January 15, 2021 by

We were fortunate to have such an inspirational, fun, passionate and diverse set of women leaders for FountainBlue’s January 15 When She Speaks program on the ‘We Are ALL ONE’ topic. Our panelists shared their wisdom about how to be agile and lean during challenging times, how to embrace the opportunity in any challenge.

Their resilient and growth-minded leadership in a time of great change really helped themselves, their teams and their organizations to rise to the next level, even while others struggled.

Their focus on the people side of change, their focus on how to be more other-centric and empathic because of the extra burdens brought on by that change has really set them apart as leaders of leaders.

Their emphasis on humbly being curious, embracing the diverse perspectives of others helps them to be more nimble and agile in managing through change, in anticipating the implications of the change.

Below is a compilation of advice for leaders who want to build more collaboration, more inclusivity, especially during times of great change.

  • Be human, be vulnerable, be candid and authentic. When change is pervasive running deep, lean into each other as colleagues, as teammates.
  • Challenge yourself and others to reach for stars, even when it’s a scary thought. Help each other learn from the inevitable mis-steps, and support each other in taking additional steps forward.
  • Stretch the capabilities and offerings of your team, focusing on how you can help other teams and customers. 
  • Build connections within and outside your organization so that you can better understand a broader point of view, and get input and feedback from people outside your standard network.
  • Step up, step in to lead when there is chaos, when there is an opportunity. Don’t wait to be asked. Don’t wait for the title. Don’t do it just for the compensation. Don’t do it just for the credit. Do it because you can, because it helps others, because it’s the right thing to do.
  • Be empathetic and supportive and make others feel important and valued.
  • Invite out-of-the-box creative thinking.
  • Provide yourself grace and acceptance. Indulge in guilty pleasures. Find joy in the little things.
  • Take every opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Use your time wisely. Be especially selective with what you do in your own spare time. 
  • Practice resiliency every day. Help others celebrate resiliency in themselves as well.

The boundaries have permanently blurred between work and life. Proactively managing these fuzzy boundaries will help leaders at all levels plan and respond to the next normal, which doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.

In addition, the waterfall of change may be just an indication of the level and speed of changes to come. Fortune will reward the open, the agile, the lean, as it has our panelists.

Data Meets Healthcare

January 15, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s January 15 VIP Roundtable on the ‘Data Meets Healthcare’ topic included executives representing a wide breadth healthcare industries – from pharma to biotech, from healthcare services to digital health, and even tech companies in semiconductor and consumer electronics had perspectives on the topic. We all agreed that the advances in technology and in healthcare have facilitated the amazing response to a worldwide pandemic and other pervasive and emerging health issues.Although their backgrounds and strategies varied, our participating executives agreed on the following regarding data meeting healthcare.

  1. Data will continue to be pervasive and overwhelmingly available. And the challenge will continue to be in selecting the relevant, true and actionable data which would best serve stakeholders across the ecosystem, which protecting their privacy, and providing selective and immediate access.
  2. Focusing on getting the data right alone can help improve how quickly and accurately we diagnose, treat and care for our patients. Indeed, it could also help prevent diseases and conditions and help mitigate risks.
  3. There may be opportunities to extrapolate from large volumes of data to draw conclusions and help develop initial diagnosis and treatment strategies.
  4. Proactively managing the usage of equipment and materials and pharmaceuticals with data will help ensure logistical and operational excellence in support of the healthcare needs of our patients, and the bottom line of the providers and caretakers across the ecosystem.
  5. The more data we gather about people with similar conditions, the more we learn about each individual person, and the more generalities we might be able to make about a particular disease. But every person will respond differently to different things, so respect the collected data without making direct correlations and conclusions on how any one person might react and respond to any particular scenario.

We all remarked on the value of collaboration across the ecosystem so that we can all better benefit. Below is a compilation of thoughts on the market opportunities ahead, which might benefit from collaboration.

  • Personalized medicine can be a real opportunity if we can overcome the privacy, security and access challenges and if the technology continues to evolve so that we can design custom diagnosis and treatment for patients.
  • Empowering the consumer with data will help them as patients better partner with others across the ecosystem to make better decisions in researching their own conditions, and also in making treatment and care decisions.
  • Identifying and treating a niche market may have ripple effects in supporting others. The example of an expectant mother comes to mind.

Throughout the discussion, there was a message of hope as we all grapple with the different challenges and opportunities offered as data meets healthcare. It’s significant that companies far outside the healthcare sector are looking closely at how data meets healthcare, and what the business and market  opportunities are, and also significant that each executive is exploring how we can better connect and provide more impact for all.
Please also see the Frost and Sullivan report on Frost & Sullivan’s Top 10 predictions for healthcare in 2021.

Goal-Setting Best Practices

January 11, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s January 8 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Goal-Setting Best Practices’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. 

Lori Kate Smith, Health Wildcatters
Shobhana Viswanathan, Automation Anywhere
JD Dillon, Tigo Energy (not pictured)
Lynn Marie Viduya, Intermedia

Below are notes from the conversation.

