Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Who am I? Who are You?

     The eternal question we all ponder, who am I?  Who are any of us?  Where do we come from? What makes us who we are?  Well at it's very essence we are made up of 23 and me.  Those are the 23 pairs of chromosomes in a normal human cell.  23 and Me (https://www.23andme.com/) is a privately held personal genomics and biotechnology company based in Mountain View, California that provides rapid genetic testing for as low as a one time fee of $99. The $126 million genetic-testing company can tell you how to live smarter, better and longer.

AnneWojcicki, founder of the company had long dreamed of such an idea.  A former Wall Street executive with a degree in biology (very similar to myself - from pre med, wall street now to IT nerd), she has taken a personal interest in wellness into a thriving,
potentially groundbreaking business. Since founding 23and­Me in 2006--with the backing of an impressive list of investors including her *then husband, Sergey Brin, and the company he then ran, Google--she has been working toward two goals: "bringing the power of genetic testing to everyday consumers so they can better manage their own health care, and using the aggregated data from those tests to help doctors, scientists, hospitals, and researchers discover new cures for diseases that emanate from troublesome genetic mutations"- Fast Company. (Wojcicki and Brin announced their separation in August. A 23andMe spokesperson says, "He remains committed to the company.")

I first learned of this while watching Ann on Oprah five years ago. I was intrigued to say the least but at the time the price was $499, a bit steep for my blood.  When  I went on one of my first dates with Jay, my now husband. we started talking about.genetics (I know, we were meant for each other) and I brought up 23andme and he told me he had done it!  He showed me his results, and it was just as fascinating as projected.  At that point they had dropped the price down to $199 with a $20 monthly charged- much more feasible, so I gave it a whirl. Even more impressive now at the low one time fee of only $99!

Now, I cannot speak to other's results- but as for mine they were spot on, intriguing, and very impressive.  I spent hours looking over all the ways to slice and dice my genetic data.  As for my husband- he recently toted about the wonders of 23 and me in his most recent blog 5 life hacks you should be using today.  He knew his lineage down to the town, as his entire family has been tracing for decades.  He says, "The most interesting thing is seeing where your mother and fathers lineage was 500 years ago (before mass travel).  Mine was 100% correct - Inverness, Scotland and Nottinghamshire, England.  Yes, I am the direct descendant of Robin Hood and the Loch Ness monster"  Spot on accuracy, kudos 23andme!  As for me, ironically I grew up believing my mother was Polish and Italian.  Right before taking my test I had traveled to South Africa and everywhere I went, I was asked, "are you Portugese? Spanish?" .  Well, you can imagine my surprise when the test confirmed in fact I was...  Surprise mom :). 

An unfortunate side note, as a female, having two X chromosomes I am unable to see my paternal side (unless my estranged father or my half brother get tested)- therefore, I think women should only have to pay half price ;) Nevertheless,  it is a fantastic way to map your genome: test your lineage, check for potential health conditions, and fun facts all based upon your DNA, all from a saliva sample. 
You know how you hear those stories of a runner who goes out one day, and dies suddenly of a heart attack, never even knowing they had a heart condition?   What if that could have been prevented, or treated?  I was born with a atrial heart condition called a Mitral Valve Cleft, and have to go to a Cardiologist annually knowing someday I would need surgery... but what if I didn't know that?  Well, thanks to my health report on 240+ health conditions and traits I was able to see clear as day my condition (and other potential genetic conditions I may or may not be at risk for).  To me this is a true blessing because prevention is key, and can save lives, especially knowing you are prone to something or have a greater risk.  Now, recently I have read some countering arguments which loosely state "facts" of cases which they were not spot on, such as a man low risk to heart disease but had heart stents.  We have to remember, there is nature vs nurture, and although you may not be genetically prone to be high risk to something, however, if you eat poorly, are overweight, do not exercise, smoke etc these things could heighten your risks of course- and the test is not accounting for that. As for people who get the results, and make drastic decisions- they are not confirming you have, just stating you might be at higher risk- a smart person would check and get a second (or even a third) opinion! You should always do that no matter who tells you what, it is our job to fact check to protect our body.

Other interesting tid bits are the fun traits we may possess which mine were pretty darn close, if not exact.  What more?  you can compare against friends and loved ones?  For ex, I can see how I rank against my husband Jay:

Moreover, now that we are expecting our first baby, we can see our potential genetics we will pass on to our wee one thanks to their neat feature called "inheritance calculator":

It appears that McBainby will be a bitter tasting, wet ear wax having, 100% sprinting, no flush alcohol drinking (not till your 21 kiddo), lactose tolerant baby girl.  Eyes yet to be determined  for certain ;) Coming soon April 3.

<Our Baby Girl :)

Another bonus I was able to know for a fact Jay and I were not related prior to our marriage (no offense royal family), thanks to my ancestry finder.  I did however find 999+ relatives who share my DNA, a fond introduction to my 1-5th cousins from all over the world.  

We get to share lineage, common genetics, stories on our ancestors, and ways to maintain, treat, or  deal with some common traits and potential risks.  

So where do all of these ancestors live now a days, well we know that too- thanks to the geo mapping, I like to call this section, "Where in the World are Michelle's Relatives?":

The more people tested, the more information they collect, the more relatives I get to meet,  and the more we can learn about each other. Also, it inspired me to trace back my direct lineage as well, and now as I become a mother, what better gift to your future but then to share with them their past?

