Joy and News: A New GlobalEnglish This Holiday Season and Beyond

New GlobalEnglish

A New GlobalEnglish

This is the time of year that people share their joys and their news in personal newsletters. Well, my year has been pretty exciting, and I think it is time to share that news here.

In November, I joined with a group of colleagues and investors to buy the Business English portion of Pearson. Our buyout resulted in the formation, or should I say, reformation, of GlobalEnglish.

For those you who read many of my blogs, you know I believe in the importance of diversity in the boardroom and in companies in general. It is not only about gender but having people representing different backgrounds, different cultures, different markets. For this to happen, we need to have people from all horizons being able to express themselves in a group with a common language.

At GlobalEnglish we give a voice to global talent by delivering an exceptional Business English learning experience. We do this through technology and programs that empower talent to better execute, collaborate and innovate for the organizations they work for, while leading the way toward more inclusive and accessible opportunities for talent around the world.

The GlobalEnglish team has been working very long hours helping to create a new, independent company. Some of the team was here when GlobalEngilsh was acquired by Pearson. Some have a twenty-year legacy, others have just started. It is truly a blessing to work with a team of such outstanding individuals, all of whom are passionate about our leaners, aligned with our values and dedicated to helping our customers achieve their goals.

The New GlobalEnglish is my Passion

GlobalEnglish is my passion. In many ways it is far from the products I worked on at Microsoft and Oracle. GlobalEnglish One is not Oracle’s database, and it is not SharePoint. Both of those products create frameworks for other people to build solutions. By contrast, the GlobalEnglish One helps individuals start to master Business English the first time they use it. We have spent the time to learn from our customers and through that we have built a great learning experience that includes self-paced training, situational learning and personalized coaching,

I am excited for our future. As the global economy attempts to make sense of all of the changes of 2016, I firmly believe that globalization will remain a key component of success, and that more people than ever will need to learn English to thrive in their markets, to enter new markets, and to track trends and developments that will allow them to innovate.

I am very thankful to be a part of this phoenix of a company rising again to take flight on its own.

Our future very much depends not just on the obstacles we face, but how we choose to overcome those obstacles. At GlobalEnglish we promise to take the path that includes and empowers.

As a reader of my blog, that you for helping add to the energy I draw on to help build new things. The new GlobalEnglish, while very experienced, is also a very young company — I look forward to nurturing it in 2017, and sharing more of my stories with you are we go through the year.

Season’s Greeting and Happy Holidays.

Three Keys to Making Every Day Thanksgiving

 Three Keys to Making Every Day Thanksgiving

Three Keys to Making Every Day Thanksgiving

As we approach Thanksgiving, I think it is important that we stay connected to the thankfulness we express during Thanksgiving all year. It is easy to be thankful when we are surrounded by friends and family, when people are giving us gifts — it is much harder when we are negotiating with a tough partner, or find ourselves in a difficult conversation with an employee, or when we face the uncertainty of global economic markets. But it is in those stressful times that we need to remember that all the love and joy we receive, and that we give back, isn’t just for a day, a month, s year or season. All of that love and joy exists all year, but we often fail to tap into it when needed.

Thanksgiving begins with perspective. If you can be vital, set high standards and be grateful for everything, you will be better able to navigate through change, and you’ll be a better person too.

1. Vitality

The dictionary describes vitality as ” the state of being strong and active; energy.”  Vitality is critical for leaders from large organizations to start-ups. Leaders need to demonstrate their passion through their energy. Leaders often need to work long hours, and if they aren’t physically capable of working those hours, quality suffers, and they aren’t available when needed.

This is one of the reasons I run. I also just like running. I know running isn’t for everybody, but everybody can find some activity that helps them maintain their vitality. Eat well, move around, at least a little.

The Mayo Clinic suggests at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. As leaders perhaps we should mine minutes from our lack of trust. If we trust people, and don’t micromanage so much — or eliminate other unproductive work — we can probably steal 150 minutes from our own bad habits.

It is also important that we find ways to maintain our mental vitality — to think about the future, to challenge our assumptions, to solve problems that use mental muscles we don’t stretch often enough. We have to put energy into life and work if we want to achieve the goals we set for them.

