Diva Tech Talk Podcast

By Hosted by a Collaboration of Professional Women in Technology

About this podcast   English    United States

We are on a journey to share insights into leadership, innovation and breaking down the big issues women face in a tech-savvy world. We interview women leaders all around the world from CIOs and Founders, to creators and nonprofit executives, covering generations of innovation. Everyone with whom we've crossed paths has a story of success that we share with our listeners. Don’t get tangled along the way in your journey; listen in and learn from dynamic divas who share everything from balancing life duties, to negotiating, forging their way in their fast-changing industry, to (most of all) finding themselves. Podcast currently hosted by Nicole Johnson Scheffler, Kathleen Norton-Schock, and Amanda Lewan. Follow along with us here at www.divatechtalk.com.
April 10, 2018
Diva Tech Talk interviewed Jennifer Charters, Chief Information Officer of Corporate Technology for Ally Bank (www.ally.com), one of the very first online-only financial institutions in the United States.  Jennifer’s technology fascination began in middle school. “My family purchased a VIC 20,” she said. “It basically looked like a keyboard, that you connect into your television.”  At first, Jennifer played with inbuilt pre-programmed applications but then began to create her own programs. In high school, she moved on to use Apple IIe (www.apple.com) computers and recognized “I had a knack for the logical nature of coding. It came easy for me.”  She matriculated to Michigan State University (www.msu.org) as one of “less than a handful of women” in the computer science program and also minored in psychology and business because “technology, just for technology’s sake, doesn’t necessarily make sense.  When you apply technology to a problem,” it does. In college, Jennifer was fortunate to obtain internships at IBM (www.ibm.com) with her first summer in North Carolina, second in Rochester, Minn. and third in Chicago, Illinois. “I got experience trying all these different companies.” Also, as a member of the Society of Women Engineers, she was fortunate to have numerous recruiters swarming. “One of the companies was Accenture (www.accenture.com),” Jennifer said. “That idea of being a jet-setter and traveling all over the world and getting that opportunity to explore different areas really appealed to me. I started off as a programmer,” she said. “It evolved into project and program management; and gave me a lot of exposure to a lot of different companies, and roles within companies.” She began in the telecommunications vertical market, then specialized in the field of Internet service providers. “That gave me the chance to work globally,” with stints at Deutsche Telekom (https://www.telekom.com/en) in Germany and Grupo Telecom (http://www.telecomitalia.com/tit/en.html) in Italy.  Jennifer then focused on other startups including Focal Communications --- later acquired by Broadwing, which was then acquired by Level 3 Communications (http://www.level3.com/en/), in an acquisition flurry.  She then moved to a project at AT&T, in New Jersey, right after the World Trade Center was decimated by the events of 9/11; worked on that for two years; then decided to move back from Chicago to Michigan. “Ultimately, I got pregnant,” and both she and her husband landed jobs in Michigan. Jennifer switched to an insurance industry project Accenture  with The Automotive Club Group (www.aaa.org).  “What I was most interested in was staying local, then” said Jennifer.  This assignment became her entrée into the fascinating world of fintech. “Then I got pregnant with my daughter,” and had an epiphany. Her emphasis shifted to achieving a work/life balance. “I began to look for other opportunities” outside of Accenture. Jennifer obtained a project manager position at GMAC, the financing arm of General Motors (www.gm.com). “It was an interesting change of pace,” she said.  She had her second child after having joined GMAC, and when she returned from maternity leave, GM had sold the financing arm to Cerberus, (http://www.cerberuscapital.com/),  a private equity company. “Fast forward another year and a half, and the worldwide financial crisis hit. I felt like I was in the crosshairs of it all. It was a financial company linked to the automotive industry, and those were the industries most affected. We were in real trouble, on the verge of bankruptcy.” The U.S. government bailed out GMAC reinventing the entity as a bank holding company.  “It meant we had more regulations, but it also gave us the opportunity to start a bank --- an online bank: Ally Financial.” The key lesson for Jennifer? “In crisis, transformation happens.” Jennifer was promoted to program manager and then a director. Eventually, she took her current promotion to Chief Information Officer, Corporate Technology, with responsibility for seven direct reports, and a large organization numbering over 180 colleagues.  “Banks had not always been very friendly.” With pride, Jennifer feels that Ally fundamentally has changed that. “We care about our customers. Our motto is ‘do it right’. Customers are really responding.” “When I try to hire people,” Jennifer said, “one of the things I look for is learning agility: somebody who has curiosity, is continually ‘sharpening the saw,’ and looking for opportunities to stay fresh. In technology, it’s constant change.”  In her volunteer life, she is on the Advisory Board for the Michigan Council of Women in Technology (www.mcwt.org). She also coaches her daughter’s 12-week “GIRLS ON THE RUN” program, where she meets weekly with groups of girls “teaching them to be leaders, to be collaborative with each other, to be kind.  At the same time, they also learn to run.” At the end of the period, they run a 5K race. Jennifer, herself, has recently pushed herself to complete two Iron Man Triathlon Races. Key lessons that Jennifer has learned through her career: “Relationships are key.” Take time to develop them and maintain them. “Having people, you can talk to” is essential. “Understand what your priorities are. Take time for them.” It’s ok to take a step back. (“You actually learn quite a bit,” from taking the occasional break.) “Managing people is a whole different skill-set and experience. You use influence. It requires trust; and that you have a good team around you.” “Recognize that your career is your own, it is what you make of it. Follow your dreams.” For the full blog write up, make sure to check us out on online at www.divatechtalk.com, on Twitter @divatechtalks, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/divatechtalk. Follow our show and tell us what you like with an online review.
