Saturday Mornings with Women Leaders

Saturday Mornings with Women Leaders

What makes someone a leader? Does it require a lifetime of experience, education and development, or is it just something a person is born with? These questions might set off an intense conversation and elicit very complex discussions. We asked our leaders from around the world for their thoughts and opinions.

We also wanted to find out what they’re like on a weekend! Away from their critical roles at our sites around the globe, is it time for fun or to get more done? It’s important to know how our leaders challenge themselves and those around them – yet we were also curious to find out how they relax, unwind and spend their downtime.

We asked 14 women four questions about life and leadership:

  1. Define a great leader – what are some traits you think great leaders possess?
  2. What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?
  3. How did you differentiate yourself to get where you are in your career?
  4. Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?

What we learned from their answers was the importance of lifelong learning, having confidence in themselves and their teams, and to always tackle challenges and take risks. Here’s a look at what’s truly important for Western Digital’s leaders, whether they’re in a meeting or kicking off a weekend of fun.

Chavalratana “Mam” Puckdinukul – Thailand

Chavalratana Puckdinukul of Western Digital
(Chavalratana Puckdinukul, Human Resources Senior Manager, Photo by Phattrawuth Jaiharn)

Define a great leader — what are some traits you think great leaders possess?

I think the traits of a great leader are integrity, active listening and leading by example.

  • Great leaders should do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Integrity in leaders refers to being honest, trustworthy, and reliable. A leader with integrity acts in accordance with their words and owns up to their mistakes, not hiding them, not blaming the team, or making excuses.
  • Great leaders should listen from their hearts. It’s not enough to simply hear what the team is saying. Listening shows engagement. Employees who feel listened to feel more connected with the company and in turn feel more engaged and motivated to do the best work for the company.
  • Great leaders lead their team by example. People are influenced by a leader’s actions. If a leader wants their team to be positive and productive, then the leader must be clear on what they want from the team, and then make sure their actions support that.

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

Forget about your gender, please. Unleash your talent and don’t let gender be your obstacle. Capability, ability and the right attitude do not belong to any specific gender. They belong to everyone of every gender and every nationality. No matter who you are, you can be what you want to be. Just bring out the best in yourself, know your own strengths and boldly use them to empower others.

How did you differentiate yourself to get to where you are in your career?

I don’t think that I can differentiate myself.  I’m just a normal person who believes in the power of love. I love what I do and I do what I love. I love everybody that I work with. Every day of my work life is so meaningful to me. I learn new things and get to meet new people every day. I do believe that when you are doing something from your heart, it can bring you success. I’m happiest when I know the work that I’ve done is impacting someone in a positive way.

Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?

Mostly, I stay at home with my family. It’s part of my work-life balance. I work hard on weekdays, so I spend my time with my family on weekends. If it’s a long weekend, we will go camping. Some Saturdays, we will go to a flower market, because I’m learning to plant flowers. I’m just a beginner. A few months ago, I went to the flower market every weekend, because the flowers that I bought always died. Now I have improved a lot, and they all stay alive.

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Ronit Ronen-Karpol – Israel

Ronit Ronen-Karpol of Western Digital
(Ronit Ronen-Karpol, Human Resources Senior Director & Site deputy for Israel site, Photo by Sarah Raanan)

Define a great leader — what are some traits you think great leaders possess?

I believe a great leader should embrace the following skills: first I will emphasize the growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset, with a “can-do” attitude, high motivation, open communication and direct feedback. All have a comprehensive impact on our daily routines, as much as on our strategic decision-making processes.

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

I really like the key insights from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, and it’s valuable when it comes to everyone’s life:

  1. Be proactive.
  2. Begin with an end in mind.
  3. Put first things first.
  4. Think win-win.
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  6. Synergize.
  7. Sharpen the saw. Don’t work yourself to death.

I would personally find these very useful when it comes to a daily practice:

  • Be proactive.
  • Begin with an end in mind.
  • Put first things first.
  • Think win-win.

How did you differentiate yourself to get to where you are in your career?

I have always believed we can make an impact and move the needle when it comes to people. This belief motivated me along my journey! To be part of an effective trusted team with a “can-do” attitude helps tremendously in aiming higher and achieving above and beyond. “Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star.”

Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?

Having breakfast with my family and Joy, our beloved dog, catching up with everybody on last week, and planning the week ahead. It might sound a bit boring, and yet, during the intense weeks we have, this is exactly what I’m looking forward to.

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Weili Wang – China

Weili Wang of Western Digital
(Weili Wang, Senior Manager, Process Engineering, Photo by Zhizhi Qin)

Define a great leader — what are some traits you think great leaders possess?