You can do a lot with $99, but why not try using it to find out a bit more about who you are, where you came from, and what the future might have planned for you?  There is one CATCH,... on November 22, 2013 the FDA sent a letter ordering them to stop selling and, shut down, or limit this wonderful and helpful health site: read the FDA Ban here.  This really made me upset, because I personally found this site intriguing, helpful, and informative.  I felt empowered having MY history and DNA in my hands, and don't feel it is fair to take that opportunity away from others who are intrigued to learn more about themselves as well and choose to participate.  If interested, I encourage you to please sign the petition to restore 23andme:  Sign Petition Here!

Friday, March 22, 2013

SMB150 + Women in Technology = Bright Future

I am honored and privileged to have been nominated and awarded a second year in a row for the SMB150! Over the past several months, hundreds of IT professionals from around the world have been engaged in the SMB 150 Channel Influencers contest. The SMB 150, which is a collaboration between SMB Nation and SMB Technology Network, declaring the third annual SMB technology channel's list of its 150 most influential members.  

"I encourage everyone in the SMB channel community to join with me in recognizing and celebrating the winners of this year’s SMB 150," said Harry Brelsford, Founder and Chairman, SMB Nation. "Each individual whose name appears on this esteemed list has strived to ensure that our SMB community is one that will continue to thrive and succeed. I am beyond excited to toast them at the awards dinner on May 4 in Redmond."

The following is the list of esteemed winners: 
Aaron Booker
Abhijit Chatterjee
Akash Saraf
Alan Helbush
Alan Schrater
Alan Weinberger
Alex Rogers
Ali Din
Allen Miller
Amy Babinchak
Amy Luby

Andy Goodman
Andy Harper
Anurag Agrawal
Arlin Sorensen
Arnie Bellini
Ashutosh Tiwary
Austin McChord
Barbara Dove 
Bill Hole
Bob Godgart
Bob Nitrio
Bob Vogel
Brett Jaffe
Brian Burch
Brian Laufer
Brian Sherman
Carl Mazzanti
Carlos Fernando Paleo da Rocha
Carlson Colomb
Cecilia Galvin
Charles Weaver
Chris Amori
Chris Bangs
Chris Chase
Chris Sterbenc
Christy Sacco 
Cindy Bates 
Cliff Galiher
Corey Simpson
Curtis Hicks
Dan Tervo
Dana M. Epp
Dave Sobel
David Bellini
David Johnson
David Spire
Debi Bush
Dina Moskowitz 

Dona Keating 
Ebrahim Keshavarz
Ed Correia
Elvis Guštin
Eric Ligman
Eric Townsend
Frank Ernesto
Frank Gurnee
Gary Pica
Greg Starks
Herman Pool
Hilton Travis
Howard Cunningham
Ian Moyse
Jacob Braun
James Foxall
James Kernan
Jamison West
Jan Spring
Jane Cage 
Jason Coffer
Jay Epton
Jay Ferron
Jay McBain
Jeannine Edwards
Jeff Middleton    
Jeff Ragusa
Jeremiah Ilges
Jerry Koutavas
Jessica Devita 
Jim Sterling
Jim Turner
Joe Hillis
Joe Panettieri
John Krikke
Josh Freifield
Justin Crotty
Karen Guarino
Kate Hunt 
Keith Nelson
Ken Edwards
Kenneth May
Kevin Royalty
Larry Doyle
Larry Schulze
Larry Walsh
Lawrence Hsu
Len DiCostanzo
Leonard Dimiceli
Linda Brotherton
Mark Crall
Mark Hicks
Matt Makowicz
Michael Jenkin
Michael O'Connell
Michael Reuben
Michael Siggins
Michelle Ragusa 
Mitch Garvis
MJ Shoer
Nancy Hammervik 
Nancy Williams 
Paul Dippell
Peter Sandiford
Philip Elder
Praerit Garg
Ramon L. Garcia
Ramon Ray
Rayanne Buchianico
Richard Kenyon
Richard Tubb
Rick Bahl
Rob T Rae
Robb Patterson
Robert Cohen
Robert Crane
Robin Robins
Robyn Davis 

Scott Barlow
Scott Scrogin
Scott Wharton
Shari Godgart
Steve Harper
Steve Noel
Steven Banks
Steven Cullen
Steven Teiger
Stuart Crawford
Stuart Selbst
Suresh Ramani
Susan Bradley 
Ted Hulsy
Ted Roller
Thomas Fox
Tim Barrett
Todd Thibodeaux
Travis Austin
Vince Tinnirello
Vlad Mazek
Wayne Small
Zak Karsan

Twitter, Facebook,Google+, LinkedIn and Blogs have been a buzz with the excitement and congratulations of joining this esteemed list.   As Jay McBain, co-founder of ChannelEyes (and my fiance) stated  in his most recent  blog"We are thrilled to be in the company of such well-respected professionals".  As am I, but there is a certain group who really make me proud to be in their company.  As you might have noted, I have highlighted (proudly in pink) 23 extraordinary names which stood out to me.  As I sit on the Executive Council of CompTIA's Advancing Women in IT, it is always a privilege and an honor to see those hardworking women in our community represented for their excellence.

