An incubator of women leaders

Member Spotlight

  • 10/11/2016 4:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Kiran GaindName: Kiran Gaind 
    Job / Title:  Modern Parent Coach, Owner of The Connected Family
    Company:  The Connected Family:  Raising Great Parents.

    A boutique parent, work-life balance and leadership coaching practice based in Palo Alto.

    Industry:  Coaching 

    Q: What have been the hallmarks of your success?

    Kiran: The hallmarks of my success have been following my passions, being creative, stretching myself beyond my comfort zone and persevering until I reach my goals.  

    I started my own business with little experience as an entrepreneur and consistently, I have followed these guideposts to find my way and create greater success.  I have become a sought after public speaker, am writing my first book, am known in my community for my work and keep going until I reach my goals.  Being an entrepreneur is one of the greatest teachers in life.

    The Connected Family is a boutique coaching practice helping very successful professional parents who may not feel as successful in their family lives.  We help them to create quality connections with their family while having fulfilling careers.

    Q: What does leadership mean to you? 

    Kiran: Leadership means to me knowing the people you lead, really getting them, responding to their needs, and inspiring others.  When you create great relationships with those you lead, they are inspired by your sense of care and the intimacy you share.  Trust is built and from trust anything performance related is possible.  A great leader has vision and will stop at nothing to achieve her vision.  She leverages talent, resources, strategy, project management, and powerful storytelling to get the job done.  She connects well with people and with a larger sense of purpose to inspire others to work hard and achieve their dreams.

    Q: What are the hallmark traits of a great leader that you have observed in your career? 

    Kiran: For me the best leaders in my career have been people who truly care about me and the work we do. They spend time connecting with the people they lead, being warm, personable and available. They inspired with vision, clarity, humor and strength. People follow them because they adore them and would do anything based on the great relationships they have.

    Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to grow in her career while making time for her family? 

    Kiran: Stay connected at home so that you never deal with the distracting guilt that can get in the way of productivity at work.  Have close connections with each member of your family, which can be maintained with 10 minutes of special time per day.  Have close conversations with your children each night so you stay connected to what's really going on for them and you have peace with everyone who loves you.  Have check in conversations everyday with your spouse.  All it takes is 10 minutes to stay connected.  Take good care of yourself physically, emotionally so that you have the energy for your personal and professional lives.  Share the domestic work load with everyone in the family so that it is equally split in every possible way.

    Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests? 

    Kiran: I have learned and teach connected parenting which I practice daily.  I prioritize my relationships and the health of those relationships as the cornerstone of my personal and professional success.  In Connected Parenting, practicing Special Time looks like this:  use a timer, set it for between 10-40 minutes, say “We’re going to do Special Time,” and then ask the child what THEY would like to do.  Follow their lead, offer your full, undistracted warmth and attention, encouragement, noticing as they do what they want to do.  This practice increases the sense of connection, wonder and availability you have for your child.  Similarly, as leaders, we can be sure that we have one on ones with those we manage.  Creating opportunities to connect one on one matters to the quality of relationships.  Kiran gives talks in which she explains the brain science behind Special Time and why Connected Parenting works.

     Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact. 

    Kiran: I taught salsa dance when I lived in San Francisco.  

    Q: What do you like to do to unwind? 

    Kiran: I like to meet up with friends and I like to walk in nature, especially near redwood trees.

  • 09/21/2016 8:49 AM | Anonymous member

    :  Alice Katwan
    Job / Title: VP of Sales, NA West
    Company: Genesys
    Industry: Customer Experience

    Q: What have been the hallmarks of your success?

    Alice: Waiting for the right opportunity and the time to make strategic career moves. The turning point in my career was when my three boys (now aged 15, 14 and 10) reached a certain level of independence. From that point on, I was able to take on new responsibilities and management roles, which ultimately helped further my professional goals.

    Q: If you can share one piece of advice that you know now about navigating your career, what would that be?

    Alice: Identify an advocate within your organization who believes in you and supports your career goals. You want someone who not only fosters  your strengths but also pushes you to grow. Sometimes that means doing things you’re uncomfortable doing, like deepening your technical knowledge or public speaking, because they’re essential for your professional development.

    Q: What role has mentorship played in your career?

    Alice: My mentors have supported me in good times and guided me through tough times. Their help in expanding my network has led to professional success in the world beyond my job, including speaking engagements and awards. I recommend that when you look for a mentor, you pick someone who has accomplished goals similar to what you want to achieve. I’m an advocate for co-mentorship, where your mentor can also benefit from your experiences and aspirations. When you can give back, everyone benefits.

    Q: What are the hallmark traits of your leadership style?

    Alice: Enthusiasm and passion. I believe a great leader is someone others believe in and willingly take risks for. They want to be a part of something greater than themselves. That describes my team members.

    My leadership style revolves around inspiring and motivating people by playing to their strengths. It’s especially satisfying when I help them discover and build on strengths that they didn’t even know they had.

    Effective leadership starts with building the right team. I aim to hire people who are eager to learn, value collaboration and complement, rather than duplicate, my team’s attributes. You want people who see the big picture and people who are meticulous about details, technical and nontechnical thinkers. This diversity is essential when you lead a high-performing group of people who always want to best themselves.

    I strive to make sure that my employees understand that their contributions are important and appreciated, and in turn that cultivates loyalty and a willingness to reach beyond what’s expected.

