NetApp's Women in Business Program Offers Chance to Learn from Peers

Last week, NetApp held its first Bay Area Women in Business event at the Rosewood Hotel in Menlo Park, California. I had the opportunity to be one of the keynote speakers and panelists along with Cisco CIO Rebecca Jacoby. The event’s intimate setting allowed me to interact with my peers from some of our key customers in the area.


Rebecca delivered her keynote address first and shared how introspection and self-awareness are key to being a strong leader within an organization and that good leadership responds to the motivators for each member of the team. She also talked about the value of making personal connections with the individuals within your organization. By making connections in a personal context, you can place them within the context of the organization.


Rebecca also shared her first management experience in which she learned the difference between managing a team and leading a team. She learned that building relationships is part of life; it is a constant and you have to be conscious of it. She underscored the importance of being conscious about building relationships in communities and organizations even in the smallest of ways. Personally, I have found that spending the time to get to know people and building strong relationships have been key ingredients in my career. Relationships help to build understanding and, ultimately, trust. And when there is trust, it is easier to come together to overcome obstacles that arise.


In my keynote speech, I shared my experiences of building a personal brand in times of change. For me, this means that I focus on being a customer-facing CIO, enabling business success for both NetApp and NetApp customers. I have three key priorities in this work.


The first priority I have is to lead a world-class IT organization at NetApp. By hiring the best people and providing an innovative culture that employees want to be part of, we can ensure that we have a team that delivers results. We maximize business value through our people, process, and innovative technology.


Second, it is important for my team and for me to serve as thought leaders for our customers. In IT, we validate NetApp technology and strategy for the IT Industry by being our own most demanding customer. We use our experiences with our technology to influence product development and customer support, which allows NetApp to be a big advocate for our customers.


Finally, I strive to positively affect both our business results and customer experiences by transforming IT into a platform for business velocity.


The afternoon ended with an interactive Q&A session with customers discussing a wide range of issues, from the way to inspire and mentor women with our organization to the ways we try to achieve balance between our work lives and our personal lives.


I believe that balance is important, but to achieve balance we need to understand who we are and be honest with ourselves about our strengths, areas of opportunity, and what we like and dislike. I urge you to continue to exercise your strengths and look for challenges that will provide exposure to new areas and growth in areas of opportunity. Above all else we each need to be comfortable with our personal situation, so I also urge you to be sure to make choices that will allow you to feel good about your home and office lives.


Hi Cynthia, what great advice. I was happy to see that we've also created a story about building a personal brand for our column on Forbes. The interesting thing is that your three priorities can be applied to any mission and department at netapp. I can replace IT for my function in marketing and I get an equally mission statement. This was a timely read because I'm wrapping up the FY14 plan for CXO conversations and nurture.  Here's how your advice manifested itself in my mission statement:

My first priority is to lead thought-provoking and inspiring executive conversations with executives to earn the right to be chosen as the preferred brand to do business with. By working with the best people and providing teams around us a compelling reason to get on board and support this mission, we can ensure that we will deliver impactful results.

Second, it is important for NetApp to be respected as a trusted 'business' thought leader by companies that we want to do business with. Thus, serving as our own proof point and sharing our experiences in business and with technology will allow us to be an advisor and advocate for our customers.

Finally, I strive to positively affect both our business results and customer experiences by generating brand preference and enabling demand for NetApp.