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Leadership Series:

Interviews with global women leaders, discussing early career choices, the role of mentoring and sponsoring, and their risk-taking and decision-making preferences.

"Lead in a way that people will want to join your team because they are guaranteed to learn", says Nora Hendrycks, a financial-services leader and a very successful change agent (NotZero)

When you have the trifecta (fabulous boss/leader, satisfying/challenging work, amazing team/colleagues) getting up and going to work can be a joy. Every morning you are energized and ready to tackle the next challenge. You feel all cylinders firing. Sure there are aggravations and roadblocks but you deal with them.  What an awesome feeling.

nora hendrycks

So what do you do when “the best leader you have ever worked with” announces her retirement and your team will be dismantled and assigned to several divisions? Nora Hendrycks made her riskiest career move ever. She hit the “pause button” and she left American Express, her corporate “home” of nearly 20 years.

How did she get to this place? This place where she knew how magical work can be. This place where she was confident in her ability to build and lead a team of professionals. This place where not having a job was preferable to having the wrong job?

Nora’s mother was a nurse. She loved what she did, she loved helping people. And she “got everything done” at home and for her family. With such a role model, the challenge for Nora would be to find a job that she loved.

But alas, in the 1990s's when Nora graduated from college, like so many others, she “just stumbled into” her first job. It wasn’t a strategic decision. It wasn’t part of a grand plan. It wasn’t her “dream job.” It was a job that allowed her to pay the bills and she hoped would provide a learning experience.

Portland was a new city for the California native. Portland wasn’t yet “hip” but it was relatively close to her Bay Area roots and it was affordable. The job at the small private label secured credit card provider wasn’t glamorous but it was a step up in financial services.

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"Use well-defined metrics to drive success", says Sandra Rogers, a Supply-Chain and Logistics executive, and a relentless fierce Lean champion (NotZero)

Imagine you are a girl growing up in a blue color town where “other people in (your) neighborhood aren’t thinking about college or careers.”

Imagine that you are really smart but you don’t know anyone like you who is a professional. Sandra Rogers,VP of Global Maintenance for NetJets doesn’t have to imagine this scenario, she was that girl.

Sandra began to have glimmers of the possibility of a life beyond this environment while a teenager. A pastor’s wife, not that much older than Sandra, had a college education and was the first professional black woman that Sandra knew personally. Her parents, valued education (even though they did not have college degrees) and recognized that Sandra was smart; they encouraged her to leverage that intelligence. Fortunately, Sandra was invited to attend a college preparatory high school where teachers “pushed me and pushed me.” Additionally the teachers knew of opportunities and relentlessly urged Sandra to pursue them.

Sandra didn’t know anything about engineering but her strong math aptitude made that an obvious avenue. Purdue University had (and still has) a series of summer programs to expose women and minorities to engineering. At the exhorting of her high school teachers she attended Purdue’s summer program. For the first time ever Sandra was surrounded by other young women like herself. It was invigorating. Sandra returned for a second summer and was inspired to study hard and become an engineer.

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"To become a trusted advisor, first listen, then learn and only then advise", says Barb Giamanco, a Social Selling, story-telling Sales pioneer (NotZero)

barb giamanco
was finishing high school her options seemed to be: get married and have children or become a nurse, teacher or flight attendant. Since being a flight attendant involved travel that seemed the best choice.
Barb’s wanderlust extended to her “bohemian phase” which involved a variety of jobs in a variety of locations, including a stint at an “all-girls gas station.”
So how did she go from “tinkering” to writing an acclaimed sales blog and being named a “top 50 sales influencer?”

“There are no accidents in life” Barb believes, “everything happens for a reason.”

The reasons aren’t always immediately evident but they emerge over time. In retrospect the twists and turns seem almost preordained, but at the time they were often leaps of faith.

The first serendipitous turn was when Barb, who is not particularly fond of math, found herself working in an accounting department. The department just got its first main-frame IBM computer and Barb was intrigued by the technology. Her Dad had always “tinkered and fixed things around the house” and Barb learned from him and helped him. Tinkering with the computer seemed like second nature to her. She helped figure out the reports that they would need and explored how this new technology could help them do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. Creativity and ingenuity combined with the confidence that as an inveterate learner she could “figure things out.”

Similarly, when six months later, a friend told her about an inside-sales position at Ingram Micro she leapt at the opportunity. Even though she had limited knowledge of computing and no experience in sales she intuitively knew that her passion for people combined with her love of tinkering with technology would suit her for software sales. She assured the hiring manager that if she were given the opportunity she would become a stellar sales person. Four years later she won “Sales Representative of the Year!” Her self-confidence and persistence paid off for both Barb and Ingram Micro!

Barb’s career continued its upward trajectory in a variety of technology focused sales manager and director roles. Within a decade she was a Corporate Account Executive at Microsoft, with responsibility for a myriad of Fortune 500 accounts. Barb’s career at Microsoft blossomed as the company grew from a relatively small (under 10,000 employees) to a mammoth corporation. The best thing about Microsoft was “the ability to learn and grow” her skill set while working with the best and the brightest.

Barb also benefited from an inspirational manager who embodied the sponsorship mentality. He “was always on the lookout for how I could increase my visibility and my skills.” She emulated him and sought to hire and promote dynamic individuals. Rather than being threatened by their star potential she felt that everyone benefited when she could “hire awesome people” and “remove the corporate stumbling blocks” from their path while “providing them with the tools they needed to succeed.”