    Q: How important is developing a management style?

    Alice: You lead teams, but you manage individuals. It’s important to develop a management style that’s authentic but also flexible. Your ability to recruit top talent depends on your reputation as a manager, but your ability to retain that talent depends on how well you can adapt your style to manage and develop individuals—each with quirks as well as competencies. It feels great when people want to work for me because they’ve heard good things about my style and want to be part of my team’s camaraderie in addition to our achievements.

    Q: What do you like to do to unwind?

    Alice: Bikram yoga

    Alice Katwan was selected for the 2015 CLUB Incubator program based on her successful sales career in sales and intense drive for improvement. Alice was recently recognized as one of the 2015 Women of Influence by the Silicon Valley Business Journal. We’re delighted to learn from Alice’s experience.

  • 09/20/2016 8:20 AM | Anonymous member

    Name: Lianne Kennedy-Boudali
    Job / Title: Senior Director
    Company:  Concentric
    Industry: Consulting/Security

    Q: From your perspective, what are the most important trends that will take place in your industry in the next 10 years?

    Lianne: In my current role, I advise ultra-high-net-worth individuals on personal and family security. Technology allows us a great deal of freedom and offers ways to connect with people we don’t know; however, technology also exposes us to new kinds of personal risk. For example, many people don’t realize that lax privacy settings and geotagging on social media accounts can reveal enough information for someone to locate their kids’ school or know when their house is empty. Also, most people don’t use passwords that are strong enough to protect their financial accounts from a determined hacker. In the next ten years, we will all have to take greater individual responsibility for securing private information and guarding against cyber threats. Additional government regulation around social media, data security, and corporate liability is likely.

    Q: What have been the hallmarks of your success?

    Lianne: The hallmarks of my success have been willingness to take risks and follow my instincts about changing industries. When I’ve changed roles, it’s generally because I felt that I needed a new challenge, or that I had learned what I could at a particular organization. I follow my own curiosity, which has led me from being an art-school recruiter, to a Peace Corps Volunteer, to teaching at West Point and working in national security, and now to the private sector. My career path has been anything but linear, and I don’t regret any of the choices I’ve made (although some of them were scary at the time). Someone once told me that she starts every new year by assessing whether she should remain in her current role or make a change. That sort of self-reflection takes a great deal of courage, but it’s indicative of a mindset that focuses on growth rather than accepting the status quo.

    To be successful, I have to be doing work that is interesting and challenging; so long as that is the case, I bring my best self to whatever I do. I also make it a point to be a good colleague – cooperation is often key to success!

    Q: What is your recommendation for choosing a good mentor?

    Lianne: I don’t believe we can choose good mentors; I think we have to recognize what each person can teach us when we meet them. In my experience, different people offer different elements of mentorship: one person may guide you in industry knowledge; someone else might introduce you to other people; and a third person can be your leadership coach. The idea that we can find a magical mentor who has all these talents and who will somehow transform our lives is a myth, and frankly a disservice. Keeping an open mind about what you can learn from anyone in your circle is a realistic way to get “mentorship” every day.

    Q: What are the hallmark traits of a great leader that you have observed in your career?

    Lianne: The best leaders that I have worked with are honest, fair, and consistent, and they have a vision for where they want to go. I learned a great deal about leadership while teaching at West Point, where department leaders set clear expectations and treated everyone with respect. Leaders have to believe in their organization and its mission or else they cannot lead with authentic passion.

    Q: How important is developing a management style?

    Lianne: It is very important for everyone to consciously develop a management style. When I became a manager, I thought about leaders that I admired (and some that I didn’t) and I read a lot of books about management theory. Some of my favorite books on leadership are “How Remarkable Women Lead,” by Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston, and “Being the Boss,” by Linda Hill and Kent Lineback.

    At the same time, I thought about what kind of leader (not just what kind of “manager”) I wanted to be and what I wanted to be known for. My personality is low-key; I’m not a cheerleader by nature, so I base my leadership on building relationships, thoughtful dialogue, and a coaching approach. Trust and honesty are keys to any team’s success, and I model what I expect from others. Leading in a way that is authentic to me allows me to lead with confidence.

    Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests?

    Lianne: I believe that we teach people how to treat us, and so for me, setting expectations with colleagues around work-life balance is key. I let co-workers know that I will be out of the office for events at my child’s school, for example. Fortunately, I have worked at organizations where people understand that we all have a life outside the office. Setting expectations at home is also important, whether that’s ensuring that I have time to see friends or attend a CLUB event – even if that means I’m not home for dinner. Balance starts with having the self-awareness to know what you want, then exercising discipline to make it happen.  

    Q: In what areas can you give advice to other CLUB members as part of the CLUB mentoring program?

    Lianne: I’m signed up to micro-mentor on a number of topics – office politics, work-life balance, career change.

    Q: Fun Facts

    Lianne: I love being outdoors, and at one point in my life, I seriously considered becoming a Park Ranger. Instead, I joined the Peace Corps and served as an agroforestry volunteer in Niger.

  • 09/07/2016 8:51 AM | Anonymous member

    Name: Donna Kolnes
    Job / Title: Director, Associate General Counsel
    Company: Adobe Systems Incorporated
    Industry: Software


    Q: From your perspective, what are the most important trends that will take place in your industry in the next 10 years?