March 21, 2018
Diva Tech Talk interviewed Holly Rollo, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of RSA (www.rsa.com ),a Dell Technologies (www.dell.com) company, offering business-driven security solutions for millions of users around the world and more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies.  Holly said: “you never know what’s in store,” since she did not originally set out to be a technology leader. The daughter of a Marine who was taught the value of determination and hard work at a young age, Holly’s journey began with a passion for investigative reporting. With an undergraduate journalism degree from Santa Clara University (https://www.scu.edu): “I had two job offers: one with a paper, and the other as PR person for a semiconductor company.” She chose the PR job and has no regrets. “What is amazing about marketing is that you’re constantly chasing a story. It’s a creative job. It’s a quantitative science job. It’s a technology job since marketing has gotten more technical.” As Holly got started, she “asked the dumb questions like ‘what does this mean for customers?’ and ‘how do they buy it’….” The answers she received helped her ”understand the whole picture” and weave the right stories to strengthen and promote brands, products and services. From National Semiconductor, (purchased by Texas Instruments (http://www.ti.com/)) Holly moved up through a variety of jobs, building a substantial career including stints at Young and Rubicam, IBM (www.ibm.com) Sanrise (www.sanrise.com) Symantec/Veritas (www.symantec.com), Sybase (www.sybase.com), SAP (www.sap.com), Cisco (www.cisco.com) , FireEye (www.fireeye.com) and Fortinet (www.fortinet.com). Her path was forged by “focusing on what I was good at; what I was interested in.“ Rather than working in status quo situations, Holly was motivated by attacking “big, hairy problems.” Some of those included repositioning companies or older brands to take advantage of new markets, effecting full company turnarounds, positioning organizations for hyper-growth, or rationalizing and organizing hodgepodge tech product portfolios.  “I like jumping into the middle of chaos and making order out of it!” According to Holly, life stages affect your career choices.  For instance, starting out, she said, “the brand that you work for, ‘speaks’…” and choosing it wisely can determine your career trajectory.   “After that, there are different things that are important,” she noted. One of her career changes was inspired by a desire to “work with a woman who could mentor me.” Then, “later, as I had children, flexibility was more important, Now, what I have learned is that I want to work with people who are amazing, people to have fun with, every day.”    In making mission choices, Holly thinks that what instinctively drives decisions can be different for women than men. “Sometimes, what’s important is the money. I think women are sometimes uncomfortable with that idea.”  Holly also stated “there are tradeoffs.” She cited the example of choosing a startup with exciting potential, great experience and an impressive title versus working for a larger, more established company at a higher compensation level. Holly also suggested, for personal peace of mind, “there has to be a conversation, at home, about tradeoffs.  You have to know what you can balance, at home, in that workload,” to make informed decisions. To achieve balance, in addition to yoga and hiking, Holly reminds herself “it’s one day at a time, one work week at a time.”   The tech industry is unpredictable so “this can also all change tomorrow. The best I can do is just focus on what’s right in front of me and take it in bite-sized chunks.”  Holly is grateful to be in the security field. “There’s a bigger mission. Particularly in the current environment, you can really understand how what goes on in the digital world impacts us all. It’s about how you detect and respond, managing risk to your mission.”   Holly noted that there is “a massive issue in technology employment,” and “everyone is going to be needed. We need all kinds of talent.  We need more women in engineering; we need more women in leadership; we need more women in storytelling positions.” With the advent of the “Me, Too” movement and other progressive societal influences, she thinks that “a lot of behavioral changes are going to happen” to assist in breaking down diversity barriers. “We have the power to vote with our feet, and choose not to work for a certain company, or a certain manager, leader or CEO.”  The biggest issue in Holly’s mind that needs to be addressed is “the pay equity piece.” She noted that each individual manager can change that. “Every year, we go through reviews. We have the power to address the pay gap” then. Her perspective is that pay equity is solvable, “if we chip away at it, little by little. Everybody can play a role.” For the full blog write up, make sure to check us out on online at www.divatechtalk.com, on Twitter @divatechtalks, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/divatechtalk. Follow our show and tell us what you like with an online review.
