Thursday, April 24, 2014

Would you be intimidated being alone in a crowded room?

Imagine you are a successful business professional. You are invited to many events after work to network, create useful contacts and learn about new areas impacting your work. You go to such an event one evening and, as you walk into the room, you quickly scan to see if there is anyone there like you. And event, after event, you are the only one of your kind in the room. There may be 100 people in the room and you are still the only one.


This is the experience of being a female CEO, or I suspect an African American CEO of either gender, in Silicon Valley.

This week I went to an evening event run by one of the top executive recruiting firms on Developing Business in China. I walked into the cocktail reception, scanned the room, and saw no women, not even a waitress. As I sat down for dinner at a table of white men (all charming) the dinner guest to my left asked me "Don't you feel intimidated coming to a dinner like this since you are the only woman?" He noticed, and projected, and predicted intimidation. I just laughed and said "it's the norm for me, so no" - and proceeded to have a delightful evening.

A few months ago I went to a PE (private equity) reception for CEOs to meet the partners and each other (they were developing deal flow). Again I walked into the room of about 100 people and saw no women whatsoever, not even a waitress. Sometimes there will be a young woman on the desk handing out badges (most firms have good looking young women on the front desk), but rarely in the room with the players. That particular evening was a "Monday Night Football" cocktail party - huge screens and speakers, lots of alcohol, and so I worked the room and briskly left. Not my scene.

If you are a white male, can you imagine how you would feel if almost every time you went to a professional event for executives, investors and CEOs (of which you are one) you were the only man in the room. Or the only Caucasian in the room in a room of African Americans. How would you feel? Remember, you're not there for social reasons. You're there to be respected, engaged, treated as a professional equal. Could you?

How many times would you have to be put in that situation for you to become blind to it?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why Personal Positioning is Toxic in the Office

Which matters more - how you are personally positioned, or what you get done?


Sometimes popular wisdom would tell you personal positioning truly matters. Who you know, what they think about you, how much "face time" you get, are you networked... but while this strategy may be effective in some large or political companies, it's death in a fast moving, apolitical one.

I define politics in the office as any person, or behavior, that puts their personal interest in front of the company's interest. When you're growing fast, and making a thousand decisions every day, there simply is not room for people's self interest if it's not aligned with the company's. But the learned behaviors, from larger political organizations, still hang around with new employees until we stop them.

Behaviors like obfuscation of the details - let me make broad statements as if I know what I'm talking about to shut you down, but I don't actually have the details to solve the problem. Or CYA - let me tell you why the problem I am bringing to your attention is a result of something that happened before I had the job to solve it. Or the "Well everything's all effed up so I'm the hero for trying to fix it". Or the eye roll when describing someone else's problem. All behaviors designed to position the source as superior and not responsible for whatever problem you are tackling.

But in a rapidly moving company, I want my staff to be responsible. Even if it is effed up, and the fire was burning before you arrived. Personal positioning is just a waste of my time.

A customer is unhappy. Bring me specifics. This happened. I think the issue is A or B. I've formed a small team to get to the bottom of it. We'll tell you if/when you need to speak with the customer.

A release is late. Tell me what and why. This piece of code took longer than we expected to deliver, or that piece is unstable and we need two more weeks to test it. We'll come to you if we need more time or resource to solve it.

To the point, specific, centered on action and resolution.

And blame is simply not helpful. Things go wrong some times and individuals are to blame. But the time for blame (if there is ever a time) is after the problem has been solved and then in a post mortem. Bring the team that failed in a situation together and debug what went wrong - with no blame. That allows you to make sure it doesn't happen again.

I have a friend who, early on in his career, proudly called himself the vice president of personal positioning. He had it down to an art form. He was smart, articulate, good looking and senior management loved him. This served him well for a while. Then he came to work for me and I called him on his BS, repeatedly, until he figured out he was capped until he solved real problems. Because he's smart he stopped it, and is now an SVP at a large enterprise software company.

People who are repeatedly successful, across multiple companies, figure this out. They focus on action. On creating solutions, solving problems, helping others. Despite the number of blogs written that say you should manage your brand, and how you are perceived, the truth is power accumulates to the people who know what to do and how to get it done (See my post about Pfeffer's books on Power if you are not familiar with this concept). Not people with friends. Not people who know how to network. It accumulates to people who know what to do and how to get it done. Period.

So if you find yourself worrying about your personal positioning, yes, you're human, but put it aside and set about solving the problem you're faced with.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Feelin' Sorry for the Ladies

Guest post from Tom Bentley, board director at Rambus, Nanometrics and Cortina, former investment banker, and one who loves to stir it up!

In reaction to the "Ban Bossy" campaign write up in the WSJ:

Sheryl Sandberg must be their worst nightmare.  It's hard enough meeting the expectations for a Superwoman, having a wonderfully successful career, raising a passel of great kids, attending all the extra-curricular events that have blossomed in recent years, managing a wonderful home, and looking your best every day (how much time do you think Sheryl spends getting ready in the morning, compared to Mark Zuckerberg?).  Now they have Sheryl telling them that they're losers if they don't behave exactly as she tells them to.

This gets to pass for science these days: "Over the past 30 years," she (Joyce Benenson, a psychologist) writes, "I have come to believe that boys and girls differ in some of their basic interests and accordingly behave in different ways".  Who knew!?  The good news for women is that the world is moving their way, collaboration is becoming a far more powerful tool for success than competition.  The great success of American business results in substantial part from an evolution of management towards a more collaborative, less hierarchical style – flatter organizations and more empowerment at the group level.  Social media is the phenomenon driving the tech world these days.  Leading business schools have all moved towards group learning and team projects, and away from the traditional individualized classroom teaching.  We could look at this as the feminization of the economy, but then we have Sheryl telling us that girls need to become boys.

Not only has internal hierarchy been breaking down, but businesses behave much less like silos, now depending on lengthy and complex supply chains, collaboration with partners in all sorts of areas, great inventions coming from widely dispersed teams rather than the Einstein in the closet, etc.  Over the years, I watched the traditional autocratic tech founder/CEO's pass from the scene, to be replaced by professional managers whose ability to draw on the talents of the people under them was the overarching key to success.  Women should be rejoicing at this evolution, until Sheryl tells them to stop being afraid of being bossy, and to "lean in" until people get sick of them being so obnoxious.

Disclaimer: I am a victim of my own reality, my daughter is a psychologist, a field dominated by women.  She's married to an econ major who teaches math and coaches men's basketball, i.e., all male.  They have a great life, and I assume that my daughter has no idea who Sheryl Sandberg is.

Monday, March 31, 2014

A journey through time in Turkey

The cradle of so much Western history. We tripped over thousands of years of history just by walking down the street. Sleep was elusive because my imagination was on fire. The history pulsed under my feet and at the tips of my fingers.

First stop Istanbul. Founded as Byzantium in the 7th century BC, then re-imagined by Constantine the Great in 330AD, captured by Mehmet and the Ottomans in 1453 and now a glorious international city at the meeting point of Asia and Europe.

