An Exclusive Ideagen Interview with Microsoft’s Gretchen O’Hara with Ideagen Global Chief Operating Officer, Leif Ackerman

Leif Ackerman: I am here with Gretchen O’Hara, Vice President of US Go-to-Market for One Commercial Partner at Microsoft. Thank you for joining us today, Gretchen, pleasure to have you here.

Gretchen O’Hara: Oh, thank you, very excited to be here.

Leif Ackerman: We’ll talk about the upcoming Annual Ideagen Empowering Women & Girls Summit at the United Nations and what you’re working on with Microsoft to empower women and girls and specifically how you’re forming initiatives to create that sustainability. What inspired you to join Microsoft?

Gretchen O’Hara: I’ve been at Microsoft for about 13 years and two things related to empowering women and girls have really inspired me throughout my career. The first is our mission, which is bigger than any one person. It’s about empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. When you look at a company that’s about bringing greater good and about making the individual, not just the company, better that’s something that personally I get very excited about.

The second reason I stay so passionate about Microsoft is that we are continually driving innovation. As a leader, being innovative requires that you continue to evolve, continue to be open to new possibilities, and continue to seek change where needed throughout your organization. Ongoing learning - we call it having a “growth mindset” - is a centerpiece of this and a core value here at Microsoft. It starts with the individual but collectively having a growth mindset enables innovation at the team level, the organizational level and even outside of the organization within whole communities. This idea that we will continually grow, learn and innovate is a key strategy to achieving our mission. 

Leif Ackerman: It sounds like Microsoft has a lot of initiatives that inspire you to strive towards establishing this pipeline for empowering women for future generations.

Gretchen O’Hara: Yes. And we’re approaching the issue in two ways. First, we’re thinking about how to reach young women and girls early enough to get them interested in STEM education and careers. Then, once those girls are in the workforce we’re looking at ways of supporting and empowering them to become the next generation of leaders. It’s a classroom to boardroom issue that we need to tackle and it requires investing in dollars and programs to really support girls at the very beginning of that cycle all the way through their careers. 

Leif Ackerman: Touching on these STEM programs, how does that create sustainable progress so we can enhance the lives of these young girls, and when they become future professionals in the corporate setting?

Gretchen O’Hara: One of the things that I’ve been working on as part of my leadership in education and in the developer and startup audiences is how do we maintain the excitement we see in young girls initially through to college? How do we nurture analytical thinking, problem solving, computational thinking, skills that are required in STEM throughout grade school, high school and beyond? You get into third grade, sixth grade, eighth grade and even a sophomore in high school, and you start to see drop offs of these girls in the area of STEM. One of the areas that we’re heavily focused on at Microsoft is bridging that drop off. We’ve invested about 75 million in an initiative called YouthSpark, a global initiative to increase access for all youth to learn computer science, empowering them to achieve more for themselves, their families and their communities

Under the Youth Spark umbrella, I’m personally involved in a couple of programs. The first is DigiGirlz, which gives high school girls an opportunity to learn about what a career in STEM looks like so they are aware of the possibilities. The second program is Girls Who Code. This is really about encouraging a curiosity for coding and exposing the girls to skills that I just talked about to help them envision a future for themselves in STEM. Both programs aim to bridge those exit ramps in the early years to prepare girls for higher education in fields of computer science, engineering and math sciences.

Leif Ackerman: That is some incredible work that you and Microsoft are doing. I would imagine that you believe, and Microsoft as well, in these initiatives. Do you believe that these are some of the greatest areas of impact to focus on, so you can empower these girls at a very young age to pursue the careers that they so choose?

Gretchen O’Hara: Oftentimes we focus on how do we help women break through the glass ceiling and that is important work but we also have to reach women earlier and start to build the skills to empower girls to become our future leaders. That’s one of the things that I’m working with other companies and other C-level executives in my role at Microsoft to bring together both programs and awareness to go after that opportunity together. Our ultimate goal is to give girls and young women the confidence they need to be successful in the work place as they graduate out of higher education.

Leif Ackerman: Yes, I agree that having that confidence is crucial for allowing them to really be who they want to be. You had touched a little bit on it as far as the collaboration with various organizations. Why do you think cross-sector collaboration is vital to helping solve a lot of these issues on empowering women?