March 6, 2018
Diva Tech Talk interviewed Jill Maiorano, Director of Strategic Engagements, Americas Division, at Cisco (www.cisco.com).  Topics ranged from management, strategy, to balancing home/family with a busy career. “I was not a ‘technology tinkerer’” Jill said.  “From a relatively early age, I decided to be in sales.” After graduating Eastern Michigan University, she felt “really blessed that I was able to find tech.” Her first tech sales job was with Allnet Communications, providing long-distance services to business customers. She was there a few years when Frontier Communications acquired the company, and was later acquired by Global Crossing Inc. (www.globalcrossing.com).  At Allnet, Jill progressed from frontline sales, to sales team management, to opening markets throughout Ohio (Toledo and Cincinnati), to management of the Midwest. Jill then joined the startup team at USN Communications, a CLEC, where she opened and managed 13 offices across Michigan and Ohio. “It ended with a phone call from the president saying that we had run out of money, no more VC funding.  I spent the next two months running what felt like ‘resume clinics’ and writing referral letters” for the 150 people who had worked for her. Then Jill moved to Qwest Communications (now CenturyLink, www.centurylink.com) as a director; then migrated to Sprint (www.sprint.com) to “the easiest job I ever had” as a sales manager. Her next decision to plunge into greater technology depths drove Jill’s decision to join Cisco, 12.5 years ago.   Jill is a Cisco enthusiast for a variety of reasons. “We take our investments, our future, very seriously,” she said. “We call it a ‘buy/build partner model’. She also loves the fact that Cisco deploys a “work is something you do, not where you go” philosophy to help team members achieve life balance.  Jill said: “For 11 years, I ran sales organizations. Each year was slightly different. It was a really interesting time.” In 2016, Jill “took on a role that never existed before.”  Reporting to the SVP of Cisco’s $28 billion Americas (Canada, Latin America and the U.S.A), she was asked to “help with the way we engage with our customers, our partners, our employees.”  Jill’s busy team handles internal and external events, speaking engagements, public relations, internal and external communications of all kinds. “My team also captures the ‘stories’ “Jill said, both within and outside of Cisco, and “elevate and share them.” They have created very impactful Advisory Councils and “do a lot of survey” work to really listen to the field employees to hear more about what is happening in the market, with customers and partners.  Ever action-oriented, Jill said: “I’m in the ‘then, what?’ business, and enjoying it!” Jill feels very comfortable in her skin and has learned, along the way. She said that to feel fulfilled, “most people need more than a number” for which to strive. “They need to feel they are making a difference.”  She is also intent on promoting unique treatment for each team member at the company. “While we rally around mutual mission, individual attention, understanding what makes that person tick” is a strength she uses, daily. While comfortable now, Jill harks back to an earlier time when she “felt defensive” as the only female leader in organizations. “Gaining results took some of that away, but part of it was simply deciding not to live in that ‘head space’ – to not allow myself to feel like I wasn’t welcome” among her male peers.   She gives back to the Cisco community by trying to help through an internal affinity group called Cisco Connected Women, a community for all women at Cisco, all over the globe. The Americas chapter has grown to 4000 members with a 14-member managing board, and a 30-member Advisory Board. “Connected Women’s role is to help attract, retain, develop, and celebrate women as part of Cisco’s competitive and diverse workforce,” Jill said. She decried the fact that while science, math and engineering are part of middle school and high school curricula, technology in many regions and school systems is noticeably absent. Jill’s rallying cry is “where’s the T????”.  Cisco’s Connected Women, 7000 strong globally, implements outreach among adult women and encourages girls to pursue STEM curriculum and vocations. Jill’s children are teenagers, so she is now “at an interesting place where I am trying to get back to things I enjoy” which includes tennis, working out and socializing with friends. “Ultimately what makes me happy is having a blend. When things get out of whack, I really feel the  stress. There is no perfect. You have to look at balance, long-term.” Jill also admits that she has an “unnatural fear of failure,” but has become more comfortable taking risks, and learning from them. “At today’s pace, you must be willing to be out on the edge, and then retreat, regroup and relearn.” Key leadership and life lessons that Jill shared were: Be yourself. “Go for it; be a pioneer.”   “Embrace change.” The pace of change is intense, so keep up with it. “Be real with who you are.  Know your strengths and your weaknesses. Match your skills with your career.” “Create a woman friend network. If you have the right ones in your life, they will ‘high five’ you better than anybody. They will hug you when you need a hug.  They will nudge you when you need a nudge. And they will ‘call you on it’ when you need that!” For the full blog write up, make sure to check us out on online at www.divatechtalk.com, on Twitter @divatechtalks, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/divatechtalk. Follow our show and tell us what you like with an online review.