2. Set High Standards

For me, an important part of Thanksgiving is taking the time to look back on how we measure success, and to challenge ourselves to set high standards. When we see family together, we realize everyone is a role model. The children look up to all of the adults and expect to learn from them. During Thanksgiving, we should ask ourselves if the bars we set are high enough, if the goals we set are ambitious or easy.

As much as setting high standards is important for those we lead or manage, it is equally important for us to believe we can meet the goals we set. We sort of have to set high standards for our high standards.

Giving thanks is something we choose to do. It requires us to be active rather than passive. The same is true of setting high standards. If we let others set our standards for us without our input, we may never achieve our real potential. Only when we become active in setting our own goals can we push ourselves forward.

When you look around the Thanksgiving table, ask yourself if you are just there, or if you have standards for the role model you want to be for your wife, your mother, your husband or your sister, your brother or cousins, to your other relatives and friends. I believe setting high standards is a responsibility I owe to myself and to those around me.

3. Be Grateful, Celebrate

Of course, being grateful is the core of Thanksgiving. Over the last year I have had the opportunity to help start-ups, inspire women working in high technology, engage in international education policy, and even visit the Whitehouse to talk about the value to English to business. All of these new experiences could be overwhelming, but I choose to replace fear with gratitude, to be thankful for the opportunities rather than afraid of the unknown. As I look to 2016 I am already thankful for the challenges and opportunities that will help me grow.

The Journey Toward Thankfulness

We journeyed a long way through life to arrive at this 2015 Thanksgiving. We made a lot of choices, overcame innumerable obstacles, experienced wonders, made mistakes and achieved many things both great and small. Thank those who helped you, be gracious when they thank you, and be grateful that you are who you are. Spend your day enjoying, and being in the moment.

Thank you to those who read this blog and to those who have inspired the posts on it.

Cisco Women’s Professional Development Day: My Career Journey as a Woman

Cisco Women's Professional Development Day

Cisco Women’s Professional Development Day

On the morning of August 25, I presented to the Cisco Chief Strategy Office, Women’s Professional Development Day.  I thought I would share the notes I used to prepare for the presentation. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in a comment!

Watch the video of my presentation:


Cisco Women’s Professional Development Day Overview of Talk

You have in front of you someone that many people would categorize as a rare specimen. You could think that this is because there is something a bit odd about a French women, working for a British corporation dedicated to helping people learn English. Actually, unfortunately, I am rare because I  am the CEO of a 300 person subsidiary of a public company.

When I started my career at 22, I believed I could do anything, get any job. I did not believe that women needed any special attention to have successful career.

Today, as a CEO, I am now acutely aware of the challenges women face in the workplace, and strongly believe we need to proactively help women to succeed at every level in the workplace.

What life experiences changed my mind? What lessons could I give to my 22 year old self?

My career journey as a woman

Work Before kids

My mother has always been, and continues to be, the greatest influence on my life. She was always a working mother (and a hard working mother) and despite difficult moments she always managed to get back on track and succeed, giving me a sense that she (and women in general) are invincible.

I started realizing there were differences when I got closer to motherhood. In Europe, around 28 years old people expect you to have a baby sometime soon.

I was working at Oracle at that time. I decided to make my first real-estate investment to build a house for my mother who, after she retired, did not have high income.

While planning for it, it was clear my current job would not allow me to do everything I wanted. Deep inside me I knew I was worth more, that I could bring more value. I felt I was under-valued.

I had the choice to accept the status quo and delay my life projects, or to take a risk and leave a comfortable position to join another company.

I decided to prepare my resume and post it online. It also helped that a head hunter called me with an offer to join an innovative startup. I jumped on it immediately.

When I announced to my boss I was leaving for a new opportunity, he tried to convince me to stay.  He told me that I was a great talent for the company. Then he played with my womanly fears: “We appreciate you. You have a very stable environment here to have your first child. You are welcome to stay in your current role.” I was shocked, to say the least. This was the first time someone said out loud that motherhood would keep my career as a status quo, and that men were more likely to get promotions than someone who wanted to have a child.  I realized that, my boss and still friend, while not wanting to harm me in anyway, could negatively impact my career. Sheryl Sandberg, in Lean In, put a name on it: Cultural bias.