Constantine's city - surrounded by water and a powerful wall - that stood for 1,000 years as a bridge between Europe and Asia. Today it still acts as a buffer: a moderate secular state (for now) between radical Islam and the West. As it did from the beginning of Islam until the fall of Constantinople and the end of the Byzantine empire.

 

Justinian's Hagia Sophia - 537AD (minarets added later).
We were hunting Byzantine mosaics here and in Chora.

 

Glorying in the scale of Justinian's vision The largest building in the world for 1,000 years.

A humble 6th century AD cistern, filled with water to withstand siege for years, now a beauty in it's own right.

The Fort of Europe built by Mehmed the Conqueror in 4 months as part of his strategy to choke trade in the Bosphorus and take Constantinople. He was only 21 years old!


The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque) - 1616 AD - at sunset


In the Topkapi Palace Harem, stunned by the blue tiles in 300 rooms, thinking we'd have gone crazy with the political intrigue at the heart of the Ottoman empire.



Then down the Aegean coast hunting ancient Greek, New Roman (Byzantine), Medieval European and Ottoman history.


The temple of Zeus, Euromos - 2nd century BC


 

Ephesus - 2nd century AD. One of the 4 largest Roman cities in the world. They lived well here.


 

Ephesus - My kind of theatre! Beautiful location and large enough for serious entertainment.


 

One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the 6th century BC temple of Apollo at Didyma near Miletus. Hard to realize the scale in a photo.


 

The ruins of Miletus. A glorious 4,000 year old city, conquered by Alexander in 334 BC, turned into a bishopric with a castle by the Byzantine's in the 6th century, used by the Ottomans in the 14th century but finally abandoned when the harbour silted up.


 

The knights of St John's castle in Bodrum - build in 1400 to resist the Ottomans


Nice place to be sent if you lived in Medieval England! Kos and Greece in the distance.


Full circle in time. to the oldest shipwreck ever found - 1400 BC treasure on a ship carrying enough tin and copper to make bronze armor for 5,000 soldiers. A king's ship.


And of course, great food everywhere!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Appreciating my freedom of speech in Turkey where Twitter is now banned

There's a lot written about "social selling" in tech these days, and how to use Twitter to engage your prospect, but this week we are all seeing just how trivial a use of Twitter this is in comparison to the power it can have on a global scale.

I flew from New Delhi to Istanbul a few days ago and as I flew the PM of Turkey,  Mr Erdogan, shut down Twitter in Turkey. I was in the air, reading the news on line (36,000 ft up) on Turkish Airlines as he put this decision into action. My plane at this point was somewhere over the Caspian Sea and the signal was pinging through a groundstation in Georgia (according to my analysis with Google maps at that moment) and so I could still see the Tweet stream almost up until landing in Istanbul.

And as I watched the hashtag #TwitterisblockedinTurkey soared! (check it out with Twitter search)


 My view coming in to land...

Original and thought provoking art appeared within minutes as the suppression unleashed creativity. And of course most users figured out how to get around the ban using a direct DNS and texting - even spray painting the instructions on how to bypass the block on walls so everyone can see.

By Sunday the government had blocked Google DNS directly but the internet is too pervasive and flexible to shut down quickly, as Turkey's government is finding out. The tech-savvy are working around the ban with VPN and anonymizing sites like Tor.

But why? What's really behind all this? I've heard as many reasons as people I ask, and I am asking everyone I meet. One of the wonderful things about Turkey is how open and friendly the people are, and they speak their minds. With elections coming up in 6 days it's probably a mix of all the reasons we are hearing -- corruption, mobilizing the rural conservatives to vote, creating tension to show power -- and above all a desire for control to try to change the outcome of the election.

The US dept of state has called this "21st century book burning" but in Turkey this is a case of history repeating itself (telegraph was the equivalent in the Turkish war of independence). Sadly, the actions of the government will set back Turkey's bid to join the EU, which would be good for both Turkey and the EU on many levels.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental right. It's something we take for granted in the US and sitting in a remote mountain village of rural Turkey this morning I am acutely conscious of how precious that right, and the freedom to speak my mind is. I am choosing not to use VPN to access Twitter today, but I cannot imagine living in a world every day where I had to worry about my actions on line and whether I am taking political and personal risk when I express myself.

My heart goes out to the people of Turkey who want to be free, and live in the modern world in a high functioning democracy. Their press is still free but their country is divided. I hope and pray they navigate through the next few weeks and months safely -- and still free.


The newspaper our first morning

Monday, February 24, 2014

How not to get lost in the Twitter ocean

Navigating social media without analytics is like crossing the ocean without stars.

No self respecting ancient mariner, or night-migrating bird for that matter, would try to cross from Knossos to Delos without use of the stars. The ocean is too large, and full, and dark.

But sales people are trying to follow their B2B customers on Twitter without the stars. They load up users and keywords into excellent B2C support apps like Hootsuite or Radian6, but still miss their destination because they can't navigate the business developments by following people. To understand how your customer's business, and so your target, is changing you need to be navigating through all of Twitter and extracting out the B2B business trends buffeting your prospect.

That takes analytics. Analytics that process every tweet and figure out it's meaning. Real time.That figure out whether it is relevant to You. Does it match your personal interests, does it have meaning to Your business, and Your strategy whether or not the keywords you put in are matched?

That's what we're doing at FirstRain. Analyzing Twitter the way a Minoan navigator would study the stars 10,000 years ago. It's all very personal. Finding you the path through Twitter's ocean to get to your ultimate destination - revenue growth.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Three things you can do to hire women and change your company forever

Posted in the Huffington Post

Our world is changing very fast, and the role of women is changing fast with it -- and, mostly, for the positive. We have more women in power, more women in the workforce, more women in control of their lives but there still aren't representative numbers of women at the top of companies.

And yet, we now know that diverse teams make better decisions. We know women make 85 percent of consumer buying decisions, and so, if you sell anything to them, you probably want women in your decision structure. As a CEO, if you're making strategy decisions, and hiring decisions, you want a diverse set of opinions around you to advise you. It's time to pro-actively bring women into your workforce.

So why would any company build an all-male leadership team now, or an all male board, or a board that is mostly male with one token female? The most often-cited reason is that there are no qualified candidates -- what baloney! When Twitter filed for its IPO with no women on the board (despite the dominance of women on social media) the reason given was: "The issue isn't the intention, the issue is just the paucity of candidates."

It's just not the truth (as the NYT kindly pointed out to Twitter at the time). There are women available to hire, but you have to be determined to build a diverse leadership team to make it happen because the easier path (less work) is to hire people just like you: men. You have to be willing to do the extra work, find the diverse candidates, and open up your job spec to change your company for the future -- and for the better. It's just good business.

