Nora Denzel VP and General Manager of Storage Organization,
Hewlett Packard; Former Sr. VP and a corporate officer
of Legato Systems
Our special guest today is Nora
Denzel, Nora is the Senior Vice President and
a corporate officer of Legato Systems Inc , a $143 million
market and technology leader in the enterprise storage
management software market. She currently heads all of
Legato's engineering, product management and technical
support organizations reporting directly to the company's
Moderator: Welcome Nora, we're glad you could be
with us today!
Nora: Hello everyone,
I am so happy to be here.
guest-Sabrina says: What was
your first job in the tech industry?
Nora: My first job
was when I was in college. I worked as a programmer for
our college registrar, assigning people to classes and
guest-Andace asks: Who were
the people/heroes who inspired you when you were growing
Nora: When I was growing
up I had several people who inspired me; first and foremost,
my mother. She had 6 children, worked fulltime and had
a college degree when it wasn't fashionable! She was amazing!
I also liked Billy Jean King and Sally Ride.
guest-Bonnie says: I was wondering
if men feel more intimidated by you and how do you deal
Nora: Great question
Bonnie... It is difficult to tell what men feel when they
meet me, many are surprised! When I was younger, ( I am
37 now), but in my early 20s, I felt that both men and
women were surprised that I could know as much as I did
about computer storage. I got a lot of strange looks when
I was the only woman at a conference or the only woman
in the department... but I just keep my mind on my work
and ignore the reaction of others. I always felt that
my accomplishments, not my gender or looks, would set
guest-Katreena says: What do
you feel has been the most important factor in your success?
Nora: Most important
factor in success.... I'd have to say HARD WORK. You just
never, ever, ever, give up. It takes a long time to be
an overnight success! I've seen much more talented people
than me, but they didn't believe that they could do something,
or they gave up too quickly. I am living proof that if
you want something bad enough, and are willing to sacrifice
and work hard, you can get it.
Moderator: What are some of
the most difficult challenges you've faced as a woman
in the hi-tech arena?
Nora: I am not sure
my gender contributed to the challenges that are out there,
or maybe it did and I was blind to it. Sometimes, not
often, I'd meet people who had something on their mind
other than work... I think they were just so surprised
to see a woman in my position, that they wanted to get
to know me better, shall we say.. I am not sure that was
such a big challenge, I was always very work oriented
so it didn't bother me much! I honestly don't think my
gender helped or hurt me moving up the ladder, results
Moderator: How do you get motivated
to stay so positive Nora?
Nora: I don't know.
I do believe that you control your attitude. Misery in
life is optional!
guest-Terri says: How did
you prepare for what you are doing now... schooling, jobs,
Nora: I got a computer
science degree for my undergraduate work and then went
back to school at night for three years for a Masters
In Business Administration. If you really want to run
a technology company one day, I think it is important
to have a balance between technical ability and business
acumen. The other things that were helpful were internships
and opportunities to program while I was in college. For
example, I got a summer job programming for IBM that did
wonders for my confidence and marketability when I graduated.
guest-Netta says: Do you network
with other hi-tech women leaders? What's the relationship
Nora: As I said before,
credentials open a lot of doors. It is also the case that
education teaches you fundamentals that apply to many
different problems you will have to address. It teaches
you ways of thinking and dealing with many problems and
situations. However, it can sometimes be a bit too abstract
-- though we are trying to change that. I was glad to
have had some experience in the real world when I went
back to school. I had a bit of an understanding of why
I was doing all the studying. So both are really important.
I know computer science Ph.D.s who couldn't program their
way out a paper bag. But I also know people who are frustrated
at their limited advancement because they didn't get a
guest-Netta says: What are your hopes for the
future of the Women in Technology Institute?
Nora: Great question
Netta! I think the best networking is done naturally.
I play golf on Thursdays, am active in my community and
genuinely like meeting and talking with people. I've never
done things that were supposed to be good for my career.
I have met other high tech leaders at events around the
valley and struck up relationships with them the old fashioned
way-- by being a friend to them. So I guess I am not a
good role model for networking, because I don't think
I do it particularly well!
Moderator: Do you travel out
of the country often Nora? If so, how do you see the other
countries as we have here different.
Nora: I've pretty
much traveled the world. Most of my travel has been for
business. I spent 13 years at IBM where I did most of
my traveling. I found it very eye opening! If you think
that women are treated poorly in America--- try visiting
some other countries! You'd be amazed! For example, I
was so surprised in Japan to be talking with a corporate
executive while he had a nude picture of a woman on a
calendar! Right in plain view on his desk! In the US you'd
be fired for that, but it is perfectly acceptable in Japan!
