Thursday, June 11, 2015

Existential Crisis

In case you missed my earlier post, I will be taking the stage with Lindsey Pollak and presenting the keynote at the NEEBC Annual Benefits Trade Show.  I will have about 10 minutes to speak on engaging with millennials in the workplace, specifically focusing on how benefits impact our desire to work or continue working for a company. 

As I near closer to the day of my 5 minutes of fame, the more nervous I get. I'm not sure if it's because A.) I'll be meeting Lindsey Pollak, B.) I will be presenting in front of 200 people or C.) I am representing an entire generation, cue the existential crisis. Today, option C won't leave me alone. 

What does it means to be a millennial and more importantly how do I fit into this brand I'm developing around being a millennial technologist? Sure, I am an individual born between the years of 1982-2000 and I am a complete techie, but how do the two fit.  One common thread I keep finding myself going back to is choice. 

In technology, choice allows customers to decide what works in their specific situation, putting them in control.  They can integrate different competitor products together or can maintain a relationship with one or two companies. Offering our customers choice means there are a ton of different options to decide between.  This decision is one a customer wants to have control over but also needs guidance in order to make the right choice (re: the 3rd platform requires a trusted advisor).  Instead of focusing on technical specifics we need to highlight the business impact, which is the only way our customers will understand why one product or solution makes sense over another. 

Now think about millennials.  We grew up with millions of options from different apps to personalized sneakers. As we begin to enter the workforce we even have 10 different healthcare options and the chance to invest in numerous portfolios through a 401K. The choices are endless and yet difficult to understand. I'm left thinking what is best for me, the 23 year old who never gets sick and has no idea what the difference between a bond and a stock is, oh, and $103,000 in debt from student loans. Now how do I manage my money to get out of that debt? It all comes down to how does it impact my business, my life. 

Millennials need help understanding how each choice will influence my life in the future.  Despite being known for needing instant gratification, we also know how valuable it is to invest early in things like heth are, 401K, stock options, etc. because we have seen what can happen if you don't through events like the 2008 financial crisis. Our generation also has more debt than any other generation at our age which puts an even greater ends of awareness on the need to save and invest wisely.  

Choice is great, but we need to start presenting these choices as it relates to people's lives.  

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Moving To The 3rd Platform Requires A Trusted Advisor

As a millennial this is the first real technology shift I have witnessed and some would argue I never experienced the shift at all.  However, when I was in 3rd grade I vividly remember getting our first PC.  My brother and I weren't allowed to use it at first, but gradually we gained access to AOL e-mail and Mortal Kombat game on a floppy disc (the beginning of my love for gaming).  I will never forget the awe over discovering AOL Instant Messenger -- instant communication through the internet was unheard of at the time.  I remember that the memory, storage size and dial up speed were crucial selling points.  Today, while that is still relevant, there is much more emphasis on the business capabilities beyond the infrastructure but at the application layer.  However, making that shift is really tough when you think about it from the enterprise level. 


As a CTO Ambassador I have the privilege to analyze customer feedback, which gives me a glimpse into how they are reacting to this tech shift.  I have noticed that most customers are actively seeking ways to move away from legacy infrastructure and focus on applications; however despite all of the research from analysts and IT providers sharing their vision on moving to the 3rd platform, many companies are still reluctant to change. While I understand the hesitation, it is our job as technologist to encourage this move. More importantly we need our customers to trust us to be their advisors throughout the process.  


Friday, April 3, 2015

Equality For All: Becoming The Change Agent

About a month ago I was notified about an article that came out from Radia Perlman an EMC fellow.  Her article, Women in High Tech, touched upon why so few women are in the industry, why this is such an important finding (or is it) and how can we change the statistics.  She has some great theories and solutions on how to solve this issue, which I highly suggest taking the time to review.  However, as I read through this there were two elements I wanted to highlight, and I will refer to Emma Watson’s HeForShe speech at the UN.

1.       Women are much more critical of other women than they are towards men.   Instead empowering each other, we often bring each other down—this has to stop 

“We need to understand that we are complicit. Some of the harshest criticisms I've had in my life have been comments from other women. It's not enough to ask men to come and support us. We need to support each other.”

2.       Men need to get involved—this is not just an issue for women.  The word feminism itself isn’t even supporting the rights for women; it is that all genders feel equal to each other.  That includes supporting men who want to pursue ‘female dominant’ careers, or men who have 

“How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?”

So how can we learn to support each other more? And how can we get men to ‘lean in’ on this movement? 

We can start this right now by stopping the negative thoughts you have towards other woman in your network and focus on the positive.  This can be hard, I know, we all have the “Karen” of the team but it is crucial for us to respect each other before we can expect men to join in.  Radia talks about the idea of having “adult supervision” to look out for this type of toxic environment, and I think we can take this one step further by acknowledging this exists and figuring out how we can not only watch out for this type of activity around us, but proactively look to empower others around us.

As for getting men to ‘lean in’ on this movement, I believe the key is education for both men and women.  It is important to define feminism, which is equality for all genders; it should not drive hate against the conventional man.  As well as providing education to women, as Radia suggested, to women regarding the various roles they can play in the high tech industry.

As a millennial, I think we have a unique role in all of this.  We grew up where men, women, African Americans, LGBT community and others were all equal.  I believe our generation is far more accepting of typically discriminated groups of people, than any other generation.  This puts us in a position to be the change agents for the workforce.  However, this can also be dangerous as we have a faith in equality that might not always be there.  For instance, the pay gap between males and females is still statistically proven to be there, yet we still feel that women have the same opportunities that men do; while this is true we still aren’t fully there in terms of equality. 