Here are three roles where you can change the numbers:

Board of Directors: Mostly male still. Women hold only 16.9 percent of board seats, 10 percent of boards have no women on them and those numbers are barely changing. If, as many boards do, you set your search criteria narrowly... for example, must have been a CEO (that cuts most women out), must have prior board experience (that cuts most women out), must be retired (the women in the workforce are newer and so less likely to be retired) then, presto! all you see are male candidates.

The solution here is to open your search up to operating executives who are not CEOs. They are in related industries in powerful operating positions like CIO, GM or CFO and probably have no prior board experience. But everyone starts somewhere, and there are excellent training programs you can go to to learn how to be a public company director.

Software Engineers: Mostly male still. And with hiring practices like the "Bromance Chamber" at DropBox not surprisingly! Twenty percent of CS majors are girls, and the best technology companies (Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Intel et al) both compete to hire them and invest in programs like the Anita Borg Institute to learn how to both recruit them, and retain them. But the best companies also reach outside the rigid spec of pure computer science.

Again the solution is to be open to a wider set of candidates, without compromising quality. Open up to girls (and boys) with math majors, or double majors in math and computer science -- those who wouldn't make it through the narrow filter of typical CS hiring processes, but who are likely smarter, harder working, and need just a small amount of training to be fully effective for your company. Facebook even runs a summer intern program for students without technical degrees, knowing they can train them and wanting the very best brains for their engineering teams.

Sales People: Mostly (white) male still. A lingering bastion of the smart, golf-playing male in a crisp white shirt. When challenged on the limited number of female candidates being presented, most recruiters will whine and complain about the limited pool.

The solution: Deliberately ask your recruiter to do the extra work to find the diverse candidates. At my company our sales recruiter did, and we found excellent female candidates immediately. It's been my experience that women sell just as well as men, so why not get a mixed team in place so you see the selling challenges from more than one perspective?

In all these cases, you are not trying to hire women. I'd never compromise the quality of the hire for race or gender. Many women would (quite rightly) be offended if they thought they were only being hired because of their gender. What you are doing is insisting on a diverse candidate pool and a level playing field for those candidates. And, in my experience, that leads to stronger candidates, to gender balanced teams and, as a result, to better decisions.

At my own company, FirstRain, where I am CEO, our board is 50 percent women. My senior leadership team is half men, half women. That's no accident. If you are determined to see diverse candidates you will -- and have absolutely no compromise on quality -- quite the reverse!



Monday, February 17, 2014

Hey Mr Waiter! Don't insult me at the table

Insult can be about blindness as much as it can be overt.

Case #1: My husband and I are at a lovely restaurant. The wine list is put in front of him. He hands me the wine list, I chose a wine, and I tell the waiter when he comes. The waiter returns with the unopened wine, opens it and asks my husband if he wants to taste it. Bret has seen this movie before. He usually smiles at the waiter and says "My wife ordered the wine, if you want a tip I suggest you let her taste it".

This scenario used to happen every time we went out to dinner. But after 30 years of marriage it happens about 1 time in 20 in California now, but still almost always when we are in Italy. Waiters of Italy take note - my husband knows how to say it in Italian too.

Case #2: I am out to dinner with a friend, who happens to be male. When you work in a male dominated industry like tech, and you make most of your friends through work, this happens often. We're at the end of the meal, I signal to the waiter that I'd like the check, and the waiter brings the check to my male friend. We tussle over who's going to pay and, if I win, I place down my card. If the waiter isn't on the ball (or checking the name) he still brings the check back to my male friend.

This second scenario is a source of great amusement to one of my friends who thinks I shouldn't be allowed to pay anyway because I am "a girl". He, of course, says it just to get a rise out of me. But I win enough times with him, but when I do it, and the waiter returns the check to him, it makes his teasing laughter that much more annoying.

Ah, but life is short. I've now become skilled at gently telling the waiter his (or her!) mistake and letting it go. But I look forward to the day when waiters are trained to be gender-blind.

Image: Agent-Hope on Deviant Art

Friday, February 14, 2014

When do chocolate, diamonds and STDs go together?

It's Valentine's Day. The media is advertising flowers and movies, Facebook is filled with sweet sentiments but me, I'm working and, in a moment of curiosity I plug "Valentine" into FirstRain.

Now, in case you don't know, FirstRain is a personal business analytics system. For the companies and markets you care about - your customers, your markets, your competition, the market trends impacting your go-to-market. Powerful, insightful, real-time ... everything I tell my customers.

And more...

Behind all our powerful data science are the fun use cases too. Wine, vacation trends and now Love.

Key market drivers on Valentine's Day? Weddings, flowers, gold, diamonds, chocolate and... STDs!


Monday, January 27, 2014

Someone should have protected Tom Perkins

Yes, Tom Perkins' letter to the WSJ was shameful, but now, 48 hours later, I too feel shame.

If you missed it you can read his letter to the Journal here, and then his follow up here. The Twittersphere lit up, everyone piled on (including me) that his comments were stupid, and the rants of a now irrelevant old man, and tone deaf about the gap between the 1% and the 99%, and an insult to the Jews, venture capital etc. etc.

But this morning I am wondering how did his family, or the WSJ for that matter, let this happen? Tom Perkins was born in 1933. He was alive when Kristallnacht happened. I am sure, if asked 20 years ago, he would not have said these things even if he thought them! He would have known it was reputational suicide.

I spend a lot of time around old people these days, and I am grateful for the time with them. On one side we have Alzheimer's and on the other we have healthy, honest-to-goodness old age. And I'm learning that, as people age, the self-governors can come off. My father and his friends can sometimes say things that make me cringe, and that I know they would not have said even ten years ago. But they're older and less tolerant, and frankly care less about what other people think. So they speak their minds and sometimes reveal prejudices that they were taught as children in the 1930s, which they suppressed as thinking adults, and which are re-emerging as they age. Sometimes idiotic, sometimes upsetting, but often just raw and unfiltered.

But Tom Perkins is considered a fair target because he's a billionaire. Because of who he is, and because of his prior role as both a founder of the venture capital firm that bears his name (Kleiner Perkins) and a former board member of News Corp., he was given the platform to speak his 82-year-old mind. And, unlike conservative friends at a private dinner, Tom Perkins was allowed to embarrass himself in front of the world—and to destroy his reputation in a single day.

But should he be a target? Should we not remember his age? Or if he is still a target in our society, then surely someone should have stopped him?

Yes he's rich, and has been crass with his wealth, and offended a lot of people, but now he's at an age where his mind may be weakening and his judgement may very well be off. He is no longer in power. He's not on HP's board, he's not involved in KPCB in any way, he's out of the picture. I'd feel differently if he was still driving companies and investments, but he's not. The WSJ should be ashamed for publishing his letter, realizing how tone deaf and inflammatory it was -- chasing clicks at the expense of an octogenarian.

And I hope his family now knows they need to protect him from humiliating himself in public.

Monday, January 13, 2014

How to be one of the 1-in-3 that know

How many of your sales people talk to their customer blind? How many don't know what the latest breaking developments are for their customer's business? How many don't understand their end market?

