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From the library of What’s next: archives from Life at Nuance

Hey Mom, I Just Called to Say ILOVEYOU

Here at Nuance, the Global Security team’s mission is to ensure employees and customers are safe and secure. From the ILOVEYOU phishing attack 20 years ago, to those that continue today, we work hard to keep cybercriminals away from our networks and the sensitive information contained within. One way we do this effectively is to protect and empower our human operating system – the thousands of employees who work at Nuance – with a combination of security awareness and education content, phishing simulations and training, and an easy way to report suspicious emails to our Security Operations Center.

In early May 2000, I was presenting my company’s products at a smart card conference in Miami Beach. The gentleman in the booth next to me was in the middle of a demonstration of his company’s email security product.

Live on the big screen, in front of attendees, his computer was hit by the “ILOVEYOU” virus – which today we call malware (short for “malicious software”). After watching his machine flip out, I knew there was a single defense to make it stop – we unplugged his modem.

The irony that this happened during his presentation about securing emails was not lost on anyone present.


The Power of ILOVEYOU

Back then, ILOVEYOU was one of the first and most successful phishing attacks of its kind. Also known as “Love Letter” or “Love Bug”, the malware presented itself within an email with the subject line “ILOVEYOU”. The email contained an attached file called “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.txt.vbs”.

Victims of this phishing attack made the common mistake of not taking note of the unfamiliar file extension at the end. When people clicked on the attachment, the malware launched itself, caused harm by overwriting files, and pulled every email address from the infected computer’s Windows address book. It then morphed back to its original email format, with the attachment, and sent itself to everyone in that address book.

It was very efficient and traveled fast. Just like successful phishing campaigns we see today.


How We Secure the Human Operating System

At Nuance, we take security very seriously. My team’s mission is to ensure the safety and security of Nuance and our customers.

One of the unique aspects to manage is our human operating system (human OS) – the thousands of people who work here. You can’t patch the human OS or take it offline, but you can put protective measures to help prevent innocent mistakes. Here are my top three:


First, if it’s on my network, it stays on my network

In our personal lives, we move and store files and data to the cloud. At Nuance, the only cloud available is the one that we can confidently secure and manage, often with key partners like Microsoft and its Azure platform.

To this end, we block employee access to suspicious websites, as well as those where information can be shared our stored (e.g. Dropbox and Google Drive). Our email security tool keeps several million unwanted emails at bay while monitoring for emails that might get sent to personal accounts.


Second, if you want to access my systems, you better be legit

All Nuance we use two-factor authentication technology to secure access to our systems, network, and data centers. This simple technology requires something you know, and something you have. In this case, what you know is your password, and what you have is a software app that generates a unique 6-digit passcode every 60 seconds.


Third, we empower good decisions with security education and awareness

We use lots of security content and technology to reach every employee, make them aware, and educate them. Our Outlook email ribbons will display a one-click button for employees to send suspicious-looking emails to our Security Operations Center for analysis. And we launch carefully crafted phishing simulations to test our employees’ knowledge and provide immediate training and resources for those who did not pass the test.


Ultimately, I know I am a successful security practitioner when I can help my own mom stay in touch – by understanding the right way, and the safest way, to use her mobile phone and email.

Mom, I wish you a happy Valentine’s Day. ILOVEYOU.

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3 Things Companies Can Learn from “Love It or List It” to Create a Better Employee Experience

The million-dollar question remains: how do you actually create that gold standard employee experience? Turns out, the “Love It or List It” approach can be applied by employers who are looking to make their company an even greater place for their employees to work.

I’ll admit, I’m a big fan of HGTV’s “Love It or List It.”  It’s got something for everyone: drama, architecture, design, interpersonal conflict, suspense… what’s not to love?!  But more than that, it explores the various considerations at play when people make important decisions.

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, the premise is that two homeowners are trying to decide whether they should invest money into renovating their current home to make it into the one of their dreams, or to throw in the towel and buy a new house.  Aside from watching the dramatic transformation of homes, the reason I like the show is because it takes you through the homeowners’ decision-making process and, ultimately, the factors that cause them to either “love it” or “list it.”  What I’ve come to realize, however, is that the exploration and decision-making process these homeowners go through is not unlike the journey we all take when we think about our own career and professional aspirations.

Big decisions require careful thought

The average person will spend approximately 45 years working, so career development and growth opportunities are important decisions.  Good companies understand this.  They also know their employees are the single most important asset they have and work hard to retain them.  I’ve worked in the HR field for more than 20 years, and I can honestly say that attracting, developing, and retaining talent is something I’m ALWAYS thinking about.  I want our employees to be happy, feel supported, and have opportunities to grow and stretch themselves professionally.  However, to do this well, requires a deep understanding of what it is that people are looking for in their daily employee experience.

