How to be a boss: Laura Robinson, Microsoft

Being a boss is about more than just a title on a business card. It takes a careful mix of “ingredients,” time and effort. Much like a favourite recipe, it too can become stagnant and uninspired if you stop putting in the effort.

So what does it take to become a great boss?

As part of the Startup TO series, I wanted to pull in some invaluable C-level insight in a way that would directly benefit startup leaders. Who better than someone with over 10 years of experience at one of the most reputable companies in Canada (and the world for that matter).

Laura Robinson Microsoft linkedin

Laura Robinson is responsible for the Sales and Marketing of Windows, Office, Xbox and Surface businesses at Canada’s largest retailers. Before becoming a VP at Microsoft, she led the OEM business, working with local device manufacturers to create technology solutions for Canadian consumers and businesses. Prior to Microsoft, Laura held positions with two other software companies: Autodesk Canada and Borland Canada.

I asked Laura eight questions to unveil the secret sauce behind why she’s a leader worth following:

8) What is the one piece of advice you’d like startup entrepreneurs, managers and future CEOs to know?

One good piece of advice is to know who you are. You need to feel comfortable in it and gain confidence. That’s important no matter who you are or where you end up. It can take a long time to figure out exactly who you are, but it’s an essential process.

7) What do you have to love doing to be successful in a role like yours?

One thing I’m really passionate about is my involvement in mentoring other women. I’ve learned along the way a few realizations, one being that the more you share, the more you empower people. By sharing your knowledge and your skills you build a stronger network of talented people that are inspired to come in to work every day and accomplish greatness.

6) What do you have to do really well to be good at your job?

Every day for me is different and you have to be open to that not only in tech but especially at Microsoft. I strongly invest in managing people but I also really enjoy spending time with customers, our retailers, because that’s where our real business lies.

5)  What kind of tools help you the most when managing people?

I’ve made good investments in my career and I’ve taken courses in training and education. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with great mentors and I have a coach that I use regularly to bounce ideas off.

4) How do you stay humble and motivated to succeed?

I work with a great bunch of people and they continuously motivate me and humble me. I work with smart people that come in every day wanting to work at the world’s best company, Microsoft. We all thrive off each other and they give me the potential to improve my work and the motivation to continue learning.

3) How do you help the community and why is it important to you?

DigiGirlz is part of Microsoft’s YouthSpark initiative that provides us an opportunity to help empower our youth to imagine and realize the potential that is waiting for them.  Technology, especially holds tremendous opportunity which is why, DigiGirlz is important to me, and equally important to Microsoft.  I don’t think young women today know what jobs are available out there. When I was growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer, all professions were so rigid – you can be a doctor, a lawyer an accountant, etc. But nowadays, there’s a lot of freedom and flexibility and you don’t even have to be tech inclined. No matter your background, you can become involved in technology and it could lead to a career you never would have thought possible.

2)  Analytical vs creative thinking?

I’m more analytical; to be honest I’m not creative in the least. Being analytical has certainly helped me manage large scopes of information and stay on top of things. It’s a very important thing in my industry when it can feel like a thousand things are being thrown at you all at once. Being able to compartmentalize everything and look at a larger picture has been a tremendous asset.

1)  Words of wisdom for startup folks like me?

I don’t feel like my generation had enough people telling people to “just go for it!” You can be anything you want to be and if you like STEM – just go for it! Find the things that make you passionate about the work that you love and keep that sparkle of curiosity alive. You’ll empower the people around you and your work will flourish because of it. It’s fine if you don’t think you’ll like coding or something doesn’t sound of interest to you, but take it alongside an elective you love and you never know how the two may inspire you.

Thanks to Laura for taking the time out of her busy schedule to connect and share her best advice with the future leaders of Toronto startups.

What qualities do you think make a good leader? What words of wisdom do you have? Share it in the comments below.

Ashley Huffman
Ashley Huffman
Startup, technology and girls in tech evangelist. Can be found behind the scenes at Nano Magnetics Ltd getting things done. Professional @Nanodots builder and Guinness World Record holder. Fan of life hacks, Scrum and WOW, in no particular order. Self proclaimed Twitter addict.

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