Author Archives: Kira Makagon

About Kira Makagon

Kira Makagon is a successful serial entrepreneur and tech industry leader. A graduate of UC Berkeley with both an undergraduate degree in computer science and an MBA, she enjoys sharing her lessons learned from being a veteran “only woman in the room.” Kira's recent awards and recognitions include the following: 2015 YWCA Silicon Valley Tribute to Women Award 2015 Golden Bridge Business and Innovation Awards Named to Silicon Valley Business Journal Women of Influence in 2015 Named to SF Business Times Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business for 2015 and 2016 2016 Bay Area CIO Awards finalist

How Do You Entertain Yourself?

This summer, I’ve noticed a shift in my consumption of entertainment. With longer days at hand alongside some vacation time, I’ve enjoyed exploring the entertainment options available to me, largely media delivered through my laptop or my iPad. Didn’t everyone used to plop down on the couch with one person wielding the remote control, bringing up the cable menu and debating about what to watch? Nowadays in my family’s house, our TV is rarely on, with the exceptions being Warriors games, the Super Bowl, and the Oscars. Instead, sometimes we sit on the couch next to each other with each of us watching programming of our choosing on our own devices. Sometimes my husband will be watching one miniseries while I stream another. It feels as though we each have our own channels with our own preferences. I’m wondering: does anyone rely on traditional “programming” anymore?

The whole notion of watching TV together has changed. The differentiation of everything is possible now, and a lot of the programming delivered is handled in such a way that content is king. No one binge watches movies, which are a complete experience in 2.5 hours. Instead, we have the ongoing experience of lengthy seasons of shows ranging from politics, like House of Cards, to history like The Tudors, to fantasy, like Game of Thrones, that we can watch and re-watch from the convenience of our devices. The experience of watching the latest season is akin to the hype that builds for a new movie, but it’s not just a one-time experience: it repeats, week after week, until the season is complete. If you’re like me, you binge-watch more on weekends or vacation time, at your own convenience, no longer beholden to a specific viewing time or place or to DVRs, which I believe will soon become as obsolete as VHS and even DVD players. We want our leisure viewing to be delivered on-demand when it’s convenient and desirable for us, and entertainment providers have delivered.

To me, this shift in entertainment consumption in favor of our comfort and convenience is akin to the shift I see in the workforce in favor of the same. Increasingly mobile, flexible workforces seek to maximize their workday alongside maximizing their flexibility  for the rest of their life or lifestyle, including leisure time pursuits like watching the latest miniseries. Flexibility is the wave of the 21st century, and I believe we’ll be seeing more and more entertainment trends catering to our desire to have what we want to watch or to play at our fingertips when we’re ready, wherever we are.

2016 Wrap-up

Since posting this summer reading list in August, I’ve been rounding out the year with some more thought pieces, many of the themes of which will carry forward into the New Year. Here’s what I’ve shared in publications recently:

On Fortune Insider:

Never Let a Know-It-All Mentor You

The First Step to Building a Strong Personal Brand

On LinkedIn:

Why I Seek My Own Counsel: #AdviceThatSticks

5 Tips for Surviving Your First Start-Up

An #OpenLetter to Leaders of Modern Workplaces

My #BestWorkDay Balances Productivity and Creativity

The Value of Qualitative Questions

On the Huffington Post:

Why It Was So Worth It to Stick with STEAM

On CBS Pulse:

Tackling the Lack of Gender Diversity in Tech Leadership

Also, my alma mater, Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, ran a lovely profile on me in December here.

2016 has been a challenging year for many people and companies, let alone for our country, and I believe that 2017 will bring even more change. As I write in the New Year, I’ll be focused on change as I write about innovation, diversity in technology leadership, entrepreneurship, and more. Best wishes for a healthy and happy holiday season.

