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Full house at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner in Sunnyvale, California. Erica Kawamoto Hsu / Girl Geek X
Transcript from Equinix Girl Geek Dinner:
Gretchen DeKnikker: Okay, perfect. Hello, everybody. I’m Gretchen from Girl Geek. Thank you so much for coming tonight to this gorgeous space. It’s amazing here. This is our last Girl Geek event of the decade. And Angie started this organization almost 12 years ago. So let’s give her a big round of applause for doing that. We’ve done 250-ish of these events now, so please keep coming.
Gretchen DeKnikker: We have a little swag store and I have something from it, this adorable notebook. So we’re going to play a little game. Raise your hand if you’ve been to three or more Girl Geek dinners. Keep it up if it’s four. Five. Six. Avi, I feel like you’ve not even qualified to win. Okay. Seven? He comes every single week. This is seven. Okay. Eight? Nine? 10? 11? Anybody? In the back?
The “geekiest girl” at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner and winner of the Girl Geek X swag notebook. Erica Kawamoto Hsu / Girl Geek X
Audience Member: I’m the geekiest girl.
Gretchen DeKnikker: That is–? All right. I have the cutest, cutest notebook for you. You’re going to love this and thank you for coming back over, and over, and over again. And I hope to see all of you guys at ones in the future.
Angie Chang: Thank you, Gretchen. Hi, I’m Angie. I think what I have left to say is we do podcasts. We have 20 podcasts that we’ve recorded this year and you can check them out on our website. We also have videos from talks like these. So if you want to spend your Christmas holidays or New Years watching Girl Geeks speak on YouTube, you can find us at youtube.com/girlgeekx, including these talks, probably. And also, one last thing, we’re going to be at the AngelLaunch holiday party this Friday and there’s a VIP15 code for you to get your ticket to join us. And we’ll be in Palo Alto–
Gretchen DeKnikker: Mountain View.
Angie Chang: Mountain View!
Gretchen DeKnikker: Yes. AngelLaunch is hosting.
Angie Chang: Thank you. Free tickets with promo code VIP15. Thank you.
Gretchen DeKnikker: All right.
Dipti Srivastava: Thank you so much. Hi. How are you all doing today? Are you all feeling the magic? The magic of Equinix, because we all feel that here every day. So thank you all for coming here today and spending your precious evening with us. Without further ado, I would like to invite our very first speaker, our chief product officer, Sara Baack. Today, Sara will share about her journey from the Wall Street to the C-suites. She will share some key takeaways from her experiences and share her philosophies that she sticks with as a leader. Welcome, Sara.
Chief Product Officer Sara Baack gives talk on “From Wall Street to C-Suite” at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner. Erica Kawamoto Hsu / Girl Geek X
Sara Baack: Thank you, Dipti. I think you’ve overbilled me. I feel like I might … Hopefully I won’t disappoint anybody here who’s probably commuted, who knows how long down 101 to arrive here this evening. First of all, it’s so energizing. I don’t know how many people would agree with me, but when you come into a room that looks like this, and you have some wine, and you have some sushi, who doesn’t feel excited to be here? So I’m really, myself, excited to be here.
Sara Baack: So when we organized this event and Equinix agreed to participate and sponsor this space and I was asked to speak for seven minutes. I thought, I can’t do anything in just seven minutes. So I’m going to be very brief, but first of all, give a great shout out and thank you to the Girl Geek organization for organizing something as momentous and important as these type of venues. And I also want to certainly welcome everybody who’s here and thank in advance the other colleagues and leaders here at Equinix who will be sharing the podium with me today and probably giving you more words of wisdom from a technology perspective than I’m qualified to do.
Sara Baack: And I’ll explain that in a minute. But I’m first told that I need to give you an Equinix commercial. And because I used to be the chief marketing officer of the company, I take that to heart. So for those of you who don’t know who Equinix is, we’re the best known secret in tech, I liked to tell people when I was a marketing leader for the organization. And essentially, what we do is we provide data center and interconnection infrastructure around the world that makes your technology work. And so the biggest of the big cloud providers, E-commerce providers, telecom companies come and put their infrastructure into our facilities around the world.
Sara Baack: And then we interconnect that all together. So the experience that you have when you’re on your iPhone, using AT&T to go to the App Store to download the Amazon app, to shop for a Christmas gift for your daughter or son. That whole digital transaction chain is actually fueled and powered by Equinix as the plumbing behind all of that. So that’s in a nutshell what we do. I could probably explain that in a deeper technology way, but that’s the way I like to explain it to people like my mother or friends at parties who don’t work in tech and don’t necessarily understand the ins and outs of all the layers of IT infrastructure.
Sara Baack: So that’s essentially the power that we supply to the world, but chances are 80% or 90% of the time, when you have a digital transaction happening, it’s touching Equinix in some way. You just don’t know it. So that’s a little bit about Equinix. I was asked to share a little bit about my personal journey in technology. And so I’ll give you that in a two minute snippet, if that’s possible. I’m an accidental girl geek from a technology point of view. I started out as a geek, for sure, but a technology geek was something I came into later in my career.
