What Makes a Good Tech Leader with Rose Schooler | Intel Business
- [Speaker] You are watching InTechnology, a video cast where you can get smarter about cybersecurity, sustainability, and technology. - Hi, I'm Camille Morhart, host of InTechnology Podcast and today I have with me Rose Schooler. Welcome to the pod, Rose. - Thank you Camille.
It's great to see you again by the way. It's been a few years. - I wanted to have Rose on this podcast because of how she is known and how she was known at Intel where she was a corporate vice president when she retired and known as a straight communicator, known as a badass who started a business from scratch and took it to a billion dollars, known for working in a bunch of different divisions, running a bunch of different divisions including architecture, IT, P&L, product development. I think your last role when you retired was Corporate Vice President and General Manager of Data Center and Artificial Intelligence Sales for the company.
So lot of different roles and a long career. - 33 years by the time I left. So I thought that was a good run in technology. - One of the things I remember about you, whenever I pictured you, I always remembered the cross that you wear and it always kind of stood out to me and I was just wondering if you could add some context to it.
- It's interesting 'cause this cross, I wear it probably 98% of my life. I don't take it off very often. The one time I did take it off, I almost lost it in China so I have a little bit of a PTSD of taking my cross off, but it stands for a couple things.
One, my faith. I wouldn't say that I'm a devout practicing Catholic, but that was how I was raised and some of the fundamental beliefs around kindness and how you treat others is still the fiber of my being. There's some things... I guess I'd call myself a cafeteria Catholic. There's some selections I wouldn't make at the bar when I went up to get my food.
So that was kind of the genesis of it. I almost always wear a cross. It's just a good reminder of how I wanna treat people and how I wanna be treated.
And then interestingly enough, it's probably the biggest piece of jewelry, the most significant piece of jewelry I bought for myself. So it was at a point in my life where I had a little bit of savings that I had put aside and it meant a lot to me to just buy the cross for me, not have it for my parents. I married and my husband's given me jewelry so it was just nice to have the means to do it for myself. So it's super important to me. - How old were you? It is beautiful. - I would say I was in my thirties, it's probably in my thirties.
I had it in a really long time and subsequently other people have bought the same cross after they've seen mine, so it means a lot to me. It has faith-based significance as well as a show of a little bit of an early success and independence. - I never asked you about it before because it felt like a question you can't ask in a work setting, I don't know.
- You should have felt free. I would've had no issue with it whatsoever. - I've heard the phrase the way people do one thing is the way they do everything. And I was trying to think about a lot of the different qualities that you have and I was just wondering is there something that you could identify as like one approach that you take that goes across everything that's allowed you to be successful in so many different roles? - Early in my career, it was, like, how can I take something that I know and provide that knowledge and insight in terms of value to a new organization, but also use the opportunity to learn something new? I would always say if I'm going into a new role, I wanna have 50% of something that I can know and leverage and add value and 50% that I could continue to learn and grow. And that turned into something that I would speak about when I would give leadership presentations around teach and learn. So I always try and find opportunities and still even outside of my years at Intel, my 33 year career at Intel, I'm always trying to teach and learn.
An example in my retirement years, I think job opportunities are really clear. Like so the job example that I would give you is I spent many years in IoT, I'd never done sales so I said how do I take my IoT experience and bridge it into sales? I can bring that value to the organization and learn something. So I think through your career, there's lots of opportunities to do that, but when you retire you go wow, now how do I find those opportunities to teach and learn? And similar to what we're doing now, a friend and former colleague and I have started a podcast. We're sharing management and leadership insights, our own personal ones and ones from guests.
And let me just tell you, it was an opportunity initially to give back and now I'm learning a lot. - It's a great podcast by the way. I listen to it and I love it. - Oh thank you, I didn't know you listened. We are rebranding by the way. - Oh you are? - Yeah, we're rebranding for a couple reasons.
Number one, the first time through, we really, again, we were doing everything ourselves except the production and we thought the graphic was fun. We got a lot of feedback so we're responding to listener feedback on making it clear. So that was the one thing that we did. And then from the time that we had... We like conceived the podcast and named it to when we launched, there was a number of them that had the same name.
