Archive for the ‘Conversations’ Category

Opportunities in the Cloud

March 20, 2012

CloudNOW award winner Ellen Rubin is VP, Cloud Products at Terremark, a Verizon Company and co-founder of CloudSwitch, recently bought by Verizon and brought into their Terremark group. Ellen started her career as a management consultant, which was a great opportunity to try many things early in her career, gaining experience in a number of different industries and countries. She developed a passion for technology and throughout her career has gained experience in cloud computing, business intelligence, analytics, CRM, data warehousing and data centers, working with engineers and other technical professionals. Her advice to other non-technical people is to take the time and energy to listen closely, do the research and training so that you truly understand the technology, and then translate the business and market/customer data you might have into quantifiable, logical terms that technologists would understand. She also encourages people to ask the dumb questions, and to explain things from the perspective of the customer, without over-managing *how* something is implemented.
Ellen is passionate about the opportunities in the cloud, and sees it as an exploding market with many opportunities ahead. One of the benefits of it being a new industry is that there aren’t a lot of legacy applications or old and established leaders in the market. Another benefit of joining is that it is inevitable that companies large and small will be adopting the cloud – the question is how and/or when or which solutions first. So those who are willing to leverage their skills, do the work, have relevant, transferable skills and background, and willing to get their hands dirty doing many different things will be the people succeeding in growing cloud solutions and supporting the cloud potential overall.
Specific hot areas within the cloud opportunity include hybrid clouds, security and monitoring solutions, as well as solutions that help enterprises and organizations remain in compliance with regulations, providing security and performance requirements while serving a wide range of users. In the end, it will be the companies that make the cloud solutions an extension of what they are already doing in-house, a seamless integration between what’s outsourced externally and done internally, and easily scalable to meet anticipated needs.
For more information, visit Ellen’s company, or find out more about CloudNOW at

Enterprise Solutions for the Cloud

March 16, 2012

CloudNOW award winner Seema Jethani started out with a degree in computer engineering from the University of Mumbai in India, moved on to receive a Masters in Computer Science from North Carolina State University and then a MBA, Strategy from Duke University – The Fuqua School of Business before working for IBM as a computer engineer and then a competitive strategist for the cloud computing group at IBM. She is currently Director of Product Management at EnStratus where she manages customer requirements and relationships and develops product strategy, pricing, messaging and sales tactics.

With this type of background, Seema is uniquely qualified to share her perspectives about the challenges around cloud computing and the opportunities ahead. She describes how rapidly IT is changing, moving from a time when engineers requested and received many systems they manage on their own, to a time when servers work with clients within big companies, and now to a time when big companies are moving into the cloud.

This rapid change is met by resistance by many, inside and outside the IT department. But the wave is turning as companies are recognizing the strategic advantage of embracing the cloud to improve performance, maintain governance and security requirements, while also creating a scalable, flexible, sustainable solution for the internal staff and for working with partners and customers. In short, embracing the cloud means that a company can focus on their core competencies. Therefore, the cloud is exploding and companies big and small must choose the cloud option to remain competitive, so resistance is futile.

In some ways, it is easier to adopt cloud solutions in a small company, which is less process-driven, less weighed down by legacy solutions and by serving a large user base. However, the downside is that sometimes there is not enough infrastructure or process in place to get things done. So if you’re in that situation, create a solution to address the problem at hand.

In some ways, it is easier to work in a larger company, with more people and infrastructure and resources to support you and your team. But sometimes the number of people and processes and groups and legacy applications can be a hurdle to getting things done. So if you’re in that situation, find an executive sponsor and a project you feel passionate about and drive results from there.

We concluded the discussion talking about women in the cloud and technology overall. Seema pointed out that there are only 20-30% of people in classes and at work who are in technology, and encouraged women to feel confident about pursuing careers in math and science, to leverage their strengths and passions, and to overcome any stereotypes about what people think about having women in technology. Seema is doing her part as an active member of the CloudNOW (Cloud Network of Women) community, serving on their research team and putting together events on topics ranging from security to performance.