In my blog last year,  Chic and Geek,  I took a look at the amount of women represented in this and various other awards and lists, as nominees and winners.   Statistically, women make up approximately 10 % of the IT Industry.  Although I know we (as women) represent a minority in the IT community, I was surprised to see how few women make up the percentage of leaders and influencers in the IT industry. 

Awards Gala recognizing the SMB150 2012 Winners 

On a high note we can see the since it's inception in the 2011 SMB Awards we have seen a rise, and diverse amount of women represented in nomination and recognition over the past three years.   In 2011, 13 women won the SMB150 award (8.6%), 20 won in 2012 (13.5%) , and 22 as of 2013 (15%) ; thus female representation in only a few years has almost doubled!  Now that is a powerful and wonderful step in the right direction. 

A huge kudos to the  community vote, and esteemed panel of industry experts consisting of Harry Brelsford, (SMB Nation); Karl Palachuk, (Great Little Book Publishing Co., Inc.); Josh Peterson, (MSP Score); Dave Seibert, (IT Innovators); and Dan Wensley, (Level Platforms), evaluated each nominee based on a pre-established criteria, on the recognition of such wonderful and diverse list of men and women on this years award recipients. 

These days the media is on fire with commotion of and by women.  Marissa Mayer's calling home (or firing) her remote work force - my two cents were written in my blog, Why Cisco got it right, and Yahoo got it Wrong! .  Next came Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, author of the newly published book "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead", which caused a lot of controversy, and praise.  Supporter or not, one can celebrate that it once again opened the conversation of Women in IT and their advancement.

Recently after reading Sheryl Sandberg's book and speaking to her, our Cisco CEO John Chambers had some revelations.   John Chambers always felt that he and his executives were doing a good job creating a positive working environment for women.  Now, Chambers said, he realizes there's more work to be done at Cisco, and for our more than 70,000 employees worldwide.

"While I have always considered myself sensitive to and effective on gender issues in the workplace, my eyes were opened in new ways and I feel a renewed sense of urgency to make the progress we haven't made in the last decade," Chambers wrote in an internal email after sitting down with Sandberg. "Without realizing it, we operate every day with gender stereotypes and biases, many of which we do not realize. After reading 'Lean In' and listening to Sheryl, I realize that, while I believe I am relatively enlightened, I have not consistently walked the talk." Jeffrey Burt of eweek reported to the outside world.

Padmasree Warrior- Cisco 
Although I have always been proud to work for Cisco, and especially John Chambers- there is a certain level of pride I felt by his recognition and announcement... and now, more than ever, I can say I am honored to be a part of this company and his vision.   Cisco's Chambers said in his email—obtained by the newsite AllThingsD—(I of course received my copy internally ;)) that his company needs to do a better job creating a working environment where women can flourish and rise up the ladder. Cisco has several top-level female executives—Padmasree Warrior, the company's CTO and chief strategy officer, for example (who I highlighted her inspirational panel discussion in my blog Happy International Women's Day!), and Rebecca Jacoby, CIO and senior vice president of the IT and Cloud and Systems Management Technology Group—but it can do better, he said.

Chambers noted that less than 25 percent of Cisco employees are women, and 20 percent of the 1 million students at the company's networking academy are women.  Yet he recognizes this and seeks to create more opportunities for women within Cisco.  "I believe we—together—need to drive a fundamental culture change and it is up to us as leaders to make this change happen," Chambers wrote. "What we have been doing hasn't worked, and it is time to adjust."  

Technology is the very essence of growing and adapting to change.  Seeing esteemed leaders such as John Chambers, my personal Cisco inspiration in my career, and esteemed organizations such as SMB150 rise up to meet the changing times makes me proud to be a part of this technology industry.  Working on the Executive Council of CompTia's Advancing Women in IT has been a privilege and an honor.

Last week at CompTIA's Annual Member Meeting we had the opportunity to have 7 young ladies from the Chicago Tech Institute (all young high school girls dressed in their adorable uniforms, bright eyed and bushy tailed for our 7 am breakfast meeting).  They were engaged, open, and listening deeply to the round table discussions and inspiring and gripping panel Cisco's Michelle Chiantera, Senior Director of America's Partner Marketing, and Betty Grogan- AVP, North American Channel Engagement at Ergotron.  At one point one of the young ladies had to ask, "I am sure everyone already knows, but what IS a glass ceiling?"  Well my dear, I hope you never have to learn except in definition.  I hope the leaders of today continue to fortify the paths which have been blazed for me, and we will continue to clear those trails for you.

At the end of the discussion, their Executive Director Matt Hancock (who happened to be a man) said, "I know this is for the Advancement of Women, but I have learned so much from today about how to improve myself, I certainly will have to  attend next year.  Matt explained the goal of their HS is to close the gender gap in technology.  He had been working with some of the girls for three years, who reluctantly thought a career in technology was "too hard and not for them"...  Until a few hours with us.  With pride one of the girls said, "I was wrong, I think there are a lot more opportunities in tech then I realized, and you can still be cool and in technology".  Well kudos to us on that cool vote, and even more so that we helped showcase how wonderful a career in technology truly is- for men and women alike!