Summer Reading: Recent Publications

It’s hard to believe that summer is winding down! Many of you are prepping for back-to-school as others are gearing up for one last vacation before hitting the ground running this fall. It’s been a while since I updated my recent publications, and, especially because some of these might be relevant to your autumn plans, I cobbled together this reading list for your poolside perusal. Enjoy!

For your Inspiration:

More Women of Inspiration

Passion and Purpose at the Forbes Women’s Summit

Helpful Advice:

Four Considerations when Plotting a Career Move

Five Ways to Get Your Ideas Heard

If I Were 22: Five Things I’d Do with Hindsight

Four Filters for Choosing Co-Founders

Ideas to Improve your Workplace:

Ways to Advance and Maintain Diversity in our Workplaces

My Ideal Workplace Blends a Culture of Results + Risk-Taking

Best Practices for Better Pay Equity

Nine Ways to Combat Unconscious Bias in Hiring

Three Characteristics of a Great Team

Food for Thought:

Your iPhone as a Matter of National Security

Imagining IoT in 2025

Collaboration Is the New Communication

Voice Interfaces Are the Next Big Thing

Silicon Valley is the Next Hollywood

5 Resolutions to Restore Body & Soul

 

Silicon Valley Is the Next Hollywood

 

Recently, I’ve been enjoying a lot of interesting conversations with my son, who works in Hollywood, about the future of our entertainment consumption and creation. When I was a child in pre-glastnost Ukraine, families would gather in the common area to listen to a radio show or to watch our one black & white TV. Nowadays, we ingest podcasts and TV shows on-demand from wherever we are. More and more folks don’t even have a TV at home anymore and, instead, are streaming programming on mobile devices and laptops. Hollywood may still make our movies, but Bay Area companies are holding the keys to how that entertainment reaches us.

As this Forbes article points out, Silicon Valley isn’t only leading pop culture but is also creating it. We listen to Pandora (Oakland), stream original Netflix (Los Gatos), discover new stars on YouTube (San Bruno), and read news on Facebook (Menlo Park). While the recent Oscars aired, folks globally took to Twitter (San Francisco) to share moment-to-moment reactions.

Original Netflix series, like House of Cards or Orange Is The New Black, can’t be accessed through a normal cable box. These series are winning awards and accolades just the same as shows on traditional networks, but there’s nothing traditional about them, as their whole financial model differs. These shows aren’t sponsored by commercial advertisers in the same way as most cable shows are. While they may still have some sponsored product placement and so forth, we’re not interrupted every ten minutes for commercials — and we’re willing to pay Netflix for that luxury.

That’s where Silicon Valley has really taken on Hollywood: in the pay-to-play realm. We want our content when we want it, and we don’t want it to be interrupted. If we subscribe to Apple Music (Cupertino), we can stomach commercials or pay to opt out; the same is true of Spotify (Swedish, with offices in San Francisco).  We sign into accounts on these service providers from our mobile phones, iPads, laptops, video gaming systems, TVs, and more. We want our entertainment delivered to us at our convenience instead of chaining us to our living rooms. Much like the workplace is getting more flexible and mobile, so, too,  is our recreation. To our great benefit, Hollywood theater-quality pictures are possible even on the tiniest of mobile screens.

Underneath this interplay between the old-school glamour of Hollywood and the fast-paced advances of Silicon Valley is a tension that may not be so evident to those simply eager to be entertained at their leisure, though. Content distribution is a sore spot, and the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill backed by the Motion Picture Association, died only because of intervention from Silicon Valley (Google, in Mountain View, among them). Proponents of the legislation claimed they seek to protect intellectual property while opponents cited the danger to innovation that the bill posed. The bill, which failed, went so far as to enable law enforcement to take down an entire website (like all of Facebook) if a single user (like you or me) posted something illegally on our page. Hollywood has legitimate concerns, but technology, fortunately, was not made to grind to a halt while addressing them — at least, not yet. As the Valley continues to innovate, I don’t doubt the subject of that thin line between protection and distribution will continue to be the center of much debate.

