Digital Transformation: IT and Customer Experience

How is the relationship between IT and its customers changing? HP’s Gwen Becknell and digital transformation influencer Tamara McCleary tell Michael Krigsman of CXOTalk about digital transformation in information technology.


Aug 18, 2017

How is the relationship between IT and its customers changing? HP’s Gwen Becknell and digital transformation influencer Tamara McCleary tell Michael Krigsman of CXOTalk about digital transformation in information technology.

Becknell is Senior Director of End-User Experience Services within Infrastructure Services at HP, Inc. Her team is responsible for the IT employee experience for 70,000 HP employees worldwide, including such services as PC Lifecycle, O365 (including Skype for Business), Remote access, Printing, Mobility, Video Conferencing and IT Support. She was worked at HP for 20 years and previously worked in both the Defense and Biotech industries.

McCleary is the CEO and founder of Thulium, which assists Fortune 1000 companies in developing brand identities with a focus on social media. She is also an internationally recognized expert on relationships, influence and conscious business; is ranked by Klear in the Top 1% of global Social Media Influencers; is an IBM Futurist; and created the trademarked RelationShift® method.


Michael Krigsman: Welcome to Episode #251 of CxOTalk. We are speaking about customer experience, and customer experience applied to IT. Every CIO I speak with, and I speak with a lot of CIOs, is focused on this. “What can we do better? How can IT relate to customers in a better way? And, how does all this fit with digital transformation? And today, we are talking with two amazing people to discuss this.

I’m Michael Krigsman. I’m an industry analyst and the host of CxOTalk. And, I want to thank Zoom for underwriting this episode and making it possible. Zoom provides a video-based communications collaboration platform. And in fact, you’re watching a Zoom meeting right now because we use them here, at CxOTalk. And, just on a personal note, their support for us has been awesome and their customer service… And so, thank you to Zoom for supporting us.

Now, we are speaking with two amazing folks, today. We are talking with Gwen Becknell, who is with Hewlett Packard, now HP; and Tamara McCleary, who is a famous expert on digital transformation. And, Tamara, let me say "Hello" and thank you for being here and being a guest on CxOTalk. How are you doing?

Tamara McCleary: I am doing great! Thank you so much, Michael! I'm so excited to be here talking with you and Gwen today on such an incredibly, I think, a sexy topic, as far as business is concerned because if you don't have customers, you don't have a business. And, as far as IT is concerned, isn't IT involved in everything? IT is central to business success in this era of digital transformation. So, I think you picked a fantastic topic for us to kick off and I absolutely love the fact that we are discussing customer experience with Gwen because I think she's an incredible example of someone at an incredibly huge organization that's intimately involved with those external customers but even more importantly, our employees are customers as well. Wouldn't you agree, Gwen?

Gwen Becknell: Absolutely! Definitely.

Michael Krigsman: So, Tamara has just made a lot of CIOs happy by saying that IT can be sexy. And you know, I think that’s definitely true. And so, our second esteemed guest is Gwen Becknell, who is from HP. And, Gwen, thank you for being here. How are you?

Gwen Becknell: I’m doing great! Thanks, Michael. Thank you for having me today. My role at HP is Senior Director of Employee Experience and so, as Tamara mentioned, I am constantly worried about how our employees are doing. My role is really around all the things that touch an employee today, so it’s all around the PCs and the printing that happens but also things like video collaboration and collaboration via Office 365. It’s all the tools that the employees need to make sure that they can get their job done to then serve our customers — our external customers.

Michael Krigsman: And I know a lot of your focus is in, in fact, around treating those customers, treating your IT stakeholders as customers and trying to figure out how do we do a better job serving them and creating the right kind of experience for them? That’s what you do.

Gwen Becknell: That’s absolutely what we do.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. So, I want to remind everybody that there is a tweet chat going on right now on Twitter with the hashtag #cxotalk and we have about 5,000 people who are watching at the moment and so all of you guys, go over to Twitter and you can ask Tamara and Gwen questions and we’ll try to respond to as many as we can during this show.

So, Tamara, when we talk about digital transformation and we talk about IT, give us a sense of the lay of the land. What are we talking about?

