:

Cloud communication technologies will continue to swim upstream into enterprise, especially for geographically-distributed companies and companies with a mobile workforce. Cloud unifies communication and enables collaboration in a way nothing else can. For this reason, it’s just going to get bigger and bigger.

Work-from-home and flexible-hours will resurge. A couple of years ago, Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer made big news by ending her company’s work-from-home program. But requiring face-time in an office is an outdated practice, especially when our communications are facilitated so easily by cloud communication technologies. Even without that, we have the ability to videoconference while walking around on our mobile phones! This year, I see flexible office-hours and working-from-home trending upward in tech companies.

Even manufacturing will require less physical presence. As manufacturing automates through robots, solid modeling and strong data analytics will matter more than location and cost. The cloud will store this data.

In fact, everything will be automating more. Workers’ productivity will increase as machine learning becomes more commonplace. Companies can use machines to handle the processing and storage large amounts of data seamlessly, freeing workers up to do more creative things that machines cannot do. I suspect that as machine-led automation increases, so will human-driven innovation.

Along those same lines, data crunching will continue to become more powerful and less expensive. This means many good things. In health care, for example, DNA testing will become less expensive, more available, and more mainstream. This will enable medical treatments to become more specific and effective as they’re personalized for every patient.

Internet-of-Things (IoT) enabled devices and appliances will become more mainstream as they adapt for enhanced security. For example, Kwikset’s Kevo door lock, which can integrate with a homeowner’s Nest through an app. This connection enables users to save energy costs, as locking the Kevo will prompt the user to set their Nest to “away” mode.  Cloud technology will matter increasingly to IoT, as it is necessary to connect disparate devices for data-gathering.

What excites you about the year ahead? I welcome your predictions in the comments.