For more information, visit Seema’s company, or find out more about CloudNOW at

Embracing the Cloud with Vanessa Alvarez

March 9, 2012

Our March 8 interview was with CloudNOW’s Women-In-The-Cloud award-winner Vanessa Alvarez, Analyst, Infrastructure and Operations at Forrester Research, on the topic of Embracing the Cloud. Vanessa spoke eloquently not just about the evolution of cloud technology and how it’s transforming IT, but also about how it is evolving to also better meet business objectives, converting IT from a cost center and a bottleneck to an integral part of the business, providing an operational model for bringing together the technology, people and processes necessary to keep businesses competitive, whether they are in the tech industry or not.
Inspired by technology icons such as John Chambers, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs, Vanessa sees that technology is not about being a nerd and a geek, but is evolving to be a tool for solving problems, an enabler to facilitate communication and efficient operations, an integral part of any company’s infrastructure *and* value-added offerings for customers. As the IT revolution evolves, the opportunities in the cloud, currently a new frontier, will be the foundation of every successful business, bringing together technology, people and processes.
In fact, technology is *not* the hurdle, for solutions are readily available for companies with the leaders, both men and women, with the strategic, holistic view to embrace it, and the fortitude, resiliency and focus to integrate cloud solutions so that they best serve all stakeholders.
It is actually the cultural, organizational, and strategic hurdles which are a greater barrier to adoption. This is a skill not necessarily favoring more engineering-focused, current male leaders, but perhaps slightly favoring tech-savvy women who also see things more from the eyes of the customer, and who might see how technology impacts our day-to-day lives and solves problems-in-your-face, rather than creating technologies just because.
But encouraging these types of girls and women to rise to the occasion is not an easy task, given the local of access to support, the cultural view of math and science as a study for boys, the challenges of a male-dominated technology industry, etc., But if we could educate, connect and empower our girls to be part of the solution, and ride the cloud wave, it would help them and their family and community, but also the industry overall. Key strategic enterprise opportunities in the cloud might include orchestration and management solutions as well as cloud insurance solutions, to help mitigate risk and ensure compliance.
Nobody said that it would be easy, as it is a daunting task to change the way we look at the role of IT within a company, and the way we embrace and accept it as a strategic and necessary partner for delivering what customers want more efficiently, more collaboratively. The next 5-7 years will be telling about which leaders and companies will do this, and will do this well. Those who don’t will be left out of the stratosphere.

Negotiating When You’re the Only Woman Around the Table

March 8, 2012

The February 16 Women Leaders in Conversation interview was with Vijaya Kaza on the topic of Negotiating When You’re the Only Woman Around the Table, and showcased her grounded experience, humility and wisdom, and her focus on generating collaborative, win-win results.

To her, negotiating is about being clear on your intentions and expectations, doing the necessary homework beforehand, and understand your passions and goals and that of the people you’re working with, and communicating in the kind of convincing, fact-based, persistent, manner which builds consensus. It’s about building relationships, earning credibility, finding a win-win, and building on successes. It’s about speaking and acting with confidence, being fully informed and fully transparent with others.

And negotiation is always about the give-and-take. Know what you’re not willing to compromise on, and the areas where you are willing to give in. Be flexible in your negotiations.

Taking the initiative is another secret to negotiating successfully. Don’t just wait for an opportunity to present itself. Make your case for what’s best for you, your team, your company, and position yourself to succeed in negotiating that outcome. Then deliver results when you get there, increasing the likelihood of another opportunity for success!

Whether you are negotiating for yourself, for your team members, at home or at work, here are some top ten tips for negotiating, whether or not you’re the only woman around the table:
1.Know your signature strengths, passions and abilities.
2.Build your credibility with your educational background, your proven, measurable results.
3.Do your homework and understand the opportunities, the stakeholders, their motivations, etc. Then come up with a plan to negotiate a win-win.
4.Negotiation is always about the give-and-take, so collaborate, compromise and create alignments with other people, teams and organizations to achieve common goals.
5.Negotiate before and following meetings, offline, face-to-face, one-on-one, speaking person to person, focused on shared objectives.
6.Be clear in all your communications, both verbal and non-verbal, written and spoken, and persistent and passionate and convincing when you’re negotiating your position.
7.Always point to your results, rather than trying to play political games.
8.Invite influential and strategic others to your cause through convincing, data-based, passionate communications.
9.As an acid test, always make sure that you can stand on your own outside your current company, that your work will have value elsewhere, and that it’s not necessarily the relationships or politics alone facilitating your successes.
10.Never make a rash decision. Make sure that you consult those that you trust and give yourself time to ensure that you’re agreeing to do the right thing for you and your team and company.