Turns out, the “Love It or List It” approach can be applied by employers who want to make their company an even greater place for their employees to work.

Lesson 1: If you want to your employees to “love it,” ask them what’s on their “must have” list

There is no shortage of articles, podcasts, and books that provide in depth discussions and formulas for creating a great culture where employees are happy, feel valued, rewarded, and are proud to come to work each day.  However, just like on “Love It or List It,” it all starts with asking what is working and what is not.  Employees are the real experts in what they are looking for in an employer and what type of company they want to work for every day.  So, go straight to the source and ask them!

Use employee insights and input to develop plans and prioritize initiatives that address key areas.  This could be anything and everything: from providing time off to volunteer, enhancing benefits, and more frequent and transparent communication, to driving accountability and greater responsibility throughout organization.  Nothing is off limit.  The key is asking for input, listening to understand, and following through on what is possible.  Above all, make sure to be transparent about what is and is not possible.

Lesson 2: Find out if the grass is actually greener in someone else’s yard

Concurrent to renovating their current house, homeowners on “Love It or List It” work with real estate guru David Visentin, touring other properties on the market so they can make an informed decision about whether to keep or list their soon-to-be remodeled house.  At the end of the show, he presents them the listing price for their newly-updated home and then they get to make their choice.  Similarly, candidates are weighing their options: they’re doing their homework on the different career opportunities available, assessing benefits offerings, and reviewing employer reputation data. Employers need to understand their markets deeply to ensure they are making investments in the right types of programs and resources that are most important to the people working for them.  Additionally, encouraging managers and their employees to have ongoing dialogues about career goals, stretch assignments, other opportunities across the company that provide professional growth are critical elements in fostering a great employee experience and factors into an employee’s “love it” or “list it” decision making process.

Lesson 3: Focus on high-value and high-impact changes

As Hilary Farr and the “Love It or List It” design team will tell you: You don’t have to take a house down to its studs to transform it into someone’s dream home.  Similar to creating a thoughtfully designed floor plan, creating a culture and environment with programs that support employees in meaningful ways is essential.  Everything from simple changes, such as the addition of maternity parking spaces or serving up the brand of coffee that people actually like to drink to aligning behind a shared purpose, creating simpler processes, establishing a formal internal mobility program, and modernizing benefits and policies that support employees at every stage of their lives, can have a profound effect.

This is something we have experienced first-hand at Nuance.  Over the last few years, we have made a series of changes, enhancements, and investments based on survey feedback we’ve received from our employees that have led to higher satisfaction scores.  They’ve also earned us numerous accolades and awards, such as the Wellness Excellence Award from the New England Employee Benefits Council, the Best Places to Work for Young People in Canada, the Built in Boston’s Best Places to Work, the Best Places for Dads to Work award from Fatherly, as well as a perfect score on our Corporate Equality Index (CEI), making us a “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality”.

While we are very proud of our progress, we are just getting started and know that the process is never ending.  We will continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards for our employees, customers, and shareholders.  We want to be the absolute best we can be, so we’re participating in industry benchmarking surveys, such as McKinsey Women In the Workforce and Bloomberg Gender Equality Index, to understand what else we can be doing to make our company an even better place to work and do business with for our customers.

The world of work is ever-evolving and what was a best and standard practice three years ago, does not necessarily mean that remains the case today.  After all, just because harvest gold and brown kitchen décor was the most modern and luxurious look at once point, doesn’t mean that holds true today.  Expectations change— And they should!

Nuance Cares… and it shows!

What happens when teams come together to help their communities? Amazing things. During our first ever Nuance Cares Week, employees collected toys, food, coats and other essentials for people in need. Teams from Dublin to Mahwah, Seattle to Pune, Burlington to Aachen and beyond donated their time and dollars to support all types of organizations. This is what happens when we all work together to give back to our communities around the world.

In early December, we held our first ever Nuance Cares Week, a time dedicated to celebrating the spirit of giving across Nuance. It was an empowering reinforcement of Nuance Cares, our corporate social responsibility program. In this program, all Nuance employees worldwide have 16 hours of volunteer time off per calendar year as well as $1,000 in matched dollar-for-dollar contributions.

During Nuance Cares Week, employees collected toys, food, coats and other essentials for people in need. We lent our time to aid initiatives that support children’s education and well-being, the career advancement of under-served adults, local blood banks and more. We saw what happens when we all work together to give back to our communities around the world. And we didn’t stop here!