Feb. 6, 2018
Diva Tech Talk interviewed K. Melissa Kennedy, best-selling author, and Managing Partner/Global Innovation Facilitator at 48 Innovate (http://www.48innovate.com/) a platform for generating employee-driven problem-solving through nimble entrepreneurial practices in 48 hours.   Clearly a “change-maker,” Melissa owes her technology orientation to “good old Dad,”a network administrator, who “really exposed me and my brother to technology at an early age.” In high school, she “dabbled” in tech; but went on to graduate from the University of North Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications.  She worked for North Carolina State University as the campaign co-leader for an education bond referendum, winning $3.1 billion in higher education bonds --- “the largest higher education bond in U.S. history!”  NC State “serendipitously launched my career in more STEM-oriented” directions. She obtained her NC State master’s degree in marketing, with a focus on technology companies.  For Melissa, this “opened the door, and gave validation” so she could move from higher education and government to work for what was then a startup provider of cloud-based e-commerce solutions – Channel Advisor (https://www.channeladvisor.com/ ). After that, Melissa joined Cisco Systems, (www.cisco.com). “That’s when my career exploded.”  Melissa felt like “I had a real impact on the business because I applied some of my skills from a startup I worked with, in ecommerce, to this big networking giant. I worked with 3000-4000 channel partners, helping them scale their marketing efforts.” She credits her ability to work cross-functionally across many organizations as being key to her 5-year Cisco success; and is grateful for this period allowing her to experiment with a variety of marketing techniques. From Cisco, Melissa jumped headfirst into the world of entrepreneurship. “I just went all in,” she said. “I got introduced to StartUp Weekend” (https://startupweekend.org/) a nonprofit 54-hour event convening North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham Triangle designers, developers, entrepreneurs, and experts from all domains to do amazing things. Melissa facilitated over a dozen StartUp Weekends around the world (“from Rio de Janeiro to Cedar Rapids, Iowa”). Learning through her own career, Melissa’s current company was born from insightful observations.  “Big companies have a problem moving fast,” she said. “The startup world taught me that there are tools and skills you can apply within big businesses to help them innovate.  And more importantly, you can help them enable and empower their employees to do cool stuff!”  She views her central mission as “making work meaningful, fun and productive, again.”  48 Innovate offers a methodology to help companies move from idea to concrete ‘executive proof’ plan in 48 hours or less.  “It uses pitch skills.  It uses design thinking.” She also deploys some “traditional” strategic management tools and planning, all wrapped into one fast-track program.  “Organizations can bring cross-functional teams to solve their greatest challenge or address their opportunity in 48 hours.” “I’m passionate about helping other people do things they didn’t think they could do. I use technology in all of my work.” So, Melissa has three tips for would-be entrepreneurs: “You don’t have to know everything.” For things at which you are not naturally talented nor proficient, contract it to someone else, or consider partnering. “You have to develop a ‘good enough scale.’ ”  Prioritize the high value tasks; concentrate on them. “The pursuit of innovation is all about practice.  Start small. Build the “strength muscle of being comfortable in the uncomfortable.” Then start applying for innovation opportunities. Melissa has written a book, that is now an Amazon (www.amazon.com) best-seller: The Innovation Revolution: Discover the Genius Hiding in Plain Sight,  to “share the things I learned.”  She said: “We’re in a new era. We have crossed from the Industrial Age, and its linear thinking, to the Information Age.  The tools, the processes, from the old age are not going to apply.  I have figured out to help leaders and individuals to make the simple change(s) that make a difference!”  She firmly believes “everyone has innovation within them. It’s up to us to go from idea to action.” Melissa can be reached at her 48Innovate website and on Twitter at @kmelissakennedy. For the full blog write up, make sure to check us out on online at www.divatechtalk.com, on Twitter @divatechtalks, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/divatechtalk. Follow our show and tell us what you like with an online review.
Jan. 24, 2018
Diva Tech Talk hosted Mamatha Chamarthi, SVP, and Chief Digital Officer for ZF Group Inc. (www.zf.com) a worldwide automotive leader, employing 137,000 people in 40 countries, with annual revenue of $43 billion.  Mamatha drives ZF’s digitalization strategy and emergent technologies to transform business models.  Her robust career spans more than two decades beginning in India, where she received her degree in Psychology, Sociology and English, and a masters’ degree in English. “I got married to my childhood best friend,” she said, moving to Bangalore, where she taught English to undergraduate Indian students.   She needed “a more dynamic mission,” and entered Sri Venkateswara University for a second master’s in marketing, with a minor in information systems. Mamatha moved to Michigan where her husband landed his “dream job” at Ford Motor Company (www.ford.com). “I enrolled at Wayne State University for a master’s in computer science” and accepted a job as a consultant at Chrysler, now Fiat Chrysler (www.fcagroup.com).  “That first interview was a phone interview. My 3-month-old baby started crying 10 minutes into the interview! The woman interviewer said: ‘I totally understand; just go take care of the baby first.’  That was my first lesson: being a woman, you should be empathetic to other women.” Mamatha began her Chrysler career as a consultant and “what started as a small client/server application for tracking tax incentive turned into a paperless office for government affairs.”  Mamatha’s insistence on understanding the full breadth of business, not just tech requirements, has been a hallmark of her career, ever since.  