    Donna: I think the Internet of Things will have a significant impact on everyone’s lives. Each of us is already connected to the internet via our computers, tablets and phones, and we depend on them greatly. It’s not so much of a stretch to enjoy wearable devices such as the Apple watch and other smart technology such as thermostats and home monitoring systems. All of these devices will connect to the internet and the data will be stored in the cloud. Analytics gathered from the data will be used to create better and more personalized experiences for each connected person. This, of course, is currently bringing a lot of focus on privacy issues and data security issues which will continue to be very important subjects for years to come.

    Q: If you can share one piece of advice that you know now about navigating your career, what would that be?

    Donna: Don’t give up on what you want. Once you know what it is that you really and truly want, keep trying to achieve it. Then plan the next ‘want’. People will give you all kinds of advice and they will have all kinds of biases, but take all that with a grain of salt and stay focused on what YOU want. If you don’t yet know what you want, take one or more self-assessment tests to find out what your strengths are. Most of us enjoy work that capitalizes on our strengths and allows us to make strong contributions.

    Q: What is the challenge that you are most proud of overcoming? Explain.

    Donna: I’m a first-generation student. I’m the first in my family to graduate from college. I worked part-time to support myself and pay for college. It took me 5 years but that didn’t bother me. I knew I’d have far better opportunities after graduation, and I did. After a couple of years, I decided to go to law school. I did that for 4 years at night while working full time. It’s all very doable; you’ve just got to really want it.

    Q: What tips do you have for other women just starting out in your profession?

    Donna: Be very curious and ask a lot of questions. Be a sponge. Don’t turn down a project because it is outside of your area of responsibility, do the project – that’s how you grow your skills. Find an output balance: meaning, working too slow you won’t get enough done but working too fast will cause the quality of your work to suffer. Find that balance and crank out some really good work. Also, find a work/life balance otherwise you won’t be able to sustain.

    Q: What are some areas that you feel you can improve on at this stage of your career?

    Donna: I can improve my mentoring, teaching and people management skills. I think everyone can always improve on these but, for me, sharing my career experiences and knowledge can provide real value to others. I’d like to do more mentoring, teaching and coaching but I need to find ways to balance that with my daily work.

    Q: How has what you want to develop at this time in your career differed from the beginning of your career?

    Donna: At the beginning of my career, it was all about me – what I needed to know, who I needed to meet, how I would get to the next level. Now it’s about others and supporting them in career advancement.

    Q: What does leadership mean to you?

    Donna: It means a number of things to me. It means influencing others to accomplish a specific outcome that I believe in. It means setting a vision and making decisions that I am responsible for. I am a leader for my group as I provide guidance, mentoring, teaching and support with sincerity and integrity.

    Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests?

    Donna: I worked part-time for 12 years while raising my twins. I didn’t plan on that when I originally returned to work from maternity but it was, in my heart of hearts, really what I wanted. I didn’t want to stop working and I didn’t want to leave my career. I wanted to continue to grow my career and my skills but I also wanted to work less than full time. An unfortunate incident with a nanny is what did it for me. I quit my fulltime job so that I could find a part-time one. My company asked me to stay around, part-time, until they could find my replacement. They never did. I worked hard during the hours I was in the office and my clients never knew I was part-time. I gave everyone my home phone number, but they rarely called me there. I managed a very full workload and tried to make it seamless so that my clients never felt any pinch by my being part-time. It all worked out very well and I feel so blessed to have been able to have everything I wanted in a work/life balance.

    Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact.

    Donna: I’ve always been mechanically inclined. When I was about 9 or 10, my older brother was teasing me mercilessly, as usual, so to get back at him I took his Schwinn bike apart – down to the last nut and bolt. I knew he couldn’t put it back together again. My dad had a good laugh at this and then made me put the bike back together.

    Q: What do you like to do to unwind?

    Donna: I do mosaic art. I like repurposing broken tiles, glass and other things that would normally end up in the landfill and creating beautiful garden sculptures, home décor and jewelry.

    Donna Kolnes is a member of the CLUB and was selected for the 2015 CLUB Incubator program based on her leadershipstyle: confident, wise and creative – essential skills for continued success in a constantly evolving and demanding environment. We’re delighted to learn from Donna’s experience.

  • 08/30/2016 9:55 PM | Anonymous member

    ame: Emily Landis Walker
    Job / Title: CEO
    Company: Landis & Co.
    Industry: Consultancy

    Q: What have been the hallmarks of your success?

    Emily: Success needs to be personally defined:  Is it making money? Is it having a family and ensuring your children are successful?  Is it doing things you are passionate about and making a difference in the world?  In my experience, success was achieved by saying “yes” to opportunities that meant moving globally multiple times, taking leaps of faith in the future, and forging ahead to deliver innovative results with no certainty of the outcome – personally, financially, or professionally.

    My most important accomplishment was raising two global, interested, intelligent, motivated, and caring daughters.

    Secondly, it was making a difference which stemmed from two “‘defining moments”’ in my life:  9-11 and the tsunami of 2006.  As a 9-11 survivor, I had the privilege of working on the 9-11 Commission where I spearheaded the National Standards for Emergency Preparedness for the Private Sector that culminated in an international standard for companies’ security and resiliency.  In addition, I was liaison to the families of the victims of 9-11, working with them as they engaged tirelessly to understand what happened to their loved ones.  I recently had the honor to visit the 9-11 Museum at ‘ground zero’ with one of the instrumental family members – Mary Fetchet, mother of Brad and the founder of Voices of September 11 – who helped create a lasting legacy for the victims.