Experience was far less important than attitude and mind set. Barb, whose interview questions were notoriously challenging, wanted to see how candidates thought, how they responded under pressure, how they could handle tough situations. She didn’t want “pat answers” or “canned responses.” Barb loved having the ability to attract, hire and develop smart, creative people.

It was an exciting time for both Barb and the company. She joined Microsoft as it was rapidly expanding. She rose to National Sales Director for the Consumer Division. She went on sales calls with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. Heady stuff for a woman whose early life was hardscrabble and her early opportunities seemed constrained to teacher, nurse or flight attendant.

But, as Microsoft grew, so did some of the frustrations of working within a large company. By the time that Microsoft employed 35,000 Barb felt the siren call of entrepreneurship. She felt compelled to strike out on her own. Becoming an entrepreneur was the “best and dumbest decision I ever made” she told me. Best because it provides endless learning opportunities and allows her to do what she loves. Dumbest because she hadn’t, at least initially, fully considered all the implications of being on her own. Now, more than thirteen years into piloting her own destiny she wouldn’t change it for anything.

When Barb first embarked on her own she focused on traditional sales training and development. A passionate advocate for the professionalization of the sales function Barb provided guidance to organizations on how a more professional and better-educated sales force could effectively achieve corporate goals through consultative selling techniques. She helped organizations identify opportunities and provided the training. Like most entrepreneurs she did pretty much everything that needed to be done.

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"Ability to solve problems is key to successful execution", says Patty Morrison, EVP Customer Support Services and CIO of Cardinal Health (NotZero)

Patty Morrison, EVP Customer Support Services and CIO at Cardinal Health, patty morrisongives her father a lot of credit for laying the foundation of confidence essential in her becoming a “serial CIO.”

He patiently sat with me and helped me work out really tough math word problems which helped me develop a sense that no matter how challenging something was I could figure it out.

While his patient encouragement certainly contributed to this confidence, many other things did too!

Patty majored in Math and Statistics at Miami University but she was certainly NOT the stereotypical “math nerd.” Patty was an avid athlete and participated in both theatre and music while growing up. All of these activities played a part in her developing the expansive skill set that has made her an effective business and technology leader.

“Being on stage taught me to get past my nerves” and perform.

A useful skill for anyone and essential in highly visible leadership roles. Sports not only provided early experience in being both part of a team and a team leader but also in resilience; no team wins all the time!

Unlike many women I have spoken with, Patty knew early in her career what she wanted to "be" when she grew up. Even though the CIO position was a relatively new one, Patty identified her goal as this combination of leadership and technology.

After she graduated college, Procter and Gamble (P&G) hired Patty for an experimental data analytics team. These days it’s hard to remember (or imagine) business without data analytics, but in the early 1980s companies were just starting to collect data from scanners. Innovative companies were exploring how to use the big data that they were collecting. Because the data analysis required programming mainframe computers P&G’s innovative group was housed in IT. Patty remarked with unabashed pride that P&G continues to use some of the concepts her team developed then.

Intellectual challenges energize Patty. She likes big problems,“the bigger the problem the better.”

When working directly with analytics no longer provided that challenge, Patty consulted with her mentor/boss and determined some next moves. Eventually she worked in every aspect of the business, through the IT side of the house. With each move she relished the challenge and garnered additional skills and perspectives. This deliberate development of her functional and leadership skills prepared Patty for the ultimate job that she had set her sights on early in her career, CIO.

Guiding large organizations as “they learn to pivot” provides Patty with the intellectual challenges she revels in and excels at. Patty began her “serial CIO” journey as a unit CIO at GE progressing to CIO at Quaker Oats, Office Depot and Motorola and ultimately EVP and CIO at Cardinal Health. With each move her domain grew as did the challenges. Never one to shy away from big problems, Patty thrived and honed her leadership skills inspiring change and mentoring talented IT professionals.

Leading, whether it is IT or marketing, is essentially about people. Creating a vision and developing and organizing your staff to accomplish that vision in service to the organization doesn’t vary much based on the function. Patty noted that she is incredibly proud of the more than 20 former employees who now serve as CIO in a variety of organizations. Having mentored this cadre of professionals is one of the most satisfying aspects of Patty’s career.

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"Great Leaders are good at filtering out bad noise", says Margie Frazier, a pragmatic leader and Executive Director of a not-for-profit BDRSA, (NotZero)

Margie Frazier, PhD, grew up on a farm in rural Ohio. As a young girl she dreamed of being Marlo Thomas, Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Burnett or Lucille Ball. It’s not that she wanted to be a television star or a comedian; she wanted to be smart and funny, to live in a big city and to have the confidence to talk back to the men in charge. Additionally, by middle school she knew that she wanted to make a difference in the world, in people’s lives.

Currently the Executive Director of the Batten Disease Support and Research Association, Margie’s career has run the gamut from government and policy work (Ohio General Assembly, Ohio Attorney General’s office) to not-for-profit leadership (Ohio Association of Free Clinics, National Center Adoption Law and Policy) to clinical social work (in inner city Chicago and rural Ohio). She believes that her career, like that of many women, evolved in “skips and hops” as she sought to make the best choices given the constraints of life and family. Each career move was motivated by Margie’s need to do work that was interesting to her and made a difference to others. And with each move she learned more about herself about leadership and about making a difference.

And while it was not a direct career path, all of her prior work has ideally suited her for her current role which is in her sweet spot of leadership, policy and clinical support of individuals.

