Inspirational Women In Technology Part One
Now more than ever, it is so important to come together, think positively about our future and work towards the change we want to see.
This past July, I was invited to attend the Women In Technology fundraising luncheon hosted by the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP), and it was such an honour. They selected four guest speakers and a host who are all incredibly dynamic and inspirational women who are dedicated to giving back and supporting women in particular, to realise their full potential and contribute fully to the world.
These inspiring women are:
- Julie Simpson – Managing Director, ResourceiT Consulting
- Gavriella Schuster – Corporate Vice-President, World Wide Partner Group, Microsoft
- Sarah Gray – Senior Director, Channel & Retail Marketing, Jabra
- Jo Burston – Founder and Managing Director – Job Capital and Rare Birds
- Leasa Mayer – Owner, CGR Events
I want to help share their success stories and impactful takeaways so that you can also be inspired to take a chance, accept a challenge and move past fear to achieve the impossible.
Here are my Coles’ Notes:
Early in Julie’s life, she found herself a single parent with a significant mortgage, no job, no education or specialised skills and no prospects. That sparked a connection to her internal drive and ambition.
Julie now owns and leads a $5 Million business, employing 20 people and becoming one of the most valuable business development partners in the IT channel today.
Confidence, compassion and a big appetite for the joy of living ooze from Julie. She is impressive, inspirational and a wonderful role model of what is possible.
Gavriella Schuster – Corporate Vice President,
Worldwide Partner Group Microsoft Corporation
Gavriella was asked to speak on failure and how it’s helped her. She shared the story of when she was put into a new role after returning from maternity leave. She loved the role and the project she was to lead was right, smack dab in the middle of her sweet spot.
She threw herself into the project full tilt. Created a robust vision of what Microsoft could do, got authorisation to hire 4 people whose skillset was not traditionally a Microsoft skillset. She found an outside partner and entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The team worked tirelessly for almost a year and then did their first few pilots.
It was an abject failure. There was no way this solution was ever going to work for Microsoft. Nothing was going to be salvageable. Gavriella had to go to the executive group and deliver this message, which included the amount of money invested that would have little or no ROI. She also had to tell her team that this was not going to move forward and find someway to dissolve the MOU.
That was 16 years ago and Gavriella is still learning from and drawing upon the lessons learned. She summed them up as:
1. The power of partnerships – Gavriella said that in hindsight she, “Let my passion take me away from a focus on the outcome.” She now partners with people who can support her passion while helping her to channel it effectively to avoid blind spots that are created when we see through one lens only.
2. Start small and pilot early – Had Gavriella piloted much earlier in the process, she and her team would have known their original concept wouldn’t deliver the expected results. They would have had the opportunity to learn from the feedback and adapt or change altogether, with much less of a negative impact.
3. There’s always a tomorrow – She fully expected to be fired, but she wasn’t. She realised that we all make mistakes. What matters, is that we recognise and own it when it happens so it doesn’t become bigger than it is. This learning has enriched her career and those of the people she has led in the subsequent 16 years.
Gavriella closed her comments by reflection on this; she is now the person that leaders are afraid to come to when they have made a mistake. She’s one of the people that other leaders now have to come to sell through their ideas, ask for budgets and report progress, or lack of it. She holds the memory of that day when she had to report her failure to the executive team and stands in the shoes of those reporting to her.
As I listened to Gavriella speak, I kept thinking that she is a living, breathing example of leadership at it’s best in a huge corporate environment and how lucky her direct reports are.
Sarah Gray – Senior Director, Channel & Retail Marketing, Jabra
Sarah spoke about how we set about achieving our ambitions. She began her talk by saying she was surprised when the luncheon organiser’s asked her to speak because she felt there was nothing special about her or what she had accomplished.
When she accepted the invitation/challenge (my interpretation), she stepped back and reflected on where she was and how she got there.
Sarah shared 4 steps to achieving ambitions:
1. Know your goal – Sarah works with a coach who helps her clarify what she wants to achieve and then helps her to lay the path to getting there. When she identified her ambition to move into a role with global responsibility within Jabra, she went to HR to ask what she would need to do to ensure she was qualified and ready when an opportunity appeared. She was told by someone in HR that she would never be promoted to a global position because she was English (I assume he meant not Danish). That push-back fuelled her ambition. That set back did not shut her down. The short story is she is a global lead and that person is no longer with Jabra.
2. Have supporters – Sarah showed a picture of her husband and kids. She talked about how supportive they are even though she has to work from home to manage to global time zones. She shared a story of her 8 year old daughter standing beside her mother to get her hair plaited (braided) for school, while Sarah was on a conference call. Instead of complaining that she didn’t have her mother’s full attention, she made a comment about how the people on the other end better be listening because her mummy was smart and she was the boss. For Sarah, that support and cheerleading from her family tell her she’s raising confident children who know they can do anything they set their minds to when they grow up. And that fuels her ambition.
3. Pay it back – Sarah spoke about the other people who have supported and continue to support her on her journey and how that inspires her to give back and help others. Despite what must be a very full schedule, giving back feeds Sarah and inspires her to continue to grow and go for it.
4. Celebrate success – Sarah told a story about being at a business function shortly after she was promoted into the global lead role. Someone at the function congratulated Sarah and said, “You must be so proud of yourself for accomplishing that!” It was at that point that Sarah realised that: A) she was really proud of herself and B) not only had she not acknowledged that, she had not even celebrated getting the promotion. That was a turning point for Sarah who now adds celebrating successes as one of her four steps to achieving ambitions.
Sarah concluded her talk by saying for her, this is an ongoing process of growth and personal development. She shared her next ambition which is to be a CEO somewhere. She has already spoken to her coach about what she needs to do to get ready for when the opportunity presents itself.
And then Sarah poured herself a Gin & Tonic (with my favourite gin – Tanqueray) and asked us to raise our glasses and help her to celebrate her future success as she realises her next ambition.
The final two incredible women that spoke at the Women In Technology luncheon will be featured in my next blog post – So until then, Cheers!