How to #BeBold – My Learnings from Microsoft Inspire

I had an incredible week at Microsoft Inspire from July 9-13th 2017 in Washington, D.C. While this was my third time at the flagship partner event, this was my first year as part of the core planning team to make it happen. As the Microsoft Inspire Social and LinkedIn team lead, I don’t think I really understood what I was getting myself into. With over 17,000 attendees and a production team of 600+, the scale and magnitude of Microsoft Inspire put my skills and strengths to their ultimate test.

Between fueling the #MSInspire social conversation, to executive Microsoft Partner blogs each day, to recording 6 live podcasts and making sure LinkedIn had an awesome first time experience, it was an insane week. Despite the sometimes stressful moments of a live event, my favorite moments are always talking to partners and hearing from our Microsoft and industry leaders. I could tell you about our announcements or about the social conversation, but I want to take a second and recognize the incredible women at Microsoft Inspire. While listening to our two fierce leaders, CVP Worldwide Channels and Programs Gavriella Schuster and CVP of Industry, Toni Townes-Whitley at the annual Women in Tech Luncheon, I was extremely moved and wanted to share my reflections.

Make Waves

This year’s theme from our IAMCP WIT group was all about how to #BeBold. How do we encourage bold behavior? What does it look like? And how can we each #BeBold? When Gavriella Schuster spoke at the WIT luncheon she said her bold was courage, conviction, and follow through. That day, Gavriella had taken the stage in front of 1000s of partners as one of the few women in tech leaders. She spoke of the massive changes our organization is undergoing and that she was the one to have the courage to tell Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella that we as Microsoft needed to change. And she isn’t just saying it; the changes are massive and we’re following her leadership.  She had the conviction to do more for our partners, the strength to take action, and the motivation to see it through. Gavriella said to use our voice and make waves. Every step forward. Every new idea. Every time we bring men and women along, we are making waves. Sometimes I feel like I may be making tidal waves with my persistence and energy, but being bold is worth it. Let’s ride together.

Love Fiercely, Live Fearlessly, Have Forgiveness

During Toni Townes-Whitley’s interview with Jabra’s Sr Director Sarah Gray, I was blown away by her presence. She also took the stage in front of 1000s, and had an ease and authenticity that was contagious. She was funny and honest when she spoke about being a black woman, and the unique challenges that she has faced. Her ability to take chances and stand up for what she believes in have brought her to where she is today. She said she lives by these principles: Love Fiercely, Live Fearlessly, and Have Forgiveness.  I had to ask myself, am I doing this? Fearless, yes. Love, most of the time. Forgiveness, I think so? These 3 principles will be a huge part of my principles moving forward.

I wrote down some of the amazing pieces of advice she also said that I think we can all learn from:

  • Exploit what you do really well
  • Have your circle – 10 people to give you honest feedback plus those to lift you up no matter what
  • Take time to recover – when you’ve gone through difficult times, let yourself be sad and regroup
  • Create an authentic culture as a leader, not fear based
  • Encourage ‘ugly meetings’ – have a real conversation on what is going on and build towards a large outcome
  • Check in on your team members during meetings and see how they’re doing

Being Bold

Gavriella and Toni made me think about my role as a women in tech. Yes, we have a long way to go. But this isn’t just about being a woman, this is about creating a bold community of both men and women, from across the world, with all different backgrounds. Being fearless together. Loving all of the time, not some of the time. Encouraging each other to take risks and try something new.

For those that attended Microsoft Inspire, I hope you left inspired. Inspired by each other. Inspired to do more. Be more. And to make waves together.


Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter at @rkbraunstein