Also in Asia, they had the concept of "office girls" who
served the men coffee, cakes and put slippers on their
feet...again, I don't think you'd find that in the US.
Women execs are very, very rare in most European and Asian
countries. So, for my informal survey... the US is very
far ahead in women leaders. I think that Margaret Thatcher
in the UK and Ms. Robinson in Ireland as their country's
respective leaders have helped a bit, but for the most
part, I do think that the US treats women more equal and
clearly women are farther ahead in the work force in the
guest-Netta says: Why did
you choose the storage industry? What about the dot-coms
Nora: The storage
industry is fascinating !! I can't believe you'd ask that!
Just kidding! Storage is really fun, I love it! The best
part about it is that EVERYONE needs it! While I think
that some of the dot-coms will come and go there is always
a need to manage computer storage. I guess I think of
it as I work for a pain relief company meaning, our software
solves a very basic need-- the need to protect computer
data and keep servers up and running. Most other companies,
serve needs that not every one has, so they are more of
a luxury item-- like a vitamin pill vs. a pain reliever.
So that is why I love storage--- a huge market! And continuing
guest-Sillyside says: Did
you ever feel "different" growing up? Did you have a normal
childhood do you think?
Nora: I am not sure
anyone thinks they have a normal childhood! I grew up
on a farm, with 4 sisters and one brother. We had beef
cattle, so we did a lot with 4-H and such. It was fun...
the only thing about being so isolated is that I trusted
everyone, never locked my doors, wasn't afraid of strangers,
etc. There are good parts to that, for example, I didn't
know women weren't supposed to be in high tech companies...
The bad parts of that is that I was so sheltered, I had
a lot of real life learning to do once I went away to
college... But I caught up quickly though!
guest-Netta says: What's your
next career step?
I don't think about my next career step very often. I
love what I am doing. We're in a 1200 person company,
which is a great size. I also have a dream job! I manage
all of engineering, but also have Product Management (those
that decide what to build) and Product Marketing as well
(those that decide how to sell the products). It is fun!
I learn so much everyday that I don't even return head
hunter calls....I suppose one day I'll get the itch to
be the CEO of a software company, but I don't want to
move until it stops being fun. I'd also like to write
a book in my spare time and have been promising myself
that I will one day, just to know how to do it!
guest-Jarrod says: What has
been the hardest part of your career so far?
Nora: The hardest
part is that I get out of balance very often... I like
what I do so much, I find myself sacrificing the other
parts of life. So I have been working now to get back
in balance by having hobbies, traveling, writing a book,
etc. Work is something that I love, but I have to continue
to remind myself to GET A LIFE!!
Moderator: Nora, speaking
of books, have you started on anything you would care
to share with us today?
Nora: Sure, I started
on two books actually, one on my love --- computer storage.
I don't think it'll have broad appeal, but it is something
that I like. I also started one on how Women Shoot Themselves
in the Workplace.
guest-MLCQUEEN says: Who do
you consider your role model?
Nora: Role models
for me now would be Carly Fiorina, the CEO of HP.... She
is amazing if you do any reading about her background.
Very smart, very sharp, and she got to be the first CEO
of a Fortune 10 company!
guest-PCrosby says: What was
the biggest obstacle you've overcome, one that almost
Nora: The biggest
obstacle... let me see... I can't think of one thing in
particular, but I guess it'd have to be me... There was
a time that I refused to accept any criticism of what
I was doing. That almost derailed me very early. Once
I learned to accept other people's thoughts and that criticism
was my friend, I soared up the ladder. I try to think
that everyone I meet can teach me something... sometimes
the lessons have been tough to take... but when I truly
embraced what they were saying, and faced my faults and
worked to correct them, my career took off. So my biggest
obstacle was clearly me!
guest-Netta says: How
do women shoot themselves in the workplace? By joining
the planning committees?
Nora: Right on Netta!
Many people will try to stick women with traditional female
duties such as the planning committee, or the corporate
bake sale, or the site beautification committee..... DON'T
DO IT! I remember having to tell one of my managers a
football analogy to get him to understand... I told him....
Look--- if we were a football team, I want to be the quarterback,
not the water boy! I think he got the point, early on,
everyone was telling me to go into Human Resources---
the group in a company that handles job descriptions,
and hiring, and benefits and the like. I don't have anything
against Human Resources--- but I wanted to RUN the company--
not be on the sidelines. After my football talk...they
never asked me again to join a committee!! Don't try to
please everyone at work by accepting all that is thrown
your way...if you can't figure out how the committee will
help your career-- don't do it!
guest-Sillyside says: Do you
have children and a family of your own now? How do they
feel about you and your career?
