In memory of Satish

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Today I’ll be attending the memorial service for Satish Singh. Tragically, he took his own life on Monday. The family has requested donations to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in lieu of flowers.

About Satish

Satish was an integral member of the Dell EMC Elect program. Coming from the Dell part of the Dell EMC merger, he also ran the Dell Tech Center Rock Stars for a while, and that is how I met him.

I wasn’t very close to Satish, although I would definitely call him my friend. I worked with him at Dell, and then we’d always reconnect and work together again as big tech events came up, either in Austin or the big events this community always attends (Dell World and EMC World, which are now combined, and VMworld). He was active in the Dell EMC Elect slack as well.

That’s how most of us in this online communities are connected…we chat online and see each other in bloggers lounges once a year, maybe more if we’re lucky.

And those of us who have always been involved in managing and guiding communities have a special bond. We are driven to connect people so that they can have a voice, so that the work they do can be acknowledged, and that their efforts can make things easier for the next person.

Most of us have been doing community management for a long time, much longer than it has been fashionable or profitable. It is a ton of emotional work, so connecting in real time with others who “get it” is a necessity for our mental health.

My memories

SatishThis is one of the last pictures I took of Satish. I was with him and Mark Browne at vBeers before Dell EMC World started this year. Mark runs the Dell EMC Elect Program.

For some reason, everyone was running late. Satish was rounding up the troops because I was so worried no one would show. He kept telling me it was going to be great!

That is my memory of him. He was a kind, generous man, he was honestly a really good guy. I never saw him overly flustered, never heard him talk bad about anyone.  I’m personally having a hard time wrapping my head around this — why Satish? Why didn’t we see it? Why couldn’t I have done something to let him know how much we need more people like him in this world?

Mental Health and our Community

Satish’s death has made me really think about our community, and mental health. Our entire world, from our industry to politics to the weather, is in a state of change. How do we navigate change at this rate? I feel like that is the power of our communities. It is a place to talk about all of the challenges we face with others who are facing the same things.

Without these online communities, how would we be able to continue on in this constant state of change? We need each other. Real connections and true friendships are forged in these communities, between people who are separated by oceans and mountains and time zones. How would we have found each other without these communities?

So what do we do when someone gets separated from the pack, and decides they can’t go on? I’m not really sure, to be honest. I just don’t want anyone else to feel this way, and to see death as the only way out.

How do we mourn this as a community? First of all, mourn the loss of this man, even if you didn’t know him well. Understand that the reasons that drive people to take their own lives may never be known or understood. My family and friend from other communities have helped me make sense of things. This Harvard Health article has some great advice for making sense of this as well.

So what do we do now?

First and foremost, let’s remember Satish. He was a great guy, a very nice man. Share your pictures of him, share your stories. If you are able, please make a donation in Satish’s name to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The Dell EMC Elect are discussing what we can do to honor Satish in a more formal way as well.

We need an open discussion on mental health and suicide. Our community has been impacted by it, I know I’m not the only one in disbelief and pain. I also know I’m not the only one who has been low enough to consider that option.

If you need help, reach out to one of us. Reach out to me. If you aren’t ok with doing that, call the Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

These communities were created and forged in the spirit of supporting one another. I don’t want to lose anyone else.

Rest in peace Satish.

Help hurricane survivors by giving your time and money

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This hurricane season has been incredibly active and destructive, increasing the need for us to give time and money to help hurricane survivors. This topic is near and dear to my heart, because I grew up in hurricane country.

I am from Fort Walton Beach Florida. That is in the Florida Panhandle. Sometimes I joke that I’m from LA…Lower Alabama. Alabama is 45 minutes north from my hometown. If a hurricane comes into the Gulf of Mexico, and heads north, my hometown is the bulls eye.

I’ve ridden out more hurricanes than I can remember, and evacuated from several as well. I understand the stress and trauma they bring, and the after effects that can last decades.

Here are some of the stories I’ve been hearing that highlight the need to help hurricane survivors.


Hurricane Harvey – after effects

Harvey came ashore in Rockport, Texas on August 25th, 2017. Rockport is about 200 miles south of Houston. The storm stalled out and dumped enormous amounts of rain on Texas, overwhelming the bayous and other water features of Houston.

