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Profile: Geneva Lake, VP of Worldwide Alliances for MapR

Diversity at MapR: “This goes beyond the gender inequalities in the workforce, we need their brains”

Gabriela Motroc
diversity
© Shutterstock /Lamina2014

Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? In addition to the Women in Tech survey, we also launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Geneva Lake, VP of Worldwide Alliances for MapR.

A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Women in Tech — The Survey

We would like to get to the bottom of why gender diversity remains a challenge for the tech scene. Therefore, we invite you all to fill out our diversity survey. Share your experiences with us!

Your input will help us identify the diversity-related issues that prevent us from achieving gender equality in technology workplaces.

Without further ado, we would like to introduce Geneva Lake, VP of Worldwide Alliances for MapR

Geneva Lake, VP of Worldwide Alliances for MapR

As VP of Worldwide Alliances for MapR, Geneva is responsible for building a world-class channels and alliances network across the globe. Geneva brings to MapR over 15 years of experience in software industry sales, alliances, and marketing. She most recently served as Director of Commercial Alliances for Oracle, where she was responsible for leading Alliance Managers and their teams in the Analytics, Security, Big Data and Digital Experience solution areas. Earlier in her career at Oracle, Geneva served as Senior Manager, Alliances, where she managed Alliance Managers and had overall responsibility for co-selling revenue targets against direct opportunities, achieving a 25% year-over-year growth. Other roles at Oracle include Client Relationship Manager – Global Customer Programs, and Strategic Account Manager. She began her career as a Sales Manager for CTA, an information technology engineering firm. Geneva holds a BA degree in Business Communications and Japanese Studies from the University of California, San Diego.

What got you interested in technology?

I attended a college that focused on high-tech – Univ. of CA, San Diego. The school was unique and rather groundbreaking in that it had a Supercomputer which gave students the ability to work on the Hubble Space Program.  We were also sending emails within the university back in 1991!  While I attended to study international business and Japanese, I became enamored with technology’s promise for the future, and foresaw that a career in technology was going to provide fulfillment and job security!

I do not have a naturally technical mind, so technology was not necessarily an obvious choice.  I’ve had to establish credibility throughout my career that although I’m not an engineer, I have a knack for applying technology to business. For me, it has been less about the technical aspects of the solutions, but more a question of what this technology could do for business.  How can customers take this innovation and leverage it to increase competitive advantage and ultimately, their bottom line?

A strong support system

I’ve always had an extremely supportive family. I’m a first-generation college graduate, so the expectations have always been high. It was never a question of going to college, it was just grade 13.

In terms of mentors, I’ve had several female managers over the years that have taken me under their wing. They saw potential and gave their time and wisdom to help me achieve my goals.

Inevitable bumps in the road

It seems there are people everywhere that are content with mediocrity and are uncomfortable with high achievers. I’ve always made a point to surround myself with people that are smarter than me. It keeps me on my toes!

A day in Geneva’s life

I’m currently the global leader for the Alliances and Channels organization at MapR. Given the global nature of the roll, there is a lot of travel and odd hours. If I’m not on a plane, my workday can be long with endless phone calls, so I try to break it up and get out of the office – have lunch with a partner, spend some quality time with one of my employees, take a 20 min walk in the sun.

I’m most proud of developing the careers of others.  Many of the people that have worked for me over the years and gone on to do incredible things! That makes me so happy.

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

First, I believe historically it started at a very young age – maybe even at home, and certainly later in school.  STEM was, for the most part, encouraged more for boys than girls. I believe today people – both educators and parents, are more aware, and are making a conscious effort to encourage STEM across the board – regardless of sex. Some are even taking it a step further and providing programs, even scholarships, specifically targeted at inspiring female interest and success in STEM.

I also believe that there needs to be more of a focus on supporting varied learning styles.  Most children, many times boys and girls, differ in learning styles.   Take math for example. For me, and I’m now seeing it in my daughter, that although she’s conceptually interested in math, it’s the actual application of the problem solving that she needs in order to truly understand how math applies to life. Without bridging that gap, she struggles with “getting it.” I learned math via the California public school system in the 1980’s and the teaching was memorization-based – not real life application. I have a theory that many girls (and boys for that matter) would benefit from answering “WHY am I learning this problem?”

Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM?

When about 50% of the global population is limited in terms of being able to achieve their full potential, you sacrifice advances across-the-board, medicine, technology, and so on – essentially innovation suffers.

In terms of the impact in the US, we are still working from a limited candidate pool.  The first hiring choice of US corporations is usually Americans. However, very often, companies have no choice but to import talent (or export jobs) which is expensive and inefficient.  At the current pace, the projections show there is no way we’ll be able to fill the talent gap.

At MapR, we have an initiative called WE (Women’s Exchange). We are taking a proactive step to encourage women to apply to MapR. This goes beyond the gender inequalities in the workforce, we need their brains!

The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current debate?

We’re already seeing the results. I’ve seen it happen multiple times. If there is a team that is entirely male and white, management has a discussion about how much better that team can be with a different point of view, a varied perspective. We’re never going to grow as a society if we don’t shake it up a little! I say this to people from all walks of life, don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable! Everyone says we need to think “outside the box.” But if we are to do that, don’t we need a lot of different types of boxes, with different perspectives, each bringing unique value to achieve the end result?

Challenges

I’ve been the only woman in the room more times than I can count.  High tech is still a seemingly male-dominated industry (take a look at most high tech websites’ executive team bio pages – not a lot of female faces on there). I say this, not laying blame, but rather pointing it out as simply where we seem to be today.

I actually believe there can be an unconscious bias on both sides that can raise challenges for women.  For instance, there are reams of research that have demonstrated pay inequality for women in tech.  Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, one of the most respected CEOs and business organizations in the world, was recently interviewed on “60 Minutes.”  He spoke about his belief that pay was fair and equal across his organization, and his shock when he learned that men and women were not being paid equally for equal work.  He fixed the issue at his organization – it cost millions. And, just months later, when employee incomes were again audited, it had happened again – the pay gap had retuned – men were being paid more for doing the exact same job, and achieving the exact same results, as their female counterparts. During the interview, Benioff concluded that you couldn’t be a decent CEO and not be committed to gender equality – but he has had to convince, and is still working to convince, other male leaders of its importance.

Gender equality in high tech – are we there yet?  Not quite.  But, we are certainly making progress, as I am sure folks like Sheryl Sandberg and Meg Whitman can attest.

Tips & tricks

Although today this is a male-dominated industry, it is also an industry that admires intelligence and hard work. I have worked with some of the smartest, most interesting and disciplined people in tech – men and women. I’ve been lucky to find an industry in which I’ve enjoyed the people I’ve worked for and with. I think one of the overlooked aspects of this industry is that it attracts GREAT people.

If you admire, encourage and embody all of these things, then you’ll find your way in technology!

 

Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:

Author
Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc is editor of JAXenter.com and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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