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Oracle Leaders Circle Focus on Women’s Leadership

For Day Two of Oracle’s Leaders Circle, participants had the option to again select from a series of Industry summit programs or the Oracle Women’s Leadership Summit (OWL). I selected the OWL Program, not really knowing what to expect, hoping that it would not be more of the same ‘woe is me – a woman in a male dominated industry’ pity party…

The OWL Summit was described as follows:

“The Oracle Women’s Leadership Summit 2014 is the perfect opportunity for executive-level women to engage and network with some of the most recognized thought leaders in business today. You will learn from Oracle executives, industry leaders, and peers in presentations and group discussions. This valuable summit will showcase innovative leadership perspectives, spark meaningful discussion to challenge and inspire us to continue in our own development as leaders, and encourage us to support and empower women leaders of the future.”

Well, the OWL Summit absolutely exceeded my expectations and was in a word, amazing. I had the opportunity to hear some fantastic presentations as well as meet dynamic women and men from within Oracle as well as other client and partner companies. And yes, happy to say that I departed the event feeling totally energized and newly inspired to take on the workaday world and to smell the roses along the way.

The speakers that I found most impactful were:

  • Condoleezza Rice / Former Secretary of State and now at Stanford and the Hoover Institute
  • Matt Lieberman / Psychology Professor at UCLA
  • Carol Sawdye – Vice Chair and CFO / PwC
  • Dorian Dale – SVP and General Counsel / Oracle

Dr. Condoleezza (Condi) Rice needs no introduction as the former US Secretary of State under former President George W. Bush and former Stanford Provost. She now back at Stanford as professor of Political Economy in the graduate school of business as well as a serving as a senior fellow on public policy at the Hoover Institute.  Dr. Rice spoke for about 40 minutes and then participated in a moderated Q& A session with journalist and former news anchor Sydnie Kohara, for an additional 30 minutes.  In her opening remarks, Dr. Rice discussed ‘the inspiring change and challenges afoot globally for women and ways the global community must continue to unite behind the cause of women’s empowerment.’

Here are a few of Condi’s comments that really resonated with me:

  • The US represents the greatest mobilization of human potential of any nation
  • What the US does abroad is indelibly linked to our politics at home
    • Making a difference in the world starts locally here at home
  • We are a country of immigrants, so when did they become enemies?
  • The US now has a serious crisis in K-12 education and some of this is linked to the erosion of the middle class
    • The promise that one can come from humble circumstances and still do great things is still significant
  • It is important to understand the distinction between a policy difference versus differences that may cause one to compromise long held values
  • And finally, holding tight to feelings of victimhood accomplishes nothing. By doing so, one relinquishes power and hands over control to others
    • One must assess the situation / circumstances before reacting
    • It is important to learn to stand up for oneself

Dr. Matt Lieberman was the next speaker. He is a Professor and SCN Lab Director at UCLA Department of Psychology, Psychiatry and Bio-behavioral Sciences. Dr. Lieberman’s presentation focused on ‘the ways that we are biased in our everyday lives and workplace judgments and decisions, as well as ways to de-bias various classes of bias and errors.’

Carol Sawdye, Vice Chair and CFO of PwC was the next speaker. Her presentation was entitled – ‘Journey to the C Suite—Turning Risk into Opportunity’. Ms. Sawdye believes the ‘anyone seeking personal and professional growth must learn to take risks. Her own journey has led her from partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), to leadership roles at an international law firm and the National Basketball Association and back to PwC again, this time as vice chair and chief financial officer (CFO). Along the way, Ms. Sawdye has responded to rapidly changing megatrends in technology and talent with creativity and agility and has helped to transform what it means to be a CFO’.

Key takeaways from Carol’s presentation:

  • It is important not to see everything as risk and to turn that anxiety into excitement (coming from a CFO, those are potent admonitions)
  • The biggest risks:
    • Do nothing
    • Maintain the status quo
  • There are huge opportunities associated with being a disrupter
    • It is important to be a change agent within one’s organization

The final speaker of the afternoon was an Oracle executive who provided the Oracle leadership perspective – Dorian Daley, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, leading the 300+ person global legal department at Oracle. During her 22-year tenure with the company, ‘Dorian Daley has experienced tremendous career growth throughout her leadership journey, providing legal counsel in support of Oracle’s expansive business model.’  She shared her unique perspective on successful leadership in today’s complex global business environment as well as how to deal effectively with ‘the Big Uglies’ (those intractable and hairy challenges that we all face periodically).

Dorian’s Top 10 List absolutely bears repeating:

  • Relationships matter, a lot
    • Both personally and professionally
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help
  • It is important to understand your company’s core business
    • Not just your role or position
    • Must fundamentally understand the business model (sales model, other areas of the business)
    • Important to be seen as a partner to the business
  • Conventional wisdom is not always so wise
    • Embrace change and break with convention
    • It is important to understand history, but it is also important to change it going forward
  • If something does not make sense, it simply does not make sense
    • Find the clarity
    • Speak truth to power when necessary
  • If you don’t ask, you won’t get
    • Build a solid case around the ask
  • Be persistent
    • We are not perfect or infallible
    • Own the mistake / Fix it quickly / Get back at it
    • Take the long view
    • Never give up
    • Be confident
  • Without a reputation for integrity, you have nothing
    • Business ethics and integrity are paramount
  • Humility and a sense of humor are very valuable
    • Important to be able to look at your own experiences with humor and humility
  • Do YOUR best
    • Treat everyone with respect and kindness
    • Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses!

What a tremendous two days at Oracle’s Leaders Circle!  What a tremendous afternoon at the Oracle Women’s Leadership Summit! In addition to meeting several truly fantastic women and men – many of whom I am now connected to on LinkedIn, I also had the opportunity to meet and exchange comments with Carol Sawdye and Dorain Daley at the end of the OWL Summit.

I look forward to OOW 2015 and would be honored to be invited to participate in Leaders Circle again next year. I am also keen to spearhead Perficient’s involvement in the Oracle Women’s Leadership Program as a partner company going forward.

To be continued…J

Thank you!

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Denese Thomas

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