Yet, this does not mean that Margie is “resting on her laurels.” Leading an organization devoted to funding research and treatment as well as support for the families of children who have genetically inherited life-limiting neurodegenerative disease” has required Margie to immerse herself in learning about the world of rare diseases venture capital funding, brain science and molecular biology. However she has developed the confidence to know that she “can do this.”

This confidence has developed over a career of seeking out challenging and interesting opportunities and figuring things out. Completing her doctoral dissertation at the prestigious and rigorous University of Chicago’s School of Social Work Administration was instrumental in helping her understand that

“I have done an amazing thing and I can do other amazing things!”

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"Promote a culture of nimbleness and you will find fulfilling careers and high productivity", says Kris Merz, CIO of The Limited and consummate technology-enabler (Not Zero)

Unwilling to accept “it can’t be done” as the answer, Kris Merz enrolled in an introduction to computing course at DeVry to understand how it could be done. She was confident that the computer that spewed out the names and addresses that she then typed onto 5000 envelopes could produce address labels. That was more than 30 years ago. A great deal about the world has changed in the intervening decades; Kris’ curiosity and delight in solving challenging puzzles has not! Today Kris is Chief Information Officer at The Limited.

Her attraction to challenge is one of the hallmarks of Kris’ career/life. She was heartbroken to leave Mac Tools, her first IT “home” but when it became apparent that the parent organization would not be investing in IT (hardware, software or human resources) she felt compelled to find an organization that was moving forward. Victoria’s Secret not only provided that organization, but their CIO became Kris’ mentor and her model for what every CIO should strive to attain.

Victoria Secret’s CIO had a great relationship with the CEO and the IT strategy was aligned with the business strategy. Investments in IT helped propel the organization forward. Kris learned and developed as a manager as well as an IT professional. She honed the crucial skill of truly listening to internal clients/customers in order to craft the best solution, not necessarily the best technical solution but the best business solution.

When IT became centralized, leaving Kris in the division with a promotion and with a direct link to senior management but without the resources to develop or deliver the appropriate solutions she became frustrated. “(She) was used to being able to do the big projects that directly impacted the business.” The information technology unit went from a world-class technology group to one that had minimal autonomy and limited resources. What had been a “dream job” quickly became a powerless one.

Not that Kris wanted power for power’s sake. It was the ability to tackle complex challenges that propelled Kris forward. Her next move brought her to Retail Ventures, parent company (at the time) of Value City Department Stores, DSW and Filenes. You can almost hear the glee in her voice as she describes how much fun it was to develop and implement a road map to successfully upgrade ALL of Value City’s systems in under two years while continuing to put into production other projects for DSW and Filenes! She “really enjoyed” crafting a strategy that minimized business risk while upgrading all software applications. It probably goes without saying, but Kris said to me “I tend to gravitate to places that are challenges!”

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"Persistence and Practice results in Professional Growth," says Brigid Heid, Law Partner and President-Elect of Columbus Bar Association, (NotZero)


How does someone go from an artistic high school student to a chemistry major to a litigator and law partner specializing in employment issues?

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"Good sales people teach their clients", says Linda Richardson, a teacher and an always-curious explorer who built a Sales Training powerhouse (NotZero)

Like so many women I have interviewed, Linda Richardson never intended to have a business career.Linda

She did not plan on starting a sales performance company (Richardson) that has been named a Top 20 Sales Training company for six consecutive years.

She did not plan on starting a company that would have a global presence.

She did not plan on selling that company.

But, for Linda, like many of us, life does not go as planned!

An English major and an avid reader, Linda pursued a graduate degree in educational psychology. Soon thereafter Linda serendipitously found herself hired at the Institute for Emotive Therapy’s (now known as the Albert Ellis Institute) school. I say serendipitously because working there was one of the turning points in her career. While teaching there Linda regularly observed world renowned psychologist Albert Ellis’s clinical sessions. His masterful questioning of clients had a profound impact on Linda’s way of thinking and eventually lay the foundation for her concept of consultative selling.

In 1975 New York City hovered on the brink of bankruptcy. All teachers who had not earned tenure were let go. Linda, who was an untenured principal, was among them. It was a discouraging time for Linda and the city. Jobs were difficult to find and Linda was having no luck in securing another education position. A friend arranged for her to interview with Manufacturers Hanover (which became Chemical Bank and eventually part of JP Morgan Chase). Linda was reluctant to go,(“I know nothing about business” she told her interviewer) but lacking a viable alternative she went on the interview and was hired to head up the bank’s training.

Banking was just becoming competitive (deregulation opened opportunities and changed the landscape) and banks were actually competing for customers. Linda was charged with “finding a sales training program” for the bankers. Much to her chagrin they were all not relevant to the bankers sales situations and had examples like “selling tractors and things.” Linda was convinced that she could develop a better product and the first thing she had to do was sell her boss on the idea. Having sold her boss on the idea she partnered with the trust department which needed this “new” skill set. Relying on her experience as a teacher and using her observations of Ellis’ clinical questioning, Linda changed selling which to that point was product focused.

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"You know you have successfully led, when your team can succeed without you", says Charissa Franklin, a visionary customer advocate (NotZero)

“Why is there no one in leadership that looks like me?”