The bottom line is that negotiating effectively is about knowing yourself, your objectives and working collaboratively with other parties to serve a common, mutually-beneficial purpose.

CloudNow: Connecting People In the Cloud

March 2, 2012

The interview with Jocelyn DeGance Graham, Founder, Cloud Network of Women, CloudNOW was on the topic of CloudNow: Connecting People In the Cloud and showcased her passion for entrepreneurship, and communications, leveraging technology and serving customers. Jocelyn has been involved in technology for many years, witnessing the evolution of cloud from virtualization and SaaS alone to more platform and infrastructure as a service solutions which serve companies large and small.
The cloud has gone from a nice-to-have to a necessary part of any successful company. Larger enterprises might feel challenged with integrating various versions of legacy applications into the cloud, or choosing more functionality and efficiencies against security and performance challenges when serving so many volumes of users. But it’s not an option to maintain the status quo – the cloud *will* be the standard, and universally adopted, and larger enterprises must find solutions that de-aggregate the risk, providing menus of options to their corporate users. So Jocelyn’s advice to CIOs in charge of this transition-to-the-cloud is to break it up into digestible pieces, focusing on less-mission-critical, non-customer-facing apps and solutions first.
The cloud has made it easier for smaller and medium sized companies who are small and nimble to deliver services faster and better than their more established competitors. A case-in-point is Netflix and their amazingly rapid adoption of cloud solutions, which have literally put much larger and more established, less cloud-centric providers like Blockbuster out of the market. With smaller, more entrepreneurial companies, you have the up-sides of cloud offerings, including a network of technology offerings offered locally and globally with full functionality at nominal costs, coupled with freedom from challenges of larger companies, including the integration of older, legacy apps and the need to serve a large, diverse user base.
It is impressive what Jocelyn has done for the companies she works for, and for the network she has built. She is doing more than her fair share to foster an industry ready to bloom, and serving women (and men) and customers along the way. For her, the bottom line is that the ‘Cloud Got Real’ in 2011, and cloud is out-of-the-hype and into the must-have, so follow the technology revolution, from PCs to internet and into the cloud. For more information, visit

Negotiating at Work

February 23, 2012

The interview with Piya Mitra, HR Director and Business Partner at Cadence was on the topic of Negotiating at Work showcased her deep experience and wisdom in the area of HR and business and market trends. Her passion for technology and for people really came across in her interview, and her practical advice for candidates, hiring managers and HR professionals showed the need for coordination and collaboration to find that win-win: an alignment between employees, and management to meet professional goals of our workers and the corporate goals for the organization. Below is her advice on how each partner can better coordinate to achieve these win-win results:
1. Candidates should have a good understanding of the job description and know how he/she fits that job description and whether that specific job fits into their overall career path. Having all parties ensuring this initial fit is the first big step to a successful hire.
2. Hiring managers and HR professionals should collaborate in writing the job description to meet the needs of the manager, the team, and the overall corporate goals.
3. Hiring managers and HR should coordinate in terms of range for salary, benefits, stock and other compensation items.
4. Factor in not just the salary history for the candidates, but more importantly the value he/she provides in the job.
5. Treat HR like a science with measurable objectives and results and processes.
6. Negotiation is part of your day-to-day life, at home and at work, whether you’re in HR or not, whether you’re in job transition or not. So find a common ground with whomever you’re negotiating, and practice a little give-and-take and collaborate, compromise and create alignments to achieve bigger goals.
7. As a hiring manager, first evaluate the job, and then evaluate the fit of the candidate to the job, factoring in everything from resume to interview to references and salary history.
8. When negotiating for a promotion as a candidate, be clear on what the next position would look like in terms of skills, requirements, responsibilities, resources, etc. Consider also the compensation and/or resource adjustments which might come with a promotion. Then bring the issue up with your manager, being prepared to see additional information about the potential promotion, reflecting larger corporate perspectives in terms of strategy/direction and budget.
9. In building a successful global organization, consider the advantages and disadvantages for ‘ex-Pat’ attraction strategies for countries such as India, who are attracting seasoned, educated talent to return to their home country and lead younger, less experienced, yet fully trained staff. There’s a potential for a win-for-all with strong development, R&D and management abilities on both sides, serving the overall corporate objectives for their organizations.
10. Negotiating is a part of communication, a part of life. Rather than focusing on always persuading someone to your point of view and intentions and objectives, focus instead on negotiating toward a common ground.
The bottom line is that negotiating at work is about thinking strategically, communicating transparently, and focusing on finding that win-win, that common ground for yourself, for your team, for your organization.

