Diva Tech Talk Podcast

Diva Tech Talk Podcast
By Diva Tech Talk
About this podcast
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.
Latest episodes
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]salisglobal.com. 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.
Sept. 25, 2017
Diva Tech Talk interviewed musician-turned-technologist, Theresa Ancick, Manager, Enterprise Business Intelligence at Beaumont Health Systems (https://www.beaumont.org), the largest health system in Michigan.  Theresa’s predilection for technology is genetic. Her father was a second-level executive at Michigan Bell (later acquired by AT&T: www.att.com) in the troubleshooting department. After high school, Theresa sang in a band, and traveled around the Midwest. “I had a lot of fun.  But my friends were graduating from colleges and getting married.  I went ‘oh my gosh, I think I might be a loser’ and decided to get off the couch and try and get a life of some sort.”  That new career life began with a brief stint as a waitress, “while I tried to figure things out.”  Then Theresa selected a job “specifically in computers” at Electronic Laser Forms, in Fraser, Michigan, who focused on producing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage forms “because I felt it was going to get me farther in life, ultimately.” Next, Theresa was hired by Gentry Machinery Builders, in Troy, Michigan to automate that small company’s accounting system.   Theresa learned everything she could about Gentry’s accounting system (payroll, accounts receivable, accounts payable, general ledger) as well as how to quickly computerize all the functions and reports. “Tony Robbins (https://www.tonyrobbins.com)  talks about discovering what your passions are; when you get involved with something and lose track of time.  I loved it.  It was like putting puzzles together.” This quickly blossomed into Theresa’s first entrepreneurial venture, when the vendor who sold Gentry their computers (Michigan Computer Solutions: http://michcomp.com/)  recognized her talents; suggested she provide the same services to other companies in the machine industry; and referred her to her first new customer. That customer “was so thankful that he sent me to every one of his friends! Within two weeks, I had to quit my ‘day job.’ “ Naming her consulting company, Accura Business Services Corporation, Theresa did not look back, (“it was a wave that took over me”).  “I was very popular in the tooling industry but I also served landscape companies, libraries, restaurants, over 200 companies, with their CPAs.  It was an education I would not have gotten at Harvard.”  Theresa gave up her company after the birth of her daughter, who suffered from the very rare “Caffey disease:” infantile cortical hyperostosis.   No insurance company would cover her daughter, so to qualify for family health benefits, she took a job at the Help Desk at Macomb-Oakland Regional Center (https://www.morcinc.org). Theresa dove into their billing system, based on her recent experiences and her penchant for “just figuring things out.”  In 9 months, they stabilized the MORC processes; moved from their antiquated tape-to-tape system; and became the one of the first mental health non-profits in Michigan to fully automate their billing system. Theresa worked at MORC for 10 years, eventually becoming the Director, Applications and Data Management. Along the way, she became aware of data warehousing and its intrinsic benefits to any business or non-profit operation.  “It was this intriguing thing on the horizon,” she said. To further explore that technology, Theresa moved to Oakland County Community Mental Health (https://www.occmha.org/ ), where new data warehouse initiatives were starting. She saw this as her “perfect job,” because “we had fun, and worked hard.  There was a lot of respect; we became aware that the more we built each other up, the better we all were.  We were all successful.”  Eventually Theresa led an 11-person team responsible for state-of-the art business intelligence and billing systems for OCCMH.  After her daughter made it to her healthier teenage years, Theresa also went back to school at Baker College for her degree. After OCCMH, she worked for Blue Care Network, an arm of Blue Care/Blue Shield of Michigan (https://www.bcbsm.com/ )  and then for Sun Communities (www.suncommunities.com ) , concentrating on business intelligence projects.  She then migrated to Credit Acceptance Corporation (www.creditacceptance.com) as Manager, Data Warehouse. From Credit Acceptance, she just recently moved to Beaumont Health System: “I feel like I am moving to an opportunity that was meant for me --- the impact for data analytics to have a positive effect on human lives.” Theresa’s entrepreneurial advice to others considering starting businesses is:  learn to delegate, “think bigger,” stay in learning mode, when you need to know something ask for help, and “when you hire somebody to do something, get out of their way.” Along the way, she saw companies falter because “they tended to micro-manage and they couldn’t get into the next thing.”  In addition, for any career, she strongly recommends that everyone get a variety of mentors to assist and guide them; and “learn how to speak with dignity and respect at all times. You can put exactly what you want out in the Universe fearlessly, and the possibilities present themselves.” A consistent giver, Theresa does food drives for the Gleaners Community Food Bank (www.gcfb.org/ ).  As an open mic host, she also organizes two major fundraising events per year for multiple sclerosis.  Additionally, she works with the St. Vincent and Sara Fisher Center (https://www.svsfcenter.org/ ) to provide GED testing for people who cannot afford it (“a cause very dear to my heart”). 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.
