Archive for March, 2020

Building Community In the ‘New-Normal’

March 25, 2020

NewNormal

For leaders of companies big and small, there’s a looming question: ‘How do you carry on, business as usual, when circumstances are SO unusual’, when things happen so quickly, when we’ve never seen such happenings before? 

And ‘What if this is the ‘new Normal’, and this ‘Work from Home’, ‘Shelter in Place’ scenario becomes the defacto standard?’

Yes, the COVID-19 has hit all of us personally, socially, professionally and economically, and in ways deeply felt, and never before seen. 

I can’t see the future any more than anyone else, but I will share some thoughts on how you, as a business leader, can help build culture for your team and organization given the ‘WFH’ and ‘SPP’ directives, given these uncertain times.

  • Be organized and collaborative.
  • Be informed and act with prudence but don’t over-react and do un-productive, energy-zapping things.
  • Practice deliberate calmness and optimism, tempered with data and reason.
  • Connect with others emotionally, if not physically. Have more time for each other, for our people matter more than ever in these times of change.

During these strange new circumstances, we as leaders and managers must take measures to support our people – whether they are employees or partners, customers or teams. Below are some thoughts on how to maintain a feeling of community, a sense of culture, a belonging to a team when you’re Sheltering in Place or Working from Home.

Set up for Success

  1. Ensure that there is clear, inspiring, top-down communication around mission and values, timelines and goals, and that they are adopted bottoms-up, with questions welcome, and regular updates as appropriate.
  2. Work with Company leaders to commit to the success of everyone – from the top-down, from the bottom-up, at each and every meeting as a group, as individuals, in thoughts, words and actions – all the time, every time.
  3. Ensure that there’s full buy-in from everyone, and positive, productive energy from everyone. (Take measures to assess whether each person can consistently adopt this mind-set, for this is critical to the success of the individual, the team, the project.)
  4. Provide clear projects and timelines which fit the talents and abilities for each team member, and which fit into the larger mission of the product, team and organization.
  5. Promote a digital company culture, leveraging technologies and tools, data and information real-time so that everyone can be productive and connected.
  6. Adopt processes and standards that protect un-interrupted ‘work-time’ without chatter, as well as structured ‘project coordination’ time to share status, and ‘social/other’ time to build bonds between team members.
  7. Help each person separate work and home life physically, mentally, emotionally.

Establish Clear Standards and Processes

  1. Be open and authentic, compassionate and human
    • Focus on making positive and constructive remarks, comments and input, and ask everyone on the team to do the same.
    • Welcome input and feedback without judgement or consequence. 
    • Build trust to help people feel that they can share freely and safely. 
    • Forgive mistakes and transgressions. Help others to do the same.
    • Be compassionate, giving and vulnerable.
  2. Practice virtual meeting etiquette. Use the mute button, manage ambient noises. Get cameras and audio tools working well. Pay attention to intonations, facial expression and body language.  
  3. Honor everyone’s preferences around meeting timing, topics, length, etc..

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Thoughts on How to Creating a More Connected Remote Workforce

Build Teamwork

  1. Allow and encourage mindless chatting, ‘off-task’, but very relevant discussion
    • Spend meeting having team members share something about themselves or share how working remotely is impacting them.
    • Pose open-ended questions, with the intent of getting to know everyone better.
    • Brainstorm with each other how to address specific challenges around WFH.
    • Help everyone feel that they are all alone on doing their (very important piece of the project), but also they are all inter-connected and all on the same team.
  2. Create and use different layers of celebration and different formats for celebrating the different types of successes real-time and incrementally, short term AND long term; team AND company; milestone achievement AND bug fix, etc.,
  3. When practical, provide opportunities for in-person social gatherings, group trainings, cross-functional/cross-product gatherings, etc., so everyone feels part of the bigger team.
  4. Reward choices made to support the team AND individual progress on key initiatives.
  5. Reward initiative and drive around creating social and team initiatives – both online and in-person.

Build Relationships

  1. Assign a buddy-system to do periodic project-based, or role-based check-ins.
  2. Create regular ‘bonding’ time (by role, by buddy-system, by mentor/mentee, etc.,)
  3. When practical, provide opportunities for cross-functional/cross-product gatherings, etc., so everyone feels part of the bigger team.

Encourage Curiosity

  1. Welcome conversations about how company/team/product values are being upheld.
  2. Encourage and reward curiosity on how things are done, why things are done this way, why things are going well or not, why customers prefer one feature over another.

