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You’re Number One – Interview with Tricia Mercaldo

Danny:Hello and welcome to the Two Bald Brothers and a Microphone podcast. This is your co-host Danny Ryan here with Tommy. Tommy, how are you doing?

 

Tommy:I’m doing well. Excited about our first interview.

 

Danny:Our first … This is Tricia Mercaldo. Tricia, you are our first interview, not our second.

 

Tricia:That is very exciting. Okay.

 

Danny:This is a little bit of an inside joke because I think at ten years we had what we called our ThreeWill heroes and they were people who really influenced ThreeWill over the first ten years, and Tricia was one of them, and she happened to be the second person we recognized and I think her husband, Allen, noticed that she was the second, so he pointed out that you’re our second, so you’re our first interview. Do you feel privileged to be on?

 

Tricia:Absolutely. Hopefully I am not your last.

 

Danny:You’re our first and last interview. Thank you, Tricia, for doing this just to get us kicked off here and started. We’ve known each other for I guess it’s close to ten years because we’re up on at least seven years since the 10-year anniversary and we knew each other before that and coming up on ten years; wow the time has flown, hasn’t it?

 

Tricia:Yes, agreed.

 

Danny:It has flown, and so we first got to know each other when you were Director of Collaboration? What was your title back then? Or was it Director of Apps?

 

Tricia:Director of Communication and Collaboration for Turner.

 

Danny:Awesome, awesome. So, that was I guess when we first had our couple of conversations together, I was talking a lot about SharePoint and you probably thought I was crazy about talking about SharePoint so much and then eventually we started looking at it and we were able to work together and do some great stuff together there, and I appreciate the opportunity to work with you during that period of time.

 

Tricia:Thank you.

 

Danny:Absolutely, absolutely. So today, what I wanted to do was to get into some of the things that I know you’ve talked about at conferences more around the soft side of collaboration and talking about making changes inside of large organizations and sort of how some of these technologies can help support you to do that, and I know Tommy and I, we talk a lot about ThreeWill’s culture, I mean it’s very important to us. So as we get this kicked off I just wanted to talk a little bit about: How do you use these platforms to influence positive culture change inside these larger organizations?

 

Tricia:So, collaboration is an overused term these days, and people think that if they talk to each other, that’s collaboration. So it’s an interesting concept but inside a large organization, the larger the organization the less collaborative it becomes because it spans across too many areas, so many people and all the organizations struggle with their internal culture and I’ve seen this in a couple of places and even my last role with Cree, which wasn’t a huge organization like Coca-Cola but it was still 7,000 people across the globe and culture certainly drives productivity and employee engagement, and the more engaged your employees are, you guys already know this, the more productive everybody is.

 

So, leveraging SharePoint and now with the rest of the Office 365 tools, Microsoft is really starting to get it: How do we bring people together, not just on the SharePoint platform but with Teams and Planner and all the other products that they’re wrapping together. It gives people a way to communicate with someone they’re not sitting next to. So the culture will change when you implement these tools, whether you want them to or not as long as you allow people to use the tools, because they will discover how to find a person across the globe who does exactly what they do and begin to share information, chat with them, in ways that they never have before. So that’s a positive thing and if leadership or someone in a higher leadership level across the organization can understand how those products can work together, and leverage that for a culture change it’s really fun to watch that happen.

 

At Turner Broadcasting, when we started out with you guys and we did MOSS, remember MOSS?

 

Danny:Yes.

 

Tricia:One of the things that we did on the back end is we built it so that we could connect various business entities in the future even though they would all say they didn’t need to be connected at that time, and that’s been a fantastic thing. As you know, that team is still going strong, as a SharePoint Center of Excellence they’re in Office 365 in SharePoint online now and so we were able to leverage the power of the platform and we were kind of sneaky about how we set it up because we wanted people to be able to share content and search across site collections even back then when they didn’t even understand the power of the product. In the same thing both at Coca-Cola and at Cree establishing an environment where people can ultimately get there is really important I think.