According to Marc Benioff it's 66%. That's 2 out of 3!

 

Here's one of Marc's slides from Dreamforce 2013. And yet there is no reason for it. Today you can easily get your hands on simple information about your customers even with general purpose sales intelligence tools, and with FirstRain you can get that magical "in depth understanding". With personal business analytics you can look at your customers through your own personal lens. See every development, tie your strategy to the trends your customer cares about and is talking about.

I know -- enough selling -- but seriously—when your enterprise sales people cost you at least quarter of a million dollars a year, why wouldn't you give them the ability to deeply understand their customer's business, real-time, each and every day so they are smart on the phone?

A living example of how the "princess romance" theme can backfire

If you were raised on Disney princess movies, and Hollywood musicals, as I was, you were probably brainwashed into thinking that to be happy you had to find a man. Even a few years ago in Sex and the City, the girls were all pursuing relationships as their ultimate goal. Most movies don't pass the Bechdel test because what few women are in the movie have only one topic of conversation—relationships with men.

But this weekend I was reminded of how very toxic this brainwashing can be. My mother-in-law is now 83 and in assisted living dealing with slowly-progressing Alzheimers. Some days she's good, some days she doesn't want to get up and just lies in bed staring out of her window. Saturday was one of those days.

As I sat on her bed quietly talking with her, trying to cheer her up, I asked her what she thinks about. She told me she thinks about the past and all her good memories are about husbands. Part of her sadness now is that she sees no future for herself because without a man she has no future.

Margit was married first at 19 in Malmo, Sweden, and divorced at 20. She then moved to New York, a beautiful Swedish girl who spoke little English in the early 50s—a time of fur coats, night clubs and martinis. There, she had a part-time job in the New York Public Library but quickly started dating, and then married, a man 30 years older then her. She and Harry were happily married for almost 20 years when he died at age 70.

Once widowed, Margit took off, dropping all contact with her teenage kids until she had another husband (they learned to fend for themselves younger than most). Again she married an older man, this time a Swedish restauranteur. He died after an 8-year marriage and at 53 she had a facelift, lost a lot of weight and set out to find another husband. This time, she chose a man her age with whom she lived happily for 20 years. But when he fell ill and died, she was truly alone, and her attention latched onto her son, my husband, whom she now expects to be the source of all her care and attention.

What's so sad listening to her talk as she looks back is that she has never lived an independent life where she was happy with herself. She's never really worked, never really spent much time with her kids, her whole existence revolved around her husband—and now that she doesn't have one she has no center or purpose. She has told me she is embarrassed to be without a husband and, while she's had a few female friends through her life, she's not making any now. When we discuss events happening to my family and friends she always asks me what Bret thinks, or my father thinks, because my ideas don't really carry weight unless validated by one of the men in my life. With my kids she openly favors our son, and has little time for our daughter or her own daughter.

Why, I wonder? Why build your whole existence, your whole source of happiness, around whether you have a man or not? And yet in film after film that is the woman's sole objective—find your prince, marry him and fade out. I'm all for being in happy, stable relationship, but not as your entire source of happiness.

Which is why it is so very important that we support filmmakers who show independent women living full lives without a prince. Why Geena Davis' work on the portrayal of girls in media is so critical. And why we must help our girls get to college, have meaningful careers and build independent lives so that their husband, if they chose to have one, is a part of their life—not their whole life.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Why CMOs won’t lock CIOs out of the C-suite

Published in the Economist today

Money talks. It's common knowledge that people with money tend to get what they want, and today’s business dynamics are no different. A new Accenture study shows that CMOs are claiming more of the tech budget share. Much to the chagrin of CIOs, it is coming out of the IT purse.

Regardless of how much injustice CIOs feel, the success of their companies is increasingly reliant on their teams learning to align with CMO teams whose priorities—and very nature—are incredibly different from their own.

CIOs and IT professionals are, of course, very good at evaluating and implementing complex software processes. They have been doing that for CFOs forever, which is one of the main reasons they are not going to be rolled under the marketing umbrella anytime soon.

Despite the fact that marketing professionals have tended to see IT as more of a support organization, they now need the CIO for the same reason finance always has: they need the technical expertise to help them choose the right system and then implement it. So, rather than have the CIO report to the CMO, they need to work together in a true partnership to make sure that they get the right sales support technology for their businesses.

But how will that work? Beyond the inherently differing priorities of the CIO and the CMO (case in point: protecting data vs. using data), IT people and marketers are two very different breeds. So we find ourselves with yet another example of why diversity is so important in today’s environment. Marketing, as we have already discussed, is becoming increasingly digital, so the “creative types” will need to learn to work with the more technical staff, and the “math nerds” will have to figure out how to deal with people whose main concern is responding to the capriciousness of public interest.

There is no doomsday on the horizon for CIOs. CMOs need them just as much as ever because the systems that marketers want and need are technologically sophisticated. Just because they are in the cloud doesn’t mean that creative types know how to buy them and run them. In order for a business to be successful, both teams are going to have to come to an agreement on what is important and adapt to achieve their goals—together.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top 5 behaviors to avoid when interviewing with the CEO

I interview everyone. Sounds like overkill I'm sure, but I do interview everyone. No one joins FirstRain without me meeting them in person or talking to them on the phone. I think of myself as the final quality control on culture and IQ. I try to be at the end of the cycle once the candidate is someone the hiring manager wants to hire, but not always and so I do interview some doozies.

So what makes a doozy? Here are the top 5 things that I really don't recommend if you're interviewing with someone like me:

1. Answer a question with a 5+ minute answer. I time the answers if they go over a minute. I had one last month that was 10 minutes long! No check in with me on whether I was interested, no awareness that she was going on, and on, and on.

2. Get so nervous you um and er and can hardly make a sentence. I'm just a person. I put my pants on one leg at a time just like you. If you're that nervous in front of me how are you going to hold your own in an intense discussion with your manager?

3. When I ask you if you have any questions for me tell me no, you know everything already. This happens more often than you'd think. In every interview I always time the interaction to allow for 5-10 minutes of questions from the candidate to me at the end. And sometimes the candidate will literally say "no, I think I know everything about FirstRain" and then start to tell me everything they know about my company. Stunning.

4. Or instead, only have one very unoriginal question "What are you top challenges?". Come on- you can't think of a more interesting question than that?

5. Be indifferent on whether you want the job or not. C'mom you really think we're going to hire someone who doesn't care about whether they get the job, and doesn't care about FirstRain. If you really don't care don't waste my time or yours!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Don't confuse Visibility with Success



It's the age of social media no question. It's ubiquitous and if you are in business you need to be active, but it's also seductive and can make you confuse visibility (wow, I'm famous) with success (I'm truly making a difference). I know a few entrepreneurs like this - do you?

Do you know people who are more concerned with how they look on Facebook and landing speaking gigs than they are with how the company’s quarter went? Are they distracted in the office more than involved? Did they make it onto a "top something-or-other" list but you know their business is fluff?

