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!

Building for Inclusion | Actions for ALLIES

I have been in high tech almost my whole career.  And many times, I have found myself to be the ONLY woman in the room — a lonely place to be. Have you ever had that experience, being THE ONLY one in a group of people? It’s painful. I’ve felt dismissed, disrespected or simply not heard – as if I were invisible. Now, I don’t believe any of the men in those meetings intentionally excluded me. But here’s something I’ve learned over the years: one single ally in the room can make all the difference in the world.

I’ve had the privilege to work with many men who have been my allies and have worked with courage and intention to advocate, include and sponsor me. As I have stepped into awareness the last few years, I have learned that when you work with intention to be an ally and empower other allies, you can create an inclusive environment where everyone in the room has a voice, is valued and can feel emboldened to speak up and share their authentic selves. To build inclusion through allyship takes focus, intention and acute awareness of the environment.

Becoming an ally is the first step in the journey.

Last fall I introduced the #BeCOME framework, which focused on what you can do to become an ally—and the actionable steps you can take to build healthier workplace cultures.

BeCOME:  Taking intentional action to Connect and network into the communities. Outreach is examining your recruiting and hiring practices. Mentorship is taking your relationship to another level. And Empowerment is about the inclusive environment you create when you are an ally. 

To learn more about how to BeCOME an ally and bring more women into your network, organization and leadership roles, take a look at my blog post, TED talk or website, gavriellaschuster.com

The next step on this journey requires us to dig into the actions of ALLIES more deeply. This is a double click on the role and the actions of allies in creating inclusive and empowering environments. To grow together, we need to share what it means to be an ally and the specific behaviors allies exhibit every single day.

It is my mission to bring more intentionality to allyship. Being an ally should be a conscious decision. I want us to get to a stage where allyship is so infiltrated into the technology industry—so normal—that there isn’t a need for us to have these conversations anymore. So, I am excited to share with you this second stage of my framework:

ALLIES.

Being an ally is not as hard as you think.  I developed this new framework that is simple and easy to remember. When you find yourself on a team or in a meeting and you realize that someone in that group could use an ally, I encourage you to consider taking any one of these six actions:

Advocate | Put yourself in the shoes of the ones you want to ally with and consider what support they need “in the moment.”  Support the idea the person just shared. Amplify or expand upon what they said to encourage more conversation and inclusion.

Listen | Listen to what others have to say, regardless of their age, gender or race. Listen to learn. Be curious and ask questions. Too often we listen to respond.  Take the time to really understand someone else’s perspective.  

Lift | Lift up your colleagues to build their confidence. It is very easy in an environment where a woman is constantly dismissed or disrespected for her to lose confidence and stop speaking up. It is also easy to criticize and find fault with other people’s ideas. Allies work with intention to highlight the positives instead of the negatives. They recognize the value of everyone’s contributions and they build the confidence of others with their support.

Include | When you walk into a meeting, a team, or a group, seek out those who are not sharing their ideas and work with intention to include them in the conversation. Look around the room and encourage everyone to contribute.  When someone speaks up, demonstrate that their opinion matters.

Elevate | Elevate individuals by providing them opportunities to be more visible.  That can be as easy as amplifying their voice and making sure they receive credit for their ideas. Look for new projects or opportunities for the individual to demonstrate leadership and become more visible.

Sponsor | Be supportive of individuals even when they’re not in the room. Make sure they are considered for new roles, new projects or new opportunities they might not even be aware of. Seek opportunities for that individual to grow and take on more leadership.

As I developed the #ALLIES framework, I was reminded of the many examples of allyship I’ve witnessed throughout my career. Over the next few weeks I will share my stories, the perspectives of those who have been an ally to me, and examples of others who demonstrate these actions.

Take a listen to what Phil Sorgen, CRO for RingCentral, has to say about his experience as an Ally. And stay tuned for my next LinkedIn article to hear more incredible stories of ALLIES. 

Remember To Celebrate Success

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.