 

Danny:When Tommy and I often talk about culture, we talk about what our shared values are and the culture; Turner Broadcasting and Coca-cola and even Cree, I imagine the culture’s very strong in the shared values; you want to continually emphasize those as well. Was there often a shared value inside these organizations that was open communication, overused word collaboration, but did that have to be part of the culture in order for this to succeed? Or how does that fit into …? Was there often …? One of the values of the company is this idea of sharing openly.

 

Tricia:Yes. I think in all of those places and many others, I’ve had the opportunity to see others present their culture and their intranets and employee engagement across many different companies and communication across the enterprise and building trust across the enterprise is always something that ends up on a company’s mission and values. Whether it is really fostered and whether they have to tools in place to do that becomes the question. So I don’t know that you’ll find too many companies, perhaps there are some, where they wouldn’t want to foster great communication and having an open, trusting environment. But it is not always the case; either people can’t find a way to make that happen or the more engineering type organization you’re in, the more people keep things to themselves and so you’ve got to have something really cool and shiny and interesting for those engineers to use in order to get them there and I think Office 365 is now starting to offer those cool shiny things, not just SharePoint, right?

 

Danny:Yeah, and do you think …? I think a lot of this as well is people will look and see if the leadership is open with their communication so how has it been going out and making sure that everyone is seeing that the leadership is being open and communicating and has that been a part of what you’ve tried to do as well?

 

Tricia:Yeah, absolutely. Again at Turner we actually … Oftentimes we would have to write a script for the executive but we would convince the executive that it was great for them to do a quick little video showing their favorite feature of Office 365 or talking about some way that their organization is leveraging their new … And we didn’t really call it SharePoint we would call it whatever their site name happened to be and just not a professional video just a quick snippet of them talking about a feature.

 

Coca-Cola executives did a great job talking about … They were really supportive of social media inside the organization, and while they may not always be the one posting in the social media for employees, there was certainly some activity that happened there to support the company being social and communicating across boundaries, so I think that’s really valuable. We didn’t quite get there with Cree, but they’re on the right path to get there as well. There are some executives, and I think it’s critical to seek out the people who have either done it in a company prior, or they understand it; seek those out, pull them together and I was doing that at Cree to have them start a dialogue about: How do we extend this beyond just the people who are interested and get the executives on board?

 

Danny:Mm-hmm (affirmative). Now I think one of the things that I was impressed with at Turner Broadcasting was how you guys educated a lot of folks, you had the monthly groups that would get together as well, and it was really a part of everybody was … you ended up training a lot of folks and teaching a lot of folks how to use the platform as well, which I think was really smart of you guys to do that to pick up adoption.

 

Tricia:Yeah, I think that’s crucial because some of these tools you can easily get help, and understanding the power of the platform and how it’s designed so that you can leverage it, and so there we did start with … We did try to identify people who would be interested across the company, and then we drew them in, and we would actually have a user group, and they would lead the user group meetings by showing something that they just learned how to do that we might never even think of doing, right? So that really fun and then we did the introductory and more advanced level education, and that’s still happening there, we did that at Coca-Cola as well, mostly by webinar rather than classroom training but it was still effective, and I think that part of it is really, really important.

 

So, discovering your champions, and maybe in obscure places. We had executive’s admins who just got it and loved it, and engineers and whose personalities were totally different and then a whole bunch of people in between so it was really fun to bring those people together and make them feel good too about what they’re learning and discovering.

 

Tommy:Tricia, how did you find those champions? Because we found that that’s a great way to drive an option is to have people showing real examples of how they’re using the platforms. So how did you discover those people, did they come to you? Did you seek them out? Was there some way to find where they were in the organization?

 

Tricia:Yeah, yes. So I think the best way to do that is not stay in your chair, so you have to understand the structure of the organization and then find out who the people are across that organization, maybe at your level, maybe a level lower than you, ask them to lunch; you guys know I love to go to lunch or have a coffee or just go out to where they are and talk to them. You will be surprised how much people know and how many people would love to be engaged in a different way that typical IT teams never ask them to be. So even at Cree, where … Cree is a manufacturing organization; there are a lot of brilliant engineers there designing the next elite dividing sources, it’s fascinating. But they all stay in their space and so I was able to pull different people just in a pretty short time.