If we helped make a difference in the course of one, or maybe even all seven young girls lives, we are on the right track.  It starts with one, "The confidence and optimism that you’ll hear in our young girls’ voices is the confidence and optimism that you’ve helped instil" stated Matt Cook.  Thank you to SMB150, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, Cisco's John Chambers, CompTIA's AWIT, and all of the organizations who work to educate, and inspire the youth of America, and the world.   Thanks also to the men and women in a position of leadership who have not forgetten where they came from, and take the time to "reach down and lift someone else up" stated eloquently from Blair Christie, Cisco's SVP,CMO WW Government Affairs on International Women's Day.  It is through ongoing open dialogue  mentorship, recognition and support, we can change lives, we can change the future. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Happy International Women's Day!

A joyous celebration of diversity, talent, intelligence and beauty (inside and out).  That is what International Women's Day means to me.  It is nice to have a day, but I think this spectacular array of appreciation for Women should occur all year long! :)

  International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on the progress made for women without regard to divisions - whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic, or political. It is an occasion for looking back on past challenges and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women. Yesterday Cisco partnered with Citi in a lively, and passionate discussion.  We laughed, we cried, we left inspired.

The conversation was kicked off by two power houses, Blair Christie, SVP,CMO WW Government Affairs, Cisco and Deborah Hopkins, Chief Innovation Officer, Citi and Chairman of Venture Capital Initiatives.  They shared some amazing personal stories and experiences which every woman in the audience could relate too.  Next up was Lynette Lewis, Author and Inspirational Speaker - “Climbing the Ladder in Stilettos”.  Finally was a fascinating panel discussion - Padmasree Warrior, SVP, CTO and Strategy Officer, Cisco; Alison Gleeson, SVP US Commercial Sales, Cisco; and Tracey Warson, Managing Director, Global Market Manager, Citi Private Bank North America.  With more than 1,000 people listening on line and more than 200 members in the live audience, as well as the Social Media Firestorm which pervaded on Facebook, LinkedIN and Twitter listeners hung on to every word. Judging by the Twitter Universe male and female supporters alike laughed and cried along with every word the fantastic guests uttered, and shared tweeted and re-tweeted their timeless quotes.

The discussion was educational and informative sharing facts and figures such as "Board of Directors with two or more women are proven more successful" to the the call of action that 50% of women are graduating from College, and the question arising how can we inspire them?  Also, thought provoking- with the knowledge that with diverse graduates, comes along diverse customers, and thus is important that the companies too reflect that level of diversity.

Debora Hopkins reassured the audience questioning their own level of worth that she "never thought she was qualified enough for a job, but took it anyway" and proved her doubts wrong every time.  She encouraged us to never be held back by what you think you are capable of, we are capable of more than we ever imagined!  They spoke to being the only women amongst a group of men early on in their career. Time and time again, they noticed women appeared to be more risk averse, but encouraged the audience to have the confidence to leap into something others might be too scared to.

Learning that the top 10 jobs today didn't even exist in 2004 shows how much time, technology and business continues to change and evolve, and the importance of us to grow, change, and adapt accordingly.  Blaire and Deborah spoke about their years of challenging themselves, adapting and growing as well as the  importance of empowering yourself, even if you were the only women in the room.  Never apologizing for yourself (even if you have a cold) and never sit in the smallest chair in the room- figuratively, or literally.  Their funny anecdotes lessons and stories inspired us all to follow in their footsteps.   They also taught us to reach out to advisers and mentors; and if you were in a position of leadership to not forget where you came from, and to also take the time to "reach down and lift someone else up".

Lynette Lewis lit up the stage in her bright fuscia dress and stilettos, and packed a punch with her substantive key note.  Many of us, myself included, related to her personal stories of failed relationship and ability to "dream on all cylinders".  After almost a decade at Cisco, I have finally met my match and I too am glad I didn't wait for romance to fulfill my dreams in other areas of my life, especially my career.  She explained how she had a "plan" a timeline, she would get married, then have four children...but more than 63 blind dates (in a single year) and decade after decade she had still not found her match.  Her best friend "stole her life" and had gotten married right out of College and had 10 children.  She realized she would have to put her dream of marriage and children on hold, while she went on to live another dream.  She focused all of her energy into her career. She coined the term: "Dreaming on all cylinders", a great example for all of us.

After September 11, being single in her late 30's living in NYC, it was with a heavy heart where she pondered some of life's toughest career truths:  "Her bosses didn't care about what was in her heart" and "no one has time to pay attention".  She realized then she could not depend on anything or anyone else to find her purpose.  She pondered the age old questions we all think about- "Why am I here on earth?"  "What is my role in my job, and corporation?". When she discovered her mission, she found her "what", and she ventured  to achieve the "why".

Lynette was young when she sat on and was asked to chair a high level board with many leaders she respected and looked up to. How could she contribute?  The board had many issues, the biggest being attendance.  She went around the room and asked each of the 25 Board Members to articulate why they were there.  It turns out every single person in the room had a different why.  She often went back through their next year and re-connected with them on their goals and achievements and had their best year to date.  Why?  Because people were fulfilling their purpose.

She took this lesson back to her career and told her boss if they wanted to achieve the companies true goal of retention, and recruiting and keeping the best employees it would be important to know their purpose, and understand their dream.  At first he denied her, and she adamantly told us, never let anyone say no to your dreams!  It kept her awake at night, her juices flowing and she went back to him again and dreamed aloud, she let it evolve as she spoke and he finally gave her the chance.  Although she had fears, she explained, if you have the opportunity to pursue your dreams, always say "sure!".  It was through dreaming outside of her job description she began to fulfill her dreams and purpose!

