Igniting a new flame: what’s next

Igniting a new flame
Igniting a new flame

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 to learn more and #BeCOME an ally today!

Remember To Celebrate Success

Pelaton bike race image

You know that feeling you get when you set out on a project—you come out of a meeting energized with clear goals and a roadmap to success? I love that feeling.  You’re off and running, jumping hurdles, pushing through challenges, and reaching milestones. Then you get to the finish line only to discover the race has been extended and expectations are higher. It happens all the time doesn’t it?  The finish line continuously moves. You never feel like you’re “done.”

The truth is, we’re never done. There’s so much upside, potential and pressure. Competition is super fierce. The market is moving so fast. And even though we’re accomplishing our goals and reaching our milestones, it can feel like we’re never doing enough. It can be frustrating and exhausting. Believe me, I know.

But here’s what I’ve learned:  You need to consciously recognize when the thing you set out to do has been accomplished. That is why clear goals and markers are so important.  You have to take time to celebrate those milestones and reward yourself for your achievements. Ideally, your manager and co-workers will recognize them too.  But sometimes they don’t, because they’re in an endless race of their own!

I look at it this way—life is a marathon, not a sprint.  And the marathon is made up of a series of milestones.  So, celebrate when you reach a milestone! Take yourself to the spa, or treat your family or friends a fancy dinner. That’s what I do.  I find it gives me back the energy I need for the next leg of the race, which can appear even harder than the previous one. But when you celebrate your accomplishments, you recognize that you’ve done this before and you can do it again.

Ensure All Voices Are Heard

Listen graphic

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Are you usually the loudest person in the room, the quietest, or somewhere in between?  I think I’m typically…a bit of both and it depends on the day, hour, topic.  But growing up, if you didn’t speak up, you were passed over – even for food, so that became a bit of a survivor mechanism.   I still remember the first time my husband (then boyfriend) came to dinner with my family.  He didn’t say a single word all night because no one stopped long enough for him to jump in.  That was a great example of not being inclusive.  I am sure we have all had that experience sometime in our lives.

In many cultures, the loudest voices are heard the most often. But, as you probably know, it’s critical the quieter and the underrepresented voices be heard just as often. Hearing from EVERYONE brings the widest perspective to a conversation and spawns the greatest ideas.

This is especially important for those whose voices are loudest.  One of the most important ways to create an inclusive environment is through Allyship: the informed, consistent, and empathetic practice that upholds our culture of inclusion.  Being an ally requires reflection, re-thinking, and re-learning past behaviors. Allyship is a critical piece in encouraging everyone to speak out and be heard.  Here are some ways to do it:

Champion the voices of others

When in a position of influence or authority, ensure that you are advocating for others to be heard. If you’re in a meeting where only a select few voices are dominating the conversation, say “I’d really like to hear other perspectives.” Or invite peers who don’t always speak up, by saying to a quieter individual, “You always have great ideas. Do you want to share your thoughts on this topic?” And if someone’s not in the room, be sure to give them credit for their ideas.

Make it safe for them to speak for themselves

Sometimes people don’t speak up because they don’t feel safe doing so. One way to disrupt this is by starting meetings by saying something like, “I want to hear as many different types of ideas as possible. We can only get to a good solution if everyone weighs in.” If you find that a team member who usually contributes their ideas has started becoming silent, make time to connect with them individually to find out why.

Be a visible ally

Stand up for quieter people –– especially from underrepresented backgrounds –– vocally and visibly. Disrupt bias when you see it, so that people know you are an advocate. Often, we have good intentions to be more inclusive, but without making ourselves known as an ally, people may not feel safe speaking up to us. Visible allies can help create an environment that welcomes authenticity, encourages sharing and blunts the effects of power dynamics.

I’m curious…how do you ensure all voices are being heard? Share your ideas and techniques.  Hearing from EVERYONE, makes ALL of us better.