That’s the question that Charissa Franklin, VP of Client Success at Reality Workscharissa Group frequently asks herself. While that may be top of mind for Charissa, it is rarely what her clients are contemplating; they want to know how to get their sales and operations up to speed and they know that the energetic, goal-driven woman in their boardroom has the skills and knowledge to make that happen.

As Charissa noted

“we’ve been hired because they NEED our skillsets, we are not just females, we are highly skilled professionals”

who can help them solve critical problems.

Yet Charissa hopes that after she has helped them solve their problems that perhaps, just perhaps, the next time that they are hiring they will remember the value that this bright, creative African-American woman brought to the table. And perhaps, just perhaps they will consider the value that a more diverse management team brings to the table. Charissa has found that after she has helped leaders solve their operational and sales problems they are open to having frank conversations about their homogeneous workplaces and how, perhaps, this homogeneity contributed to their problems.

Charissa is optimistic that we are “at an interesting point where some progress (towards more diverse leadership) can be made.”

The conversations are happening in large companies throughout Silicon Valley. The issue is no longer being ignored, no longer the elephant in the room. Charissa (and I) hopes that there will be forward momentum beyond talking into action.

How did Charissa become this confident, creative, sought after consultant?

No child grows up saying “I am going to be a consultant” and Charissa was no exception. However Charissa did grow up with several attributes that have contributed to her leadership and management success. She has always possessed an insatiable appetite for learning (a useful attribute for a consultant who is constantly in a new environment). From a young age she has had an unquenched desire to explore the world (she has travelled throughout the world and recently has fulfilled a lifelong desire to own a home in Europe). And she has parents who repeatedly assured her that “you can be what you choose to be if you do the work.”

This sense of being goal-driven, to learn and to explore combined with a willingness (eagerness?) to do the work characterizes Charissa’s entire life and career. After earning her Master’s Degree in International Business from the preeminent school in the field, Thunderbird, Charissa joined a boutique consulting firm in Los Angeles. Charissa loved consulting, the problem solving, the constant new challenges. But business slowed and Charissa did not love LA. Charissa found herself contemplating “what next.”

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"Jump into it and then figure it out", says Gita Muralidharan, BPO and Learning Executive, a consummate learner and risk-taker (NotZero)

When her sons were 9 and 7, Gita Muralidharan Gitawent at the suggestion of a friend, for what she intended to be a quick 20-minutes exploratory interview at NIIT. The twenty-minutes conversation lasted several hours and the next week she began what became a sixteen year career at NIIT. From NIIT Gita continued to develop, moving to a leadership position within Learning and Development (L&D) area at Cognizant, a global BPO firm.

While she was very impressed by the prowess of Indira Gandhi (Gita has a special affinity for her because of their shared birthday) who took office when Gita was ten, Gita never intended to be a career woman. Following the expected path for an educated, urban Indian woman Gita married and began raising a family. It was only after her children were in school that she started to wonder about possibly what more. Teaching an hour or two a week wasn’t enough but she really didn’t have a clue what she should do.

When her friend suggested she talk to NIIT Gita had never used a computer and had not considered working in a corporate setting. After her first day, where she was the oldest one in the office, she told her husband that she intended to quit but she would stay through the week. The week morphed into months and then years. Gita learned all she needed to know about computers and leveraged her problem solving and relationship building skills into a learning and development career.

Partly she was lucky in her timing. In the late 1980’s there was a tremendous demand for IT professionals in India. NIIT rode this wave by providing training and placement. Additionally, by the time that Gita was entering the workplace other women had been the trailblazers; there were lots of young women in entry-level technology jobs. Due to the insatiable demand for talent organizations were less inclined to (overtly) discriminate against women.

However, while women and men were joining technology firms in approximately equal numbers at the entry level, women were often leaving as they hit middle-management. Gita noted that despite the strong support of extended family, and the prevalence of domestic help, many women stepped aside mid-career, just as their careers were taking off. The unrelenting demands of travel and communicating across time zones impinged on family life and many women were unwilling to make the tradeoff. Gita observed that because she began her career after her children were in school she felt less pressure in this arena.

Additionally, her attitude of “we will figure this out” resulted in her dealing with the challenges as problems to be solved not insurmountable obstacles.
It took being organized both at home and at work as well as asking others for help. Gita dryly noted that it was probably good for her boys to be
“more independent without their mother hovering over them.”

And while there was no visible discrimination, Gita did observe that it was often lonely being the only woman in the room. She didn’t feel lonely while they were all hard at work solving problems and meeting with clients. Yet there were times that the men would adjourn to have a drink and she would return to her room (when travelling) or home, to meet her family commitments.
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"You lead by hiring people who take pride in figuring it out" says Chandy Ghosh, EVP and CIO of Intrado, a collaborative IT Leader (NotZero)


"Don’t tell me what you can’t do; tell me what you can do!”

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"To lead as a HR professional, you must play a strategic role and have a growth mindset", says Amanda Macdonald, a role model for Millennial professionals and HR partner at AVG Technologies

In contrast with most of the women we have interviewed, Amanda MacDonald

is at the beginning of her career as a manager and emerging leader. Consequently she brings us a fresh perspective on what it means to be a woman leader. Less than a decade into her career as an HR generalist Amanda recently joined AVG Technologies, her “goldilocks size” company in her first big “stretch” role.

AVG is not as big as her first employer, Alcatel-Lucent (78,000 employees worldwide) nor is it as small as her second employer, Kinaxis (200 employees), it is just the right mix of big and small.