Simultaneously she explained quite humorously how her biological clock began blaring, but she stayed focused on her other dreams which kept her going.  She talked about the three D's:  Delays, Denial, and Disaster.  Like many of us who are planners, and not naturally patient- delays can be the hardest to overcome.  She met her husband at the age of 42, and on her Wedding Day received the gift of four children ("minus the stretchmarks").  Sometimes life makes you wait- keep dreaming!

Next up was denials, and she provided a great example- "When you get to a stop sign, do you park?" of course not!  She wanted to write a book...but she didn't know how {Stop Sign}; fine get a literary agent...but I don't know any? {Stop Sign}; write a book proposal... but I don't know how{Stop Sign}but she kept driving around all of the stop signs and within two weeks she had a book deal.  It just might be that your dream is EXACTLY what someone else is looking for.  Alison Gleeson also shared her touching personal story about planning to get pregnant, and things not going as she planned, but adopting her beautiful son and things working out better then she ever had dreamed.  "Dream big, dream full, dreams keep us moving".

Lastly was disasters.  Somethings in life we cannot overcome, and are out of her hands.  One of her stepsons was doing a mission trip to Tanzania and had 20 nose bleeds. The day before his 21st birthday he was diagnosed with stage 4 Sinal Cancer.  UNC Chapel Hill diagnosed him with a softball sized tumor which was wrapped around both of his olfactory notes.  It was at this point of her story the audience burst into tears (myself included) with a lump in our throat hanging onto every word. After aggressive treatment, 71 rounds of radiation and 8 rounds of chemo he still had a 50% chance of death.  During his final surgery which was scheduled to last four hours he came back 1.5 hours came back cancer free, and his eyes returned to 20/20- a miracle indeed.  I myself have had lots of struggles in my life which I have worked to overcome- an abusive father my mom left at a young age to raise me alone as a single parent.  A rare heart condition which requires surgery I was diagnosed with at two years old.   Some things in life are out of our control, and it is during those times you have to "let go, let God", or for those of you not religious  leave it to to the universe.  For those somewhere in the middle, I love this Native American Proverb- "Pray to God, but row away from the rocks".  I do my best to control my own destiny, and to bounce back from the disasters or challenges I face, and her story inspired me tremendously to never give up, even in the face of adversity.

Mrs. Lewis explained that her success took a formula of innovation, perseverance, and {help from} others.  She describes the life she has now as "different then what she thought, but better then imagined" and I am sure many of us, myself included can relate to that.

My personal story, the love of my life and I met per chance through a charity.  I had just gotten back from South Africa, and he was leaving for their in a few weeks.  We had everything in common and stayed up talking till 6 in the morning...I knew I was in trouble.  I had never dated anyone with children before, but he had two beautiful and intelligent daughters who I immediately fell in love with.  I had always been a dog person, with not one but two hundred pound lap dogs.  He had a small cat named Austin Danger Powers, Danger was his middle name.  The day Jay proposed, my soon to be 16 year old step daughter moved in with us.  I joked I became a wife and a mom all in one weekend.  As a type A person who gives their all to every aspect of my life, personally and professionally, it is sometimes hard to not feel the pressure to be the very best. I related very much to Padmasree Warrior on her stories as well.

Padmasree spoke about creating her own purpose and destiny as well.  She stated, she was not sure if destiny existed but she tried to mold her own future.  She gave great relief to the crowd when she stated there was "no perfect- job, opportunity, or next step".  She like the other women said she did not let her title define her, but rather "let who we are define our role".  As we discuss our own possibilities of children, and the teens we both share now as well, I couldn't help but chuckle and relate to the story of her first born.  She said, she had a baby, and felt guilty for going to work.  So, she decided to stay home... and then felt guilty for not completing her work projects.  She decided working from home would be best- problem solved... right?  Then she felt guilty for not being a "super hot mom" ...so she got a treadmill for home.  Then she felt guilty that the house wasn't clean enough... so there she was cooking, and cleaning, working and "momming", and no matter what she did, or how much she did, feeling guilty.  Can you relate?  I sure did!!!  Mrs. Warrior (and what better name could there be for a mom who does it all?!) said "have the courage to decide what is best for you...without feeling the guilt".

The final words are advise are things each of us can carry with us every day:
  • Dream, one day a week, for a minimum of 10 minutes.
  • Know when to "turn your brain off" and relax.
  • Tune in to your creative side
  • Be Proactive about your career
  • As women we tend to shy away and over analyze... there will never be enough data to feel comfortable, so don't "over analyze".
This last piece of advice impacted me more than anything else Padmasree  said, "take calculated risk, but don't calculate forever".  Now go on and live your life, create your destiny, dream big, and have some fun along the way!

Should the speakers of these eloquent words happen to read my blog- I want to say THANK YOU for your message of hope, encouragement and inspiration.  At times, I felt like you were speaking directly to me, and I am thankful beyond words you were so willing to share your personal stories with each of us.  I hope I did justice capturing your words and message, as I wanted so much to share it with those not lucky to here it live.  As soon as I get the video recording, I will post that as well.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and please continue your work of inspiration!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Why Cisco got it right, and Yahoo got it Wrong! (My 2 cents)

As the modern workforce continues to evolve and globalize, more and more companies are evaluating a telecommuting strategy to save costs and lower carbon emissions as well as to retain top talent.  I am very proud to work for Cisco a company who paves the way to create new technology and "Changes the way we live work, play and learn" and creates technology that helps improve productivity, reduce costs and pave the future and embracing the culture of telecommuting.  It was shocking to me to see Yahoo taking a huge step back on this front:  the new policy will not only forbid occasional telecommuters from utilizing their home offices, but those who currently have arrangements to work at home regularly will now, according to Mayer, be expected to make the trek into the office each day. And the company is not expecting to extend leniency to those who might have just cause to stay at home. One news report via Web site AllThingsD.com, stated that Yahoo “employees who work from home must comply without exception or quit.”