Tamara McCleary: What we're talking about are businesses that are having to transform themselves in order to stay relevant and to grow with where we're going in a rapidly expanding digital environment. So, the rules of the game of change on many levels and the rules of the game have changed with respect to customer experience as well because as we all know, and we are all consumers and customers, in the b2b and enterprise space but also in the b2c space, we are all consumers. And we have changed. The world has changed. Our expectations have changed. We demand a level of personalization and relevance like at no other time in history.

I mean, I love to say, do you guys remember how incredibly amazing and how it surprised and delighted us when we were on an airplane when it had Wi-Fi? And we were like, “Wow! This is amazing! IT’s incredible!” But now, think of where we are now. If you don’t have Wi-Fi or the entertainment system is down in-flight, everybody is angry. Why? Because it’s become an expectation.

So, I think , when we look at digital transformation and we look at companies racing to not only stay relevant, but to innovate and be the frontrunner, is that these rules have changed, which means, we have to be incredibly creative with how we develop the ability to co-create with the customer a level of experience that keeps them coming back. Because, if they don’t like us, if they don’t like the experience they’re having with this, that’s what’s going to drive them to the competitions. The competitive edge, right now, in this time of digital transformation, is exquisite customer experience.

Gwen Becknell: I think, can I jump in there, real quick to you, Tamara? I think that’s right on. And, one of the things that I’m always talking to my team about is we have twenty-four hours in the day, right? Everyone has the same amount of time. But with technology, we’re able to, in essence, give people more time by making things more efficient for them. But, the converse is also true. If we trip them up, then all of a sudden, we’re taking time away from them. And so, we’ve really got to be very cognizant of the fact that we have that ability to give or take time away from our employees, our customers, etc. Skype is another great example, just like the airplane analogy said there.

Think about the days we used to have audio conferencing and you had to start getting ready to go do your conference call a minute or two early so you could dial in first the number, then you have to dial the conference code number and wait for everyone to get on. And now, Skype, or Zoom, you're able to, with the click of a button, be able to get into your calls and just keep going. And when that doesn't work perfectly for you, or seamlessly, then all of a sudden, we're annoyed about the technology and how it's not enabling us to probably as quick as we want to be in this fast-paced environment.

Michael Krigsman: So, you’ve been…

Tamara McCleary: I’m sorry! I was, like, I couldn’t agree with Gwen more, because how many of us get annoyed when we send a text message and we don’t get a response for a while? Or, you see the little three dots blinking on your phone, and you’re like, “Come on! Just answer the question!” You know, the chaos and overwhelm are the new norm, right now. That’s where everybody is functioning. And that’s why when you have organizations like Amazon that make it easy to grab what you want and walk out without having to stand in line in a queue to pay for it, people love that because nobody has time. And time is the one thing that all of us are grasping to try to have more of and yet, deep down inside, we know we don’t have more time. It’s gone.

Michael Krigsman: So, Gwen, this notion of the technology just working; is that… Can we say that’s kind of the foundation of customer experience that you try to push forward with your users? Is that it? Or, are there other pieces? What’s involved with it?

Gwen Becknell: I think, to a large extent, that's true. We want to be the lights-on organizations so people don't have to think about the technology. That's a good day for us. But it's when they start to have an issue or things don't work appropriately for them and they are looking to the helpdesk and to find out what they can do differently. So, the more we can get into that kind of electricity, a lights-on mode where everything just works seamlessly for them, that they're able to work from the time they get up in the morning seamlessly through their coffee, etc. And then getting into the office through driving to work into the office, the more we can make that a seamless experience for them, the better off we are, right?

So, in my team, we’re really working on the mobility play and how we can ensure that they can work seamlessly from one modality to another. It doesn’t matter. We want to get to a device-agnostic space where it doesn’t matter if I’m on my phone or I’m on my computer, or I’m on my tablet. That I should be able to seamlessly go from one thing to another. I should be able to transit around the building and not worry about my Wi-Fi dropping or that I’m coming in and out of a conference room.

