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  • Thankful Tuesday – Expertise and Kindness

    I had two opportunities today to reflect on expertise and kindness and the relationship of these two attributes.

    I had an update meeting with a company where I am providing consulting in my area of expertise – technology strategy as a CIO. The three people I met have no technology background and are currently challenged with overall technology issues at their company. They described the issues and it was obvious they were frustrated and a bit perplexed how things had evolved to the current state. They wondered aloud if they could have done anything different along the way to prevent this outcome.

    I described how we could make specific changes to resolve the issues and create a foundation. This would allow visible progress to be made quickly on small items as we created the roadmap for continuous improvements. I added that the issues were not unique to their company or even to companies of their size, and also talked about what they had done right that enabled the ongoing execution of their critical business services. They were doing a lot of things right and one of the most important things was that they cared about their business and supported their team members.

    After this meeting, I ended up in a small cafe through pure chance. Traffic was heavy, the sun was out, and I decided to explore the area of town I was in to find a place for quiet reflection. The cafe was one of the cute, comfy types where the tables are approximately one foot apart.

    This led to a second less expected encounter for the day. I witnessed three young women having a business meeting. One of the women was pitching an idea to the other two and I could feel it wasn’t going well. The woman pitching was aggressively stating that once they agreed to hire her and pay her, she would share her ideas for how she could help their business. The other two women were trying to understand details of the services that would be provided and what they could expect in terms of timelines and costs.

    I didn’t listen to details of the business, but I was intrigued by the interaction and the professionalism of these two women.

    When the ‘pitcher’ left, I asked if I could share my perspective. I apologized for listening in, but said I didn’t think the pitcher was up to the task of delivering on what they needed. I went further to say I thought these two were confident, professional, and organized and should expect no less from people who would provide services to them. They thanked me and said they were relieved becuse they didn’t think this pitcher was right for them, but wanted to make sure they weren’t being too rash. After 15 minutes of conversation, they asked me to stay in touch and I offered to be a casual advisor if they ever needed someone to help assess their suppliers or ideas. We exchanged contact information and said goodbye.

    I felt the thread of expertise and kindness. My only intent was to help. I came away with as many learnings as I contributed, and met some amazing people in the process.

    I was heartened to think about how I was able to provide expertise (technology in the first case, and an outside perspective in the second), and do it in a kind way so the people involved didn’t think I was talking down to them or trying to show that I was smarter than they were. In both cases, these people have loads of expertise in areas I don’t and I was also able to learn from each of these interactions.

    Thankful Tuesday indeed.

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  • Leadership Thoughts – Two Feet of Perspective

    A busy week including working in 4 cities, literally commuting via trains, planes, and automobiles, temperatures that varied from 90F+ to a dip of 55F in a matter of days, preparing for two major presentations, and a neighbourhood bbq to top it all off.

    Busy – productive – fun – and by the end my head was full.

    I realized I needed to let everything find a place in my brain, and I would benefit from some perspective. I found it without having to go far from home.

    A beautiful lake, a warm sunny day, and 30 minutes of free time on my hands. Perspective, POV, frame of mind. Whatever you want to call it. It always fascinates me how taking a few minutes to think frees up the required thoughts I need to pull it all together.

    Two feet of perspective. And life is good again.

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  • Thankful Tuesday – Space to Think

    My brain needs space to think.

    Sometimes that space is just a quiet room, or an uninterrupted moment with eyes closed, or a walk around the block.

    When I was young and something became too much – usually involving two siblings mad at each other – my Gram would say “go run around the house”. A wise women she was. The run around the house bought her time away from the quarrel, but also distracted us kids from whatever big issue was going on. (You took my cookie, stop looking at me, etc.)

    Space. It allows my brain to think, and reflect, and gain perspective.

    I am currently on a vacation like no other I have taken. 11 days of riding a motorcycle in Western Canada and the U.S. with a loose agenda and many miles to travel. One city to the next, mountains everywhere I look, rushing water, dried up rivers, glaciers melting, forests thriving and forests burned, different cultures everywhere we land for lunch and the night, … and space.

    I remember this quote from my school days and always loved it. Now I am feeling it…

    “Go West, young man, go West. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles.” “That,” I said, “is very frank advice, but it is medicine easier given than taken. It is a wide country, but I do not know just where to go.” “It is all room away from the pavements. […]”

    — Josiah Bushnell Grinnell [9]

    I am fortunate and I believe I live a blessed life. A key part of enjoying that is also stepping out of it to reflect, and taking that time, and space to think. What better way to do that than to go west, young man, go west!

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  • Leadership Thoughts – Open Minded?

    Open minded – having a mind receptive to new ideas, arguments, etc; unprejudiced

    Most people think they are open minded. Receptive to new ideas, willing to take in new facts, able to change their thinking. And yet, we often talk to people who are like us and think like us and believe the things we believe. How often do we intentionally expose ourselves to different or new just for the experience of opening our mind to the possibility of changing our mind?

    I attended an exhibit of works by Banksy. I was invited by a contact of mine and accepted without really knowing anything about this mysterious artist. When I was invited, I even had to look up who Banksy was and what his (street) art was about. Knowing my daughter (a computer science and art history grad) would enjoy it, I accepted partly for the opportunity to spend time with her and make her happy.

    As I experienced the art, taking it all in with no judgement I found myself enjoying the experience and the art and the artist. I felt connected to him in some way – his strength of conviction and passion for making his statements in a way that is bold and humble, consistent and creative. This artist and I on the surface have nothing in common and yet he made me feel this connection through his paintings and his words.

