The third installment in our series of posts about the current and future state of gender equity in the tech industry brings us a conversation with Rosanne Saccone, CMO at Bluejeans. With a career spanning nearly 30 years and experience in roles across the tech industry, Rosanne has a holistic view on the evolution and potential future of gender equity in tech.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you ended up in your position at BlueJeans?
I have worked in the technology industry for almost 30 years, across many different areas, such as hardware, enterprise services and support, big data analytics, software, and now collaboration and video conferencing.
I’ve had many different functional roles —finance, marketing, HR—and learned so much from each role and how it contributes to the success of a company. Mostly it comes down to a strong mission, talented people and great tools. This broader view of how departments across organizations communicate and work together is what drew me in to BlueJeans.
At BlueJeans, our business is connecting people together within their companies, with their partners and customers. Connecting and getting business done most effectively is our mantra. It is one of the reasons why I love working at BlueJeans and wanted to join the team.
What would you say has been your greatest key to success, particularly as a woman in a male dominated industry?
I’ve always felt if you focus on achieving results that are important to your company’s success, then high-impact leaders are going to want you on their team over time. Women have to believe that they own their destiny in tech – and successes and setbacks are just learning opportunities to improve and get to your ultimate goal. If you feel held back, it’s important to assess your situation and determine if it’s something you can overcome. If not, you shouldn’t waste more time and move on – there are too many companies that need great talent to win in their markets.
This is why it’s so important to build a broad professional network early in your career – of men and women, within your company, community and industry. I’ve used my mentors as a great sounding board for new ideas, advice, and to find my next career move.
Do you think the impact of your gender on your position in the workplace has evolved at all as you’ve climbed through the ranks of companies?
I have been incredibly lucky – for the most part, I have worked for leaders who valued hard work, teamwork and great results. Leaders who would challenge me with additional responsibilities before I was sure I was ready for it. Most of these leaders happen to be men – and they rewarded who they saw as the best talent, regardless of gender or culture. As a result, they typically had pretty diverse leadership teams. What I see now are more and more accomplished women leaders across more functional areas in tech. We need to do much more, but we are on our way. I’d love to see more diversity and gender equity in the C-suite and in the boardroom.
What would an ideal, diverse tech company environment look like to you?
I love to build powerful, results-oriented teams that work great together, love to work on hard problems, and have fun doing so. This is what diverse work environments create, and it’s important for any company’s success. Most successful tech companies have a global footprint, whether employees, partners or customers. It is just good business to have a leadership team and employee base that reflects the different perspectives of the very companies and people you are trying to serve.
What are your predictions for the future of women in tech over the next five years?
Women are and will continue to be embedded into the very fabric of successful companies – at all levels, in every way. We are leading the way to make the work environment successful, flexible and fun. This trend will only continue.
Why?? There is also a talent war going on right now. Companies need to attract and keep the best talent in order to compete. Great talent is a scarce resource, and women and people of all cultures and backgrounds make up a huge part of the best talent pool! In fact, research shows that companies with a diverse workforce are more effective and more profitable than those than aren’t.
That doesn’t mean women won’t continue to hit barriers. There are old-fashioned thinkers, and people who have a problem with successful, authoritative women. But the overall demographic trends are working for us.
I also think we will see more executive women leaders on Boards of tech companies over the next five years. There is a strong need for more diversity on Boards, to provide a different viewpoint and guidance to CEOs on running successful companies than what is traditionally available.
In your opinion, what is the major blocker for women in tech within the workplace? Have women been doing their part to overcome this blocker? Have companies?
In Silicon Valley especially, the issue of gender equity has been at the forefront of technology conversations over the past few years. There are work from home initiatives, work/life balances initiatives, etc – but in the end it comes down to how individual people feel about their ability to achieve their own professional and personal life goals.
I believe if women cannot achieve what they are looking for in traditional companies, we’ll see more and more women build their own. And research shows that this is a good thing! A 2018 study from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that female-created startups have better financial performance, generating 10% more revenue over five years, and are twice as much revenue per dollar funded.
With more accessibility via the web and social media, and with more women coming to the forefront who have built successful careers and are willing to mentor and share what they’ve learned, I see the potential for a lot more women entrepreneurs and leaders choosing a different, more independent path if they hit blockers they cannot remove -- Paths like owning and running their own businesses. And I would say to companies that can’t meet the needs of their best employees – watch out! Those employees might be creating new companies that become your future toughest competitors!
What is your opinion on the state of gender equity at BlueJeans?
Like most companies, we are a work in progress. But connecting and getting business done most effectively—wherever that work is coming from—is our mantra. It is one of the reasons why I love working at BlueJeans. With technology like ours at your fingertips, all companies can work toward creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
Has there been further progress in the area since you joined the company a year and a half ago?
There has been – we have hired many terrific women leaders across the company, across many of our functional areas, such as marketing, sales, products, and customer success.
What are your goals in this area over the next five years?
My goal is to continue hiring the best talent for BlueJeans, across the globe.
Which diversity initiatives (gender equity or otherwise) are underway at BlueJeans today? Can you elaborate on any?
My company sponsors PBWC – which is a professional business women’s organization that embraces and empowers women. It has been around for 30 years and is all about providing insights, mentoring and tools so women can help each other professionally. It is big, bold, unapologetic in its mission, and the theme for this year’s annual conference is UNSTOPPABLE. Hillary Clinton spoke right after she lost the election; this year’s keynote is Nicole Kidman. I encourage all of the women and men on my team alike to get involved.
If there was one thing the rest of the industry could learn from BlueJeans about building a stronger and more diverse team, what would it be?
As I had mentioned, BlueJeans’ business is all about connecting people together
within their companies, with their partners and customers. Connecting and getting business done most effectively is our mantra. It is one of the reasons why I love working here.
What advice would you give a young woman or anyone identifying as a minority starting out in the tech industry on how to avoid gender blockers at work?
I mentor tech professionals, particularly women, quite a lot. I always first advise people to understand the success metrics of your company – what do they need to achieve. Then understand how your department and role contribute to that success. Then focus on getting results that contribute to those success metrics – figure out what matters to the organization you work for and consistently achieve the business results you can impact.
Secondly, find a professional network of supporters, both men and women who are inside and outside of your industry, and get advice and ideas from those mentors. Having a group of people you trust to leverage as a sounding board for ideas, new opportunities, and challenges is really important as you grow in your career.
What advice would you give a young man on anyone identifying as the majority on how to avoid becoming or inadvertently supporting a blocker?
My advice to men is similar – work with a broad set of people who can help you achieve your professional and business goals. Ensure that group is as diverse as possible – the better you are at this, the better you will understand your peers, partners, customers over time. A 2015 McKinsey report found that companies with diversity in race, ethnicity and gender show significantly better business performance. Diversity creates awareness of different perspectives and viewpoints, which is necessary for business success. And diversity means including the perspective of young men as well as young women! Don’t let preconceived notions of gender roles limit your own abilities to grow as a professional – men can be pigeonholed as well as women.
I am where I am today in part due to the support that I’ve received over the years from both female and male peers and mentors, and it’s important that we all support each other.
With the right tools, mentorship and training, we can all become our best selves, and we can all learn to collaborate and work more effectively together.