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2017

There was no celebration: in September, I attended my thirty-first public technical symposium in the guise of Keysight’s 5G program manager. From Tampa to Tel Aviv to Taipei, whether organized by IEEE, NTIA, GSMA, or IMT2020, such events have taught me a few things about myself and many more about how our 5G technology community manages social gatherings.

 

Please allow me a quick analysis. I sort these events into three buckets: “technically rich,” “overtly commercial,” and “government promotional.” Here are my snapshots of each type.

 

Technically rich: By turns exhausting or invigorating

I like technical, but these are simply not enjoyable when they drift into academic opacity. Still, many provide opportunities for rich dialogue with others in the industry. Three events come to mind: IEEE MTT/IMS; the IWPC meetings; and the recent International Symposium on Advanced Radio Technologies (ISART) convocation in Colorado. I exit these with a rejuvenated curiosity and a refreshed perspective about the amazing technical brains powering the communications business.

 

ISART was an especially impressive mix of policy makers, mobile communications experts, and satellite industry representatives. I learned a great deal about millimeter-wave (the primary topic) and gained insight into how some institutions work. I also picked up a few tidbits on spectrum policy:

 

  • News to me, part 1: The ITU is part of the United Nations, and ITU spectrum decisions are international treaties. Among UN organizations, the ITU is unique in allowing the participation of commercial entities.
  • News to me, part 2: The FCC, which gets a lot of press, and the NTIA, which gets very little, are sister organizations. The former manages (among other things) spectrum for commercial use; the latter manages spectrum for federal use.
  • The real story: I had assumed that the spectrum conflict between mobile and satellite was strictly technical, centered on the risk of interference. Not so: the most recent Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (UMFUS) report and order (R&O) from July 2016 is the source of discord because the FCC wants to reduce the risk of interference by placing tight restrictions on the location of large ground-based satellite gateways (i.e., terrestrial links to satellite constellations). Jennifer Manner of EchoStar suggested these rules are not even practical.

 

Overtly commercial: Have you read our press release?

GSMA’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is the most prominent example. While I have had excellent discussions with some of our key customers at this event, I sheepishly admit that MWC has additional appeal because it is a great excuse to explore and enjoy one of my favorite cities. On the other side of the Atlantic, the GSMA teamed up with CTIA for the first time to create Mobile World Congress Americas 2017. Although I would love to write about the event, I was not there; rather, I was in Taiwan, attending the third kind of gathering...

 

Government promo shows: Not purely self-promotion

The 4th Taipei 5G Summit was a two-day event organized by a group within the Taiwan Ministry of Economic Affairs. It was coupled with the 21st World Conference on Information Technology. I had the honor of speaking at this event and focused my talk on getting the audience to think about a sampling of measurement and validation challenges in 5G New Radio (NR).

 

Taiwan is an interesting case for 5G communications in that its indigenous mobile operators will be very cautious about investing in 5G—a reluctance driven particularly by the failure of Taiwan’s WiMAX business model. However, Taiwan-based multinational technology giants like Hon Hai, TSMC, WNC, Quanta, and Pegatron will all take full advantage of the global investments in 5G technologies. Based on what I saw from both National Taiwan University and National Chiao Tung University, it is clear that academia is also fully engaged in a very impressive manner.

 

Among the many highlights from the event was a presentation by Tareq Amin of Reliance Jio. Mr. Amin deftly detailed how Jio completely changed its technology investment paradigm to implement a financially stable LTE network in India, a country with an ARPU of about $2 (vs. about $60 in the USA). Ordinarily, I resent sitting through presentations that are thinly veiled sales pitches (the Taiwan Summit had a few of those). Mr. Amin did indeed talk about Jio’s success: it achieved #1 LTE penetration in the world in seven months, processing some 7 petabytes per month. However, his real message was about innovation that follows from a drastic change in perspective when confronted with unprecedented boundary conditions. It was the most inspiring talk I have heard perhaps all year.

 

What have been your experiences?

Here I expose myself to comments from those of you whom have had to listen to my talks. What inspires you at these events? Will 5G be successful in your environment? What will it take?

When Google employee James Damore sent out an internal memo questioning his company’s diversity policies, he likely didn’t expect that it would go viral. It did. In its wake, a firestorm of discussion emerged in Silicon Valley and beyond—one that still rages today. Whether you agree with James’ assessment of gender bias and diversity in the workplace or not, one thing we can all agree on is that it brought renewed focus to a timely topic, one that should be just as important to men as it is to women.

It’s a topic I’ve come to know well during the span of my 35-year career in the tech industry, and one that I recently had a chance to reflect on during an interview I gave to Society for Women Engineers (SWE). During that time, my personal journey has taken me from a man not aware of my unconscious bias extended toward women, to one who now serves as their full-on diversity partner. It’s a journey I’m hoping more men will take.

 

Becoming an advocate for women

For me, that journey began back in the 90’s. I was a young manager at the time, fairly new to management in fact. I had been trying to promote women in my organization and because of my efforts, received an invitation to the HP Technical Women’s Conference in Silicon Valley. I was one of only two men in attendance.