The workplace of the future, for us, is looking at how do I walk into a conference room that instantaneously knows that I’m there? And it can start up with a Zoom meeting or it can start up with a Skype call, and connect to being able to wirelessly share the screen with the rest of the world. And so, those are the things that we’re really working on and focused on is how do we become more in the background but just make sure that employees and, in essence, our customers, be able to do their job without having to worry about the technology?

Another example: If you think about video conferencing with Zoom or with Skype, typically, people build in ten minutes at the beginning of their meetings when they go into a  video conferencing room because they know the technology, they know that they're going to have to figure out how to connect everything together. Do they have the right connectors? And so, what we're trying to do now is just really look at the easy button, right?

Michael Krigsman: Right.

Gwen Becknell: You know, I hit one button, and I’m not instantaneously connected… My boss harps on this every day. And until I get that easy button done, our work is really not done. And so, we’re working on that.

Michael Krigsman: We have a question from Twitter. A really interesting one. And Wayne Anderson, he’s asking… He’s asking Gwen what does digital... When digital goes to the cloud, how do employee perceptions and expectations change? And actually, I want to broaden that too and ask you both about this issue of employee expectations. How have expectations changed, and what is the impact therefore on IT? Tamara, maybe you, I'll ask you that first.

Tamara McCleary: Well, I think, you know, as far as what employee expectations are in the IT department, I think the IT departments; I have a lot of compassion for the IT department. Because, the IT department is asked to do all kinds of things now, not tomorrow, and then, it seems as if different factions within the organization, whether it’s sales or marketing or customer service, product development, all of a sudden, every department is actually can be chasing shiny objects. And then, all of a sudden, they shift gears and they want something else and they come to IT and they want to get it done, not really realizing all the things that IT is already invested in and working towards.

And so, I think that the employee expectation is almost as if IT department is a department of wizards that have the magic wands and whenever you have a desire, you go and you ask the IT department and then they should just be able to do it right away. And, so, it plays into this whole immediacy that we all have within our culture. We immediately have no ability to delay gratification in our society and so, within the workplace, you see that with, "I need this and I need you to do it now." And I think that, you know, it would behoove organizations to come together with that breaking down of siloes so that everyone can understand the pressure and the extraordinary responsibility that each department has. And that's why I love some of these organizations that actually rotate their employees around different departments so that they can have a better understanding of the pressure that sales are under, the pressure of marketing is under, the pressure that IT is under and then everyone is doing their best and we only succeed in an innovative society and rise to the top when we come together to work together. It takes a village.

Michael Krigsman: And Gwen Becknell from HP, Arsalan Khan from Twitter is jumping in, and he’s saying, “Who is the customer, anyway?” And so Gwen, how do you think about your customers and this issue of their expectations of you in IT?

Gwen Becknell: Absolutely! I couldn't agree more with Tamara. The expectations have never been higher from an employee perspective on the IT department, right? The more ubiquitous the technology is, out and about, and around us… You know, people have more technology and availability in their homes, right? And so, as that stuff changes, their expectations at work are just growing exponentially every day.

And, another thought that Tamara had kind of hit on here was around this whole notion of empathy, right, about making sure that we're utilizing designed thinking and empathizing with our customers. For me, it's our employees and making sure that we're empathizing with what they need to do. But, it's this expectation of instant gratification is a tough one from an IT perspective. Even with all the agile methodology that we have these days to be able to really quickly be able to shift things, there are... It's always a dichotomy of being able to do more with less, right? And so, we don't have instantaneous ability to always deploy all of the different technology that we want to.

And then, we’re also on the opposite side of that looking at costs, right? So, even working at HP, I don’t have an unlimited budget and so, it’s trying to look at how do we get the most for our money, and make sure that we’re allowing the technology to be brought to our employees but at a cost-effective mode.

Michael Krigsman: So, Tamara, there's this balance of cost versus customer experience, or enabling customer experience, versus having the empathy and the understanding to know what to enable. And how do those pieces fit together?