I believe this is an approach to a bigger issue an unspoken but highly identifiable problem: yahoo is stagnant in the technology world. In the end,  if yahoo fails, people will point to the end of telecommuting as one of the justifications. If yahoo succeeds, people will point to this decision as a major driver of success. Either way it has nothing to do with the effectiveness of telecommuting.  The companies mission and focus is the TRUE issue, yet this decision is causing a chasm of outrage and support on both sides. Regina Ciardello of SMB Magazine spoke out in her most recent article stating, "As someone who makes a living via working out of her home office, I was honestly appalled by this decision. I voiced my displeasure on my Facebook page, sharing an article on this subject in which I stated: “This is bad for business, bad for morale, and promotes an unhealthy work-life balance.”

So has Yahoo!'s battle been all rosy?  Let's look at their history- Yahoo! grew rapidly throughout the 1990s. Like many search engines and web directories, Yahoo! added a web portal. It also made many high-profile acquisitions. Its stock price skyrocketed during the dot-com bubble, Yahoo! stocks closing at an all-time high of $118.75 a share on January 3, 2000. However, after the dot-com bubble burst, it reached a post-bubble low of $4.05 on September 26, 2001.  In the years that followed things steadily went down hill.  The company struggled through 2008, with several large layoffs.
 In February 2008, Microsoft Corporation made an unwanted bid to acquire Yahoo! for USD $44.6 billion. Yahoo! formally rejected the bid, claiming that it "substantially undervalues" the company and was not in the interest of its shareholders. Three years later, Yahoo! had a market capitalization of USD $22.24 billion.  Carol Bartz replaced Yang as CEO in January 2009.In September 2011, she was removed from her position at Yahoo! by the company's chairman Roy Bostock, and CFO Tim Morse was named as Interim CEO of the company. In early 2012, after the appointment of Scott Thompson as CEO, rumors began to spread about even more looming layoffs. Several key executives, such as Chief Product Officer Blake Irving left.  On April 4, 2012, Yahoo! announced a cut of 2,000 jobs or about 14 percent of its 14,100 workers. The cut is expected to save around $375 million annually after the layoffs are completed at end of 2012.  In an email sent to employees in April 2012, Thompson reiterated his view that customers should come first at Yahoo! He also completely reorganized the company... but by  May 13, 2012, Yahoo! issued a press release stating that Thompson was no longer with the company, and would immediately be replaced on an interim basis by Ross Levinsohn, recently appointed head of Yahoo!'s new Media group.  On February 24, 2013, Yahoo! sent a memo to their employees asking that all employees, including those who work at home, work in Yahoo! offices starting June 2013. In the memo, "Yahoo! claims to be taking these steps in order to improve communication and collaboration efforts amongst their own employees" [Wikepedia], but the question remains, are they truly taking a look at their position in the market and the real issues at hand?

Business Insider had a FANTASTIC presentation which depicted the future of work place, and "the death of the office as we know it".  I am lucky to long be a part of a company who not only utilizes these techniques, but helps to create it.  Every company has a bell curve of employees, although many wonderful, there are always a few bad apples.  These poor employee can lurk in a cubicle or in their home... it is my opinion, coming to an office does not make you committed.  I personally am committed regardless of my location, as many of my colleagues and customers are as well.  Those who are dedicated can be so regardless of their location.  I have personal bias, as I worked in one of our biggest Cisco campus offices for 8 years, before I moved to work remotely and telecommute for the past year.  Upon recent reviews with my manager and his compliments in regards to his views and my customer's annual review I realize that if you are passionate and dedicated then it should not and will not matter where you are, and your level of productivity will be 100%.  My customers work all over the United States, the cost of flying to see them would be unparalleled, yet I am readily available to be their direct liaison to our customer day or night (or late night) as needed.  Utilizing the very tools we have helped to build, partner or acquire from Web Ex to Telepresence, IP Telephony to e-mails care of our Routing and Switching, right down to my Linksys wireless router and everything in between.  Many of my clients do not know where I work, many don't even know I moved unless we mention it in conversation, and those who do know, do not care because my level of relationship support has not faltered.  I feel my work life balance has improved, and my productivity has been enhanced due to my ability to not take time away commuting and things of that nature.  But, don't take my word for it, let's look at some studies and facts.

Flexibility:  Due to  the nature of some jobs, such as retail cashiers or airline pilots, telecommuting might never be an option for them, but for many positions, technology has made this work style a viable alternative and sometimes even a preferred way of doing business. "Teleworking is best suited to jobs that are information-based, predictable, portable or that demand a high degree of privacy and concentration," said Marcia G. Rhodes, the spokeswoman for World at Work, an international human resources company.  New tools and employer tech support have made it convenient for employees to stay in touch with their managers and colleagues, and customers through calls, instant messaging or video conferencing. Customer service representatives might be able to take calls from home or a coffee shop just as easily as they can from an office. Lawyers can review patent contracts from home using a secure server system. Even doctors are using technology to help them diagnose patients remotely, and thus save lives.

