Thursday, September 30, 2010

GHC10: Thursday Welcome/Keynote, Another Perspective

After entertaining us with a great video filmed at last year's Grace Hopper conference, they let us know that this year's conference sold out even before the early bird registration was meant to close and they still ended up with over 2100 attendees! WOW! I am so glad I registered early so I could be  part of the tenth Grace Hopper celebration!

Duy-Loan T. Le, from Texas Instruments, moved to America when she was 12 years old and didn't speak English. By the age of 16, she had not only mastered the language, but was graduating high school as valedictorian!  After being elected the first female senior fellow at TI, she vowed that she wouldn't be "first and last" and gave herself 15 years to help make another woman a senior fellow. Eight years later, she's still working on this goal...

Ms. Le talked about the great struggle of arriving here, becoming, in essence, deaf and dumb, as she didn't speak the language. She started working by babysitting and doing translation work, struggling to learn her school lessons at the same time as learning the language.  Through all of that, she somehow managed to graduate early. Continuing on that track, she graduated from college with her engineering degree cum laude at 19 years old.  By the time she was 20, she'd purchased her first house, bought her mother a house and gotten married.

During her first business trip to Japan in 1985, she noted that there were no women in the workforce. Any women seen were cleaning or serving tea. She asked us to imagine the look on the face of all those men when she introduced herself as the senior engineer that had been sent there to train them :-)

Realizing that she couldn't begin training these men with their preconceived notions, she spent the first two weeks of her four month stint learning about her hosts and her host country, and teaching them about herself as well.  She found that once they got to know her as a person and as an engineer, she was able to finally proceed with the training she'd been sent there to do.

Even with all this new technology we have at our fingertips, the only real way to build relationships, according to Le, is by starting the relationship with good old fashioned face to face. There was something she had been working of for two months, that had totally stalled. It was resolved in two hours once she flew out to the person she was working with.  You need to remember that it's not technology we're working with - it's people!

In order to successfully collaborate across the boundary of people, you need to have respect for those people, what they bring to the table and what they need.  Doing this will help you attain your goals and get respect from those you are working with.

What a very inspiring speaker!