Practice Compassion

  1. Be curious about how people are responding to the changing requirements and processes, and how personal circumstances might be impacting work requirements.
  2. Be supportive of those who need logistical support to address WFH, SiP mandates.
  3. Regularly assess how WFP and SiP challenges are affecting individual team members and the team overall.
  4. Be flexible on timelines and deliverables while your team and their families adjust to new circumstances.
  5. Do the little things to let people know that you’re aware of their challenges and that you’d like to support them in navigating these challenges. It may be as simple as sending them a new webcam or mailing them a handwritten letter.

Build Engagement

  1. Reward people for bringing something to Share or Give at a meeting – data, tool, resource, learning, ideas, patterns, etc.,
  2. Reward process-improvement suggestions so that everyone has the tools and information they need to get the job done, the plan is clear on how to get what kind of support
  3. Encourage and reward team members who contribute to meetings, written communications, team projects – online or in-person.

This list isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but we will keep building on it. Your thoughts are also welcome.

Opportunities and Challenges for Innovating on the Edge

March 13, 2020

EdgeComputing

FountainBlue’s March 13 VIP roundtable was on the topic of ‘Opportunities and Challenges for Innovating on the Edge’, with leaders from Maxim for leading the virtual discussion. Thank you also to our executives in attendance for their input and advice. Below are notes from the conversation.  

We were fortunate to have a diverse range of executives in attendance who worked in and around the edge computing field. As we grow solutions around edge computing, they agreed that it’s important to manage the following:

  • Seamless connection on an ongoing basis
  • Low latency/rapid response, especially when the stakes are high
  • Immersive experience so people can manage and use the solutions effectively
  • Connectivity wherever you go
  • Privacy and security of users and their data

In order to do that, we need to do the following:

  • Capture, manage and process the volumes of data generated by the growing number of sensors, devices, wearables
  • Increase speed of access to the data, without a gap
  • Gather, integrate, process and filter data between all sensors/devices/wearables on the edge in the cloud 
  • Send back filtered/processed data back to the edge for response and action

Challenges and opportunities abound. Below are some thoughts around the data.

  • Optimize the gathering/filtering/processing of data and returning only the ‘relevant’ data back to the edge/device/user
  • Validate the accuracy of the data generated.
  • Remember that where there is data, AI and ML can improve that data, making it more relevant and useful. 

Other challenges and opportunities are highlighted below.

  • Make algorithms effective enough to be useful, small enough to not consume too much power, not take too much time to process.
  • Design the architecture to better manage the power for devices/sensors/wearables on the edge.
  • Make the hardware small and compact, but also simple to integrate with the firmware and software.
  • The processing of images and videos will also provide many opportunities.

Below is advice on how to better innovate on the edge.

  • Provide options for selecting variables and rules which impact what data.
  • Validate the integrity of the data received from sources on the edge.
  • Make predictions about what’s going to happen based on patterns of what’s happened in the past.
  • Work with regulators so that they understand how technology works and can update their policies so that people are protected, but they can also get access to life-saving and life-improving solutions in such regulated industries as automotive and healthcare.
  • Proactively manage and maintain systems, computers and machines so that they can send data about system health and issues, including issues which might be related to their own functioning.
  • If you’re running multiple engineering/product teams, help them collaborate on common solutions, bringing the best brains and solutions together rather than working in silos
  • Provide personalized solutions for client companies which would have immediate benefits as well as scalable impact.
  • The mass adoption of 5G wireless has reached health and infrastructure obstacles, so don’t count on its adoption as part of your sales and marketing strategy for your edge computing solution.
  • Create edge computing solutions which meet the ‘hard constraints’ of being on the edge: the need for POWER, the SIZE of the device, and the COST to manufacture, distribute and maintain these devices/sensors/wearables. 

We end with the staggering thought that we will soon have 42 billion connected devices. The solutions that we are providing and planning today are real use cases. But think also about what’s transformational for the future – not just what devices are sensing, but also empowering a tool/process/human/algorithm to take proactive action, based on data generated, models created. We are not quite there, and is much thinking, collaboration, and working to do before we get there, and many safeguards to put in place to make sure that’s done right.

Overcoming Imposter’s Syndrome

March 13, 2020

ImposterSyndromePanelMarch2020

FountainBlue’s March 13 When She Speaks event was on the topic of ‘Overcoming Imposter Syndrome’. Our panelists loosely defined ‘Imposter Syndrome’ as the delta between what you think you’ve done and how it matches with the expectations of yourself and others, and the resultant anxiety associated with any mis-match.

The panelists brought up that many people experience Imposter Syndrome, that many women do, even accomplished women, but it’s also not just a woman’s thing, and it’s not just also for tech professionals as wives or husbands and athletes might experience it too. 

Our amazing panelists had experienced imposter syndrome at various points in their very impressive careers, especially as they were just starting out in a new field, role or industry.

Below are some of their suggestions and advice for how to navigate imposter syndrome.