So we're changing it to The Maestro Mindset: How to Orchestrate your Organizations. - Oh that's good, I like it. And I won't even mention the old name. - Oh right, it was funny how it came to be because I was watching...
Every year, I like to watch all the Oscar nominees and I was watching The Maestro and I'm like, oh my god, there's so many similar leadership principles from being a conductor to being a manager and a leader in an organization. So we went with it, we went with it. - And one of the things I like that you guys do in the podcast is at the end, you do like a wrap up kind of or takeaway, I can't remember what you call it.
- Hot takes. - And that's actually one of the skills, I guess maybe I'll ask you as an executive, it's like you are like phenomenal during those, it's like you listen so carefully to the whole podcast and then just summarize, like pull out the most salient points. I don't know, it's pretty impressive.
- It's interesting that you tied it back to my career because one of the things that I found incredibly powerful and it's something you learn, it's not like something innate, right? If you focus on it, you can develop the skillset and that's truly an art of simplifying communication I found to be really critical. Like I remember taking a class, I don't remember if you had the opportunity to go to a class from... Jack and Carol, I can't even remember the name of it, I remember the instructors, Jack and Carol from the Darden School at University of Virginia taught this leadership class and they talked about once you like have a direction or a theme for your organization, don't ever assume that messaging gets old. And when I was in a GM position, every time I would do an open forum, I would start with our strategy.
"Our strategy is the 4-1 strategy. What that means is irrelevant for this conversation, but how many people in the room know what that strategy is?" And inevitably every time, because we were all doing everything face to face time and webcasting, and without fail, a third of the room would raise their hand. So they either hadn't gone before, it hadn't hit home, they were new to the organization.
So that consistency, the clarity of communication I think is something really important in whether you're doing something personally or professionally. - When you interviewed Tara Smith, who's head of comms for all of Intel, yeah, she said something that I really liked too. She said, "By the time you're sick of telling the message, that's when it's first starting to land with people."
- She was such a great guest, so many awesome nuggets. It's really important to stay consistent and to stay clear and you learn some of those tools. It's funny like, and I'm sure if I brought my husband up here, he wouldn't agree with me that I do it well personally. But when you get into different situations at work or when you're spinning off to do something new and you learn that those things that you learn through your career how applicability in different environments and different spaces. - The other thing that I've heard you say before is know your audience.
And I know that kind of sounds trite or cliche, I don't know, everybody says it, but you were taking it down to the level in a prior conversation we had of like you're sitting in a meeting and in your case, you had often the C-suite was in the meeting with you, right? And you were interacting maybe with one member on the side and another member this and you were like paying attention to not just your presence in the room, but your interaction with every individual within that room. I wonder if you could give a little more insight there. - Probably the first time I really... I would say failed, it was like one of those situations in your career where you make a decision to do something and I'll set it up in a second and you reflect on it and then you just beat yourself up.
You're like, wow, that was such a bad call. Like, so, I would say maybe like at the first level manager place in the organization and myself and another... Actually it was Sandra Rivera were giving a presentation and the room was in New Jersey and for personal reasons, I decided not to travel out to be in the room and this was before there was a lot of video content, right? So everything was over the bridge, right? So it's not like I could see faces and feel perspectives and emotion, but I just feel like everything that I said at that meeting fell so flat. And I don't know if it was from the lack of response, I don't know if it was shuffling papers, I don't recall why, but I just was like, oh my god, I should have been in that row. I couldn't read anything about how the audience was taking the message. So that was probably the first kind of splash of cold water in my face on how important that is.
So whether it be throughout the next couple decades, whether it was being in a room in R&B and you know what rooms I'm talking about where the EVPs and the CEO hang out, it's shaped like a U and you walk in that room and there's probably, what do you think Camille, 30 chairs around the table in a big U? And you really have to be cognizant of all of the people in that room. Are they on their phones, checking their email? If they are, they all either don't care about what you're talking about, which isn't necessarily good or you're not engaging them, which is more likely. So I just learned to, I hate to say it, but you learn to work the rope a little bit. In that environment when you're the presenter, the other place that this would come to play is presenting at sales conference. I think you've probably done that Camille.