Sept. 18, 2017
Diva Tech Talk interviewed Dr. Rita Barrios, Chair for the Department of CyberSecurity and Information Systems, and Associate Professor, at the University of Detroit, Mercy (http://www.udmercy.edu/) graduating approximately 150 trained technology professionals each year. Rita said: “My Dad was always my biggest supporter.” The 7th child of 8 siblings in her “very strict” family, Rita admitted that she was “a little on the geeky side” in her high school years.  She entered the Detroit College of Business, specializing in accounting, but dropped it in favor of a technology major. She got married, and gave birth to a daughter during her senior year of college.   Rita’s several internships during that senior year (when her daughter was 6 months old) were at the Grand Trunk Western Railroad (gtw.railfan.net/), a wholly owned subsidiary of the Canadian National Railway (https://www.cn.ca/).  After graduation, she became a full-time employee as a junior programmer.   Grand Trunk’s IT department was eventually bought by Compuware (www.compuware.com).  Rita was promoted from junior programmer to project manager (“a huge leap”).  Her first large challenge was a two-year international EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) project among three cross-border entities, automating the manifest for U.S. Customs to enable trains to cross borders without stopping. She credited her immediate management for empowering this next career phase. “Anything we needed, they made sure we had.”  The secret to the success of that project was digging into the details rather than becoming overwhelmed by the totality of the undertaking. “I took it a bite (byte) at a time!” Rita’s next step was as a Compuware contractor to Ford Credit (https://www.ford.com/finance) to maintain their legacy information systems, going from programmer to senior DBA.  Rita also obtained her Masters of Science in Information Systems, Software Assurance at the University of Detroit, Mercy; then later completed her PhD in information science, with a focus on security assurance and cybersecurity at Nova Southeastern University (http://www.nova.edu/).  “An opportunity came where I could move to academia,” Rita said.  “ That’s how I landed at Detroit, Mercy.” Additionally, she received certifications from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg University, School of Public Health in data specialization, and a certificate in criminal justice and law enforcement from the FBI Detroit Citizens Academy. A single mom for 14 years, Rita is justifiably proud of her two children. “I have a daughter, now working on her PhD in Material Engineering. And I have a son, going into digital media and graphics arts.”   Rita is also excited about her own cybersecurity field. “We teach is how to do investigations, how to do digital forensics/hacking. We partner with the Criminal Justice Program because you cannot have a crime without some digital piece to it, these days, and look at it from the criminal point of view. We also partner with the law school, talking about cyberlaw. “ Rita’s specialty has spun off into a side business. She runs an IT training and education consultancy, RitaBarr LLC (www.ritabarr.com) specializing in corporate IT training, and also partners with Mackinac Investigators on digital forensics investigations.   “At some point, I would like to grow the business.”  Ever-ambitious, Rita is also looking forward to moving to the “business side” of academia, at some point.   Along the way, Rita said that “I have always been the only female in the room.” As an example, “I presented research at the Department of Defense to a bunch of military people, who were all guys. Coming up through IT, I was the only female, but I have never felt like the only female. I was never discriminated against.”  This feeling changed though “when I went to the University.”  There she experienced “over-talking, interruption, all of it. I have been told by my colleagues that I better ‘know my place, young lady, ’ ” she lamented.  Rita recommended her approach to deal with this negative phenomenon. “I am very professional. I go into a very robotic mode, very stoic. I lay out the facts with no emotion. I plan to say.“ Rita’s focused leadership lessons/advice currently include: “Spend time to get to know people. Find out their strengths, and where they belong.” “Bring the best people around you; then get out of their way.” “If you think about it --- that the project’s too big --- you will not achieve what you want to achieve. So, whatever comes, just take it in.” “Stay flexible. There is nothing you can’t overcome; nothing is impossible.” And summing up: “There are no shortcuts.”  For Rita, success is always about hard work. 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.
