While tech continues operating at its familiar breakneck pace of innovation, today’s market seems to constantly be playing catchup with data. The central industry megatrends of cloud, mobile, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things are all driven by enterprise demand to leverage the information rapidly accumulating from a growing number of user endpoints, propelling businesses through a massive shift from legacy infrastructures to cloud-based ecosystems with capabilities better suited to managing data repositories that continue to scale.
The proliferation of data is propelling transformations beyond the technological. As conventional operating practices undergo an evolution, the industry is also experiencing a cultural shift to accommodate new process practices. In a period characterized by the potential of disruption, some leaders are highlighting the need for greater efforts behind a cultural shift around inclusion.
“Having visible role models is very impactful, especially for young women to see women in tech leadership positions,” said Beth Phalen (pictured, left), president of the Data Protection Division at Dell Technologies Inc. “It’s hard to imagine yourself in a role if you don’t see anyone similar.”
Phalen and Yanbing Li (pictured, right), senior vice president and general manager of the Storage and Availability Business Unit at VMware Inc., sat down with Dave Vellante (@dvellante) and Stu Miniman (@stu), co-hosts of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile livestreaming studio, during the VMworld conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. (* Disclosure below.)
Through their work optimizing multicloud solutions at a company known for its early commitment to virtual modernization in the enterprise, Li and Phalen have developed practical methods for improving gender equity in tech and are urging others to realize the industry’s need for team diversity through an active approach to inclusion.
This week, theCUBE spotlights Yanbing Li and Beth Phalen in our Women in Tech feature.
Enterprises are increasingly rebuilding their data strategies around cloud migration, in part as a result of the flexibility VMware has offered through hybrid management platforms and Amazon Web Services Inc. public cloud integrations.
“We’re taking vSAN hyperconverged infrastructure and not only putting it in the cloud, but deeply integrating it with technology in the cloud and leveraging the elasticity and massive scale,” Li said.
With seamlessness, security, simplicity, and continuous availability as table stakes, Li and Phalen have worked to fundamentally transform software development practices to keep pace with the rapid cadence of cloud delivery.
“Data is the lifeblood of all of these trends. We are excited to see how that’s going to drive storage consumption, new technology demand, and new requirements in storage,” Li said.
This transition from a software company to one with cloud as its core DNA has required changes beyond the technical. “Transforming our engineering culture is an important angle. Cloud is not only driving our company culture, but it is fundamentally changing how we build products,” Li said.
She can be it if she sees it
For Li and Phalen, that cultural change doesn’t end at engineering. Both women have a long history in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, encouraged by their respective families to pursue early interests in the field academically and professionally. Once established in their careers, both discovered the industry’s issues of gender inequity.
In her piece “Cracking the Code: The Next Generation of Women in STEM,” Phalen describes her realization that not every woman shared her experience of tech’s accessibility. “It never occurred to me that this profession was ‘gendered’; on the contrary — I thought it wide open to everyone. Years later, I find myself reflecting on why there aren’t more women in STEM,” she wrote.
Earlier this year, Li was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame for her pioneering work in the historically male dominated field. In an interview following her acceptance of the WITI honor, Li described the “aha moment” that motivated her greater mission of shifting perspectives in tech.
“I realized I wanted to do more. I wanted to be much more purposeful about the direction and impact I would like to have,” she said.
With more than 20 years of professional experience, including impactful leadership roles in both the U.S. and China, Li’s greatest triumphs have been in the incremental changes that create lasting results — and she’s looking forward to further disruption this pivotal tech moment is offering.
“Technology is ubiquitous. It’s entrenched in every aspect of how we live, disrupting every industry. It’s an exciting time for young women who have aspirations in STEM to access the technology and mentorship,” she said.
Both Li and Phalen highlight mentor relationships as crucial to engaging the next generation of girls in tech. Through Dell’s Power of One Mentor Challenge, Phalen encourages curious, young technologists by answering questions and embodying the female representation that creates a greater sense of accessibility in the field.
“More people like us and our peers [should] get out there and really put an effort into being visible. She can be it if she sees it,” Phalen said.
How to really move the needle
Their dedicated focus and transparency is paying off. Over the past year, VMware has improved the participation of women in its hands-on technical lab by 100 percent through Li and Phalen’s efforts, and the female intern population is larger than ever before. The company is working to maintain accountability against unconscious bias through feedback and HR data.
“These are the people who support our customers doing deeply hands-on technical experiments with our products,” Li said.
The industry at large has taken action toward a greater focus on accountability and social awareness over the past year and has come a long way in its open conversations around inclusion following the now-viral memo “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” a piece by the company’s former engineer James Damore that details his opinions on women being biologically inferior to men in the field of engineering. While Damore’s memo was firmly denounced by most, it served as an undeniable confirmation of the dangerous biases that still hold firm in the industry.
Since then tech has experienced massive strides in both technological and cultural progress, but both Lee and Phalen still see the work ahead.
“I’m encouraged by the number of young women going into computer science, but it is definitely a required focus to really move the needle. This is not going to happen without discipline,” Phalen concluded.
Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the VMworld conference. (* Disclosure: Dell Technologies Inc. sponsored this segment, with additional broadcast sponsorship from VMware Inc. Dell, VMware, and other sponsors do not have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)
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