“Get to ‘Yes’: The Art of Persuasion”: Dotty Nordberg with Pure Storage (Video + Transcript)

May 29, 2024

Dotty Nordberg (Senior DevOps Engineer at Pure Storage) shares strategies ensuring a positive outcome when presenting your ideas. You will learn how to effectively use various forms of communication (e.g. email, slack, zoom), who you should talk to (and what you should talk to them about), and how can you get those key stakeholders to buy-in to your plan.


In this ELEVATE session, Dotty Nordberg (Senior DevOps Engineer at Pure Storage) shares strategies ensuring a positive outcome when presenting your ideas. You will learn how to effectively use various forms of communication (e.g. email, slack, zoom), who you should talk to (and what you should talk to them about), and how can you get those key stakeholders to buy-in to your plan.

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Dotty Nordberg ELEVATE Effective Communication Get To Yes

Transcript of ELEVATE Session:

Dotty Nordberg:

Thanks Angie. Yeah, so happy to be here today. First of all, I’d like to say happy International Women’s Day, everyone. Thank you for joining. This session is going to be hopefully a fun session on effective communication in particular persuasion, getting that yes, that is so critical in our work and our lives. Let’s get started. Again, we have a full agenda today. We have a short amount of time, so hopefully we’ll get through all of this. If there are any questions, I hope to get to them at the end. If not, you can always reach out. I’ll give you my contact information and I’m happy to talk after.

I’ll introduce myself. We’ll define persuasion so that we’re all on the same page. We’ll talk about why persuasion is so important. We’ll talk about some challenges that you may face with being effective in communicating and persuading with others, and then some strategies to overcome that and to increase your persuasion powers.

Then we’ll talk about a success plan for the day of say you have a big idea that you want to present to your management team or maybe even higher ups. We’ll talk about the success plan for that particular day and then hopefully Q and A. Let’s get going. Okay, so me, a little bit about me. I am a technologist. I’ve been a geek all my life. I have an undergraduate degree in math, not computer science.

I’m a little bit of a non-traditional background. I took a bit of a circuitous route here. I started out as a Windows systems administrator. I got some certificates, so those bootcamps and those certificate courses, they can help you get your foot in the door. That’s how I did that, and then I worked on the Linux side of things as a Linux systems administrator. Got some training in that. Again, certification courses, working kind of on my own, highlighting that on my resume and at interviews and things like that.

Now, my focus for the last several years has been more of the cloud platform engineering and systems administration that, so as we mentioned, I’m a DevOps engineer. My current role at Pure Storage, I’ve been there for about five years, really enjoy it a lot. Moved to the San Francisco Bay Area about 13 years ago. I was originally on the east coast of the US, grew up in New York, lived in Atlanta for a while and then moved out to the west coast of the US near San Francisco about 13 years ago. I’m also a speaker.

I’ve really enjoyed speaking at events like Grease Hopper / Anita B, and ACM-W, and then of course Girl Geek X. I’ve been a mentor to probably hundreds of techies at this point. Mostly people new to tech. And they’re so talented, so inspirational. I cannot wait to see what they do next. And it is one of my favorite ways to give back to this community. I mean it’s small, but I think every little bit helps, so it’s one of my all time favorite things to do. Other miscellaneous things about me. Little fun facts.

I like to run and hike. I’ve trained in martial arts. I like to read. I’m in a couple of book clubs, travel, and right now I’m learning Spanish just for fun. I am a lifelong geek because I mentioned I love science and sci-fi. I dreamed of being an astronaut. And one quick little story about that here out where I live is, right down the street is one of the NASA research centers. A couple of years ago, one of my friends said, “Hey, I’ve been volunteering at the NASA Center there. They have an educational program for 12 year olds and 13 year olds. Do you want to to do this with me? I hear you want to be an astronaut. “And I’m like, “yes, please sign me up right away.”