Amanda is the HR partner for AVG’s Managed Workplace products at their Ontario, Canada location. As the sole HR person she supports the local top management team and is, in turn, supported by corporate HR. She is the youngest and the only woman who has a “seat at the table” when unit level decisions are made. Neither her age nor her gender precludes her from being heard.

Amanda gets listened to, in part, because she knows her stuff! Although Alcatel-Lucent ultimately proved too big to be satisfying for the long term (being five levels from policy makers eventually chafed) it gave Amanda her initial “break” into the field she had targeted as an undergraduate International Business major at the highly selective Carleton University. Like many recent college graduates Amanda’s job search proved frustrating. When a family friend offered to sponsor her, to provide her the opportunity to join Alcatel-Lucent on a contract basis she took a big gulp (it was not the “ideal permanent” job) and accepted it, vowing to prove herself. Amanda repeatedly mastered a myriad of HR subjects and repeatedly asked for more. Within four months she transitioned from a contract to a “real” employee; clearly this inquisitive, hardworking young woman had demonstrated her value!

Amanda’s next position was at Kinaxis, where she continued to develop her HR generalist knowledge skills and abilities. Initially the small size was refreshing. Rather than 5 levels between her role and the decision makers Amanda’s manager was the only other HR professional. However Amanda came to see that HR was not viewed as a strategic partner, did not have a seat at the decision making table. Amanda yearned for a more strategic role.

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"Helping without agenda is key to winning trust", says Gplussa Jaana Nyström, Googleplus trendsetter and a social-media icon (notzero)

What do you think of when you think of a leader? This blog series is entitled “Women in Leadership and Management” yet we have never really explored what is (or is not) included. So many people define leadership differently; there is absolutely no consensus!

Amazon lists nearly 122,000 books when you search on “leadership.” A Google search for the term yields approximately 468,000,000 “hits.” Google Scholar yields about 2,750,000 options. There are a myriad of courses and degrees focused on leadership. Clearly people like talking about/reading about/writing about/learning about leadership.

Jaana Nyström Jaana_Photomight not fit your visual image of a leader. Jaana doesn’t wear a “power suit” or have hundreds of people reporting to her or control a multi-million dollar (euro) budget. However based on any of the following leadership quotations (which are some of my favorites), Jaana Nyström is unquestionably a leader!

“A leader is someone who has followers.” - Peter Drucker

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, to learn more, do more and become more you are a leader.” - John Quincy Adams

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” - John F. Kennedy

“A leader is a person who guides or directs a group.” -

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"Start with a desire to tackle a challenge, then success will follow", says Anju Talwar, a market-maker and fearless challenger of the status quo (Not Zero)

Anju Talwar, ( ) CEO of Skills Academy ( , is facing the biggest challenge of her thirty-year career.  The challenges of establishing eight different organizations in eight different countries, each with its own language and culture pale in comparison with the steep learning curve she is now facing within her own native India.
As CEO of Skills Academy Anju and her talented team are endeavoring to bridge the skills gaps that hinder the nation’s poorest, rural citizens from achieving a modicum of a decent life.  “The complexities are much more than we anticipated” when we began this project.  “The stuff that we are taught no longer matters such as caste and gender” still play an enormous role in rural India where running water and sanitation facilities are frequently non-existent.
While it would be “easy to give up…how one bounces back from failure” is one of Anju’s key hiring criteria; one that she clearly demonstrates as well.  So, despite the fact that their original business model is proving inadequate in the face of the challenge, Anju is leading the exploration of innovative ways to tackle seemingly insurmountable challenges.  The same talent and determination that propelled Anju from an entry level sales position with American Express to a Senior Vice President position at Genpact ( ) should yield comparably amazing results.
Anju began her career at American Express in an entry level sales role.  She answered a newspaper advertisement and was hired straight out of college, eager to learn and grow.  While it was quickly clear to Anju that working in sales was not her calling she has nothing but praise for American Express. “They taught me everything…from leading teams to meticulous planning.”  She excelled in the rapidly growing arena of back office operations and outsourcing.  Every six to eight months she would raise her hand and indicate that she was ready for more, for a new challenge.  And every year to two years she would be promoted; growing along with the organization.  Eventually she was the only woman at her level, not only in India but in the eight-country region.
Attaining this level of leadership involved significant, extended international travel.  Initially Anju was reluctant to accept this challenge, but her husband encouraged her to “just give it a try and see how it goes.” Anju did try and she saw that her son developed into a self-reliant and disciplined boy.  She tried very hard to get home every weekend, a personal sacrifice she does not regret.  Her husband and son had the stability of home and she had the challenging career she relished.
She was offered an opportunity to head up a regional operations center for American Express.  But it would require relocation to Sydney Australia.  Anju did not want to relocate her husband and son and reluctantly declined the opportunity.  But she wanted that job; running the center was exactly the sort of challenge she was prepared to do and yearned for.
Several months later, a colleague who had moved to Genpact told her that GE was opening a similar center, in India.  Anju knew that she had to “go for it.”  This time when she raised her hand it was to Genpact’s management team.  They recognized her talent and hired her. She was the third employee at Genpact (then GECIS)
Just as she had at American Express, Anju continued to seek out challenges and meet them head on.  She successfully established operations centers in countries where she did not know the language or the culture.  Hiring for “attitude not aptitude” she developed productive operations teams that included both men and women.  Whereas her colleagues complained that “women did not want the third shift operations jobs” Anju found that women who had the “hunger to achieve, the fire in the belly” applied for positions where women were in charge, hoping that (rightly so in Anju’s case) that the female leader would give them the chance that they needed.
I asked Anju if she had any sense as to what prompted this same “fire” in her own belly.  She wondered if it came, in part, from having been raised “almost like a twin” with an orphan that her parents had adopted when she was quite young.
Perhaps it was this same experience that encouraged Anju to tackle the “toughest chapter of my career” joining Skills Academy.  She wanted to “give something back to India…I could take what I learned in my 28 year career and plow it back.” The magnitude of the obstacle she faces is daunting. Annually nearly fifteen million people enter the Indian labor force.  Employers want approximately five million of them, so they can choose only the “best, the most skilled.” Yet the unskilled, those who would most benefit from skills training lack the resources to pay for it.
As a business, not a government agency or NGO, Skill’s Academy is faced with the dilemma of how to serve this population.  The business acumen combined with the fire in the belly that Anju and her exceptionally talented team (90% of whom are women) possesses, they are geared up to move the dial on this significant issue.
Anju Talwar, CEO of Skills Academy,Anju_Talwar is facing the biggest challenge of her thirty-year career. The challenges of establishing eight different organizations in eight different countries, each with its own language and culture pale in comparison with the steep learning curve she is now facing within her own native India.

