Monthly Archives: April 2015

Monthly Mentions: April 2015

 

Monthly Mentions recaps my publications, citations, and appearances 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:

What the Kleiner Perkins Trial Really Means for Gender in Silicon Valley on the Huffington Post

On my blog this month, I wrote:

Israel’s Exciting Innovations in Cyber Security

This Month on HuffPo: What the Kleiner Perkins Trial Really Means for Gender in Silicon Valley

The New Workplace: Leading Successfully Across Generations

On the RingCentral blog, I wrote:

Latest 7.1 update of RingCentral Office Delivers Security and Quality in Business Communications

On my LinkedIn page this month, I shared:

Silicon Valley Thinks Women Equal Success

What the Kleiner Perkins Trial Really Means for Gender in Silicon Valley

I’m featured in:

RingCentral’s Kira Makagon | Women of Influence 2015 in the Silicon Valley Business Journal

If you are interested in inviting Kira Makagon to guest-author a piece on your site or to speak to your organization, please contact Evie Goldstein, RingCentral’s public relations manager,  via e-mail, evelin.goldstein at ringcentral.com. Thanks!

The New Workplace: Leading Successfully Across Generations

 

Last month, I was honored to speak at the San Francisco Women in Leadership Symposium on the topic of “The New Workplace: Leading Successfully Across Generations.” As someone passionate about diversity in the workplace, this topic and forum provided me with an opportunity to delve into concerns and benefits of an increasingly disparate age range in the workplace. The thoughts below are what I offered on-stage.

A few years ago, Wells Fargo surveyed 1,000 Americans between the ages of 25 and 75 about their retirement plans. Some of the findings were shocking, including that 30% of the people surveyed believed they would be working until 80 in order to have a comfortable retirement. And, generally, those same middle-class Americans believed they would be living near the poverty line in their retirement, collecting about half of their present income per year – about $25,000.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I find the data from that survey to be unnerving. I don’t want to work until I’m 80, and I don’t want to be in poverty when I retire. I have to plan accordingly. And, as a leader of a technology company, I don’t have to plan only for myself. I have to plan for a future in which I may be managing eighty year-olds alongside twenty year-olds. What is that going to look like?

The situation right now doesn’t look like this. Right now, if you’re middle-aged or older in America, you have an uphill battle if you have to get a job, especially if you’re a woman.  I have some personal experience with this. A close friend of mine, a woman who attended Berkeley at the same time as I did, recently found herself laid off after many years with the same company, replaced by two younger people under the pretense that her job would be eliminated.  This mid-level manager always reaped top reviews and led teams who loved her, but she lost her job anyway. She is struggling to find new work and is faced with some difficult choices: does she have to take a step back after years in a leadership position? or try a new industry? She’s in her fifties and plans to work for at least another 10-15 years – but, if she’s on the longer-term plan, that could turn into 30 years! That’s decades and decades of value that she might add to a company – and valuable, she is, but when she walks into a room full of twenty-somethings to interview for a new tech job, the deck is stacked against her in so many ways. You may have seen a fairly-recent cover of Newsweek recently, decrying “What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women.” Well, I wrote a response to that on the Huffington Post, pointing out that, actually, women-led companies are producing returns on investments 30% higher than male-led companies – so I think that Silicon Valley should think that women are successful and valuable additions to the landscape. But we all know that it doesn’t work that way. We need to look no further than the recent Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins trial to note how gender issues are still pervasive in the workplace, something I wrote about in this month’s Huffington Post. Just as sexism and gender discrimination remain real issues for women at work, so does ageism. For people like my friend, who are both female and middle-aged, finding work right now is too hard; this makes working until 80 seem impossible.

But, it’s reality. So we need to plan for a future in which sixty years may divide our employees. The subject at hand is “leading across generations,” and here’s how I plan to do it.