Sara Baack: So I was the child of two public school teachers who were very, very interested in education and obviously saw education as the way to rise up and to continue to progress as people and as humans. And so they always impressed on me learning is one of the most important things in life. It’s the thing to relish, it’s the thing to put a lot of hard effort into. And so I did that growing up and they were also very empowering to me in terms of making me feel like anything was possible in terms of what I wanted to do from a career point of view.
Sara Baack: They definitely wanted me to become an engineer, but instead of that, I rebelled and I became a history major. And I majored in history and economics in college. And then because I had a lot of student loans to pay off, I did what any person with a lot of loans does and says, “What’s the job that can pay me the most, that can help me get out of this debt?” And I went to work for an investment bank. And I did a two year investment banking program, which turned out to help me with loans, but also helped me with life, in the sense that it gave me a great exposure to all different kinds of companies, all different types of industries.
Sara Baack: And it also introduced me to just how hard and how many hours one can work because it’s a bit of a sweatshop when you’re working for an investment bank as a junior person. And so I learned a lot about what my mettle was as a worker and how much effort I could put in to get a result. And while I was doing that job, I ended up getting approached to be offered to work in the private equity arm of my company. So the part of the company that invests in other companies. And so I said, “Sure, that sounds great.” And so I did this job where my job was to interview all these management teams and decide if my company wanted to invest in them.
Sara Baack: And I thought that was really an enjoyable job, but I was totally unqualified to do it. And so I thought I need to go to business school and actually figure out how businesses run. So I went to business school and out of business school I thought I’m going to go work in an operating company and actually learn how people create value in a real enterprise. And then I’ll go back to investing some day. And for me, I just got hooked on what it’s like to be part of creating value in the real world versus on a spreadsheet.
Sara Baack: And so I never went back to investing, but I used that financial background to begin to leverage my way into other operating roles in companies that I worked for. And so that gets to how I become an accidental technologist because the first time that I really learned something about network engineering by accident was when I was asked to model the cost structure of a network. And so I had to go and interview every single engineer and say, “Okay, there’s this piece of architecture. What does that do, and how much does that cost, and how do you break it down on a per customer basis?”
Sara Baack: And then after that, what happens next? Where does that bit go? It goes into this box? And what does that do? And how much does that cost? And so I accidentally learned my way into aspects of IT infrastructure and networking engineering as a result of my finance background. And so one of the key lessons that I would impart to folks here is the opportunity that you have to mold yourself. And the assumptions that we sometimes make about so-and-so’s an engineer and so-and-so’s a history major. I think I’m evidence that you don’t necessarily have to live by the label in terms of what you can aspire to do and what you can learn from.
Sara Baack: So that’s maybe lesson one. Am I at seven minutes yet? Probably. I have three or four more minutes to go. So that was lesson one that I had in a career that I think is maybe relevant. Another thing that I’ve learned in being someone who’s bridged from maybe a business finance background into a technology background is being a good listener, a really applicable skill to everything that we all do, is being a good listener. The way that someone asks a question to you might not be actually the answer that they’re seeking. So really trying to understand the spirit of what people are asking and being a good listener, to try to uncover the problem that’s being posed or the opportunity that you have to add value, I think has made a real difference in my ability to make impact in my jobs in life.
Sara Baack: The other thing I’d say about my lessons learned is that nothing comes easy. I mean, I learned that in my first life as a Wall Street investment banker in as much as you have to work your butt off. And I did work my butt off. And so I think there’s an honest reality for all of us, that a certain part of success is sweat and effort. And at least for me, there has been no getting around that fact. But the other thing that I would like to acknowledge is that for folks that have been lucky enough to be in a position that I now enjoy at Equinix, being a senior leader at an S&P 500 company, is luck is just that point, luck.
Sara Baack: Being lucky is part of the equation. And so it would be wrong of me not to acknowledge that part of the reason I get to enjoy the opportunity to work at this company and the role that I have is being in the right place at the right time, along the path of life, and having the good fortune to have good mentors, or talk to the right person at the right time. And I do think that’s something that’s important to acknowledge because all of us, I think, are generally wired to work hard and succeed. And if you don’t acknowledge that luck is part of the success you have in life, I think you’re selling you’re maybe selling yourself a little bit of a tale.
Sara Baack: And so I think luck really matters, but, as they say, luck favors those prepared. Right? Luck favors people who are willing to put themselves out there and willing to take risks. And that gets to my other life lesson, which is that vulnerability is a strength. Which is something that I think many of us women, that’s a scary proposition, right? We can tend to be, and I don’t want to generalize, we can tend to be folks who feel like almost as a need to fit in to a world that’s more male oriented, that we have to act a certain way. We have to be strong in a certain way.