As CEO of Skills Academy Anju and her talented team are endeavoring to bridge the skills gaps that hinder the nation’s poorest, rural citizens from achieving a modicum of a decent life.

“The complexities are much more than we anticipated, when we began this project. The stuff that we were taught growing up and necessities that we take for granted, no longer matters, because caste and gender still plays an enormous role in rural India.

Running clean water to drink, sanitation facilities, electricity, that we are so used to, are frequently non-existent in the interiors. Sometimes the choice that young men and women have to make is walking kms after making sure it is safe to attend classes to acquire skills and find jobs to earn a livelihood.

While it would be “easy to give up…how one bounces back from failure” is one of Anju’s key hiring criteria; one that she clearly demonstrates as well. So, despite the fact that their original business model is proving rethinking in the face of the challenge, Anju is leading the exploration of innovative ways to tackle seemingly insurmountable challenges. The same talent and determination that propelled Anju from an entry-level sales position with American Express to a Senior Vice President position at Genpact should yield comparably amazing results.

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"People pay attention to what is measured", says Susan Lemons, the Six Sigma pioneer and seeker of answers to "Why" (Not Zero)

When Susan LemonsSusan_Lemons arrived at college, she discovered that she had been assigned to a men’s dorm and to a male gym class. Why was this girl named Sue assigned to these classes? The administrators scheduling students couldn’t imagine that a girl was going to be an engineer! It must be a boy named Sue (with apologies to Johnny Cash).

Her early interest (and aptitude) in math and a father who taught her that she could “do anything I want” provided Susan’s initial foundation for success.

Susan’s intelligence, tenacity, and talent for seeing the big picture helped her leverage this foundation into an amazing career. Susan encountered many challenges as the first (and only) girl in both physics (her eventual major) and engineering (her eventual minor). Susan couldn’t miss a class because as the only girl her absence would be as notable as her presence!  As unfathomable as it may be to contemporary students, Susan couldn’t participate in physics and engineering study groups because they were in the male dorm and women weren’t allowed in “after” hours!  So she went to classes and studied on her own.

Susan’s switch from engineering was a function of her fascination with WHY more than HOW things worked. In physics, as in engineering she was the only woman in the classroom. Her curiosity propelled her to earn a master’s degree in physics where she was, once again, a singular sensation. No other women were her colleagues or teachers.

Being the first and only woman in the room also characterized Susan’s early career. Sometimes this meant that she had higher hoops to jump. She was interviewed all the way up the chain of command, including the Vice President for Engineering and Design for an entry level engineer position. At the time she didn’t realize how unusual this was. Sometimes this meant that Susan was invited to participate in training programs and projects that a male engineer at her level might not have access to. She did this without the benefit of mentors or sponsors. Susan wryly noted that in the all-male engineering environment her manager’s

“didn’t dare sponsor me…it would have been interpreted incorrectly.”

One of Susan’s early projects would alter the course of her career in ways that she couldn’t have anticipated. At Motorola she was selected to be on a cross-functional team that was tasked with “returning Motorola to excellence”. Motorola, like so many American manufacturers, was struggling with quality. Motorola was determined to understand why Japanese manufacturing was vastly outperforming American manufacturing.

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“I want girls and young women to know that you CAN have your cake and eat it too", says Kathryne Reeves, a consummate consultant and an executive strategist (Notzero)

“The jobs at the top are really good...and worth fighting for!  The reason that the guys at the top fight so hard to get them and to keep them is that they are really cool! I just wish there were more women in senior roles.”


Kathryne Reeves should know!  Until very recently Kathryne was the General Manager (and Senior Vice President) for Scotts Miracle-Gro.

“I want girls and young women to know that you CAN have your cake and eat it too.”

Kathryne pointed out it is possible to have both a career and a family.  Like Sheryl Sandberg (same cohort at Harvard as Kathryne) in Lean In, Kathryne has found that through a desire to optimize for the family (rather than one individual’s career), hard work and perhaps a bit of serendipity (and I would add undisputed intelligence) the top corporate jobs are attainable and worth the effort.