It’s understandable why people get caught up in being “visible.” Fame is seductive. Celebrity is followed more by the media every year. Even something as simple as getting a like or a comment on a blog post makes you feel good. Research by Dr. Dinah Hurwitz, a psychology professor at California State University, Northridge, shows that people become hooked to the endorphins that come every time someone responds to their post. She said the symptoms are almost the same, when comparing heavy social networking users to drug addicts. It’s gotten to the point where, as an HBR blog post stated, “our unending use of social media has radically elevated the level of ego in our personal lives… we are in the middle of a narcissism epidemic.”

Take that in for a second: It’s an epidemic—that means thousands of people, millions even, are suffering—from narcissism! I'll bet you know some of the people I am talking about. People who are so wrapped up in their social media presence that, like Estelle in No Exit, they can't see that everyone else can see how self-serving they are.

If your goal is to be a celebrity, then it makes sense. For example, the Kardashians’ whole empire is built on a good social foundation and Lady Gaga turned social media fame into a market development strategy. But if you want to be a high growth corporate professional, beware of substituting celebrity for the substance of your business. Because if your business fails, you won’t have much with which to carry on being famous. It's important to find a balance between growing your own brand—which, don’t get me wrong, is certainly mutually beneficial if done correctly—and growing the business.

One way to ground yourself is to never forget what “success” is. Successful businesses are ones that make and grow revenue or have millions of users as proxy for future revenue. Brand recognition (and, yes, that includes you as a representative of the company) is an important cog in the growth wheel. But visibility is not success in and of itself.

So if you find yourself checking Facebook more than a couple of times a day, or promoting yourself on Twitter endlessly, come up with a scheme to strike a balance between your own social presence and your business success. Maybe you allocate only a certain amount of time per day (outside of working hours, perhaps?) to social media. Or limit the number of tweets you send per day. Or, even, have your marketing team help you (they have their own work to do, so they’ll help you if it will help the business—that seems like a good barometer to me!)

The bottom line is: before you set out to make yourself a corporate household name, know what your success metrics are and make sure you don't confuse celebrity and visibility with true success. Those who really matter know the difference.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Forced ranking is about the top, not the bottom


How do you rank against the guy next to you—better, worse, the same? And do you think the process of your managers discussing you relative to your peers is a good thing, or a bad one?

The practice of forced ranking—or the euphemistically named "vitality curve"—was developed by Jack Welch and GE in the 1980's as a way to identify non-performers and so improve the financial results of the company. It was quickly picked up by companies in Silicon Valley with more aggressive cultures, like Intel, and used as a way to force employees onto a bell curve. It was recently dropped by Microsoft, while being picked up by Yahoo.

The ranking process is not a scientific one—it's a process of judgement. My experience has been managers sitting in a conference room, putting names up on a white board, arguing through the lifeboat test: if you had to throw one employee out of the life boat, which one would you throw? Sometimes the process is simply a forced ranking, putting employees in a linear list; other times it's a process to force employees into groupings like A, B and C, or top 20%, middle 60% and bottom 20%.

Sometimes it is a scientific process. In sales, results are ultimately measurable, and I know one tech CEO who used to fire the bottom 10% of his sales team each quarter, irrespective of whether they made quota or not. His purpose was to drive a dog-eat-dog competitive culture within his sales team.

The end result is the same. You end up with the collective judgement of a group of managers on a group of employees and, if you've run the process well, you know who your top and bottom performers are.

It's always illuminating. If nothing else, to find out what other managers think—but I think it's a clumsy, archaic process to manage the performance of your weakest players.

Poor performance needs to be managed continuously, not once a quarter or once a year. When you have someone who is not performing, you need to act quickly. Never forget, if someone's not pulling their weight you can bet everyone around them knows it, and they are pulling down (at a minimum) the morale and (more likely) the performance of everyone on the team with them. So as the manager, you owe it to everyone to intervene and either put some training and coaching in place quickly to bring up the employee's performance, or get them out.

But the top performers are the most valuable people in your organization and the ranking process can make you pay attention to their satisfaction and compensation, as a team, on a rigorous schedule. The pareto principle holds true for your engineer's performance as much as it does for the likely distribution of your customers—80% of your results are probably coming from the contributions of your top 20%. This does not mean that the middle 60% is not important—quite the contrary—but it does mean you need to pay daily attention to the happiness and professional health of your top 20%.

This is where forced ranking can be truly illuminating. When you get your managers from across the organization, responsible for different job types, into a room and get them talking about their top talent, everyone can then pay attention to their careers. You can make sure your top talent has appropriate top compensation (especially stock options and/or RSUs) and that their career interests are being watched over and nurtured by every member of your management team.

Forced ranking is a useful tool, but a tool to be used occasionally and not as a religion. It's not about making your employees compete (and so driving financial performance up). It's not about identifying your bottom performers (you need to be doing that continuously). It's about making sure your leaders know who the top talent in your organization is so you can grow them, and grow their leadership and impact on your company.

Photo: Seth Coal Deviant Art

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dressing like a woman -- not a man

A year ago at Dreamforce 2012 I was delighted to see women dressing as women - and posted on the trend. And this year in 2013 we had both Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Meyer on stage with Marc Benioff looking like women! Fashionable, professional but very feminine.

Why do I care? Well here is my employee badge from Synopsys in 1990. Thirty years old, very, very much in the minority, and I decided to poke fun at the system and the dress code (I always was a bit of a rebel). A baby face in a suit and tie -- I figured I'd have fun with the dominance of men and dress like one so they just might not notice I was a woman.

So yes, I appreciate that we can dress like women in the office now!



Friday, November 8, 2013

Stop Sh****ing on me!

There's a word in the English language that, when you hear it, is likely to either make you feel guilty, or make you turn off. Do you say it? What do you do when you hear it? What's your reaction when someone says "you should" to you?

It's a turnoff, isn't it? And yet it's pervasive in the way many people speak in business.

There's the person who thinks they're a coach and you can benefit from their wisdom. Instead of listening and carefully reflecting ideas for you to figure out, they listen to what you're worried about and then launch into "Well, what you should have done is..." (I hate this response, it's just not helpful to me).

Then there's the guy who thinks he's smarter than everyone else. Born with a sense of superiority, he loves to tell you what you should have said or done. Especially if you criticize him. It's a quick way to deflect from the substance of what you are saying to how you are saying it.

Then there's the woman who says it to herself all the time. Told by the world every day that she's not good enough, she thinks, "I should have done..." - and loses her personal power in her own mind every time she thinks it.

The problem with the word is that it carries a sense of obligation and guilt with it. The word originally comes from the past tense of "shall", from the days when shall carried the obligation of "I owe/he owes, will have to, ought to, must." We don't use shall that way anymore, but should still means "ought to" to many of us.

So it feels like a judgmental word. It's difficult to take "you should" and turn it into a positive feeling when your first reaction is guilt or shame.