    During the tsunami of 2006, I was asked to find a way Citigroup could assist with the disaster.  I created a partnership between Citi and the United Nations World Food Program and set up a global emergency network for private sector contributions that was launched in Davos 2007.  It was a hugely rewarding experience to have spent time in the field with the WFP in Asia and Africa and see the tremendous work they were performing in disasters and for the hungry.

    Q: How have you grown your professional network?  Explain.

    Emily: My extensive professional network was developed through working with people all over the world, being compassionate and accepting, and delivering quality results.  The people I know and whom I count on today were developed through a long process giving 1000 percent in whatever I did.  When I ask them to assist in an effort today or they call me to work for them, they remember the times we worked together and the positive outcomes of our efforts.  In addition, I believe that caring about the people you work with, being interested in their lives and their families, is equally important and impactful for future relations.   In addition, growing and maintaining this international professional network required proactive participation in events and follow-up.  This is the reason I joined “‘the Club”’ while living in Palo Alto working for a nanotech firm, and continue to participate.

    Q: What are the hallmark traits of a great leader that you have observed in your career?

    Emily: I am fortunate to have learned under some great leaders in my career.  One common observation is that they all conducted business in a way that was not intuitive for me, but made sense when the outcome was achieved.  I sat in the chair representing the United States at the International Monetary Fund under Jacques de Larosiere during some difficult discussions with Viet Nam on their arrears to the IMF.  Vietnam blamed the U.S. for blocking their assets and thus explained their inability to pay back the IMF.  When it came my turn to speak, I repeated the U.S. diplomatic position.  How Mr. de Larosiere handled that meeting with diplomacy and finesse demonstrated leadership to solve an intractable issue.  Following that, I learned from Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady who took a position on the Latin American debt crisis that was fundamentally “‘outside of the box”’.  Instead of adding to the debt, he created the Brady debt bonds to reduce debt.  His confidence level in his innovative logic was unwavering and his skills at selling the concept with patience taught me great lessons. The bi-partisan leadership that Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton demonstrated producing a consensus 9-11 Report was hugely politically insightful.  When I would have thrown the towel in, they persevered and maneuvered to deliver a truly bi-partisan readable report that was acclaimed as a definitive account of that tragic day.  Jim Morris, head of the United Nations World Food Program, was an inspirational leader who wrote personal notes on framed photos of WFP’s work to all the leaders of the world.  He changed the WFP mentality to create partnerships with the private sector to supplement their mission in a way that had previously not been thought of, let alone implemented.  

    Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests?

    Emily: It is possible to “‘do it all”’, but with organizational skills, paid help, family support, personal sacrifice, energy, and financial means.  Both of my daughters get asked the question frequently, “How did your mom do it?”  Honestly, I had no choice as a single mother providing the full financial and development support for my two girls.  What I did was organize the household, hire a personal PA, maid, driver, and gardener, ask family for help, attend the important events whatever it took, made the important decisions and delegated the rest.  I involved the girls, taking them to all important events, globally, explained what I was doing and as a result taught them to be independent with knowledge of the hard work it takes to succeed.  I did not have to explain; they were witnesses and carry this forward in their own careers.  Critical to this ability, however, was having the financial means to pay for the required assistance without which I could not have accomplished this story.  

    Q: In what areas can you give advice to other CLUB members as part of the CLUB mentoring program?

    Emily: My areas of expertise to offer other CLUB members includes working overseas, transitioning between the public and private sector, navigating the Middle East, strategy implementation, capital raising, and family/work-life balance.

    Q: What do you like to do to unwind?

    Emily: As CEO of my own consulting business, I travel globally for a living so it is not easy to find time to unwind.  However, my favorite things include spending time with my daughters, sharing special moments with friends, swimming, spinning, reading, walking on the beach and enjoying the sunshine and sunsets in Naples, Florida with a glass of chardonnay.

  • 08/03/2016 8:24 AM | Anonymous member

    Name: Elizabeth Andrew DiGaetano
    Job / Title: Senior Account Executive
    Company: HelloSign
    Industry: Technology, Enterprise Software, SaaS

    What is the challenge that you are most proud of overcoming? Explain.

    I’m not afraid of big challenges, yet reentering the workforce after 17 years of “opt out” is unquestionably the greatest hurdle I’ve overcome. Nothing prepared me for the uphill battle I would face to break back in. It took time and unwavering determination to change industries and get myself back into an exciting opportunity that is the right fit with my skill set.

    It also happens to be one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my lifetime.

    How has your industry changed in the last 5 years, and what do you foresee as changes in the next 5 – 10 years?

    When I came back into the workforce, I saw it as my opportunity to reinvent myself and decided to break into high tech. It took a few steps, but I’m now at HelloSign, a disruptive electronic signature company that makes it incredibly easy to sign documents electronically. I chose this role because it’s a great opportunity to return to a senior enterprise sales position and to utilize my experience to contribute to the growth of a company.