Negotiating Across Silos

February 10, 2012

Savitha Srinivasan is one of those authentic, effective leaders anyone would want as a colleague, mentor and friend. She consistently advocates for working passionately and strategically to further a cause, a technology, an idea, and does this as part of her work as a partner at the IBM venture group. Through her 20-year career at IBM, she focused on opportunities in many different areas, from research to venture financing, and currently leads the development of IBM’s services venture ecosystem, fostering partnerships, pilots and M&A insights with a wide range of stakeholders.
As someone who began her career at IBM’s prestigious Watson Research center and having earned 15 patents in unstructured information management, Savitha’s technical knowledge is extensive and her decades of experience in this area in many capacities gives her key insights on the trends in data analytics and its practical applications to the complex problems of today in the areas of health care, financial services, CRM, telecommunications and other areas.
Savitha generously shared her advice for negotiating across silos:
1. Be fact-based and speak to objective, quantifiable things like numbers and evidence.
2. Be entirely honest with yourself, and with those with whom you’re communicating. Do it, even if you don’t look good in the short term!
3. Know your strengths and your limits and surround yourself with people and resources who can complement what you have to offer.
4. Consistent honest, direct and transparent communication will build you a reputation as someone reliable with integrity and people will want to work with you.
5. Stretch your comfort zone and communicate with people who represent other divisions/silos/viewpoints.
6. Find and work for the win-win.
7. Communicate and negotiate with passion for something you believe in.
8. Continue to grow and expand the scope of what works for you.
9. Be customer-centric and negotiate on behalf of the customer.
10. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and speak a vernacular and language they understand.
The bottom line is that advancement and effectiveness will always be dependent on thinking strategically about the value you provide for the people that you work with, and understanding the needs of the ‘other side’ will help you create that value, and find a mutually-beneficial path forward.

Negotiating Secrets for Growing, Building and Running A Successful Startup

February 3, 2012

FountainBlue’s February 2 Women Leaders in Conversation topic was Negotiating Secrets for Growing, Building and Running A Successful Startup, with Amita Paul.
Amita Paul shared the ins-and-outs of social media and its revolution while sharing the story of how it drove the business choices she made. She advised us to focus on something that you’re passionate about, then strategically build relationships with those who can help you nurture a shared customer-centric vision, leveraging technology and relationships, insisting on excellent execution, and collectively building momentum and brand around the cause.
Amita affirms that negotiation plays a key role throughout the process, whether you’re just articulating that vision that will-not-be-denied, or whether you’re working with partners to build prototypes, collecting initial customers or investment dollars, or strategizing on the best exit path forward. And throughout the negotiation process, she emphasized the importance of clear communications, of building relationships and constantly focusing on making something bigger than it is, creating something from nothing. Specifically, she mentioned that when negotiating with corporates as an entrepreneur, always charge your value, while enlisting their support in making your solution better!
Amita said that it is the consumer shift which has brought social media to the forefront for her, recognizing early that consumers will progressively become more dependent on connecting with each other through social media solutions to make purchasing decisions for themselves, and to inform others in making their decisions as well. And this shift in the way consumers do business is a global trend that’s growing quickly. Indeed, the whole social media phenomena started globally, not in the Silicon Valley or the US as many technology solutions have, and will explode not just with online social media solutions but will extend beyond the web well into other real-world purchasing patterns and decisions.
For those who have not ventured down the social media path, Amita’s advice is to get connected! For those stuck with the privacy and security questions, her advice is to be strategic and thoughtful, but do have a presence, a brand, a voice. We will conclude with a top-10 list of things entrepreneurs should do:
1. Do everything with passion.
2. Insist on excellence.
3. Tell your story.
4. Make up your own rules to overcome obstacles, especially around budgets.
5. Sometimes it’s about taking a chance, and doing something that you’re passionate about that takes you out of your comfort zone.
6. Empower your loved ones and make a good choice for a spouse.
7. Believe that your thoughts and actions can change the world.
8. Look for early adopters.
9. Be customer-centric.
10. Always focus on building momentum.
For more information, follow Amita’s blog