The efforts made during our first ever Nuance Cares Week were a great source of inspiration for our volunteer and giving efforts in the future. Here are a few of the inspiring highlights from the week:


Making education aids for children in our India offices

Led by our first ever community hero award winner Raghu Prasad, 277 enthusiastic employees from the Bangalore North, Hyderabad, Chennai and Coimbatore offices participated in a coordinated volunteer activity called Mothering Dreams, where they created educational aids for Anganwadi children. Anganwadi means “courtyard shelter, and it’s a type of rural childcare center in India. Our teams had a great time creating educational materials together while they celebrated in the connectedness of being part of an activity that took place across four offices. The India teams continue to be leaders in carrying out our Nuance Cares program.

Crafting cards for hospitalized kids in Burlington

Nuance Cares Week inspired the Global Technology Solutions (GTS) team to sponsor a card decorating event for Cards for Hospitalized Kids, a not-for-profit organization that has sent cards to more than 14,000 kids in more than 150 hospitals and Ronald McDonald Houses nationwide. Valerie Somma, one of the organizers of the event, said that “the time flew by as we all worked together crafting and sharing ideas along with a little holiday music and gingerbread cookies.” The event was so popular that employees asked to use the remaining supplies in their free time to design more cards after the event!

And this isn’t the first time that the GTS group in Burlington came together to volunteer. Valerie led the group to give back on several other occasions, like when they cleaned the in the summer and when they volunteered at the together in the fall. This group is a shining example of what it looks like when a team prioritizes spending time together while also aiding the greater good.


Four weeks, four drives in the London office

The UK office went above and beyond for their Nuance Cares Week initiatives. The team expanded the event into an entire month of giving! Local leader Mel Francis said, “London is an affluent city but the level of people in poverty and crisis is sadly incredibly high. We wanted to do a little bit to help.”

She arranged weekly collections to support the Trussell Trust at the Westminster Foodbank, each week with a different theme. The group donated coats and backpacks during the first week, then moved on to donate food the next week. In their third week, employees donated pudding and sweets to spread cheer. In the final week, they donated toiletries and hygiene products. Each of these drives were tremendously successful, with the bin overflowing each week. Together the efforts showed a true dedication to helping others in need feel a little more comfortable and a little more joyful this holiday season.

These are just a few of the activities our global teams contributed to their local communities. Our teams in Dublin, Seattle, Melbourne, Mahwah, Burlington, Vienna and Turin hosted food, toy and or coat drives, collecting goods to empower hundreds of people in need. Small teams also volunteered together doing activities like mock interviewing at Career Collaborative, lending an extra and at food pantries, assembling packages of clothes at the Giving Factory and cleaning up local neighborhoods. This Nuance Cares Week has energized our workforce to go further with their giving and volunteering as part of the Nuance Cares program. We can’t wait to see what 2020 brings!

Nuance Networks: Walking the Walk

Nuance Networks create an open forum for our employees who share common interests and concerns to meet and support each other. The networks provide resources, a sense of community, networking, the opportunity to get involved with internal and external events and sponsorships, and so much more.

As efforts to create diverse and inclusive workplaces increase, so does the focus on developing environments where employees feel as though they can bring their whole selves to work. There is no easy path to this, but a focused effort from all stakeholders in an organization to be responsible and informed in all company practices is the first step.

Knowing this, one of the many ways Nuance has emphasized the importance of creating a diverse and inclusive workforce is through participation in Nuance Networks, our internal Employees Resource Groups. These Networks, designed to truly reflect the community and connectivity aspect of the groups, include Nuance Pride (our LGBTQ+ group) and Women in Nuance. Our employees also recently announced a new group called MADE, or the Multicultural Association for Diversity Empowerment, which was created to embrace all cultures, traditions, and walks of life.

Nuance Pride focuses on visibility, support, and involvement within the company and, in turn, engagement with the wider LGBTQ+ community outside of work. The Network hosts National Coming Out Day celebrations and events for SpeakOUT Boston, and encourages groups to walk in Pride marches throughout the nation, including the Boston Pride Parade. In fact, this group was a huge part of Nuance’s 100% Equality Index score, which lead to being named a 2019 Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality by the Human Rights Campaign.

Leo Bancroft, one of the founders of Nuance Pride said he is “so grateful and deeply moved by the support from Nuance at the corporate level down to the individual and could not be more proud of all of the work we have done.” Other employees like Pepper Fee, another one of the group’s long-time members, have echoed this, saying that “being a part of the Pride group gives me a chance to pay back my thanks for that, and also pay it forward for the benefit of other new employees, who are looking for a safe work environment.”