Goal-Setting is important all the time, every time, but especially important in times of great change. To optimize for impact, focus on the vision and mission of the organization and ensure that your team’s goals and your personal goals are in alignment with the corporate mission, vision and objectives.

Indeed measured outcomes should be mapped to these overarching goals, and when market/people/technology change happens, and goals need to be re-visited, the new goals must be checked for alignment with the organization’s strategic mission/vision/objectives.

  • Communicating regularly within and outside the team will help create collaborations and help coordinate to achieve results. 
  • Having clarity on your target audiences and the definition of success will increase the likelihood of success.
  • Being clear on metrics – what to measure, what the commitment is, what the best case scenario is – will help everyone focus on driving results.
  • Being clear on the variables which impact whether a goal is reached will help all parties coordinate and collaborate to shift configurations in order to reach identified results.
  • Understanding the motivations of all parties will help you manage toward outcomes and build engagement.
  • Create a common agenda, a common goal, and empower and engage stakeholders to contribute in specific ways towards achieving that goal.
  • Understand the market needs and focus on the markets which best sustain your products and services in the short term and for the long term.
  • Base goals on the needs of the customer.
  • Treat your people well as you help them achieve their goals. Make sure that they have the resources and support they need, and that they are realistic about what they can achieve, particularly with current work from home mandates.
  • Measure your performance through OKR frameworks (objectives through key results), QBRs, etc.,

Make sure that the goals you’re targeting are in alignment with your personal needs, those of your team, and those of your organization.

Notes from the discussion are available at  

and attached is the slide deck.


Janice Le: Product Eats Marketing

January 8, 2021 by

1.   Tell us about your personal and professional background and about what you do professionally today.

Today, I hold a unique role as both the Chief Product Office and the CMO for Helpshift, a series C startup in the digital customer service space. I am steering the company towards product led growth, driving a product experience that changes the game in B2B SaaS. With product led growth, product will eat traditional marketing and sales.

This is from my LinkedIn profile:

I first came across this quote in one of the first corporate emails I’d received as an intern: “Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Albert Einstein

That was >20 years ago. It resonated with me then and it resonates with me now. Business is my first love, but I’m a closet techie! Throughout my career, I’ve worn many hats (and shoes), from web and app developer, to database designer, to marketer, to product leader, to general manager. While on that journey, I’ve had both successes and valuable failures, but two core values continue to define me—don’t forget where you came from and excuses are for wusses.

Who am I? I am an achiever, a learner, and a fighter. My purpose and mission is to help others reach excellence and to make every day worth winning. For those who are looking to rise above or beat the odds, I am your fighter and trainer who can energize, motivate, and give teams the courage and techniques to win. Words I live by: “Live as if you will die tomorrow. Learn as if you will live forever.”–Mahatma Gandhi

I was born and raised on the banks of the Mekong Delta and escaped Vietnam as a young child after the war. I’ve also beat some medical odds that professionals didn’t think was possible. I’m here today amidst the brightest minds in the world, helping to change lives through technology, with two healthy and thriving daughters who believe they are unstoppable. What’s my take-away? Creating magic and defying the odds only happens when a great vision is equally met with action that gets executed with real heart and soul.

Corporate stuff here: I’m a marketing athlete and product leader with 20+ years of experience in product management, product marketing, and general management in tech domains spanning enterprise networking, cybersecurity, data & analytics, app integration platforms, video, NW infrastructure, and collaboration. I’m a GTM strategist in the Enterprise & Mid-Market, with successes in new/adjacent market entry and global market expansion. I challenge status quo, get the right things done, and can assemble and grow winning teams.

2.   What are your personal and professional goals for sharing your doing-well while doing-right story?

I don’t have professional goals. I consider myself to be a journey person and I don’t get fixated on the destination. My goal is to make each day memorable and worth it and to help others feel the same way. My personal satisfaction comes from “doing the right things well” each day, whether it be in my job or at home, for myself or in service of others.  

3.   How has your personal upbringing helped shape your desire to do well, while doing right?

Because I’ve experienced a number of death-defying moments, I want to make each day meaningful because I don’t know what tomorrow will hold.

I have 5 experiences that I refer to as my 5 G’s: 

  1. Government: escaped Vietnam as a young child when the country fell to the communists. Was a refugee, escaped pirates at sea, survived life-threatening illnesses (malaria, tape worm, etc.)
  2. Gaming: Gaming is how I fell in love with technology. I’m a lifelong gamer who has learned so much from gaming–strategy, knowing your enemy/competition, managing your resources, making allies, thinking 12 moves ahead, knowing the criteria for winning and leveling up, and always achieving your personal best.
  3. Gangs: grew up in east San Jose and learned about the social and political aspects of how gangs operate. Very eye opening and also teaches how to toughen up and not be intimidated by others.
  4. Granulamotosis: rare auto-immune disorder that was treated with 2.5 years of low dose chemotherapy and high dose steroids. Teaches you a lot about being mortal and that you’re not invincible. Being really sick also exposes who your true friends are.
  5. Girls and my guy: having my 2 daughters (despite the odds of relapsing) and my husband. They are my biggest sources of inspiration.