Sara Baack: And for me, one of the things that is probably the message I like to tell a lot of other women colleagues, is that it was the time that I was courageous and confident enough in myself to be vulnerable, to cry in front of my all hands, which I have done regularly in my life, to display that kind of emotion, to be able to be willing to say, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I can find out.” To be willing to say, “I really screwed that up. Wow. How can I fix it?” Having those kinds of moments have actually been probably some of the most leadership credibility building moments of my career.
Sara Baack: And so I think getting to a place in your career growth where you have the confidence to display that vulnerability, it can yield remarkable outcomes. Outcomes that you don’t predict because you’re spending a lot of your time figuring out how do I make sure I show up like I know what I’m talking about all the time. And in some weird way, being yourself, giving yourself permission to be yourself is actually your most empowering asset, I think, as a leader and as a person who’s growing in their career.
Sara Baack: And then maybe the last thing that I’ll talk about, which is a value that we have at Equinix. Equinix is a company that just has an amazing culture. And so I feel lucky to be part of it, but one of the values that we espouse is something we call speak up and step up. And that’s another way of saying don’t be afraid to share your views, to put the elephant on the table in a meeting. I mean, obviously you have to do those things in a polite way and in a constructive way, but I think being a person who has the courage to ask the stupid question.
Sara Baack: One of the blogs I write is you’re only stupid if you don’t ask the stupid question. Fear of asking stupid questions makes you stupid because I can count on … I need more than the appendages I have to count the number of times that I have asked a question in a meeting and someone after the meeting comes up to me and says, “I’m so glad you asked that question.” And so I really encourage people to use their voice, whether you’re male or female, and you’re working to show your mettle, and grow in organizations is people want your contribution, right? We’re all earning a paycheck and we’re all sitting in our chair because people want to know our thoughts.
Sara Baack: And so overcoming your fear of thinking your thought is maybe not the right thought is something you really need to focus on, in my opinion, to be successful in the workplace. I can tell you for every one or two good ideas that comes out of my mind, there are certainly eight stupid ideas that come out of my mind. But you’re playing the volume game, right? So as long as you’re willing to voice all of those ideas, and use your peers and your colleagues to help you test those ideas, I think that’s been a key to success for me, is overcoming that fear of just putting my thoughts out there and being willing to share those. And so I know I’m over my seven minutes now.
Sara Baack: So hopefully some of these tiny tidbits have been a smidge of value and slightly worth the commute down here to join us this evening. And so I’m going to now pass the mic to much more august technologists than myself to hear more about what we see happening in the world of technology and to share ideas about that. So I’ll pass it back to Dipti. Thank you.
Dipti Srivastava: Hi. Thank you, Sara. Those were very, very informative tidbits. Our next speaker is someone who was a winner of the Woman of Influence award from the Silicon Valley Business Journal, Dr. Yun Freund. She’s the senior vice president of product engineering. She will share how to thrive in a male dominated tech world and the best practices to be a better leader. Welcome, Yun.
VP of Engineering Dr. Yun Freund gives talk on “how to thrive in the male-dominated tech world” at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner. Erica Kawamoto Hsu / Girl Geek X
Dr. Yun Freund: Thank you, Dipti. Thank you, welcome. This is the first time we sponsored Girl Geek and we’re so excited to have all of you joining us. And I was sharing with some of the girls during dinner, some of you said, “Why do you join? What makes you want to come to the Geek Girl dinner?” One of them says, “Wow, you always have great food.” Always sushi, it’s great food. The second one says, “Well, we would like to explore this business, the company who sponsored this event,” because certainly business is doing well and they can have the budget to sponsor it.
Dr. Yun Freund: We’re hiring, of course. And third and the most important, I think, is we care. We care about diversity, we care about inclusion, we care about women. So with that, let me give a quick introduction about myself. Right, so my leadership journey. So, Sara, shared about her leadership journey. I’m, I could say, the first generation immigrant. 30 years ago I came here from China. I grew up in a very small village in China, don’t speak any English. And I came here 30 years ago to pursue my PhD in computer science. After five years of working in a university, I did receive my PhD in computer science.
Dr. Yun Freund: And I started my journey as just regular engineers. And over the time, I climbed up the career ladders through hard working, collaborating with the teams, and have a lot of great mentors and sponsor along my career. I’ll share some of the tips later. And now, I’m working in various different companies. And I have taught classes at San Jose State. It’s almost three years teaching in San Jose State. Computer science as an adjunct professor. I care very much about women in tech and diversity. And I’m an advocate and passionate about STEM girls. I have a 16 year old girl, so obviously it’s a very important topic for me, too.
