Name Dropping is a Q&A series that aims to elevate the stories of women leading in the tech space. The idea came from Angela DeFranco, a Director of Product at HubSpot, who said one way to be better allies is to name drop more women in discussions of achievement, inspiration, and disruptors in tech, instead of referencing, time and again, the same set of (often male) leaders.
This edition of Name Dropping features Fidelma Russo, CTO & EVP at Iron Mountain.
What’s the first thing you built that made you realize you love engineering?
I’m an “accidental’ engineer and went into the field because I loved math and science and didn’t know what a different career option would be. I love taking complex problems and designing solutions to them and being part of a great team. It is just a fantastic feeling.The first thing I built that gave me that feeling was a network interface chip. I worked on a team based in Galway, Ireland. We worked nights and weekends on this project because we were driven by the excitement of creating something. That is when I realized that I actually loved what I do even if I didn’t really know what engineering was when I started in college.
What’s your best advice for your 22 year-old self?
Be brave and adventurous. Take opportunities that stretch you and put you outside your comfort zone. Ask questions so you are always learning. Have fun.
What book do you think every product leader should read and why?
Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove, who led Intel through many technology transitions and threats.
What is one quality that you think every leader should have in order to generate impact and lead effectively?
Integrity. The best teams have a high degree of trust and need to have integrity at the core.
Iron Mountain was recently named a Google Cloud Technology Partner of the Year for its work in AI and Machine Learning. Can you tell me about the most exciting projects you’re working on in that space?
At the end of 2017, three people from Iron Mountain and three people from Google got together in a conference room and, with country music playing in the background, we dreamed about a potential solution for Iron Mountain records management customers to manage and classify their data, govern their data, and turn it into information using analytics. Some of our customers who store physical records with us are digitizing these records for access and they wanted a way to shine a light on their “dark data,” or data that has been collected, but has not yet been analyzed. In fact, it was a meeting with a customer that started the first “what if we could “ conversation. Customers wanted an easy to use platform that allowed them to manage their physical and digital records in one place across the lifecycle from creation to destruction.
Iron Mountain Insight is the content services platform that we built to solve this customer problem. We worked in close collaboration with the machine learning engineers at Google to develop models for this platform and this work contributed heavily to Google’s announcement of a set of ML that is known as Document Understanding AI (DUAI). Our work continues and our content services platform is the first cloud-native, machine learning-based SaaS platform that manages both physical and digital data.
Who’s one woman in technology you’d like to name drop and why?
Gail Deegan, who was on the board of EMC, was a strong supporter of women at EMC and actively championed diversity initiatives at the company. She is now working pro bono on another initiative, called The Last Mile, to increase the percentage of women on corporate boards.
How do you stay connected to user and customer feedback?
I use a variety of mechanisms. I love visiting customers to understand what problems they are trying to solve and to solicit feedback on how we are doing as a company. I attend our customer advisory board meeting. I attend industry events with our users or target users and listen to what they have to say. We also measure customer sentiment via NPS (Net Promoter Score) and that also factors into staying connected with how our customers feel about the products, services and experiences we deliver.
What characteristics do you think the best engineers and product people have?
Curiosity, impatience, sense of adventure, courage to try new things and being great listeners. These are the characteristics that I believe differentiate the best engineers and product people from the rest.
What’s your greatest career achievement to date?
I can’t really point to one thing but I would say that it has varied through different phases in my career. Early on in my career I just cared about pure technology and had the opportunity to work on very technically challenging programs. At some point I got my sense of achievement from combining business and technology and now what gives me the most satisfaction is building strong teams to deliver significant business results.
You want to take your team out to celebrate a big accomplishment — which restaurant, anywhere in the world, would you pick?
I would take the team to the Old Head of Kinsale golf course and have dinner overlooking the course. I grew up near there and used to play there as a kid, so I have fond memories of it. Plus, I’m an avid golfer and have never had the opportunity to play there.
Know another woman whose name we should drop? Tweet us at @HubSpotDev with ideas.
This article was originally published on Medium.