She went on to support public relations, and rolled out a global employee Intranet as well as media sites for PR releases and press kits.   Joining as a fulltime employee, as Daimler and Chrysler merged, Mamatha was part of the post-merger integration team.  “No one was looking at a standardized approach to Web technologies,” so she decided to lead the charge. She put together a business plan to streamline efforts, while inaugurating a major internal tech evolution. “I went around the world, selling the business plan” to Daimler Chrysler leaders, and “from scratch, I created a $10 million department supporting global Web technologies.”  From there, Mamatha worked on reinvigorating a project to develop an optimal production planning system which saved approximately $28 million annually. Then she “came to the attention of Sue Unger,” (then the CIO for Daimler Chrysler). Meeting initial resistance to getting sponsorship for another masters’ degree, Mamatha boldly wrote a white paper describing what she had done for Daimler Chrysler and why the company should further invest in her.  Receiving Sue’s blessing, and full corporate support, Mamatha enrolled for her MBA at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University (www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/), emphasizing global business.  Mamatha migrated briefly to Daimler Financial Services (the finance arm of the automotive conglomerate), and then was asked to “be the program manager for the separation of Daimler and Chrysler” --- a very sensitive role at a highly disruptive time.  Mamatha considered this a valuable formative period for her.  “It goes back to empathy,” she said.  “There were so many of my colleagues that I was leaving behind in Chrysler. I felt guilty.  But it was an exciting opportunity, too. As Charles Dickens would say: ‘It was the best of times; it was the worst of times’…”.   Mamatha worked directly for Daimler until 2010 and then chose to become the first CIO for Consumers Energy (https://www.consumersenergy.com/), a Michigan publicly traded energy company.  Her first step was to work with leadership, and ensure that “They understand the world is changing.” Mamatha took the senior management team to Silicon Valley to visit with tech companies and then debrief at IDEO (www.ideo.com), a leading global design company creating positive change. “It was a huge ‘ah ha’ moment for the executive team.”  Mamatha considers one of her greatest accomplishments the transformation of the company to a consumer-oriented entity. “Every element of the company was subsequently focused on the customer experience,” she said. Mamata then moved to CIO at TRW Automotive. Within 5 months of her joining, the company was acquired by ZF.  The acquisition completed in January of 2015. In April 2015, she assumed her new role as Chief Digital Officer. Mamatha is passionate about this “because we have a very strong purpose:  Vision Zero --- moving to a world of zero accidents and zero emissions.”  The ZF mission to save lives is accomplished by providing the best in intelligent mechanical systems. “Most ZF processes are from the industrial age.  We need to transform them to the digital age.  Also, we need to start opening up to innovation. That’s the challenge.” In her career, Mamatha’s success-engendering qualities include:  a love of continuous learning; bringing integrated strengths to any challenge; courage; the ability to drive change; empathy; and a clear vision.  She created and maintains her own personal Board of Directors --- mentors who have guided her, and strong sponsors along the way. Mamatha’s key advice for other women aspiring to lead include: be bold, grasp opportunities, don’t think you need to meet every facet of a position in which you are interested, and ensure you have a healthy network.  She also says: “Give back.  Give back as much as you can.”  When meeting challenges: “Believe in yourself. Be comfortable in your shoes.  If I set expectations of how I should be treated, then people will automatically treat me that way.”  And her final note to our audience?  “Never have lunch alone.” For the full blog write up, make sure to check us out on online at www.divatechtalk.com, on Twitter @divatechtalks, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/divatechtalk. Follow our show and tell us what you like with an online review.
Dec. 30, 2017
In our last podcast of 2017, Diva Tech Talk co-founders and hosts (Kathleen Norton-Schock and Nicole Scheffler) provided an interesting discussion of: Why Diva Tech exists, and the demographics of women in tech, now and in the future What, as technology leaders and tech industry veterans, they see as key tech trends in 2018 Which divas interviewed in 2017 might be most influential and expert in terms of those trends and Assorted other topics including major vertical markets to be affected by tech, giving back, and entrepreneurship. The key tech trends that Diva Tech Talks foresees as being most important in the coming year include: Artificial intelligence and machine learning Intelligent analytics and data science in general Cloud-based applications, and general cloud-propelled infrastructure Adaptive risk and enhanced security Event driven/event detection technology Virtual reality and even full immersion “Code-free” application development And the vertical markets that the divas have either recorded experts in, or plan to, include healthcare, fintech, automotive/mobility tech,  retail tech and the whole world of technology as it applies to making nonprofits more efficient and effective. What are the key themes that the Divas are most concerned with? GIVING BACK Strategic planning for enterprise, and technology in general Technology marketing Entrepreneurship, venture capital,  women-owned businesses and Bridging the gender gap in tech, to address issues of enterprise viability/profitability, innovation and most especially the upcoming chasm that looms between jobs that need to be filled and the talent to fill them. Most of all the divas are grateful for our growing, engaged audience, and for all the wonderful women we have interviewed to date, and intend to interview in the coming years. For the full blog write up, make sure to check us out on online at www.divatechtalk.com, on Twitter @divatechtalks, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/divatechtalk. Follow our show and tell us what you like with an online review.
