Monthly Archives: July 2015

Monthly Mentions: July 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:

 Getting to 50%: Where Women-Founded Companies Are Gaining Ground on the Huffington Post

On my blog this month, I wrote:

How I Use Precious Downtime to Recharge

On my LinkedIn page this month, I shared:

Sustaining a Thriving Corporate Culture, cross-posted on the RingCentral blog

Steer Clear of that Glass Cliff

Holding a Position within Your Startup, from Start to Outcome

On the RingCentral blog this month, I wrote:

It’s All about the Team

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: Getting to 50%: Where Women-Founded Companies Are Gaining Ground

 

This month on the Huffington Post, I share some good news regarding the future of women in tech.  Sometimes, it can feel like there’s a nonstop barrage of news about the challenges that female tech entrepreneurs face. Recently, I moderated a panel of women tech leaders who feel differently. We used our airtime on that panel to focus on the positive, sharing the gains and strategies that have helped us to become successful.

In that vein, I’m happy to have come across some good news: a Crunchbase study recently indicated that companies led by women founders are trending upward, noting that 17.91% of companies seeking funding in 2014 were women-led, up from 9.52% in 2009. The Crunchbase study also showed where these founders are most likely to be located — and, much to my surprise, the answer: not in Silicon Valley!

To learn more about where women-founded companies are gaining ground, please click here to read my piece on HuffPo.

How do you view the future of women-founded companies? What do you think needs to happen for it to be yet more promising?

 

Steer Clear Of That Glass Cliff

A struggling organization hires a female leader, and she inherits a company in crisis. She can’t quickly generate the momentum needed to fix the problems. The Board of Directors replaces her with a seasoned, white male. This is what Michelle Ryan and Alexander Haslam, of the University of Exeter, call the “glass cliff,” the theory that women are more frequently hired into precarious roles, not positioned to succeed, and eventually replaced with men.

Ryan and Haslam also argue that a woman’s typically more inclusive, collaborative qualities are the reason she was hired in the first place. Companies in crisis are looking for leaders who can bring the whole team along. But when a quick turnaround is unsuccessful and she gets “pushed off the cliff,” the episode can perpetuate the false notion that women leaders are less capable than men.

Women from Jill Abramson at The New York Times to Sallie Krawcheck, former head of Merrill Lynch and Smith Barney, have fallen into this pattern. Some speculate that Mary Barra at General Motors or Marissa Mayer at Yahoo could be the next victims of this dynamic.

As a female leader in the predominantly male enterprise software industry, I have developed techniques over the years to manage my own career and to advise younger women to avoid the most common pitfalls. Below are highlights of my process before jumping into a new role and top tips for being a woman in a mostly male environment.

Before Taking That Role: Do Your Homework.

An executive leadership role at a company with huge potential for growth is a valuable opportunity. But even if the company has a respectable brand and a reputable past, it’s your job to be “buyer beware” before you say “yes.” Gain a firm understanding of what you’re inheriting. Hold the organization under a magnifying glass and scrutinize the opportunity. Ask yourself the following questions:

Who are you replacing? Did the previous person leave of their own free will or were they let go? Get an idea of their experience, successes, and failures within the organization.

Do you believe in the team that’s in place? Are they the kind of people you want to work with? Make sure you spend enough time with the team to get a feel for their strengths and weaknesses, and ensure that you have enough buy-in with them to hit the ground running.

What are the organization’s short- and long-term goals? Before entering a role, it’s important to understand expectations. What does the organization need to accomplish in the next few months or years? Do you feel like you’d have the resources and support to meet those expectations and goals? Did you feel like you were fully aligned with the board and senior management on the goals during the interview process? Are you passionate about what you are going to take on? The job will be challenging, so early alignment is essential for everything you’ll build upon.

What’s the financial state of the company? You should have working knowledge of past financial performance and an idea of quarterly projections for the upcoming year. Since financial goals are commonly aligned with organizational goals, expectations for the role could likely hinge on financial performance metrics. Ask yourself if this is something you’d like to invest in.

Once on Board: Don’t Be Your Gender, Be a High-Ranking Executive. 

Acknowledge differences, and get to work. While gender differences exist, they don’t have to dominate your thoughts or behavior, or the way you view yourself or others. Instead of identifying as a person confined to or defined by your gender role, think of yourself as a human being in a high-ranking role.

Recognize that universal business skills are gender neutral. Whether you were hired to “save” the company or to keep it on track, you are incredibly accomplished and qualified in your work. Trust your expertise and confidently lead your team. Once you’ve made a decision, stick to your guns. Know when to take responsibility. Be open to advice from your team and employee feedback. Ignore the expectation of failure and focus on job you do best. Have some fun. Be yourself. Be a woman. And if you have family, remember they come first: not because you are a woman, but because they are your family.

Don’t sweat the haters. Everywhere you go, you’ll encounter some people who will try to throw you off your game with nasty remarks, inappropriate comments or other insidious behavior. My technique has always been to wear blinders. Ignore the small stuff. We’re in a changing society, and the only way to drive change is to hold ourselves to a higher standard. You can’t control others; the only person you can control is yourself.

Use differences to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to dress like yourself; be as feminine as you’re comfortable being. I like the fact that now I can wear heels and a skirt to the office. Learn to be comfortable around men: go to the cigar bars, and tolerate conversations about sports. Try to assert yourself by offering a different perspective: a joke, or an observation about opera.

Most of all, stay positive! Stick to your guns. Keep your eye on the ball. Ignore obstacles. Try your best. It’s up to us to break the barriers, and there are more barriers breaking now than ever.

This post originally appeared in Forbes on July 7, 2014. It also appeared on LinkedIn on July 20, 2015.