For starters, I work hard not to be ageist or sexist. In fact, diversity in the workplace is good in every way. It’s something about which I’m passionate, and I put some time into advocating for it. I write a lot about it on this blog, actually. To give a specific example, at my current company, RingCentral, we have a Women’s Leadership Council that meets regularly to discuss issues that women are facing in our workplace. Men are welcome in these meetings too; I believe in a gender-neutral workplace, really. As someone who has made it to the top, I know that part of my role is setting a positive tone for all of my employees. I aim for that tone to be one that offers support, not judgment, for women of all ages who work alongside me. All managers have to embrace the reality that there are women who, like me, work consistently from college graduation through retirement. But there are also women – and, actually, men – who take time off for family matters, whether to raise kids or to care for aging parents. There are also folks who take sabbaticals of sorts, traveling the world for a couple of years, or employees who are on their second or third career when they arrive at our door. Sure, the number of relevant years in the workforce is a consideration when hiring someone, but there is also a place for people anywhere along that continuum as well as people who are smart and curious and changing jobs. I don’t punish people for taking time out of the workforce or for trying something new. Rather, I reward their work. A carrot is always better than a stick when it comes to leadership.

Being realistic in our hiring practices has a lot to do with leading a vast age group. Google hires based on aptitude, not just experience. In other words, what you’ve done matters less than what you can do. Imagine if my fifty-something friend, a highly-skilled manager, were interviewed in that light. She’d be a top-pick! So it’s not just factoring in someone’s depth of experience that should matter; we must also factor in potential. Does a sixty year-old have potential? Ask someone at Hewlett Packard, where the median age is 39. That’s right – 39! IBM and Oracle’s median age is 38. I know some sixty-somethings and seventy-somethings at these companies. They are not only working hard, but they are able to offer a lot of “back in the day” tech-talk that I value. Their contribution to the corporate climate matters as much as the younger set making us all feel good as they have their first babies, or the older folks who are sending their kids off to college and having their first grandkids. We all want to feel good in the workplace. And when we don’t have wide representation across age groups, the climate just isn’t as warm. If you want to know what I mean, walk across the Google campus. Despite their hiring practices, the average age is 30. It feels exciting to be there, but, if you’re much over even 40, you may not feel like you belong. Will an 80 year-old work there someday? It doesn’t seem like it right now. I hope that their hiring practices are examining that disparity.

Let’s also embrace the positive elements of each other’s presence in the work force, too, whether you’re young or not-so-young anymore. Those of us who remember what it was like to work in tech when we had to wear business suits are grateful to today’s millennial staffers for introducing us to much more casual dress in the workplace, although my own mother is a bit horrified at this change. When she saw me on-stage at the Launch.co hackathon recently, she did not approve of my wearing jeans. For me, this is a wonderful option, as it must be for men who no longer need to wear ties everyday, at least not here in Northern California.

The last thing I’d like to say about managing across generations is that management is management. We cannot manage our twentysomething work force any differently than we’d manage a sixtysomething one. Flexible work schedules are something to consider, here, too. I’m not a big believer in facetime or in 9 to 5 clock-punching. This means that, at my company, I pay careful attention to who’s getting his or her work done. I don’t care how or when they do it – just that they do the job for which they’re hired. As more companies adopt this, I think that, naturally, the workforce will have wider age representation. Whether it’s flexibility to work around children’s school schedules or a desire to sleep in a bit later, flexibility is key to managing across generations – not just to hiring a wide and valuable variety of people, but also to keeping them happy. Retention increases as flexibility does, and this, especially is something to consider as we look at managing across generations.

This Month on HuffPo: What the Kleiner Perkins Trial Really Means for Gender in Silicon Valley

 

This month on the Huffington Post, I offer my thoughts on what the Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins trial really means for gender in Silicon Valley. Since I often write and speak about the importance of gender diversity in the workplace, I followed this trial with great interest, as the issues it raised are significant factors in many women’s everyday work lives. The dialogue that this case sparked with regard to issues of gender at work is an important one that I hope will continue long after the news interest in this sensational case wanes.

To me, Pao’s case really wasn’t about its specific outcome; it was about shining a spotlight on issues of gender discrimination and sexism that we all know exist. It’s my hope that the attention on these important issues results not in more legal action but, rather, in more open-mindedness to gender issues accompanied by a desire to deal with these issues constructively. In my companies, I strive to implement gender-neutral policies as one effective approach.