During the event, I’d sit in a room with what seemed like 5,000 women and listen to speakers talk about unconscious bias. I watched in amazement as every woman in the room universally agreed that it was a problem. I had never thought about it before—how my unconscious bias toward women could actually be contributing to the problem. That idea and many of the other issues the speakers spoke about weren’t even on my radar. It was a wake-up call.

That realization is just as relevant today as it was back in the 90’s. Consider a 2012 study (Moss-Racusin et al., 2012) designed to examine how applicants were evaluated for a lab manager position. Faculty were presented identical applications for the position, the only difference being that candidates were given obvious male or female names. Despite having the same qualifications, both male and female faculty routinely rated female student candidates lower than their male counterparts. The female applicants were seen as less hirable and offered lower salaries. The study revealed what many of us already know—there’s a clear unconscious bias against women in the workplace.

What I learned about unconscious bias from that conference I attended all those years ago stayed with me throughout my career. It helped transform me into an active and full-on diversity partner with women. What’s more, I make it my goal to ensure other managers and emerging leaders can attend similar conferences in the hopes that they too will have the same experience and transformation. 

 

Turning awareness into action

The experience alone is not enough. Being aware of unconscious bias is certainly the first step in helping to overcome it, but for that awareness to make any real difference it has to lead to tangible action. In other words, men have to become allies with and advocates for women, whether in engineering or any other profession.

What can you do to be an ally for women in the workplace?

 

1.  Uncover your hidden biases about gender diversity in the workplace.

You don’t have to attend a conference like I did to find out if you have an unconscious bias toward women. All you need to do is take a quick and easy online Implicit Association Test (IAT), such as the Gender-Career or Gender-Science IAT.

 

2. Watch a video on techniques for ending sexism in the workplace.

In just a short 10-minute time span, you can watch a video that will tell you about 5 easy things you can do today to promote diversity in the workplace. Watch “5 Ways Men Can Help End Sexism”.

 

3. Start you own personal diversity action plan.

A diversity action plan is a written plan of the actions you personally intend to take to promote gender equity and diversity in the workplace. My plan involves a number of different things. As a manager, I am vigilant in assigning new projects or tasks based on skill, but also with a mindset toward providing growth opportunities for women engineers. I look for ways to help them grow and gain higher visibility.

 

I also actively go through my data on employee pay equity once a year. I examine job category, employee gender, where they work, how much they make, etc. to make sure that all employees are paid equitably and that we have a good female-male split. If adjustments need to be made, we determine how best to do that. And, I try and make sure that all engineers, women and men, are set for success with good work/life balance.

One of the great tools we have to promote work/life balance for our employees at Keysight is the Hidden Valley Elementary K-3 school, built on Keysight’s land in Santa Rosa, California. Parents at the Santa Rosa site have the flexibility to join their kids for lunch, participate in school activities, or even help out in the classroom during the day. It’s been key in ensuring our engineers feel that they can have both a family and career.

 

Another critical part of my personal action plan is serving as a member of the Keysight - Society of Women Engineers Enterprise Program (KSWEEP). KSWEEP is an organization within Keysight designed to support the efforts of the Society for Women Engineers (SWE). We do this by sponsoring employees to attend SWE conferences and providing communities, networking, professional development and outreach opportunities throughout the year. We also sponsor local activities and recently helped SWE expand its global footprint into Penang, Malaysia.

 

And, because I feel strongly that it’s the responsibility of male senior and executive leaders to help the next generation of male engineers learn about gender equality and diversity issues, I’ve made it my goal to find ways to actively encourage those leaders to take up that role and become part of the solution. One solution I found was to bring one of my top male engineering managers to last year’s SWE conference.

 

Those actions are all part for my personal action plan. Your plan might look quite different. You could choose to:

  • Talk with your female colleagues and really listen to what they might convey and offer about their gender-related experiences in the workplace. Seek opportunities where you gain such access.
  • Ensure female colleagues have equal time to speak at meetings and be sure to share information equally with female and male colleagues. Minimize mansplaining.
  • Make sure female colleagues get included and invited to informal work gatherings.
  • Demonstrate your commitment to gender equity to your colleagues. Take corrective action when you notice gender inequities and bias. Your silence otherwise makes it acceptable.
  • Nominate women for awards, honors and work positions, when and where applicable.
  • Start a work committee designed to encourage men too to act as an ally for gender equity in the workplace. If one already exists, volunteer to help.
  • Recognize that women often have disproportionate responsibilities for child and elderly parent care. Turn that awareness into action by supporting a work/life balance and doing things like planning meetings with consideration for your teams personal/family schedules.

Find your voice

Whatever you chose to include in your personal action plan, the point is to do something. Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution. It’s a journey we can all take together, and one that promises to positively transform not only the workplace, but society in general.

 

You can start on your own personal journey by sharing this blog post with your colleagues. Use it to open up a discussion on gender bias and diversity. As I did all those years ago, you may just find yourself really seeing the issue for the first time, and deciding to become an active diversity partner for women in your workplace.