I went to Houston with a team from VMware to volunteer with the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts this week, a month after Harvey made landfall. The small team I was on was assigned to go to a low income apartment complex for senior citizens. They had been told a week earlier they were being evacuated from their complex, due to dangerous electrical problems caused by the flooding. You can read more about their situation here.

We helped the residents pack up, but they were not happy about things.  While we were there, the Red Cross was there handing out financial aid. The seniors had to stand for hours in the hot parking deck (the community area was destroyed by the flood). For the life of me, I don’t understand why the Red Cross workers didn’t go to each apartment to help these folks.

Their community was being ripped apart, and they had absolutely no control over it. It broke my heart, and this is happening all over East Texas.

Hurricane Irma – after effects

Irma came was the most powerful hurricane to make landfall in the US since Katrina. It came ashore in the US in Cudjoe Key Florida on September 10, 2017. It hovered near south Florida until it came ashore again on Marco Island.

This one hit closer to home. I have a friend (actually part of my second family) in Key West, and her home was destroyed. She’s trying to fix what she can, but she needs help. I’m begging her not to wait on FEMA, but to let folks who are volunteering help her. Another part of my second family in Tallahassee got their air conditioner working yesterday, almost three weeks after the storm.

Again, this is incredibly heartbreaking. My family is hurting, and there really isn’t much I can do. To think that many others are even worse off is frightening.

Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico – after effects

Maria hit Dominica September 19, 2017 and then Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017. The island is without water, electricity, and is running out of food. If you’ve never had to survive a hurricane, let me tell you what you can’t do without electricity:

  • No refrigeration
  • No air conditioning
  • No ATMs (no cash)
  • No internet
  • No computers
  • No gasoline (pumps need electricity)
  • No lights at night (unless you have a generator, which needs gas)
  • No TVs
  • No ice
  • No hospital service – ventilators, ICUs, NIC ICUs…

You have to cook everything on a grill. You try to cook everything in your fridge and freezer before they go bad.

Without water, you have can’t take a shower, can’t brush your teeth, can’t cook, can’t clean, can’t flush your toilet.

In Puerto Rico, all of the land lines and most of the cell towers are out. All normal communications are out, plus you can’t call 911 in emergencies.

They need our help. This plea from the mayor of San Juan sums it up:



What can you do to help hurricane survivors?


If you have the opportunity to go help someone impacted by this storm, please do that. If you can give money, do that.

These storms are causing massive sociological disruptions, and some of them are just now coming to light. Please help hurricane survivors from all of these storms.

Measuring marketing efforts: why are you really doing it?

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A lot of dollars go into marketing a product, and it’s only natural that we want to see a good return on that investment. That’s one reason for measuring marketing efforts, and then managing those efforts to make sure we’re getting results. But is it reasonable to think that everything can be measured? Is it possible that we are measuring marketing efforts just to manage and then report on them?


Have you ever heard this quote:

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. -Demming

Did you know that is not the correct quote? Here’s what Dr. Demming actually said:

It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – a costly myth.

Product marketers know a thing or two about measuring

I’ve been a product marketing manager for four and a half years. In most organizations, product marketers are responsible for creating product messaging and core product content, and making sure sales and marketing are enabled to take that message into the market to customers. Doing that effectively takes money. And you need to prove that the way you’re spending that money is yielding results. The easiest way do this is measuring marketing efforts.

Some things are pretty straight forward to measure: leads from webinars and trade show booths, sales pipelines. There are standard measurements, and you can manage progress towards goals.

Some things are hard to measure

Many times product marketers will want to spend money on initiatives that end up in an “awareness” bucket. Things like influencer programs, attending customer events, supporting community events, etc go into this bucket. Most of the times it is very hard to draw a direct line between these types of events and a sale, and the “common wisdom” is if you can’t measure impact, you can’t manage the project. What typically happens is budgets get tight or sales drop, and the funding for this bucket dries up. But remember:

It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – a costly myth. -Demming

Some things are impossible to measure

I got lucky last week, and was shown a direct link between important work I did a year ago and a sale. When I was working for Spanning, I would go to storage and virtualization user group meetings. My product was Spanning Backup for Office 365, and I had a gut feeling that our customers would be at these events. I’m not sure anyone at Spanning really believed me, but I fit the user group meetings in with other events so they humored me.

One user group I love attending is the VCE User Group (VUG) (now the Converged Infrastructure Group). It is always attended by great customers who don’t mind talking shop, making it the perfect event for a product marketing marketer. I would show up before the presentations began, grab a drink, and just start talking to people.