    This industry has evolved a lot in the last 5 years – we are redefining the way businesses and individuals work by eliminating the hassle of having to print, scan, fax and/or snail mail important documents that require signatures. By making the signing process digital, we are helping people save time and money, and bringing companies into the future. I foresee this market only getting bigger in the next 5 – 10 years.

    I’m in sales, and always have been, so from that perspective, a ton has changed over the years. No more rolodex, fewer face-to-face meetings, and huge technology advancements. At the heart of it, I think selling has changed mostly because buying has changed. With more information readily available online, consumers are better informed and prospects are much further along the buying cycle when entering the sales process. But, I embrace change. I’ve forged new territories, learned new markets, built teams from the ground up, raised assets. I strive to break new ground and make things grow – and to recreate myself. I foresee great changes ahead in technology and I’m super excited to be a part of it.

    How have you grown your professional network? Explain.

    I am a sales executive, so networking comes naturally to me. Not only was networking an incredibly effective way to exercise my sales skills, it was one of my most lucrative ways for finding work. I’d encourage anyone looking to expand their horizons, understand new technologies, or re-enter the field, to talk to people. Tell them you want to get back to work. Beef up your LinkedIn page and start connecting. Seek out networking events, and look for organizations to join. Read. Follow thought leaders and become a student of your profession. Know what events are going on in the marketplace.

    When I made the decision to change industries from financial services to tech, I decided to attend a TechCrunch Meetup in the Presidio. I did not know a single person at the event, but I managed to meet two different CEOs standing in line for food trucks. Two years later, they are both still in my network and one of them is talking to me about integrating HelloSign’s eSignature API into his organization.

    Be brave, as you have nothing to lose by connecting with people.

    What tips do you have for other women just starting out in sales?

    Sales is a digital game, with email campaigns, social media outreach, screen share demos, and such. It’s all about the sales stack, the technologies used during various stages of a sales pipeline to help accelerate sales productivity. We have an incredible amount of power at our fingertips to improve the sales process, and it’s a critical component for companies managing revenue goals.

    But, it is easy to get lost in the tools. I work for a technology company and yet, to be successful in sales, you also need to be able to pick up the phone. Building a valuable distribution network with senior leaders takes more than making connections through social media. Control the sales process by connecting with people, providing solutions, and adding value. Know when to put the tools aside.

    What role has mentorship played in your career?

    I believe mentorship needs to be organic. It’s become a hot topic and a lot of people are seeking mentors but, in my opinion, the best way to find mentorship is through work projects. Mentorship, like any relationship, requires building trust. Working through challenges together lays a perfect foundation for this.

    It’s true mentorship and executive sponsorship are needed to advance in leadership positions but, rather than ask “will you be my mentor,” try exposing yourself to new projects at work or through organizations where you can collaborate with others towards a common goal.

    I had amazing mentors early on in my career. I am finding, once again, I have incredible mentors both on my team at HelloSign and through the CLUB Incubator program. I hope in some way to impart experience to my colleagues by mentoring as well.

    What advice would you give to someone looking to grow in her career while making time for her family?

    Family comes first, always. But you have to make sacrifices to grow your career. It’s a decision to make career a priority, and it means you can’t always be there for every event, every performance, and every game.Surprisingly, one of the best outcomes of returning to work has been the incredible impact it has had on my kids. It has made them better at taking responsibility for themselves, helping out at home, and contributing to the family. I was fortunate to stay home with my kids for many years but, by returning to work, it seems I’ve unintentionally become a role model for them and the ultimate career performance review was having my 17 year old son say, “Mom, I’m so proud of you”.

    What do you like to do to unwind?

    I love to spend time with my kids or hike with my dog. And, the beach is my ultimate happy place!

  • 07/21/2016 8:54 AM | Anonymous member

    Name: Jen Helms
    Title:  Co-Founder
    Company: Playmation Studios
    Industry: Gaming and Education

    Q: From your perspective, what are the most important trends that will take place in your industry in the next 10 years?

    Jen: There has been a large divide between entertainment games and educational games however over the next 10 years there will be more and more games that are both entertaining and deeply educational. One problem has been that many educational games have focused on digitizing textbook style learning rather than taking full advantage of the medium of video games. There are developers that are starting to figure this out and as more and more people realize the power of the medium, to allow for deep exploration in a subject matter with continuous feedback, I think we are really going to see a shift.

    Q: What challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur?

    Jen: Being an entrepreneur is constantly challenging. As soon as I learn to be an expert in something, it is time to start figuring out how to be an expert at something else. While it’s a challenge, it certainly keeps things interesting. It is also incredibly difficult to create something out of nothing and break through all the noise, particularly in my industry.  At the end of the day though, I have never done anything so rewarding.

    Q: What tips do you have for other women just starting out in your profession?

    Jen: Tech and gaming are heavily male dominated industries and while there are barriers that are very real, often the person that holds us back the most is ourselves. Have confidence. Trust in yourself and continuously remind yourself that you know more than you think. You don’t need anyone else to approve your bold thoughts. You don’t need anyone to agree with you. That woman you want to be? You are ready to be her now. There is no need to wait and take action.

    Q: What does leadership mean to you?

    Jen: Leadership is inspiring others to act in support of your vision. Leading means having a confident, strong voice but also the humility to know that you do not have all of the answers. You want to lead in way that encourages others to push you and your cause to be the best.

    Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests?