It was so fun as a temporary volunteer, I got a temporary badge to just go right through the gates. The guards just kind of wave you right through the gates, which was so fun. And then at the educational center working with the kids, they had four or five different stations that were teaching the kids all about space, space, travel, it makes it possible, flight, all of that stuff. Release principle for flight and orbital mechanics and all that stuff like that. One of the displays is a mock space shuttle mission with a mock little space shuttle. And then I got to be Houston. I got to be ground control and be like, “Hey, ground control, mission control to space shuttle, please come in, space shuttle.” I was like a twelve year old kid at that thing. It was great. I think I had more fun than the kids did that day, so a lot of fun.

Okay, so let’s get to our topic today. Persuasion. Looking up on our friend dictionary.com, it says that persuasion is the act of persuading or seeking to persuade. The power of persuading and persuasive force – which really doesn’t tell us what persuade or persuading means, so what does persuade mean?

Persuade is to prevail on a person to do something by advising or urging to induce to believe by appealing to reason or understanding, convince. If you combine the two, it looks like persuasion is convincing the act of convincing someone to do something or one of the things that while I was doing this research on persuasion is it kind of seems similar to negotiation, but there is a difference in negotiation looking at the definition of that there’s a mutual discussion and arrangement of the terms of a transaction or agreement.

The difference for me is that persuasion is kind of a one side is trying to convince all the other sides of something, of the value, of their idea, of the reason why we should do this In a negotiation, it’s all parties. They’re trying to benefit in some way. For example, in a job offer, the company is trying to convince you that they’re a great company to work for, they have great benefits, they have great tech that you’ll be working on amazing products, things like that.

And you, for your part of that negotiation of the job offer, you’re trying to convince them to pay you as much as possible to pay you what you’re worth, say a million dollars a year, something like that. If you figure out how to do that, please, please let me know because I still have not done been able to do that yet. I would love to. Then contrasting that with a persuasion. Say it’s a company crisis. Things are on fire, it’s a P one, it’s outage. Services are down, customers are complaining. You really need to kind of maybe push your idea and say, Hey, this is the right way to go. You don’t really have time to negotiate per se.

And why is this important? It is a soft skill, meaning that it’s not a technical skill. It’s not like learning Python or Java or something like that, but it’s not typically taught in schools or in life in general.

Soft skills are very, very important tools to have for your career or even in your life. We use this a lot. I would say we use it in the workplace as well as in our regular lives. When we’re talking to, say maybe we’re on a board of a city council or something, and you’re speaking to legislators, you need to be able to persuade them like, this is the way to go, or this is not the way to go. Even parent teacher meetings, maybe your child needs a little extra help in class or you are the student and you’re working with your professors, asking for more time on a project, things like that. And for those of us with kids, I’m sure we use persuasion pretty much every night trying to convince our kids to go to bed at the appropriate time.

Persuasion is needed when you have a new idea, when you have a different opinion than others. When you’re working on those key assignments and you need to get a direction on which way to go, it could be the wrong direction to start, but sometimes you just need to get going, especially when you’re asking for a raise or a promotion. Definitely need to figure out a way to persuade your manager that, yes, I’ve done X, Y, Z, here’s the market rate for what I’ve been doing and things like that. And I highly recommend you do that as at least once a year, every one year or two years, something like that.

How do we use persuasion? We use it in meetings, we use it in presentations. We even use it in email over Slack. And especially as we discussed in a crisis situation, some possible personal challenges might face or I think you have, we hear a lot about imposter syndrome that when you feel like you don’t belong because you don’t have the skills, why am I here? They’re going to find out I’m a fake, I’m a fraud. I shouldn’t be doing this.

Maybe you feel like you’re the only person in your group of you’re the only woman say, or the only person of color, the only LGBQ, whatever that is for you. Or maybe you’re cross section of a couple of those that might be intimidating for you to try and put your ideas forward. Bro, culture is a thing and that might intimidate you as well, especially even cultural differences and societal norms.

Say you’re from a different country than most of the folks on your team. You have different cultural expectations and things that might hold you back a little bit. There is good news.

If you feel any of these things in particular, imposter syndrome, you are not alone. I’ve talked to many, many folks in all levels of companies, directors of engineering for 5,000 person company, and all the way down to individual contributors and affect men, women, all genders.