Last year at the VMworld VUG all I had to do was introduce myself, say where I worked, and ask people if they had Office 365 initiatives. I ‘d have to explain SaaS a bit, and explain how you lose data, and we’d have a great conversation. I had no real expectations of uncovering a hot sales lead, the biggest take-away from me was a better understanding of what customers were actually thinking about when it came to protecting their SaaS data. Customer interactions are vital for improving messaging.

Fast forward 11 months to the Indy VMUG. One of the VMUG leaders told me that his company bought Spanning Backup for Office 365 based on a conversation I had with him and his salesperson at the VUG! Not only that, they are now purchasing licenses to back up their Salesforce instances. In all honesty, their salesperson did all of the work, I just sparked the interest. But I never would have known unless someone told me. There was nothing to put into Salesforce to track it and give product marketing credit, this was a pure awareness exercise. There was no way to measure it.

Measuring marketing efforts that fill information needs

Our job as product marketers is to figure out the information needs of customers (and prospective customers), and make compelling content to help them satisfy those needs and buy our products.

It’s not on customers to tell us how they found out about our products so that we can measure our marketing efforts. People do want to read your content, but many times they don’t want to give up their info to get to that content. That why you see so many “Mickey Mouse” leads.

We need to manage the activities in the awareness bucket. If done properly, they lead to sales. If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to directly map marketing efforts to sales. But even when measuring by traditional means isn’t possible, think of ways to manage these efforts:

  • Measure each awareness event with the number of people in attendance, quotes, pictures, etc.
  • Set goals for how many customers you speak with at each event. Keep track of conversations that you had, use objections to refine your messaging.
  • Go where you suspect the customers are. If you get a few successes, flip the events to traditional events that can be easily measured.


Support the authors on this year’s top vBlog voting

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Polls are open for vSphereLand’s annual Top vBlog voting. This annual event has been going on since 2008, so 9 years!

This blog and the other non-vendor blog on which I blog, 24 x 7 IT Connection, have both made the cut. When I first saw that this blog made the list, I was a little surprised. I write A LOT, and apparently I blog a lot too. My technical product posts are always on the blog properties of my employer (for example the Spanning Blog). The posts I write for 24 x & IT Connection are high-level thought leadership in nature, and are usually related to topics I am researching for my employer.

The perception I have about my own blog is that I use it for personal projects, and not to much tech gets spoken here. But I went back and looked at my posts from last year, and I was pretty shocked! Out of the 42 posts I published (thank you #vDM30in30), 41% were technical or technical community related topics. Of course there were several posts about the election and Standing Rock….although the technical post I wrote about Standing Rock is on 24X7 IT Connection.

If you like what I write, consider voting!  But make sure to review all of the other bloggers on the list. This is one time of the year that I add in bulk to my RSS reader, there are so many people working out loud, and creating great content. We need that now more than ever as change in our field is more rapid than ever.

Here are some of the new blogs I’m reading because of this voting process:

I know a lot of people call this a “popularity contest”, and yeah maybe it is. Nevertheless, people work hawe all need supportrd and spend their free time and money and energy (sometimes fighting their employers) to create and share this great content with the world.

If you have an ethical issue with the voting, when not browse the list of blogs and try one of the ones you haven’t heard of before. Let’s support everyone’s efforts y’all.






Springtime means new beginnings

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I’m sitting in the airport in Panama City Beach, after a really energizing weekend back home to the redneck riviera. My flight is delayed because the Houston airport has called a ground stop due to a bad line of thunderstorms.

Those storms are a sure sign of spring on the Gulf Coast. Spring is awesome, all the plants start to wake up again, the birds and the squirrels are crazy in love, and we can get back to just wearing flip flops everyplace.

This spring is also bringing change to me in another exciting way. Tomorrow, I’m starting as  PMM (product marketing manager) at VMware. I’m going to be concentrating on vSphere, and more specifically helping figure out how to help Dell sell more vSphere!

If you’re trying keeping track, this has been my career path:

  • EMC: Tech trainer right out of college, then a technical training developer, blogger, and community manager.
  • Dell: I built the Dell Storage community from the EqualLogic, Compellent, and Dell communities. Then I was the PMM for AppAssure.
  • EMC: PMM for Spanning Backup
  • VMware

What can I say? I can’t keep away from the family. Planning to stick around for a bit….can’t wait to start working with old friends again, and excited about making new ones. I think this role is the perfect role to work more on my personal motto, and I can’t wait to get started!