    Jen: At a couple of points in my career I have had long lengths of time in which I neglected my physical health because I have been so focused on work. I now hit the gym 4-5 days a week with a long hike on Sundays. My energy levels have skyrocketed and I am far more productive with less hours. It can be hard to prioritize self-care but the key is establishing routines. Also, it is essential to have people in your life that hold you accountable instead of hold you back.

    Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact.

    Jen: I lived in Yosemite National Park for five years. I started out my career as an environmental educator and then went on to become the Director of Operations for our programs serving 14,000 participants each year. As an educator it was my job to hike groups of students around Yosemite National Park while teaching them about ecology and geology. It was a pretty spectacular classroom and a wonderful place to call home. One of my most prominent memories is waking up to the thud of a black bear sitting on our roof. The bear would often climb up to reach an apple tree in our backyard.

  • 07/09/2016 8:35 AM | Anonymous member

    Name: Jamie Kitano
    Job/Title: Senior Associate, Patent Litigation
    Company: Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP
    Industry: Legal, Patent Litigation

    Q: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever gotten?

    Jamie: Don’t focus on the mistakes you make, but instead focus on how you can learn from the mistakes and move forward. I am grateful that the mistakes I made early on in my career as an associate were recognized by partners as common mistakes and turned into teaching moments. Once, I made a decision about how to utilize my team’s time on a particular project, but neglected to tell a partner I was working closely with. I inadvertently blindsided her when I mentioned it on the phone during a call with the client.  Fortunately, she wasn’t mad and let me know afterwards that I should have given her a heads up before the call.

    Q: What is the challenge that you are most proud of overcoming?

    Jamie: As a second year attorney at a large Bay Area law firm, I suddenly found myself managing an incredibly high-stakes patent litigation team as the associate leading e-Discovery (which is an early phase of litigation where each side requests and exchanges documents in an effort to prove their case or defense). I drew on my leadership and project management strengths to rapidly learn the technical aspects and manage a large team of contract attorneys, paralegals, and e-Discovery specialists, as well as more senior attorneys at my firm. This experience gave me confidence to say “yes” to new challenges.

    Q: Why did you choose to be a lawyer?

    Jamie: Early on I had an interest in both law and science. I was on my high school’s mock trial team, and I continued on as a freshman in college while majoring in molecular biology. Most of the biology students at UCSD were some variety of pre-health professional, but that never quite appealed to me.  I really liked strategizing over how our mock trial teams could put on our mock cases and advocate for a client. Mock trial helped me practice public speaking and thinking on the fly when the judge asks you a question or opposing counsel makes an objection.  Even though it was a mock exercise, the skills are the same that I use in my current role as a patent litigator.

    When I was sophomore in college, I was lucky to make a connection to the sister-in-law of the General Counsel of a Bay Area biotech company through an event for my brother’s high school class. They needed a summer intern to help run patent searches. Because of that connection, I interned there for two summers during college and learned about intellectual property. I enjoyed the idea of combining law with science, and then went to law school with the intention of practicing in some area of intellectual property. My journey to becoming a patent litigator is a great example of how important networking and connections are to find opportunities.

    Q: How do you approach someone who you may want as a mentor?

    Jamie: I like to go to lunch or coffee with someone who I have a particular set of questions for, or who I think would have great advice on certain issues that I’m dealing with.  For example, my questions often involve strategies for conveying my personal brand across my law firm’s different offices and practice groups or learning about their career experiences and advice for me. I also like to take advantage of formal mentoring programs at work as a way to find a mentor that knows the firm/company and can help you navigate internally.  Having a mentor within your organization can be very valuable, as they can give you advice on the various political and cultural issues you may not otherwise be aware of.  One of my formal mentors is the one that gave me the advice, “Don’t focus on the mistakes you make, but instead focus on how you can learn from the mistakes and move forward,” and she’s helped me navigate the moving forward part.

    Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests?

    Jamie: I embrace technology and try to figure out how new apps or devices can improve my efficiency and keep me organized. My calendar (I use iCal) is one of my most used tools to maintain balance on a daily basis. I consolidate events into one calendar, color-code them, and schedule time to check things off my to-do list. Usually I find that certain tasks, both work and personal, don’t take as much time as I’ve allotted which helps me manage my time better in the future; and if something takes longer than I thought then that’s useful to know too. I also find that having a clear view of important work deadlines and personal events in a given week helps me to prioritize how I spend my time.

    My calendar is also a great tool to communicate with my husband so that we can stay on the same page with what’s going on in both of our schedules.  I might forget that he’s emailed or messaged me about an event because I don’t often search through my messages after the fact (and vice versa). But if I check my calendar several times a day, I usually don’t miss anything on it.

    Q: In what areas can you give advice to other CLUB members as part of the CLUB mentoring program?

    Jamie: Don’t be too hard on yourself when one person says something disparaging or discouraging to you. It’s just one person’s opinion and it’s good to take it with a grain of salt. I recently got some tough feedback about my presentation style on a conference call and how one person perceived me as lacking confidence, and thus competence in the area I was speaking about. I beat myself up about it for a few weeks and tried to analyze my communication style every time I was on the phone, at a mixer, etc. to figure out how I could improve my communication skills. Shortly after that, I went to dinner with some women I volunteer with through the organization, Women in Bio. I’ve been volunteering for WIB for the last four years and am now the San Francisco chapter’s Sponsorship Committee Chair, where I lead the chapter’s efforts to raise enough money to support the organization’s events and programs. I had met about half of the women in person, but had only spoken to the rest by phone. When I met one woman in person for the first time, she said, “Wow!  I had imagined you as being much a taller and imposing woman based on your voice!”  (I’m only 5’2” on a good day). That reaction really opened my eyes to how individual people’s perceptions might be drastically different and how important it is to have feedback from multiple sources.