Nov. 28, 2017
Diva Tech Talk interviewed Elena Lipson, Founder of Mosaic Growth Partners (http://www.mosaicgrowth.com/).  Elena is also the host of THE BOOST Podcast, a podcast highlighting accomplished entrepreneurs, athletes and healthcare professionals.  Elena has experimented with multiple paths in the creation of her mission. “I started off in a corporate job in HR and marketing,” after her college graduation. “But I realized, quickly, that I wanted to do work that was more mission-focused. So, I went back to school to get my master’s in public policy.”   Elena moved into the world of public sector consulting working at BearingPoint, a small firm and then t Deloitte Consulting for 7 years ( https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en.html). “There, I really fell into the health tech space.” Elena said “I was really not that technical person. I was more interested in how technology could help enable better healthcare.” She worked in consulting for 8 years, but “I got to the point where I felt that being a partner in a big consulting firm was not the path I wanted to be on.” So, Elena moved over to a business development role at AARP (www.aarp.org).  But the pace of that organization was “a lot slower than what I was used to,” she said.  “I had this ‘aha’ moment where I realized that I was tired and burned out from working for other people.”   So, Elena decided to start her own consulting firm. “I quit my job at AARP, started Mosaic Growth Partners. I spent the first year testing out a lot of things. From that I developed a couple of core offerings,” she said. “My firm is helping entrepreneurs, and  organizations, in the digital health space. I focus on helping them with growth strategy consulting, and business development. We do a lot of market intelligence work; go-to-market and innovation strategy work; as well as outsourced business development functions and workshops around new business models.”   Elena also launched her podcast and is launching a coaching program for professional women “to help them get the promotions, raises and respect they are looking for in the workplace.” Two major lessons are “staying attuned to the market to see what’s working, and keeping your eyes on the ‘bottom line’ all the time.”  She foresees great developments in the healthcare industry. “I am seeing a lot of user-designed research and that’s really exciting.” Elena recently published an article to supplement her newly-minted coaching practice. Entitled “7 Things Badass Professional Women Don’t Do”, her tips included: Don’t put your head down, take time to build relationships; don’t always say “yes,” protect your time; and don’t be a “tough guy.”  In saying “no,” you can accomplish this with “grace and finesse. You don’t have to steamroll people.” Self-care is essential in Elena’s opinion to professional success and happiness. She ensures that she gets eight hours of sleep, blocks out time to exercise, and has good nutritional habits. “If you’re an entrepreneur, you deal with a lot of rejection,” she said.  So being in top physical shape is a protection and enables her to “handle some of that, and deal with the stresses.”   Elena also values mentoring and noted that she has had both formal and informal mentoring relationships but benefitted most from those that are organic, “relationships with people that really feel natural, and you are just the right fit, from a chemistry perspective.” Elena’s final words of wisdom are “you need to be confident in yourself; no one else is going to be able to give you that.”  Additionally, she emphasized “Just be open to where experience will take you.” For the full blog write up, make sure to check us out on online at www.divatechtalk.com, on Twitter @divatechtalks, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/divatechtalk. Follow our show and tell us what you like with an online review.
Nov. 7, 2017
Diva Tech Talk interviewed multifaceted, tenacious Janette Phillips. In her childhood, Janette was “studious” and “took all the science classes I could,” including Accelerated Chemistry, Physics and Science Seminar (an independent science-oriented curriculum) in high school.  Her intellectual interests took a turn in college, when she matriculated to the business school at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (https://www.umich.edu/). Post-college, Janette felt lucky to land a job at Michigan Bell Telephone, which later morphed into Ameritech and then to AT&T (https://www.att.com/).  “I was hired as a market administrator,” she said, “which is the implementation portion of networks, and phone systems.” Janette was convinced that Michigan Bell had put her in the wrong role. On the first day of training, she thought: “I am in the wrong room.  I should be over there with the account executives.” But she said. “It took me about three years to switch to sales. I had to prove to them that I was good.  Within two weeks of entering my training class, I sold a phone system to an advertising company on the 10th floor of where we were!” This underpinned Janette’s belief in herself, and her ability to successfully sell.  “If you want to get somewhere, even if you are not officially ‘trained’ in it, just go!”   After three years as a market administrator, Janette moved into Ameritech sales for 14 years. “At the peak of my sales role, I handled the General Motors (www.gm.com) account,” responsible for the telephony segment of their large computerization efforts. “They had 200,000 voice ports, across the country.”  Daily, Janette managed a team that concentrated on the $25 million, annually, in recurring revenue that GM represented to Ameritech.  “It was very complicated,” she said, acknowledging that her biggest sale to GM had a 2-year sales cycle.  To accomplish that, Janette worked with EDS and Deloitte (www.deloitte.com) who “helped us do the financial modeling” for a new 7-year, fixed rate, $270 million-dollar GM contract. Janette was proud that “it was the largest single sale Ameritech had ever made. It was a team, but at the beginning, it was me; nobody believed in it.” Her lesson from this was: “It doesn’t matter what level you are in a company; how low you are on a totem pole. You can accomplish a lot!”  And her second lesson was to consistently deliver.  “Over at EDS, they could see, that if I said something would happen, I could get it done. My word was my word.”  Finally, for sales professionals, Janette’s advice is “to be a good salesperson, you have to know how to execute.” After the GM sale, Janette was promoted to direct the Managed Services Department for Ameritech, regionally. “We did a big deal with IBM (www.ibm.com), which was huge.”  Then Janette became pregnant with her first daughter. “And this job was really grueling. I was traveling to Chicago every week.  I chose to walk away.”  Janette had two daughters in a 2-year timeframe.  But, “When Michelle (her daughter) was about 1.5 years old, I went to work for Nortel (www.nortel.com).” She took on a Nortel support role, working on automotive accounts including Chrysler (www.fca.com), General Motors, and Ford Motor Company (www.ford.com). “I did that for about a year, but my heart wasn’t in it, because I had young children.”  Janette acknowledged that, for her, “it’s difficult to juggle young children, with a big job.”  Children, like “big jobs” are “24 x 7, too!”  Additionally, she saw that “Nortel started slipping down a slippery slope.” So, she took a Nortel buy-out.   Janette and her husband then created a regional pulmonary rehabilitation clinic business. For 5 years, she actively built and managed Valley Hill Therapy Centers, a two-clinic business, employing 20-plus people. “We were very good at what we did,” she said.  