Time:  Technological advancements have made it easier for people to connect across vast distances, making face-to-face meetings less necessary -- or at least less frequently required. If you don't have to drive to see your colleagues or your clients, you can dramatically reduce your time spent in the car, leaving additional time for work or personal tasks creating a better work-life balance.  According to a 2003 Bureau of Transportation survey, the average commuter spends about 26 minutes on a one-way trip to work, and a majority of commuters drive their personal vehicles [source: U.S. Department of Transportation]. That means that commuters, on average, spend about 52 minutes or nearly an hour a day in the car traveling to work and back home. This means that the average American spends more than 100 hours commuting to work each year, longer than the standard two weeks of vacation given to most employees [source: U.S. Census Bureau: Facts & Features].

Go Green:  In addition telecommuting helps the environment:   According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency: Climate- not using your car for just two days a week can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 1,600 pounds (725 kilograms) per year.  In 2008, Cisco teleworkers prevented approximately 47,320 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the environment due to avoided travel.  The average distance for round-trip commutes varied among global regions: employees in U.S. and Canada reported on average a 30-mile round-trip commute; Asia Pacific employees cited a distance of about 14 miles; Japanese employees cited a 26-mile commute; employees in emerging markets commute an average of 16 miles; and European employees reported a 46-mile commute.  Cisco employees report a fuel cost savings of $10.3 million per year due to telecommuting.

Save Money:  Not commuting to work helps the environment along with saving you time, but it can also save you money. While the money that you save will vary depending on your commute, you can calculate your relative savings easily. Just take the average price per gallon of gas, your car's average miles per gallon and then your daily commute distance. For example if you own a 2009 Honda Accord that gets about 24 miles per gallon with combined city and highway driving, and your average weekly commute is about 50 miles, then you could save several hundred dollars a year on gas alone [source: Fueleconomy.gov].
Not having to drive your car to work on a daily basis can help you save money in other ways, too. For example, you likely won't have the number of miles of wear-and-tear on your car. You might also save on parking expenses. Additionally, you might not spend as much on clothing or dry cleaning; and instead of going out to eat, you even might eat lunch more frugally from your own kitchen, and have healthier options to boot!

Saves your Company Money:  The potential for increased employee productivity would a plus for many because employees who telecommute are not in the office as often as regular employees, thus companies might be able to scale back its office space, which could reduce the company's rental expenses  These smaller spaces may also come with lower utility bills. In addition to office space, telecommuters probably don't use as many of the free perks that companies offer in-house. Many offices offer free coffee, tea and even snacks for employees in the office. These costs might be able to be reduced because a fewer number of employees would be taking advantage of them [Wilsker].  Benefiting a company's financial situation can mean more stability for the business and for its employees.

Relocation and Retention:  As aforementioned increased productivity and savings can benefit both the company and the individual, however so does the possibility for an employee to relocate while keeping his/her current job. For example, let's say an employee's spouse's job is transferred to a city across the country (As was my case). The employee may thoroughly enjoy working for his/her current employer, but for family/personal reasons must move to the new location. A company that offers telecommuting might be able to retain this seasoned and productive employee working for them. This situation offers benefits for both the employee, who still has a job, along with the employer, who doesn't have to train a new employee and retains possibly the best person for the position.  On the other hand, however, this also means that employers might be more likely to look outside of their geographic region for new employees.  You can hire and acquire better people that more fit what you are looking for if a commute is not an issue, thus widening your hiring pool.

Reduce Stress:  The problems with a physical commute, such as getting stuck in traffic, can be a huge stress for people.  Telecommuting can have stress-lowering implications for employees. For many people, the hardest part of their work day is getting to and from the office, this can allow those employees to commute fewer days in the week, lowering stress. According to a study sponsored by Hewlett Packard in the United Kingdom, participants' heart rates and blood pressure levels rose to levels higher than those of experienced fighter pilots going into combat during their daily commutes [Hewlett Packard].

Flexibility in Schedule:  Flexibility in work schedule can allow an employee to hone in on the best work time for him/her and his/her clients. This could mean starting a little earlier, perhaps the hour you would have spent stuck in traffic in your car. For those that are morning people, this might be your most productive or creative time of the day. This can also be a benefit for those that have many clients in different time zones [Rhodes].  Additionally, a flexible work arrangement could also allow employees to take advantage of doing errands during off-times when others might be in the office. Going to the bank at 10 a.m. could save an employee time and stress. An employee might also do this with exercising. If your optimum exercise time is 3 p.m., you can take a jog then and work later to make up for that time [Gordon], and yet come back to work more productive and focused than ever.  There are numerous studies which prove the benefits of exercise and corporate exercise.  According to a British Research Study six out of 10 workers said their time management skills, mental performance and ability to meet deadlines improved on days when they exercised. The amount of the overall performance boost was about 15 percent, according to the findings, which were presented this month at a meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Nashville, Tenn.  "The people who exercised went home feeling more satisfied with their day," says study author Jim McKenna, a professor of physical activity and health at Leeds Metropolitan University in the U.K.

