Finding the Middle Ground Between Mobile Employees and IT

Finding the Middle Ground Between Mobile Employees and ITExecutive leadership and IT eye mobile technology as a meaningful way to empower their workforce, enticed by the long list of benefits such as higher productivity and faster decision making. Human connectivity is a big draw as well — the increased personal communication creates a closer sense of community and excitement from working collaboratively leads to inspiration, innovation and a greater sense of engagement.

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Joana Picq is pretty. There’s no getting around it.

She has blond hair. Sparkling blue eyes. Olive skin. But that’s just the outside.

She also speaks four languages. Has a degree in civil engineering. Can code with the best of them.

And the engaging and tech-savvy 33 year old knows what it’s like to sit in a room full of white men who thinks she’s a ditz. She knows what it means to have struggled against that proverbial glass ceiling as she climbed her way up the IT ladder.

“If you’re blond and cute, people usually think you’re stupid. But when you’re not, and [they] realize this, it opens up a lot of doors,” Picq said.

“You never try to charm with your looks. You use your brain. And this,” she said, “is what will help get you through tech.”

It’s that attitude and verve that today finds Picq as the head of international development for Jampp, a London-based mobile app startup that helps IT outfits optimize advertising for clients. Jampp is quickly ramping up operations in San Francisco, New York, London, and Brazil. Jampp has 24 employees, and VentureBeat caught up with Picq as she visited San Francisco to scout and hire new people.

Jampp makes money by on installs. They take the risk of buying impressions which they to then charge clients on a per install basis. The Jampp app scouts and localizes up to 30 different variables depending on the client throughout the mobile sphere. It identifies websites with attributes clients ideally need to drive traffic to their own, and it optimizes the cost of user acquisitions.

Piqc joined Jampp in 2012 after having worked and run six startups and IT companies in Europe and Brazil. Many of the startups failed, and she found herself bouncing between Europe, the States, and South America. Born in Paris to a French father and Brazilian mother, her parents instilled upon her a sense of adventure and an attitude that ultimately, for a woman, failure was never an option.

This attitude has served her well in the male-dominated world of technology on three continents. In her family, you did well, or didn’t do at all.

“My mother was always very career-driven. She was a professor at UCLA, Princeton, and the University of Berlin. She has two Ph.Ds. I moved to L.A. when I was 15 and learned English. It totally changed my life,” Picq said.

Women in tech face many issues (and lots of men). The reasons vary and are often gender-based. Meebo cofounder and chief technical officer Sandy Jen told VentureBeat about the importance of encouraging women to pursue new goals in technology, including learning a programming language, starting a company and taking on leadership roles within the community. Google bought Meebo, a social media platform, in 2012. 

The barriers for women like Picq are real. In March, app maker Bizzabo released a list of the top 100 desired speakers at tech conferences. Not a single woman cracked the top 10. In fact, the list only included 16 women out of the 100. The data came from a wide range of sources, including Bizzabo’s servers, social media, Google search results, and event organizers.

Picq studied civil engineering in Brazil and obtained a degree at a university in Rio. Picq then moved back to the States and took global marketing courses at the University of California at Riverside.

Later still, she took her first internship at IBM. And for Picq, this is where she learned that, while she interacted with a few female directors and VPs, it was all mostly white men in suits calling the shots.

“Seeing this, I said to myself that tech can be a much better place than it is now.”

She set out to carve her own path. And taught herself to code. And coding, ultimately, was the game-changer.

Not long after that, Picq took her first real gig, at Microsoft’s Paris office. Within six months, she was helping to spearhead the aging tech giant’s Middle Eastern and African divisions for emerging technologies. She spent three years there, and eventually, she moved into the division tasked with integrating Microsoft’s then burgeoning acquisitions of European tech startups, helping to optimize products and channels.

While she rose through the ranks, she was still touched by what she saw as a male-dominated industry. And then a funny thing happened. She jumped ship to VMware, a cloud-based enterprise play, but was fired after just six months. It was then, Picq recalled, she got what many refer to as “startup fever.”

In 2008, she launched Zilok’s UK operations. It was a peer-to-peer play targeting apartment renters. That folded. And in the next four years, launched and ran a succession of startups, all of which failed or withered in a protracted death.

“But this opened a lot of doors. As an entrepreneur, I learned a lot from the women in tech I worked with.”

It was her coding skills, however, and faith in being a female in a dude-dominated IT world that brought her out on top. By 2011, Picq had learned to code for mobile apps, and the following year, she joined Jampp. It’s a startup that is cash-flow positive, with 2 million installs in 40 countries and counting.

