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WITI Women | Cindy Nelson Dahm

WITI Women Survey Questions and Responses:

1. What was your first job in technology?

After eight years at Xerox in sales and sales management, I left to become a salesperson at Oracle Corporation. That meant I had to learn about software, networking and database management systems. This was challenging for a liberal arts graduate, but surprisingly, a business career in high tech does not require an extremely in-depth knowledge of programming. However, the concepts Must be understood to discuss with business buyers.

2. Who has been your most significant mentor? Why?
In high-technology, Polly Sumner (former senior VP at Oracle) provided the best example of a woman who broke the Oracle male management mold. I heard Larry Ellison once describe Polly Sumner as "the most aggressive man he's ever met." (proves he doesn't know too many women other than in the biblical sense)

Although Polly was not an active mentor to me i.e., calling and lunching regularly, she did provide proof that women could provide great leadership at a very competitive company. She was also a great mentor in that she was a real human being, and valued straightforward relationships. She did not invite "politics" in her organizations, but did "tell it like it is," so you knew where you stood.

At Phone.com, the Internet/mobile telephony company I've been with for almost four years now, my mentor is Ben Linder, our VP of Marketing. He proves that techie engineers can also be very articulate, and that they make good marketing managers as well. He appreciates people's strengths, and manages to invite maximum creativity while focusing the group on executing on the strategy as well. He's also the first VP I've ever worked for who would stand up in a meeting and say, "Excuse me, I have to go and pick up my son from day care."

3. What has been your greatest challenge and what strategies did you use to overcome obstacles?
The greatest challenge I have is balancing my family life with my work demands. I cannot say that I have overcome this as it is simply a requirement of everyday life, although when it's good it is truly the best of both worlds. One of the most important elements that make it work is a responsible and loving caregiver for my children. The next most important element is that I select "management" at any company that also values his/her family and the concept of a balanced life. It's not worth trying to convince someone who does not believe this.

One constantly has to ask oneself whether they are acting on the priorities that make a difference in the long run. It is also terribly difficult to let go of challenging projects or career opportunities that you know you could handle with ease, yet don't fit into your agenda.

Cindy Nelson Dahm answers these questions:
1. What was your first job in technology?
2. Who has been your most significant mentor? Why?
3. What has been your greatest challenge and what strategies did you use to overcome obstacles?
4. Who has been the most influential person in your life? Why?
5. What lessons have you learned that would be valuable to women beginning their careers in technology?
6. What new technology do you believe will have the most positive impact on the world in the next 20 years? The most negative impact?

On the lighter side:
1. If you could have dinner with any 2 people (living or not), who would they be?
2. What was the last book you read? What books do you love to recommend?
3. If you couldn't do what you are doing now, what profession would you choose?
4. What is your definition of success?

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