Dr. Yun Freund: So talking a little bit, I think Sarah shared a little bit about what Equinix is about. I was sharing with some of the ladies in the audience what do we do. So a lot of you know we are data center, but we are also best secret in high tech. We’re building a software platform that can enable you to go to cloud. So whether you are doing cloud on ramping, whether you’re doing a hybrid [inaudible] cloud. And we have a software platform to help you to have a single button, easy journey to onboard to the cloud. So we will work with all the various cloud service provider. So building the software platform using the latest technology and ReactJS, Java, and any big data, Kubernetes, and even UX designers, and product management, we’re hiring.
Dr. Yun Freund: So if you’re interested, talk to some of our Equinix talent acquisition team. So talking about a little bit about how to thrive in the male dominated tech world. So one of my base tip I can share, being an immigrant, don’t speak the language in a male dominated world. When you go into the conference room, all [inaudible] 20 men sitting in a conference room with me, English not so good. How do I express my opinion? I think first and foremost is about confidence. But how do you build up your confidence?
Dr. Yun Freund: I, actually earlier this year, spoke at the LGBT conference in San Francisco. My tip is know your shit, right? So know your stuff. You got to work twice as hard. Know your stuff in depth so you know every single bits of the details. You can conquer. So no matter how they ask you a question, you know it. So over time, you will build up your confidence because statistics says men speak up early only 50% of the time know about will speak up early. Women has to wait until they’re 100% confident about the material, then they speak up. Don’t do that.
Dr. Yun Freund: When you know 60%, speak up and speak early. And always sit at the front of the table, first line on the seats. So everybody can see you, everyone can hear you. Right? When you apply a job, don’t wait until 100% match of your skill. Apply. Men, only when they’re 50% of the time a match, they apply. So that’s my tip, right? So over time, you build up your confidence, right? That’s the most important thing. I see a lot of women, you are so talented. You work so hard. And sometimes, you say a women has to work twice as hard.
Dr. Yun Freund: But I would say you need to work hard, but you have to share your work. Otherwise, your work is buried in your cubicle. Nobody knows about it. So that’s, I think, the most important tip, over time I see this is one of the great way for you to build up your confidence, to share your work with others, and to bring it to visibility of all the other team members. So I think that’s one thing that’s most important. I went through that journey myself, right? When I was young, I don’t have a lot of confidence.
Dr. Yun Freund: Over years, as you achieve your career and with a lot of supporting sponsors, you can build up that confidence over years. So the second items I want to share is about the mentorship and sponsorship. So I do see that over years you do need a lot of mentorship and sponsors. Sometimes, it’s not easy to find, but I think you will with your perseverance of finding the person who’s willing to invest in you and care about you is so important, right? So sometimes people say, “Well, I don’t need a mentor,” but sometimes you need a sponsor, right? Somebody truly believing you, think you can do the work. And then you have to share your work and outline an impact that you’re driving, the outcome you’re driving.
Dr. Yun Freund: And those sponsor will speak for you when there’s opportunity arrive. And they will help you. So that’s, I think, the most important thing. And then sometimes we do think that men maybe they don’t believe in us, they have unconscious bias, but I would say, I was reading this book, it’s really about bringing men as part of your allies. They want to know you and they want to be able to help you, but sometimes we don’t approach them, or we have a fear approaching them. And I think that’s something that is a mystery. So along my career, actually there were a lot of male leader helped me over my career path, and really believed in me, and moved me to the next level. So with that, that’s all my tips for today. And thanks so much.
Dipti Srivastava: Thank you, Yun. So remember, one takeaway from Yun’s speech, if I would remember, is speak up when you know about 60% of what you’re talking about. That’s still 10% more than the 50% men are supposed to talk about when they know something about. I’m happy to introduce our next speaker, Dr. Danjue Li, who is the director of product engineering. She will talk about how driving innovation is never easy. In this lightning talk, Danjue will share how it connects us turning customer inspired innovation into winning products. Welcome, Danjue.
Director of Product Engineering Dr. Danjue Li gives talk on “turning customer-inspired innovation into new products” at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner. Erica Kawamoto Hsu / Girl Geek X
Dr. Danjue Li: Wow. I really love the crowd and the energy in the rooms. We have some really good leadership tips from Sara and [inaudible] since this is Girl Geek, we have to be a little bit geeky, right? So I am going to take the opportunity just talk to innovations and at Equinix how we turn the customer inspired innovations into products that we can offer to our customers through the platforms. And I actually got that question when I was talking to one of the attendees. And she was asking, so hold your question. We’re going to share.
Dr. Danjue Li: I’m going to start with one of my favorite questions, is what is innovation? If I walk around and ask you to answer, very likely, depends on who you talk to, you get very different answers. So innovation sometimes is considered probably one of the most about terms in business. What it really means, sometimes it can be very nebulous. And even sometimes it can be constant and becomes a buzz word, right? So what is really innovation and how do we look at innovation at Equinix?
Dr. Danjue Li: I’m borrowing some of the graph. Probably sometime you might recognize this from the idea book. So this graph is called the three lenses of innovation, desirability, feasibility, and viabilities. So this is the model that usually startup company founders leverage to build their business models. And nowadays, it’s also being adopted by [inaudible] companies who apply design thinking process to their product creation. So this is how we’re looking at this, is in order to create a successful product, we need to build something which someone wants, right?
