To prepare for Internet Strategy Forum Summit West July 24th at The Governor Hotel, I’m hosting a series of interviews with keynote speakers for this year’s theme, Titans of E. My first interview is with Lisa Welchman, Founding Partner of WelchmanPierpoint.
Q: Please give us a brief background of your career; how did you end up where you are today?
A: First, I have to say that I had no intention of working any where near technology. I¹m a people person. Which is why I ended up running a consulting practice that, at its core, focuses on the way Web-based technologies impact the way people work in organizations. There¹s a lot that people have to do differently at work because of the existence of the Web. I find that transformation fascinating. My first vocational interest was music. I first studied voice opera in college and graduated with a degree in philosophy in 1987. I should have known that the singing would be a hobby and technology a career when in 1989 I found it more interesting to make a HyperCard database of the arias I was singing then to actually practice the arias. After that, I taught myself. Prolog‹- which is still the only programming language I know. Prolog went well with the strong interest in formal logic that I developed while studying philosophy. I was always looking for some way to apply logic to the real world. I think the World Wide Web meets that need perfectly. I had my first real hands on Web page coding experience in 1995, and my first real Web job at Cisco Systems started in 1996 where I was dumped into the world of large-scale, high transaction Web site management. It was there that I saw the impact the Web had on the way people work inside organizations. I wanted to focus on that. So, I left Cisco 10 years ago and started the company that has become WelchmanPierpoint.
Q:What will you be speaking about at ISF?
A:Lots of folks talk about the ³glass ceiling² that sometimes exists when trying to climb to the upper-most levels of management in an organization. Many Web professionals are in the prime of their career and don¹t know where to grow professionally. They feel as if they¹ve reached the pinnacle of their career and have no place to go. I call this the ³Gossamer Ceiling² because I think it¹s an easily removed, self-imposed barrier. Those who are smart about the Web and Information management need to be leading businesses during the 21st century. So, I¹ll talk about how I think individuals can make that leap from ³Web only² to broader business leadership.
Q: What advice would you give to marketing professionals just starting out?
A: The number one piece of advice I would give marketing professionals just starting out is to get smart about technology. That doesn¹t mean that you have to be an application developer but it¹s no longer savvy to not understand how technology works just because you¹re in marketing– just as it¹s not OK for the seriously technical to be ignorant of the customer¹s real needs.
Q: In terms of future trends, what do you see happening in your industry in terms of emerging technologies?
A: That¹s hard to answer. I¹m not much of a technology seer. I think we¹ll see more innovative, paradigm-breaking business models based on all of the emerging technologies we see today. As the digital native generation enters the workforce en masse in the next years, they will be using these technologies to re-invent and, I hope, simplify the way we live and work.
Q: What are a few of the unique challenges you believe mid-to-large corporations face in regards to implementing Internet strategy?
A: There are a couple things that stand out for me here. The first is cultural change. The existence of the World Wide Web impacts the culture of an organization in a large way. Not only does the organization have to sustain a Web presence, which is a reflection of the entire organization, it also has to re-engineer the organization to function well in the Web Age. That means re-engineering all of the core components of the business: sales, marketing, operations, human resources, etc. I don¹t believe most organization understand how deep that transformation needs to be. Most are just focused on creating a Web presence as an artifact— not digesting the Web as functional part of the organization. The second core challenge will be to find the right leaders for organizations, leaders that understand how to use the Internet and all the existing, emerging and to-be technologies, leaders who will not be stymied by the constant change, but who also understand how these changes might impact the fundamentals of business management. Organizations that are lead by business/tech savvy fearless leaders will have competitive advantage in the next decade.