Gretchen O’Hara: Many companies recognize that a gender gap exists and they also recognize the opportunity that greater diversity brings. I believe that most modern companies have individual missions to support women in the workforce , however, the opportunity to partner and collaborate across organizations allows us to make a bigger impact. It allows us to reach and connect in a broader way that could affect change more quickly across the U.S. and beyond to drive systemic change around the gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Leif Ackerman: Within the cross-sector of collaboration, a lot of corporations are moving towards that, because they realize there is more power in working together to tackle this issue. With your daily missions, what are some of the key lessons that help you to create that collaboration, have that environment, so you really can change the world?

Gretchen O’Hara: I ask myself a few important questions when I’m working on day-to-day projects that help keep these issues top of mind for me:

1. Is there a diversity aspect to this program and, if not, should there be? 

2. Are there other organizations that are doing similar work that I should be collaborating with? 

3. What best practices can I either share or leverage from the broader community?

Leif Ackerman: Based off that and what you do with your daily missions, what’s coming up next for you? Do you have anything that you’re working on currently?

Gretchen O’Hara: I’ve recently taken over as Vice President of Marketing for our One Commercial Partner organization here in the US, and now I’m trying to bring that same type of collaboration on program initiatives that I brought into startups and education into the partner community. I’m excited to bring my passion for STEM, my work with women and technology and just my work on women’s leadership issues into the broader partner ecosystem to make an even broader impact. Leif Ackerman: For the folks that are going read this, how can they find out more information about the initiatives you’re working on?

Gretchen O’Hara: I love it! I think the easiest thing is go to our MakeWhatsNext site and it will give you any and all opportunities to look at initiatives that Microsoft is focused on and really exposes the opportunity ahead for all of us if we empower our girls for the future, really from the classroom into the board room.

Leif Ackerman: I applaud you for all the missions, and the work that you’re doing is absolutely fantastic. I’m very much looking forward to seeing you and hearing you at the upcoming summit, and I just want to say thank you for taking the time for this interview, Gretchen.

Gretchen O’Hara: I am so honored and privileged to be a part of this discussion, and it’s just core to who I am and my values and what I want to bring to the community, so thank you for including me in, and I look forward to meeting with all of you there.

Leif Ackerman: Thank you so much.

Gretchen O’Hara: Thank you!

For more information on Ideagen, visit: www.Idea-gen.com

For more information on Microsoft, visit: www.Microsoft.com

Exclusive Ideagen Interview Part II with Capgemini’s Kim Smith

George:
Suspend disbelief. Truly profound. On that note, what key lessons and vantage points have helped you successfully carry out this role?

Kim:

I think there are a few things that I’ve learned. Success is fleeting, and failure is not permanent. Being conscious of the fact that all the great things that were done yesterday in my mind are fleeting, and it’s really important to constantly be focused on new ways to do things; new ways to change. I approach every day and everything that I do in this way, and I think that this is core to the way Capgemini is wired as well. I scan the market and consider what will impact the business start to imagine a new future. There’s a term that we use which is really focusing on ‘future casting’ the business that we drive. Future casting and future proofing ourselves as individuals so that when the next wave of change comes, we’re really ready to accelerate and go around the corner with the gas on the pedal and not on the brake.

George: 
Incredible. How does Capgemini effectively innovate and positively affect customers on a global basis with that lens of future proofing?

Kim:
We do multiple things in the area of driving businesses to embrace and encourage positive impact by fueling disruption to future proof themselves. Many ways don’t just involve profitability alone or creating new business models in a vacuum but infusing a commitment to inclusion, community, and sustainability. Everything from extending environmental compliance in our facilities across the globe, to supporting our clients’ corporate social responsibility efforts, and embracing and valuing diversity & inclusion across the whole spectrum: gender, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, culture, social backgrounds, to fostering social innovation entrepreneurship through technology, and finally bridging the digital divide: promote digital literacy and fluency collaboratively with our employees, clients, partners, and communities.

Our Merlin data center in the UK has won numerous sustainability awards and is one of the most energy-efficient data centers in the world. We make sure that everyone in our organizations is clear on not only environmental compliance and expectations but on what it takes to proactively make an impact in business and in the communities and with people in our communities. Our goal is to touch 1 million lives by 2020. Our commitment is to make positive impact in the world where we live. We want employees to support not only the business needs of the companies we work with but also empower our people to be more creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial in their approach to sustainability.

I believe our commitment here is what has won Capgemini recognition for being one of the world’s most ethical companies in the world, FTSE4Good Ethical Sustainability Index Excellence across Europe and other parts of the world, and the only global Solution Integrator who has received the Global Business Certification for Gender Equality (EDGE).