Tamara McCleary: Wow! Okay, that is such a power-packed question, Michael! It's massive because, I think, you know, the cost is definitely a high-priority consideration. When you look at you want to be successful in business, and its business bottom line, and everybody's got their budgets… But at the same time, I think that when we're focusing specifically on customer experience, it's not all about cost. It's more about, perhaps, consideration of, I like the question of "Who's the customer?" and also, "How are we all working together to serve the customer?" Because, in the end, I do believe that the customer owns customer experience and that the organization, try as they will, can never control perceptions. In fact, you and I can’t control how other people perceive us, so how can an organization control how their target market perceives them?

Instead, it’s about realizing that those individuals that you’re marketing to, even in the b2b and enterprise space, when you’re making a sale in the enterprise space, there might be five different individuals within an organization that have the decision power and they all have five different perceptions of your company. So, it’s about how do you make sure that everyone within the organization is functioning with that same value set, that same passion, that same committed sense of, “This is what we do. We have the vast product or service and we want to service our customers.”

And when you have that, the culture within an organization that comes together on a shared mission and vision, you have internal customers treating each other much more respectfully because everyone realizes that it’s a together thing. It’s a team thing. And, it really is. Customer experience, internally and externally, is really about people coming together really more about a shared values and purpose. And I do believe that saves money in the end because you don’t have all the problems that you have when you have an organization that says, “Not my job.” That’s them. That’s not me. And so, I do believe it’s just a coming together around that shared mission and vision and having a passion. And that’s why startups have so much energy, because people are working at the startup because they are excited! They’re excited and some of these larger organizations have lost their sparkle!

And, employees need that. People need work that is meaningful and real. And when you have that, you create trust with your target market and if that trust that builds relationships, which builds a long-term positive experience with that human relationship.

Gwen Becknell: I just want to say, I want some of your sparkle. [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: Yeah, I’ll take some of that, too. All right. Alright? There will be a line later. So go on, Gwen. [Laughter]

Gwen Becknell: Yes. So, I think Tamara’s right on. And, working at a very large organization, we do have the siloes out there and IT is definitely separate from the rest of the business and we’re trying to really knock down those walls and be able to get into really understanding what is the most important for our customers, our different business units that are out there. And, it’s harder to do than it might sound, Tamara. But, to be able to really get in there and make sure that we do have shared alignment around our goals and expectations. I spend a lot of time with the various different business units. And, being 77,000 employees, we have a lot of customers that we need to take care of every single day. And, the expectations around the regions versus the global units around the different business lines. The expectations are different around those. And, their needs are different. And so, it’s really how do we not do something that we traditionally did, which is a one size fits all from an IT perspective, to really understanding what are the differences that my segmentation can give me? And then, how do those different segments need to be serviced?

And so, that’s one of the big things that my team has really been working on. If we talk about the needs and PCs, or the different types of ways that they need to collaborate with their employees, one of their big missions, you know, coming up too is really how do we get away from the email jail that everyone hates? The fact that we’re constantly collaborating via email and looking at more things like teams or other social collaborations so that we’re not necessarily stuck to the traditional modes of being able to communicate back and forth. And be able to really break down some of those walls and have a much easier mode of communication and being able to engage our employees, right?

From our perspective, I’ll send out an IT message out to the employees and […] well. A lot of them we’re going to honestly to the circular file, right? They don’t look at them. It’s just one more thing that’s coming up in the IT department. So, we’re looking at how do we engage our employees differently around doing video clips, around doing social media channels. We have […] where we’re trying to get more engagement with the employees versus just this one-way communication that goes out.

Michael Krigsman: So, the whole collaboration piece is essential in the transformation of IT to be more customer-centric.

Gwen Becknell: Absolutely. Absolutely! Communication is our number one mode with being able to get back to the employees, and not being a bunch of men sitting in a data center that are kind of behind the scenes, but really getting this empathy and I like to kind of… going to, you know, humanize IT again. I’m really being part of the company and not just sitting behind the walls of the help desk and sending out communications and talking about the technology or doing things to our employees, but really collaborating with them and helping them to be able to get their jobs done.

Michael Krigsman: And, Gwen, I know that you work closely with Zoom which is making it possible for us all to be here today. And so, briefly tell us what you do with Zoom. I know it’s all around this issue of collaboration.