Everybody comes in the next morning after being out the night before, you got people like half asleep, you got people hung over and you just realize that you've got to find a way to get the information to stick. So whether it be in that executive presentation or at a sales conference to a bunch of hungover folks, you learn to walk up and get, not like close, but walk up and talk to them personally so they feel your attention on them and then they feel... Then you don't even need to ask a question. I remember there would be somebody that was half asleep because they were out too late or an executive on their phone.
I would just walk over and stand right in front of them and talk. So it just makes them feel that you know their presence in the room and what you're sharing is important and their participation is important. So it's just little things like that. How do you work a room and that's in a presentation situation.
But then the other thing that I would probably note is that when you're the leader in a room and you have a table of people that are presenting to you, you have to find ways to bring out all the voices and you have to create, and we talk about this a lot, I'm actually gonna teach a class on it here in a couple months, how to create a psychologically safe environment where people in their innate self are willing to bring that self into the workplace and feel comfortable sharing opinions and feedback because then you're creating environment for richer, more productive conversation. - How do you walk that line between scolding, let's say even a senior, a CEO or a senior person kind of as, hey, like I'm speaking right now, get off your phone versus I'm trying to engage or do you do things also now that everybody is kind of texting or IMing in the background? Like is that also a tool that you use? Maybe not while you're presenting, but how do you work all those different kinds of things? - In a room of an executive staff, everybody should feel like they're part owners so everybody should be leaning in. So what methods would I use? Like I said, I would never walk up to somebody and go, excuse me, please get off your phone. But just your presence and proximity sometimes is enough to make someone go, it takes real boldness if, Camille, you're standing two feet from me and I'm still kinda digging in my phone.
You can ask a question, just a simple question. Let's go to the example of the sales strategy and if I would make a statement about an approach I was gonna take, it doesn't hurt to walk up to someone in manufacturing and go, "Do you see any ways that this may impact your throughput? Is there anything that we're proposing that creates an issue for you?" So I think there's very productive, sometimes subtle ways to engage the audience. And then if I'm the instructor in a class and I see someone's not engaged, I just plain out ask 'em a question, I just cold call. And I'll never forget... It's so funny you spend 33 years and then there's probably less than 25 things that just are like emblazoned in your brain through your career. And I just remember I was a new hire and I was a fab process engineer and George Gimpleson, may he rest in peace, was teaching this class on Process 618 or 629, which was 100 years ago.
There was no way you didn't participate and engage in his class and to this day, you had to be on your toes 'cause you never knew when George was gonna ask you a question about the material he just presented or the homework that he asked you to do. And I found him to be so impactful that it was a methodology that I tried to adopt and use through the rest of my career. - You've also said before that it's what happens when you leave the room? - Yeah, the conversation that happens when you leave the room.
- You've probably been in a lot more of those rooms when the rest of us have left the room. - Or I left the room when the room keeps talking. I think that the shoe fits on each foot. Yeah, and it goes back to your first question around awareness. If I walk into a room and I am the senior leader and I know there's people in that room that have never presented to me or my staff before and I create an environment that's tense, scary, I don't even know what other word to use, so people aren't comfortable, I don't think you're gonna get the best in people. So then if you come in to present and I just hair you, not in a way that I'm being inquisitive, but one that makes you uncomfortable and I leave that room, what are you gonna say? You're gonna say, "God, she's awful.
She I think intentionally put me on the spot to make me feel uncomfortable. I got nervous, I wasn't my best self, I didn't get all the information across because of that environment." So when I'm the leader, I wanna leave a room and have people go, no, that doesn't mean I don't ever get upset or angry or have to take a little bit of a harder stance, but if it's someone just sharing information, you want 'em to feel good about the information they're sharing, you wanna be engaged, you want 'em to say, "Oh my God, she listened to everything I said and it was a great environment and I got all my key messages across and I learned something and they learned something." So that's going back to know your audience, know the role you play and know what you want people to feel like when you leave the room because then they're gonna wanna come back and share more information with you. You don't want 'em to go like, "Oh God, I don't wanna go back and see her, she's horrible."