So listen for it. When you hear someone say it around you to someone else, try to help them re-frame their feedback. When you hear someone say it to you, try to check your reaction and listen to the substance, not the delivery. And when you say it to yourself, go find a mirror, look in it, and try saying "stop shoulding on yourself" several times. You'll hear what you're really doing to yourself.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sales is a Team Sport


Sometimes sales culture glorifies the lone sales rep: the road warrior who goes out and hunts, slays the order and throws it, still bleeding, on your desk, seeking your praise like a big game hunter standing over his kill's rapidly cooling dead body.

Is this how your best guys—your top performers—sell? Or do they view sales as a sport that's won as a team?

Now, I'm the girl who hates sports on TV, who reads a book during Super Bowl parties (except during the ads of course) and has never been to a live football, soccer or basketball game. So I'm simply not a sports fan. But I love watching a sales organization plan, play and win a deal as a well-trained team, each with his or her own role to play.

Hunting and winning the giant enterprise deal first of all takes a team lead: the sales rep on the ground who owns the account. She's expected to know every aspect of the deal, to lead and choreograph every play, coach every other player on their role, put them in the right room with the right person and plan through what to say when. This rep is accountable for every detail 24/7—they get the glory, but they live or die by the deal.

Then there's sales management. Carrot and stick, reviewing every play, coaching every move. Willing to show up whenever, wherever to keep the deal moving. Able to manage the CEO and the CFO through the ups and downs of the deal.

There's the sales engineer—the showman who captures the customer's imagination up front and answers all the thorny questions. He's responsible for establishing the value and the match between your capability and the customer's business need. And he works closely with the customer success lead who stands in front of the customer towards the end of the sales cycle and commits to being on point to ensure the success of the implementation with them.

Sometimes R&D leadership gets involved, especially if you're doing any integration with a product team or IT, and sometimes your own IT gets involved responding to questions about SaaS delivery, security, response times...

In the end, everyone has a role to play, and they all depend on each other to play those roles well.

When I look at my own sales team I can see the high school and college sports training coming into play. We have several high school quarterbacks, a minor league AA baseball player, several college-level soccer players, a mountain biker who competes on a team, a Junior Olympic badminton player and several college swimmers. Even our runners like to form into teams for our summer triathlons.

Clearly, sports experience is not a requirement for the job, but training in how to work well in a team is - because, in the end, sales is a team sport. And the end result of great teamwork is killer results!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Biggest Little Industry You've Never Heard of Turns Fifty

Posted on the HuffingtonPost earlier

Chips touch every aspect of our lives. You use chips in your car, in your phone, in your TV, in your fridge, when you play a video game, when you text, Skype or blog, in the bar code reader at the grocery checkout, when you take a photo, as your luggage is routed through an airport -- any time you use electronics today you are using chips.

Now I am not talking about potato chips, I'm talking about semiconductors -- integrated circuits. Those small, intricate pieces of silicon, doped with chemicals in factories in the U.S. and Taiwan, that use logic and memory to take action for you. To shoot the zombie, or control the brakes on your car. To route your phone call to your mother, or tell the government what you just said on Facebook.

The semiconductor industry is a $300B industry, dominated by global giants like Intel, Samsung, Texas Instruments and Qualcomm, and it's an industry where the complexity of its products doubles every two years. It costs billions of dollars to build the factories where the chips are built and millions of dollars to make the first one of a new design, all so that the chip in your phone or your car can be cleverer than a mainframe computer was a few years ago, but only cost a few cents.

None of this would be possible without the computer scientists and physicists who work in the industry that makes these complex designs possible. That industry is Electronic Design Automation -- EDA -- and it is celebrating its fiftieth birthday this week at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

When the first integrated circuit was designed at TI by Kilby in 1959 design was done by hand. But once the idea was out, a new industry emerged creating sophisticated software programs running on computers to help humans create more and more complex designs.

Today integrated circuits are less than 1 square inch in size but are three-dimensional and have many, many miles of metal interconnect on them, where every line of metal carries a signal like a wire in your house, but is thinner than a fraction of a human hair. They can perform millions of operations per second and store the Encyclopedia Britannica in your fingertip. And a human mind could not fathom the complexity of these chips without software programs to control the design and simulation of the chip before it's built.

The EDA industry is the group of companies, and brilliant people, who make the amazing computer brains in the devices we take for granted every day possible. They build software to model how to turn analog signals -- like your voice -- into digital bits. They build simulators that use physics and maths to model Maxwell's equations and predict how electricity is going to move through different materials, at different speeds. They simulate the memory cells that store data, they predict how complex logic will work with the different inputs you give it. The chips being built now have features so small that you can't use light to expose them any more (the process is a lot like the old photographic process) so they use math to adjust how the light will behave and compensate. It's rocket science built into software.

But despite being such a profound building block of our modern electronics, EDA is a relatively small industry. With revenue of $7B, the industry is dominated by two California Bay Area companies: Synopsys and Cadence, who work alongside many small, highly innovative specialist companies to solve the hard design problems (and yes, the small companies get bought up by the big companies over time). The industry is small because the number of companies than can actually afford to design chips is low even though we all use more electronics every year. But it's a healthy industry where the leading companies are growing and generate strong operating margins and where new startups emerge every year.

And it employs the brightest engineers. Graduates with EECS degrees (electrical engineering and computer science) from colleges like Berkeley and Stanford and MIT walk the halls. The executives are all engineers too because the pace of change of the chip technology is so fast you need to be able to talk with your customers about what they need in the language of technology.

Men or women, they're mostly a nerdy bunch. But tonight, at a banquet to raise money for the Computer History Museum, they'll be dressed up and celebrating their love of one of the most fascinating technical areas you can choose to work in. And next time your phone, or your camera, or your TV makes you gasp in wonder think about the software nerds in California who design the tools, that design the chips, that make your device magical.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ask the provocative question in a job interview: Do you have kids?

I love to ask the question "do you have children?" in a job interview. What!? you think to yourself - didn't she go to training on what questions not to ask??? Well there's a method to my madness...

If you've been through interview training then you know there are a set of questions you are told not to ask like are you married? do you have children? are you thinking of having children? how old are you? etc.

You may have been told that it is illegal to ask these questions in a job interview because you might discriminate against a candidate as a result of their answer: their sexual preference, whether they have little kids, whether they might get pregnant, do they like American football etc.

But it's not true. Asking the question is not illegal. What is illegal is to discriminate based on the answer. A subtle but powerful difference. Your lawyers trained you to keep you and the company out of trouble, not to teach you how to recruit the best and brightest.

It's actually important to know some of the private life of your candidates because life interferes with people's ability to do their job in many more ways than you've been trained not to ask about, or the law protects, and how your company reacts when it does says a lot about whether the candidate should want to work with you or not.