Dr. Danjue Li: And then also something which we call desirable. And then also something that is feasible, means from organization and technology perspective it’s totally doable. We can do it. And then, also, it needs to be something which is viable to make business sense. If we build it, we can bring it to the market. And then it would not be broke if we push it to the market, right? So if you look at the middle part, what we call the sweet spot for innovation, and then when we build upon it, we want to target at that sweet spot. So at Equinix, basically that’s the target that we’re looking at.
Dr. Danjue Li: By working with our customers to find that customer inspired innovations that are desirable, feasible, and viable. And then in order to do it, the approach that we take, we’re summarizing three phases. Dreaming it together with our customers, deciding it together, and then developing it together. What does that really mean? So we, as Yun was mentioning earlier, we’re in that perfect spot of intersection of multiple different coats, the intersection of network providers. So we get the opportunity to work with a wide range of customers. Service providers, call providers, enterprises, common providers.
Dr. Danjue Li: So we work very closely with them and dream with them to find out what are the innovative ways for us to help them to build their digital infrastructure globally. And some of the great ideas came up because of that what we call co-ideation process. One of the examples that we’re … A list of the few logos there, those are the things that just came out. And then we also have a pipeline of new stuff that we’re incubating right now. So Equinix smart key, that’s a perfect example of the great results we’re seeing when we dream it together with our customers.
Dr. Danjue Li: So the idea actually was a result when we’re talking to our customers to help them to solve the data encryption issues in a multi cloud environment. So for folks who are in that cloud computing industries, one or more customers are moving, for enterprises specifically, their infrastructure into the cloud, right? And then they start with the one cloud and end up, like, “I don’t want to be locked into one cloud. It’s better to have multiple clouds.” And guess what? Your data moves there, as well.
Dr. Danjue Li: Then you start to have very sensitive information distributed everywhere. And then how to secure them, right? You don’t want to trust the person who keep your stuff and then keep the box of your values at the same time give the key back to them, as well. So this is where Equinix can basically come up with a solution, joining with the customers to help them to encrypt the data, secure that data while they can safely build their digital infrastructure. This is actually one of the product that give me a bragging power whenever I was talking to my daughter.
Dr. Danjue Li: So I believe almost everyone who tried Taco Bell, tried KFC, right? Nowadays, if you go there, swipe your credit card, guess what? Equinix smart key is actually being used to help to secure the transactions. So then the other very good example is Equinix Cloud Exchange. Again, it’s the results from the collaboration or the co-ideation process with one of the largest cloud providers out there, is they asked us to build some private interconnections to connect them with our joined customers. So we work together and we build a product called Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric. And nowadays, [inaudible] Fabric is serving over 1,000 enterprise and service provider customers.
Dr. Danjue Li: And then the same story goes to Network Edge. So once we start dreaming it together, and I think the second step that we took is how we prioritize stuff, right? How you decide it together because there are so many great things out there. And then when you look at it, I want to build this, I want to build that, I want to build that, but you only have limited time. You have limited resource, how to prioritize? And, actually, that’s the dilemma that only innovators are actually facing. So this is where we take the approach to decide it with our customers. And IBX SmartView is the product which actually result from the prioritization with some of our customers. And IBX’s Smart View is a data center infrastructure management product that leverage AI and the machine learnings to help us better manage our data centers.
Dr. Danjue Li: And it also will automatically alert our customers and us if there is any issues detected. So the last part, I want to point it out here, is once we dream it together, we decide it together, you have to build it. Okay? So most of the times, we join forces with our customers to build those products together, the different vehicles that we’re leveraging or the channels that we’re leveraging to handle that code development process. For instance, we have something called customer advisory board and also a technical advisory board that allow us to build that direct communication channels with our customers.
Dr. Danjue Li: So they will be able to come in and then tell us this should show up in the road map, this is great, this is added value. And to help us to decide and also take their input and build tha product together. And then the other one that we introduced is called Minimum Viable Traction, MVT. Probably lots of you have heard of something called MVP, Minimum Viable Products. Actually, that’s an often used term in startup companies, as well. So MVT is the process to help us to bring products to the market, to our customers in a very early stage.
Dr. Danjue Li: So that as we discuss in the very beginning, we build a product. We want to make sure that it’s desirable, feasible, and viable. So MVT basically allowed us to do that early market testing. And they make sure that we are building something which is sitting in that sweet intersection spot. Well, if you are a product company nowadays, how can you do that without a developer platform or developer forums? So we provide developer forums to help us to connect directly with developers out there. So it’s a great vehicle for developers to provide feedback. So we will be able to take that input and improve our products together.