Is Silicon Valley the next Hollywood? With all of the innovation mentioned above alongside advanced animation giant Pixar (Emeryville), once owned by Steve Jobs, and Lucasfilm (Marin), both now owned by Disney, there’s a case to be made that not only Silicon Valley but the greater Bay Area has supplanted greater Los Angeles as the world’s leading maker and purveyor of entertainment. Certainly, Hollywood couldn’t continue to thrive without Silicon Valley. Beyond the incredible movies made here, many more innovations that will make our down-time all the more accessible and enjoyable from wherever we are and whenever we want it are afoot. I find this to be one of the most entertaining things to watch.

5 Resolutions to Restore Body & Soul in 2016

 

When I consider resolutions for a new year, I first reflect on the past year. This helps me to sketch out what to prioritize in the year ahead. Based on a challenging past year, as I look ahead to 2016, a lot of my resolutions are personal. For example, having lost my father last summer, it is a high priority for me to organize my memories well in the coming year. My family has lots of printed photos that I’d like to digitize, and I also plan to organize photo albums. This is a huge undertaking and one that is difficult to complete because it’s so time-consuming. It’s also pretty wonderful, though. Going through these photos is going down Memory Lane, and it give me special opportunities to stop and remember important things. It’s especially fun to reflect with my family when we can do this together.

In addition to organizing my memories, I’ll also be re-organizing my home office and closet space this coming year. I’m no hoarder, but I’ve come to recognize that I have a lot of things in my way that I put in my office thinking that I’d use but haven’t. Perhaps someone else can put these items to better use, so I plan to donate as much as I can. Less clutter occupying important work space and getting in the way of things I really need to access will make working in my home office more enjoyable.

Like many people, I also have some health goals for 2016. In RingCentral’s new office space, we have a great cafeteria, and we also have an amazing supply of snacks. I aim to snack less in the office. Just because there are treats around doesn’t mean I have to eat them! I really have to learn to avoid snacks when I’m stressed, especially. Maybe I’ll have an apple instead!

In the New Year, I also seek to multi-task less. We’ve become too accustomed to doing multiple things at the same time, and we all suffer for it. We think that we can read email while we talk on the phone, peek at texts while in conversation with others, or check our Facebook or LinkedIn feeds while in a meeting — but when we do these things, one of the tasks at hand is getting less of our attention, and none of them are getting enough of it. To bring my best self to each interaction and give each task the attention that it’s due is an important goal for me in 2016.

Lastly, I always like to set a learning goal for myself in a new year. This year, I have decided to learn a new skill, but I’m still deciding on the particulars. I look forward to broadening my horizons through learning new things this new year and every year.

In sum, being more organized, healthy, and focused as well as learning a new skill are my New Year’s Resolutions for 2016. Perhaps we can check in mid-year to see how these things are going! If you set resolutions like I do, I’d love to hear both what they are and how you manage to stay atop them so that you meet these goals as the year progresses.

All my best wishes for a happy 2016! – Kira

This Week on Real Time Communications: The Future of Collaboration

 

This week on Real Time Communications, I wrote an article on the future of collaboration. The collaboration software sector is heating up as the universe of unified communications and collaborations (UCC) products expands. Just as the way we work has morphed because of the internet, so, too, has unified communications evolved. For example, augmenting telephony with chat software makes for more efficient communication, and that can make a tremendous difference in the way we do business at today’s lightning speed.

The way we work always will be growing and changing, and the future of collaboration software will become yet more feature-rich in support of that. For more of my thoughts on the future of collaboration, please click here to read my article.

My Experience as a Refugee in America

 

With today’s news reports of violence, terror, and refugee crises, it feels more important than ever this holiday seaseon to take a moment as Americans and consider the freedom we have to live good lives. While I’ve written before about my immigration, like my tale of my first American summer camp experience, I haven’t addressed what it was like for my family of refugees to land in America. This is that story.