We’ve been named in multiple countries around the world as the top 50 employers for women. We’ve been named in multiple countries as well for best diversity employer We’ve also extended our environmental programs with ISO 14001 certification not only in Europe but in India and other geographies. We have a commitment to make sure that our impact is positive in everything that we do, which has direct impact to our bottom line. This type of mindset and cultural model has clear implications in the business world. Organizations used to be on the S&P 500 for upwards of 50 years. This is no longer the case. We are moving into a time where companies are going to be lucky to be on that list for a decade max. With that level of unpredictability we feel that it is more critical than ever to focus on corporate responsibility and sustainability in a way that has positive impact and implications on global economies. We’re making an impact by actively encouraging everyone in our company to get involved in not only the communities we serve but also in global initiatives around everything from sustainability to human rights, environmental and infrastructure, pro bono consulting, volunteering, mentoring, and most importantly, innovating across every aspect of our business to improve, re-envision, and maximize impact aligned with results.

At Capgemini, we feel blessed to have the opportunity to work Ideagen, the United Nations, and the European Union in support of Sustainable Development Goals 2030 as a collaborative business partner. I believe that it will have a profound impact on the generation of new ideas, new thoughts, new ways of approaching and executing against new business models, and then driving forward focused execution. Getting from ideation to innovation to scale - this is the most critical aspect of making a difference in the world. Fueling disruption through dexterity is our mantra.

We, of course, absolutely agree, and thank you. Completely look at the world in this way and trying to connect the dots to make the world a better place and address many of the world’s most vexing issues. Taking perhaps all of the perspectives you just shared, how is Capgemini looking at the future to positively affect individuals across the planet? You’ve cited so many examples. Perhaps we could dovetail into specifics on a few areas that you feel are most compelling.

Enabling economies to build innovative infrastructures is one compelling area. We have learned a great deal from examples like Bergen, a city of the future. They really see themselves as the smart city of the world. They were able to save 1.3 million euro a year and completely transform the way they think about their communities and the people they serve not to mention the way they operate. We also have created new ways to consume goods and products through immersive experiences in retail and manufacturing by incorporating cloud and digitally enabled capabilities that decrease dependency on products that have a significant carbon footprint.

For many of the companies we engage, we simply provide the tools, guidance, and support for organizations to help figure out their path toward a new vision of their reality. We often work with Fortune 1000 companies to help them innovate and find new ways to disrupt and provoke positive impact. Most importantly, we help them drive value through their commitment to making the world a better place. We focus our time and energy on the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development agenda and goals when we initiate compelling conversations in the industries that we serve. C-suite executive are constantly trying to identify ways that they can truly impact the world while creating net new business models. We work to maintain that commitment to stewardship and think outside the box. This isn’t just about organizations making money this is about improving lives and changing the world.

The way we approach this is through our Collaborative Business Experience. We work very closely across sector boundaries to help organizations exceed their own expectations, to break down barriers, and to focus on ways to look for cross-sector collaboration to drive for sustainability and impact tapping into the expectations set through the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 with positive implications for their own market and financial standing.

There are so many stories of awesomeness organizations have achieved by balancing their profitability expectations aligned with positive impact. Capgemini provides so many great examples you can explore digitally where you’ll see that we really let these organizations tell their own story. We simply bring the imagination, speed & agility of digital while excelling at the fundamentals of performance, reliability, scalability, and sustainability. We connect vision to reality, emerging with foundational, people through technology. To put it simply, we focus on helping companies move from business intent to value realization.

George:
Incredible. You mentioned cross-sector collaboration. Kim, why is cross-sector collaboration and innovation so vital to helping to solve many of the world’s most vexing issues, and how does Capgemini infuse this collaboration; you’ve touched on this throughout this interview, but we’d love to hear more, and innovation into your daily mission to successfully achieve your goals?

Kim:
When you think about what it means to have cross-industry, cross-sector collaboration, what we are really trying to achieve is the acceleration of growth at the right speed, the right scale, maturely and sustainably, and apply innovation in just the right way at the right time to truly have impact. For any given industry to do that on their own, there are simply too many boundaries and limitations to give them the speed to market they need to stay ahead of existential threats. We do much of our innovation through our 40+ Applied Innovation Exchanges around world where we come together with our clients, partners, & startups to solve complex business issues to and make magic happen. It is in these environments where we see true collaboration occur. People leave preconceived notions at the door (suspend disbelief!) and have radical ideas that then have immediate implications on the future growth of their business. It is quite fascinating to be a part of and quickly creates an immediate connection to how to develop innovation as a discipline.

