Cindy Nelson Dahm is responsible for European marketing, public relations, and developer programmes for Phone.com Inc. She develops business relationships with software application and tools companies who extend their web and client/server products to support WAP access for their mobile users. In this role she has worked with companies such as Lotus IBM, Comverse, Oracle, and Webraska. She is currently the holder of two patents for microbrowser data communications and application approaches, and has authored articles on WAP services, sales and service applications, and mobile commerce.
Dahm also co-founded the WAP Forum's first Developer Group in April of 1999.
Prior to joining Phone.com, Dahm was the principal of Launch Communications, a software alliances consulting firm that provided strategic alliances services for both start-up and established software companies.
Her experience also includes 8 years at Oracle Corporation in sales and alliances. She was involved in the inception of Oracle's Business Alliance Program and was directly responsible for identifying key alliances, building early VAR partners and channel marketing programmes.
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
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.
4. Who has been the most influential person in your life? Why?
My parents have been and continue to be the most influential people in my life. My mother is the font of organization and time-management. She is the list-maker and the most action-oriented project manager I've ever known. Job undone? When will it be done? Who will do it? My father is Mr. Analytical Business. Is that career in "the mainstream" Cindy? Why would you move to a company that was not the leader in it's field? Do you have the authority/ability to move it to leadership? If not, stay away! My father also bought me difficult books to read every Christmas. Not reading them was unthinkable--and my life is richer as a result.
5. What lessons have you learned that would be valuable to women beginning their
careers in technology?
a. Take the technical training classes. Now. Yes, even the difficult technical courses! Set a goal: one every six months, whatever!
b. Read the industry publications. You cannot know your market without reading what your customers read.
c. Select your management team carefully. Interview them all and make sure you see eye-to-eye on how you'll perform your role. Make sure they understand both your strengths, and don't try to hide weaknesses. They come back to bite you later.
d. Volunteer regularly for jobs that are not in your job description. This prepares you to see your next career move, and others to see you in a different role.
e. Don't stay too long in a "safe" job, even if your personal circumstances aren't perfect. Your added energy for work in a truly stimulating job will make up for every other disadvantage!
f. Move to the international job market. I've just moved my whole family to Europe and we love it! Adventure is not over when you have children. Indeed, thanks to the kids starting school, we've met more families and friends!
g. Be competitive. Make people uncomfortable if you have to. Women shy away from this, trained by society, but don't get sucked in. "She's very aggressive" is a compliment!
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?
I think wireless technology will allow people to balance their lives better than they do now. At the same time, people who do not learn to turn-off technology in their personal time will suffer, as will their families.
On a lighter note:
1. If you could have dinner with any 2 people (living or not), who would they be?
Beryl Markham, author of West with the Night author, and my grandmother.
2. What was the last book you read? What books do you love to recommend?
Last book: Angela's Ashes
Recommend: Always Ernest Hemingway, can't explain why but I like his joi de vivre. Hate his drinking and portrayal of women, but love his prose.
3. If you couldn't do what you are doing now, what profession would you choose?
I think perhaps I'd be a kid again.
4. What is your definition of success?
Enjoying my job while making time for (and) enjoying my family!