But “there wasn’t enough margin in it. We were very successful, but not profitable.” With her data background, as Janette was building the business, “we created our own ERP (enterprise resource planning) system. It handled patient care, employee records, charting, electronic medical records. I sold the business to Botsford Hospital, now part of the Beaumont (www.beaumont.com) and they still use my system for medical records.” Janette then became Executive Director for The Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation (www.mcwt.com), a Michigan nonprofit whose mission is to make Michigan the #1 state for women, and girls, in technology. After doing that for 3 years, Janette moved to her current role:  Vice President of Business Development, for Chrysalis Global Business Consulting (www.chrysalisglobal.com) --- a certified Woman-Owned Business (WBE), Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and a Small Business Enterprise (SBE), headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. “I find clients who need help. We take them by the arm, and walk them through the process” of adopting ERP, and “we stay on the project side, and advocating…” for her clients. In addition, Chrysalis does a lot of things: “business process optimization and everything around ‘how does your business run’ and how can we help you make it more efficient, and automated.”  Janette was hired to assist Chrysalis in diversification into vertical markets beyond airlines and airports.  “My role is to find business in Detroit. So, we have clients in automotive, and healthcare.”  The size of the Chrysalis prospective client varies; “whoever needs our support,” according to Janette is a prospect. While Janette experienced some issues, as a woman at Ameritech, the challenges did not set her back in her career. “I just didn’t care.  I wanted to do what’s right for the client, for my own company, for friends, for organizations. The rub is that people don’t give you enough credit for what you know or what you can accomplish. I think it’s a more natural assumption for women.  But, I focus on the work.”  An acknowledged “workaholic”, Janette’s driving force is “making a difference in an organization, whether that’s informal or formal.”  A life lesson for her is “you have to stay true to yourself, and do what you like. Recognize who you are; figure out where you want to get to; get out of your own head, and go! Just go.”   In her community life, Janette gave back and continues to give back by participation, as her girls were growing up, in school PTO, and the Rotary Club;  and now as a member of the Tech Committee for Southeast Michigan’s Automation Alley (www.automationalley.org), and the newly-minted NEW Tech Group which Janette hopes will serve DPS (the Detroit Public School System) “to help them with technology, mentoring and as the liaison to outside organizations” and also strengthen “the soft skills:  things like public speaking.” She is also involved with Detroit’s Mercy Education pilot program assisting women who have obtained their GED to get to the next level. Janette’s advice for girls and women in the tech field is: “You need to enjoy what you do.  And make sure that whatever you are doing gives you energy. Pay attention and think. And work first, play second.”  Janette Phillips can be reached at [email protected] For the full blog write up, make sure to check us out on online at www.divatechtalk.com, on Twitter @divatechtalks, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/divatechtalk. Follow our show and tell us what you like with an online review.
Oct. 24, 2017
Diva Tech Talk hosted engineer, tech expert, author and leadership coach, Farnoosh Brock, who shared lessons in personal development and career pivots. Having completed her master’s degree in electrical engineering at Clemson University (www.clemson.edu) , Farnoosh first worked as a design engineer at Atmel Corporation (http://www.atmel.com/), before joining Cisco (www.cisco.com), where she worked for 11 years. In addition to engineering, “I had the opportunity to move around, in other roles, such as sales operations, project management, program management. I got a lot of experience and am really grateful for that.” Eight years into building her Cisco career, Farnoosh began to feel restless.  “I stumbled on my passion for writing,” she said.  That led to blogging and to podcasting. The light bulb went off when she attended a blogging conference in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2010.  “That changed everything.”  Coming home, she decided “to take my hobby seriously, and turn it into a ‘side hustle’ with no impact to my career.”  She started her first newsletter; and she immersed herself into studying how to run a business, which was “something I absolutely fell in love with.” After that, “there was no looking back. Eventually she consolidated her writing and coaching under Prolific Living.  Much of the material is meant to inspire entrepreneurship, empower startups, and stretch human potential. Farnoosh emphasized that “if you feel you have an itch to do something, that has nothing to do with your career, and it is a strong urge, I recommend you follow that.”  She said that a key to being successful in starting a new endeavor is to “have one person in your life who believes in you, unconditionally, other than yourself.”  To select a coach, Farnoosh said ask yourself “how do I learn best” and ascertain what you need in terms of your strategy, your current weaknesses/strengths and the style that will help you grow, and reach your next level. Farnoosh centers much of her coaching around “positioning yourself powerfully” with some simple tips: “You are not selling; you are serving.”   “Connect the dots from your work to the bottom line effect.” “Create a circle of influence around you.” Ensure that you begin with a positive picture of yourself and your strong contributions to your work and mission. “Know your ‘blind spots.’ When necessary, make the right adjustments.” Above all: “Cultivate trust, every day. The more trust you have the more powerful your position will be as a colleague, as a leader.” The universal conundrum is that “Most of us already do a good job,” Farnoosh said. “But, how do we tell our boss, and others, where we want to go?” By being able to position ourselves powerfully, she asserted, we smooth our own journeys, and accrue the strength to forge our own unique paths. Discussing gender inequality in the technical field, Farnoosh also shared that sometimes “you see it where it may not exist.”  Her counsel, for women, is “be curious, not defensive.”  She firmly believes that “trust is one of the main foundations” of successful careers, and women can be agents of change if they can learn to simply keep open, curious attitudes when encountering perceived discrimination. Farnoosh recommends the audio version of widely-acclaimed Dr. Stephen Covey’s timeless Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as highly useful for our audience. In closing her last words of wisdom included “slow down; take care of your body; don’t sacrifice family or personal relationships for career.”  And finally, “trust yourself more.  You do have the answers. You know the right decisions. Use both your heart and mind. Trust that it will all work out.” For the full blog write up, make sure to check us out on online at www.divatechtalk.com, on Twitter @divatechtalks, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/divatechtalk. Follow our show and tell us what you like with an online review.