This is not meant to imply that Kathryne’s journey to the top has been easy or risk-free.  But easy and risk-free don’t seem to be features that Kathryne looks for when making decisions.  One of her riskiest moves occurred early in her career.  A Stanford educated civil engineer Kathryne was working as an engineer when she was confronted with the painstakingly slow trajectory of engineering management.  Her boss, trying to be helpful, explained that if she did everything right that she would, in approximately fifteen years, be where he was now.

The fifteen-years time frame was far too slow to satisfy her intense desire to learn, grow and develop.  Talking with her organization’s first ever female VP of Operations she expressed her dismay at the pace of growth as an engineer and sought career advice.  When offered the chance to work as a business analyst on a highly visible upcoming corporate strategy project Kathryne leaped at the opportunity.  She didn’t let the fact that she knew nothing about "net present value (NPV)" stop her.  She figured that she could learn what she needed to, and she did!

From that initial leap into business, Kathryne continued to go all in.  She earned a MBA at Harvard and upon graduation joined Booz Allen Hamilton.  Booz Allen helped her hone specific analytical skills while keeping her focused on the big, strategic picture. Booz Allen also provided her with the knowledge that she could enter any situation in any industry and quickly but accurately assess the situation and develop strategic recommendations.

She worked at Nationwide Insurance, American Online, Reliant Energy, Quest Media and other organizations. As Kathryne moved from state to state (and organization to organization) she worked hard to both mentor and sponsor and to be mentored and sponsored.

“Sometimes I was savvy and sophisticated about it and sometimes I’ve blown it.”

Yet over the years the critical importance of relationships forged across gender and race lines over shared values have proven instrumental in her career development. These relationships have been very satisfying but were not easy to develop.

While the “like me” bias is real

“I’ve gotten more forgiving over time looking for commonality. I’ve had to (she dryly noted) if the world were run by black women I wouldn’t have had to, but it’s not.”

Kathryne sought that commonality and shared values among colleagues, in part, by never passing up an opportunity to know someone outside their usual role and context.  She never turned down an invitation to do something outside of work, even if it was not something that she was naturally drawn to.

One of the things that Kathryne holds in the highest regards is

“the intersection of smart and nice.”

She noted that this results in her teams being incredibly diverse because she likes that intersection in “any package” that it arrives in!  People who strive for excellence for the team, not solely for themselves; these are the people that Kathryne wants to work with and for.  She finds herself at her most creative working with a team that is oriented towards and striving for excellence.

Kathryne attributes her love of a high performing team to her family and growing up in Jackson, Mississippi.  Her parents nurtured her striving for excellence.  And they sacrificed a lot to help her achieve it; sending her to Stanford by working “every extra shift” and taking out considerable debt.  They focused on the “greater good” that Kathryne could achieve by attending one of the most world’s most competitive and academically rigorous schools.  They believed in her, and Kathryne “took it from there.”

Rather than being overwhelmed by the caliber and backgrounds of her classmates Kathryne was energized and propelled forward.  Kathryne and her husband continue this focus on the “greater good” as they navigate decisions as a dual career couple.

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"Invest in the people who work in your organization, then Success follows", says Sharon Daniels, a world-renowned Learning professional and former CEO of AchieveGlobal (notzero)


“The luckiest thing that happened to me is that I got into banking when banking was investing in people.”

Sharon Daniels cites the role of luck but there is no question that her drive and talent were the keys to her career success. One does not become CEO of a multinational consulting and coaching firm (operating in over 40 countries) simply through luck!

Like several other women we have profiled, Sharon intended to have a career as a teacher. However, when a teaching position didn’t materialize and a banking one did (she had worked part-time and summer-times as a bank-teller) she jumped at the opportunity.

At the bank Sharon benefitted from both formal and informal training and development. Mentoring was not something that was accidental or by happenstance. Individuals were assigned to mentors to hone specific skills. This deliberate approach of having “this person as your mentor to learn these (specific) things” helped Sharon grow into the role of manager.

She recounted the extensive role-playing that a mentor engaged her in to prepare her for the first time that she would have to deliver negative feedback to a “woman who was my mother’s age.” Other managers became her mentor as her career progressed. And of course Sharon began mentoring others.

Sharon believes that most people don’t sufficiently leverage a mentor/mentee relationship; regardless of whether it is an “assigned” or self-selected relationship.

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"Become the 'Go to' person, then your company will value your flexible work-place needs", says Tracy Dodd, an inimitable problem solver at CA Technologies (#notzero)


Get promoted to a Vice President role while pregnant and moving from a full time to a part time, job share role? It takes an incredibly talented and focused woman AND an incredibly progressive and flexible organization. Tracy (De Angelis) Dodd is that woman and JP Morgan Chase(JPMC) was that organization.

Tracy’s career story doesn’t begin or end with this promotion, but as I reviewed our conversation this moment kept leaping out at me. It really says a lot about both Tracy and her (then) employer. So how did it happen? First of all, Tracy had a strong track record with the bank. She had risen from a young college student (she finished college while working at the bank) hired as a temp for a back office help desk role to a highly respected human resources professional.

Tracy was initially placed at the bank through a temp agency. She quickly learned the systems and was soon the “go to person” for the team. Her first boss recognized her skills and abilities and she was promoted to “problem manager” essentially a job coach for others. Ironically, Tracy had once considered a career as a high school English teacher and here she was designing training aids and teaching adults!

Tracy’s manager advocated for her and gave her opportunity after opportunity. As Tracy noted

“he championed me…it was an informal sponsorship, he put his neck on the line for me and gave me the tools to be successful.”