    Q: What do you like to do to unwind?

    Jamie: Exercise, be it my favorite gym or yoga class, or briskly walking hills in Noe Valley. I’m a huge believer in pets as a stress reliever and enjoy the company of my cat while unwinding with a glass of wine. Yoga is a wonderful physical challenge for me, and teaches me new things about myself – both physically and mentally – each time. I have scoliosis, and when I was a teenager I had a major operation to straighten out my curved spine. The operation essentially immobilized all of my thoracic vertebrae, so I can’t bend or twist from there. This makes a lot of yoga poses particularly difficult, or impossible for me to do (backbends are pretty much out of the question!). When I was just learning yoga, I used to push myself and struggle with not being able to twist or backbend, or side-bend. Gradually I learned that I needed to stop focusing on my weaknesses and start focusing on and cultivating my strengths – in my case, strength and flexibility in my legs and arms. I also learned to be grateful for the level of twisting and bending from my core that I am able to do.  These lessons aren’t just limited to the yoga mat; they’re applicable to my personal and professional life as well. Sometimes we are too focused on improving areas of weakness that we lose sight of our skills and strengths. Instead, I try be more balanced and focus on improving the skills and strengths that I already have.

    Q: Fun Facts:

    Jamie: I love to travel. My favorite trip to date was to Tibet and Nepal with my dad right after I took the bar exam. Most law students do a post-bar trip with their fellow graduates, but I had chosen to do a four year program (JD/MBA) which meant that the majority of the friends I’d made in law school graduated a year before me. My dad suggested a trek to the base camp of Mt. Everest – a lifelong dream I never knew about. Of course I said yes!  We spent 6 weeks traveling together across the Friendship Highway in Tibet and trekking up to Mt. Everest base camp. It was wonderful to spend so much time with my dad exploring the world. A few years after the base camp trip, we trekked to Machu Picchu together.

  • 07/07/2016 8:56 AM | Anonymous member

    Name: Leedjia Svec
    Job: Director of Military Programs
    Company: NASA/Navy
    Industry: Science and Technology with a focus on international relations, STEM, and diversity.

    Q: From your perspective in Military Programs, what important trends have you seen in the last 5 years, and what do you foresee in the next 5 – 10 years?

    Leedjia: Infusion of smart and social technology. Big data, social media, and smart devices are being embraced by a wide spectrum of participants and for a wide variety of reasons. They will get more refined as computers and phones have done, to the point that it will be hard to imagine our life without them, personally and professionally.

    Additionally, diversity and inclusion are crucial to a successful workplace. The demographics of the workplace are changing and it is important to be inclusive so that all may benefit!


    Q: If you can share advice that you know now about navigating your career, what would that be?

    Leedjia: My favorites:

    “The mountain is always steepest just before you reach the top”. I never understood how people could quit at the last stage before an accomplishment until I was there myself – it feels like an infinite amount of time and challenge before you reach the summit, but having a good support network to believe in you when you have forgotten how (both personally and professionally, such as The Club!) will keep you from quitting.

    “A spectacular failure sets the stage for a spectacular comeback.”  I gave a talk to several hundred students and it did Not go well. I had awful reviews and I really didn’t want to face them again but I had just seen a movie where they were playing a game and the coach said, “go out there like the score is zero zero” and I thought, what if I never messed up? What if I approached them like they were a new crowd? So I went back out for a second talk and it went Great! They all applauded.

    “Ask! And offer!” It is amazing what you can obtain when you ask or offer your skills. Opportunities, internships, talks, nominations etc. I was given the advice to start speaking once, which I didn’t know I could even do, but I started asking people if I could give lectures (for free) and that led to a speaking engagement at West Point (paid) and the publishing of a text book chapter. I also asked/offered to research the effectiveness of training programs and that led to politicians and leaders using my work to influence social policy.

    “It is amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.” (Yet don’t be shy in sharing your contributions!)

    “Being in the right doesn’t give you the right.” Someone may have been utterly wrong in behavior however, that does not give me the right to treat him or her that way in return. I have found it helpful to learn new skills in dealing with difficult people when my current skills do not allow me to be my best.

    Q: If you had it to do all over again is there one thing you would have changed? 

    Leedjia: For me- organizational skills, communication, speaking, technology fluency, and confidence in areas I’m less sure in. As a STEM advocate and mentor, I encourage others to utilize free resources and focus on these skills as early as possible. I learned in my international relations studies about the collective power of women, we have brought countries up from the ashes and so much more, I wish I had learned that earlier to know my own individual power.

    Q: What role has mentorship played in your career?

    Leedjia: Mentors and mentorship can take many forms- people of all backgrounds and professions have the capacity to be a positive influence. This influence may take the form of a single interaction to a lifelong connection, and it may be the spark to an achievement you never imagined.

    Q: What does leadership mean to you?