The Women in Nuance (WIN) group represents women in tech and advocates for women’s interests and initiatives, both in and out of the workplace. The group also inspires, supports and empowers women by providing both internal and external networking and educational opportunities. WIN serves as a voice for the women (and men) at Nuance to learn from each other and make a difference.

Aleksa Marino, who has been with WIN for a year, believes that the group can break down the “silo mentality” that workplace groups sometimes take on. Like others in this Network, she says that WIN gives her the opportunity to actively participate in culture changes at Nuance and helps her feel like her voice is truly getting heard. She went on to say that WIN, and Nuance Networks like it, are “the beginning of the movement to the real ‘employee empowerment’ with the important consequence of employee participation in a decision-making process and creation of the future leaders.”

Lastly, as the name suggests, our newest Nuance Network, MADE, was made for a mission—a mission to build on individuals’ exclusive talents and diverse backgrounds, to achieve autonomy, and to help members grow both on a personal and professional level. Mariann Leedee-Gonzalez, the group’s creator, said that starting MADE “meant opening opportunities to create a resource group that finds ways to celebrate and embrace diversity within the company.” These efforts aren’t necessarily limited to inside the workplace, either. She envisions MADE as a gateway into giving back to the community and linking corporate responsibility with our communities through participating in volunteering efforts offered through MADE or finding other ways to get involved outside of the office. MADE also now acts as an umbrella network for other country/culture-specific affinity groups that Nuance employees have started.

Andiana Aponte, another member of the new MADE group, supports the Network’s mission, saying that she has seen the changes Nuance is making and the diversity that has grown here, and is inspired by it. She went on to say that she is “hoping that as employees of Nuance, we can connect, we can be inspired by one another and, most importantly, we can all feel more comfortable being ourselves.”

John Ferreira, from our Pride group, perfectly captures the experience Nuance strives for, saying that he feels “extremely happy that we work for a company that encourages groups like ours and supports what we are doing.  We all have very stressful jobs and being able to be ourselves while doing it makes a huge difference.” The chance for employees to form relationships that are not solely based on just work, but on a larger part of their personality, helps them “feel like they are part of a bigger thing than a company, but an actual community”, says Tom Landry, who is also a part of Nuance Pride group.

Nuance works tirelessly to develop and evolve in every way we can, and that isn’t just limited to our technological innovations. By investing in our employees to ensure they can bring their authentic selves, unique experiences and own perspectives to work – both personally and professionally – Nuance doesn’t just talk the talk. We walk the walk, too.

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At the End of the Day… We must empower people

We all seem to want more empowerment. In this edition of “At the End of the Day,” Brenda reflects on what it means to empower people and how to get there.

As we continue to transform into one Global Marketing organization at Nuance, it has become obvious to me that the key to our success is to empower each person in the organization.  And so, I  began to reflect on what creates empowerment.

I know empowerment takes time and focus. Empowerment also requires give-and-take from both the individual and the leader. The “give” and “take”  have 3 characteristics as I see them.

1. Courage: we must be willing to manage a fear of failure

As individuals willing to take intelligent risks – and as managers and leaders, we must support the courage to try new ideas that are in alignment with our priorities.  In support of this characteristic, I found this amazing quote from Teddy Roosevelt (1907):

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strived valiantly; who errs, who comes again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

As we courageously take intelligent risks, we will have failures, which means we need resilience. Resilience is the ability to maintain a core purpose and integrity among unforeseen surprises.  Andrew Zolli wrote a book on why things and people bounce back, and he outlined three tenants:

  • Belief that one can find meaningful purpose in life (optimism)
  • Belief that one can influence one’s surroundings and the outcome of events (confidence)
  • Belief that one’s positive and negative experiences will lead to learning and growth

2. Aligned destination: we must have agreed-upon goals for our work and projects

We must align around the destination – this can be how we work in the future or can be project-specific.  It can be a project that we’ve done ten times, but there might be a new vision for the future that will change the destination of that project. It takes communication to align around a destination. We are in start-up mode, and start-ups discuss everything. Leaders will need to give of their time, and leaders and individuals will need to keep an open mind to new ways of doing things. Why don’t we always have an open mind?  See #1; it’s often from fear of failure.

3. Ownership: we must allow each other to be responsible and take ownership

Part of ownership is an achievement orientation where an individual owns achieving the result. And to achieve the result, it may require practice — and possibly many versions of the work. As an owner of the work, you cannot say you are responsible and then explain why you were dependent on someone else, and it wasn’t your fault if it didn’t work out.  Why do we blame others?  See #1; it’s often about fear of failure.

We must give and take ownership.

We all seem to want more empowerment.  What is needed to get there? Maybe a bit more courage. More discussion to understand the destination. More responsibility?