Then I've had those situations as the presenter. But then when you go in and you are the presenter, you wanna be prepared, you want to know the rules of all the people in the room. You wanna think through the questions that they may ask. You wanna be prepared to answer them and you want to then if you don't know, there's no way to prepare for every single question you might get.
You wanna have the confidence and be comfortable enough to say, "I don't know, I will get back to you." And then when you leave the room, you hopefully leave that room with people thinking, "Wow, she was prepared, a content expert," maybe not expert, I don't feel like I've ever been an expert in anything, but knowledgeable, content, capable and competent. Let's use those words and that hopefully you departed and they learned something in the conversation. - Are you more lead with the brain or lead with the heart? - I will tell you a story and then I will answer the question. I had a woman that worked for me, she is a beautiful soul, Nishi Raman, she ran part of design engineering for me and she grabbed me in the cafeteria one day and she said, "Rose, I really appreciate the way you lead the head and the heart." And I went, I actually never even thought about it that way.
Like those words had never crossed my mind but it made me start thinking and she's like, "There are people that need motivated emotionally and people that need motivated intellectually and you can do both." And I went, wow, well it wasn't conscious so now I better be more intentional and purposeful about it. So I started to be, and then I don't know if you remember Camille, but when Bob Swan joined and was the CEO, he used that same philosophy that gets head, heart and hands, which is a doing, and never being afraid to dig in and do. So I think initially in my career, I probably led with the head. I think as I grew as a leader, I try to lead equally being audience aware, like you don't wanna stand up in front of a bunch of architects and design engineers and have a strategy and a message that's completely from the heart, you're probably gonna lose some of 'em.
And then Bob's edition of the hands is something that I think later in my career was really impactful. So I'd like to think by the time I retired, I was a head, heart, and hands person. - Can we just spend a few minutes on growing an initiative into a billion dollar business? - I think my dad said one thing and when I was young and it's funny, I think he was trying to be funny and there's some legitimacy to it, it's sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. And I think there was a bit of luck in my situation. And for context, for those of you that are listening and maybe don't know the context, at one point in my career, I ran the storage and networking business, it was called storage and comms at the time.
There were no people, no design wins, no focus from the company and over what turned out to be when I thought back, it was probably over a decade in different ways and forms and shapes and organization, but it was still the same focus of growing what was initially the networking business. We grew it to over a billion dollars and now it's far, far apart, surpasses that the people that took over after I left, Sandra Rivera, Dan Rodriguez, they're continuing to just crush the success of that business. But having said that, I think it was a bit of intentionality around the strategy and the indicators that we put in place to measure success.
I think it was a bit of luck. I think I was a bit lucky that I was able to do this in an environment where I wasn't presenting to executive staff every week. We really got to go define our own strategy, build our own products, run our own business with not a lot of oversight. And when I say oversight, I don't mean like I didn't have a manager in the form of Doug Davis that wasn't watching the P&L intently, but we didn't have the burden of having to present to executive staff once a month on our progress. We just did what we thought was right to grow the business.
I think it was a bit lucky that we hit the market timing right. The current approach in the market wasn't fitting the future need. So the environment, we got lucky, the intentionality was around realizing and identifying that and putting in strategy in place to take advantage of it.
And then the biggest thing is that I was just surrounded and accompanied by incredibly amazing people. People that have gone on to far surpass the success that an opportunity that I had in my own career. Brilliant architects that once you created focus around a problem statement could solve any problem that you put in front of them. And I think I would close by saying that the focus was I think a little bit of the magic in the secret sauce. We were a small team of people with a very...
Outside of Intel, it would probably seem like a ginormous budget. Inside of Intel, it was a relatively small budget, but we had intense focus and that clarity of focus allowed everyone to be working on the same problems every day and it just created a huge accelerant. - What was the focus? - Let me just try and set some quick context.