    Leedjia: Leadership is a vision that you inspire others to achieve; those who are led feel fulfilled achieving their goals and your goals at the same time. My favorite leaders did not have to yell, get angry, or be manipulative. They were caring, firm, passionate, and willing to give opportunities to all; they pushed the limits, positively.

    Q: What are ways that you have balanced career, personal, and other interests?

    Leedjia: I blend my personal and professional interests – for example, STEM.  I have started STEM programs at work and enjoy blogging at home (please check out and StylishSTEM on FB), meeting Bill Nye the Science guy, Nobel prize winners, receiving a White House invitation, things I never expected but fully appreciate personally and professionally!

    Q: Tell us something about yourself that is a fun fact.

    Leedjia: I lived on a sailboat and in a campground as a result of my parent’s professions.  I think this gave me a sense of adventure and desire for change that the military affords.

    Q: In what areas can you give advice to other CLUB members as part of the CLUB mentoring program?

    Leedjia: Happy to share my experience and expertise on the following:

    • Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) advocacy/education
    • Diversity, inclusion, equal opportunity advocacy/education, mediation
    • International relations- conflict transformation
    • Mentorship
    • Military
  • 04/08/2016 9:02 AM | Anonymous member

    Name: Katherine Mendonca

    Job / Title: Director, iOS in Enterprise, Channel Sales

    Company: Apple Inc.

    Industry: Technology


    Q: From your perspective, what are the most important trends that will take place in your industry in the next 10 years?


    • IoT (Internet of Things) – Many more connected devices creating an overwhelming amount of data driving amazing efficiencies in business and in our personal lives.
    • Computing will be ubiquitous as more applications / platforms / devices leverage the “cloud”.
    • The growth of the wearable device industry will expand dramatically as a multitude of sensors / materials become miniaturized and embedded into many objects we wear. And in turn, creating more data!

    Q: What have been the hallmarks of your success?

    Katherine: I have had the opportunity to be a part of two very different industries at the beginning of industry tends, working with Aveda at the beginning of the natural personal care industry and more recently with the mobile computing industry. In retrospect, I see that it is important to pay attention to information and opinions of those knowledgeable within the industry to help one foresee the trends and then find your place within that journey (if it is indeed something that you find interesting).

    Identify and align with smart people to work with and be open to suggestions and recommendations that will be helpful to your career. Many times, the best advice comes from unexpected places! And then, once you have a strong sense of your interests, abilities and commitment, do not let naysayers deter you. If I had taken the advice of those that were not vested in the success of others I would have found myself left behind. 

    Q: If you can share one piece of advice that you know now about navigating your career, what would that be?

    Katherine: Be fearless. Don’t be afraid to seek advice, take chances, and look for opportunities. Hope is not a strategy and having a plan is key to guiding you on a path. For example, when I moved to the Bay Area without a job and a notion that I wanted to change my career path I worked with a career-counseling agency to ascertain transferable skills and possible new industries. Through this assessment process, I was able to solidify a plan to transition into a new industry. And lastly, develop your intuition, or as I like to call it, your sixth sense. There will be times when your sixth sense will help you make the best decision by blending the facts and the nuances of a situation.

    Q: How important is developing a management style?

    Katherine: A consciously developed management style is critical, much like a conductor is to an orchestra. When you leverage your strengths as a manager (listening, identifying strengths in others, building a diverse team, etc.), you will better understand what you can bring to your team and how to enable individual team members and the team as a whole to find a rhythm.

    If your strengths are not apparent to you, take the time to leverage the myriad of tools available (for example, The Gallop Strengths Finder or The DiSC Assessment). Engage with someone that can help you identify and leverage your strengths into your authentic management style.

    There are many “management styles” that are effective; just know what aspects are the best for you and will leverage your strengths. A few aspects I find imperative are clearly communicating the strategy (of the company, product, program, etc.) so that the team members understand their contribution. Strive to eliminate unconscious biases (gender, age, ethnicity, etc.). And be the resource that removes obstacles for your team so they can succeed. 

    Q: What role has mentorship played in your career?

    Katherine: I have had the benefit of several very positive mentors over the years. In these relationships I had a great deal of respect for these mentors and felt that they were invested in my success. Due to this mutual trust, I understood that they could see aspects of my capabilities that I was unable to see in myself. This perspective allowed me to find strength and confidence to follow through on my goals. When others see your strengths and can offer positive direction, this provides a sense of empowerment that one cannot always find in ones self.

    Q: What do you like to do to unwind?

    Katherine: I love living in the Bay Area and enjoy exploring the treasures all around us from museums, to wineries, to urban hikes around San Francisco discovering new vantage points and aspects of the city. As much as I love meeting new people and being out and about, I find that I recharge my batteries by retreating and making quiet time for myself. It’s soothing to me to test out a new recipe or read the many magazines I subscribe to. I also make time for exercise to clear my mind and move my body!

    Q: In what areas can you give advice to other CLUB members?


    • Changing Careers: how to assess transferable skills / strengths. Having made this transition myself, I am confident that transitioning careers is possible with appropriate planning and patience! 
    • Leveraging mobile technology in business
    • Ability to help others take a broad problem / topic and drill down on specific, actionable aspects. As a seasoned sales person, I am able to listen for and identify disparate components of a problem, break them down, and build a strategy to meet a desired goal.

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