I know Nuance will be more successful if I can empower my team. To get there, I need to clearly define where we are going and leverage their talent, courage, and determination along the way. It’s an exciting time!

At the End of the Day… is an expression meaning an assessment of essential facts and truths. It’s a summation of the pros and cons of any situation and a straightforward statement of what really matters. It’s also the title of this blog series by Brenda Hodge, Nuance’s Chief Marketing Officer, with insights about leadership, empathetic customer relationships, and marketing techniques.


3 interns, 3 real life stories

When we experience, we learn. At Nuance, we give students the opportunity to put their knowledge into action, take on tasks they’ve never done before and take their skills to the next level. Read about three Nuance intern experiences and the value of learning on the job.

Albert Einstein said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.” It’s powerful to put what you learn to practice in actual scenarios, going beyond what you learn in a book. The daily feeling of slight discomfort and excitement in trying new things, the “doing” part, the practice. It’s the life of an intern! Interns put themselves in a new environment with unfamiliar people and take on tasks they’ve never done before. It’s brave, it’s bold and it’s impactful. It embodies the spirit of Nuance!

At Nuance, most of our intern programs run in the summer while students are on break from school. But in our Montreal office, the intern program is year-round, with 150 curious, hard-working students specializing in computer science, software engineering, linguistics and more. “The program provides real-life and paid work experiences for students, while also supporting Nuance’s future talent growth pipeline,” says Samuël Cassiau, the program manager. In 2018, the program had 115 interns and 18 converted to employees. Let’s get to know a few of them.

Carlos: Computer Science student at the School of Engineering and Computer Science at Concordia University

Carlos was looking for an internship. The more he learned about Nuance and our innovative work with speech recognition and AI, the more he was interested in finding an internship at Nuance. The Software Testing internship position was particularly attractive to him because of his QA background. “One of the first products that got my attention was the Dragon Medical Virtual Assistant which is an amazing virtual assistant for doctors,” he said. “Right away, I realized I had found an awesome opportunity to work and learn at an amazing company in downtown Montreal.”

As a Software QA intern, he’s responsible for helping the team with automatization of tests, writing tests in Java, writing scripts for internal tools, regression of defects and more. He was not only able to help teams and be productive, but he also learned a lot in the process. Carlos’ internship was extended this fall for a second internship!

Mystine: Graduated from Algonquin College with a Certificate in Design Studies and an Advance Diploma in Graphic Design

Mystine was a freelance graphic designer when she joined Nuance as the UI Design Intern – she wanted to get experience in Voice design. “It’s starting to get big in the tech world and will eventually be a key feature in all design one day,” she said. In her intern experience she was part of a great team who was always there to help, mentor and support her. She was able to work on various projects and tasks, from reviewing project requirements to using best practices when creating or editing feature in speech applications. She even presented ideas to the design team and eventually to clients! “I gained new skills during my internship and got to communicate with different customers, which was such a great experience,” she said. Mystine is now a full-time employee on the User Interface Design Montreal team at Nuance!

Jesse: Computer Science student at the School of Engineering and Computer Science at Concordia University

Jesse had been programming for more than six years when he joined Nuance as the Software Development Intern. As an intern, he worked on numerous projects that allowed him to apply concepts he learned in school. He was also fortunate enough to have a mentor who helped guide him in the right direction on projects. Daily scrum meetings coupled with daily meetings with his mentor meant he always had work to do and was never stuck for too long on an issue. “I must give a lot of credit to my mentor. His ability to help me work through problems was top notch,” he said. “He didn’t just tell me how to fix it but helped me figure it out on my own.”

One of the projects Jesse worked on was updating a SOAP API to help a client. “I enjoyed this project because I was able to work on a new type of API while also do meaningful work.” All the projects/tasks that he completed during internship were used by the team which was very exciting and rewarding. Jesse was intern at Nuance the last summer and is looking for an opportunity to join us again this Winter Term.

Interested in becoming an intern in the Montreal office?

Contact Samuël Cassiau at Samuel.Cassiau@nuance.com

Learn more

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Two things an Olympic Gold-Medalist Skier and “The Team Formerly Known as HR” Have in Common

Creating a team of mindful, present people is a group effort. As the adage says: “A rising tide lifts all boats,” the same is true of creating a successful People Team. Even the simplest and seemingly small changes in attitude, approach, and action begin to create a groundswell.

We recently held our global Sales Kickoff in Boston where we had the honor of hearing from Olympic gold and bronze medalist in Alpine Skiing and the winner of four World Cup titles, Lindsey Vonn.  No stranger to hard work, sheer grit, determination, passion for the game, and (most importantly) winning – she was the perfect person to inspire our Sales team (and, let’s be honest, everyone who had the opportunity to hear from her).