One great thing that cross-industry collaboration provides is a cohesiveness, a network of global exchanges. It provides a transformative environment for discovery and testing and application of innovation. It really provides an opportunity to curate and establish an ecosystem to plan for shifts; shifts in technology, shifts in marketing, shifts in people’s mindsets, shifts in demographics. A cohesive commitment to fail quickly, learn, and try again. By having that connective, cohesive network and collaborative environment, by constantly scanning and curating, you learn. You learn from other people’s failures. You learn from other organization’s failures, you learn from your own failures. It’s much easier to move quickly when you move past the fear of falling, put your helmet on and be willing to try again.

The average startups fail at least five to seven times before it becomes a success. When startups work with large corporations across multiple industries in our Applied Innovation Exchange labs and we facilitate the interactions between these organizations which is a completely different environment in which either type of organization is used to working. We watch startups that are here now that weren’t here five years ago working with a centennial global conglomerate and watch as the old dog can do new tricks. What big firms learn from start-ups is a willingness to be open to a faster pace of change. They recraft, re-imagine, reinvigorate. They start to look at things differently, and they rebuild themselves over and over again. Corporations are learning that they need to adopt a startup mentality and mindset in balance with maintaining a level of stability the culture craves. It is okay to fail but fail small, fail quickly, and learn from it, and get back up. This is a marathon of sprints. A tremendous opportunity to learn from each other, to test, and take the experiences that others have had to learn what’s going to work and what’s going to have the most positive impact at scale is where we see the most powerful breakthroughs occur.

George:
Kim, that is simply profound. Equally profound, we are at the point of the interview where we ask a key question. Kim, what are the three key lessons you have learned that have the potential to change the world?

Kim:
The three lessons that I think I’ve learned I’ll sum up into maybe four words: Be bold, brave, brilliant. What I’ve learned in my experience is that to not take a risk is losing out on an opportunity to truly change the world and to impact others. Being vulnerable enough to be bold and to focus on opportunities that are perceived as impossible or can’t be done is critical to the success of anything that you want to achieve. Being brave, curious, and comfortable in the fact that it may not go, and most likely it will not go the way you think it will, but your new normal will create a center of gravity, peace, connectivity and groundedness in the roots needed to inspire you to take on wings. That is where brilliance comes in. These things will give you the fortitude to let the best you and everyone around you shine through.

We all have an amazing propensity to take advantage of opportunities that are in front of us in a way that positively impacts and influence ourselves. There is no single, right answer and no perfect path to get there. The extraordinary capability comes when you think about how you take that inclination and apply it to have a profound impact to making the world a better place when opportunities present themselves.

George:
My goodness. What incredible lessons. Kim Smith, what is up next for you and Capgemini?

Kim:
We’ve got a lot going on right now. I’ll just give insight to two or three things. Right now we’re working on accelerating innovation for smart homes, smart cities, smart airports, making people more connected to one another through artificial intelligence and Internet of Things in the area of digital manufacturing in aerospace, automotive, and discrete manufacturing as well as other industries with powerful partners like GE. Our immersive retail experiences and our smart digital store innovation we’ve innovated with Intel, Adobe, SAP, Microsoft, and many other partners making tremendous strides over the past few months breaking new ground for consumer engagement. And in the transportation, distribution, travel, and media & entertainment, high tech, and communications industries we have developed the latest in predictive data science to tap into intelligent analytics to define new forms of consumable products as services. A lot going on, building more innovation centers, hiring great talent and frankly having fun every day.

Kim Smith, Chief Digital Officer, Capgemini, North America We cannot thank you enough for the inspiration, insight, and profound impact that both you and Capgemini are having, not only in North America but across the planet. How can folks find out more information about Capgemini?

You can go to www.capgemini.com, and you can also feel free to follow me via LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/kimsmith) & Twitter (KimSmithInov8). I would love to talk to anyone about how we can help them or just quite frankly make new connections. I’m always here to learn. Thank you so much for the time. I really appreciate it.

Thank you for the inspiration. Kim Smith, Chief Digital Officer, Capgemini. Changing the world. For more information on Capgemini, Capgemini.com and Ideagen.com. Thank you everyone, and thank you Kim.

For more information on Ideagen and Kim Smith, visit:

www.Idea-gen.com

Twitter: @KimSmithInov8
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimsmith

01/19/2017 11:17