Pioneering Women Leadership in Tech – A Journey Through Innovation

Pioneering Women Leadership in Tech – A Journey Through Innovation

Helen Yu 18/01/2024
Pioneering Women Leadership in Tech – A Journey Through Innovation

The tech industry's gender disparity in leadership roles remains a pressing issue, drawing considerable attention and concern.

Did you know that, despite constituting a significant portion of the tech workforce, women face steep challenges breaking into upper management echelons?

The statistics paint a stark picture. Despite the significant presence of women in the tech workforce, breaking into upper management continues to pose challenges. According to Deloitte's latest report on women in boardrooms, there persists a notable gender gap, with women holding merely 19.7% of board seats. Shockingly, a mere 6.7% of board chairs are women, and an even smaller fraction, just 5%, hold the position of CEO. These figures underscore the scarcity of female representation in pivotal decision-making roles, emphasizing the pressing need for greater diversity in senior leadership positions.

Yet, amidst these concerning figures, there is hope. Studies by McKinsey underscore a positive correlation between gender diversity in executive teams and company performance. Firms with gender-diverse executive teams are 25% more likely to experience above-average profitability, signaling the untapped potential of diverse leadership.

Sandra Rivera: A Trailblazing Journey in Tech Leadership

Sandra Rivera's career epitomizes resilience, innovation, and an unwavering pursuit of excellence. My conversation with her on CXO Spice brought forth her exceptional journey—a trajectory marked by continuous growth and impactful leadership.

Our paths converged a couple of years ago when I co-hosted Intel Innovation event in San Francisco, where Sandra's leadership and vision left an indelible mark on me. Hosting her on CXO Spice was a culmination of that admiration and inspiration.

Commencing her career in engineering, Sandra's passion for customer engagement led her through startups, eventually integrating her journey with Intel's after the company acquired one of those startups. Within Intel Corporation, she undertook diverse leadership roles, exhibiting adaptability, expertise, and remarkable leadership acumen.

Her impactful tenure at Intel unfolded with significant contributions, notably leading the networking business, which transformed industry landscapes by envisioning networking capabilities on general-purpose CPUs, enhancing market accessibility and innovation acceleration.

During challenging times like the pandemic, her role as Chief People Officer ensured employee well-being, customer satisfaction, and uninterrupted semiconductor manufacturing—a testament to her leadership in critical situations.

Most recently, Sandra led Intel’s Data Center and AI Group and played a pivotal part in steering and growing this critical business with a strategic focus on product execution and delivering for customers. Her work in refining Intel’s product roadmap of data center CPUs, GPUs, FPGAs, and accelerators underscored her commitment to the company’s evolution.

Today, Sandra serves as Chief Executive Officer of the Programable Solutions Group (PSG), a business unit Intel announced it is spinning out with eventual plans to IPO.

Vision for Programable Solutions Group (PSG)

Sandra Rivera's transition to CEO of the Programable Solutions Group marks a significant phase in her illustrious career. Leading PSG post-spinoff, her vision revolves around leveraging FPGA technology and AI to address evolving industry needs.

The spinoff of PSG from Intel signifies a new era of agility and customer-centricity. Sandra's aim is to nurture PSG's standalone identity while capitalizing on its alignment with Intel.

She envisions FPGA technology as pivotal in the AI landscape. FPGAs' inherent programmability and flexibility make them ideal for dynamically adapting to rapid changes in AI applications, particularly in data preparation, compression, ingest, and various networking efficiencies.

PSG under Sandra's leadership aims for industry-focused initiatives, especially in sectors like communications, networking, industrial manufacturing, autonomous vehicles, aerospace, and defense, where FPGA technology can revolutionize functionality and efficiency.

Her emphasis on AI-powered innovations aligns PSG with Intel's broader objectives in AI advancement. Particularly in manufacturing, PSG aims to facilitate AI-driven advancements, catering to the needs of smarter factories deploying edge-based AI inference.

Additionally, Sandra's strategic focus includes ensuring resilient supply chains, a crucial aspect highlighted during semiconductor supply chain challenges amidst the pandemic. PSG's commitment to reliable and diverse sourcing contributes to tech industries' broader stability.

Challenges and Opportunities for Women in Tech Leadership

Sandra Rivera's journey underscores the persistent challenges and evolving opportunities for women in tech leadership.