“Stick to your guns,” Picq said. “There is an upside here. In tech, people want things that work. And tech is good if you’re a woman and want to use your brains. Being a female in tech, in a male dominated space, is the biggest issue for many smart women working here. And women need to do a better job of pitching themselves.”

“Women,” she said, “are amazing developers, doing both the front and backend. And women usually have interests that men don’t.”

VentureBeat managing editor Jolie O’Dell contributed to this story.

VentureBeat » Entrepreneur
Richard Byrne Reilly

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Thumbnail image for 2014-10-April-Mobile Girl 320.jpg

For businesses to really nail success in the mobile enterprise, the first thing they should probably realize is it’s not easy.

It’s one of IBM’s messages from its report, “The upwardly mobile enterprise: Setting the strategic agenda.”

How does your company interact with customers on mobile? How does it develop and deliver products and services via mobile? How does mobile apply to physical, human and digital capital?

“While there are always risks associated with the use of new technologies,” IBM concluded in its study, “we also see risks associated with not taking advantage of mobile capabilities as customers’ expectations grow, and new and emerging competitors achieve results in this space.”

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Biz Stone is speaking at our upcoming Mobile Summit in San Francisco. Tickets are extremely limited, so get yours today!

My earliest experience making my own rules came when I entered high school. In the first weeks of my freshman year, I tried to do everything right. I did exactly what I was told to do—and this included my homework. After lacrosse practice and my after-​school job as a box boy at a local supermarket, I got home around 8:00 p.m. At this point, I was expected to eat dinner, do homework, and go to sleep so I could wake up and do it all over again.

I quickly discovered that trying to complete all the homework assigned to me meant staying up almost all night long every night. I couldn’t quit lacrosse—I’d created the team! And I needed my job in order to contribute to the family income. My mother’s jobs, when she could get them, were not enough to pay the bills. By high school, the house we lived in had an actual dirt floor downstairs and walls without plaster. Now I could honestly say that we were “dirt poor.” My mom and I did our best to improve the house on the weekends, but we always needed more money.

This whole homework thing clearly wasn’t going to work. I decided to take matters into my own hands and implement a “No‑Homework Policy.” My plan was simple. I would work as hard as possible to pay attention and be completely focused in each class, but I would not bring my books home, and I would not do any of the homework assigned to me. If the homework was intended to reinforce what was taught in class, I would be fine—because I would make sure to absorb it all during the school day.

The next day, one by one, I walked each of my teachers through my plan. The conversation went pretty much the same with all of them: First, I said hello and reintroduced myself. Then I explained that I’d been attempting to do all my homework for the past two weeks. (I may also have hinted that perhaps the teachers might communicate with one another more about how much work they were assigning to students.) I told them that doing the work took me until approximately 4:00 a.m. Regrettably, I was unable to sustain this. Then I introduced my No‑Homework Policy.

Some of the teachers laughed, but ultimately all of them told me in their own ways that if I really wanted to go ahead with this, I could, but it would affect my overall grade. I was willing to live with that.

From that point on, I didn’t do homework. I paid attention in class and strived to absorb the material. Ultimately, perhaps because I had been so up front and clear in my communication of the policy, my teachers did not end up penalizing me. In other words, my No‑Homework Policy didn’t have an impact on my overall grades. It was, for all intents and purposes, a rousing success.

The point of this story isn’t “cocky kid blows off homework and gets away with it,” though on the surface that’s exactly what happened. Homework is generally regarded as useful, and far be it from me to mount a one-​man campaign against it. (Not right now, anyway. Talk to me when my kid is twelve.) But I had an idea for a different way to do things, one that worked better for me. There was no harm in proposing this to the school administration. The point of school, after all, isn’t to do homework. The point of school is to learn. As high school progressed, I focused on learning what inspired me, so I might get an A+ in genetics and a C in something easy. It was a mistake to assume that teachers—or anyone else, for that matter—automatically knew what was best for me.

If anything, opportunities like this are easier to recognize and implement in the workplace. Do you work best in a dimly lit room? Would you like to work on a side project that is more interesting to you? Rules are there to help us—to create a culture, to streamline productivity, and to promote success. But we’re not computers that need to be programmed. If you approach your bosses or colleagues with respect, and your goals are in alignment, there’s often room for a little customization and flexibility. And on the other side, those in positions of power shouldn’t force people to adhere to a plan for the sake of protocol. The solution, always, is to listen carefully—to your own needs and to those of the people around you.

Biz Stone is one of Twitter’s co-founders. He also was instrumental in the launches of Xanga, Blogger, Odeo, and Medium. His current startup is Jelly, a Q&A platform using images.

VentureBeat » Entrepreneur
Biz Stone

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