Boosts Productivity:  Many employees feel that they could be more productive outside of the office -- away from distractions such as that "chatty cathy" cubicle colleague or the social aspect of the office. "The one reason that is most surprising is that employees want to do this (telecommute) because they are frustrated by how difficult it is to do their work in the office," according to the Wilsker survey.
Taking away the distractions can make people more productive, but holding employees more accountable for their productivity can also have an effect. Wilsker notes that "even though employees may be present in the office in front of their computers, there is no way of knowing whether they are actually working". According to a 2005 study, employees who accessed the Internet at work reported spending about 3.4 hours per week accessing non-work related sites [source: Websense].  Since many telecommuting jobs do not revolve around the time spent, but instead how much you can produce for the company, it could make employees more efficient with their time. "I find that people are more productive because they are task-oriented, not time-oriented and think that 'I need to get my job done,'" Wilsker said.

For many companies it can affect their bottom line.  Per Cisco case study in June 2009 titled " Cisco Study Finds Telecommuting Significantly Increases Employee Productivity, Work-Life Flexibility and Job Satisfaction".  Cisco conducted the survey in late 2008 to evaluate a number of telecommuting topics, including commuting patterns, technology barriers, work quality and productivity, environmental impacts, and advantages and disadvantages of the flexible lifestyle, as well as overall employee satisfaction.

1,992 Cisco employees across five regions (Asia Pacific, emerging markets, European markets, Japan and U.S./Canada) participated in the study.  The summary of that survey is Cisco is achieving new levels of efficiency and effectiveness by enabling people to work together no matter where they are located. In fact, according to Cisco's Internet Business Services Group, the company's global strategic consulting arm, the company has generated an estimated annual savings of $277 million in productivity by allowing employees to telecommute and telework. In addition, with the steady adoption of enterprise-class remote connectivity solutions like Cisco® Virtual Office, the recently announced Cisco OfficeExtend, and virtual collaboration tools like Cisco WebExTM, Cisco anticipates that employees and employers will continue to see a rise in the benefits associated with telecommuting.

Cisco's Next-Generation Workforce

  • Cisco employees spend about 63 percent of their time communicating and collaborating.
  • 40 percent of Cisco employees say they are not located in the same city as their manager.
  • The average Cisco employee now telecommutes 2.0 days per week. 
  • 60 percent of the time saved by telecommuting is spent working and 40 percent is spent on personal time.
Productivity and Collaboration

  • Approximately 69 percent of the employees surveyed cited higher productivity when working remote, and 75 percent of those surveyed said the timeliness of their work improved. 
  • By telecommuting, 83 percent of employees said their ability to communicate and collaborate with co-workers was the same as, if not better than, it was when working on-site. 
  • 67 percent of survey respondents said their overall work quality improved when telecommuting. 
  • An improved quality of life through telecommuting was cited by 80 percent of survey respondents.
  • Telecommuting can also lead to a higher employee retention rate, as more than 91 percent of respondents say telecommuting is somewhat or very important to their overall satisfaction.

Rami Mazid, vice president, Global Client Services and Operations, at Cisco stated "In the age of a global market, time and distance separates people and workspaces. Cisco has long recognized that telecommuting and collaborative technologies are effective in breaking down separation barriers and enabling the transition to the borderless enterprise. In addition, as demonstrated by our recent study, a properly executed program for telecommuting can be extremely effective at unlocking employee potential by increasing work-life balance, productivity and overall satisfaction." Cisco Video Story

There are many benefits to as mentioned above and as someone who also sits on CompTIA's "Advancing Women in IT Community Council" , and a new step mom I will say it goes even deeper than that for many working mothers (and fathers).  Despite being the first woman to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company while pregnant, Marissa Mayer is facing some particularly vocal criticism on parenting and "mommy" blogs for not understanding the plight of the working mother, according to Business Insider.   Many of the comments that impacted me the most were: "Dare I say that for a company trying desperately to innovate, Mayer’s ordering workers back to work seems neither progressive, inspiring or smart" Denene Millner at mybrownbaby.com wrote.Sara Welch at the BabyCenter blog stated, "I had high hopes that a young, female CEO — one who was openly pregnant when she signed on for the job — would bring a fresh perspective and some more, well, trailblazing.  This move seems completely out of touch with the modern workplace — one, I might add, that makes no bones of invading almost every second of life via blackberries, laptops and cell phones.Worse, it is totally out of touch with the very stretched lives of the vast majority of working parents who don’t have the benefit of a $300 million cash cushion and all of the work-life support that kind of money can buy." And from a blog post at phdinparenting.com:  "... Maybe it's just me, but a technology company that insists collaboration can only happen in person is an obsolete technology company"

Carina Reyes, manager, Operations, Cisco had this to say about her lifestyle at our company:
 "As a working mother of three children, I know firsthand the benefits of Cisco Virtual Office. Through high-quality voice and video, I remain engaged and able to lead global teams and programs with ease and avoid back and forth trips to the office. The seamless transition from work to the home has given me the flexibility to choose the schedule that best fits my work and my home. Juggling early-morning Europe calls, midday doctor's appointments and evening Asia meetings, I move with ease from one place to another. My family and I feel fortunate that I work for one of the best companies today that enables true work-life navigation."

In my humble opinion, in this ever modernized knowledge-based economy, what is important is getting the job done, not when, or where.

** This article represents my personal opinion, supported by research and studies**