Monthly Archives: June 2015

Monthly Mentions: June 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:

Three Ways to Innovate at Your Company on the Huffington Post

On my blog this month, I wrote:

Survive and Thrive in Tech: Takeaways from a Women’s Panel, which I cross-posted on LinkedIn and on the RingCentral blog

Women of Inspiration

On my LinkedIn page this month, I shared:

Heralding the Intelligence Age, which I cross-posted on the RingCentral blog

My Gender-Neutral Childhood: Lessons in Raising Girls who Succeed in Tech

I received an award:

Most Influential Women in Business 

I spoke at:

Silicon Valley Open Doors: Women in Tech Panel

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!

This Month on HuffPo: 3 Ways to Innovate at Your Company

 

This month on the Huffington Post, I muse about how companies generate and maintain innovation. Innovating means disrupting — challenging the status quo even for very successful products. At my company, RingCentral, we serve a growing customer base that relies on our suite of cloud communications products to run their own businesses. In support of that, we drive innovation in three different ways: by inventing and building new, native products in-house, through acquisition, and through partnerships. For examples of each of these three types of innovation, and for more of my thoughts on what innovating means, please click through to read my full piece on the Huffington Post.

What types of innovation excite you?

Survive and Thrive in Tech: Takeaways from a Women’s Panel

 

This past Wednesday evening, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel of and for Kellogg and Haas business school alumnae Women in Technology hosted by LinkedIn. Especially because I know what it’s like to be in their shoes, I truly enjoy sharing my insights as a longtime technology leader with fellow women in technology. Often I refer to myself as “the veteran ‘only woman in the room,’” and, while that gets a lot of laughs, it remains far from funny that women continue to be so very underrepresented in technology leadership positions. When I have the opportunity to share my experiences with other women – especially when a panel and the room are full of women! — I jump at the chance in hopes that we will effect some change by having these terrific conversations and inspiring each other’s progress.

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From left to right: Kirsten Wolberg, Deborah Baron, Kakul Srivastava, Kira Makagon

Panelists that evening included Kirsten Wolberg, Vice President of Technology Business Operations at PayPal; Deborah Baron, Chief Strategy officer at Align Matters; and Kakul Srivastava, Chief Executive Officer of Project Sublime. Too many wonderful insights came out of our conversation to share in one blog post. No matter what questions arose, though, our conversations focused on how to show up in the workplace as a woman with an empowered voice and presence. Here is some advice from our panel:

Know that you have a right to be in the room, and claim that right. Kakul spoke of her early days in tech, wearing baggy clothes while on her college campus and feeling like she had to hide her femininity — and of the day she realized “hey, I can wear a dress and still be taken seriously!” But on the flip side, she worried about whether or not today’s “brogrammer” culture is once again chipping away at our ability to show up as the women we are. I chimed in that “imposter syndrome” – that feeling that you don’t have a right to be in the room – remains very real in tech. The consensus of the panel was summed up eloquently by Kakul, who, pointing to Kirsten’s bright red dress, exclaimed, “You should be here – you should be here in a bright red dress!”

Stand up and be heard. Kirsten, who’s tall, pointed out that often times women have to lower conference table seats in order to be able to sit with their feet flat on the floor, instantly diminishing their stature and making them look “low.” Sometimes, it’s not enough just to have a seat at the table! Kakul, who, like me, is less tall, indicated that she stands up when she speaks, assuming a power position. Deborah suggested that in addition to standing, women would benefit from prefacing comments and questions with their name to build personal reputation or brand. Asking smart questions that engage meeting participants or speakers helps them to remember you, too.

Never compromise your values. In response to a question from Haas alumna Anca Popovici, panelists shared values that they would never compromise. For Deborah, those values were credibility and integrity; for Kakul, community, internal and external truth, and passion. I suggested confidence. Focusing on staying true to your values in the workplace will help with your sure-footing at work and, ultimately, will help your advancement as people come to know you as someone with a strong sense of who you are and as someone who sticks to your principles.

Stay connected. How fitting to attend this event at LinkedIn, which offers the ultimate in business connection tools. In many ways, the theme of “you are not alone” came up in our conversations. Women are natural community builders. Networking is critical to keeping those connections alive whether for future job searches or for these important conversations about how to advance women in our field.

Don’t count men out. When PayPal holds an annual retreat for women, 20% of attendees are men, who, Kirsten added, finally get to feel what it’s like to be in the minority gender. Drawing men into the conversation, especially as they mentor women whom they are charged with bringing up through the ranks, is very important. Kakul agrees, adding “find men who get it.” The importance of partnership with men who consider women their equals, whether at home or at work, cannot be understated. Deborah added, “find common ground.” Many men have surprised all of us with their increasing attention to issues that have, for too long, been “women’s issues,” like work/life balance. I’ve written before of how I feel a gender-neutral approach is important in many different ways. If we are ever going to achieve anything near equal representation in tech leadership, it’s going to take perseverance and willingness to do things differently for both men and women. Let’s embrace the issue of the advancement of women as an issue for everyone in the workplace.

Coming away from this panel, I felt really good. These opportunities to gather, to share stories and experiences, and to network are invaluable to us and help us to see what we can all achieve when we help to elevate each other. Thank you to LinkedIn for hosting this beneficial experience.

My Gender-Neutral Childhood: Lessons in Raising Girls Who Succeed in Tech

0Raised as the only child of Ukrainian immigrants, I never thought much about my childhood. It was certainly different from the way most of the other American kids I met grew up, and in a lot of ways, it seemed harder. (Imagine the wardrobe dilemmas of an immigrant teenager in 1980s San Francisco coming from a Soviet-bloc country, for instance.)