Discrimination is socialized (my review of Hidden Figures)

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Hidden Figures opens officially tomorrow, but I saw it tonight. This movie is about three African American female engineers who pioneered space travel at NASA. Oh yeah, the movie was set in the 60s, and they did this while fighting racism and sexism and all sorts of discrimination.

I’m just going to free flow with thoughts here, so I don’t lose them. The events in this movie happened 50 years ago, before many of us were even born. However, all of the social behavior demonstrated in the telling of this tale continues today.

Here are the characters that stood out to me, mostly because I have seen them all:

  • You’ve got the mechanical engineer who can tinker and fix anything, yet understands the politics enough to know when it’s time to learn something new. Oh, and she brings everyone with her. If someone throws up a political block, she finds a work-around.
  • You’ve got the hard headed engineer who does not take no for an answer, and who can not keep her emotions inside when her feels bubble up.
  • You’ve got an amazing mathematical engineer who perseveres even when she can’t attach her name to the work SHE has done.
  • You’ve got the arrogant lead engineer, with all the right education and the powerful position, who can’t see beyond the way things have always been, because to do so could possibly mean giving up power. This ended up being a silly fear that didn’t even come to pass, but how much time did he waste that impacted the mission, let alone the mental health of a brilliant mind who was critical to the mission? I’ve butted heads with this guy many a time, right down to his exasperated sighs when I keep pushing against the “this is just how it’s always been Gina” excuses.
  • You had the woman who kept her fellow women down. In this case, she did it based on race. But she “really didn’t have anything against these women”. Yeah, I’ve worked (formally and informally) with her before, way too many times.
  • You’ve got the manager that only sees the work, and can’t see the subtle (and no so subtle) discrimination, not because he’s bad but because he can’t fathom it actually happening and interfering with production. Had those too.
  • You’ve got the men who just see you for what you bring to the team. They encourage your tenacity because it helps the group accomplish their goals. It’s easier to find this kind of guy nowadays, and that’s pretty awesome.
  • You’ve got the men who appreciate and completely support their phenomenal women. Those have been few and far between, but those good guys exist.

These are socialized roles y’all. People play these roles because that’s how they have seen other seemingly successful people act. Which means we can re-socialize ourselves. Be the good examples, not the bad ones. Expect more from your interactions with others, both from them and from yourself.

It is just ridiculous that we’re still living like we are in the 1960s in our professional lives. It needs to end with us.

Who’s with me?

You can start by going to see Hidden Figures, and talking about it.

On the dangers of a personal brand

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I’ve been hearing and reading more and more about personal brands again. To level-set, here’s a definition of personal branding from the Personal Branding wiki:

Personal branding describes the process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. In this way, individuals can enhance their recognition as experts in their field, establish reputation and credibility, advance their careers, and build self-confidence.

The term has been around since the late 90s, but really picked up steam as individuals began to express themselves and showcase their talent using blogs, podcasts and twitter when social media first emerged as a platform in the mid-2000s. As I remember, it was people in marketing who latched onto the term, not the doers who were happily sharing their work, and their thoughts on that work.

Marketers were terrified of what would happen if normal workers were able to have a voice in discussions about the industry in which their organization played. The personal branding concept became a way to acknowledge that workers were able to talk to anyone, anywhere, about anything, but it gave them a sneaky way of keeping some control. They convinced us that in order to be taken seriously about the topics on which we are the experts we needed to have a personal brand. The people with the most acceptable personal brands were the ones who would get the better jobs, the rock star acolades and all the material gains that go along with that. If your personal brand was not acceptable, not up to snuff, then your ideas would be easily dismissed and ignored.

It was a brilliant marketing ploy. Marketing could still control the ways knowledge workers were beginning to communicate with each other. All they had to do was convince them that if they did not stay on message they would face being irrelevant.

Around the same time marketing was hatching this ploy, others began to see how these social tools could be used to connect people in ways that naturally made sense, and not in ways forced (and blocked) by org charts and PR/marketing message-shaping. One organizational principle that came from this is wirearchy:

a dynamic two-way flow of  power and authority, based on knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected people and technology.