When your parent gets cancer and slowly dies that presents a huge challenge to staying fully productive. When you have a bad accident and smash a bone into so many pieces that you have to work from home for months, that can certainly make it hard to focus. When you're trying to adopt a child from the foster care system and you need to spend days in court fighting for your (soon to be) child's rights, that means you're working odd hours and in odd places to stay on top of you job. All experiences we've shared at FirstRain, and we've got more!

When I meet a candidate I want to know if s/he has children, or has elderly parents, or has an intense hobby, because I want to tell him or her about our culture and how much we support and adapt around our people's needs as life happens to them.

Life just happens. Babies, sick parents, health issues. And the sign of a strong company culture is one that is adaptable and flexible to help the employee stay engaged and work through whatever challenge comes up, or take time off if that's what's needed. It's important to remember that you cannot make assumptions about how your employee is going to react to the challenge, or what course of action they are going to want to take, but instead to put a team-based system in place so everyone can do their best.

It is true that some older men do still discriminate based on whether women in the workforce have young children, or are likely to have young children, so the lawyers are not all wrong. I recently sat in a discussion (not in FirstRain!) where a pregnant, very senior employee's likelihood to come back to work after her pregnancy was questioned. But those older generation views are dying out as the old guard retires or their daughters successfully work and raise children at the same time.

We're not naive at FirstRain. Being flexible as life challenges our people doesn't mean an employee can be distracted from their job indefinitely (we are a for-profit, growing company after all and we probably work harder than most because of high growth rate) but it does mean, from time to time, we have to cover for each other.

So back to interviewing. I want to know if candidates are married, or have little kids, or are thinking of getting pregnant, or adopting. I want to know if they have dogs, or horses, or like to travel. I want to know because we are in a competitive hiring environment, and I want the best people in my company possible. So I want an opportunity to tell them about our culture, and what a great place FirstRain is to work when you have major events in your life, and how supportive we are of raising a family here, and that these are reasons to be a part of your decision to chose FirstRain over any other job you may have today or be considering.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Why the Debate About Twitter's Board and Women at the Top in Silicon Valley Is a Healthy One

Posted in the Huffington Post today

Is the fact that Twitter has filed for its IPO with no women on the board, and only one (new) woman in management a question of supply or demand? Is it the "arrogance of the Silicon Valley mafia," as Vivek Wadhwa believes, or "difficult" due to a lack of qualified candidates as Twitter insiders have implied, or just competing priorities while managing a rapidly growing company?

This is a critical debate, one that has been growing since Lean In was released and a debate that is good for technology companies. We now know that having diverse product design teams creates better products. We also now know that having women on boards makes companies more competitive. So why would a company build its management team and board entirely from men?

Some would argue it's a priority issue and the debate Vivek and Twitter's CEO, Dick Costolo, sparked on Twitter gets us thinking about the priorities. When you're building a company, especially one as visible and ground-breaking as Twitter, it can be hard to do anything that takes extra effort. It's all you can do to keep up with the demands of the voracious needs of your company and a second-level issue, like diversity, probably does not feel urgent. It takes time and effort to build a diverse team because to do so you have to demand that your recruiters do the extra work to provide you with diverse, qualified candidates.

The trustees at the Anita Borg Institute from Women in Technology, where I have served on the board for the last ten years, know this firsthand. ABI is funded by companies like Google, Intel, Microsoft, IBM, Facebook, Amazon, HP... the board is made up of both men and women, executives who believe growing women in technology is important and the way to change the numbers is to make diversity a priority. To focus at both the college level and in the workforce -- to focus on solutions that keep women in technical roles, that reduce the isolation many women feel in tech, and that teach the skills necessary to get ahead in a male dominated world.

Some would argue it's a supply issue - that there are just not very many women in tech to chose from so finding qualified ones is hard. It's true, there are not as many of us as there should be, but there are enough that boards can find one, or two, women to help them diversify their ranks. It's a question of good governance in the end. Catalyst research has shown women on boards increases the rate of return to shareholders over time which is one of the reasons the EU is moving to quotas of female directors, and why the UK has a percentage target of female directors for the FTSE by 2015. But in the fast pace of private Silicon Valley companies few VCs would tell you having women on their boards matters because it's all about rate of growth, and when you're moving fast you hire who you know, or people who've done it before, which is most likely men like you. My experience over the last twenty years is that the bias in neither conscious, nor intentional.

So yes, women on boards is not usually a priority to young tech companies, but Silicon Valley is not " virtually closed to women," as the NYT claimed on Sunday. There are plenty of us here running companies, building products and building companies that we believe will change the world. For the first time we have women at the top of several high profile technology companies -- all at once! We have the glamorous Marissa Mayer at Yahoo and Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook; we have the intensely focused Meg Whitman at HP and Ginny Rometty at IBM; we have high-growth, smaller company leaders like Amy Pressman at Medallia and Christy Wyatt at Good Technology and we would all tell you that while we're not done, the environment is so much better for women now than it has ever been.

But in the end, the debate itself if the best thing that's happening. Sheryl's making people talk about how to encourage women in the workplace with Lean In, ABI is challenging leaders to measure the quality of their company by what kind of company it is for technical women to work in (Intel was the most recent winner), and Twitter's IPO gives us another chance to look at the statistics, take a deep breath, and once again set out to change them. As Dick Costolo's final tweet last night said, "The issues are much bigger than checking any 1 box." It's time to address them.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Feeling like a failure every day - and overcoming it

I doubt myself every single day. As a CEO it's the dark secret none of us are supposed to talk about, but it's real, and so it was marvelous for me to listen to Maria Klawe yesterday say that she wakes up feeling like a failure every day.

Now Maria is one of the most successful people in academia. She's president of Harvey Mudd College, educating the next generation of brilliant computer scientists, mathematicians and physicists, she sits on the board of Microsoft and she's a much admired water color painter... and a wife and mother too. Definitely an over achiever who is universally admired.

And yet, every day she feels like a failure. She told this to 4,800 women at the Grace Hopper Conference yesterday, but then said the way she deals with it is that she consciously listens to the other voice playing in her head which says "I want to lead the world!!!"

Sheryl Sandberg, on stage with Maria, used the analogy of running a marathon. For the men in the race, voices are telling them "you're great!", "you can do it!" and "keep going!" but for the women in the race the voices are "are you sure you can do it?"and "what about your children?" Imagine trying to run a real marathon with everyone around you questioning whether you can, or worse whether you actually should?

My experience for the first 25 years of my career was just that. Everyone around me, family, friends and co-workers questioned what I was doing (except my husband - he never questioned but went along for the ride). I was ambitious, determined to make a point, and determined to win the race I had chosen which was being a high tech CEO. As I had children people came out of the woodwork to question my decision, and as a (younger) blond woman I was also consistently underestimated which attacked my confidence (maybe they were right and I was about to be found out!)

For almost every day in those 25 years I would feel like a failure, waiting to be caught out. I'm a classic example of the imposter syndrome: where you feel like an imposter or fraud, waiting to be caught out. It's not uncommon in smart, talented people and it's especially common in women.