Everything in the network infrastructure was proprietary. The form factors of the boards were proprietary, the software was proprietary, the silica was proprietary, it was just like completely built from each manufacturer bottoms up. So you didn't get a lot of scale. And what they were finding it is that in the market, the average revenue per user, like you with a cell phone bill or you with a data plan, was starting to decline as a percentage of what they were spending to put that infrastructure in place. So they had to do something to continue to grow the revenue but bring their cost down.
It was a simple business equation and we said if we could get Intel architecture to support the majority of the work that's done in that equipment, we can unlock a gigantic market opportunity. And that's what we did. We started looking at the various types of work that's done in that equipment. We would call it workloads.
You'll hear workloads now when you talk about cloud infrastructure. We broke that down and we just maniacally went through the major workloads and said how do we make our product work better in that workload, in that environment? And we just started from simple applications and we worked all the way down to when we were... Like they're called packets, like the way you send data across internet packets. When we were able to do that with great performance and efficiency on Intel architecture, we blew the market open and it worked out really well.
Now you're seeing a little bit of a swing back. You're seeing a lot more purpose-built silicon for the people like hyperscalers because they have so much buying power in the market. But in telecommunications, there was a market environment, and we realized that, we pivoted our strategy and every day everybody woke up trying to solve those same problems. So that's where we created the focus.
- So who did you, like, talk to or how did you set up your team when you first started that or took that grain over so that you would... It sounds like you wanted to understand the market context, what the problem was and how you could fit in, but how much time did that take and who did you have around you to get to that? - Yeah, it took a decade. - Well how did you get not the whole business grown but the focus, how long did it take you to come in and say, "okay, this is what our one strategy is, everybody's going"? - That was really hard and at the time, I worked in an organization that had two architectures. There were network processors and there was Intel architecture and all of the money and the attention was on the network processors and here's this little band of merry men and women like five of us saying, "That's the wrong way to do it, that's the wrong way to do it."
And as the story plays out, there was this super interesting group of like five of us, it was myself, it was an operations person, Steve Gordon, it was a guy by the name of Tim Kober who ran strategic planning and was just really a smart dude and there was Pranav Metta who was an architect, like a real live architect, like the super smart guy in the room. And we just started breaking down through the problem statement of the organizational issue of two different architectures. And then I think the best thing that can ever happen in that situation is you get a couple external data points, you get a customer calls and says, "Hey by the way Rose, I'm trying to put down your network processor complex on the same board as your Intel architecture complex and I've just run outta room, plus I've got redundancy in a lot of the components that I think can be shared and we can simplify the platform architecture." And I go, "Oh, that's a problem."
So I run and work done at the time and I run to Doug and I'm like, "Hey, customer said this, pretty interesting." But he was like getting measured, not to his... no fault of his own, he was getting measured on the network processor success. So we took that little data point and we started to break it down and go, what could we do differently? And again, it was just like five people meeting randomly in a room like once a week with a problem statement. And then we got some other data points that came in. Other customers, like not the people that were building the boards, but like the AT&T's of the world, the NTT Docomos of the world were coming in and saying I need a common architectural approach.
And we took those two market signals and we literally drew it out on PowerPoint and we took it to Doug's staff and we said, "We are doing and approaching this market completely incorrectly. We need a single architectural approach and here's why." And I don't know if Jonathan Walsh, but he walked up to us after the meeting, he said, "For the very first time I realize that I work at Intel," meaning, like, the amount of developer support, the amount of architectural support, the amount of software support that you can leverage on this common approach once you get the architecture up to snuff could be super powerful, and we're not leveraging that.
And from that point on, it was a big pivot for Doug's organization and again one of those moments where I remember walking in the hallway, and I think funny enough he was going to the restroom. And we decided to make a strategic decision to discontinue the network processor portfolio and focus everything on Intel, which was giant. That was giant of a decision at the time. And I remember walking up to him and like grabbing him by his jacket and going, "We're gonna do this right? This could be really hard, and we're gonna do this."
And he said, "Yeah, we're gonna do it." And we did and I got thrown out of a lot of customers for about six months after that. People that had vested a lot of money in network processors and then after that, we were able to create the focus that we were talking about. - Is there anything, like, when you were growing up you think kind of influenced how you ended up leading? I don't wanna leave out sort of background. - Neither of my parents have a college education.