A great leader should have confidence. They must guide, encourage and build trust within their team, so the whole team can be successful even in the face of great changes or setbacks.

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

Professional career planning, Work & life balance, Promoting self-qualification.

How did you differentiate yourself to get to where you are in your career?

  1. By fully knowing myself, including my personal characteristics, my technical knowledge, abilities and weaknesses;
  2. By understanding my career: a job’s content, technical skill requirements, my role and responsibilities, and the working environment;
  3. By benchmarking the gap between myself and others who were in the same role;
  4. By getting the opportunity to let top management know my career development planning;
  5. By being a good manager for myself – for time, work and life.

Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?

I relax during the weekends. I go walking in the park, or do some simple exercises, or watch TV, or have lunch/dinner with my friends.

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Emi Hatano – Japan

Emi Hatano of Western Digital
(Emi Hatano, Public Relations Manager, Photo by TOPTIA Photography)

Define a great leader — what are some traits you think great leaders possess?

In general, regardless of men or women, great leaders that I respect possess traits including a passion for their work and sincerity. They are positive and they “Think Big.”

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

Achieving a prominent role comes from the mindset of always thinking about what the company goal is and how you can contribute to that goal.

How did you differentiate yourself to get to where you are in your career?

I always ask myself, “What else can I do better?” Ask yourself how to lift yourself up from where you are now, and then become creative. I strongly believe if you have an ultimate goal, you have clearly defined strategies, and follow through with a good process, you will never need to doubt yourself in what you are doing.

Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?

On every Saturday at 10 a.m., you can find me at the golf driving range. I take my younger daughter, who is 12 years old, to the range to support her dream of becoming a professional golfer.

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Lori Sundberg – United States

Lori Sundberg of Western Digital
(Lori Sundberg, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Photo by Nancy Rothstein)

Define a great leader — what are some traits you think great leaders possess?

I am really passionate about leadership. It’s something I think a lot about and something that I personally work on all the time. There are many aspects of great leadership – so I’ll just call out a few:

  • Vision – great leaders have a vision for their team that is aligned with the company vision & mission. They help their team understand how what they do connects to the company in a meaningful way.
  • Recognize and develop talent – great leaders have a great eye for talent and they work hard to help their team members develop, learn and grow.
  • Inclusive – great leaders create an inclusive environment where people really feel they matter and can contribute. 
  • Collaborate – great leaders are also great team members. They share information, minimize personal agendas, help their colleagues succeed and put the company first.
  • Learn continuously – great leaders challenge themselves and learn continuously. They work hard to up their game and be a better leader each and every day.

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

  • Develop competence in your chosen discipline or area – learn as much as you can and work to be the best you can be at whatever you choose to do.
  • Be confident – don’t hold back.  Share your ideas and raise your hand for projects and opportunities.
  • Cultivate advocates who know your work and can speak to your abilities and who will give you direct feedback about what you need to work on.

How did you differentiate yourself to get to where you are in your career?

I took risks and raised my hand to work on really hard, challenging initiatives. I chose to be a change agent and established a track record of being able to get hard things done.

Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?

Home, with my boys, having a pancake breakfast dance party. I make chocolate chip pancakes, blast pop music and require anyone wanting a pancake to bust a move. It’s a Saturday morning tradition!

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Milissa Bedell – United States

Milissa Bedell of Western Digital
(Milissa Bedell, Director, Global Giving & Doing, Photo by Renee Bowen)

Define a great leader – what are some traits you think great leaders possess?

I believe the most important trait of a great leader is authenticity. When a leader is authentic that leads to consistency. And when a leader is consistent, that allows trust to build within their organization. With a culture of trust, teams can thrive.

Great leaders lead, but don’t always expect followers. I believe the best of leaders embrace diverse ideas and perspectives and recognize the value of opinions that are different from their own. Ultimately, it is a leader’s role to make decisions, but great is the leader that can integrate ideas brought forth by others as he or she forges the best path forward.

Great leaders allow their people to shine. I am certain everyone reading this has worked in the unfortunate presence of a leader that overshadows the achievements of his or her team and felt the loss of morale it causes. Great leaders are secure enough to give credit where credit is due. 

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

There is a sign hanging in my office that says “Better an Oops Than a What If.” Fear of failure can be tremendously stagnating, so trust yourself to take smart risks! You are guaranteed to make mistakes along the way, but there are lessons learned with each one. And, ultimately, your innovative idea or unique way of looking at a problem will allow you to shine. You just need to be willing to share it!

