Last year around this same time, I posted a blog about the women of Hitachi Vantara, and featured four of the women that I worked with on a regular basis here in Santa Clara. This year, I thought I would like to introduce three other women who I have known and worked with internationally. While these three women represent different countries and cultures, they all share the same attributes of the four that I profiled last year. They all know how to lead, innovate, and succeed.
Merete Soby has been very successful as the Country Manager for Hitachi Vantara in Denmark for the past 11 years. When she joined, what was then, Hitachi Data Systems-Denmark, we were a solid storage company with 15 -20% market share. Within 5 years, under her leadership, HDS Denmark was able to grow market share to 45-50% and became the number 1 storage vendor in the Danish market. Over the years, the Hitachi Vantara team in Denmark has won many big named accounts and created a strong winning culture in the company. The journey continued with new solutions, expanding beyond storage to converged solutions, solution for unstructured data as HNAS and Object solutions, analytics solutions, and REAN cloud services.
When I visit Denmark and talk to people in the industry, they always have great things to say about our team in Denmark. The first thing they comment on is the team’s commitment to customer support and engagement. A lot of credit is given to Merete who is described as an engaging, passionate, involved executor who empowers people to become better at what they do. When one of her team members that I worked with fell ill, Merete sought me out at a busy conference to assure me of that team member’s recovery, showing her awareness and concern for people and relationships.
I asked Merete if she ever felt limited in her career because she was a woman. She replied that she did not feel limited. “I believe that due to my relative young age, first as sales manager (26 years old) and later on as country manager in HDS (32 years old) I felt I needed to be a bit better and more prepared in every aspect of my business, but not directly because of my gender.”
Merete is a mom to three kids, 11 year old twins and an 8 year old boy. Her children have made her very focused on having the right work life balance, which she feels has increased her performance at work. She says that she does not mentor her children directly, “I show them how to behave and act in life by my own behavior. I show them to prioritize family and our values, by living them myself.” I believe that same philosophy extends to her leadership at work.
Basak Candan joined the Hitachi Vantara team in Turkey two and half years ago as Office Manager and Marketing Coordinator. Last September she was promoted to be the Field Marketing Manager for Turkey and Middle East. She has the awesome responsibility to drive the end-to-end Field Marketing planning and execution in Turkey and the Middle East working very closely with the sales teams to win new business and grow revenue. She is also taking the lead in the Emerging Marketing team to support Brand Leadership Programs to ensure that we are building consistent and relevant messages across Emerging EMEA markets for our entire portfolio.
I recently worked with Basak when I was invited to participate in the World Cities Congress in Istanbul. She helped me prepare for my panel discussions at the conference and arranged for me to visit customers in Istanbul and Ankara. She was very helpful in helping me understand the marketing environment in Turkey. On the day before I was to fly to Ankara, she noticed that I did not have a top coat and she expressed concerned for my well-being. That evening, much to my surprise, the hotel concierge delivered a top coat to my room that they loaned to me for my trip to Ankara. I was very touched by Basak’s concern, creativity, and attention to detail.
Basak told me that If anyone had asked her as a child what she wanted to be when she grew up, it probably would not have been anything to do with technology. Before joining Hitachi, she had different sales and marketing roles in a number of large luxury hotel chains for more than 7 years. Her formal education was in hospitality and marketing, but she has been able to transfer those skills into a technology career.
Thanks to some strong, positive, influential women in her life who steered her in that direction, the real transformation started for her when she began working at Hitachi Vantara. She said working with Hitachi Vantara on storage, cloud, IoT, and Big Data Analytics, was like discovering a new planet. With the help of her Hitachi Manager, she applied to Boğazici University, which is among the top 200 universities in the world and was accepted into a Digital Marketing and Communication Program. There she worked on a project analyzing JetBlue Airways’ marketing campaigns on how they could digitally transform their marketing. Her project was judged by a jury and won a special prize. That gave her encouragement to grow and show her power in technical marketing. Basak typifies the type of person who is a self-starter. Someone who is capable of recognizing and seizing new opportunities. Self-starters immerse themselves in new endeavors and remain passionate about pursuing their vocation and honing their skills.
When I need help in understanding the tough technical question about 3 data center disaster recovery or the latest mainframe features for Geographically Dispersed Parallel Sysplex™, I call on the expert, Ros Schulman, and she is always up on the latest technologies and business processes for disaster recovery.
Ros has been with Hitachi Data Systems and Hitachi Vantara for over 20 years. In the last 9 years she has filled director level roles in product management, technical sales support, business development, and technical marketing with extensive skill sets around Data Protection (Replication and Backup), Business Continuity and Resiliency. Her experience in analyzing customer requirements, technologies and industry trends have helped to maximize revenue growth in these areas. She is always in demand to speak at customer events and industry forums.
Ros was born in London and went to school there. She started her career as a computer operator at the age of 18 in local government and later became a system programmer on MVS at a time when very few women were in that field. She later moved to the United States and continued her technical career working for both the vendor and customer sides. When I joined Hitachi Data Systems, Ros was already recognized as the technical expert in operating systems and disaster recovery. She is passionate about our storage and systems technology and is generous in sharing her experience and insights with others. She is not shy. I have seen this petite lady going toe-to-toe with several heavyweight MVS systems programmers debating the benefits of different systems.
When I asked her what her advice would be for women considering a technical career, she said, “It’s something you have to be passionate about. I still believe it’s much harder to move ahead, so you have to be willing to love what you do. I would also recommend that you take some business classes, as in today’s digital age, you need a lot more than just technical skills. My motivation is learning and growing, this industry fascinates me, when I started, we used disk drives that were 20MB in size and MF had less than 2GB memory and look where we are today. I do not know of another career where things have changed so radically and continue to change and have now been embraced in every facet of our lives.”
It is one thing to have the knowledge and skills to be technical. However, it requires passion and enthusiasm to excel in a technical area; and be recognized as the go-to expert. Ros Schulman is my go-to expert.
Hitachi Vantara recognizes the value of diversity. The Women of Hitachi play an important role in defining our culture and contributing to our success as a technology company. Women are well represented in our sales and marketing organizations, as well as in product management and technical support roles. Our CIO, CFO, and Chief Human Resource Officer are women. Women account for more than 25% of our IT team – just over the industry average – according to CIO Renée McKaskle.
A recent Wall Street Journalblog reports that:
“She (Renee McKaskle) credits the Hitachi Inc. subsidiary’s “double” bottom-line goal, saying “a healthy bottom line is important but doing what is right for society is important, too.”
To that end, she said, the company supports several global and local diversity initiatives, including women’s summits and mentoring programs.
“These programs have been critical to forging the diversity we have in place today, with positive indicators that this will continue to increase,” she added.”
One of the things I enjoy most about my job is the ability to work with wide variety of people, and see them in action, celebrate their successes, and hear their stories. I hope you enjoyed hearing about these women who have inspired me and will perhaps inspire you as well.