This is why I really believe millennials and the rest of the generations need to communicate and understand each other better.  Millennials bring a huge behavioral aspect to the inequality epidemic, where our mentality is that everyone is equal to each other, but we still have some learning to do about what we need to do institutionally to make sure our attitude and the outcomes match.  We need to work together to create the change we want to see. 


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Understanding & Engaging Millennials

I have exciting news that I wanted to share with my audience. On June 12th, 2015 I will be co-presenting one of two Keynotes with Lindsey Pollak at the NEEBC Benefits Fair & Tradeshow. I am both honored and estatic for this opportunity. Not only will I have the chance to meet such an empowering woman, but I will be sharing my knowledge on a topic that I am passionate about, by her side! The topic of the presentation will be on understanding and engaging millennials. I also hope to weave in my technology focus, which I feel impacts the dyanmic of multi-generational relationships. Stay tuned for a follow up on the event!


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Deli Days Are Over

After reading Winners Dream: A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office by SAP CEO Bill McDermott I have even more pride looking back on my days at Parkwood Delicatessen & Catering.  This job has always held a special place in my heart because of the incredible lessons I learned.  Most important being that the customer is always right.  I started as a sophomore in high school doing basic tasks like cleaning the counter tops and taking orders but quickly moved up the deli ranks to assistant manager and waiter for our catering events.  The deli, although a seemingly menial job, helped shape the foundation of my work ethic today. 

First was learning to appreciate the value of a dollar.  We all have and need that first job that really makes us get it.

Next, I realized great customer service above all else and when a mistake happens…fix it.  Hungry customers + paying customers + wrong orders = bad.  Our response: the customer is always right, well-articulated apology and our solution to the problem.  In the unlikely event that we made a mistake, the rapport with our customer was all we had left, so all of this becomes much easier if there was good customer service beforehand.

Third, Trust is a key factor to success and can be gained by continually proving your value.  It was something that was crucial at the deli if you didn’t want to be taking orders for the next 5 years or being thrown odd tasks.

Lastly, if you have time to lean you have time to clean!  At the end of the day you should be contributing to the overall success of the business.  If you have down time, pick up a rag and get to work!  There is always something that needs doing and even if it isn’t your job.

There is, of course, A LOT for me to learn and experience before going from the corner store to a corner office but these are common traits to success for any job in any industry. 

The Millennial Technologist | #TMT

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It's All About The Vision

Steve Todd wrote an insightful blog post on Messaging and Careers, specifically focusing on a great program I was lucky enough to be part of in the early stages of its development.  The program formed a group of people from various functions and locations to help the Office of the CTO share the vision of EMC technology vision across the entire portfolio.  Steve’s overview of the program gives a great outline of the clear roles the program has outlined.

Personally, I am one of the Scribe/Analysts (and of course messenger) but I am working towards becoming a presenter.  My role as a scribe/analyst is to attend meetings with customers/partners and record detailed feedback on the messaging.  Once that information is collected, I work with a small team to analyze the patterns, both monthly and quarterly.  Finally, this information is presented at an executive level, which means I have to interpret the data well enough to provide clear, concise insight.  Through this process I have learned:

  • Industry Insight:  I am developing an understanding of what the industry will evolve to over time, and how EMC might react to those changes.
  • Customer Knowledge:  I hear firsthand the problems our customers are facing, and what makes them motivated towards a solution.  I see the evolution of consumer buying habits and am already trying to better understand how to change with them.
  • The Competition: As important it is for you to understand your own moves, it is just as important to understand your opponents.

With each meeting not only do I better understand the industry, customer and our competition but I understand how my work fits into the bigger picture.  The vision provides motivation for the customer, of course, but maybe even more importantly for the employee.  Hopefully, one day soon I will be the one presenting the vision!

The Millennial Technologist | #TMT

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Transformation Continues

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to present top trends from customer feedback to our Global CTO.  The conversation was engaging and gave me an understanding of what key issues we should focus on going into 2015.  During our conversation the term 'Bimodal IT' came up.  This is a term coined by a Gartner Analyst with various articles appearing on the topic over the last few months.  

Bimodal IT has been deemed a necessity by Gartner, if organizations want to survive in the new world of Digital Business.  It is especially interesting to me because it also requires IT leaders shift towards Digital Humanism.

Bimodal IT: Two Ways Of Running Your Business Is Necessary

Traditional IT is what most of us or our organizations are working in today.  This team handles the everyday work of ensuring business technology functions appropriately and securely. They work with the mantra of stability and reliability as they continue to work off long term goals and take a more rigid approach to deployments.  

The second mode Gartner suggests every organization build, in addition to their Traditional IT operating model, is a more innovative and agile approach.  This team should be ready for changing requirements and should have the ability to easily adapt.  More importantly, this structure has a business-centric focus instead of an IT focus.  

In my last post, I spoke about the fine line we walk on when utilizing technology in our everyday lives.  This goes for us on a personal level, as well as businesses on an enterprise level.  More and more we are seeing customers looking for a focus on their business needs; not just how the technology can work, but how can this help my business and how does my team operate with this new technology?

The new agile IT hits the problems I stated with technology by focusing on how technology can empower the organization to help their customers instead of simply how the technology can automate or simplify processes.  There is a clear focus on what the customers wants rather than what the technology could do.

Transforming IT From IT-centric to Business-centric

I can see Gartner's argument on why two operating models would be necessary for the future of IT to handle the complexities of the changing IT landscape, especially when it comes to having a business focus versus an IT focus.  

However, this will require a complete transformation from our IT organizations where we have rigid, IT-centric individuals more or less competing with risk taking innovators who are not as process oriented.  So, where will the intersections between these teams occur?  Do projects from Agile IT enter into the Traditional IT structure after a certain threshold has been reached?   Does Agile IT eventually take over?