Lately though, I’ve been getting a lot of pointed questions about my upbringing: Did you play with Legos? Did you always love math? Were you allowed to study art, history and literature? The reason for the curiosity is clear. As a female tech entrepreneur in a predominantly male industry, people are interested in how my environment encouraged my academic and professional path toward technical learning.

More than ever, parents of young children are concerned about how to enable their children to succeed in a world where traditional occupations and industries have been upended by technology. Parents of girls especially worry that the best jobs will go to graduates who master science, math, and technology education (the so-called STEM disciplines), which tend to attract more boys. We’ve all seen the media stories about the unemployed philosophy majors.

Recognizing that every child is different, I do believe that there are certain elements of my unconventional upbringing that prepared me to be comfortable and happy building a career in a technical field. All parents pour their hopes and dreams into their children, but I now know my parents invested in me in the right ways. From early on, they provided me with the right tools to continue developing myself as an older child, teenager and into adulthood. Based on my experience, below are my top five takeaways on how to prepare a child (and especially a girl) to be prepared for a technical career.

1. Choose gender-neutral toys.

My parents did not encourage dolls, and I didn’t gravitate to them. I liked Legos and building things. My father was an engineer who designed toys in Russia. He and I would build miniature models of houses. We built whole cities with railroads and cars. The floor of my room was always crowded with our playthings.

2. Encourage sports, and not just girls-only teams.

I liked all kinds of sports. When I was younger, it was bicycles, badminton, and ping-pong. I was always fast — faster than most boys early on. I loved ice skating, and because I was very fast, I could play hockey with boys. For this reason, I always had a lot of friends who were boys. I grew up comfortable around boys, confident in my natural ability and with very little fear.

3. Treat your sons and daughters as individuals, not as gender stereotypes.

As an only child, my parents gave me lots of attention and treated me purely as an individual — not like a stereotypical girl. My dad treated me the same as he would any son. We played hockey together, and he took me to sporting events.

4. Emphasize the importance of leadership at an early age.

My mother, a Russian-literature teacher, encouraged me to be a class leader and participate in class (even if I found the lessons boring). She and I had long talks about leadership. She impressed upon me the need to excel in school. Even a B was unacceptable. I became class president in elementary school and learned to enjoy leading others.

5. Pursue music, chess and logic problems.

I practiced piano for two hours a day, loved the math olympiad, and enjoyed solving logic problems in my spare time. These weren’t treated as nerdy or antisocial but as valid and valuable pursuits to develop my mind and capabilities.

 This piece originally appeared on Time.com on August 1, 2014. It also appeared on LinkedIn on June 9, 2015.

Women of Inspiration

 

In February on the Huffington Post, I wrote about how Silicon Valley thinks women equal success. Ongoing, I plan to share examples of high-impact women leaders in high tech. In that HuffPo piece, I referenced Cindy Padnos, founder of Illuminate Ventures and a mentor of mine. With an impressive list of advisory board members that includes a significant number of women, Padnos’ early-stage VC firm illustrates that there can – and, I think, should – be more women at every leadership table. Oftentimes, it seems that equal gender representation seems far off not only in the Valley but in any boardroom. When we celebrate that there actually are a host of women doing amazing things in positions of high tech leadership, the high tech landscape will be a lot more desirable for future generations of women.

If I were to gather a group of women leaders who could serve as role models to today’s college-aged women who are aspiring to careers in high tech, who would I choose? There are so many candidates, like Cindy Padnos and like me. Here is who else I’d include:

Donna Horton Novitsky: Donna is CEO of Yiftee, a digital gifting solution. As her profile on Yiftee’s site reads, “Depending on how you count them, Yiftee is Donna’s 3rd or 19th start-up. She is also a former partner of a top tier venture capital firm [and] teaches marketing to engineers and entrepreneurs at Stanford University.” When I ran engineering at Scopus, Donna was the VP of Marketing at Clarify; Clarify and Scopus were competitors. I held her in very high regard then, as I do now. We sit on the Illuminate council together.

Amal Johnson: Among her past positions, Amal was president of Baan Americas, which made enterprise software. She was also at Lightspeed partners when Lightspeed invested in Exigen, where I was president. We now serve together, along with Donna, on the Illuminate advisory council. Listing Amal’s many advisory board positions would be exhausting, and those many honors reflect that she and her leadership capacity are held in very high regard.

Victoria Treyger: Currently CMO at Kabbage, which provides instant financing to online merchants and small businesses, Victoria was CMO at RingCentral prior to my joining the RingCentral team. Originally, I met Victoria through RingCentral CEO, Founder, and Chairman of the Board Vlad Shmunis when Victoria worked at Travelocity. I remain impressed by the career she has built in marketing leadership in high tech.

Heidi Roizen: Currently Operating Partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Heidi is a Silicon Valley native who founded and served as CEO of T/Maker, an early personal computer software company. She serves on a number of advisory boards and teaches a class called “Spirit of Entrepreneurship” in Stanford’s MS&E department. Along with Donna and Amal, we sit on the Illuminate council together. I met Heidi through my uncle Nahum Guzik, an entrepreneur and inventor; Heidi’s father and my uncle were good friends. Heidi’s networking prowess is legendary; in fact, there is an HBS case about it.

Leyla Seka: Leyla is SVP & GM Desk.com at salesforce.com. I have enjoyed it when our paths have crossed at women in leadership events. Importantly, Leyla has played a significant role in the advancement of women in positions of tech leadership: she inspired Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff to guarantee equal pay for women in their company. Leyla, Heidi, Donna, Amal, and I serve on the Illuminate advisory council together.

This is just the beginning of a list of impressive women with whom I’d love to have a dinner table conversation about the future. I’d ask these women for their thoughts on gender-neutral workplaces, and I’d also ask them how they’d encourage future generations of women to follow in our footsteps.

What questions would you ask this group, and who would you add to the list?