Oct. 11, 2017
Diva Tech Talk interviewed former investment banker and social entrepreneur, Laura Bilazarian, CEO and Founder of Teamable (https://teamable.com), accelerating any company’s ability to hire top talent by “smarter recruiting through social networks.”  A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business (https://www.wharton.upenn.edu/ ), with a degree in economics, Laura wanted to work at Google. “Unfortunately, I didn’t have the guts to go there without affirmation from my classmates.”  Instead, her first job was at Miller Buckfire  (http://www.millerbuckfire.com) an internationally recognized investment bank. “I traveled the world, and ended up doing private equity in Vietnam,” she said. In the early throes of her career, Laura also played professional rugby, on the #1 award-winning national U.S. women’s team, strengthening her ability to work in teams, problem-solve, and stay calm under pressure. She observed that “What stops you from coming in first is your own mental state.”  She quickly moved to the declarative sentence. “Instead of saying we could win a national championship, I started saying we WILL win.” As she got deeper into investment banking, Laura said “at some point, I just felt that the work was meaningless. I read Mother Teresa’s letters to God and I had a period of introspection.  What is another way I can impact the world?”  She traveled to Armenia, and observed that “tech is a place where you can all win together. We could all use data to connect people to the right work.” She conceived the concept, that became Teamable, and launched a Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com ) campaign around it. She continued to pursue investment banking, co-founding a fund devoted to Armenian companies; and Teamable’s development and data science activities also all take place in Armenia. While raising money for her own company, Laura’s investment banking background afforded insight into what investors were looking for. “I think that’s something that every CEO should learn,” she said. “Do something, like financial modeling, to really understand ‘where are the levers’ in your business. Not all levers are created equal.”   Laura’s three co-founders are technical whizzes – Armenian data scientists and crackerjack programmers.  “The hardest math we did on Wall Street, they were doing in 5th grade.” Laura moved operations to San Francisco; met with Silicon Valley denizens including the top analytics team at Google; and continuously began to validate the approach and build the Teamable company and customer base. She pitched her first successful financing round at well-known Greylock Partners (www.greylock.com/), where they found an angel investor willing to take a chance on Teamable. Highly egalitarian, Laura said that it simply became obvious that, when pitching, she should initially take the title of CEO. “I really don’t know when I earned it,” she said. “Maybe it was with the first money raised, or the first customer signed.” (NOTE:  40-person Teamable has raised over $5 million in its A round of investment, and has over 90 customers, to date.  The company has quadrupled in size since February, 2017). Laura stresses that “really being honest” in terms of feedback is crucial in the Teamable culture. “I want it to be radically transparent,” she said. She also prizes a hard work ethic.  “Where you make the margin is work ethic.  It’s discipline. It’s going above and beyond.”  Finally, she is creating an environment focused on hyper-growth. “Never feeling comfortable; continuing to challenge ourselves.”  Laura admits that her past two years were unbalanced and “a little dark.”  But she thinks it is the direct cause of Teamable’s success. “If you maniacally commit to anything, for two years, you will succeed.” Ever an ambitious learner, Laura is spurred by her technology colleagues and her access to Silicon Valley brain trusts. “I took the whole machine-learning course on Coursera (https://www.coursera.org/) at 2x speed, over a weekend.”  Lean Startup is a book that Laura would recommend any would-be startup founder reading. “I can’t stand anything that seems like a problem,” Laura summed herself up and affirmed that “It’s super-scary to leave what you’ve done. But you can do it!” For the full blog write up, make sure to check us out on online at www.divatechtalk.com, on Twitter @divatechtalks, and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/divatechtalk. Follow our show and tell us what you like with an online review.
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