When my family left Odessa, Ukraine in the late-1970s, we emigrated because of discrimination against and persecution of Jews like us. We were unable to practice our religion, or any religion, in the Soviet Union. Part of what drove us to America was freedom of religion. Also, in general, my parents wanted a chance at a better life.

We arrived in the United States with family already here, including my mother’s brother (my uncle) and my mother’s parents (my grandparents), so we weren’t entirely alone. Family helped where it could, and, when we were in greater need, Jewish Family & Children’s Services stepped in to help, like by sending me to Camp Tawonga. This was the experience of many Russian Jews who were refugees in America: private service agencies helped a lot, much more so than the government. It was very rare to find any of us reliant on governmental help.

My parents found success here in America. In Russia, my father was an engineer who designed toys, while my mother taught Russian language and literature and worked as a librarian. Here in the U.S., my father retrained as an electrical engineer and worked for a hardware manufacturing company, and my mother became an accountant working in personnel for Seagrams. They both felt lucky that, in this country, being a refugee wasn’t a barrier to success. They had opportunity. In fact, in my community, it seemed like the success rate was really high; our parents, and then me and my peers, had an intense drive to succeed in our new country.

As a child, I watched my parents work hard to establish our new lives here just as I worked hard to figure out how to fit into this new culture and place. It felt like drinking from a fire hose every day! Even though my family wasn’t particularly disadvantaged in Russia, we had still come from a poor country. In America, we were surrounded by excess in a way that we couldn’t have dreamed. So many things were mind-boggling, like the abundance of food at the supermarkets, and all of the things for sale all over the place. We had so many struggles to fit into the culture at all, to learn the ways of America, plus a language barrier. Without mastery of the English language, especially, we were truly handicapped at first.

Here, for a long time, I was afraid to raise my hand in class because I was afraid of how my words would come out. But I soon realized that the U.S. had true diversity. It felt like nobody was born here and that there were immigrants from everywhere, especially in the Jewish community, where it feels like we were all only one or two generations away from somebody’s parents or grandparents being fresh off of the boat. In Odessa, people rarely moved from place to place, but here, people are more mobile, even among cultures. We had a saying in Russia that you were born speaking Russian and you died speaking Russian, but here, it felt like you could be born in one culture and become another. It was okay to be different in the U.S., but not in Odessa, where conformity was the norm. It took a while for me to realize that the reason they call the U.S. a “melting pot” is that you can be anyone here, that it doesn’t matter if you are born into money or not, or if your parents do or do not have connections. In Russia, you had to have your parents’ connections to succeed at all. Here, networking helps with business success, but it’s rarely, if at all, family-driven.

And of course, part of the reason we came – freedom to practice our Jewish religion – became part of our lives and joy. This is where I want to end my story, because, on today’s news, the perception is that religion is polarizing and devastating nations. That this is untrue in the United States is is one of the things for which I am most thankful. My family did not have religious freedom at all in the Soviet Union. As polarizing as religion can seem here at times, let us never lose sight that we have the freedom to practice our faith, whatever it is, as well as the opportunity to create new, successful lives. There is no doubt that my family’s lives are far better than they would have been had we stayed in the Ukraine. This holiday season and always, I am grateful that my family had that opportunity.

Postscript: There are important distinctions between my family’s experience as refugees and that of today’s Syrians. My family experienced no violence or anything close to what Syrians are experiencing in their Civil War. The experience of today’s Syrians is a lot more like Jews’ experience in World War II. It is a humanitarian crisis. That was not my experience. I don’t write this piece in an attempt to speak for all refugees, or even to enter a political dialogue, as sensitive as I am to the plight of refugees. I write this piece to put a human face on one story, one experience – my own – in a time when we are considering what it means to be a refugee in America.

* In memory of my father, Roman Makagon, who passed away on August 23, 2015 *