For more of my thoughts on the significance of this trial and on how businesses can be more mindful of gender issues, please click here to read my original piece on the Huffington Post.

Israel’s Exciting Innovations in Cyber Security

image2

For a couple of years now, tech industry press has been alluding to Silicon Wadi in Israel as the next Silicon Valley. Recently, I went on a 3-day cyber security mission to Israel, organized by Dr. Harry Saal, which included attending Israel’s cyber security conference, Cybertech 2015. I was able to experience first-hand the exciting innovation that is happening in Israel in the arena of cyber security. Security is a top concern for companies of all sizes. With the rise of cloud computing, ubiquitous application access, mobile, and BYOD trends, the arena of cyber-security, which covers security vulnerabilities, fraud, and more, is growing significantly. Perhaps it comes as no surprise that Israel, where there are also significant existential threats, is evolving as the world’s cyber security innovation hub. As IT World puts it, there are now as many cyber security start-ups in Beer-Sheva as there are Starbucks in Seattle!

We spent our first day at Ben Gurion University, about which I have written before. I especially enjoyed touring BGU’s cyber security labs. BGU has become the hub of Israeli cyber security research and innovation and has contributed greatly to the establishment of Cyber Spark, the Israeli Cyber Innovation Arena established with the National Cyber Bureau. As part of the mission, I enjoyed meeting a number of local VCs investing heavily into security alongside a number of founders/startups, many of which are emerging out of the BGU labs. In addition, Israeli Defense Forces are helping to turn Beer-Sheva, the city in the Negev desert where BGU campuses are located, into the country’s cyber capital. The IDF’s elite telecommunications and intelligences units are being relocated to Beer-Sheva to leverage the University’s education and research environment while also fostering collaboration with the international corporate giants investing in the space. For example, the research these labs are doing is attracting widespread global interest, including from the US, China, Europe, and Australia. Major corporations such as IBM, Deutsche Telecomm, EMC, and PayPal are all establishing R&D centers at Israel’s cyber park.

Our hosts at BGU included its president, Professor Rivka Carmi, and its cyber security lab director Professor Yuval Elovici. Prof. Carmi is a real force of nature. Her vision for BGU as well as her enthusiasm, passion, and hard work have driven BGU to its position as a world-renowned academic institution and center for cyber security. This trip was not the first time I’ve met Prof. Elovici, whose out-of-the-box thinking is unparalleled. Discussions with him about security risks emerging with the evolution of drones and the Internet of Things were eye-opening. All of us participating in the mission learned so much about different areas of security, innovating ways of attacking problems, and how the lab’s research teams work in collaboration with startups and other enterprises. We covered topics like mobile network security, secure phones, application of big data analytics, detection of unknown malware, data misuse detection via user profiling and sensitive content representation, and protecting critical infrastructures via various methods of detecting anomalies in servers and communication. Fellow conference participant Dudu Mimran blogged about some of these topics, and you can read his thoughts here.

I remain in awe of the entrepreneurial spirit of the Israelis, who are working within geopolitical constraints and using those constraints to their advantage by becoming world leaders in cyber security. On a personal note, for as long as I can remember, Israel has been important to my family. Growing up Jewish in Russia, then immigrating to the US in my teen years, our family always viewed Israel as a democratic, pluralistic safety zone. We’ve remained passionate about working to keep Israel a vibrant intellectual, academic, and entrepreneurial community despite its obvious geopolitical challenges. As I have found success within the constraints of beginning among the only women in Berkeley’s computer science program, I can relate to how Israelis continue to strive hard to attain success amid a challenging climate, especially in an arena as critical as cyber security. I can’t wait to see what comes out of Silicon Wadi next.Dr. Harry Saal's Cyber Security Mission - BGU President, Prof. Rivka Carmi appears with her arm around Kira Makagon The photo above is of those traveling on Dr. Harry Saal’s Cyber Security Mission to Israel, including Kira Makagon in back, with BGU President Prof. Rivka Carmi’s arm around her.