4.   Tell a story about a younger version of yourself and how you were impacted by your early role models.

The younger version of myself was headstrong, believed I was invincible, and had no regard for authority. I was a rebel and a f–k you attitude because I felt I was unstoppable. I still think I’m unstoppable, but I’d rather help people find meaning in their lives. My attitude changed from eff you to help you.


5. How did your education and professional experience help you to learn business basics around strategy, execution and management?

I have a business undergrad in marketing and a technical graduate degree in telecommunications (security and wireless). I am also a self-taught techie and have worked in IT as a web developer, IT analyst, database admin, and app dev. Because of this, I am adept at working with engg teams, but also have a really strong grasp of marketing, GTM, and running a business. I’ve started a business from ground zero, helping Cisco build a business, taking it from zero to $100M in 4 years. My career is split right down the middle between product and marketing. I am a well balanced product thinker and marketing athlete. 

6.   Who were the star mentors, sponsors and coaches who helped you when things got challenging?

Dan Scheinman

Alan Cohen

Keerti Melkote

Christine Heckart

Thomas Wyatt (my husband)

7.   What did you do to better hone your influencing skills?

As a product leader, empathy is the #1 critical skill that I apply to everything that I do: designing products, interacting with customers, influencing my peers, motivating my team, partnering with our founder, and telling our story.

8.   What are a couple of mistakes you made in your early career which helped you be more successful in your business transactions?

I didn’t take myself seriously enough early in my career. I was the classic hare in the story of the tortoise and the hare. I had to learn how to get my act together and consistently deliver on my commitments. 


9.   How did your early experience and upbringing help you build a desire to do right by others, by the earth, for future generations?

Experiencing mortality in so many different places (escaping Vietnam, surviving a rare disorder, not ending up in jail or dead from guns, etc.)….I feel I owe it to the world to help them make each day amazing. 

10.  What are some examples of what you did as a child to do right by others?

I helped give strength to others who lacked it. I won’t allow anyone to be a victim. I help others build strength from their misfortunes–to experience post-traumatic growth, not post-traumatic stress.

11.  When and why did ‘doing well’ NOT be enough, so that you decided that you must also ‘do right’?

I feel like I’ve been given many opportunities and have beaten the odds–it makes me want to help others find their best fighting chance.

12.  Who has helped you make more impact doing right by others?

I am the president of the board for a non-profit called CALICO. We are a child abuse listening and intervention organization that hepls over 800 kids in Alameda find justice from sex abuse and neglect. Having been a victim of sex abuse myself, I want to help those victims find hope and brightness in their adversity.

Here is my story: https://www.calicocenter.org/single-post/2017/04/24/finding-my-voice



13.   What are some of the barriers to making a pronounced impact?

Believe you are unstoppable. 

14.   Who and what could help address these barriers?

 Belief in yourself. A purpose that fuels you. Gratitude for what you have.


15.   What specific do-right impact would you ideally like to achieve, and why is that the most important objective for you?

I want to help others find their personal strength and purpose in whatever they do. It’s important to me because without purpose and strength, continuation is meaningless.

16.   What is the core message, the core vision of the initiative?

17.   What are you doing today to amplify the impact of doing well while doing right?

 With each person that I interact with and touch, I try to lead by example.

18.   How could we all work together to move the needle forward in specific ways?

 We should each find our value and purpose and lead with that each day.


19.     What does success look and feel like?

Success is when you can reflect on each day and say “I have no regrets”

20.    What ONE thing could we each do to make this so? 

Ask the question: What am I proud of doing today?

On Building Trust and Influence

January 7, 2021 by

On Building Trust and Influence

On Building Trust and Influence

Who do you trust so you can stay safe, have fun, stay connected?

How do you get more influence, so others help you get what you want now for yourself, for others, for the future?

How are trust and influence related?

What can I do to get more people to trust me, get more influence to support my agenda?

Whether you’re on the pre-school playground or in the most elite boardroom, these thoughts rattle through your head. I get asked these questions often. So the last time I was asked these questions, I came up with a top ten list with my thoughts on how to build both trust and influence. I hope that you find it useful as you build your relationships of trust, your programs and projects of influence.

