Linda’s Story!

Recent News: As of November 17, 2014, Linda joined IBM as Chief Innovation and Disruption Officer, Cloud and Internet of Things.

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Disruption is part of Linda’s DNA, even from an early age.

Read on to find out more…

DNALinda1. At the age of eight, she was asked to leave the Girl Scouts. Why? She found the routine tasks illogical and decided to express her concerns to her team leader about better ways to do the tasks. She was promptly asked to leave the group (as she recalls, leaving the room with her pigtails and tons of pride), as she needed to learn how to follow orders! Years later, Linda met her former Girl Scout team leader who, seeing Linda’s progress in life, expressed her regret for asking Linda to leave. Even though Linda had a very short and non-stellar Girl Scout career, she gave her a copy of ProVoke with much pride!

2. At 17, Linda had a part-time job as a receptionist at a top law firm in LA. The firm had nine partners in all, with very long last names, and she was required to recite the entire series of names upon picking up the phone every time! It was insanity. So, she first attempted to cut the names to just three of the partners last names – but the other six had a fit.

That effort failed immediately.

Next, she came up with the acronym FKWAWUMSA , which made her burst into laughter whenever she had to recite it. That too failed. Neither of her changes to the phone greeting was accepted and she was brought under immediate scrutiny. At this point, Linda suggested that she greet people simply with “Good Afternoon, May I help you?” She was promptly fired, because (as she was told) she cannot take orders and is not a good follower and team player. This was despite the fact that it was insane to do what she was asked to do! It wasn’t all a lost cause, however. She ultimately landed a job with the firm’s top client who found Linda’s independence rewarding!

3. At 20, she was a lab assistant in the chemistry research department at her university. The foundation of the experiment was flawed and designed incorrectly, and was burning through tons of money each day. Linda raised her concerns to the professor early on, who asked her to “follow orders” – which, as we know, she was very weak in. Ultimately, the experiments did not work and were a wasted effort, at which point she was asked to leave. And she did so happily and, again, with a smile on her face!

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4. She was asked to leave the PTA of her daughter’s elementary school when she stood up to the board and expressed her concern that the school had math teachers who did not believe girls were competent in math. This led her to write an article in the local newspaper which resulted in the school’s girls first seating in front of the computer and the teacher in question retiring sooner than planned. This improved things, but she was not invited back to be a member of the PTA!

5. Linda has very low tolerance of the board of directors of startups, public corporations or not-for-profits when the board is not doing their duty and facts are deliberately ignored in favor of making the popular decision. She has had her hand up many times as the single “Nay” vote when all other votes were in favor of the CEO’s decision – which was followed by her being asked to leave. Each time she spoke up, she inspired other board members. Today, she will not consider sitting on a board if she feels her “independent” voice supporting the best interest of the entity over the interest of the CEO is not welcome.

6. When Linda started her startup in Boston in 2001, she was turned down by many of the top VCs. She was primarily turned down because she was deemed to be a risk with little experience as a first time CEO. In the end, her company ConnecTerra raised substantial amounts of money, thrived and was sold successfully. Most importantly, her company disrupted the technology industry towards success. Today, she has great relationships with the same VCs who turned her down and reminds them of how short-sighted they were at the time – a fact with which even they agree.

7. As a daughter of a three-star Air Force General, Linda was taught very early on not only the value of trust, effective leadership and discipline, but also the art of being a free thinker and how to handle resistance. These lessons, along with living through a revolution and massive life changes, have made Linda a fighter. Linda thrives on being inspired and inspiring others.

In sum, Linda’s life experiences have shaped (and continue to shape) her passion about disruption and innovation! She believes firmly that unless you provoke and are willing to be provoked, nothing will ever change and innovation will be impossible to achieve. She welcomes feeling uncomfortable and hopes that you too will welcome disruption as the first step towards innovation.

So, for the challenges coming up in life, Linda says, “Bring it on!”

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