Dr. Danjue Li: And then, also, I was very excited to announce that now we are a proud gold member of CNCF and that we’re also actively contributing back to the open source communities because we believe that’s the new way of building products. It’s not just by yourself, it’s to build with the communities out there. Last, but not least, we host meet up sessions. And we recently did one in [inaudible] computing domains. And then we are going to host more in a coming month, as well. And this event is also a great channel for us to reach out to tell you more about our products, to get your feedbacks, and then to basically collect all the inputs.
Dr. Danjue Li: And to make sure that we’re building something that customer wants. So if you’re interested in knowing more about how we’re turning those innovations into products, if you happen to be very excited about incubating your products, come to talk to us. We actually have a table over there set up to tell you more about the things that we’re doing. And by the way, we’re hiring. Okay? So that’s one thing that I was talking to our HR partners, is as a hiring manager I feel like I’m a kid in a candy store, right? There’s so many talented women here. And you know that in Silicon Valley it is really hard, okay?
Dr. Danjue Li: So please take a few minutes to talk to us if you are interested. Thank you.
Dipti Srivastava: Thank you, DJ. That was so impressive. I’m sure you inspired a lot of folks here for thinking about innovation and remembering how to reach that sweet spot. Our next speaker is Rozanne Stoman. She’s the director of IT for sales and marketing applications. Rozanne will share her journey in career and technology. She will talk about an alchemic blend of science, art, and language that helps her teams deliver exceptional solutions. Welcome, Rozanne.
Director of Applications Rozanne Stoman gives talk on “finding tech: delivering innovative solutions” at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner. Erica Kawamoto Hsu / Girl Geek X
Rozanne Stoman: So good evening, everyone, and thanks so much for this opportunity to coming to share some thoughts with you. So here at Equinix, my team and I take care of a portfolio of enterprise applications that are used primarily by our sales and our marketing legal teams. And so in a given day, my team that primarily business systems analysts. Any business systems analysts in the room? Analysts of any type? I bet there are a lot of analysts who just don’t know that’s what they are. So in any given day, such an analyst may troubleshoot an issue, they may propose a data model, they may give input to a user interface design, they might evaluate a new tool if there’s a gap for us that we haven’t built ourselves.
Rozanne Stoman: Some things we build from scratch and some things we stitch together from existing tool sets or applications. And so with that, what I wanted to talk about, this unique blend of characteristics that we found often makes for a really good systems analysts. And I’m a proud mama hen on my team. Boys and girls, we’ve got really just such a strong team. And often I sit around and go, “How did I get so lucky?” And when I started my career, I must confess, I had this slightly linear view of what may predict success later.
Rozanne Stoman: I remember I was maybe around 25, I was working for a small company and we were expanding our team. And I was given a recruiting assignment. And so I got a whole lot of university resumes, and I looked through them, and I selected … I think I was playing it safe, so I selected the highest grades, and all the subjects that seemed the smartest. So that was my short list and then they put me on a plane and I could meet some of the faces behind these resumes, had some really interesting conversations. And I walked away thinking, “Well, these are really smart people that I’ve just spoken to, but what am I missing? I’m not sure I’m looking for the right stuff yet.”
Rozanne Stoman: And my mentor at the time, he gave me all sorts of interesting advice. One piece of advice was, “Rozanne, you got to grow some teeth. You’ve got to sharpen your teeth.” I don’t know if I ever did that, but he also told me you got to look for the sparkle in their eye. And so there I was, trying to now reconcile math grades with eye sparkles. And over the years now, as I’ve been watching my teams, who as I said, they rock, I do think that there’s this special combination of science, and I think that’ll echo some of what DJ shared with us, as well, and Yun, language, and then art, or maybe I would just call it an eye. And those things together, I think, can make a great predictor for success.
Rozanne Stoman: As we’ve heard, and I’m really happy that this has come up tonight, the science part is table stakes. You got to know your stuff, right? So that analytical mind always wants to improve stuff, who isn’t daunted by team dynamics, or process complexity, or perceived obstacles, but who can patiently unpick process complexity and then forge this path to success. That’s invaluable. And we often joke on our team and we’re like, “If you’re an analyst, you have one job. You have to take complicated things and make them simple.” And sometimes, very smart people like to take simple things and show you how complicated they can be.
Rozanne Stoman: And part of an analyst is, yes, you want to see all the angles, but a good analyst gets great joy from presenting solution options and not just problems. I’m also learning that technical adeptness can take many shapes. It manifests in different ways. We have non-IT counterparts who are deep technologists. And I think with all the new technologies that we now have available to us, we’re learning that you can sometimes forge really good solutions without necessarily understanding recursion, or be able to tweak database indices, or program in R. So there’s just these new solutions standing up so fast that you have to be comfortable with transferring whatever knowledge you have to this domain or tool sets.
