CEO & Founder, Silverdraft Supercomputing
“I get a lot of ‘That’s not how it’s done’ or ‘That’s not what a CEO does,’ and I’m like ‘Who defines what a CEO does? Who defines those rules? This is the company that I want to build, and the way I want to work with my team…”
What in your opinion are the qualities of a power woman?
The willingness to be vulnerable. To be transparent and speak from your heart, but still stay strong, strong in who you know you are and can be. The willingness to say ‘I don’t know’, or not have an answer. But to say, ‘You know what? Let me go figure it out. I will find out.’ The willingness to solve. Challenges and opportunities. Holding the team up, surrounding yourself with brilliance, and being comfortable doing that. You don’t have to be the one in the spotlight, you just have to elevate and see all the parts around you. Vulnerability seems like, for a lot of people, a negative thing, but I think for a strong powerful woman it makes you more powerful.
With all the different issues one could focus on, how do you balance your efforts in pursuit of gender equality. Is it a global approach, or is it more specific and passionate to you?
That is an interesting question! The way we as women can have impact is to stay strong and succeed. I’ve been through a lot, and I have experienced probably not at all, but darn near close to it. I don’t allow these things to hold me back or hold me down, or wallow in that or wish things were different. It’s like, no, I can prove it can be different. I can teach my team and my peers and others what is possible. I can speak to young girls and tell them that. I would say and tell – the Ted Talk it was more just in regards to myself like, ‘I’ve got to be strong. When I was going through that talk, a lot of things shifted. As you heard, it initially wasn’t going to be about that. But and I did have had that realization that I really needed to go past myself and deliberately elevate other women. I still haven’t fully still figured out yet how to completely do that. A lot of times I would join these female groups, or join these organizations to think, ‘Ok, maybe this is the way to make an impact’ and get very upset and frustrated when it becomes just a bitch session. Those are not going to do us any good. Sitting here and complaining about what happened in the past, it’s not great. We have to think about what we are doing moving forward, and how we can make an impact moving forward. I cannot stand complaining, the bitching… It’s like, well then prove yourself! Then show what you can do! I’m not going to sit in a room, and interview a man or a woman and care if it’s a man or a woman. I am going to listen to what they are going to bring to the table and how they will collaborate with me, and it’s not about gender.
Could you tell me one thing that brought you to where you are today?
This sounds crazy, but I do think my accident did. Having something like that happen to you, and then to be able to get through it and overcome it – we all change and overcome things but there is a greater appreciation for those around you, for what you’re capable of doing. Not having fear or having ego get in the way, is just a given. Of course it’s possible. Of course we can do this. If we get it wrong, that’s okay we’ll figure out another way. There isn’t a fear of trying. That experience gave me that. It gave me the opportunity to be willing to trust that it is at least worth a shot.
If you could have someone else’s job for a day, who would it be and why?
So good! I would really really want two jobs for a day. I would love to experience a job of someone that’s really struggling, really getting their hands dirty, yet they are positive and love what they do. I think it’s always really good to keep things in perspective. If I could get in the shoes of somebody that is doing everything they can, and they’re still happy and smiling, and still doing the sort of jobs I never had to do in my life. I’ve had tough things, I’ve struggled, my parents didn’t always have money but we still were ok. I would love to be able to firsthand experience what that is like for somebody else because that would bring in another perspective for me, versus the assumption of what that perspective could be.
In what way do you work for women’s power and equality? What do you think is the number one action as a society we can take, i.e affirmative action, which can help progress women and help move the margins?
A really obvious one is equal pay. It just blows my mind that it’s still-it seems like it would be such a basic 1-2 fix, and that that still exists. We improve and we get better, and then something will happen and I’ll be like, ‘Did that really just happen? Did they really say that?’ I think standing up for ourselves — I don’t know why, as women, we accept certain things. That it is ok that certain things happen. We have to take some accountability in the choices we make as women too. We can’t change anything if we don’t take responsibility for our own actions whether there is something happening to us. Now there are certain circumstances that are completely out of our control, and I am not speaking to those because those are absolutely horrific. When we can’t expect change if we aren’t part of the solution to change it.
What do women need to do today to be more effective in their relationships in work and all of those spaces. Do you feel there is a story or encounter beyond what you’ve already shared that was an experience in a workplace environment that changed some of your thought process?
