Archive for November, 2019

Unconscious Bias

November 11, 2019

Left to Right: Sonya, Megan, Martha, Linda, Alia, Sujatha

FountainBlue’s November 8 When She Speaks event on the topic of Overcoming Unconscious Bias. Our panelists represented a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds, yet they had much in common.

  • Each are intelligent, driven, flexible and competent enough to excel in a corporate environment while remaining business-focused and people-centric.
  • Each are committed to sharing their best practices, in the interest of supporting the larger community.
  • Each has the self-awareness and confidence to address and confront their own unconscious biases, and stoically plod on the self-improvement journey, while supporting others with theirs.

They shared their advice with wisdom, insight and humor.

  • Be slow to judge, quick to support.
  • Be actively thinking, actively listening to what’s said and what’s meant.
  • Look closely, judge kindly.
  • Reflection and introspection help people get grounded and centered.
  • Take all the help you can get to manage your own unconscious biases – whether it’s through your company, your trusted board of advisers, your school and community, etc.,
  • Choose to be the bigger person when you are the one being judged. Consistently build that brand of taking the high road. Deliver with your results.
  • Recruit others to support you in overcoming biases, conscious and conscious.
  • Watch your language. Manage your filters. 
  • Pick your battles. Address the mid-term and long-term goals. The short term battles are difficult to win, especially when the biases aren’t conscious, when the judgements run deep.
  • Know what you can influence and what you can’t influence. Accept what you can’t influence – (at least not in the short term.)
  • Watch the packaging – how you dress, look and act may have others judging you favorably or unfavorably. Aim not to offend.
  • Have honest conversations with yourself about any biases you might have.
  • Immerse yourself in uncomfortable situations and circumstances so that you can better understand those who are not-like-you.
  • Spell out how others are categorized and considered for hiring and promotion. Is it fair and just? Is it generating the diverse results you say you’re seeking?
  • Create processes which would help others fairly consider all options.
  • Watch the exceptions that you’re making, to ensure that those exceptions are fairly distributed.

In the end, we concluded that it’s hard to be open to your own biases when you don’t know that you have them, or what they are. Assume that you do. That everyone does.

You can only manage your own journey, and support others as they manage theirs.

Please join me in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s November 8 When She Speaks event on the topic of Overcoming Unconscious Bias and our gracious hosts at Aruba HPE.

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue 
  • Panelist Alia Ayub, Vice President of Tax, Lam Research
  • Panelist Megan Cheek, Head of Human Resources, Anatomage
  • Panelist Sujatha Mandava, VP of Product Management, Aruba HPE
  • Panelist Sonya Pelia, CMO, Cira Apps Limited
  • Panelist Martha Ryan, Executive Director Business Transformation, Maxim


November 11, 2019
Mentorship2019HonoreesFountainBlue’s First Annual Mentorship Awards event, part of the When She Speaks series, was scheduled for November 1.
Our mentorship awardees this year had a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, but each had much in common:
  • they each valued the input of the mentors from an early age and on an ongoing basis;
  • they worked with their companies to create a program which support dozens and even hundreds of men and women;
  • they each continued to mentor others as they themselves advanced in their careers;
  • they are each committed to continuing to mentor others, on top of their immense work responsibilities, community commitments, and the day-to-day joys and challenges of a busy family.
Our panelists agreed on the short term and long-term benefits of mentorship. Mentors can help solve current problems, but they can also help with longer-term gains building confidence, expanding perception, providing support, especially when times are tough.
There are many reasons to become a mentor. Not only is it personally satisfying, but also supports the professional development of mentees, but also the team and organization as a whole. Mentoring is a great way to give back – to your team, to your company, to your community, to the next generation. 
Below is a summary of mentorship best practices.
  • The mentoring relationship is a dynamic one – the needs of both mentors and mentees change over time. Clear communication from both sides help ensure productive interactions between mentees and mentors.
  • One goal from a mentorship relationship is to develop a ‘thicker skin’, so that the mentee is more resilient and confident even if an environment is less than ideal.
  • Mentors can successfully mirror behavior or attitude of the mentee, so that she/he can better understand how others are responding to them.
  • There are many different kinds of mentors and mentoring relationships. Just because you have a technical mentor doesn’t mean that you don’t also need a mentor to help navigate a new role, for example.
  • Mentors can help filter messages and information, so that you focus on what’s important and use your time most wisely.
  • Mentor people at all levels, not just those designated as ‘high-potential’. Even if the mentee never gets into management levels, that mentee would have more influence and more confidence in whichever level they’re in.
  • With that said, make sure that both mentors and mentees are willing participant. It doesn’t work to mandate a mentor-mentee relationship.
  • Have specific criteria if you’re matching mentors and mentees, and have direct communication to ensure that both parties continue to benefit from the connection.
Every speaker remarked on how important it was to develop our people, our relationships, and how mentorship is a critical tool to grow everyone at all levels at scale.

Please join me in congratulating FountainBlue’s 2019 Mentorship Honorees.
  • Amber Barber, Sr. Manager Business Operations Management, Lam Research
  • Serpil Bayraktar, Distinguished Engineer, Chief Architect’s Office – Development, Cisco
  • Christina Lewis, BU Controller/Director, Enterprise Finance, Western Digital
  • Ronit Polak, VP, Quality Assurance, Palo Alto Networks
  • Kavita Shah, Senior Director, Strategic Marketing, Nova Measuring Instruments
Thank you also to our hosts at Lam Research, to Erin Yeaman, Managing Director of HR, Lam Research and to Mike Snell, Vice President of Operations, Global Operations, Lam Research for their introductory remarks. 