  1. Trust is of paramount importance in building relationships. There’s a direct correlation between the amount of trust in a relationship, and the stability and resiliency of that relationship.
  2. Trust can be a difficult thing to earn, and an easy thing to violate. If trust is violated in a relationship, contemplate deeply why a trust has been violated and what, if anything, can be done to repair that trust, that relationship. The learnings from this reflection will serve you well.
  3. Trust must be respected, nurtured and tended in all relationships, and never taken for granted.
  4. The more trusted relationships you nurture and grow, the easier it is to create and sustain more deep and trusted relationships. 
  5. Influence helps people get more things done. Influence becomes increasingly important in a world where we are increasingly interconnected, and no person is an island.
  6. The more influence you have, the easier it is to gain more influence.
  7. Influence in one area does not necessarily mean influence in another area. To be strategic about your influence, be clear on what you want to influence and for which target audience.
  8. It is easier to influence people who trust you. But someone doesn’t necessarily have to trust you to be influenced by you. Those with much influence are role models for many people, and should keep this in mind.
  9. When those with influence make a mistake, it does impact how influential they are. Reflection on what happened and transparent communication to others about the learnings from a mis-step will help those of influence remain influential.
  10. It is optimal to build deep relationships with people you trust, with whom you can collaborate to influence others on a common cause. Collaboratively building more synergistic relationships of trust and more impact and influence will help all parties make measurable progress toward achieving common goals.

Your comments are welcome. E-mail us at info@whenshespeaks.com.

Doing Well While Doing Right: Linda Holroyd

January 1, 2021 by

Doing Well While Doing Right

Featured Leader This Week:

Linda Holroyd – Something from Nothing


Despite all the negatives of 2020, it has also brought so much value to each of us.

  • It helps us see what’s important to us, who’s important to us.
  • It helps us focus on the greater good, the bigger cause.
  • It helps us work on the important things in life.

To take advantage of these up-sides and benefits, FountainBlue is launching an initiative to share weekly ‘Doing Well While Doing Right’ stories from our community members, with the intent of sharing practical and inspirational real-world stories, stimulating creative and proactive thinking and problem-solving, and celebrating the successes of leaders who are making a difference as a business and a community leader. 

The Doing-Well piece is all about the Business Opportunities, the Scalable processes, the Returns on Investments, while also embracing the doing-right piece. The Doing-Right piece is about doing the right thing for other people, for the Earth, for the less fortunate, for the future, while also embracing the doing-well piece. Each story in the series will include a twenty question survey as well as a summary story based on the survey responses.

We will send these stories out weekly over e-mail, over our blog and over our LinkedIn profile and sharing it from our web site as well. It is only fitting that I launch the series with my own answers, my own interview, which will be released at noon on January 1, 2021, as part of our weekly event invitation e-mail.

About ME

1.   Tell your story about your personal and professional background.

I was born in Hong Kong, the second of four children. My mother won a debate, so we stayed together as a family with $20 between us, four children ages 2-7, no job, but a place to stay. Through perseverance and hard work, we managed to buy a house and all the kids graduated from college, got married and raised families. I worked my way through UC Davis as a preschool teacher, an office manager and a notetaker and typist. Armed with a major in psychology and a minor in education, I earned a teaching credential at San Francisco State and taught elementary school for six years.

From there, I worked in sales, marketing and leadership roles in tech start-ups for two years before launching a web consultancy alongside my husband. After growing it to 18 people and $4 million in sales, we sold the company, and I worked in the nonprofit sector before launching FountainBlue in January 2005. As a management consultancy, FountainBlue focused on my two greatest passions – Leadership and Innovation. Known mostly for the programs we’ve run monthly, we also advise start-ups, coach executives, and provide strategic, leadership and management consulting to companies large and small.

2.   What are your personal and professional goals for sharing your doing-well while doing-right story?

I wanted to launch this series in response to all that has happened to us in 2020, to profile success stories of business professionals stepping up and showing up to do well, while doing right by others. While much focus is on the negative,  it’s the positive, feel-good, practical stories that inspire others, and  provide tangible ideas and outlets for others.

3.   How has your personal upbringing helped shape your desire to do well, while doing right?

Raised with very little education and very few resources and support, I learned to be independent and create my own opportunities. Born with a strong moral compass and a sense of justice and a strong desire to do right by others, I’ve always stood more for the greater good than for my own personal well being.

4.   Tell a story about a younger version of yourself and how you were impacted by your early role models.

When I was five, we were assigned four hours of homework a night. I wanted to respectfully protest, make a stand for having less homework for all, so I convinced my uncle to do my homework, which took him 15 minutes and turned in my assignment. When I was asked by my teacher who did my homework, I told the truth and explained that I thought it was more appropriate for five-year-olds to have more play time. I was sent back to my seat without additional comment, but looked upon by the other students like a pariah.

When the teacher told my mother what happened, she just agreed that there was A LOT of homework for children so young. When my mother told my father, he made no comment, but did brag about what I did to our friends who joined us for dinner that night.

My parents taught me to think for myself, act on principle, and work for the greater good. Although they have passed many years ago, they still influence my thoughts, words and actions.

Learning how to do WELL

5. How did your education and professional experience help you to learn business basics around strategy, execution and management?

