Career Advice

Visiting the Luiss Business School in Rome

I was fortunate enough to be asked to speak at the Luiss Business School in October – in Rome no less! The discussion centered on tech, subjects like AI, China, Semiconductors and then the role and importance of diversity. And all within a gorgeous 16th century papal palace.

Professor Pierluigi Matera graciously interviewed me in two settings: One on one and then with a group of students. Here are the two videos. My comments on diversity start at ~35:00 in the first one, and thread through the second one.

Career Advice

How to Deal with a Horse’s Ass (in your head)

I love my job and I love meeting 90% of the people I have the privilege to meet, but sometimes, just sometimes, I have to spend professional time with someone whom I have a hard time respecting. Of course I don’t let on, and of course I am professional and respectful, but I have to find ways to manage myself through my reaction to the behavior.

What is the behavior I have to manage my head around you may ask?

What I find really hard is the person who has to be the smartest person in the room, and makes sure you and everyone else reflects that back to him/her. The person who is so sure they have the answers they don’t listen. Who talks over people more junior than them. Who is dismissive of other people they consider lower in the power structure. Who posture to make a point, instead of just being open and direct.

I’ve seen this behavior by execs to people on their teams (sometimes in front of me when I am the vendor). I’ve seen it towards my employees, and sometimes to me because I am selling, or because I am female, or because I threaten them in some way. I’ve seen it in groups which should be peers but where one person thinks he’s better/senior/more experienced/smarter and so throws his weight around. In board meetings, on panels, at dinner parties.

So it happens. You’ve seen it. But enough of the negative. How to deal?

I am inspired by Caravaggio in this circumstance. Caravaggio was commissioned by Tibero Cerasi to paint two paintings for the Cerasi Chapel of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome in 1600. One of the conversion of St Paul, the other of the Crucifixion of St Peter. At the same time Cerasi commissioned Caravaggio’s competitor Carracci (a conventional Baroque painter, and Caravaggio’s contemporary) to paint the altar piece.

The first versions Caravaggio painted were rejected by Cerasi (only one is known to survive and it is glorious), and the history hints to their rejection being maybe motivated by Cardinal Sannessio’s desire to take them into his private collection. But whatever the reason, the net result was Caravaggio had to paint two more, and this time he chose to paint them in rich, high drama, and to send a message.

Meanwhile, Carracci painted the altar piece and the Assumption of the Virgin takes center stage of the Cerisi chapel. The Assumption is a beautiful, classically baroque painting in romantic pinks and blues replete with cherub angels, but it’s no match for Caravaggio’s stunning, dramatic flanking paintings.

So how did Caravaggio make a point of his opinion of his competitor Carracci?  He painted a horse’s ass pointed towards the Carracci painting!

Here’s the chapel. The Assumption is in the middle above the altar.

You can see the Conversion of Saint Paul on the Way to Damascus is on the right. The horse’s backside is directed squarely at the Carracci painting. And it’s been expressing Caravaggio’s opinion for 415 years.

This is a truly glorious, extraordinary painting. It is Caravaggio at the top of his game, changing the world of painting forever. It has incredible depth, drama and detail and the horse is alive!

So when I have to play the game and be respectful and polite to someone I don’t respect I think about this painting, and how Caravaggio had the last laugh, and remind myself not to take any of this too seriously.

My Personal Journey

Kindle or Paper? The pros and cons of my ongoing dilemma

Books are magical. They take me into other worlds, and increasingly into the mysteries of the past, in a way that transports me and consumes my mind. But I find I am facing a dilemma – digital or paper? ephemeral or tactile?When I say digital I am talking about the Kindle – but both the actual Amazon kindle device and the Kindle app on my iPad and iPhone. I switch back and forth – the Kindle device when outside in the sun, the iPad when on a plane.

Back and forth… the pros and cons:

+      Digital has the weight advantage. In my suitcase, or in my briefcase, I can “carry” the 4-5 books I have on the go at any point in time in one device. I need to travel with my iPad for work, and to catch up on TV shows, and of course I always have my iPhone. But then, if I am traveling on vacation where I will be in the sun I end up taking all three devices…

–       Paper has the memory advantage. I’m relieved to learn this is not just for me (I assumed it was because I learned to read with paper books) – and now we know that “Reading in print helps with comprehension” brilliantly described here. It’s the tactile experience, the thickness and feel of the book as you progress through, the ability to flip back a few pages to remind yourself. We are, in the end, tactile beings. I find I have a really hard time remembering the details I read electronically. I can remember from a paper book – I remember the visual of the information on the page – and I can also retain when I listen (I love Audible). But not when reading on a screen.

+      In line reference makes the digital experience richer. Because I read 100% history books I am always wanting to look up references: locations, the etymology of words, people… and when reading a paper book I find myself picking up my phone to find reference information. When reading on my iPad I can find the reference in line.

–      Paper books don’t have email in them. A big challenge with the iPad is my email is live. It’s too tempting to quickly check, even when on vacation or trying to relax on a long flight. This is an advantage of the Kindle device on a beach. But I still have to make myself leave my phone in my beach bag and not take it out!

–      Paper books are more relaxing. I can read a paper book all day. 9am to 7pm no problem (if I can step off the work grid for that long – a much bigger challenge). Any electronic device, in the end, is tiring to read. Especially late at night.

So in the end I am giving in. I’ll end up buying both paper and electronic for the books I want to travel with, but I find my reading pleasure is in my old fashioned books, especially hardback copies. And, as you can see here, my stack is totally fascinating – or if you’re one of my kids “that’s boring Mom – you’re obsessed!”

My Personal Journey

Pazzo, ma non solo

Flying to Rome, tired and grimy, I notice a woman wearing a T shirt with “Boys play rock and roll” on the front. As an owner of the same black (very stylish) T shirt, I strike up a conversation about flying across the world to see a rock band.

I was utterly outclassed!

I love U2. I absorb their music through my skin, I dance to their rhythm, I wallow in their magic. And I go to 4-5 concerts each time they tour (like Milan last year). But to this woman from New Jersey I was just a light weight fan. She makes it to over a third of their concerts. Flying all over the world, especially in the States and Europe, to see them. She’s 40, single, manic and fun, a rock n roll die hard.

Half asleep, standing at the baggage carousel waiting for my bags – she talked my ear off and I loved it. I woke up, laughed and envied her freedom. And at the concert last night I fantasized about following the band.

I would not be alone. Crazy, but not alone. I lost count of the number of U2 T shirts from all over the world I saw yesterday. Walking around the Colosseum, in bars, in churches, a wild juxtaposition of the ancient and modern.

Stay in my life, or become a groupie? Nah! Too much else to do. But they are fabulous.