May 23, 2019
Women Driving Tech.
Interview with Intelligent, Classy, Ambitious and Inspirational Technologists
In this blog series we continue talking to motivated and inspiring women with unrivalled dedication to tech. There are many bright examples of women in tech. These are founders, CEOs, mentors and innovators who are passionate about technology and work to create opportunities for women to actively and fairly participate in the economy.
Part 2. Talking Innovations.
Laura Nuhaan, Executive Digital Advisor, Microsoft
We sat down with Laura Nuhaan, an Executive Digital Advisor at Microsoft. A professional keynote, author and blogger, she is passionate about innovation and the opportunities of tech. With 10 years of experience in Silicon Valley, and many years in executive roles, Laura knows how to translate the complexities of digital transformation into real-life cases. Today, she shares her story on how a woman can drive changes in the tech world.
How did you come on the tech scene?
I have always been passionate about innovation: how to do things better, which are the ways for improvement and how to apply innovation from one industry to another. Technology is definitely a way that opens up a world of possibilities. That’s why it has always attracted my interest, though my background is business economics. I had an opportunity to go to Silicon Valley and, of course, it’s all about technology, and also about making things happen. In fact, you need to spend time on leadership, culture, people and the processes to make it all work in sync. All combined, they will accelerate digital transformation.
I consider myself a tech person while looking at technology from a business angle and the customer’s perspective. For me, it’s about bringing two worlds together: business and technology.
After coming back to the Netherlands from Silicon Valley, in 2011, I continued with my own consulting firm (Andeta) helping companies transform, through focusing on commercial innovation. I started to realize that I can not advise executive boards on strategy anymore without technology because they go hand-in-hand. In 2017 I had the opportunity to join Microsoft. It has been absolutely great, because there is so much going on here; I can work with teams and companies by consulting them on how to achieve their digital ambitions and help with the execution of their digital transformation where tech is the key driver.
What does it mean for you to be a techie woman in this modern digital environment?
I’ve been thinking about that. The good news is that Microsoft is extremely inclusive. It’s one of our key values: inclusiveness and diversity. So, I think we have a higher percentage of women there. It feels a bit different in other industries, where sometimes I was the only woman at a table.
Being a woman doesn’t make a big difference to me. Females are sometimes more creative and intuitive in technology projects. However, I believe it’s more about inclusivity and bringing together different points of view and perspectives. It comes down to understanding the different ways of thinking, taking the best input from everyone and coming to better ideas, so you can get to better results. All in all, I’m very happy to be a woman in tech.
What do innovations stand for in Microsoft? Where do you start with your customer when talking about innovation within Microsoft?
As a digital advisor within Microsoft, I help our customers to come up with new business models and their digital strategy leveraging technology. We follow a Dream, Design and Deliver process. Dream is about the art of the possible, the shared vision, resulting in a digital roadmap. Design is making the digital road map more concrete, defining the architecture and programs/changes that are needed. Delivery stands for working with the digital team on really getting things done through execution.
There are still customers who know Microsoft through Office, Windows, etc. Microsoft now is all that and much more. We are helping our customers unlock new opportunities through AI, IoT and the Cloud. Microsoft wants to offer our customers a platform which enables them to be successful.
For me, innovation is about co-creation and we need to be agile in this constantly changing environment. We have to think big, make choices and re-invent again, all the time. You need to adopt the agile approach and understand that advancement is about moving forward in small steps with the bigger picture in mind. Also, it is important to ensure that the different stakeholders involved, share the same vision. Finally, an integrated approach and breaking down silos between departments are critical, starting with bringing business and IT together.
What is your advice to women in technology and to women who are trying to lead in the tech innovation space?
I believe, it will always be about a learning mindset: be open for advice, for tips, and find mentors and coaches. When you have challenging situations, it really helps to get feedback from others. Make sure to never give up and continue to follow your own dreams.