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" 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!