Gwen Becknell: Yeah. So, we've been working with Zoom for about a year now. And in that time, we are utilizing Zoom from a video conferencing perspective so that, again, we can help to bring the employees together so that they can get their jobs done. That whole collaboration piece from a video perspective has done a couple things for us within HP. We have about 125 video conferencing rooms across the globe that allow people to have a pseudo face-to-face engagement between them. And that’s done a couple of things for us. 1) It’s really allowed us to reduce costs from a travel perspective because now, you and I can have a conversation even though we’re thousands of miles away, but we feel like we’re able to collaborate together.

There are whiteboarding features and lots of different collaboration pieces that come along with Zoom that allow us to almost sound like we're all in the same room, to be able to collaborate. And then, we… So, we see cost savings, there and also the ability to bring our employees more closely together. We have about 5,000 users currently within HP that are using Zoom. It's just starting to take off now. We have around… This last month, we had around 700,000 minutes on Zoom.

Michael Krigsman: That’s a lot of minutes! And so, where does this all fit into this sense of creating a bond or sense of community or shared culture at HP and between IT and the rest of the organization at HP? I think this is a very, very important point.

Gwen Becknell: So, it allows us to enable that collaboration, right? It really allows us to bring people together so that they can have that communication mode that they need to without having to worry about… You can imagine a company like HP; hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars that we spend on travel a year. And so, if I don't have to travel, I save time. I save money. And I'm able to then have that same feeling of being face-to-face without having to worry about it. I can literally just be in my current location in San Diego and I can be having a good conversation with my boss or whoever the rest of my team that are sitting in Palo Alto, without having to worry about hopping on a plane and taking a half a day out of my schedule to go do that.

Michael Krigsman: So, Tamara, we’ve been talking, I think, around the general topic of how does IT transform? And, from your standpoint, you speak with so many different organizations. Could you kind of summarize some of the key issues around that IT transformation?

Tamara McCleary: Yeah. From my perspective on the side of looking at… I come from the marketing perspective versus the IT-specific piece. But, in all of the conferences that I've been going to and we've all been over the past decade or more, for me, it's been twenty years, but we've really been talking about this digital transformation. It's been the word de jour for a few years now. And I think for IT, it's about getting down to the granular level of being the practicality of how do you digitally transform while at the same time, still provide your core business value? And, mitigating risks in the meantime as well for IT, it's a huge concern.

So, it’s almost as if you’ve got to change the tire on the moving bus. And, you know, because for the IT department, we have to innovate. We have to innovate. We have to innovate. You know, I was recently in a meeting where the IT department was asked by the organization, “Okay, where’s our AI?” You know, you don’t just do AI. And, you know, and where’s the budget for it? And, you know, how many heads are we going to get for this?

So, I mean, it's an extraordinary task that the IT department is strapped with, and I think that digital transformation, you know, is calling upon IT as well as everyone to be incredibly creative with how they're going to sustain the business as usual while at the same time, innovating and reinventing the organization. It's a tough role! That's why I think IT is so sexy, because think about it? For the organization to innovate, for the organization to transcend itself, and be a vibrant company, your IT department is like your heart. It’s pumping out that oxygenated blood and, you know, if you’re in heart failure, if your IT department is suffering, you’re not going to survive.

And so, I love the hearts and that’s why I think, you know, IT has a special place in my heart because you’re not going to innovate as an organization without supporting your IT department.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. So, I have never heard anything approaching, shall we say, IT poetry before this? And so, Tamara McCleary, that’s a first for me. IT poetry. But Gwen, you’re, again, you’re in the middle of this because you’re the one that users come to and say, "So. Where's my AI? I need an AI too, you know, help me with my email. What about it?" And how do you respond, and how do you unify these folks, and how do you get them on the same page, Gwen?

Gwen Becknell: Yes! So, I mean, really the use of technology to differentiate ourselves and change the way we're servicing our employees. It's all about trade offs, right? So, there are so many opportunities out there for us to do some cool, sexy things as Tamara would say. We're looking into AI ourselves. We're looking into doing lots of different chatbots and other ways to be able to innovate and make things more efficient. But, it comes down to looking at all of the different plethoras of things available to us and then really trying to understand what is going to be the most important to differentiate us for our employees, then, to be able to work and service our own customers from an HP perspective? I think it's just really around looking at things completely differently. If you think about Uber or Airbnb, those were a new way to solve traditional problems, right? And so, we've got to get better at taking the technology that we have and think about flipping it on its head, or pump the heart a little bit harder, as Tamara would say, and really be able to shift things that wouldn't be the normal and get it to a place where we can really innovate for me, and for our employees so that they can innovate for our customers, for HP’s customers.

