This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview Eileen Brown: Leading International Technology Authority and Executive; Eileen shares her top career tips and expertise on social media, online branding, Web 2.0, top trends, valuable resources, technology tips, best practices to engage with customers.
Eileen Brown now spends her time on projects to inspire people, working as Director at Amastra. Amastra is a company which helps you achieve your aspirations, become a better speaker, deliver powerful presentations, and create energised teams in a dynamic workplace. She helps companies extend their social media reach and engage better with their customers using new technologies.
Eileen has worked in the technology industry for over 17 years in technical support, consultancy and management roles, most recently managing the team of technology evangelists at Microsoft. Her company is called Amastra because when Eileen was seventeen, she joined the merchant navy as a deck cadet on a Shell tanker - she was Shell's first female apprentice at sea - and the guidance and motivation Eileen received on her journey gave her the strength and self-belief to inspire her to get qualified and become an Officer. After leaving the Merchant Navy Eileen worked in a container shipping company, moving into IT support, then training, pre-sales consultancy and technical specialist at Microsoft before leaving to start her own company.
Eileen is an accomplished and well-known international speaker and expert on Social Media, Online Branding, Web 2.0, Unified Communications, Systems Architecture. She explores the art of the possible, looking at how technology is changing the world we live in and seeing ways to simplify work and make you more productive.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
Eileen tells us a little about herself and shares some career lessons from her interesting prior roles.
"....Anything is possible if you believe in yourself enough....If you look at all the successes in life you find quite often people have achieved great things simply because nobody told them it was not possible....It's all about trying to do what you aspire to do and not taking no for an answer...."
What were the three biggest challenges you had to overcome and what mistakes did you make? What would you do differently today?
"....One of the limitations I had was when I didn't know something, I was too stubborn to ask anybody....One of the greatest lessons I've learned is you cannot know everything....There's a lot of value in getting your peers to help...."
What triggered your interest in computing?
"....I think my main indication of an interest in computing was when I worked out what computers could do...."
After working for large companies - why move to a small company?
"....I find that the dynamics and flexibility of smaller companies really appeal to me...."
Why is Amastra a company focusing on aspirations-what does this mean and what is the value to each community that you serve?
"....Everybody has an aspiration (whether corporate or an individual)....There are three levels of aspirations - corporate aspirations....workgroup level aspirations....individual aspirations....It's all about aspirations on many different levels and there's a team of people working with me at Amastra who will help you realize your goals..."
Why are you looking at social media to help companies with their online branding?
"....I think there is a great opportunity for smaller companies, especially those who may not have the traditional marketing budgets which are available to large corporate companies....The community will broadcast that information for you and you'll find that the message of your product is amplified across the social media network. I think that's really key for smaller companies to give themselves a presence on the global stage..."
What are best practices for becoming a better speaker and delivering powerful presentations?
"....One of the key things is body language....Smile....Start your presentation with a 'hello'....Do not look at the slide deck too much...."
What kinds of specific technologies do you recommend for businesses and why?
"....One of the key things for small businesses is to make sure your business is efficient....For a connected infrastructure I would run Active Directory, Exchange, and would also make sure I had unified communication...."
As noted earlier in our discussion, quite a varied career - from oil tankers to container shipping through to IT - did it all help?
"....I realized that the only limitations I had were all in my head...Being a woman in IT now is nowhere near as difficult as being a woman on a dirty old oil tanker. Being at sea was a great grounding for any challenge that can be thrown at me now...."
What are your current and immediate future projects and what outcomes do you wish to deliver? What can the audience learn from these projects?
"....One of the key things to learn is whatever your challenges are they can be overcome with the right application, dedication and work.... "
You work closely with customers and communities, what do you hear as the biggest obstacles IT organizations are challenged with?
"....The inability to be flexible and move and change direction....You've got to be flexible in the current times...."
How would you describe your top innovative achievements in terms of the problems you were trying to solve, your solutions, and the impact it has today and into the future?
"....I don't think it's innovative now, but at the time when I transferred paper information for scheduling onto a spreadsheet that was probably the most innovative thing that the company had ever seen. Looking back now with 17 years IT experience it was a logical thing to do, so it depends in your definition of innovation...."
How do you connect Women in Technology and why is it a passion for you?
"....I created an initiative called Connecting Women in Technology. I managed to get some amazing companies on board - there are Cisco, Dell, HP, Google, IBM, Intel, Nortel and Microsoft....I feel very proud that this transcends the business challenges that each of these companies have but it actually helps each woman in each technology company to get the best opportunities they can from within their own company...."
Why is it so important for the women working in the technology industry to have a good connection in their network and move beyond the boy's club?
"....One of the things about women in technology is that women quite often have a multi-functional role. They've got their careers and often they are the homemakers and looking after family and they don't often have the time to do the networking in the same way that men manage to do networking. I think that it is absolutely critical for women in technology to create and maintain that network whether that is a virtual, electronic or an in-person network...."
Why is driving alignment between business and IT more important than ever?
"....Simply because of the connectiveness between business and IT....For the business to succeed in this internet age you have to have a very good IT infrastructure, a fantastic disaster recovery plan, and great process in place just in case the worst happens and you have an interruption in your service....IT is becoming a core part of business...."
How does the recession deliver unparalleled opportunities for innovation?
"....One of the key things that we are noticing here in the UK is that innovation is occurring at a much smaller company level than big companies. Big companies, because of their investments and their overhead and their enormous fixed costs, are probably slower to move out of the recession than smaller more agile companies...."
What can be done to find new opportunities to grow the business?
"....You need to look at the new technology improvements out there and try to think outside of the box...."
How do you manage change?
"....Once in a while something appears that significantly enhances your life and that's the one that you've got to use. The trouble is how do you know if it's going to enhance your life unless you try more of them and that's the challenge. Quite often if I haven't got time, I listen to what the community is saying and just go with their recommendation...."
Please make predictions for the future, their implications, and how business executives and IT professionals can best prepare?
"....More flexible workforces - the ability to work anywhere and on any device....Ease of collaboration....The ability to transfer information seamlessly...."
What do you see as the three top challenges facing us today and how do you propose they be solved?
What are the best job resources for IT professionals?
"....Microsoft TechNet website...."
Please provide your views on the IFIP IP3 program on professionalizing the profession. [http://www.IPThree.org]
"....For the IT profession, this is such a critical path. I think there is a need for an internationally recognized standards body that recognizes the IT profession...."