Gavriella Schuster | Corporate Vice President | One Commercial Partner | Microsoft

Gavriella Schuster: Working for Inclusivity and Collaboration in the Technology Space

“As leaders, it is critical to be open-minded, as it is essential to embrace unforeseen shifts in the plan rather than be stuck with a process,” says Gavriella Schuster. She is the Corporate Vice President, One Commercial Partner at Microsoft and has expertise in cloud & datacenter technologies, product management, product marketing, business model development, acquisitions, sales, digital marketing, social marketing, and channel programs.

Gavriella advocates the creation of an inclusive and collaborative environment at work. She believes, this practice significantly affects the team effort and dedication while empowering every individual.

On advising woman business leaders, she states it is important to be persistent. She opines “When you are the only woman in the room, there is a tendency for men to speak over you, and in some cases to even pretend you are invisible. Persistence allows you to express your point of view, gather allies in the room and speak up frequently until you break through the barrier and your ideas are acknowledged.”

Below are the highlights of the interview conducted between Insights Success and Gavriella Schuster:

Kindly take us through your journey on becoming a proficient leader in the IT and Cloud sector.

From a very young age, I was determined to be a collector of memorable experiences through knowledge, technology and creativity. The desire to continually challenge myself to acquire advanced knowledge gave me energy and perspective. This curiosity gave me the confidence to jump from psychology to healthcare to technology. While that transition was unique, my psychology background has helped me very early in my career to differentiate between what people say and what their intentions are. It has served me to be a more analytical and inquisitive person, rather than taking things at face value.

My 24 years journey with Microsoft has taught me to pursue technology and get creative with it. I am currently in my 14th job role in the company after moving around six disciplines from Operations, Marketing, Sales, Training, Enterprise Services, Licensing, Product Management to now leading Partnerships here in Microsoft. It has been an incredible journey to witness the technology; the company and the industry grow to new heights over the years. Experience collector has been an interesting path for me because the fast-paced industry keeps you on your toes. I have been on a journey learning to build, sell and market and license software services.

How do you diversify your organization’s offerings to entice the target audience?

Microsoft operates in a broad spectrum of technologies; hence, our target audience varies. However, as a product planner and manager, I adopted the customer-centric approach. Placing the customer in the center helps understand their requirements, along with gaps in our portfolio. We continually diversify to fill those gaps by building solutions or partnering to bridge that difference.  I cherish my role as it allows me to constantly identify customer needs and build partnerships on behalf of Microsoft. The ability to support technology firms with investments in certain solutions or our ability to guide companies to pivot investments to compete in the market, allows us to collaborate, uplift, and transform the dynamic technology industry to provide the best for our customers.

How do you strategize your game plans to tackle the competition in the market?

Everything in the market caters to the needs of the customer. A strategy needs to be centered around customer reach and customer satisfaction. As service providers, it falls upon us to lead the customer through the transformation in the industry which, over time, has resulted in building a trusted brand.

Competition in any market is inevitable, and dare I say desirable to push you towards excellence; it keeps you from complacency. Unless you are delivering the best experience and meeting the customer needs where they are either organically or through partnerships, you will fall short in the market.

The ideal strategy is to keenly be aware of the market dynamics, course correct according to your customer needs and continually thinking 12 months ahead.

As per your opinion, what roadblocks or challenges were faced by you in a corporate business? And how did you overcome them?

The external challenges are inevitable. Our challenges define us. Personally, my roadblocks were internal; the limitations I set for myself were a challenge to overcome. As a young technologist, I desired perfection in my work and would obsess over the last 20 percent of the project, completely unaware that 80 percent was great. My impatience resulted in extra energy being poured where unnecessary. Soon with exhaustion, I had a revelation that perfection does not exist.

Another roadblock has been to break away from the brand assigned to you by others for what you do. While attempting to transition from licensing to product management, I was constantly branded as a ‘licensing expert’ who could not shift the stream and learn product management. The reality was, I was good at my role as an experience collector and going forward I wanted to learn about working with developers, engineers and deliver there. After persuading a few sponsors to take a chance, I was able to make the transformation and I am here today. Most people hold themselves back because one must fight tough battles to convince others to believe in you.

Have you in any way contributed towards the cause of Women in Cloud? 

Five years ago, I had an epiphany and was tired of being the only woman in the room. It was arduous setting up meetings with partners and never running into other women outside the Microsoft environment.

I collaborated with Karen Fassio and then with Chaitra Vedullapalli and Gretchen O’Hara to build the Women in Cloud Movement. It was crucial for us to ensure Women in Cloud does not just focus on bringing women in the industry but also helps them mobilize resources to create a billion-dollar economic impact.

This journey has led me to mentor, including joining the University of Washington Bothell Board of Directors, to help young women consider careers in technology. My reality could help young leaders find their path and enable them to succeed.

How do you cope up with capricious IT and other technological trends to boost your personal growth?  

Change is the only constant I have known. As an experience collector, I appreciate the dynamic nature of technology. The advancing space helps accelerate learning and promotes curiosity. This opportunity allows me to experiment and challenge myself.

So, whether it is about learning a new technology, a new use case or helping organizations make a seamless transformation, there are always gaps to be filled and it is a great opportunity to expand your scope. Embracing change increases my capabilities to think and it continues to put me in a place where what I do is new, exciting, interesting, and on the leading edge.

What are your future endeavors/objectives and where do you see yourself in the near future?

2020 was supposed to be the year of change at Microsoft. We had new technologies to launch, investments lined up and the ecosystem had a lot of momentum before the unforeseen health crisis crippled the health and social justice climate. Although this year has been a challenge, it has prompted me to internalize and ask myself ‘where are we heading?’

The essential concern is to stay connected to each other and continue on the mission. My priority is to ensure the safety of my team and keep them motivated.

Meanwhile, I am determined to continue my work with Women in Cloud and Women in Tech networks to focus on social justice in the industry. The recent Black Lives Matter movement in the United States has led us to introspect. As a leader in technology, I want to improve the experience of the African-American community in the technology space. There is a necessity to create communities, bring in role models, build programs, enable funding and power access to create a path for them to succeed; I am looking forward to being a part of that journey.