In the interest of full disclosure, I grew up skiing nearly every weekend at Whiteface Mountain.  I say “nearly” because in upstate New York winter lasts for approximately 46 weeks out of the year apart from six or so weeks of summer that rudely interrupt our elongated ski season.  So, when Lindsey stepped on stage, I was, as my 11-year old daughter would say, “super-fanning” big time.

I listened intently as she told stories of her victories down icy slopes, her triumphant rise from numerous injuries, and how she continually pushed herself beyond limits and boundaries.  She talked her journey to the top: a balance of setting long-term goals, while making a conscious decision to always stay focused and present in the moment.  But more importantly, she talked about how her journey of success wasn’t a solo one, and the role her family and her team played in her victories, noting how communication, trust, and the ability to rely on someone to do their job right is essential for your ability to do your best job.

Listening to her was nothing short of inspirational and in reflecting on her time with us, I realized that the two pieces of philosophical wisdom – being mindful and staying present, and building a trusting, supportive team – is exactly the shift we are making at Nuance.  Every day, we strive to foster a culture where our talented people can stay focused on what matters most, and build an environment together where they can be their best authentic selves every day.  That was, in fact, also the reason I had shared with my team just a few days prior that we were making an important shift from being a more traditional HR organization that’s inwardly focused to one that’s focused on people-centered business enablement.  A true “People Team.”

But a simple change in name alone doesn’t amount to much.  It’s mindset, attitude, and action.

Stay Present

One of the core attributes of a successful People Team is staying present and focusing on how we add value in creating great experiences for … well… our People.  And one of the many positive results stemming from a supportive and positive workplace is the creation of phenomenal outcomes for our customers and shareholders.

Sounds simple enough, right?  If only.  Anyone who has downloaded the HeadSpace or Calm app (and a quick internet search reveals that’s more than 56 million of us), knows that mindfulness and staying present is not easy.

So, how do we, as the People Team of a fast-paced, high-tech Conversational AI company, do that?  (Great question! Let me listen to my Calm app and get back to you soon on that one.  Kidding!)

It starts with realizing that this is a journey.  It won’t happen overnight.  It requires that we actively engage and evaluate, make incremental improvements, and focus on the situations and people that are immediately in front of us (read: no multi-tasking in meetings!).  It also requires us to hold ourselves and our teammates accountable when we get distracted.  And that brings me to the second piece of Lindsey’s advice:

Strong, Supportive Teams Win

Creating a team of mindful, present people is a group effort.  As the adage says: “A rising tide lifts all boats,” the same is true of creating a successful People Team.  Even the simplest and seemingly small changes in attitude, approach, and action begin to create a groundswell.  This results in new and higher expectations for ourselves and our teammates, and, over time, drives adaptations in the ways that we work, the investments we prioritize, and how we to simplify and streamline our processes across the business.

As we focus more and more on the experiences and journey for our People, the positive outcomes will lead to faster innovation, better technology, and a superior customer experience.  And, that’s a win for everyone at Nuance, our employees, customers, partners, and our shareholders.

Like Lindsey said: when a team has good communication, is reliable, and trusts one another, that creates the space for each person to do their best work.

But, it all starts with staying present and working as a truly unified team.

Advice To An Intern

It’s not easy knowing what type of career you want to pursue when you’re not entirely sure what options are out there. Participating in an internship programs can help you figure out what you’re are passionate about… and (equally important) what type of things you don’t particularly enjoy.

Let’s face it: it’s hard to know what type of career you want to pursue when you don’t know what is out there.  Many enter college feeling like we have to know exactly what major we want to pursue and that somehow we’re not driven – or worse, could meander without gaining meaningful experience – if we don’t exactly know what we want to do for the rest of our lives.  Wow – that is a lot of pressure!

I’ve been working in Human Resources for more than 20 years, and in that time, I have had a lot of conversations with high-school and college students, as well as recent graduates, and my advice to them is always the same: If there is something you’re interested in learning more about, apply for an internship and then get as much experience as you can to figure out what you are passionate about – and what you don’t particularly enjoy.

Internships are incredible opportunities to gain exposure to different career paths and industries that you normally might not consider.  They’re a way to quickly immerse yourself into a field, and realize what specifically interests you, and equally important, what doesn’t interest you. This is something I know firsthand, as I had two six-month internships – one in retail management at CVS, and the other at National Public Radio (NPR) – when I was in college.  Vastly different industries, vastly different experiences, but both equally valuable to helping me figure out my professional interests and teaching me lessons that have stayed with me throughout my career.