I learned how to lead and manage while in an elementary school setting as a classroom teacher and adapted my skills to a business setting working with start-ups, corporations and investors. Based on my breadth of experience in a wide range of sectors, I learned how to 1) align strategy, execution and management, 2) work with people who make you want to be better versions of yourself, 3) manage work with people who don’t bring out the best side of yourself, 4) clearly communicate with the intent of building engagement, 5) build ecosystems of partnerships focused on delivering common objectives, 6) leverage technology and science to increase the impact, 7) increase the impact and reach of products and solutions, 8) humbly reach for more, while pridefully celebrating all you are, all you do, 9) continually learn and grow as individuals, teams, and organizations, and 10) see beyond your own assumptions, so that you and those around you can continue to grow and thrive, respond proactively to an ever-changing, more-demanding world.

6.   Who were the star mentors, sponsors and coaches who helped you when things got challenging?

I’m one of those people who learn from many others. I open-mindedly adapt qualities and traits of others I admire, especially if they have skills far different than my own. I remain curious about those who are not-like-me, and truly all those who speak and act on principle, no matter how difficult that proves to be.

In transitioning from teaching to start-up advising and consulting to advising and investing, I learned to many role models how to leverage my strengths and knowledge to more strategically deliver value to a wider set of customers, to build ecosystems of partners in collaboration around common goals, and to work hard and with purpose, to do well for the company, while doing right for the people impacted.

7.   What did you do to better hone your influencing skills?

I failed often, in ways big and small. It was always the grandest failures that made me stronger and better. It was always my perseverance, strength and indomitable will and faith which made my pick myself up, brush myself off, and say ‘what’s next’. Helping others do this for themselves, inspiring others with my example is one of the greatest joys in life.

8.   What are a couple of mistakes you made in your early career which helped you be more successful in your business transactions?

Learning early about my own strengths and weaknesses helped me focus on areas of strength.

My failures teaching a classroom full of under-privileged kids taught me to align my passion (empowering others), my skills (ability to teach and inspire), may not always get me the results I seek, unless the other parties are willing and able.

My failures at small start-ups helped me see the value of principles founders, hardworking technologists, and willing customers and partners.

Learning to do RIGHT

9.   How did your early experience and upbringing help you build a desire to do right by others, by the earth, for future generations?

As a curious onlooker, I saw the short-term and long-term impact of leaders at all levels. No matter the financial and economic outcome, it always felt hollow to witness the success of a product or an organization, unless I felt like the service or product also served the greater good.

Working with entrepreneurs, investors and executives, many feel that same sort of hollowness, and many in mid career purposefully seek creating and building something that makes a difference and serves others.

10.  What are some examples of what you did as a child to do right by others?

It was always more important for me to take a stand on behalf of all of us, rather than on behalf of myself or a few of us. I wouldn’t have minded, for example, doing the assigned homework, and I would have found a way to do it faster and better. But the thought that it couldn’t be good or right for others is what motivated me to take action, even if I had to suffer the consequences.

11.  When and why did ‘doing well’ NOT be enough, so that you decided that you must also ‘do right’?

My first business experiences were around the dot com bomb, where I met and briefly served many entrepreneurs who were blatantly clear that their business model may not be sustainable, but their own possible up-sides were more important. I vowed to disengage with anyone who shares those same principles now, no matter what the financial up-sides are for myself or for their organization.

The doing-right must be part of the equation. But the doing-right isn’t enough, if the company isn’t also doing well.

12.  Who has helped you make more impact doing right by others?

The hundreds of leaders, entrepreneurs, executives, investors we’ve served over the past twenty five years have each helped me reach higher, stand taller, leap farther, and stretch beyond my own view of the world.

Overcoming Obstacles

13.   What are some of the barriers to making pronounced impact?

  • The market must be ripe for the opportunity ahead.
  • The technology must be scalable enough to efficiently bring personalized value.
  • The leaders at all levels must be principled and competent and trustworthy.
  • The ecosystem of partners must be collaborative, integrated, and coordinated.
  • Luck must be on your side.

14.   Who and what could help address these barriers?

All stakeholders have a role in delivering the above, all leaders and managers must continually coordinate a forward movement toward shared goals, building momentum, generating results, communicating and sharing progress.

Amplifying the Impact

15.   What specific do-right impact would you ideally like to achieve, and why is that the most important objective for you?

So many people are doing so much to do right by others while doing well for the business. It’s my goal to highlight the wide range of people and solutions which are Doing Well while Doing Right, so that others can learn from their success, and join in amplifying the impact.

16.   What is the core message, the core vision of the initiative?

  • Together, we are Doing Well, while Doing Right by Others.
  • Sharing our successes, we can inspire and empower others to do the same.

17.   What are you doing today to amplify the impact of doing well while doing right?

We run monthly FountainBlue events online, we curate and share weekly Doing-Well stories, we coach executives and consult to start-ups, helping them do well while doing right. We also volunteer heavily in the community and connect regularly with an ecosystem of partners for the greater good.

18.   How could we all work together to move the needle forward in specific ways?

Share your story, share our events, partner with us to spread the word.

