Entrepreneurial Leadership: Women CEO’s speak out

I’m currently enjoying a great series of podcasts delivered over the past year at the Stanford University School of Engineering and sponsored by the VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, BASES (a student entrepreneurship group), Stanford Technology Ventures Program, and the Department of Management Science and Engineering.

You can find this series on the iTunes Music Store under the Education category (second screen, 4th row down) or via this direct link.

There are 25 hour-long presentations on file. All available for free download. The presenters and topics they cover offer a fascinating look at the personalities and checkered history that makes up Silicon Valley. The audience of Stanford students hears from and asks questions of executives who have been there and done that in terms of surviving and thriving in the Silicon Valley ecosystem — a place where failure is a badge of success and people talk of ‘dog years’ of experience.

I’ve started by listening to three amazing women CEO’s:

Carol Bartz

Carol Bartz, Executive Chairman of the Board and CEO of Autodesk for the past 14 years, reflecting on her experience of running one of the largest PC software companies in the world while finding a balance between her career and personal life. She also stresses the importance of continued learning and addresses the challenges of succeeding in a global market.

Kim Polese

Kim Polese, CEO of SpikeSource describing her twenty years of experience in developing software in Silicon Valley including Java development with Sun Microsystems and the open source community.

Janice Fraser

Janice Fraser, CEO and a founding partner of Adaptive Path, discussing the entrepreneurial leadership qualities that have contributed to the success of her user experience consulting company.

I worked in Carol Bartz’s sales organization at Sun back in the 1990’s and also saw Kim present at Sun when she was the original Java Product Manager before she went off to found Marimba.

All three women executives admit to being ‘girl geeks’ who embraced science and technology in college and often followed a serendipitous career to the top.

  • Janice Fraser started by proofreading typesetting commands in code before joining Netscape as their first web content editor.
  • Kim Polese spent hours while still in High School at the Lawrence Hall of Science programming computers and later went through early jobs in support in Artificial Intelligence companies to Sun and product management in C++ and then Java at Sun.
  • Carol Bartz earned her stripes in the sales organizations at DEC and3M before joining Sun and running all of worldwide sales.
  • All share incredible insights about starting and growing a high-tech company. They speak with clarity, from the heart, about what motivated them and what they’ve observed. Things as simple as asking the customers what they use the product for (which Bartz says precious few of the staff at Autodesk knew before she arrived and started asking). Issues around the ways to partner for success in the world of Web 2.0 and Open Source (which Polese and Fraser are adept at). The importance of networks, intuition, planning, listening, leading, arguing, anticipating.

    Rather than try and write a prĂ©cis of each person’s material I’d just encourage anyone with an interest in executive communications to simply download and listen. Here’s some killer quotes to whet your appetite.


    Don’t be afraid of doing a lot of lateral things. A career as a ladder is a very unsteady concept compared to a pyramid — you have no foundation.


    There’s nothing more fun than being on a mission together with a team of people building something innovative, breaking new ground and really making a difference in the world. What could be more fun? Not many things in life. And that’s one of the reasons why Silicon Valley is such as great place to build a career and just to live and be.


    Being an entrepreneur is not a job, it’s a way of life. It’s a mission more than it is a job. I’m not employed by a company I’m employed by an industry. I’m employed by an ecosystem of people who believe in me and who support me and who I support in turn.

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    It certainly sounds like you found an excellent series of Podcasts here. Thanks for sharing your recommendation! I am always looking for informative podcasts to listen to, but have trouble sifting through the thousands of available shows. For me, it’s easier to listen to something that others have found helpful than to try to find it on my own.

    […] Women CEO’s (like those I profiled here) are not the problem. “Alpha women want to lead, but they don’t necessarily need to rule,” the authors say. […]

    Wow Ian. I’ve set up my blog and posted for three days but I am amazed at your productivity and breadth. My expertise is very narrow really – I simply transform executive performance in the knowledge economy. And yes I can write something on that topic every day of the year if need be. But I still can’t make the link between the resource commitment necessary and eventual profitability. Is blogging really just a hobby for most? That’s ok if the answer is yes.

    Hi Tim:

    Best of luck with your new blog!

    Some Greek guy in the 7th Century BC talked about the difference between hedgehogs and foxes:

    “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

    You sound like a self-confessed hedgehog.

    I think both types can profit by blogging. Some excellent professional speakers who are hedgehog bloggers include Kim Snider and Chris Clarke-Epstein both listed on my NSA Blogroll.

    On the other hand I would agree that I’m most defiantly a fox (as a blogger!). Fellow fox bloggers include Jane Genova and Joel Postman listed on my regular blogroll.

    Hedgehog blogs = Trade Magazines, lots of insight in one field. Fox blogs = daily newspapers, commenting on different things.

    Blogging can be a hobby, but since most of us are information brokers in one form or another (writing; speaking; writing about writing; writing about speaking; speaking about writing etc. etc.) blogging is just another way of wrestling with words that might become a speech, book or other salable product.

    If you’d like to know more about how to quickly turn a quick buck (or quid) from your blog I highly recommend you click here.



    Very many thanks for your good wishes. It seems like blogging is to become a new part of my life.

    This is my address: http://transforming-organisations.blogspot.com

    It sounds as if I am destined to become a hedgehog blogger – “just another way of wrestling with words” – what a great phrase!

    And thank you for the tip about how to make a quick buck. I’ll leave that bit for a while whilst I spend a goodly portion of this Saturday morning here in England looking up those three ladies you mention above.

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