Data is the New Black

November 9, 2019


FountainBlue’s November 1 VIP roundtable, on the topic of ‘Data is the New Black’. Thank you also to our gracious host at Automation Anywhere. Below are notes from the conversation.  

Here’s the thing about data:

  • There’s a wealth of it, and it’s just getting overwhelming bigger.
  • It drives everything – every industry, every person, every company. 
  • It’s good news for the semiconductor industry and other sectors which make sure that we have the storage, the energy, the network needed so that people can keep getting access to that data.
  • Data within legacy systems might be valuable, but it is likely also difficult to access.
  • Data across multiple sources might be useful, but it is likely to connect data across multiple source into a common dataset, useful enough to understand problems and make decisions.

With that said, here’s the challenge and opportunity around data.

  • There’s so much of it that we need to filter it first to identify which data is relevant and then also for what we need immediately, what we need in the short term, and what we might need in the long term.
  • It takes a lot of energy and resources to keep the data, so we must be strategic about what data to keep and how we can efficiently get it into the hands of those who need it most.
  • Compliance to security and privacy issues make data management high-stakes for all. 
  • Having an interoperable standard for data sharing might help better integrate data across sources, teams, companies, industries.
  • Customers today are empowered and fickle. Companies must be able to innovate and customize more quickly to serve their needs.
  • Even adopted solutions have much shorter life cycles today, as customers want solutions which are better and faster and more battery efficient. 
  • People are at the heart of the problem around data privacy. They want their privacy and their access. It’s hard to give people both at the same time every time.  

Below are some shared best practices:

  • Make a plan on how data is gathered, managed and distributed. 
  • Plan for a future with much more data. Be selective about what data is important.
  • Collaborate with other people, companies and industries and share best practices.
  • Focus your data plans on the needs of your customers and your partners.
  • Consider the intentions and ethics around the people and companies providing the data.
  • Policy may not be the answer to managing data mishandling. Indeed, it may cause more complications, less fairness.
  • People should be responsible enough to know how their data is used and astute enough to take the data they receive with a grain of salt – even to the point of questioning the validity of the data and the intentions of the party providing the data.
  • Create solutions with tiny form factors to better address the needs of demanding customers.
  • Ask for less information from customers when you ask them to sign up for something – the less friction you’re providing to the customer experience, the better results you could get.
  • There will be a growing convergence of tech and ethics and values. Speak to the elephant in the room – facilitate that conversation between stakeholders within and across organizations.  
  • Use fewer resources to manage ‘garbage data’. Yes, all data might one day be useful, but focus on the data that’s more likely to be useful, now and soon, rather than data which might one day be useful. 

Below are thoughts on the future opportunities.

  • The future may have more self-learning – e.g. more AI, less raw data.
  • Use ML to identify patterns early enough to address and even prevent diseases. 
  • Making sense of unstructured data provides huge opportunities. 

The bottom line is that data is everywhere – the use of access and usage are complicated, the stakes are high – you want to give the right people immediate and full access without compromising the integrity and accuracy of the data, and while respecting the privacy of those who ‘own’ the data. 

Mentorship vs Sponsorship

November 1, 2019


Of course it’s not an either-or. You need BOTH great mentors and great sponsors to advance and succeed. We talked for the last two posts about mentors, and they are GREAT. Most people can’t advance without them. But based on my decades of direct and indirect experience, the TRUE differentiation is around sponsorship. Below are some reasons why I think that’s the case.

  1. Sponsors, by definition, have the influence, ability and power to nominate, vote for, and hire into key positions.
  2. Sponsors can be coaches and mentors as well, but they also have the ability to support the advancement into a higher level within an organization. Generally coaches and mentors are not also sponsors.
  3. Coaches and mentors might help someone shift into a new role, industry or level, but a sponsor help hard-working, energetic and unproven people actually land in new role or position.
  4. Coaches are more likely to have received training on how to coach. Sponsors aren’t necessarily trained to be sponsors. In fact, sponsors may not even realize they are sponsoring someone. They are focusing on solving a problem – connecting the right people to the right organization/problem set.
  5. Mentors are generally intentional about their mentorship goal, but Sponsors are not necessarily intentional their sponsorship goals and objectives. 
  6. Sponsors, are generally more results- and business- focused rather than people-focused (although of course, they care about the person they’re sponsoring).
  7. Whereas coaches and mentors may be more helpful resolving deep tactical challenges, sponsors may provide more insights with strategic challenges.
  8. Sponsors focus on immediate challenges, as mentors as coaches do, but they also address longer-term challenges, such as proactively building a leadership pipeline, bringing in ideas and talent which would stretch business and technology edge cases, and facilitating collaboration across people, technologies, and teams.
  9. Coaches and mentors touch people at all levels within an organization, whereas sponsors care for people at all levels, but focus on people who have the most impact and influence on others within the organization.
  10. In general, coaches and mentors look from the bottom up – helping the mentee/coached navigate the corporate challenges and opportunities from their own point of view. Sponsors however, help their sponsored employee take a longer-term, strategic, top-down approach about the needs of the company and the value they can bring to the table in the near-term and for the long-term.

Your mileage may vary. Your thoughts are welcome. E-mail us at 

Join us for our December 13, 2019 Second Annual ‘Men Who Open Doors’ panel discussion, featuring some outstanding male sponsors.