 

When you start talking about what might be coming and asking who might be interested, people will come out from all over the place as long as you don’t ask them to do a lot of work for you but they can share ideas with you and be part of something different, people are pretty up for that. We had some brilliant guys working on our SmartCast Technology team and, you know a little bit difficult to work with because they’re so brilliant and they’re working so fast to get new products out. But they were so easy to hook in, and they become your evangelists, and then they’re talking to the engineer over in a whole different organization about what they just did, and they don’t have to like each other, by the way. But they do listen to each other, and all of a sudden, stuff is happening. So it’s really a fun thing to do, but you kind of have to make that happen, they don’t really come to you.

 

Tommy:Okay, yeah. So you seek them out, spend time with them, understand what the value is for them and somehow enable them. So, how do you make it easy for them to evangelize; what things have you found are great support mechanisms to take those champions and make it easy for them to have a voice for the company?

 

Tricia:So, you should always feed them, whether it’s donuts or lunch, and then you give them the cool stuff first. You make them part of your … Maybe not your initial implementation, but pretty close to the beginning so that they become part of the implementation of the products and they can help you figure out how to leverage that product in their particular environment, and they become the champions of their domain, and suddenly they want to talk about it. So it’s a fascinating thing to happen, but you can’t just do it once, you have to continue to foster that relationship, or they’ll just do it and go away and do their own thing again.

 

Danny:Tricia, I imagine with talking about doing your own thing, there may have been some differences between Turner and Coca-Cola but you were an internal group providing these options for services and working with a lot of different departments and I know over the last 10 years or so there’s been a lot of options outside of going with something that maybe Microsoft has and going with more of like an SAS offering where they can just sort of go buy it, set it up and they’re off and doing their own stuff. How did you get consensus with groups or were you able to get consensus with groups using what you’ve got already instead of going after what the bright and shiny thing is that’s the latest thing out there. How did you deal with that?

 

Tricia:I think that is 100% dependent on your executive support for your goals and missions so making sure that, as high as you can go in your organization … So at Turner, I knew the CIO and CTO very well because I was there for so long, and it was a little simpler to meet with them and help them understand the value of using products that are designed to work together in a suite and that you’re already paying for, right? At Coca-Cola that was a little more difficult; as you guys know they chose to go with Chatter instead of Yammer, but they had a pretty large sales force team as well for obvious reasons it’s a very large organization and selling a lot of different products and marketing. So our CIO, who I also met with regularly, and CTO, could not be convinced that Yammer was a better way to go, but they did support the other Office 365 products within the organization, partially because that was a very large investment for the company from a licensing perspective.

 

So, finding the way to speak to that organization to the senior level: Do they want to talk about dollars, do they want to speak about value, do they want to talk about the soft cultural pieces? You know, what is the language of that senior executive, and speak that language to that executive so that when someone tries to do something different, they’re gonna listen to that a little bit, and at Cree, we just finished the Office 365 project a month or two ago and that was very new, this was all subscription licensing and all of that was very new for that company so we talked more about the stability of the product and the environment and they were beginning to really say “Okay, good. We don’t want to go pay for anything else” and so we talked a lot about the dollars and the cost of the product suite and how Microsoft continues to add new capabilities to the product suite and it doesn’t cost you anymore and so that was kind of the sales pitch there and they were very good about not letting some of these engineering teams go pay for something different if we could show we had the same capabilities.

 

So Microsoft has tons of … And you can search for it online using that other product called Google. The analysis, what are the features of this product versus another product, Teams for example, people were skeptical because it was a Microsoft product but when they really looked at it they were like, “Yeah, okay we can use Teams and we’re already pay for it.” So building those business cases over and over again it’s not something that you do once and it stops, right? You have to do it all the time. Again, stay connected with your business people so you know what they’re up to, so you can hear about it first before they go do something else.

 

Danny:The question about sort of … And I’ll share sort of one of the things I’ve noticed from my perspective but how things have changed since we made the move to Office 365, I think one of the big things that I’ve seen is … you were sort of getting into this, but the number of features or what Microsoft is able to do more quickly nowadays than what … Traditionally, SharePoint was a three-year product life cycle you sort of got whatever the version was and three years later you got an updated version of that and had a really tough migration in the meantime, the pains of the way it used to be. Well in my day, we upgraded software.

