Q&A with Cindy Bates, Microsoft

1. Tell us about your passion

My passion is helping small businesses realize their full potential. That encompasses a wide range of areas – from providing mentorship to discussing how technology can fuel their business growth. I’m continuously awed by the spirit and ingenuity of small business owners and I feel inspired each day I have the opportunity to work with this group. Technology has always been an underlying theme in everything I’ve pursued, and seeing the ways in which technology, specifically the cloud, is enabling SMBs to grow is inspiring. While competing with larger enterprises was once seen as an unsurmountable task, the cloud has helped significantly to level the playing field.

2. What inspires you to continue to learn and grow?

Technology is such a fascinating and rapidly changing industry that you have to continue learning every day. When I look at the incredible tech revolution happening today, it’s easy to be inspired. My innate curiosity and passion for helping others is satisfied through sharing what I’ve learned with other women and small business owners to empower their growth.

3. What role does technology play in business growth?

It’s truly amazing what technology has made possible for the entrepreneur and business owner. Of course the advent of the Internet heralded in entirely new industries, and it tore down geographic boundaries in terms of access to customers, employees and markets. On a more individual basis, cloud technology now delivers a level of flexibility and mobility that enables entrepreneurs to define their own work and life blend. This has been hugely transformative for getting businesses off the ground and enabling exponential growth.  

4. What have you learned over your career?

I’ve learned the importance of building strong networks. Relational support systems in business are crucial not just for professional success but also for overall wellbeing and career satisfaction. Working in technology has made this point even more important for me. I know that if I want to see the tides shift and encourage more women to enter technology-related fields, I need to do my part to share experiences about the wide range of career opportunities available. I also thrive on the relationships I form with my peers and mentors. They provide moral support, counsel and fresh thinking when I need it most. 

5. How do you keep your staff motivated and productive?

It’s important to have a vision so that your team knows where we’re headed collectively and also how their individual efforts can contribute to overall success. Personally, it’s a high priority to ensure my team is connected and engaged and also that each team member feels empowered. I want them to know that everyone – regardless of title or level – has a say and an opportunity to drive ideas and programs that will have a broad business impact.

6. What would you like your biggest impact to be?

I want to know that I helped my team and small businesses we serve succeed. It could be as small as a piece of advice for a team member or lending an alternate perspective to a common small business challenge. I believe deeply in the power of being unafraid to take a leap or change course – whether in the workplace or in business. It’s a mindset that has guided my own career and one that I’d like to be remembered for.