So I was... Like, my uncles had gone to college but my grandfather wouldn't send my mom to college. She was a woman and had to get it. She actually got a job which was pushing the boundaries enough back when she was working. My mom's 78 now, 77, 78? I think she's 78 this year. And so my mom then continued on to build a career and become senior vice president of a bank.
So I had an incredibly strong female role model and my father was a steel worker and oddly enough was incredibly supportive of a working wife at the time so he was a bit of a renaissance man in his day for being a big tough steel worker guy. So I had this like role model that was my mother that was doing really well. She was the first female branch manager in the area. So she ran like a little branch and then again went on to become senior vice president. But my dad would always tell me, "I don't care if you get a degree in basket weaving, you're gonna go to college.
Your mother and I didn't have the opportunity to go to college. I don't care what you major in, you're gonna go." So I had this like really great set of influencers, role models in my life that... My mom who had
broken through so many different barriers as a executive woman in the region and my dad who, like, if you ever have watched a video or a YouTube video and working in a steel mill, if you haven't, I suggest you do. He was just an incredibly hard worker. So I had both the support infrastructure, I had the role model, and both having success as well as working hard and there's still both, thank God, both alive and doing well and living a really good life, but their influence was huge. - One other thing I remember about you is you really stand up for people and ideas, but ideas are easier to stand up for I think sometimes, but there were a few times there was a group setting and you shot your hand up or jumped up outta your seat and sort of asked an important question and by that, I mean a question that's a bit awkward, but on everybody's mind in the entire room, I would say giving voice to many of the people in the room who had the question but felt like it was inappropriate or they didn't have the seniority to ask it.
And I guess, when did you pivot to being able to ask that and like how did you first do that, and did it take courage? Did it always take courage, or was it the first time? - It always takes courage. I didn't always have it, it came later in my career and I would say a couple things unlocked it. One, enough experience to feel... Enough self-confidence to ask the question.
And I had a coach, Barbara Curry, she's still a dear friend of mine. I still see her every time I go to New York City. That helped me kind of unlock that in myself. I was lacking, I was a general manager and completely didn't have any self-confidence, so she helped me unlock that. So that was one thing.
The second thing, and I dunno if how this will come off, but when you get to a point in your career where A, I'm not gonna starve if I lose my job and my husband at one point, our daughter was 10, he lost his job, so I was the sole breadwinner. So for that, like, we'll just say for I don't know, five, six years, you feel the burden of being the person that's sustaining and keeping the family together, which was a shared partnership and that came with a lot of stress. So I found myself not taking any action that would put risk in that scenario. And then you get to a point and you go, like, well number one, we're not gonna starve if I lose my job. We've saved money and we can make it work for a little while. So you get a little financial freedom, I guess you would call it to accompany that self-confidence.
So between the self-confidence, but we were by no means rich, we knew we wouldn't starve. And I think those two scenarios and then probably the third one is at some point in your career, the switch like flips it, you just are wholly focused on doing what's right for the company and not right for you and the company is nothing without its people so you take a more active role. Probably the biggest example of that is, oh my gosh, I was probably in my 40s before I supported any employee resource group, whether it be just speaking at a women's event. I was like, yeah, I did it, other people can do it, right? And then the other big factor is you get to a point in your career where you realize that people are looking at you as a future them.
When people start looking at you and saying, she's a leader, I can be a leader, she reached this point in her career, I can reach that point in my career, it comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility. And that responsibility is to be the best role model and leader that you can be for the people that are looking at you as their inspiration sounds. So, I don't know, cliche or something, but is what their future selves could be.
Probably the three-legged stool of self-confidence, a little bit of financial freedom, and then the responsibility that you have to serve the up and coming folks in the organization and I mean any resource group, whether it be when I left, I was executive sponsor for BNEW, which is the Black Network of Executive Women. I did a lot of work with the LGBTQ+ community, I did a lot of work with women's groups just to make sure that you are the representative that they need you to be. - Thank you Rose Schooler for joining me today. It's good to see you and we'll put the link to your podcast below.
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