What does success look like?

19.    What does success look and feel like?

The Doing Well While Doing Right stories will be curated and shared so that others can celebrate successes, get stimulated on what’s possible, and contribute with their own strategies and plans for doing well while doing good. The lessons will live on, the community will grow stronger, the energy will grow while we all work and live in a more connected, more purposeful world, driving to a more sustainable, more equitable future.

20.    What one thing could we each do to make this so?

Bring an open mind, an open heart and positive intentions to every interaction with a focus on building connections and generating results.

Men Who Open Doors 2020 Reunion

December 22, 2020 by

FountainBlue’s 2020 Men-Who-Open-Doors reunion meeting included three panels of male sponsors as well as the nominating women! Below are notes from the conversation.

Whether you were one of the honored men opening doors, or one of the women who nominated them, your efforts in creating and growing a community of sponsoring male leaders are critical to perpetuating this great cause.

We are in agreement that championing more diverse leaders and innovators can do everything from helping us all be more creative and more innovative to helping us ALL be more human and more sensitive; from helping us ALL be more communicative to helping us ALL be better decision-makers and problem solvers.

Indeed, our sponsoring executives agreed that having teams of people with diverse backgrounds make for better shorter term and longer term results, as proven not only qualitatively and quantitatively by volumes of industry data, but also from their direct personal and professional experience.

Each sponsoring executive has a different driver for perpetuating the cause. They have each had role models which showed them the ‘why’ and helped them find the ‘how’, while communicating the benefits in a way which made sense to others.

And each sponsoring executive developed strategies and plans which addressed the immediate and longer-term personal and business challenges. 

They each also remarked on how the most successful sponsored leaders were the ones who were most engaged, the ones with the most initiative, the ones with the most openness, and the ones who were most appreciative – regardless of gender or background.

Below is a compilation of best practices they shared for driving more sponsorship within and throughout an organization.

  • It is a journey, not a destination. Celebrate your progress and keep building on your successes.
  • Create communities, model the way and share your best practices.
  • Speak openly about your successes, your challenges and your strategies. 
  • Companies who are consistently aligned in thoughts, words and actions from the top-down, from the bottom-up will make more progress more quickly. 
  • It’s easy to get tired of initiatives which take a long time to change – like moving the needle in terms of gender equity and diverse workforce representation. But focusing on the positive progress and managing things like Gender fatigue will lead to improved results.
  • Leaky pipes are an issue – help women and men with diverse background stay the course, be confident, and make forward strides, especially when they are discouraged by inequities.
  • When you embrace women into teams at all levels, you may find that they may be more empathetic about the personal needs of the team, while also addressing the technical, business and operational challenges.
  • Regardless of gender, background and other inclinations, help your people be more confident that they can succeed even with reach-goals. It’s good for them, good for their teams and good for the organization.

We closed with an interesting perspective – one that we hope will give everyone a reason to embrace Sponsorship of women and others with diverse backgrounds in 2021:

  • A more diverse team will be more creative, more persistent, and more resourceful in dealing with a future that we can’t predict – our next normal.

See the light. Be the light. Spread the light.


Harvard Business Review, Dec 2020: Why Aren’t We Making More Progress Toward Gender Equity https://hbr.org/2020/12/why-arent-we-making-more-progress-towards-gender-equity

Planning for 2021

December 15, 2020 by

FountainBlue’s December 15 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of 2020 and Its Impact on Planning for 2021’.  Please join me in thanking our panelists for their participation and insights. 

  • Amber Barber, Lam Research
  • Roxanne dos Santos, Samsung Research America
  • Maranda Dziekonski, Swiftly
  • Ronald Goossens, ASML
  • Karthi Gopalan, Maxim Integrated
  • Thenu Kittappa, Nutanix 
  • Louise Lamb, Coupa Software
  • Debbie Shotwell
  • Amanda York, Lam Research

We launched the discussion by talking not just about the social, political, economic, and cultural impact of everything that has transpired, but also discussing how we as leaders and organizations have benefited.  

The events of 2020 helped us to see how fragile, how inter-connected we are to each other. Like a house of cards, systemic issues arose in America’s economic, political, social, operational systems as a direct and indirect result of the global pandemic. Everyone has been impacted directly and indirectly.

Yet we must also exclaim at how resourceful and resilient individuals, corporations, teams and technologies have been through these challenges.

  • Technology and innovation rose to the challenge, providing solutions which keep us connected and working securely and efficiently. Indeed the adoption of digital systems has surpassed expectations because of the necessity to do so around pandemic-related circumstances.
  • Technologies and companies have actually increased their revenues and projections as a direct result of the increased need for technology and innovation. This trend just keeps growing, as demand gets bigger and broader.

Key to the success of organizations and leaders is how we treat our people.

