Igniting a new flame: what’s next

I am excited to share that after 25 years of working on and leading some of the most innovative Microsoft products and launches, working across multiple business transformations and partnerships, I have left Microsoft. I have joined forces with several prominent organizations poised to address one of the most critical blockers in future technology innovation – diversity, equity and inclusion. 

I have joined the board of several leading organizations including Women in Cloud, Women in Technology Network, International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners, the SHE community, the Women’s Business Collaborative, Corent Technology, chairman of the advisory board for Artificial Solutions, and strategic advisor to Berkshire Partners to focus on bringing more diversity, equity and inclusion into the tech industry. 

This is a big change for me to be able to do something that I am truly passionate about, and use my voice and you, my network, to drive change. Here’s why.

5 years ago I had a rude awakening.  I was speaking to a room of women and transgender people talking about their various experiences at work.  As I was listening to them tell their stories of times when they felt dismissed, disconnected, overlooked or invisible, I realized that many of the specific experiences they had were shared experiences.  There were commonalities in the microaggressions that they were experiencing. On their own these were small, but over time built up into insurmountable walls for many of these women to progress and succeed in their teams. 

As I ruminated on their experiences and interactions with the members of their teams, I realized that I too had experienced many of these same microaggressions over the course of my career.  But I had attributed the reasons for those bad experiences as being my fault – something I had done or said that had brought about the microaggression against me.  As a consequence I had pivoted, changed my behavior, developed ways to respond and succeed in the face of those challenges.  What I realized though, was that I had also become numb to the microaggressions. It wasn’t that these things still didn’t happen to me, but I had worked for so many years on my response to them that it was second nature to respond, and I no longer noticed. 

I also realized that my numbness was a bad thing.  I was now a leader in the organization and if I did not address these microaggressions with more intention, it would not correct the unconscious behaviors that enabled those actions from continuing.  That was when I decided that I needed to take intentional action to become an ally and to act with greater intentionality. 

Over the last 5 years, my awareness has been tuned to look for these opportunities and I have become more conscious about what behaviors my allies have employed to successfully support and sponsor me over the years and how powerful those moments were in my career.  I have decided that I want to spend all my time building momentum, educating people and raising their awareness to the power of allyship and the behaviors allies demonstrate.  I would love to live in a world where everyone had an ally in every room they walked into. 

I want to thank Microsoft, the Microsoft partner community and all the allies that have supported me along my own journey.  I look forward to our continued collaboration and your support in making my dream a reality. 

Being an ally is so critical to enabling women, non-binary people, LGBTQ people and people of color to thrive in your workplace, your communities and in our lives that I will be building on my framework on how to BeCOME an ally delivering a series of articles and talks over the next few months on what those behaviors that #ALLIES demonstrate are.

As part of my network of allies, I would like to encourage you to share your stories.  Who are your allies, what did they do for you, how did that make you feel?  Let’s work together to build this momentum and create a more inclusive workplace.

I hope you will join me in this endeavor by committing to #BeCOME an ally and to take intentional action to increase the diversity in your own organizations. 

Please follow me at http://www.gavriellaschuster.com to learn more and #BeCOME an ally today!

PRINCIPLES: P – Prioritization

Guideposts for Success

For most of us, making decisions in the professional world can be difficult. But as we start 2020, I have a hack for you!  Defining a set of personal PRINCIPLES can help you maneuver through the challenges and landmines you face every day at work (and at home).  I use my personal PRINCIPLES as guideposts for success. They help me sift through my busy mind and make good, sound decisions.

Last year, I shared a series of newsletters with my network at Microsoft outlining my PRINCIPLES—the foundational beliefs I try to live by, both personally and professionally.  They ground me and define me. Understanding who I am and what I stand for helps me simplify the complex and overcome the challenges I face.

When I shared these ideals with my team, some suggested I share them with my network on LinkedIn as well.  After giving it some thought, I decided to post a series of LinkedIn articles about my PRINCIPLES. My hope is, over the next several weeks, that I leave you something to think about—something that prompts you to look inside and ask yourself, “What are my PRINCIPLES?”

P is for Prioritization

In today’s work environment, with tight deadlines and limited time, I’ve found prioritization is more important than ever before. Doing it right makes you more efficient and can establish better work-life balance.

When you look at all the projects on your plate, it can be difficult to determine how to prioritize—everything on the list feels equally important. And when you decide on an order of things, sticking to the plan can be even harder! That’s why it’s important to have a clear understanding of which project(s) will help you accomplish your long-term goals. Prioritizing those items on your list will pay dividends.

The 80/20 Rule, Applied

When I think about prioritizing, I ask myself what are the things that will drive the majority of what needs to be accomplished? It’s the 80/20 rule: 20% of what you spend your time on should accomplish 80% of what you need to do.

The tricky part is finding that 20% to get the work done. I always keep this in mind when organizing my schedule. You should set aside time for prioritizing the work and then accomplishing the work.

Getting focused and being clear about your objectives and the results you want to drive is critical. But it’s only the start. 

How many times have you been in a meeting where ideas are flying around, and people are taking one outcome and jumping right to the next, “Oh! We could do this…and if we do that, then we’d be able to accomplish that!” All the brainstorming of ideas is great! But it’s usually not realistic or sustainable. You can’t do it all at once.

At a certain point you need to scale back and decide what can be accomplished and what your milestones are. To achieve your desired level of impact, you’ll need both focus and discipline to prioritize successfully.

The Collective Strength

From an organizational perspective, prioritization can be more complicated, but it’s even more important. Your entire team needs to be on the same page in order to reach the business outcomes you’re hoping for. That’s where “Collective Prioritization” comes in. 

Collective prioritization focuses on aligning your team with the greater business objectives and ensuring the end results are prioritized by everyone. If people are working independently on what they think the priorities should be, progress can be difficult. With everyone working on their own thing, there’s no force behind the prioritization. 

But when every manager and individual is clear about the priorities—and they’re thinking critically about how the priorities relate to their daily and weekly goals—that’s when the magic happens. That’s the power of prioritization.

As we enter a new year, I encourage you to put a priority on prioritization. It’s been a game-changer for me. It will be for you and your organization too!


Respect yourself. If you don’t, how can anyone else?

Aside from love, respect may be the thing people want most from others. Respect is directly tied to our self-confidence and, in many ways, how we see ourselves in the world. When people respect our judgement, our beliefs and our abilities, our self-esteem gets a boost. We feel more confident and proud of who we are and what our purpose is. That’s important. But in some ways, I have found in my life the order is reversed. If we want the respect of others, we first have to love and respect ourselves.

Earning self-respect can be just as difficult as earning the respect of others. First, you need to love who you are. We beat ourselves up a lot. But we need to tune-out the negative voice in our head. Instead of focusing on our flaws (which we all have), zone-in on the positives—our unique abilities and experiences that make us special. I encourage you to explore your own special abilities by writing a list of 5 things you do well. I guarantee there will be things on your list that others around you don’t do as well.

Another important factor in building self-respect is believing in our ability to succeed.  We all stumble and make mistakes. In fact, that’s part of the journey of success. What really matters is how you respond to the mistake. When we fail fast and rebound, we grow`.

FAIL: First Attempt In Learning

When we love and respect ourselves, people are more likely to respect us. But we still have to earn the respect of others. How?  Through honesty, integrity, and mutual respect. Do what you say you’re going to do. Be accountable and hold others accountable. Respect is a two-way street. Recognize other people’s beliefs and abilities and they will hopefully do the same.