Technology, Leadership, and Life

By Angela Noel

February 9, 2017

“If this program succeeds, you’ll all be proud of it,” Komal Solanki told her team. The long days and constant pressures to meet the deadline took a toll on everyone involved in the huge program. Engineers, business teams, consultants, vendors, project managers, and leaders hunkered down for two years to implement an important technology project. Teamwork was critical to its success.

Laptop always in hand, Komal had to ask her team for more effort and more hours. With grace and poise, she advocated for her people while working closely with the project managers and senior leaders in charge of setting the direction and timeline. When the members of her team felt low, she reminded them of the pride they would feel when the work was done, and done well. Neither she nor her team are superhuman, but they seemed that way at times–and still do.

Cultivating a successful team requires clear vision and the ability to focus on results, no matter what the circumstances of the present moment may be. In work, as in life, the way things have always been done may not be the way things should always be. Komal, balancing tradition and innovation, knows this better than most. Continue reading “Technology, Leadership, and Life”

The Makings of an Innovation Commando

by Angela Noel

October 27, 2016

Galileo Galilei disrupted the status quo, challenging the beliefs of some of the most powerful people of the day — including more than one Pope. Considering Galileo lived during the time of the inquisition, ticking off the Vatican was kind of a big deal.

Along with pushing scientific boundaries, he developed mathematical instruments to either sell to the military or for uses in engineering. Solving problems and posing theories using observation, data, hard work, communication, rhetorical argument, and grit made Galileo a successful entrepreneur. Running afoul of the prevailing authorities of the day, the Catholic Church, made his story into a cautionary tale for all those who would speak truth to power.

Dipanjan Chatterjee could be the intellectual descendant of Galileo. He and others like him, hired by corporations to be an EiR or Entrepreneur in Residence, must find the courage to speak truth to their “corporate overlords” without losing their heads. They must bring new products and processes into systems fundamentally designed to reject anything that challenges the comfortable stability of the past in order to drive progress. Though the modern day Inquisitor is less likely to wear a robe, and more likely to shop at Brooks Brothers, EiRs face many of the same troubles Galileo did 400 years ago.

For example, Pope Urban VIII initially liked Galileo, supporting his ideas overall while asking him to go easy on the whole “earth revolves around the sun” thing. Unfortunately for Galileo, when his resulting book came out, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, the Pope found reason to be offended, hauling Galileo to Rome to defend himself. Dipanjan, as far as I know, hasn’t been called on the carpet by a religious official, but he continually faces the Sisyphean task of attempting to convince huge corporations to try something new without losing his job or his mind.

Luckily, he’s been preparing for this job all his life.

Continue reading “The Makings of an Innovation Commando”

The Art of Goodness

By Angela Noel

September 15, 2016

Jenelle Masterson, self-described do-gooder, recently saved a squirrel from a terrible fate.

Her squirrel story begins with a cold. Feeling yucky, she dropped her twin, third-grade boys off at school and looked forward to a long nap. As she pulled into her driveway, she noticed a little grey lump on the sidewalk. Curious, she parked her car and walked over to see what it was. A dead squirrel lay on the busy sidewalk where children regularly walked. Jenelle thought she ought to move it. But then she noticed something else. . . he was still breathing. Continue reading “The Art of Goodness”

Doing the Little Things Right

By Angela Noel

August 31, 2016

At six foot four, broad-shouldered and bearded, Joseph Vasterling looks every bit like the guy who earned a scholarship to play football at a now Division 1 school. At a practice before his freshman year even began, his hip flexor, the ghost of an old injury, screamed. His football career on the line, his coach asked, “Are you hurt or are you injured?” The implication was clear; if you’re hurt, rub some dirt on it and get back out there, but if you’re injured . . . goodbye scholarship. He walked back out onto the practice field under the blazing South Dakota sun only to watch the running back collapse. Joe decided then that football, a game he excelled at with minimal effort, wasn’t for him. He called his parents and boarded a bus for home. On that day and many since, he proved he has more in common with a reclusive 19th century poet than he does with a stereotypical jock. Continue reading “Doing the Little Things Right”

How to Let the Magic Happen

By Angela Noel

August 18, 2016

Getting from here to there could be a harrowing journey; drivers honked, tires squealed, and traffic lights were mere suggestions. Angela did’t like traveling in her city. But that wasn’t the only problem. In the 1990s, members of a drug cartel moved into her quiet, middle class neighborhood in Santiago de Cali, Colombia. Someone was assassinated across the lane from her house.

Angela, a teen then, wondered, Do people obey the law in the U.S.?  Continue reading “How to Let the Magic Happen”

How the Threat of Losing Her Job Set One Woman Free

by Angela Noel

July 13th, 2016

“You know that scene in Runaway Bride? The one where she doesn’t know how she likes her eggs?” Melissa asks me.

“Sure,” I reply.

“I always think of that scene. That was me until last year.” Mel leans in, her black hair framing her face, “I chose never to really make a choice. The path that had been laid out for me, had become ME.”

Get good grades. Do well in sports. Get promoted at work. These were the stars Mel had been invited by well-meaning family and friends to steer her life by. Content to follow this advice for the most part, Mel smiled and maximized whatever life served up. That is, until the layoffs began. Continue reading “How the Threat of Losing Her Job Set One Woman Free”

Leadership Should Feel Like This

By Angela Noel

June 30th, 2016

A little more than four years ago, a leader of his church pulled Doug Timothy aside for a pleasant but purposeful conversation. Doug wondered if he would be asked to serve the church community in some way, perhaps as a teacher or a youth advisor. But the leader had a different, far scarier, role for young Doug in mind. Continue reading “Leadership Should Feel Like This”