 

Tricia:Or redid.

 

Danny:Redid software, and what benefit am I getting out of this? It just seems like nowadays I can … We’re a small, agile organization and we can barely keep up with what’s coming out and I imagine there’s other things like … What else has changed from your perspective since moving from the, I’ll call it the good old days of SharePoint, installed on Chrome to nowadays where it’s Office 365 and you’ve got whatever the latest version is all the time.

 

Tricia:Well, so I’ll say, the fantastic part about it that is from a mobility perspective or multiple device perspective, they’re really getting that right and they didn’t for a long time but now they’re really getting that right so it’s tough to justify not going in that direction, especially if you have a large workforce that is remote, a sales force out in the field that kind of things, so the value is certainly there. Keeping up with the latest releases and understanding how quickly those are coming, preparing your employees for that is a tough job and you have to sell it as though it’s the iPhone or their Android, where things are updated all the time and compare it more to that which is why it’s good that they’re figuring out the mobility piece because it would be tough to say, “Just like on your phone, everything’s changing.”

 

But it’s tough for an internal organization, I’ve found, especially in finance organizations, they don’t really like stuff to change and so getting new features even in Exchange or Outlook, you know like the junk folder, we had to turn that off at one point because mail was … You have to train it, and important mail was going in that folder and it just showed up one day, and we didn’t know it was coming and we couldn’t communicate it and we had to find a way to turn that off. So it’s a lot about communication and I think your technical people can watch the roadmap and the new list of features that are happening but it’s almost like that’s a full-time job so I don’t know what the answer is there. But you have to prepare your employees who are using the products for not having it the way it used to be where you were on the same version for 10 years, it’s more like on your phone.

 

Danny:Yep, yep. That makes sense. You were also talking about different types of users where the folks in finance are different than the engineering group; any insights on addressing the different generations of users and how that fits into what you’ve done inside these different organizations?

 

Tricia:Sure. So, my generation doesn’t like change apparently. Although, I claim not to be part of that group, unless I’m directly in that group and that might be a problem but-

 

Danny:Tricia, you’re so young at heart.

 

Tricia:That’s right.

 

Danny:You’re young at heart.

 

Tricia:So, understanding and trying to help the different generations get through that is a very important part of the process. The younger generation who has grown up with technology, really fun people to work with I think, but they’ve grown up with it so they would be upset if something wasn’t changing every couple of weeks or every month because that’s what they have grown up with. So that’s a little bit easier so again when you’re looking for champions, don’t forget the kids. Sorry, I don’t mean that to be insulting, but don’t forget them.

 

Danny:I think she’s talking about Oliver, I’m looking over at him right now.

 

Tricia:Yeah. Right, Oliver? So don’t forget them, because they’ve got great insight and they can help you champion the products and be part of the new stuff and they can go, you know the whole reverse-mentoring concept in a less formal way, they can go help the guy in finance who’s mad every day because there’s a new feature in Excel that he didn’t know about; hook those people together and let them leverage each other to get excited about what’s coming and how it’s changing. But don’t forget to have the conversation with the Microsoft team and provide the feedback about the pace of the change because people can’t take too much, that’s too big and to help Microsoft find a better way to let people know what’s coming before it gets there so that they can prepare people if it’s a big enough change, and they haven’t quite figured that out and I don’t know that any of these companies have figured it out but I think that’ll be key to the long-term successes of all of these companies.

 

Danny:I think I remember you talking about you were part of some group or committee from Microsoft that was providing feedback to the product team at one point in time?

 

Tricia:Yeah, Coca-Cola was large enough we were part of a CAB and we met twice a year and we were able to provide feedback on new features and communication and that sort of thing. But even while I was at Cree, I met with my account team every single week mostly because we were moving a lot of products into the Microsoft suite but we had a lot of conversations about the pace of change and we asked them to take that feedback back to the teams and I think Microsoft is listening to that a little bit; as much as they can.

 

Danny:You said they’re called CABs? Like red wine?

 

Tommy:Customer Advisory Board?

 

Tricia:Customer Advisory Board.

 

Danny:Is this just some excuse to drink red wine? Is that all?