Nora: Remember when
I talked about trying to find balance?
Nora: Well I am 37
and the other day realized I forgot something...I forgot
to get married and have children! Whoops.... So I do not
have children of my own... yet... there is still hope
guest-Carey says: Hello Nora,
what made you decide to accept criticism? a certain event?
Nora: I read a book---
called "The Critical Edge". Did you ever read something
that changed you? That book did. I actually saw the author
speaking on the subject and a light went off.... Sometimes
I think we all try to be perfect....Once I gave that up...
my career went into overdrive! Can't tell you how much
accepting criticism helped me.
guest-IloveMYpc says: Have
you ever thought about doing any public speaking? I think
you would be great for young women in schools!
Nora: I do speak around
town a bit, but it is hard with my hectic schedule. I
talk to groups, such as WITI, Women in Technology International,
or SWE, the Society of Women Engineers about how women
Shoot Themselves in the Foot in the Workplace. It is a
lot of fun...
guest-PCrosby says: Love your
up attitude, but can't Positive Mental Attitude plaster
over real feelings and fester resentments at work?
Nora: It is hard to
tell. I am genuinely optimistic, but I do have bad days
once in a while. I do my venting to a great group of friends
and family. I think as a leader it is important to project
a positive attitude... and if you don't like what you're
doing at work-- GET OUT! You can't fake being positive.
If you aren't, people will discover it. I love computer
storage and working at Legato, it is hard to fake that.
So I don't think that people resent that attitude, I hope
they find it inspiring to find the thing that they love
to do and do it... life is too short to hate where you
Moderator: Nora, what
is "Women Unlimited"? Can you tell us your role
Nora: W.O.M.E.N. Unlimited
is a mentoring organization across the US. I serve as
a mentor in this program. It brings together young women
from all over the valley and puts them through an intensive
class on all aspects of corporate life. Part of the program
entails assigning the young women to an executive female
from the valley. Most women pick someone who isn't in
their industry or company so they can be assured of confidentiality.
I love it, it's great!
Moderator: What do the initials stand for?
Nora: I think it is
Woman's Organization for Mentoring and NetWorking... but
don't quote me... you can find it on the web!
guest-TahoeMoe says: how did
you succeed in achieving such high credibility? any pitfalls
you can make us aware of?
Nora: Know your stuff!
I can't not stress enough how much competence in a field
is important, and if you don't know what you're talking
about... don't fake it... just say "I don't know". Some
pitfalls are focusing so far ahead you never master the
job you have now.... BIG MISTAKE... Work in the job you
are in until you feel there is nothing else to learn...
People can spot a job hopper from miles off and don't
really want to work with them... Do great at your current
job, learn all you can, and then move on... but don't
move on or even think about the next job until you have
this one down.
guest-Netta says: What's your
Nora:I guess it'd
be-- Hire people who are better than you are and then
get out of the way!
guest-Carey says: I am trying to cope with accepting
criticism right now, and it's difficult. But I will overcome
this and read "The Critical Edge". Thanxs for the recommendation.
Nora: You are welcome...
some advice on criticism... Resist the urge to interrupt
when you are receiving it... the only acceptable things
to say are "Thank you" and "Is there more?" Sometimes
I have to sit on my hands during especially painful sessions
just to remind me to button up!
guest-G8er8 says: What would
you say is your best quality?
Nora: I think my best
quality is that I don't think I have one... What I mean
by that is that I am still "under construction", and don't
focus on what I do well... I obsess on what I haven't
mastered yet. I am not sure I recommend this way of thinking....
but that is what I do.. I guess people would say that
I am down to earth and self-effacing... I am not sure
if that is good or not, I don't work on that, I just am
that way because I am not convinced I have a best quality!
I hope that makes sense to you.
guest-TahoeMoe says: How do
you manage to maintain your level of enthusiasm for your
Nora: I really love
what I do... That is the big secret--- Do what you love
and good things will follow! It is so easy to stay up
reading when you love the book. It is hard to read a book
on a topic you hate. That is the simple truth. You may
have to try out a lot of things before you truly find
what makes you excited, but I've always been fascinated
with computer storage.
Moderator: Thank you so much
for chatting with us today Nora! Is there anything you
would like to say before we close for today?
Nora: I've really
enjoyed talking with all of you and wanted to say thank
you for taking the time to join us today! Remember-- do
what you love and the rewards will follow, I promise.