So, here we are 10 years later. Most organizations have social media policies, and marketing owns the task of managing social media. Many of the doers now think they must develop a personal brand in order to be taken seriously as a podcaster or blogger. The personal brand has become the important thing, not connecting into the wirearchy of our respective communities of practice

Eric Wright published a post today where he reframed the definition of personal brand to be all of your online contributions. I understand that is the way he sees this, but unfortunately this is a 10-year old phenomenon on which many a marketer has staked her career. A couple of comments he made reminded me why this concept of a personal brand has always frightened me:

Brand, by definition, talks about “a type of product” among many possible definitions.

If we think of the phrase “selling yourself short”, you have to also agree that the other side is true. Every single day we are selling ourselves, in the best of ways.

MBAs are taught that people are one of the many resources available to a firm to create a product or service that will hopefully bring in a profit.  Resources, even human resources, can have a value assigned to them so that they can be bought, sold, or traded as needed to be profitable.

This is dangerous. It is important to resist the idea that we are a resource.

We are human beings. We are not human resources to be bought and sold. The problem that the firm has now is that the world has changed. In a knowledge society, the means of production is inside the heads of the workers. And for a short time, we (knowledge workers, the doers) had the power to share that knowledge freely with others, because the teams responsible for controlling the firm’s messages (PR and marketing) didn’t understand how to control it. We were able to connect and create, and do good work for the firm at the same time.

We are still able to do that…but we need to be careful that we don’t give up our freedoms for a few shekels. Look back at the definition of personal branding given by the people who have been promoting the concept for a decade. That definition talks about human beings having a unique value proposition, leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. These are all business terms, meant to control messages. How does a human being have a value prop that they can leverage with a consistent message and image? That’s what branding folks in the marketing departments at big organizations do. That’s what Kardashians do.

Human beings are messy. We don’t all think and speak and look the same. And that is what makes the ability to publish a blog post or a podcast so amazing – you can connect with others who may or may not agree with you. You can grow your network by openly connecting with others, to understand them better. If we control our interactions to adhere to a personal brand, we can’t connect. Being connected and networked is how we learn, how we grow.

We live in an era where it’s harder and harder to distinguish real news from fake news. What happens when we have generations of marketers and PR folks who are trained to make everyone adhere to one message, and no one is willing to deviate from it because it may damage their personal brand?

Please remember that we are human beings. Be human, never sell that. Even for a personal brand.

Leaving you with this video of John Trudell, who talks about the importance of being human.

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Tech News Roundup week ending November 26

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Another week, another round-up. Squeezing this one in right at the last minute.

So what did you read this week?

Taking time to be thankful

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Today is Thanksgiving Day in the US. My family has decided not to celebrate in the “traditional” way this year. I just couldn’t reconcile the origins of Thanksgiving with the increasing escalation of violence against the Lakota and Dakota water protectors in North Dakota. The events on Sunday solidified my feelings.

To be honest, the reason I feel empowered enough to regularly speak up and participate in actions about injustices that affect me, such as the #NoDAPL resistance and the ever-lingering topic of women in tech, is because I’ve been protected and blessed in many ways. So instead of fussing over a huge turkey dinner, today I’m fasting and reflecting on all of the things I am truly thankful for.




I am thankful that my children live close to me.
















I am thankful for my dog Fred. He makes me feel safe in my new house, and he’s such a good buddy.














home sweet home

home sweet home


I am thankful that I have a house to call my own. It is very scary and overwhelming. It’s also a little frustrating at the moment. But I’m very proud of this accomplishment, and very happy with this decision.





I am thankful for my new job. It is challenging me in ways that I didn’t expect. If I’m being honest, that’s when I’m happy at work, when I have interesting puzzles to solve and a team of smart motivated people around me that are also working to solve those problems.





I am thankful for my new co-workers. I’m the only woman in my group, nothing new there. The men I work with are really good people. Of course they are smart and professional, but they all put their families first, and talk about their wives with such respect and love it is inspiring. It really makes a difference in how you look at your job when everyone around you is this balanced.









I am thankful I have the opportunity to meet so many amazing people. Even if we don’t agree, the conversations are always interesting and inspiring.




20161001_140229I’m thankful for good friends to go on adventures with.


















I’m thankful I have the means to get home to my water on a regular basis.









20161103_081551I am thankful for the signs that I’m not alone.