Everybody feels imposter syndrome at some point, especially if you’re the new person or if you’re new to the industry. If you’re new to the company or new to the industry, you are going to feel this way. Keep in mind that it’s pretty comforting to know that that’s normal to feel that way. Nobody expects you to know everything right away, especially if you’re new. And yeah, like I said, we’ve all been there, so take comfort in that and know that you’ll be fine.

You do deserve to be here and we want you here. You’ve earned your place and you do deserve to be here. More good news is that more companies are recognizing the importance of diversity, equality, and inclusion programs. And some have sensitivity trainings that are required of their employees.

Overall, I would say these challenges are diminishing, and I’ve been in this industry for many, many, many years and I’ve seen for me personally, these challenges going away, which is good news.

Here are our strategies for increasing our persuasion. Tailor your message for the different situations that you’re in. Is it a crisis or is it a non-emergency? It’s a crisis. It’s going to be a very different conversation than if you, it’s a non-emergency and you have the time to think and maybe plan out the project and things like that. Are you talking to a teammate?

Are you talking to your manager? Are you talking to the CEO of your company? Very different conversations because just for the view of that person, the executives are going to get the 10,000 foot view versus your teammate who’s right by your side every day. They know the lingo, they know everything that you’re doing. That’s going to be a very different conversation. Even your manager, they’re looking at it from a different point of view than you are. They know the tech, but then they also are a little bit higher in the hierarchy of the company, and so they have a little bit different view of things.

The words that you use and the message would be a little bit different. Is it going to be in person or video conference? Is it going to be over email or chat? Is this person a tech geek or are they not a tech geek? Meaning, are they in your industry? I mean every industry, its own geek speak, I would say. Is this person part of that community or not? It’s going to be a different conversation if say, I as a DevOps engineer, I’m talking to a finance person or hr, something like that, so you tailor your message to all these different situations, try to get into the other person’s head and understand their point of view.

Anticipate any objections to your idea, try and see the issue from all angles. This will foster better communication with those people that you’re presenting to, assuming that you have time to put together a presentation and it’ll form a more comprehensive case for your idea as well. Master the art of storytelling, so try to share your ideas through compelling stories and then interesting narratives, capture the audience’s attention and do a time check.

Right now we only have a couple of minutes, so I’m going to zip through these last few slides pretty quick. If your first effort, first your audience is not persuaded, keep an open mind. Ask questions to decipher their point of view and restate your idea in a different way.

Use your logic and reasoning. That’s super important. If there’s time, practice, practice, practice, research and rehearse your key points. Pets, make a great practice. Partners, dogs, maybe more than cats. Start small.

Use one-on-ones with coworkers or teammates and build support before the big presentation day. And then at the end of the discussion, even if it’s a crisis, make sure that everybody understands the idea and the decision makers have enough information to proceed with their decision. And if there’s follow-ups, make sure that you address those and do the work needed for those.

Okay, so it’s the big day of the presentation. Remain calm. Use your appropriate body language. Like, if you’re presenting to a room, stand up straight. Try and keep your hands from moving around too much. And these are reminders for myself as well. Use your compelling stories with your logic, your reasoning, and your credible sources.

Make sure that the decision makers hear you and you address any concerns that they have. Ask questions if you need to.

Try and understand their point of view, especially if they don’t agree with you right away. And keep a positive and curious attitude after the presentation. Take a deep breath and congratulate yourself even if your idea isn’t implemented. I feel that it’s a win for you because you’ve shown that you’re passionate and you’re creative.

And the next time you present an idea, the folks that have heard you the first time, it’d probably be similar folks. They’ll understand and they’ll say, “Hey, Dotty, she has pretty good ideas. She’s really excited about what she does and she’s creative. Let’s hear her out this time.” I think that that is a positive for you and a win. And plus, you’ll have experience as well and be able to get your feedback from there and tweak your presentation for the next time.

And then with that, I would like to thank you for attending. If you have any questions, please reach out to me over LinkedIn and I think we’re going to be cut off soon, but thanks so much everybody. I hope you’re having a great time at the conference.

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