Below are my top three pieces of advice for anyone who is thinking about interning or wrestling with the big, scary question of “What do I want to do with my life?” (and believe me, we have all asked ourselves that at some point – or at many points – in our careers).

Learn as much as you can about the field you’re interested in… you might be surprised what you find out.
I was an English major in college and was thrilled when I was accepted into the NPR internship program.  It was a perfect match on paper: cutting-edge journalism, exposure to editorial calendars, and deadlines.  I had the opportunity to produce an episode of Car Talk (which was very cool), helped to facilitate their fundraising efforts for their bi-annual telethons, and publishing the monthly newspaper.  While I definitely enjoyed my time there and learned a lot, I realized that there was so much that had to happen behind the scenes that hadn’t occurred to me, like relentlessly chasing articles and selling advertising spots for fast-approaching deadlines, organizing volunteers and fundraising efforts, and playing an elaborate version of Tetris that involved cutting and taping articles and ads to large sheets of paper to layout the newspaper.  That internship was invaluable in helping me better appreciate the incredible work that goes into an operation like NPR and refine my vision of what I thought I wanted to pursue with my career.  It also gave me a lot of experience that I still leverage to this day.

Get out of your comfort zone and try different things.  

Confession Time: I LOVED going to CVS when I was in college – and I still just might spend far, far too much time wandering the aisles to this very day.  There is literally something for everyone.  Hungry?  Check out the snack aisle.  Seasonal allergies?  They’ve got you covered.  Need some candy and a birthday card for your roommate?  No problem.  Needless to say, serendipity struck when I saw that there was an internship position available for a regional retail manager at CVS.  Although I wasn’t entirely certain what was involved, I knew I had to apply… and I’m glad I did!  That job that gave me my first exposure to daily business operations and overseeing a team; but, most importantly, since I trained at the local store and travelled to many different locations across the region, I was able to experience first-hand the difference between a well-run retail location, and one that was struggling.  Certainly, inventory management, balancing the registers, and loss prevention were all important.  However, what really made an impression on me was seeing the distinct effect different leadership and management styles made in creating happier, more productive employees, and fun work environments where people collaborated and gave their very best – and I discovered that was something that was important to me.

It was that job that made me realize I wanted to go into Human Resources so I could help companies be successful in serving their customers AND their people.  It was that job that helped me understand that I could have an important impact in creating cultures and organizational structures where people could do their best work, and feel recognized, and valued for their contributions.  It was that internship that changed everything for me.

Manage your career by gathering experiences, not necessarily titles.

Milton Bradley did us wrong.  Anyone who has ever played Chutes and Ladders is familiar with the game’s objective of making a series of strategic moves to get to the top.  However, in the game there is one coveted path that consists of a single ladder to the top; and, if memory serves me correctly, enables you to bypass 56 squares.  It’s essentially the Hail Mary Shot of board gaming.  The problem is that we tend to imagine our careers in terms of that single ladder.  It’s an enticing plan: Who wouldn’t want to fast-track to their end goal?

There are two challenges to that approach.  The first is that those situations, while they do happen, are not common.  Not many people who are early in their career walk into work one morning only to realize they’ve been relocated to a corner office or have been given the lead on a major project of their dreams.  It takes a lot of hard work, lateral moves, pivots, twists and turns to get there – gathering a multitude of experience at every step!  The second challenge is that the world of work is rapidly evolving and companies are looking for employees and leaders who have not only have strong skill sets, but who have a deep understanding and knowledge of the scope and skills required of their colleagues across different teams.  Breadth and depth.

One of the best ways to gain that insight, is to collaborate and work on different projects that give you exposure to a myriad of teams, ideas, and skills—and those projects might not be hanging off a wrung on that tall ladder.  That’s okay!  Expose yourself to new people, projects, initiatives— those experiences will only make you a stronger, more valuable contributor.  In fact, at Nuance, we have pods or tiger teams that are fluid groups of experts who come together to solve a specific problem, and then go back to their regular day jobs.  The result is increased visibly to new ideas and opportunities, better results, and more professionally satisfied people.  It’s a win-win-win!

So, if you’re considering career options or are interested in learning more about the opportunities that exist, apply for an internship.  Try something new.  Meet incredible people.  Learn with each opportunity and assignment.  It will help you clarify what is important to you in a job—and that’s the first step to building a long, successful, and satisfying career!

And, to all the interns out there: Happy #NationalInternDay!

#IWD2019: Being the balance

Let's all be the balance we want to see in our world.