What I would tell my 22 year old self or my daughter? Believe yourself. Do everything you can to continue to grow, and when you believe you are underutilized, make a move.

Work After Having Children

Later in my career, when I gave birth to my first child, I was fortunate to be living in France with the benefits afforded to working mothers in the French healthcare system, and funded daycare.  When I had my second child in the U.S., I had the chance to work for Microsoft which offered great maternity leave. I was advanced enough in my career to be financially independent. I did not have to ask myself the question: “Shall I quit my job because the economics don’t make sense?”

While most people cannot choose the country of their choice to have kids, they can select states, or companies to work for in the US.

What I would tell my 22 years old self?  Work for a company that cares and that has favorable benefits regarding flexibility, maternity and childcare. It could make or break a career.

However, right about that time my family expressed a desire to relocate from Seattle to California to pursue one of our dreams. As I was having my second child, California seemed like the right place to raise him. With clear a clear goal in mind, I came to my boss to announce to him that not only was I pregnant– you can imagine how happy he was–but also that I was moving to California.

I did not know if I could stay in my job working remotely, but in any case, I believed I could always find a solution. 3 months after moving to Silicon Valley, and after many hours of negotiation, I ended up bringing my family to California.

About a year later, I decided that going back-and-forth to Seattle was costing my family too much, so I started to search for a more local role. While Microsoft had my heart, most of their commercial leadership roles where in Seattle. So I started to look at what could be next. It was clear to me that it needed to be in a field where I could have social impact. When I came across the opportunity to work for Pearson, leading the team designated to deliver digital technology designed to increase access and efficacy of education, I jumped in. I started as a general manager, and 2 months after I was offered the CEO role, at 37 years old.

What I would tell my 22 year old self? Have a clear goal and go get it. Don’t always plan for everything–and align your passion to your work. You can make wonders happen.

But how can we accelerate?
As the leader of my company, I am now more empowered, and can act in my sphere of influence: I can work on the benefits for new mothers, build in flexibility for both male and female employees, and recruit a more diverse leadership team– however, there are unfortunately way too few other female executives to create the perfect storm.

As it will takes time to bring more women to the top of our public companies, I started to take a look at how else I could help move the needle. I decided to invest outside of my day job. Life does not stop when the work day ends.

First, I engaged in a support group, or what we call a “Lean In Circle.” We started by having a theme around transitions in our career. We listen to each other, we challenge each other, we offer support and most importantly, we offer a safe environment where we discuss the un-discussable. In the last three years all members changed roles to a better one, and we keep transitioning!

Second, I looked at the private companies, and specifically entrepreneurs, to work with. I was shocked by the low number of women who successfully received funding. Studies have shown that a more gender-diverse angel network encourages more women entrepreneurs to pitch.

So without any investment banking background I looked at how I could get engaged with investing. About a year ago I found Pipeline Fellowship, a program where you learn how to be angel investor, and where members fund women-lead social startups. In two days I will have another three companies presenting their projects, and probably will close some new investments.

For those of you in interested in becoming angel investors, keep in mind that this is a long-term, relational process. The investor generally plays a role in the development of the company, whether that means an opening, or a rolodex, or actual hands-on advising. If you are ready to apply your capabilities or your assets to a start-up,  you too can become an investor and help push the envelope.

I look forward to meeting, connecting and learning from this new community.

Thank you!

Welcome to my blog – this is just the beginning…

hands-urban

I am so excited to type these words! They are the first words in what I hope is an ongoing dialog about leadership and innovation. I have learned a lot from working at start-ups, from spending time leading global teams at Microsoft and from working with entrepreneurs around the world. I am creating this blog as a place for me to share my thoughts, my experiences and the lessons I’ve learned. And I hope my readers will find it a great place to engage in conversation about the topics I post, and to raise their issues and experiences. I look forward to learning from all of you!