Women Leaders in Conversation: Technology To Foster Mentorship in Education

January 27, 2012

Usha Sekar inspired us all with her career-long dedication toward creating, connecting and caring in a way that adds business value while producing lasting social impact for the good of the community. Usha leverages her phenomenal training and education in a practical way that grows teams and companies and produces results that serve the needs of the customer, and the community overall. Whether she worked in IT at companies like Tandem, Compac and HP or whether she was the CIO at Fujitsu, or working for her own or someone else’s start-up, her focus has always been on finding opportunities and solving problems leveraging technology.
Her current company, Meemli creates a versatile platform for connecting students to mentors on specific subjects ranging from science and math to writing and the arts, serving her passion for the education cause. Currently available in the market by invitation only, Meemli is partnering with nonprofits and foundations such as the Silicon Valley Education Foundation and its Step Up to Algebra program, as well as various California schools and academic institutions like UCSB to provide the type of targeted, one-on-one instruction proven necessary to build skills, build relationships, and ultimately to build confidence. Doing this in a trusted, private, protected system leveraging technologies helps ensures the mentor-mentee relationship, and facilitates growth, inquiry and learning, while also making it scalable to benefit all stakeholders, from mentors to students to teachers to schools and nonprofits. And doing it online will enable more people to participate and contribute as mentors, which is of particular interest to corporations with social responsibility mandates to build employee connections with the community, and serving in a tangible, concrete way, without the cost of commute time.
If you are a potential mentor, student, nonprofit, academic institution or someone else interested in Meemli’s way of leveraging technology to connect students with mentors, giving them the power to help themselves, e-mail them at or find out more at

Women Leaders In Conversation: Deepika Bajaj on Social Media Trends

January 13, 2012

In our January 12 Women Leaders in Conversation radio program brought to you by the Monali Jain Foundation, social media strategist, dynamic marketer and woman gamer Deepika Bajaj boldly shared her professional story about all the choices she made in the intersects of her career, how she always embraced opportunities, especially when they were uncomfortable, how she embraced new technologies, new challenges and learned along the way.

As a true entrepreneur, her view is that too many people spend time thinking and contemplating rather than doing and correcting. She was one of the first people to have a cell phone, allowing her to travel internationally and remain connected to important others in her life. As an engineer, she embraced the opportunity to get an MBA specializing in marketing. She launched her own business on a shoestring, and embraced social media as a low-investment, how-impact way to spread the word and build the business. Then she moved into gaming as a rare (and accidental) female gamer, and found that her strengths in technology, marketing, and social media are well leveraged in her current company. As an active blogger and expert in social media, Deepika makes the following recommendations for professional women (and men):

  • Embrace the possibilities of what social media can provide, rather than resisting it and pointing to counter-examples of its effectiveness. If you don’t join the crowd, you will be left in the dust, as the social media revolution will continue to gather momentum.
  • Social media is a great way to make your voice heard and impacts your career, your brand, and even the political structure of countries. Never underestimate the power of the written word in real-time communication, shared in community, through social media.
  • Casual gaming will really take off – and more women play casual games.
  • The new way of communicating will be more focused on the whole person, a 360 degree view of someone in authentic wholeness. Different generations will have different levels of comfort on how social media will fit into their lives, but the younger generations will have much less fuzzy a line between what’s public and what’s private. Social media will make it easier for everyone to share both.
  • Get on LinkedIn to share your professional profile, whether you’re in transition or not. Get on Twitter to hear what’s on people’s minds and follow influencers. Join FaceBook to share with others in community. And start blogging if you have content you’d like to share, and would like to start conversations on things that matter to you.

In the end, Deepika says that life is something that you design, with change the biggest constant. She encourages us to 1) be open to possibilities that will stretch us and 2) think how communicating who we are and what we do through social media can open up more possibilities for us.

Contact Deepika at