Sept. 6, 2017
Diva Tech Talk hosted creative entrepreneur, Natalia Petraszczuk, founder/CEO of new venture, VizBe (www.vizbe.com).  Natalia calls herself “a product of the Ukrainian community” in metropolitan Detroit, Michigan. Her undergraduate degree, from Michigan State University, was in International Relations.  Along the way, she worked with lobbying groups, on behalf of nonprofit organizations. Then “the political arena shifted a lot for me. I became less and less interested in that line of work,”  Natalia said.  In college, she took some basic computer skills courses, “because I wanted to stay competent” but “in a million years did not foresee myself in technology.”   Natalia fed her own entrepreneurial urge through observation: “As I got older, I began to see more and more examples of people taking the plunge,” she said. “My father always said: ‘When it comes to capitalism, you have to find a need and fill it’.  So, I kept my eyes open for opportunities.”    From her mid-twenties to mid-thirties, Natalia realized that “there was a big gap with technology as it related to self-development.” She learned three progressive lessons: “The answer is always within you.”   “You (your mind) are your biggest obstacle. Create a habit of focusing on the positive.” Then “Take time to truly connect with the best version of yourself.”   Practically, Natalia endorses meditation, envisioning a future ideal, journaling, and creating a vision board, to focus on long-time goals. Taking it further, Natalia founded VizBe, which “has pivoted a few times,” she said, “totally normal in the startup space.”    VizBe’s first product concepts were Web-based and mobile applications for the individual, to facilitate vision board creation and an eCommerce extension “where you could print the vision board to a whole host of products --- like your coffee mug, or your journal cover.” Then she determined her best audience for these products was companies and organizations, who could use VizBe solutions to enhance the lives of their employees. So VizBe launched as a “software and services company that helps engage employees through a goal setting program.”     As the non-technical founder of a technology-centered company, Natalia had some revelations. “All technology’s not the same, all coding and development is not the same” and “the biggest challenge with technology is that it is always changing.” VizBe eventually outsourced development to bigger firms to scale solutions to meet the needs of the B-to-B market and engaged in constant competitive analysis. “We work with employers to have their employees set goals for the next 10 years of their lives --- not just professional goals, but goals for their ‘whole selves’.  The platform helps draw out their answers, and helps create action plans and accountability within the workplace. It creates relationship-building; it creates loyalty to the company, and it results in tremendous loyalty, and retention, as well as higher productivity.”  In summing up VizBe’s value proposition, “ultimately what it comes down to is truly adding value to people’s lives,” she said.  Moving forward, Natalia’s goal is for VizBe to be acquired by a bigger entity, in the future. She commented on being a woman in the startup world. “It’s clear that there’s a ‘gender gap’,” in the entrepreneurial community,” according to Natalia.  “I end up working with mostly men. I try not to take it, personally. I choose to focus on what’s important to me and just persevere”.  To nourish women-led startups, Natalia recommended regional programs for budding women entrepreneurs, including those offered by Inforum (https://inforummichigan.org/), and The Michigan Women’s Foundation (www.miwf.org). Natalia’s advice for other women leaders is “keeping focused and simplifying is a key part of success.”  And remember to persist. “There are days you are not going to want to get out of bed, but there will be other days when it will be the best day of your life.” 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.
Aug. 23, 2017
Diva Tech Talk interviewed Meredith Harper, Chief Privacy and Security Officer for Henry Ford Health Systems (www.hfhs.org) With strong science and math aptitudes, Meredith began her tech journey in 2nd/3rd grades and then “I ended up being bussed, with kids all over the city of Detroit, to a middle school for gifted children.”  Meredith graduated high school in the top 3% of the Detroit Public School System, and started college at Hampton University, in Virginia. At the end of her freshman year, she lost her father. “So, I moved back home to Michigan,” where she was awarded a scholarship to attend the University of Detroit, Mercy (https://www.udmercy.edu/). In junior year, she switched from architecture to a computer science program. Meredith’s first industry job was on the Help Desk for Budco (https://www.dialog-direct.com ) supporting Ford Motor Co. (www.ford.com) dealerships. She then moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan as a data analyst for The Medstat Group (www.medstatonline.com), and “even in the early ‘90’s, we were collecting millions of rolls of data,” Meredith said.  She widely traveled to support and install paid health claims systems at many client sites, nationwide. “That’s when I realized I wasn’t just a technical person. I liked to talk to people; I liked to sell things.” “I knew absolutely nothing about healthcare,” Meredith said. “So, I ended up going back to school, because I wanted to get insight into the industry.” While working full-time, Meredith received a master's’ degree in health care administration at the University of Detroit, Mercy, and credits the person she calls her personal “angel investor,” Sister Mary Kelly there, for pragmatically supporting her early journey. Referring to Sister Mary, Meredith says: “We need to understand, we don’t get where we are, by ourselves.” She moved on as an analysts and junior consultant at Johnson and Johnson (https://www.jnj.com) offering software to support operating room cost-savings. She worked as a project manager/team leader at the Central Georgia Medical System (https://www.navicenthealth.org/).  