  • Thinking, speaking and acting like your people are your primary resource builds trust and credibility as well as productivity and sustainable earnings.
  • Involving our people in identifying and solving problems builds engagement and involvement as well as commitment.
  • Work with your people to help them be more resilient, more adaptive, more receptive, more collaborative.
  • Listen with empathy, with the sincere intent to be of service and provide support, tools and resources in a format which is digestible to the people served.
  • Solicit feedback and input. Genuinely talk to others and sincerely ask for feedback and input on a wide range of topics.
  • Arm your people with dialogues, resources, skills so that they can better understand the people they manage and lead.
  • Be more open-minded, more tolerant and expand your definition of what’s acceptable and professional as the line between personal and professional further blurs.
  • Be more agile in understanding and solving problems, more inclusive on who gets involved in the process.
  • Each resource may be double-edged swords, so customizing what people get and how they receive it would serve everyone well.
  • Teaching and supporting others on how to better lead and manage is a great investment.
  • Companies and managers who have not been good to their people will see massive turnover when the economy returns and jobs become more plentiful.

The problems we face in the next normal are not known or predictable, but the learnings from this year of great change will increase the likelihood that we would together rise to the challenge.

  • There may be a hybrid model for returning to work, so management and leaders need to figure out how to deliver everyone what they need to optimally perform.
  • The decision-making process will be much more nuanced as we factor in so many more things that are important. 
  • Be deliberate and intentional on all things that matter, particularly if it directly impacts the health, safety and happiness of your people.
  • Collaboration across organizations and countries is helping companies build a more versatile, flexible and robust supply chain and deliver a wider breadth of offerings and solutions. 
  • Productivity has not waned much, despite the disruption to on-site work. But the productivity gains are not sustainable, so we must make sure that we manage for empathy and balance, and provide resources to make working from home easy, and respectful balance to support separation of work and life.
  • Companies and teams that ‘follow the money’ will see where the business opportunities are, especially if they are nimble enough to not just see the new needs of their customers, but resourceful and committed enough to deliver same.
  • Through this year of chaos and disorder, we each have plenty of time to contemplate What’s important, Who’s Important, and What We’re Going to Do About This. 

We closed the discussion looking at the upsides of the challenges we faced this year, and reflected on how we each found opportunities to be more resilient, more creative, more resourceful, more human, and even more connected through these challenges. Indeed, in the face of potential Doom and Gloom, we found and created Black Swan effect.

Investopedia: Understanding a Black Swan – https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/blackswan.asp

A black swan is an extremely rare event with severe consequences. It cannot be predicted beforehand, though after the fact, many falsely claim it should have been predictable.

Black swan events can cause catastrophic damage to an economy by negatively impacting markets and investments, but even the use of robust modeling cannot prevent a black swan event.

Reliance on standard forecasting tools can both fail to predict and potentially increase vulnerability to black swans by propagating risk and offering false security. ..

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a finance professor, writer, and former Wall Street trader, used the 2008 financial crisis and the idea of black swan events to argue that if a broken system is allowed to fail, it actually strengthens it against the catastrophe of future black swan events. He also argued that conversely, a system that is propped up and insulated from risk ultimately becomes more vulnerable to catastrophic loss in the face of rare, unpredictable events.

Investopedia: Understanding a Black Swan – https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/blackswan.asp


Men Who Open Doors

December 11, 2020 by

FountainBlue’s December 11 When She Speaks program was on the topic of Men Who Open Doors. We were fortunate to have such inspirational, passionate and diverse men for today’s When She Speaks program on the Men Who Open Doors topic. They spoke passionately about why they are committed to the cause of including women and those with diverse background, and the business benefits for doing so. Each panelist was nominated by awesome women leaders who benefited from their support. In general, these men shared many common qualities.

  • They are authentic, passionate and driven leaders committed to driving the business and empowering their people.
  • They have a wide range of perspectives and wisdom, earned from deep and diverse experience.
  • As inspiring and committed leaders, they are continually involved in participating deeply and giving back passionately.
  • They are each exceptional leaders, extraordinary fathers who put their people first – in thoughts, words and actions.
  • Their focus is not just on the individual women and men who would benefit from their support and sponsorship, but also for the product, for the team, for the organization as a whole.
  • Although they are respectful of those in charge, they are creative and resourceful in making their point and shifting the needle forward to create more impact.

Although they represented different companies and role, they each spoke to the business imperative of embracing diversity within their teams, their organizations.

  • Leveling the playing field will help put the best candidates in the best roles.
  • If the focus is on shareholder value, then having a diverse workforce consistently reflects improved shareholder value.
  • Having diversity of thought is a great cure for Groupthink, which is clearly and consistently a barrier to innovation and even problem solving and decision-making.
  • Doing the right thing builds culture, builds trust, builds credibility.
  • Speaking authentically for choices made around doing the right thing builds confidence and loyalty within and outside the organization.
  • Women are generally more engaged and committed to an organization and role, as reflected by corporate surveys. (Perhaps men feel equally passionate and committed, but may be less likely to show it with actions/commitment/tasks.)
  • The injustice of a double-standard is a blow to corporate culture.
  • Complex problems need to be solved by diverse teams. 