I would beat myself up in my head - you're not smart enough, you're too aggressive, your children need you, you need to lose weight... an endless dialog that got louder the more tired I got. And the voice would stay inside my head because no one else wants to hear about your self doubt. It's old news to your family, boring to your friends (they've heard it before) and must not show to your co-workers or employees.

So what to do?

It took a few colliding changes for me to finally conquer it. I passed forty - and felt more confident over forty than I ever had under. I had a nasty health scare which made me take each day above the dirt much more seriously. And I realized that I was not alone, my peers feel the same way, and it's OK - you just have to push through.

When you're looking in the mirror feeling like a failure try this:

Step 1 - acknowledge that it's happening and it's not real. Learning about the imposter syndrome really helped me understand the dynamics.
Step 2 - create and listen to the other voice in your head. Maria was spot on. There is another voice, it knows you can do great things, but you have to listen to it, consciously.
Step 3 - be open about your own self criticism when coaching others. Sharing the fact that I have self doubt made it more clinical for me. It's normal, but it's not useful.
Step 4 - get exercise and sleep. Feels great and you can lead the world with a good swim and a good night's sleep.

Feeling like you are failing is normal. It's part of what drives us - the need to prove to ourselves and everyone else just how much we can lead and change the world. So embrace it as a funny part of you that you just have to slap down every day - and you will!

image: http://akiaino.deviantart.com/

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Riding the Alzheimer's rollercoaster

It's Saturday about 11:15 and every time I don't know what our next 3 hours are going to be like.

My mother-in-law has Alzheimers. Not the advanced kind. She knows who we are, remembers our names, and remembers a lot from fifty years ago but she doesn't know what day it is and what she wants to eat for lunch -- and we don't know who she is going to be each day.

Today I went to pick her up for our Saturday lunch date. She was in bed and she didn't want to get up. She hadn't eaten breakfast and needed to eat (not eating makes doing anything else tough) and I knew if I listened to her and left, as she was telling me to, she'd lie in bed and cry, because I'd left. So I got her up, cleaned her up, dressed her, cheered her along in the car as it poured down on us, and took her to meet my husband Bret at one of her favorite restaurants... but today she decided not to talk to us at lunch. No idea why, but she wasn't going to talk.

Last Saturday started out the same, but once I got her to the restaurant she picked up, was cheerful, and, had you joined us, you would not have known she's been struggling with her mind. But because she was well she remembered the week before...

That week, two weeks ago, Margit and I went out to lunch with my father who came along to help me. He likes all my attention, but understands when I am with her that I need to be focused on her to make sure she's OK. To hold her hand, to help her when she decides to wash her steak in her water, or put ice onto her pasta, or confuse her plate with her food. And that week we ran into my company's lead investor at the restaurant. He also commands my attention, and expects me to be brilliant and together and a CEO, which is hard to be when your attention is already torn two ways. But I did give him 5 minutes of my attention and then paid for it.

As I took her home my mother-in-law decided to punish me. She told me I wanted her dead, and I wanted to hang her from a tree until she was dead, and maybe I should just hang her from a tree because clearly I didn't care about her and just wanted to dump her back in "that place". She was angry that I was going back to my father (who was leaving for England the next day) and decided to lash out - until I got her back to Sunrise and hugged her and told her Bret would be there on Tuesday, and  I'd be back next week and then she told me she did appreciate that we were taking care of her.

It's a roller coaster. A never ending cycle of good days, bad days, cruel days, sleepy days, demanding days and on every day we're with her I watch Bret watch her with tension in his face and sadness because even if you've never had much of a relationship with your parent, watching them struggle with their mind and be deeply unhappy is so very painful. But he's decided he's going to take care of her - she's one of the lucky ones.

Here we are in the center of technology, with miraculous advances every day, and yet we can't stop our minds deteriorating. I know we're not alone. Every family that experiences Alzheimer's experiences the roller coaster. It's awful. Surely if we can invent the smart phone, and google glass, and an electric car that can go 300 miles, surely we can find a way to prevent Alzheimer's? Seems to me all those ad dollars could go to better use than selling sugar water.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

TechCrunch, TitStare and a Tale of Two Silicon Valleys


This weeks spectacular display of bad taste by TechCrunch Disrupt has lit up the Twittersphere with more analysis of how hostile tech is for women. In case you missed it, TechCrunch Disrupt opened with not one, but two awful presentations (awful unless you are a teenage boy). An app designed so you can capture people staring at other people's breasts, TitStare, and a demonstration of on stage masturbation (male masturbation of course), with an iPhone app counting the number of times you can shake your iPhone in 10 seconds. We have such a long history of bro-dom in tech, and such a lot of material, that the Atlantic has written a poem to it.

What I find so bizarre about this week's particular brand of puerile presentation is that it is still going on. Are these guys living in a time warp?  Do they actually work in Silicon Valley or not? Twenty years ago I would have expected it, but not today!

In the real Silicon Valley today most people are so busy building products, users and revenue they don't have time to make fun of women, or their breasts. If it doesn't make me money, leave it out. Enterprise software is back in fashion, the Cloud and Mobility are turning the world on it's ear - who has time for sexism any more?

In the real-world of Silicon Valley now we have strong sexual discrimination laws. Woe betide you if you work for a real company and you harass a female employee or create a hostile environment. And if you work for a real company pay attention - you can get fired in the blink of an eye if you put the company at risk by hitting on the women you work with, or worse yet who work for you.

In the real-world of tech we have more and more women in power - Meg Whitman and Marissa Mayer and Ginni Rometty and Christy Wyatt and Mary Meeker and Theresia Gouw and Arianna Huffington and many more, including me... and I sure hope the tech frat boys are smart enough to keep their breast interests outside of our offices.

In the real-world of tech we have women changing the way we think about sex. Cindy Gallop is changing the world through sex and challenging the way we even think about sex in today's society. As she posted in Facebook "You're absolutely right TitStare doesn't get a thumbs up from me". But in contrast the boys of Hacker News defended TitStare with "I don't see the problem. Pornography is perfectly legal and big business." At least they equated it to porn, which it is, but pretty boring and tasteless porn.

Two contrasting views of how tech power views women have been emerging for the last 10 years and there are two Silicon Valleys - two worldviews within the tech industry. First, there is the tech world 95% of us live in. Intense work on powerful technology, long hours, explosive markets, serious investors, growing revenue and creating long lasting products and customer engagement. Some gender bias in graduating degrees (yes I write often that we need more women in STEM), little gender bias in the workplace, no misogyny in the office.

And then there is the tech world that attracts press and discourse because it drives traffic -- the world of the tech boy culture so perfectly captured by TitStare. But it's rare. It's now almost as unimaginable as a politician sending a text photo of his penis to a woman via social media -- but wait, that was real too! Some people's (lack of) intelligence boggles my mind.

But if you do run into the second tech world, the misogynistic one, and it makes you angry, remember: don't get mad, get even. Smile and take over. Whether you are female or male, don't tolerate the behavior and it will, eventually, die.

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