Rozanne Stoman: I still believe you have to understand enough to anticipate the consequences or the impacts of what you’re designing, but it’s a dance. Which gets me to number two. I think there’s enough anecdotal references to the links between music and math, et cetera. So I’m not really that surprised at the number of photographers, and designers, and dreamers in our midst here at Equinix. We make space for everyone. We have art galleries up in some of our buildings, we have different forums where people can share all the talents that they have. And I think the desire to explore every problem, whether that’s the composition of a photograph, or how we will navigate our GDPR legislation, or how we will help our marketing team to score leads, or how we will put apps governance in place and they navigate all the teams there.
Rozanne Stoman: For the right personality, any of these are just exciting puzzles to solve. And it’s just as natural as choreography or gaming a tournament. So for us, it doesn’t really matter what the passion is, but what matters is that you see that here is an active analytical mind that’s always looking to optimize whatever gets put in front of it. And then finally, the last piece in that toolkit that I really appreciate is language, that ability to craft a sentence, or distill, or read between the lines, or hear a problem empathetically. The natural teachers in the team who tend to educate their peers, to raise the bar for the whole group, or educate their customers so that they get can better requirements and better results from them.
Rozanne Stoman: That combination is often the last bit in an analyst superpower. So in short, science or tech, knowing your stuff, some kind of art, or expression, or eye for that. And then language combined, for us, are a powerful combination that help our teams to create very innovative solutions. So the takeaway for me, whether you’re a Girl Geek or whether you’re mentoring and inspiring Girl Geeks is, one is don’t underestimate your superpowers. I also came to tech in a roundabout way. I thought I loved writing, then I studied accounting because I thought that’s how I would find my way into a career, and then accidentally on the way I fell in love with programming, which is how I started my career.
Rozanne Stoman: And here in the US, I’m really inspired by the number of paths that there are to become part of exciting tech projects and to contribute. So in closing, you keep your analytical mind brewing and you keep the sparkle in your eye. Thank you.
Senior Manager of Product Software Architecture and Engineering Dipti Srivastava gives talk on “leveraging IoT and big data to level the playing field for remote populations” at Equinix Girl Geek Dinner. Erica Kawamoto Hsu / Girl Geek X
Dipti Srivastava: Hi. So the next speaker is yours truly. My name is Dipti Srivastava and I’m a senior manager product engineering at Equinix. Today, I’ll be talking to you about how to leverage IoT and big data to monitor data centers. So a little bit of trivia about me, when you get introduced to somebody, what’s the next thing you might ask? Well, you might ask where are you from? I get this question all the time, especially from people of Indian origin because they are always interested to know where you are from because I’m an Indian or I used to be an Indian.
Dipti Srivastava: Well, my answer is I’m from Jhanse and immediately 100% of the time the response is you are a Jhanse Ki Rani. Well, Jhanse Ki Rani. Rani means queen and I am privileged to belong or being brought up in a city or a town where she lived. She was a freedom fighter and I can only dream to compare the valor, her courage, her determination. So we are surrounded by role models and she’s been one of mine. As a little girl, I was interested in science and one of my role models was Madam Curie.
Dipti Srivastava: The reason I bring this up, and it was a recent incident, that I was at Warsaw, right, where we have one of our product development centers for Equinix. And I was visiting the downtown Warsaw and there was somebody who just showed me, that’s where Madam Curie lived. I was grounded, I was floored because I was seeing the place where one of my role models lived. Thank you to Equinix. I got this opportunity to travel to Warsaw and see where she lived. Fast forward, I was a science student. And, really, I loved science. So I got into computer science and then into software development. And the same story of a lot of people here in Silicon Valley, right?
Dipti Srivastava: I had the good fortune of starting my career in a platform company. I got introduced to platform thinking, where you think about that you cannot solve all the problems out there in your domain, in your space. You need a helping hand. You build an ecosystem of integration points, APIs, other things with which you can leverage developers, partners who will help build solutions on top of your platform, right? To enhance and solve the problems out there in the world. Fast forward in the digital age, in the IoT age. Welcome to digital platforms. And I have been working on digital platforms for a few years now, working on smart cities, intelligent building, and most recently here at Equinix, data center monitoring.
Dipti Srivastava: Thinking about monitoring, I was introduced to monitoring a long, long time back at school. I keep going back to my school where I had all my education. So I was a class monitor. And what did I do as a class monitor? Well, if there is something happening, you report to your teacher. If there’s something happening, report to the other students, or students of the other class keep an eye for somebody doing mischief. So there are a lot of things happening which I had to monitor all the time, right?
Dipti Srivastava: Well, here I am, building data center infrastructure monitoring platforms, right? So why do we need monitoring and data centers, right? Well, on any given day, a lot of things could be happening in any data center around the world. Equinix has 200 plus data centers around the world. In these geographically distributed data centers, we have heterogeneous devices, assets which power our data centers. There could be a number of things happening, like equipment failures, extreme weather conditions where temperature and humidity could be of abnormal values, impacting our operational efficiencies.