Her experiences navigating male-dominated rooms highlight the need for women to stand out positively, a mindset Sandra adopted early in her career to ensure recognition for her contributions.

Central to her advice is the importance of leaving a positive impact in every interaction, emphasizing that significant career decisions are often made when one isn't in the room.

Sandra stresses the necessity for advocacy and support systems for women in tech. Allies and advocates play a crucial role in shaping career trajectories.

Despite challenges, Sandra remains optimistic about opportunities for women in tech leadership, noting that while the journey may have hurdles, it's less challenging than it was decades ago. She encourages both women and men to foster environments that embrace diversity and inclusion.

Insights on Obtaining a Board Seat

Sandra Rivera's insights into obtaining board seats stress cultural alignment, genuine interest, and network activation as key strategies.

Cultural fit and genuine interest in the company's mission and products are crucial, aligning personal passions with the company's vision.

She emphasizes the role of networking, both within professional circles and through placement agencies, in securing board opportunities.

Her experiences highlight the significance of being selective when pursuing board roles, stressing the importance of assessing fit and alignment with company values.

Sandra's guidance serves as a beacon for aspiring board members, emphasizing network engagement, cultural resonance, and genuine interest in impactful roles in the tech industry.

Pioneering Technological Trends Shaping the Future

Sandra Rivera's excitement for emerging technologies aligns with her understanding of their transformative potential for the tech industry.

AI's exponential growth presents unparalleled opportunities, revolutionizing various sectors and demanding responsible development to mitigate associated risks.

FPGAs' high programmability aligns them perfectly with AI's dynamic capabilities, driving innovation in data preparation, compression, networking efficiencies, and AI-powered functionalities.

Balancing optimism with responsibility, Sandra emphasizes the need for ethical considerations and regulatory frameworks to ensure the responsible deployment of powerful technologies.

Her outlook reflects a proactive stance on ethical considerations, urging collaboration between tech companies and governments to establish frameworks prioritizing privacy, security, and ethical AI practices.

Intel's Mission: Pioneering World-Changing Technology

Sandra Rivera's perspective on Intel's mission aligns with the company's commitment to innovation, societal impact, and technological advancements driving global progress.

Intel's mission centers around creating technological advancements that positively impact every individual on the planet, fostering innovation that uplifts global communities.

Acknowledging Intel's unique position as a semiconductor technology leader, Sandra emphasizes its pivotal role in enabling technological progress across diverse sectors.

She highlights Intel's ability to leverage process technology and semiconductor capabilities to drive innovation, support critical sectors like AI, manufacturing, aerospace, and defense, and ensure resilient supply chains.

Paving the Path for Inclusive and Innovative Tech Leadership

Sandra Rivera's insightful journey in tech leadership not only sheds light on the transformative potential of emerging technologies but also emphasizes the importance of individual impact and advocacy, especially for women in the industry.

As Sandra Rivera aptly articulated, “And that's a universal problem. It's not really a gender-based issue. Women in tech in general, we just always have been in the minority in the room. That is changing. It's changing slowly, but it is getting better. I think that certainly when I reflect on my own career, I always realize that if you're going to be in the minority in the room, you're going to stand out and make sure that you stand out and that you're remembered for something positive.”

Her words echo the sentiment of leaving a lasting positive impression, highlighting the pivotal role each interaction plays in shaping one's professional brand. Rivera's emphasis on proactivity, preparation, and the importance of advocates speaking for individuals when they're not in the room resonates deeply.

This echoes not just the challenges but also the aspirations for a future where women are recognized, supported, and valued in tech leadership, contributing to a diverse, innovative, and inclusive landscape.

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Helen Yu

Innovation Expert

Helen Yu is a Global Top 20 thought leader in 10 categories, including digital transformation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, cybersecurity, internet of things and marketing. She is a Board Director, Fortune 500 Advisor, WSJ Best Selling & Award Winning Author, Keynote Speaker, Top 50 Women in Tech and IBM Top 10 Global Thought Leader in Digital Transformation. She is also the Founder & CEO of Tigon Advisory, a CXO-as-a-Service growth accelerator, which multiplies growth opportunities from startups to large enterprises. Helen collaborated with prestigious organizations including Intel, VMware, Salesforce, Cisco, Qualcomm, AT&T, IBM, Microsoft and Vodafone. She is also the author of Ascend Your Start-Up.

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