Michael Krigsman: And, I have one other question for you on this, Gwen, and then we need to turn to another important technology, which is women in technology because we have, after all, two amazing women in technology here with us today. But, how do you know, at the end of the day, how do you know that this is working? That the transformation of IT is happening? Are there signs? Are there signals? Are there smoke signals? How do you know?

Gwen Becknell: Well, I can tell you, I definitely know when it’s not working because that’s when my boss and my CIO come and let me know right away when things aren’t working well. But, it is run, C-sat, and understanding from customer surveys, from being able to get out there and talk with the employees, we have several different metrics that we use internally at HP to understand whether the technology is working. And then, so it’s one thing about understanding the technology piece of it, and then the second part is really that customer feedback.

So, our employees are not quiet about feedback to our department and so, we have multiple different channels for them to be able to give us feedback, be our yammer page via surveys that we do. And then, there is a lot of just the informal channels that happen, like I said, that come through escalations that give us that constant feedback. But, we have to keep our pulse out there to understand what's happening and not rely just on their metrics but to really understand.

One of the things we spent a lot of time over the past couple of months on is we may be thinking that everything’s great, and then the hallway chatter tells us something different, right? So, how do we ensure that what we feel, from a metrics perspective, is really indicative of what those employees are feeling? And so, getting closer to them, again, back to humanizing IT, making sure they know how to contact us, get back with us, and give us the real feedback, right? Because, we can’t fix it if we don’t know that something’s not working.

Michael Krigsman: And Tamara, I’ll just toss this last one out to you. You can have the final word on this topic. So, in order for IT organizations […] It’s changing, it’s evolving… How do they know that they’re on the right track? Sometimes, it’s easier said than done. Tamara, what do you think?

Tamara McCleary: I think you know you’re on the right track when you have your sales feeling supported by marketing, feeling supported by IT, and the machinery is working well, and you know it’s working well when you’re meeting your KPIs when the business is growing and, you know, your net promoter scores are going up. You’ve got customers that are happy. So, when your customers are happy and your internal customers are happy and working together, I think you’re on the right track, and you’re growing!

Michael Krigsman: And we have, you know… We have a question from Twitter that’s a really interesting one, again, from Wayne Anderson, who says, “What are the traits that support this balance of creativity and innovation?” Just, very quickly. Why don’t you each take a shot at this? Tamara, you were just talking, want to just jump in on this? The traits that support creativity; the IT organizational attributes, shall we say?

Tamara McCleary: I think it’s… A culture of innovation, to me, is a company culture which supports making mistakes. It supports coming together to think differently. I think it’s an IT department that also embraces diversity because we know that, you know, groupthink isn’t innovative at all. So, I do believe that it’s the culture, you know? It’s the feel within that IT environment. Are they attracting talent in that is a diverse talent? Or, is it everybody looks like everyone else? I think it’s important to look at culture because culture is so powerful and often overlooked.

Michael Krigsman: And, Gwen, your… So, you’re going to get the final word on this topic. This whole issue of creating the right culture within IT, to connect with the users. I’m sure you must think about this all the time. This is kind of central to what you do.

Gwen Becknell: Yeah. For me, it’s really around risk-taking, right? Being able to take those risks and make mistakes, and then, be able to learn from those mistakes and push the envelope, right? So, if we’re not out there, if my being risky with the things that we need to do. And of course, there’s a balance. I’m sure my CIO, Naresh, would be cringing a little bit right now to hear me say this. But, we need to take those risks, right? We need to take calculated risks so that we can push the envelope forward.

Michael Krigsman: Okay! We could continue talking about this for a long time, but I think we should talk about this issue of women in technology because we have two very, very successful women in technology here on this show. And, you know, it’s such a complex topic. I’m not even sure really where to begin, but maybe, a place to start is talking about the other unique challenges, or what are some of the challenges that women face in this very male-dominated technology field? Either of you? Thoughts?