Know that a step sideways, or even a step that feels backward, will often lead to more growth than staying the course. Gaining diverse experiences will open doors you likely never imagined.

Define your own success and take responsibility for achieving it. Only you know what success looks like for you, and it may not be what your boss, co-workers or even your significant other thinks it is. Identify the milestones you need to achieve your definition of success, and then move towards it. And, when you discover roadblocks (because you will!), know that only you can make the choices required to remove them.

How did you differentiate yourself to get where you are in your career?

I have been fortunate to have had a lot of very different opportunities as I’ve built my career. As those opportunities built one upon the next, there are four things I’ve always strived to be:

  • Passionate. I really enjoy my work, and I am not afraid to let that be noticed. 
  • Open-minded. I love seeking and incorporating different ways of thinking and problem-solving.
  • Self-aware. I work hard to know my strengths and to acknowledge the areas where I should continue to grow.
  • Hardworking. It sounds so simple. But sometimes it’s hard to work when the work is hard.  That’s when I feel most energized.

This isn’t a list of things I’ve done, but rather who I’ve tried to be. I think that’s an important point. For me, it’s about who you are rather than what you’ve done that makes people remember you and builds confidence in what you can achieve.

Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?

I wish I had a really cool answer to this question like you’ll find me at the art studio or training for my next marathon. But in my quest for authenticity, the reality is I am probably catching up on laundry, working on a project around my house or getting the grocery shopping done. Some might see these as mundane chores, but in all honesty, I enjoy taking care of my home and family just as much as I enjoy having a career, so spending time doing these things brings a lot of balance to my life.

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Celeste Cooper – United States

Celeste Cooper of Western Digital
(Celeste Cooper, Chief of Staff, CEO Office, Photo by Nancy Rothstein)

Define a great leader — what are some traits you think great leaders possess?

I believe great leaders possess the following traits. Honesty. Transparency. They have strong values. They’re ethical and purpose-driven, with high EQ. They’re accountable and supportive. They’re decisive, motivational, courageous, diplomatic, self-aware, action-driven, and inquisitive. They’re compassionate and positive in nature. And, they’re confident.

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

  1. Speak up! Take ownership of your career. 
  2. Step out of your comfort zone. If it is easy, everyone would be doing it…
  3. Listen more than you talk.
  4. Always keep learning. Whether it is a new technology, a new tool or process, financial accounting practices, etc. – Always keep growing. 
  5. Be open to opportunities as they arise. They may not always align with your current goals or plan. However, sometimes things pop up that can send you on a new and even better trajectory.

How did you differentiate yourself to get to where you are in your career?

I differentiated myself by being myself. Be yourself and leverage your strengths.

Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?

It depends on the season. Skiing, hiking, diving, kiteboarding, hitting the gym or sleeping in. Everyone needs a break.

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Laurie Iwami – United States

Laurie Iwami of Western Digital
(Laurie Iwami, Senior Director, Outbound Marketing, Photo by Nancy Rothstein)

Define a great leader — what are some traits you think great leaders possess?

Humility, compassion, curiosity (what my mother called “(in)‘satiable curiosity” borrowing from Rudyard Kipling), a sense of fun, listening – not just hearing – what others are saying, course-correcting respectfully, celebrating your team’s success, and recognizing that the team is ultimately what is successful. Also letting go and celebrating your (small) part when a person on your team moves up to their next great place. These traits are also pretty much what makes someone a good person, coach or parent in a non-work environment.

My boss at my first job at an ad agency is a great example. I started out as a former art history graduate student with no experience in tech. I was the first woman the small agency hired, and I had a seat at the table from the get-go. Later, I worked for him again as a stay-at-home mother doing side consulting. He was the kind of boss who built a team that was devoted to each other.

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

The organization must constantly check its hiring practices and communication at every level. Be the workplace your daughter, sister, mother, wife or significant other would thrive in. This got very real when my daughter started working in the hard sciences a couple of years ago, and as my son prepares to enter the workforce.

On an individual level, know that your voice is valid and valuable, even if it might not be the loudest in the room. It took me a long time to be comfortable “being uncomfortable” enough to speak up, to sit “at the table” instead of “in the second row”, etc. Always assume positive intent – I’m borrowing that from another amazing woman at Western Digital – and recognize that unconscious behavior is not the same as malicious behavior. There are many times when once something is pointed out, there’s an “OMG” moment for another person, and then behavior changes. This applies broadly beyond women in the organization, generally making the organization more inclusive and better at communicating clearly. That leads back to my point above about speaking up.

How did you differentiate yourself to get to where you are in your career?