 

Tricia:Pretty much, yes.

 

Danny:Sorry, Tommy. You were going to say something.

 

Tricia:It was Seattle.

 

Danny:In Seattle. Tommy, you were going to say something.

 

Tommy:Yeah, what I was going to say is it’s great that Microsoft has those formal feedback loops with large organizations that have many people that are impacted by their products so it’s a great way to kind of aggregate the needs into representatives that go out there but also, what I’ve found and I’m very excited about and I’ve seen it kind of in action is the UserVoice feedback loops that are out there so all the products that are out there in the suite of Office 365 that have their own UserVoice forum that you can suggest an upgrade or change or concern about the platform and you can see the folks at Microsoft are saying, “We hear your voice, it’s being considered. Oh, it’s actually on the roadmap and, hey, it’s actually been implemented.”

 

I think that’s an awesome thing that they’re doing that … I know it’s out there with some other small software companies and I think they’ve adopted some of those more agile, open philosophies that you see with the smaller companies that some of it maybe came from the Yammer acquisition or just came from the leadership of [inaudible 00:32:29] to say, “We need to get closer to our customers,” and that’s just another avenue that you don’t have to be a Coca-Cola to get your voice heard.

 

Tricia:Right. You’re right and people need to be encouraged to use those forums because you have the attitude, “Well we’re so small, how are they going to listen to us?” But you’re right, those are there; you need to give them the feedback I think it’s really important. Otherwise, how do they know?

 

Tommy:That’s right, yeah it’s not fair. Yeah, we see things that are either what we’re experiencing as a team or what our customers see, we’ll go out there and put it in UserVoice and announce it in Teams and say “Hey folks, I just put this out there, can you give me a vote, a thumbs-up on that so it has a stronger voice out there on the forum?”

 

Tricia:Yep.

 

Danny:Cool, so I’d like to keep these … I don’t want this to be too long because I think Tommy and I could talk with you for another hour. But I just wanted to say Tricia that Tommy and I really appreciate the relationship we’ve had with you over the last 10 or so years, however long that is and we appreciate staying in touch with you and next time you’re in town or next time we’re up there we’ll definitely go out for lunch and have some lunch together.

 

Tricia:Awesome. Awesome.

 

Danny:So, tell me what’s the next couple of months look like for you? What’s going on? Anything we can do to help out? Or what’s next for you? What’s your next big thing?

 

Tricia:I am looking in the area of program management, so I’ve taken some time off and it’s been wonderful I’ve had some other things to do during this timeframe and so I’m starting to get back into looking for something more in program management; a little less in technology. Throughout my career at Turner I had the good fortune to sometimes be part of the business and liaison with the technology and how to automate processes and improve processes within a business group, and I haven’t done that in quite some time and so I’m seeking opportunities where I can be part of the business and use my technology background to help them grow.

 

Danny:Are you looking primarily in the area you’re living right now?

 

Tricia:Yes.

 

Danny:Okay, awesome. This has been awesome. I appreciate … Tricia thank you for taking the time to do this and maybe six months, eight months from now when you’re in that new position you’d like to check back in again and see how things are going. But I appreciate you sharing the insights from working at three really great companies and it just was really neat to sort of look back on all of this and thank you for taking the time to do this.

 

Tricia:Thank you so much and thanks for letting me go first.

 

Tommy:You’re welcome.

 

Danny:Tricia’s number one. Tricia’s number one. You have to bring that back to Allen, okay? Make sure he knows that.

 

Tommy:Ah, don’t you worry, don’t you worry.

 

Danny:Excellent, excellent. Well thank you everyone for listening, taking the time to listen to the podcast and Tommy and I look forward to having these types of conversations with folks in the near future whether it be folks we’ve worked with in the past or folks we would potentially work with and just love having these types of conversations and love just sharing more about making these organizational changes and talking about communication and collaboration and it’s great to hear from folks like Tricia and thank you for listening and have a wonderful day. Thank you, bye-bye.

 

Tommy:Bye.

 

Additional Credits

Podcast Producer – Oliver Penegar
Intro/Outro Music – Daniel Bassett

Danny RyanYou’re Number One – Interview with Tricia Mercaldo

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