He connected her with the bank’s human resources organization and ensured that she had the formal and on the job training she needed to advance. Each time Tracy rose to the occasion. Both Tracy and the bank grew and developed.

By the time Tracy was pregnant with her first child she had risen to the level of Assistant Vice President. She and her husband had determined that her working part time would be the best option, at least initially, for their family. Tracy noted that there was

“no stigma associated with part time work” and the bank was “very progressive and understood that to keep top talent, especially women” that flexibility was essential.

This progressive approach made her “more loyal” to the bank and allowed her to feel safe in advocating for what she needed.

Within a very short time of announcing her desire to work part time Tracy had identified, applied for and was selected for a Vice President role. The position was “posted as eligible for job share” an almost unheard of possibility for a senior management position in most organizations, particularly at that time (15 years ago). Upon her return from maternity leave Tracy and a colleague “shared” the job; each working three days a week (with one day overlap).

This “amazing experience” where they jointly managed a large team of professionals solidified Tracy’s commitment to diversity and flexibility. She had experienced, first hand, the loyalty and dedication that the flexible work arrangements engendered. The bank made it

“easy. There was a belief that people could best focus on work productivity if they were not worried about home.”

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Do what you love. Love what you do.

Here are some of the things I hear.

“I love my co-workers; we are like a family.”

“I love knowing I improved our processes.”

“I love doing better than last year.”

“I love having happy clients.”

“I love making decisions faster.”

“I love taking calculated risks even if I don’t know it will pan out.”

“I love the income I earn that allows me/my family to enjoy life.”

“I love the thrill of selling and knowing I beat out the competition.”

“I love learning.”

“I love analyzing problems.”

“I love knowing that my students understand the world better.”

“I love the flexibility I have for: what I want to do, when I want to do, how I want to do.”

“I love data.”

“I love my autonomy and being my own boss.”

“I love inspiring the team I lead.”

“I love designing new products.”

“I love the creative side of my work.”

“I love being part of a group that solves tough problems”.

“I love working outside.”

“I love returning people to health.”

“I love writing.”

“I love eliminating waste.”

“I love making order out of chaos.”

“I love doing things that haven’t been done before.”

“I love listening to new ideas.”

“I love mentoring the next generation and paying it forward.”

Many of the women I have interviewed and/or read about talk a lot about work and love.

What do YOU love about your work?

Our Valentine’s Day posting isn’t an interview.  We are asking YOU to join the conversation.


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"If your customer is successful, then you are successful", says Christine Gattenio, a transformative change leader from IBM (#notzero)

The word passion isn’t usually associated with finance, procurement and accounting (FP&A), benchmarking or shared services. But passion is precisely what has propelled Christine Gattenio from an accounting auditor at PWC to a Vice President at IBM (with some interesting stops along the way).

First you have to determine what you are passionate about.  Chris is quite clear about her passions.  She wants to work for and with people who combine the ability to create a compelling vision with the ability to execute that strategy.

She ALWAYS puts the customer first.  And she insists on knowing the facts and being prepared. These passions, combined with keen analysis and a willingness to take calculated risks, have guided Chris’s career.

Each time that Chris "took things to the next level", these themes were evident.

Chris’s first big jump might not have looked like a step up to the next level but it undeniably was.  She moved from the relative security of being a Fortune 500 VP & Corporate Controller to becoming consultant in a small, boutique-consulting firm (and trading the warmth of Southern California for Cleveland Ohio in the process).  Why?

Because the opportunity had her golden trifecta; an organization with a visionary leader who could execute; a focus on the client and a data driven culture.

So she moved to the “other side of the desk.”

The vision of The Hackett Group was to change the role of accounting and finance from a transactional back office function to strategic business partner through benchmarking, transformation and automation of the end-to-end processes. In 2014, this seems like a no- brainer but 25 years ago, the idea of applying industrial organization concepts to staff functions was innovative.

At The Hackett Group, Chris provided benchmarking assessments to well over a thousand clients across most industries around the world. The benchmarking results that The Hackett Group shared with clients should have triggered organizational change. Some organizations changed, but many did not.

As everyone who has tried to change their diet or exercise routines (in the spirit of New Year’s resolutions) knows, change is hard. And it is even harder when one is talking about both organizational rather than individual changes! Not only are organizations comprised of individuals but cultures and processes help cement behaviors and expectations.

Organizational change requires effective leaders committed to making that change happen and willing to invest in the change process.

"Data alone cannot drive change."

Committed to helping the finance function change from a transaction focused one to a strategic business partner, Chris began contemplating her options. As the business process outsourcing (BPO) market started to bloom, new options were becoming available to help organizations accelerate change. Chris determined that this was becoming an effective transformation approach for finance and accounting functions.

Chris’ next carefully calculated, but nonetheless risky move, was resigning from The Hackett Group (as a single mother no less) in order to pursue outsourcing options. Although she was prepared to take six months to explore the best way to facilitate transformation through outsourcing, Chris was employed within a month. There is no question that Chris’ carefully cultivated network (of both men and women) was a significant factor. Additionally, Chris was extraordinarily clear in where she wanted to go.

Once again Chris was drawn to an organization headed by a strong leader with both vision and the ability to execute. What might be surprising was that Chris, who by her own admission had never taken a marketing course, was hired to lead the marketing and strategy function of Equitant, a leader in Order-to-Cash process outsourcing.

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