    I accomplished my goals of spending time with my daughter and making her happy, and came away with so much more. A feeling that I got to know and understand the artist a bit and a feeling of my mind expanding.

    Well done Banksy, we’ll done.

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  • Women in Tech – Asking for Help?

    I’m a girl geek and proud of it. So I decided to buy an Electronic personal assistant.

    I embraced the palm pilot many years ago, wear a stylish Fitbit band, and loved my blackberry for many years. (Okay, many blackberries including 3 white models, many years, and long after the majority of the planet had given up their blackberry). The point is I enjoy personal technology devices and integrating them into my daily routines.

    It was natural then, for me to purchase the Amazon Echo device.

    I purchased it, set it up at home, played with it for a few hours, and then unplugged it.

    I felt like I didn’t get it. I had a way to execute on everything it could do in a different way. And I decided to give it more thought, but didn’t expect to embrace this technology. And I didn’t really want to ask anyone for help.

    Coincidentally, a few weeks later I was invited to a small event the President of Amazon Canada, Eric Gales, was hosting. I was conflicted. The event wasn’t to talk about the Echo (Alexa) device and I wanted to be respectful, but I felt like I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to talk about it. Serendipity of circumstance.

    As a CIO, there can be a reluctance to say publicly “I don’t get it.” There is a technology being embraced and I understand technology. I wanted to enjoy it, but couldn’t figure out the value for me or my family. Why use it, how to use it, when to use it? I read about the uses – the smart home devices, the skills – and yet I couldn’t ‘feel it’.

    After introductions and business talk, there was a moment I was standing alone with Eric. I took a breath, planned my question, and went for it. I told him I’d bought the device and couldn’t figure out how to embrace it.

    I expected Eric to give me a corporate answer on the value of the device and a high level sales pitch. Instead, he took out his phone and showed me his personal set up for the devices in his home. As he described the skills and patterns his family uses, and the nighttime routine both he and his daughter have set up (that are different and yet complementary), it came to life for me.

    Forget the technology for a minute. He was describing a family and their interactions and their habits and traditions. It was enlightening. It was educational. It was sweet.

    I thanked him for his time and committed to him, and myself, to give it another try.

    I did. I tried it and embraced it. I got the family involved. We now have multiple assistants, connected smart home devices, and we’ve created skills. But more importantly, we’ve enhanced our normal and silly family interactions with the technology.

    It’s not really about the technology after all. It’s about the people. Thanks Eric for the perspective and the reminder.

    I know this every day when I am working with technology in my job. I just forgot for a moment. So I encourage you to think about these personal assistants and wearable technologies in a different way. It’s not about turning up the heat, or locking the doors automatically, or turning on the light for your dogs if you are late getting home. While the devices can help with all of these scenarios, it’s really about interacting with your current and evolving family dynamics.

    Ask Alexa to tell you a joke. Check your commute while putting on your shoes. Say thank you to Alexa and have her respond. (One of the things that amuses my husband in a way I don’t fully comprehend.)

    And most of all, create or enhance your family traditions.

    Girl geek. A quick reminder – don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.

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  • Leadership Thoughts – Unity is Strength

    What a day it was today. From the morning sunrise – the warmth – the peace of the early day.

    To the sunset and beauty I felt as I drove home.

    My perspective was clear as I tackled the day and the sunshine was shining on me. I stopped to reflect – both before and after – and capture the sights that book-ended this day for me.

    Today was a day of challenge for my team. We presented our technology strategy to the CEO and the entire Executive Team. 2 hours, many statistics, and details of the journey we’ve been on over the past year with many accomplishments to highlight.

    We prepared for weeks. This was no normal meeting. This was a chance to demonstrate our leadership, show we are serious about running the business of technology, and also that we are working as a team. The presentation went well. We made our key points. The room was engaged in the conversation and there was some good-hearted teasing along the way.

    When we were done, I was happy. And excited for the future wins. And proud. How many people get the opportunity to build a team of experts? And know that you are all pulling together? And that each one of them has your back? Well, I have that opportunity now. I am in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. Watch out world – we’re on fire!

    “Unity is strength. . . when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” –Mattie Stepanek

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  • Women in Tech – Stay Connected!

    Life is busy, to-do lists are long, and it’s easy to lose touch with people when you no longer work with them every day.

    Tonight I caught up with a friend. She’s another woman in tech. We talked about work, and families, and ourselves. We talked about what makes a great place to work, and what we want out of our jobs. We’re both at a state in our career where we have choices and we want to work with people who are talented, and driven, and respectful. We also want to keep learning and influence change and make a positive impact on business outcomes and people we lead. We talked about technology, infrastructure, IT security, testing practices, and digital transformation. Of course we did because we love it!

    We talked about how we met, and how we loved working together to drive a major change agenda because ego never got in the way of making decisions for progress.

    We also reminisced about our time leading the Women in Leadership initiative for hundreds of women. We took away as many learnings from the question and answer period as the women did from our speeches. I’m now leading the Diversity and Inclusion committee for the company where I work. I know I felt ready for this based on the previous work I did with this friend.

    We talked about current challenges we are facing and gave each other perspective. Don’t let the negative in your head. It didn’t earn that space in your brain.

    We ate and laughed and walked outside since the weather had turned warm for a few hours tonight. And then we took a photo.

    Girl geeks – take care of each other. Stay connected. You’ll never regret it!