“Be Audacious”: Cloudera’s Gabrielle Cichero On The Importance Of Abandoning Homogeneity

“Be Audacious”: Cloudera’s Gabrielle Cichero On The Importance Of Abandoning Homogeneity

Gabrielle Cichero is APAC Head of field Marketing for enterprise data cloud platform Cloudera. B&T spoke to Cichero in the lead up to the Women Leading Tech Awards about why diversity is essential for designing successful products and the importance of overcoming unconscious bias.

Cichero joined Cloudera in 2019, where she sits on the APAC leadership team. She is also a strong advocate for volunteering and works in the communications team of NSW’s Rural Fire Service.

B&T: What do you see as the role of diversity in improving the quality of design in technology?

GC: I think that diversity is very important in the way you design the product because the people who use the products are themselves diverse.

If you have a very homogenous team developing and designing products, then you have something for a very homogenous customer, which is not the customer of today.

I think it’s incredibly important to get those different ideas coming through to break some of those assumptions and biases that you get when you have a very homogenous team.

[In a diverse team] you end up with better decisions and a better product.

I think that diversity is reflected in Cloudera’s product set too, we lead the Enterprise Data Cloud industry and we don’t just deliver that in one way. It’s the same when you think about any product design – people need to be able to adapt and use it.

That diversity in the teams that create and review and design means diversity in the offerings you bring to market.

How does Cloudera use diverse teams to build solutions that are effective for a wide array of users?

I’ll take a specific marketing angle to that because I lead marketing. My team is naturally diverse, I’m blessed to run a team across Asia Pacific. But, you know, McKinsey tells us that companies with diversity are much more likely to be financially successful.

It’s not just in my team. Across Cloudera APAC we take diversity really seriously. In the APAC leadership team, more than 50 per cent of the leaders across the region are women, and in non-traditional roles. You have me in marketing and you have Jo [Josephine Tan] in HR – more traditionally female roles. But our Head of Inside Sales, Elaine Battersby, is a woman and our Head of Sales is also a woman. I think that brings a couple of cultural elements that really drive our success.

One is an openness and a willingness to listen, and really to drive a culture where it’s good to take risks. At the same time, there’s an emphasis on being supportive when you take that risk and thinking a little bit more about the human elements that come with it.

I mean, I think that’s repeated in Australia right? Our Head of Professional Services, our Head of Marketing, and our Head of Pre-Sales are all women in Australia, so we really try to reflect that.

It’s not only gender diversity, it is diversity across cultures, across ages, sexual orientation as well – I think all of those come together in a melting pot that helps you have better opinions and better decisions because of that reflection of your customer pool.

What steps can tech businesses take to ensure that they are supporting female leaders and that they feel there is a space for them in the industry?

I really liked a comment from one of the people you interviewed recently, which was that women often feel like they should be grateful for promotion, not that they deserve the promotion [Read B&T’s profile of AKQA’s Alicia Muscat here]. So, I think that we need to work really hard to change the way that women are perceived in the workforce. It’s one of the reasons I really like the depth of diversity at Cloudera because this naturally comes to us instead of being an effort.

So, one is: how do we help women to be more daring and more aspirational.

I recently moderated a panel of Indian women CIO’s which was amazing, and they were saying that it’s hard sometimes to be aspirational when you are doing that juggle of being a woman.

So the question is, how do we encourage women to [go for things]? When they have 70 per cent of the skills for a job, women will go “I don’t have enough,” and men will go, “I’m a shoe-in!”

How do we encourage them that actually failure is just a step on your journey to success, so try? And be audacious and support them in that. I’m really lucky, I’ve got really fantastic managers, globally Mick Hollison and in region Mark Micallef, and I’ve been privileged with amazing leadership: both men and women who believe that the diversity equation leads to business success, and so really try very hard to drive that culture.

I can see not just for women but for men too, that’s a much better place to work.

What do you think are the most significant obstacles facing women in tech, and do you have ideas about how to overcome them?

I think one – and probably the most significant – is the unconscious bias that happens, because when you know something is happening you can address it.

Addressing the unconscious bias through education is one point, and also being able to measure when that’s happening. You can manage when you can measure, and things like big data bring an opportunity for tech to be able to get data and measure what they’re doing.

They can then make conscious decisions about how they can help women and other minorities to overcome those barriers.

How do your passions outside of the office influence your work ethos?

So first, my passions inside work really tally with my passions outside work, so I think that blend is really good. I’m lucky to work in a data company because I love data and I love the way an enterprise data cloud opens possibilities. One of the things with RFS is that we’re putting in a new system, so I love being involved with that.

Brigades in RFS are not filled with tech-savvy millennials who have spent their whole lives on their smartphone, it’s just not the way it works. And we need inclusion from all elements of the community, so it really teaches me patience, and it teaches me about how technology is and isn’t accepted, and also how you have to drive messages for different audiences.

Last year I was fortunate to be able to go out to Hawkesbury where there was a really big fire and work out there every weekend, and it taught me under stress that you need to stay very calm and make good decisions. It also taught me that the human element is always the most important part of making anything successful.

That’s a personal passion that I go and give up my weekends to do that, but I take those lessons back into work.

Is there any advice you would give other women?

I love what I do, Cloudera is amazing. I’d really recommend women to find an organisation that supports you in the same way that I feel supported in my current role – and, to be fair, in my previous companies too.

You have the choice, exercise that choice to be somewhere where you can dare to dream about all of the things you want to aspire to and do, and where you have that supportive environment.

This week, UN Women have come out in Australia specifically with the ‘She’ll Be Right’ campaign, and the thing I’d say to women is make sure that the workplace that you work in is inclusive and supportive and safe, and if it’s not, speak up.

I think only through that will there be the change that we need to see. Women should have a safe, supportive work environment no matter where they work, and what their gender balance is, and we really need to work to that.

Because those other things – like closing the gender pay gap – will only come when that’s an environment we all have.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

The 2021 Women Leading Tech awards will be taking place on Tuesday 20th April. 

You can buy tickets here

Thank you to all of our wonderful Women Leading Tech sponsors!


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