Below are some best practices shared to help companies open more doors for women and those with diverse backgrounds.

  • Giving everyone a chance to succeed and perform will raise the waters for all. 
  • Hiring gritty go-getters is many times better than hiring someone who checks off all the qualifications boxes.
  • Err on the side of asking uncomfortable questions. Pushing our assumptions and biases in a respectful way is a critical part of fostering change in a good way.
  • Consider using return-ship programs to recruit women who might be interested in returning to the workforce after taking a life-detour for example.
  • Sympathy and words are not enough. Actions will speak more loudly.
  • Alignment of thoughts, words and actions is an imperative if you want others to genuinely below in the commitment to the diversity cause.
  • Consider leveraging an internship program with diverse candidates and hiring graduates from these programs.
  • Hire the best candidate, the best athlete for the role.
  • Put your neck on the line if you need to. Making a stand for a candidate who delivers will speak volumes for yourself, for the candidate, and hopefully for your bottom line.
  • Build the self confidence of all your candidates, whether they are from diverse or more standard backgrounds.

The bottom line is that these men truly open doors for others in all senses of the word. Their integrity, their passion, their results shine through, inspiring us by example, and highlighting successes worthy of replication.

Please join me in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s December 11 Men Who Open Doors program, our hosts at Coupa Software and our nominating professionals.

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue 
  • Panelist Chris Allexandre, Senior Vice President & Executive, Renesas  
  • Panelist Ronald Goossens, Senior Director of Marketing, ASML 
  • Panelist Gabe Perez, VP Coupa West Sales, Coupa Software
  • Panelist Sajid Sadi, Vice President of Research, Head – Think Tank Team, Samsung
  • Panelist Nathan Sheranian, Senior Director Human Resources, Freshworks 
  • with opening remarks provided by Sheryl Chamberlain, Director Alliances, Coupa Software, Board Chair Coupa Empower

Smart Cities, Smart Buildings

December 11, 2020 by
FountainBlue’s December 11 VIP roundtable : ‘Smart Cities, Smart Buildings’

FountainBlue’s December 11 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Smart Cities, Smart Buildings’, conducted online with introductory remarks provided by our host company at Amazon. Below are notes from the conversation.

Today’s participating executives represented a wide breadth of industries and roles, across the spectrum of technology – from semiconductors to fabs to end consumers. Each brought an interesting perspective about the opportunities for smart buildings and smart cities.  

We launched the discussion talking about the technology innovation explosion around semiconductors, networking, storage, software (AI, Advanced AI, ML) which facilitates the adoption of Smart Building/Smart City solutions. The pandemic and its implications are also accelerating the development and adoption of technology.  

  • Whether it’s on the edge, in the fog or in the cloud, it’s always about the data. But we need to make sure that data is relevant, timely, filtered, and targeted in its delivery in order to provide maximum benefit for all stakeholders, with actionable recommendations based on pre-defined requirements and parameters.
  • Balancing privacy, security and access remains of paramount concern. Individuals, cities, countries, companies will differ in terms of their sensitivity levels and options for managing these elements, but each entity must take these factors into account.
  • Whereas we may have many ‘Smart Building’ use cases now, to help us manage our day-to-day activities at home for example, we are farther away from the management of ‘Smart Cities‘ as this would take coordinated infrastructure development and collaboration. This might be easier in China, where there might be mandates and requirements, but in Western countries where many parties get a vote, it’s a much greater challenge. 

Below is a compilation of best practices to ensure sustainable implementation and execution of Smart Building initiatives.

  • Minimize latency issues so that selected users can efficiently receive not just the data, but the recommended actions based on the data received.
  • Focus on the most relevant use case, and solve that specific problem, which can be expanded to solve other problems.
  • Focus on the short term wins around Smart Buildings, then expand to other use cases which leverage the same technology, but outside the home, or at work. 
  • Focus on the long term play around Smart Cities, but build standards and collaboration to ensure the coordinated implementation of solutions.
  • Create model solutions including model cities and intersections to test solutions and technologies and their relevance and effectively for individual types of users. 
  • Develop integrated solutions to help employees better manage their logistics and planning around meetings and development or operations.
  • Create Smart Home/Smart City solutions which focus on the goals of safety, efficiency and quality of life, while conserving energy and optimizing performance.
  • Take advantage of smart building solutions which speak to current pandemic-related challenges including robotic automation for warehouses, disinfection management which keeps humans safe, commercial deep cleaning.

We ended the roundtable with some key open-ended questions:

  • What are the opportunities around the challenges posed by 2020 – the year of the pandemic and the myriad of resulting implications?
  • What are the long-game solutions around Smart Buildings/Smart Cities which take minimal investment dollars, so that we can prove value/warrant investment?

Please join me in thanking our hosts at Amazon, and our participating executives.