Tamara McCleary: Well, you know, I always start with the… You know, one of the big challenges that I think is that, you know, you look at only 5% of startups are female-owned. And that’s, to me, that’s just tragic. Five percent of startups. And, you know, in the high-tech industry, the quit rate is more than twice as high for women, 41%, than it is for men; it's only 17% for men. And you know, last year, venture capitalists invested just $1.46 billion in women-led companies, whereas male-led companies, $58.2 billion in investments. So, if you get that $1.46 in women, and $58.2 [billion] into male-led companies. So, does that… You know, I feel like I'm in the middle of the story the Emperor's New Clothes, where he's going, "He isn't wearing any clothes! And does anyone see how incredible disparate these numbers are?"

So, you look at, well, what's the problem with women in technology and you look at the fact that, you know, you're walking into an environment that is male-dominated, and, you know, you were just talking about culture a minute ago. Culturally, there are some huge differences between men and women. And, I'm not generalizing across the entire population of gender, but I don’t think I’m out of line in saying that there are some differences just even in our brain structure. I mean, I come from a science background, and in the 80’s, looking at a career in molecular physiology, I was the lone woman. And I’m still the lone woman on most of these panels! Or, when I go to give a keynote at a tech conference, you know, the only other woman happens to be a moderator.

So, you know, I think that we still aren’t represented, but I think the scary part; and then I want to hear what you think, Gwen, but I think the terrifying part for us is we are talking about how there aren’t enough women in this industry but, in 1991 is when women in technology peaked. There was 36% of women in computing roles in 1991, and now, only 25%. Twenty-five percent! So, that’s a decline of almost 40% in just 25 years. Now, when you look at our projection with the Internet of Things, and by 2020, and 2025, all kinds of things that we’ve got going; we’ve got AR, VR, AI… We have a decline of women currently in technology and we need more and more people in tech, now.

So, if we’re talking about this now, and we’re declining, it doesn’t look very positive for the number of women that will be involved in technology in, say, 2020, in 2025.

Gwen Becknell: I think that one of the key things is really, and we’ve talked about this for years, right? And this is not a new topic, but getting our girls interested in technology at a much younger age. HP has got a partnership right now with Santa Clara University, and we’re looking at how do we get the middle school girls more interested in tech fields, right? So, looking at STEM and how do we kind of start to groom them at an early age? Once they’re looking to make a decision about what major they want to go into at college, it’s too late, right? We’ve got to get them much earlier, kind of focused in less about playing with Barbies, and more about, “Hey, how am I going to make that next app that’s going to be really cool for technology?”

And, I believe, as technology has shifted, it’s pooling more women into it and the girls into it, because it’s blurring the lines a lot more than it has been in the past with the traditional way that girls are raised versus boys, but we’ve really got to focus in on how do we get that STEM career going for the females so they can be more on an even playing field by the time they get into college and come out of college and into industry.

Tamara McCleary: And, you know, I think it’s a team effort. I absolutely adore men. I married one, and then I birthed one. So, you know, that’s my social proof for adoring men. But, it’s a togetherness thing. We need men to sponsor us and to… You know, when you look at board positions; we keep getting to the stats of how many females are on boards; most men on boards didn’t get their board role through a headhunter. They got their board role through knowing somebody. So, you know, it’s not just about mentoring, it’s about having sponsors, and we need these strong males to help bring us, and the females, together to learn and grow and also get into those positions.

And, look at how many men are now fathers of these young girls, these young women? And I think what’s inspiring to me is what a lot of these dads are doing to inspire their daughters to get into STEM fields and to express their creativity and go to hackathons, and code, and so, I think that, really, we have to call upon each other, men and women, to come together to look at how we can support everyone in this environment. And, you know, I’d say to some of these men out there, “Who are the women that you know that are strong and capable that you could sponsor? That you could recommend? That you could reach down and pull up?” And, to me, that’s how we do this is we do it together.