Dipti Srivastava: There could be significant changes in power draws. And by the way, who all is not familiar with the PG&E outages over the last few months. Right? So utility power interruptions can impact data centers, right? So some or all of these things and many more is something that we need to monitor and make sure are working everyday in order to ensure that our customers are really driving value from Equinix. They are stress free, they do not need to worry about their work loads running in our data center. So what do our users want? Our users want visibility to work their core infrastructure, which is running their workloads, right? They might have critical business applications running on our data centers.
Dipti Srivastava: They would like to have actionable insights, which give them realtime information about any issue that happens, which might impact their workloads. And as such, their customers, right? And they want to have access to this information any time, anywhere. And we are able to provide that to them through our web interfaces. They also want integration points in the form of REST APIs and realtime channels so they can integrate with any of the solutions that they have in house. So what is the approach to solve these problems, right? We defined it as an IoT problem and that was the key, right?
Dipti Srivastava: All the data centers that we have around the world, they are the Edge, right? And as soon as we define what Edge we have, we had an IoT solution. We also planned to design a solution which could scale as you grow, as our customer needs grow. And we also made sure that for our data center we could handle 500 terabyte plus of data, 2.5 million plus stream of events across 60,000 industrial IoT devices. So this is a 10,000 feet view of our data center infrastructure monitoring platform. There are three key things to observe here. One is the Edge, right? The Edge is all the 200 IBXs plus IBXs that we have.
Dipti Srivastava: Then there is the data processing and storage. And finally, all the applications, tools, integration points, and partner ecosystems. I’ll just talk about two things here. The Edge. The Edge is our data center, like I said. And the Edge is complicated, right? It is comprised of heterogeneous assets. They could be your power supplies, they could be generators of different make and models and different manufacturers. The key thing to do here is to make sure that we normalize them. That way, our machines can understand them. Right? The second thing is to collect this data. All of these devices may talk any language or not and talk different languages, too.
Dipti Srivastava: So we need to make sure that we understand that language and collect all this data, process it, analyze it, and then feed it to all our applications. Which can then be leveraged by our customers and by ourselves in order to provide operational efficiency for Equinix and Equinix customers. This is a 5,000 level view of the application platform. So drilling down a little bit. The key thing I just wanted to highlight here was, if you see, this is the applications platform concept, where we provide integration points via REST APIs and realtime feeds on Google, AWS, Azure, and through private channels, right? And through REST APIs for all of the things that you’re hearing about in the data center which are relevant, like power, electrical, mechanical assets, and environmental assets which can measure temperature and humidity.
Dipti Srivastava: Our tech stack. In order to build these world class solutions, we need to make sure that we have a tech stack which can support this, right? So we have chosen, I’ll just name a few, Kafka, Cassandra, Redis, Storm for our realtime processing, and many more. Fire Applications, Spring, Play, Java, right? And for the tooling, we have Kubernetes, Jenkins, and so on. So we have a variety of tools, applications, and platforms which power our data center monitoring platform. Now, how do we all do this, right? That’s what we do, but how do we all do this? A day in the life. A day in the life of a product development, you could be doing anything here. We follow Agile and Scrum, and you could be doing requirements, design, development, CI/CD, quality, availability, monitoring.
Dipti Srivastava: The key thing here, what differentiates us is that we measure each of these things. We measure how we do things and ensure that with every time we keep improving. That way, we can keep getting better and better at what we do. So what’s different in our solution from what it was before? Before, the way the data centers were getting monitored were through heterogeneous localized building management systems, right? Today, with our monitoring platform, we get globally consistent data across all the footprint, across all of Equinix for about everything you would like to know about your infrastructure.
Dipti Srivastava: So that’s the key thing. And the other thing is about our API first approach, which allows customer and partner to integrate with their own applications, if they would like to do so. Why I love Equinix. Do I have to say that? So we had two Hackathons this year, which were a great success. So I work with a lot of innovative people, they’re full of creativity. And the other thing, as you already heard from Yun’s talk and other speakers here, really believe in diversity and innovation, and inclusion of how it enables us to build better products and create value for our customers. Thank you, everyone.
Dipti Srivastava: So finally, I think we are hiring, right? And you heard from Yun, Danjue, and others that we are hiring. This is a list of some of the positions that we have open. And there is many more on our careers website. We have a TA team back there with a lot of giveaways. So please say hi to them. They are waving at you. And so you are welcome to go talk to them if you are interested in any of these open positions. We have people who are in these black shirts who are Equinix ambassadors. So, please, if you would like to chat with them to know more about Equinix, Equinix product, or anything you would like to talk about, you are welcome to talk to them.
Dipti Srivastava: Finally, I would like to thank you all for being here at Equinix spending your precious evening with us here today and listening to all the awesome speakers that we have had here before me. And I would like to thank all the speakers, as well, for being here and sharing your precious thoughts. Thank you all.
Thanks to the Equinix team for hosting a Girl Geek Dinner at your beautiful Sunnyvale headquarters! Erica Kawamoto Hsu / Girl Geek X
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