If you do a quick search for “innovation at the world’s best companies,” you’ll find millions of results—ranging from detailed research reports to quirky listicles.  I’ve spent the majority of my career working in the technology industry and, time and time again, I have seen that one of the most important indicators of an organization’s capacity to innovate and succeed is the composition of its talent.  The best companies have an inclusive culture where people are free to bring their authentic selves to work, and talented, diverse teams of people – who have different perspectives, approaches, and ideas – work together with a shared purpose.

When people are able to be their true selves, the workplace is transformed from an office into a vibrant environment where new ideas flow more easily and people learn, push one another, create, and collaborate.  They thrive in their roles, they continue to grow professionally, and businesses succeed with better results.

Mindfulness of the gender gap

Bias influences each of us every day.  Our unique experiences shape and inform our ideas, approaches, and reactions. Simply put: if you have a brain, you have bias.  We can all proactively work to manage our biases by becoming aware of them and then mindfully making better decisions.  Several years ago, we learned that typically women apply for positions only if they meet 100% of the qualifications listed, as opposed to men who apply if they meet 60 percent of the qualifications.  It is interesting how just being aware of that evidence can influence a different set of choices.

Take that statistic in context of another one: according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), there has been a decline of women entering the computer science field since 2000.  Although overall, we have made progress in advancing diversity and gender parity, the reality is that we have a serious imbalance when it comes to STEM roles.  This is an issue that we, as individuals and technology companies, must help solve.

It is up to us to support, encourage, and provide equal opportunities to everyone. We can all be part of creating a more inclusive culture that values people for their differences – not their similarities.

The Path Forward

At Nuance, we build market-leading conversational AI and ambient intelligence solutions.  It’s a fast-moving and competitive industry and the reason we are at the forefront is because we value diversity.  In fact, it’s our lifeblood.  Without our differences in thought, style, background, preferences, opinion, and perspectives, we simply would not be able to do what we do: develop technology that understands the person using it – whoever they may be and wherever they may be.

Today is International Women’s Day, and the theme is “Balance for Better.”  I challenge us all to focus on being the balance.  Each of us play a critical role in creating equality, building more inclusive environments both inside and outside the workplace, and driving forward progress.  So, speak up when something is imbalanced.  Let’s all help drive that positive change!

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#WickedProud to celebrate diversity at Nuance and Boston Pride

I’ve been to Boston Pride about 25 times since moving to the area after college. Some years I’ve marched, some years I’ve cheered from the sidelines. This year, I was thrilled to march with Nuance alongside friends, family, and colleagues.
Within the ranks of the Nuance group marching in the Boston Pride parade

June is Pride Month across the U.S., a time to celebrate the contributions, accomplishments, and spirit of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community and its allies. In case you didn’t know, Pride Month honors the June 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, the birth of the American gay rights movement.

Here at Nuance we recognize and celebrate our culture of inclusion and diversity within our walls and in the communities in which we dwell. We only get more creative and collaborative as a team when we honor different perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds.

This past weekend the LGBTQ Community at Nuance was thrilled to sponsor and participate at the Boston Pride parade and festival, 14 miles away from our corporate headquarters.

Nuance marches in the Boston Pride Parade on June 9

Nuance hits the streets during Boston Pride on June 9, 2018

A few dozen fellow employees, friends and family members donned our Nuance Pride t-shirts, waved our pride flags, and proudly carried our banner as we worked our way from Boston’s Back Bay, through the South End, over to Beacon Hill, and down to City Hall Plaza.

On a side note, we marched right in front of the very talented Boston Gay Men’s Chorus who played a looped recording of their acapella cover songs to save their voices for weekend performances. (If you want to know the lyrics to “Last Friday Night” by Katy Perry, just ask.)

a.Dave Seuss from Nuance with friends and family at Boston Pride

Yours truly (second from left) with friends and family

I’ve been to Boston Pride about 25 times since moving to the area after college. Some years I’ve marched, some years I’ve cheered from the sidelines. While the LGBTQ community nudged closer and closer to the mainstream with milestones like legalized gay marriage, Boston Pride parades filled with night clubs and activists have made room for high schools and universities, religious organizations, sports teams, and companies like Nuance.

Nuance co-marshal Pepper Fee and wife April

My inspiring co-marshal Pepper and her wife, April

Before joining Nuance last summer, I had never worked for a company that participated in Boston Pride or any outside LGBTQ event for that matter. This year was different. I had my friends, family and colleagues along with me every step of the way. It was an exceptional feeling and made me proud of each and every one of them.

Next up, we’ll sponsor and participate in Montreal Pride in August. Given my grandfather grew up nearby I may very well make the five hour drive and celebrate my big gay Québécois authentic self… proudly.


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Within the ranks of the Nuance group marching in the Boston Pride parade