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Be Bold: Words to Live by for Women in Communications

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Women business leader steering ahead
Image: emerge - stock.adobe.com
While writing this article, I happened to glance over to my email Inbox, and the phrase “make bold moves” caught my eye. The advice, from McKinsey & Company, regarded what companies need to do “to thrive in the next normal.” I had just heard the same words from one of the participants, Gauri Bhalerao, senior manager of collaboration, networking strategy, and engineering at Yum! Brands, during the Women in Communications roundtable discussion I moderated this morning at the Enterprise Connect Digital Conference & Expo.
 
“Be bold” is one of Blalerao’s guiding principles, as I had learned in earlier conversations with her, and during the roundtable, she shared an example of how that has become especially important since COVID-19. The pandemic and subsequent work-from-home decision hit at the tail end of Yum’s Microsoft Teams implementation, and Bhalerao and her team found themselves needing to ramp up training and adoption of the collaboration platform. Uncharacteristically, the company’s leadership team fully embraced the new technology without hesitation — not only using it but also promoting its use.
 
When the CEO needed a platform to do a global broadcast, Bhalerao said she had to make the bold — and risky — decision to do that via Teams. “At that time, we had tested Microsoft Teams live events just once or twice internally in IT, but we had not done a major event. In this case, with one day’s notice, we had to do a broadcast for our CEO and leadership teams,” she explained. To say she and her team were nervous hosting a meeting of such a broad scale for the CEO on a largely untested platform is an understatement, Bhalerao said. “It was such a huge undertaking,” she added.
 
Bhalerao was not alone among roundtable participants in sharing bold moves they’ve made throughout their careers and, most recently, during this time of crisis. For example:
 
  • At Capital One, Kim Corazzini, senior director of CX transformation, had overseen a massive contact center transition to the Amazon Connect cloud platform — a decision that has served the company well in what her team has dubbed the “miracle migration” to working from home (WFH); Capital One moved 40,000 people to WFH in less than two weeks, Corazzini said.
  • At MedStar Health, a sprawling health care organization, UC director Kristina Russell has worked diligently not only to support telehealth for physicians and patients during this crisis, but also to set up the communications systems at a 250-bed COVID-19 response hospital in Washington, D.C., and to build out call center capacity for various needs that have arisen during the pandemic.
  • At Pembina Pipeline, Josee Duchesne, supervisor for networks and telephony, is taking advantage of everybody being at home and has fast-tracked onsite conversion of 130 meeting rooms to Teams.
  • And at Cigna, in her role as architecture director for voice infrastructure and contact center engineering at Cigna, Jennifer Berry has navigated through the financial side of the crisis — stopping investments in some projects to shift resources to COVID-19 response. This crisis called for “all hands on deck,” Berry relayed. “If you were a project manager, one day you’re doing a software deployment, the next day you’re troubleshooting people trying to work at home. Everybody had to collaborate and jump in just to get everybody moved over as fast as possible.”

Roundtable participant snapshot
These women are on the technology frontlines at their companies, navigating through strategic decisions and challenges that arise with the additional onus of being women operating in the man’s world of IT. They exemplify the strength and leadership of women in technology, and for that, we recognized them as recipients of our first-annual Spotlight Award for Women in Communications. (A sixth Spotlight Award recipient, Melanie Parker, senior manager of telecommunications at Centene, was not able to join the roundtable.)
 
In a 45-minute roundtable, we could only scratch at the surface of what these women have accomplished during their careers and what they’ve learned over the years, but I’ll leave you here with each of their top tips for getting your voice heard.
 
  1. Take your seat at the table or, today while working remotely, turn your video on – “Don’t be afraid to speak up,” Corazzini advised. “You’re invited to the conversation for a reason, and your voice and your perspective is super valuable. … So, show up, grab a seat — and don’t sit in the corner — and speak up.”
  2. It’s OK to make your idea someone else’s for the greater good of what you need to get accomplish – “We’re leaders, right? We’re not tactical server managers, so we should have these bigger objectives and if we want to get our agenda met, you have to have a sneaky side way in and I think it’s OK to take that risk,” Berry said.
  3. Shy away from traditional roles at a meeting table, and keep emotion out of it – “If somebody wants you to get water or coffee or take notes… that traditional role should not be traditional anymore,” said Duchesne, role-playing: “Josee is going to take the notes. ‘No, I’m not. It’s not my turn today. Perhaps it’s your turn today.’ … No emotion, just your point.”
  4. If something interests you but it’s not in your purview, volunteer anyway – “Somebody is going to see that you’re taking the extra effort to do things that are interesting…. That’s worked out well for me [to help grow] in my career,” Russell said.
  5. Be bold, and take risks – That’s it, in a nutshell, Bhalerao said.

If you didn’t have the chance to sit in on the roundtable, it’s now available on-demand for registered attendees of this week’s Enterprise Connect virtual event. If you haven’t registered, no problem. Simply do so here, and join us!