I didn’t apologize for being one of the most non-technical people in a technology company. I worked really hard to learn any new technology or process really fast. I read nearly anything I can get my hands and eyes on – comic books, food labels, magazines at the dentist’s office, classic literature, non-fiction, popular fiction, almost anything except science fiction and romance novels. I also try to read one ‘great novel’ every year to remind myself of what great writing/storytelling is.

I took 10 years off to raise my children and it gave me a perspective of what is really important in life. That was a career. Working at Western Digital is something of a career change! 😊 I learned that parenthood is the best management training program I ever had.

Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?

This is the easiest question. In the unlikely event that I’ve woken up by then, I’m drinking coffee and playing an augmented reality game on my phone, or occasionally, running very slowly!

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Susan Park – United States

Susan Park of Western Digital
(Susan Park, Vice President, Product Management, Photo by Nancy Rothstein)

Define a great leader — what are some traits you think great leaders possess?

A leader is someone you can trust, and a great leader is someone whose team has the utmost confidence in them. When people trust you and believe in your management, members of your team have faith in your leadership, your strategy and your vision of working towards a common goal. Furthermore, a great leader provides the clarity needed in uncertain times, helping their team to move in concert, pushing forward with purpose.

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

To achieve a more prominent role in any organization, leaders need to share ideas and strive to be heard. Because if you don’t speak up, no one will listen. Be aware of the opportunities around you, letting your drive be known to your peers, your manager and your cross-functional group. When opportunities arrive, seize them; don’t underestimate your ability to take on new challenges and responsibilities. It’s in you, you can do it.

How did you differentiate yourself to get to where you are in your career?

I differentiated myself early in my career by embracing my passions, strengths and weaknesses, and I let those positive traits shine. I enabled them with a “can do” mindset. It’s important to not let obstacles get in the way of achieving what you believe in. 

If I had to identify one key success factor in my career, I would attribute it to the ability to define a pathway to results no matter the challenge; taking on each obstacle one step at a time, executing and delivering. I am driven by how successful a new product can be. For me, creating an innovative product is exciting, and envisioning a product go-to-market helps me overcome any obstacles because I have the end goal in sight.

You are you, and no one can accomplish your mission like you can, so find your passion, do well in what you do, and have a positive mindset. Let your passion lead you.

Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?

I’m not an early riser, but I force myself to wake up early on weekends. I’m the first to get up on weekends, getting my exercise routine out of the way. You’ll most likely find me at a fitness class by 7:30 a.m. – currently I’m into spin. Then we have breakfast as a family, and by late morning, when I’m already on my second or third cup of coffee, I take my eight-year-old to her piano lesson. While she’s at her lesson, I’m picking up groceries for the week and tackling my honey-do list. Maximizing my Saturday morning productivity means I’m free for the rest of the weekend to enjoy quality family time.

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Tammi Roberts – United States

Tammi Roberts of Western Digital
(Tammi Roberts, VP of Sales Operations, Photo by Nancy Rothstein)

Define a great leader — what are some traits you think great leaders possess?

When I think of some of the great leaders I have been fortunate to work for, I think what they have in common is honesty and the ability to delegate. Honesty is an important value when you are leading an organization, but having the confidence in your employees to delegate is crucial to growth and success. People want to feel trusted to execute in their roles and to make the right choices. I know I have appreciated these two traits in my leaders.

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

I have been in this industry my whole career and, to be honest, I have never felt excluded by my gender. I have witnessed some females who aren’t forthcoming take a back seat and lack confidence about voicing an opinion or idea. My advice would be to speak up, ask questions and offer opinions. Meet peers in other functions – many of my opportunities have come from relationships I fostered in cross-functional organizations. Finally, I would say, create your value. Find something you are good at and be the best you can be.

How did you differentiate yourself to get to where you are in your career?

I differentiated myself by saying yes to most opportunities that came my way. It may have been something that I wasn’t really excited about. Or I lacked experience. My plan was to just say yes and figure it out. I feel like a boss must have faith in your capabilities, or see something inside you that you don’t see, to offer you new responsibility.  

Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?

I am definitely a morning person, so I would most likely be out running errands or spending time with friends.

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Tiffany Scurry – United States

Tiffany Scurry of Western Digital
(Tiffany Scurry, Vice President, Legal and Chief Compliance Officer, Photo by Renee Bowen)

Define a great leader — what are some traits you think great leaders possess?

A great leader sets a clear vision, then gets out of her team’s way! A great leader encourages, supports, and facilitates. And a great leader inspires trust.