  • Be data-based rather than emotive. 
  • Know the facts, be prepared, do the things you need to do to succeed.
  • Recruit and nurture advocates, sponsors and mentors. Ask people to be sounding boards. Build teams and communities.
  • Say yes to opportunities, even when they stretch your abilities and make you feel uncomfortable.
  • Be confident enough to try something new, open enough to seek input and guidance in that new role, and persistent and hard working enough to perform well in that new capacity.
  • Own your plan for success. If you’d like to be promoted, make sure that you backfill for your position, and can prove that you’re ready for that next position.
  • Be positive and supportive to others. Support them in their challenges and ask for help with your own.
  • Don’t expect to know it all, but do ask relevant questions that make people think.
  • Select a manager who is supportive and has your best interest in mind.
  • Tell a story to communicate your point: the message, the data, the conclusion.
  • Remember that you are not alone. Even people you think are very accomplished may not be as confident as you think. 
  • Adopt an ecosystem view to understand complex issues. There are many layers of people and issues involved in any one decision.
  • Adopt a thinking rather than an emotional approach to a career question or issue.
  • When you need to, fake it until you make it. Be confident.
  • Be curious.

Be encouraging and positive about what you do, and supportive even when things don’t go as planned. Proactively and positively manage that voice in your head.


Please join me in thanking our panelists for FountainBlue’s March 13 When She Speaks event was on the topic of ‘Overcoming Imposter Syndrome’.

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue
  • Panelist Jane Divinski, serial entrepreneur and engineering leader
  • Panelist Joyce Eng, Senior Director, Strategy, Program Management, User Experience, Roche

  • Panelist Krista Pavlakos, Senior Director, Marketing Communications & Demand Creation, Renesas Electronics
  • Panelist Lori Kate Smith, former Director, Marketing Programs, Machine Learning (ML), ARM

Leading with Finesse

March 1, 2020
FinesseHeptagon
It was my pleasure to attend the February BAHREC meeting, featuring Ryan Lahti, speaking about ‘The Finesse Factor‘. 
Ryan spoke eloquently about his extensive educational background and corporate experience working with STEM organizations large and small over the past three decades. The focus of the workshop is around leaders with ‘finesse’ tend to add greater value.
Defined as both a noun and a verb, finesse is an ‘intricate and refined delicacy’ as a noun and ‘do(ing) (something) in a subtle and delicate manner’ as a verb. In other words, leaders with finesse can get something done well during difficult and uncertain, and often in high-pressure situations. 
My greatest takeaway is around the patterns of behavior exhibited by leaders showing ‘finesse’. See Ryan’s chart above.
  • In his studies and in his book, Ryan points out that finesse would start at the 4-5 o’clock point of the heptagon, with ‘Leveraging Self-Awareness’. 
    • Without self-awareness, it would be difficult for any leader to finesse a successful outcome from a complicated situation. Without self-awareness, it’s difficult to be more than reactive. Without self-awareness, it’s difficult to know you need help, or to ask for help.
    • Leaders with self-awareness must decide many things, including: 
      • Is this a situation which needs to be addressed?
      • Am I the person who could help address the situation?
      • What are the short-term and long-term consequences for myself and others should I attempt to address the situation?
      • Is it worth my while to do so?
  • Going clockwise at 6 o’clock, Ryan points out that leaders with finesse must next assess the situation and look at the ecosystem of stakeholders affected by the situation.
    • This would take some strategic thinking as well as some tactical execution to best understand the situation and to best understand how to navigate the relationships in order to secure support and resources to address specific challenges and opportunities.
  • Continuing clockwise, from there, leaders with finesse strategically assess the impact of choices made, actions taken, before taking action.
  • From there, it’s about communicating a strategy and a plan of execution with a ‘measured presence’. 
    • Taking the previous steps will help leaders with finesse deliver messages with confidence.
  • When conflicts inevitably arise, leaders with finesse respond with reasonable facts in a calm manner, sticking to the issues, and not making matters personal.
  • Coaching, counseling and support help leaders with finesse manage and work with others through periods of great change. In addition, note that leaders with finesse don’t insist on always ‘being the candle’ to bring the light. They are also open to ‘being the mirror’, reflecting the light of others who may have better options and solutions.
  • Lastly, to complete the heptagon, is the step of ‘getting work done through others’. Delegation is tough for many high-performers, but leveraging the talent of others will multiply the impact, providing greater opportunities for all.
In conclusion, I was deeply impacted by this model, and by Ryan himself. It showed with clarity that all leaders (of all genders and ages) must have the first three skills, but to be recognized as a leader, the additional steps must be taken. 
May this research help you raise the bar for yourself, for your team, for your organization.