My three takeaways from the 2019 Women in Cloud Summit

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Women in Cloud Summit, the goal of which is to connect with, mentor, and advocate for women in technology. With more than 1,000 people in attendance, it was a unique opportunity for me to listen and learn. I heard from Microsoft leaders Gavriella Schuster, CVP of Worldwide Partner Group, and Gretchen O’Hara, Vice President of the US OCP Go-to-Market organization, as well as leaders from Rackspace and Thai Lee, CEO of SHI. The day was inspiring. I left feeling that we must do much more together to ensure that inclusion is pervasive in everything we do and that everyone has the opportunity to grow, be heard, and be great.

At Microsoft, diversity and inclusion are key attributes of our culture and core to our business strategy. Diverse perspectives are proven to increase innovation and business outcomes, and we aim to be a model for our customers and partners in including those perspectives. As a diversity and inclusion lead within the OCP organization, my goal is to ensure all that we do as a business are viewed through a diverse and inclusive lens. While there were many learnings that I took away from the summit, I wanted to share with our partners three key ideas and some inclusive behaviors they should consider while running their businesses.

Connecting with attendees during the roundtable lunch sessions

1. Everyone can play a role. It should not only be women fighting for improved gender representation in technology and technology leadership. Men can be potentially strong allies. Gretchen identified three things that men can do: be aware of how and when bias can show up, and speak up when you see it; champion and give credit to women’s ideas and work, and ask questions about how your team is actively working to increase diversity and reduce bias.

 

2. Increasing diversity takes more than recruiting – it’s creating the right environment for that diversity thrive. It’s not enough to seek out and invite diverse voices to the table, it matters  how we engage those diverse perspectives and create a setting where people feel comfortable sharing unique or even differing points of view, and feel they are heard and valued. That’s inclusion. One way to create this environment is to practice real listening – not just listening to prepare a response, but listening to fully understand the idea or concept being communicated. Asking exploratory follow up questions, positively acknowledging and reinforcing people’s contributions to the conversation, and incorporating those contributions into future discussions, plans, and decisions help foster an inclusive environment and a culture based on trust.

In the smaller workshops, speakers spoke about addressing challenges at work such as impostor syndrome (the inability to internalize accomplishments or fear of being exposed as “fraud”) that tend to affect women more than men in the workplace. How can you help your peers overcome impostor syndrome? Let them know you support them. Give them space to discuss their self-doubts. Ask how you can help them meet their goals. Mentor your colleagues and help boost their confidence levels.

3. There’s still work to be done. During the keynote by SHI International CEO and founder Thai Lee, she said, “When it comes to diversity and inclusivity, the world is changing. But it’s not happening fast in boardrooms and in technology. “We’ve made advances to create more opportunities for women in the cloud industry, but there’s more to be done. Things you can do include creating or supporting an internal group dedicated to increasing diversity and inclusion, looking for opportunities to work with women-led suppliers, investing in plugging the holes in the female talent pipeline, and broadening the scope of talent brought into tech to include not just women with technical backgrounds, but women with expertise in various disciplines.

Thai Lee, founder and CEO of SHI International, at the Women in Cloud Summit.

To learn more about what you can do to advance women in technology within your organization, visit the Women in Cloud page , or check out some of the other organizations to help women advance in STEM fields, including Women in Tech and Girls Who Code.

The Women in Cloud Summit was an empowering experience for me, and I encourage you to think about how you can be an ally to women in your organization and professional network. If you couldn’t attend this year, view recordings of the keynote sessions here.

As Vice President of the U.S. Channel Development team, David Smith is focused on working with partners across the US commercial ecosystem. In this capacity, he is responsible for a national team of Partner Development Managers (PDMs) to ensure Microsoft’s partners have the marketing, sales and technical resources needed to build and grow their cloud practices.

Since joining Microsoft in 1998, David has engaged with partners as well as strategic ISVs to develop scalable, agile, real-time, and secure solutions that allow companies of all sizes to realize their full potential. This includes starting out early as an account executive in the Southwest, working in our Dynamics BG, leading our global small and midsize business as the VP of Worldwide SMB.

Prior to Microsoft, David worked at Digital Insight (Internet Home Banking vendor acquired by Intuit) and at Morgan Stanley. David completed his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, San Diego.

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