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

Everyone needs a champion (or several). The best way to recruit a champion is to be collaborative and helpful. Not only is this personally rewarding, but people will appreciate and remember when you’ve helped them.

Being competitive, being the loudest voice, taking the plum assignments … these strategies aren’t effective and can even backfire. Instead, work towards earning a reputation of facilitating and helping [your team, your boss, other functions, etc.].

Another effective strategy is working on your readiness to accept new opportunities when they arise. This could mean actively developing your skillset now, or simply being open to stretching outside your comfort zone if asked to do so. You can’t always predict new opportunities, but you can prepare yourself and your mindset to be ready for them.

How did you differentiate yourself to get to where you are in your career?

In each of my roles, I’ve thought about how I can help my boss. Do I have a skill set that fills a gap? Can I make time to do something that my boss doesn’t have time to do? What is my boss trying to achieve, and how can I help her or him do that? In this way, I’ve tried to be an asset and appreciated. I think this has had an impact on my career because it has typically been my managers who have nominated me for new opportunities and encouraged me to take on new and growing roles.

Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?

It’s not glamorous, but the honest answer is, “in the laundry room.” But hey, there’s more to a weekend than just 10am! A typical weekend for me also includes playing tennis with my family (we’re terrible but we take lessons together and it’s fun), cooking or baking, caring for my in-laws, popcorn and movies on our too-small sofa, and watching The Curse of Oak Island – we just know they are going to find the treasure one of these days!

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Roberta Swanson – United States

Roberta Swanson of Western Digital
(Roberta Swanson, Vice President, Tax, Photo by Renee Bowen)

Define a great leader — what are some traits you think great leaders possess?

It’s a combination of a lot of things but I think what matters most is believing in what you are doing. You can’t expect others to consider you a leader unless you have confidence in what you are doing. Other traits that I think are important are being a good communicator and being empathetic toward your team. Show them that you care about their ideas and what is important to them.

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

This is not specific to women, but rather anyone seeking a more prominent role in their organization: Try to earn the respect of the organization by not only being smart and good at what you do but by being transparent and honest. Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something – but then also be prepared to learn it – and to own your own mistakes and those of your team. Do not be a finger pointer. Have a strong work ethic.

How did you differentiate yourself to get to where you are in your career?

My area – “tax” – can be intimidating. I differentiate myself by always trying to understand what I am talking about well enough that I can explain it in a clear and comprehensible fashion.

Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?

On the ski slopes, the golf course or riding my horse!

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Richa Tiwari – India

Richa Tiwari of Western Digital
(Richa Tiwari, Chief of Staff of Country Manager – India, Photo by Neeta Shankar)

Define a great leader — what are some traits you think great leaders possess?

I believe a great leader is Passionate, Courageous and Humble. Great leaders are passionate about creating a compelling vision, exploring new possibilities and creating new leaders. They are courageous to take risks, be the first and even fail, and above all, they respect people and are open to different perspectives.

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

It begins with being comfortable with who you are and what you believe in, and not trying too hard to fit in. I think that challenging yourself, constantly learning and finding a sponsor who believes in your capability does help women identify new growth opportunities.

I feel it is also important for women leaders to be a role model, who other women can relate with and learn from.

How did you differentiate yourself to get to where you are in your career?

I did not hesitate in trying the unknown and kept expanding my horizons. I have always demonstrated ownership and collaborated with my peers to achieve great results as a team.

I also value the feedback that I receive from my leaders and work on being the better version of myself.

Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?

On weekends you will find me either at a coffee shop writing my travel stories and plans or relishing South Indian breakfast at ‘Airlines,’ an old Bangalore restaurant with a banyan tree. I am also passionate about dancing and public speaking. I make sure to dedicate some time to those.

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Bee Wang – United States

Bee Wang of Western Digital
(Bee Wang, Vice President, Sales Operations, Photo by Nancy Rothstein)

Define a great leader — what are some traits you think great leaders possess?

A great leader provides clear directions – traits to include integrity and adaptability.

What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?

  • Gender is not a differentiator. Performance is.
  • Speaking as a working mother:
    • Develop a strong support ecosystem. It is important to surround yourself with people who support you and give you positive energy, whom you can learn from.
    • Compartmentalize. Be able to separate your thoughts and actions in order to be present for the different roles one plays at work and at home.

How did you differentiate yourself to get to where you are in your career?

  • Track record and work ethics – Be known for your work and how you do your work.
  • Work relationships – A strong understanding of interdependency with people you work with.

Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?

  • On a hiking trail. ☺
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Author

Editorial Team: All things data with news and insights on systems and technology that help you capture, preserve, access and transform your data.

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