I don’t know if I can speak to one specific moment. What people are saying and what you are hearing aren’t always the same thing. I discovered that if something affected me, not necessarily in a good way, I would repeat the exact words back and say, ‘This is what I heard you say to me, this is how it made me feel, was that your intention?’ It was shocking. In starting to do that, my relationship with people became significantly better. Back in the day times were very different. What we hold men accountable for then, and what is acceptable now are two very, very separate things. We also talked about habits, and as women we can help shift those habits. It sounds so horrible because it’s not our job to change people, but they are impacting us.
In New York City, the question about asking for previous salary requirements in a job interview contributes to the pay gap between men and women. New York State recently over lawed this practice. Should we push for a nationwide ban?
I can see where that would contribute to the gap actually. I don’t know if i’d ever dug deep in regards to that because I do really look at it more as a role. What is the range of this role? That’s what we do in regards to Silverdraft. Yes, if that’s what it is going to take to make that shift, and force the issue of it being about the role and the job, not your gender, that can only be a good thing. I do think it’s tough when there are certain parameters around business, but not all parameters are bad. Is it working?
Have you seen changes in the political landscape for women in the past few years? If so, what do you feel that they are?
Politics is a whole challenging discussion. There’s things I don’t like, things I support, things I don’t support, it goes all directions for me. There are a few things that are critical – we can’t go backwards, we need to go forward as women. What is right and fair. I hate to see anything that causes us to take steps backward. But I also think sometimes, it’s that hitting over the head standpoint. Rather than bitching about what was or what is, it’s what can we do to change, to make an impact, to make a difference. I look back to my early days living in New York City, my twenties, I mean living in New York in the nineties was an incredible experience. What was then, and what is now are two very different things. Not all men that have certain behavior in the nineties are bad men now. They shift, they evolve, so I hope that as we go forward, we as women can help improve things. I don’t want to get political, because that takes us down a whole other path but I do –
Was there one piece of advice anybody has given you, and can you share that with us? The best piece of advice anybody has given you?
Yes, I was told ‘I was enough.’ We’re enough. Shame on us when we forget that.
There are many studies that support the idea that the female presence in a boardroom increases the bottom line, and leads to a healthier work environment. What can we do to support and enhance the presence of women in high profile positions?
I think help give younger girls the belief in themselves that they can be in those positions. I think that sometimes as women – it cuts back to the advice that ‘we are not enough.’ The only way that perspective is going to change is if we believe in ourselves that we can be in those positions, and that when you’re in those positions, you don’t listen to – I get a lot of ‘that’s not how its done’ or ‘that’s not what a CEO does’ and I’m like ‘Who defines what a CEO does? Who defines those rules? This is the company that I want to build, and the way I want to work with my team.’ I do feel it does help with the bottom line because as women work, we can look at ‘this is happening over here, and this is happening over there, and this is happening way way down over there,’ and we can see all three of those things and how they align and what the trajectory can be with all three simultaneously. Women are really good at that. Elevating women to understand they are enough and can be in these positions is really important. It’s’ how do we do that?’ It’s one thing to say that, but how do we do it? I think that for me, I’m really working on figuring it out. I remember taking this moment and looking around my team and having all these beliefs as a woman and things I’ve gone through and hiring based on the job not the gender and then looking around my team and going, ‘Oh my gosh, I have all men’. It was a moment for me, because I didn’t think that way. So then it’s like, okay, I don’t think that way, but how do I get amazing women in front of me who have the confidence to know that they can do this job? That’s an area I think that as women leaders we should come together and think about. Again, I think it goes back to the bitch session, but it’s how we can have young talent know they are enough so they have a seat at the table so somebody like me can give them the opportunity.
What’s your favorite book? Fiction or nonfiction, present or past?
Oh my gosh, I love so many. I am a huge Shakespeare fan, and I know that seems crazy but I am! Oh, but which one do I like the most? I wish right now I had more time to read, I used to read all the time. With this home thing maybe I would have time to read, because I actually like the book. The feel of the book. My mother has hundreds of the old leather bound novels, I just love them. Ah, the smell of them! My grandmother had them and they went to my mother.
My next question is what do you most value in friends?
What trait do you most deplore in yourself and others?
In myself, it’s when I have self-doubt or when I don’t trust myself or my gut instincts. Or it takes me too long to listen to it. With others, it’s when people take credit for other people’s work. Or don’t have accountability for their mistakes or actions.
What do you consider is the most overrated virtue?