How I Use Precious Downtime to Recharge

 

On the heels of my recent LinkedIn post about corporate culture and how companies can focus on creating good office lives for their employees, there is a flip-side to share on the importance of downtime. Here, another summer weekend is at hand, and I am really looking forward to some time spent relaxing outdoors, especially. What do you do when you’re not at work?

Recently, I’ve spent so much time traveling that I really look forward to weekends at home as a way to rest, relax, and recharge. When I am in the office, my weekdays run late, and I often come home too late to eat a real dinner, even. The only true time to myself is the time I allocate to staying in shape, which I believe is critical for both health and productivity reasons. So when the weekend arrives, my husband and I follow a lovely, casual routine in which we take walks together, cook homemade meals with fresh produce from the farmers’ market, play some chess, maybe see a movie, and also bask in some time to ourselves to read, just to “be,” or to catch up on work and related publications. I try to restrict myself to no more than one social activity on these weekends, sometimes not even that, because it is really important to me to have obligation-free time in contrast to my obligation-heavy work schedule – and I also want to always have time to visit family. When I talk with friends who are successful executives and entrepreneurs, they share that they, too, value and protect their weekend time in similar ways.

When you are on the leadership team at a successful tech company, the idea of taking a true vacation away from it all is pretty unrealistic. Our environment is too fast-paced to afford much of a break! So I always have my phone and e-mail available when there is connectivity, and I’m usually connected. Fortunately, even vacations have luxurious weekends! During these times when we travel for pleasure, my family likes to go to places where we can experience a balance of culture, great food, and being pampered a bit during the summer, and, in the winter, we ski with our kids. I have friends who love cruising and those who prefer active, extreme travel. We all rejuvenate in different ways. Even if going on vacation isn’t a perfect break from all work, not being in the office, enjoying a different setting, and not having back-to-back meetings goes a long way to helping all of us to re-energize.

I’d love to hear your summer plans and what you do in your cherished personal time.

Sustaining a Thriving Corporate Culture

At some point around the turn of the century, when cubicles were on their way out, the open-office was on its way in, and always-on work was building, the conversation around corporate culture shifted from how we spend our time in the office to how we enjoy our office life. No one works 9 to 5 anymore, and the importance of a work environment in which folks are comfortable living as they work cannot be underestimated. No one wants to live in his or her office, but, since most of us spend a lot of time there, it is really important for companies to remain focused on how to optimize employees’ experiences at work.

There is no doubt that a positive, engaging, and energizing company culture is critical to the attraction and retention of great employees. My company, RingCentral, moved office locations recently to the beautiful hills of Belmont, CA, where we can offer employees even more reasons to feel good about our shared workplace. At our new site, we’ve created environments in which we can be around each other in different settings, formal and informal. Within a shared gourmet café serving organic and sustainable food and within a gym, our paths can cross socially, and not just over conference tables. Many companies in Silicon Valley are feeding their employees meals as a perk these days, and I think that is a positive trend in corporate culture. Not only does it save employees time and money, it also boosts morale; at long last, there actually is such a thing as a free lunch! This doesn’t prevent employees from brown-bagging or going out, of course; it’s just a nice option to have that makes us all feel good and feel like we have one less thing to worry about in a packed business day. The same is true of the gym. Plenty of us have external gym memberships, and now we have an option on-site if we want to squeeze in yoga at lunchtime or half an hour on the elliptical trainer between work and driving our kids to sports practices.

Beyond on-site benefits, we’ve found it important to offer off-sites too, that engage us on a social as well as on a business-level. For example, for our top sales folks, called our “President’s Club,” RingCentral’s leadership recently spent four days on vacation in Hawaii with these folks and their families. We’re all busy people with social and family lives of our own, but, as leaders, taking the time to say “thank you” to the folks who’ve helped the company to grow by leaps and bounds is extremely important. It sends a message to employees that they matter at a personal level. This improves morale, retention, and, ultimately, growth.

Positive corporate culture isn’t just about perks and fun events though; it’s also very much about inclusiveness and results. Considering and treating staff as stakeholders in a company and not just as employees in a hierarchical relationship is extremely important. My company includes staff in a regular meeting cadence through quarterly all-hands meetings in which executives openly discuss quarterly results and plans. These meetings are important to every employee’s sense of being part of a team that is included in major company conversations. As well, every quarter, new employees come together for orientation at our headquarters in Silicon Valley. They meet executive leadership as well as people from each department to get a sense for the full team with whom they work, whether their home base is in the UK, in China, in North Carolina, in one of our other offices, or at home. Employees who don’t work at our headquarters are no less important than those that do, and we want to make sure to send all staff, new and old, a clear message that we’re all on the same team regardless of work location. Our team-building continues quarterly department by department, too, with each team encouraged to plan off-site activities, like the marketing team’s recent cooking tour in San Francisco.

Building and maintaining corporate culture like this isn’t something needed only when companies are in early-stage, high-growth modes. Especially as companies get bigger and bigger, blending different teams – like engineering and marketing, for example – becomes more and more important. The more that different parts of the company understand each other, the better for everyone’s success. RingCentral is now over 18 months post-IPO, has more people, and is more global than ever, and we are focusing on corporate culture in even more exciting ways. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the support and commitment of our outstanding employees. Keeping them, which means keeping them happy, is important. Establishing and growing a company is one thing; keeping it growing and cutting-edge takes a different level of commitment from those who brought it to success in the first place. All leaders who are passionate about positive company culture can and should work hard to pay attention to what we each need in order to bring our best selves to the jobs at hand, from perks and rewards to daily mindfulness of our employees as stakeholders in our company.

What does your company do to build and to improve its corporate culture?

This piece originally appeared on LinkedIn on July 7, 2015 and on the RingCentral blog on July 8, 2015.