Gwen Becknell: Yeah, and I would challenge even… It’s not just the men. The women that are there, that are out there in the technology field today, we’ve got to sponsor other women, right? I feel like sometimes, the women can be the hardest ones, right? They make it out there, and then, I don’t know if it’s out of fear or what, but there is this tendency to not help the next one along. And so, I really challenge the men and the women. We’ve got to get out there and really make sure that we're helping everyone. And, we don't want it to be a special club. It's not just about bringing the women up, it's about bringing the diverse group of populations together so that we can be better together, right? So, it's not just women, it's all around the various different diversities and making sure, back to your comment, Tamara, on groupthink, right? We need to get this really diverse culture. That's what's going to drive us to the next level.

Tamara McCleary: Amen, sister! You preach it! See? I told you, IT is hot.

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter] We’ve got poetry and sex now connected with IT. This is… Hey, I’ve been doing this a long time, and it’s definitely a first for me. Well look, we have just a couple of minutes left. And so, Gwen, let me ask you what advice do you have? I mean, you’ve kind of been talking around it, but what advice do you have for organizations who know that this is important, but maybe they are suspecting, “Maybe, we’re not doing enough.” What should those companies do? Any thoughts?

Gwen Becknell: I think they do need to be really thoughtful about it. It’s not just going to happen, and so, without having some very specific programs that are targeting towards making sure that diversity is really important within the organization. It's not just something that they can think about and it's going to go away in the next ten years or twenty years. And something where we really have to put, I believe, programs in place and we have to be thoughtful about how those programs are put in place because again, I have seen lots of different attempts at this where we end up segregating people even more because it becomes this club or, you know, the women are now all in their room together bashing the men; you know, which doesn't happen. But, it's around the perceptions, right? So, how you work to get this diversity in there is really important. And so, I guess, my biggest advice is to just be thoughtful about it versus assuming it's going to take care of itself.

Michael Krigsman: And Tamara, you’re going to get the last word. Although, the last time I said you got the last word, then Gwen had the last word, and then you did; and then, Gwen had the real last word. But now, you’re going to get maybe the real last word. We’ll see.

Tamara McCleary: Yeah! We’ll see! I don’t know! I love Gwen! I’ll just sit here and listen to her all day! There’s a lot of wisdom coming out of that box with that face. I think that sometimes, what’s really helpful for an organization, when you’re looking to make a shift or a change, or pivot, is to get some fresh blood, which means, go outside the organization. Sometimes, organizations become so myopic in their focus that they lose sight of the freshness. And, to be refreshed, sometimes means bringing in an outsider to at least initiate or consult, or make a movement within the organization. And what's interesting psychologically is that those internal customers that we were talking about employees, they often respond far more positively to an outside force, saying something that internally, management can say and it falls upon deaf ears. There's something magical about an outsider. So, take a look at maybe using an outside agency or an outside consultant to come in and help you transform, or at least, get on this road to transformation.

Michael Krigsman: All right. Well, you know, we're out of time. We're over time. I sure wish that we had more time, because what a very interesting conversation this has been. And, I really want to say "Thank you" to Tamara McCleary, such a famous person in digital transformation. Tamara, thank you for being here and for taking the time with us.

Tamara McCleary: Thank you, Michael! It’s been an absolute honor and pleasure, and man, I had some fun with you guys today! I hope people listening have as much fun and it is an honor and a privilege, and it’s an exciting time to be alive and I’m really grateful that I get to have this experience. Thank you!

Michael Krigsman: Well, thank you! And Gwen Becknell, from HP, thank you for taking the time and for sharing your practical experience and your practical stories of doing this because at the end of the day, you know, we can talk about it but you're in the trenches doing it every day. So, thanks so much for being here, Gwen. We really do appreciate it!

Gwen Becknell: Yeah! Thanks for having me! I enjoyed it.

Michael Krigsman: And, a huge “thank you” to Zoom for underwriting this episode. It makes it possible for us to do CxOTalk and to have these incredible conversations. Come back next week! Go to and “like” us on Facebook! And also, subscribe on YouTube, because that’s a good thing to do.

Everybody, thanks a lot! I hope you have a great weekend! Bye-bye!

Published Date: Aug 18, 2017

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 466