There, Meredith benefited from being mentored by director of IT, Kyle Johnson, now a CIO. “She taught me a whole lot about leading teams --- how you traverse this environment primarily made up of men.”   As a project manager at Children’s Medical Center, in Dayton Ohio, (https://www.childrensdayton.org), “we moved to the next regulatory ‘thing’ which was HIPAA (the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act).”  She led the HIPAA gap analysis for all health systems IT and operational areas. “I had to sit down and read the entire 1100-page document to understand exactly what the implications were going to be.” Moving back to Michigan, she joined Health Alliance Plan (www.hap.org) to establish their HIPAA plan.  “From that point forward, 2002, I haven’t been able to get away from HIPAA since,” she laughed. Henry Ford Health Systems, who owns HAP, asked Meredith, in 2003, to become their first Chief Privacy Officer. Originally embedded in the compliance department, separate from IT, “I became the first Privacy and Security Officer because we felt that those two areas needed to be married. We needed to be governed by the same rules. We needed to have the same leader.”  One of the personal benefits to Meredith is that she began to report directly to Henry Ford’s first female CIO: MaryAlice Annecharico (Diva Tech Talk Episode 24).  “We have been able to build a team of 53 amazing people, who are very passionate about the work that we do. Data is king around here.  The more we can control access to data, the more we can control our risk.”  Meredith also acknowledged “I’m having a ball because I am one of the few women in the country who do it, at this level!” Meredith’s personal strengths are math/science aptitude combined with strong communication skills; propensity to take calculated risks; flexibility; intellectual curiosity; emotional intelligence; and coalition-building. Ever the eager student, Meredith is enrolled in a post-university masters of jurisprudence in health law at Loyola University Chicago School of law, a prerequisite for her doctorate level degree that she plans on entering, next.  This doctoral program offers students the same mass of knowledge as offered to a would-be attorney.  She intends to take her doctorate and teach on the university level. “So, I get that legal spin without having to take the bar exam.”    As an African-American woman, in a male-dominated field, Meredith said “I think it’s more challenging for other folks than it has been for me.  They have to get used to the idea of women being at the table. I have chosen to take those opportunities as learning experiences for the other individual ---- maybe they have just not had an experience with a woman leader, in the way they need to.  And maybe it’s my job to teach them that.” Meredith recommends that women aspiring to achieve tech leadership role “Recognize that you will fail. Spin that failure into a ‘life lesson’ you can use, moving forward. Learn from it; move on to the next thing.”  Above all, she says: “Know that you can do this.” Giving back to her community, Meredith is active in MCWT (www.mcwt.org) and with both her former high school and grade school, working with individual girls to “show them they can begin to be what they want to be.”  In addition to her busy agenda at HFHS, she also chairs the Michigan Healthcare Cybersecurity Council; is active in HIMSS (the Health Information Management & Systems Society); and is a faculty member for the security boot camp fielded all over the country by Clearwater Compliance LLC. She credits her husband and family for helping her achieve balance, and retain energy. “I lean on them a lot.” 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.
Aug. 8, 2017
Diva Tech Talk interviewed Microsoft (www.microsoft.com)’s Senior Director, Industry Product Marketing, Cloud & Enterprise, Kirsten Edmondson Wolfe. Passionate about politics, Kirsten graduated from the University of California, Davis in International Relations and Asian History, and then moved to D.C to work for an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) “whose job it was to help build democratic institutions in newly non-communist, countries.”  Kirsten’s watershed moment was in 1997. She was “standing at the rooftop bar of the Hotel Aryaduta in Jakarta, Indonesia while the Suharto government fell.”  She “watched students use technologies to film what was going on in the streets. These students brought down a totalitarian government, using cell phones.”  She said to herself: “Wow, I need to get into technology because if I’m going to truly change the world, it’s going to be through tech, not through politics.”   Kirsten resigned her job; went back to Thunderbird International Business School, obtaining an MBA in business marketing; got a job, at the height of the “dot.com implosion” at a large Massachusetts-based consulting company, SETA; and subsequently joined Computer Associates, now CA Technologies (www.ca.com). Kirsten’s initial role at CA was technology consulting focused on “how do we have the U.S. government invest in technology in developing countries so that we can bridge the gap.”  She recruited “a fantastic team” who took what CA was already selling to the U.S. government and “made it more impactful to their mission.”  In one year, Kirsten is proud that CA “went from not being in the Top 20 vendors in security for the U.S. government to #3, behind Symantec and IBM.” As a leader, Kirsten said “I learn every day.”   At CA, “the first thing I learned was that ‘all boats rise together’. It is about collaboration. I succeed as a leader when my team succeeds.”  In 2009, she moved to Deltek (www.deltek.com).  What attracted her was the newly-minted CEO “recruiting folks from other software companies to make Deltek more of a ‘player’ in ERP.”   But, Kirsten learned what she called “a really good life lesson: don’t jump too quick.”   She said: “I realized, about a year in, that I needed to find a company that I could be happy at.” So, Kirsten moved to Microsoft (www.microsoft.com/dynamics)  and concentrated on business applications.   Her Microsoft team works with engineering to “infuse industry requirements into the Microsoft platform.  I can fundamentally change where we go, as a company.  It’s opened a whole new set of opportunities.   This is the one company that if we can stitch all of our stuff together, we can do fantastic things in society.”   Kirsten’s advice to leaders: “Surround yourself with great people.” “Listen.  Learn from other people.  Acknowledge that you don’t know everything.” “Admit when you are wrong, and that you screwed up.” In her philanthropic life, Kirsten works on children’s issues through Donors Choose (https://www.donorschoose.org/). “It is an online network of educators,” she explained. Through it, “I help fund some innovative education programs in less successful school districts. My son and I just picked one, yesterday.” Speaking of her family, Kirsten acknowledged the difficulty of achieving life balance. “There’s a lot of non-traditional communication,” and use of innovative technology to make it all work.  She also commented, “at the end of the day, you have to be willing to shut off the laptop, and go for a bike ride!” She is “learning to walk away. I think gender roles, over the last 20 years, is allowing us to put the laptop down, and do things with your family.”  Kirsten strong parting words of inspiration are: “Keep the faith, keep driving. There has never been a better time to be a woman in tech.  We can actually, fundamentally change all of 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.
July 25, 2017
Diva Tech Talk interviewed Linda Daichendt, CEO and Founder of the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan (MTAM) (http://gomobilemichigan.org ), CEO of Strategic Growth Concepts Inc., executive producer for  Michigan  Mobile Musings audio cast, and Board Member for the Michigan STEM Partnership.  Linda was not an early technologist.   “I loved technology as a child but I was discouraged from going into it.” She started out as a marketing leader in the retail industry.  “I ran marketing departments for shopping malls and retail corporations for the most part” in her early career. In 2002, she became CEO of Strategic Growth Concepts Inc.  (http://strategicgrowthconcepts.com), a Marketing and Operations consulting firm providing services such as: marketing and business plan development, and implementation as well as employee recruitment to a variety of clients.  Along the way, Linda found herself falling in love with mobile technology, which was dramatically changing the face of the U.S. economy in the early part of this century.   In 2006, she became the national director of marketing for a country-wide chain of wireless retailers (Wireless Toyz).  “I became fully entrenched and learned everything I could about what was going on in the industry.”   After Wireless Toyz was acquired, Linda focused solely on Strategic Growth Concepts Inc., and added her expertise in connected tech to her consulting practice. Finding no connected tech networking groups nor associations in the state to fill the mobility technology gap, Linda decided to start one! To date, MTAM is unique:  it is the only statewide trade association, dedicated to ‘connected technologies.’ It started by gaining the Michigan rights to an international program called MOBILE MONDAYS, meetups for those interested in mobility and connected technologies.  Since “there was need for referrals, access to training, and all these other things,” the non-profit statewide trade association was then born. Moving beyond the cell phone, MTAM is “about everything that ‘connected technology’ means --- from IoT (Internet of Things) to autonomous vehicles to augmented (virtual) reality.”   Linda is passionate about connected technologies because “I think it can change people’s lives. I think it can change our economy, make it much more diversified. I think it can help Michigan attain a leadership role, nationally and internationally.” Linda’s personal leadership traits include tenacity, dedication and focus. She stays current in her field of expertise by “constantly reading, listening to podcasts, watching videos, attending Webinars and attending events.”   She recommends both THE MOBILE MARKETING HANDBOOK, by Kim Dushinski, and MOBILE MARKETING FOR DUMMIES by John Arnold & Michael Becker, for anyone who would like to begin their immersion in connected tech by starting with Mobile Marketing. She has frequently been asked “You’re a woman.  How did you get involved in leading this organization?” The good news to Linda is that “Today there’s a lot more attention to the fact that there needs to be more women and more minorities brought into technology.”  To help further the cause of diversity, Linda observed “We need to focus on bringing people along with us.”  She spreads the message to parents and educators to “encourage young women to pursue technology in their education and their careers.”   She is thrilled that she is in a technology-driven role now.  “Somedays it drives me crazy. But I have said to many people, this is what I was meant to be doing. I think girls, if they see the power of what technology can do, can become someone who can change the world.” 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.