By Angela Jajko at Taos

Over January 27-30, more than 2500 people from 19 different countries came together for the Women in Cloud Digital Summit 2021, a phenomenal event attended remotely by a powerhouse presence of speakers, companies, and community sponsors. I am proud to say that Taos participated as a corporate sponsor this year, with representation from our executive leadership and management teams engaging in sessions and conversations over the four days of the event, and our VP Talent Trish Palumbo serving as an Executive Mentor for the Youth Entrepreneurship and Mentorship session.

What is truly inspiring about Women in Cloud is how the organization has grown exponentially in a short time, which is evidenced by the companies Taos is listed with on the sponsor board, including IBM, Microsoft, AWS, Google, Accenture, SAP, and many more. The greater ecosystem of organizations focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, and access in business and technology, such as The WIT Network, IAMCP, Advancing Women in Product, Black Women Talk Tech, and Voices for Innovation, were also present as community sponsors and speakers, amplifying WIC’s incredible message of “collective power” and “the transformative community of powerful voices”.

During a conversation about this impressive growth, one of the WIC founders, Karen Fassio, Director, Microsoft WW Partner Marketing, commented, “when we started out, we only expected maybe 100 people”. But now with 2500 people in attendance and a Who’s Who in Cloud of a speaker list, it just goes to show not only the dedicated and impressive leadership of founders Fassio, Chaitra Vedullapalli, Gretchen O’Hara, and Carrie Francey but also the fundamental importance of this conversation about equality and inclusion. All of this energy and focus is particularly timely, since the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported recently that women have accounted for 5.4M lost jobs in the United States during the Covid-19 crisis (1), 156,000 of them in December 2020 alone (2) and 100% of the net jobs lost that month. The BBC in October went as far as calling it a “shecession” in October 2020, as the global impact of the pandemic has disproportionately affected working women (3).

Women in Cloud began as a conversation between the founders about the need for access and support for women tech entrepreneurs, and from that the organization was born. Today, Women in Cloud’s mission is “to inspire, empower and accelerate the growth of women-led technology companies. Via private-public partnerships with innovative companies and leaders in tech, Women in Cloud creates access to partnership opportunities, programs that accelerate business growth in the cloud and strategic alliances that advance the success of women in technology.” And wow, have they built something amazing. The Cloud Accelerator Lab, an immersive six-month program to assist women-led companies to co-build, co-market, and co-sell their companies, has graduated four cohorts, launches the fifth in February, and is starting a global expansion. The WIC Solution Marketplace is a dedicated resource for companies to get access to solutions developed by Women Tech Entrepreneurs. WIC has the goal of generating “over $1B in net new global economic access for women entrepreneurs by 2030 through partnerships with corporations, community leaders, and policy makers” and has given its members the opportunity to take The Women In Cloud Collective Action Pledge, which is a  commitment by the world’s global leading companies, leaders and policy makers to unlock economic access through procurement and investment vehicles. 

The Annual Summit, now in its fourth year, was a whirlwind of education, opportunity, and information. It included sessions on the 2030 UN Goals, Rock Your Pitch guidance for cloud entrepreneurs, a Women in Tech Executive Leadership Power Circle, executive mentorship and coaching sessions, youth mentorship sessions, a “return to workforce” cloud circle, a cloud jobs recruitment lounge, Black Founders Circle, a hands-on workshop for building enterprise cloud solutions, a Collective Power Fireside Chat with Microsoft CVP and WIC Founding Sponsor Gavriella Schuster and the former Prime Minister of Canada, RT. Honorable Kim Campbell, and much more. 

Women in Cloud has joined a growing list of organizations that have seamlessly and successfully made the transition to remote events over the past year due to the Covid-19 crisis, as the Digital Summit beautifully captured the same energy of connection, empowerment, and mutual support of the in-person experience at past Summits held on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, WA (and kudos to Raisa Noelle, WIC Global Events Program Manager, and her team who executed this transition so well). The event was hosted on the Remo conference platform, which is designed to mimic the in-person experience of meeting tables, presentation stage, and sponsor booths. Attendees were able to spend time on the conference floor making new connections and greeting colleagues, all of whom were there for the mutual purpose of promoting economic access for women and advancing the success of women in technology.  The event offered facilitated introductions between speakers and attendees, and every session had an active chat room with panelists and attendees interacting, asking questions, posting links, and pitching their business models to each other. A repeated recommendation throughout was the importance of cloud skilling and leaning in on cloud roles, as most companies are or will be moving into cloud technologies and the need for those skills is immediate and growing. Trish Palumbo, Taos’s VP Talent spoke about her experience as an Executive Mentor for the Youth Entrepreneurship and Mentorship session, saying, “I was excited to have the opportunity to participate in the Women in Cloud mentoring sessions. After hearing the young panelist in the morning sessions and subsequently engaging afterwards in 1:1 sessions with such bright, curious minds, I was blown away. Most impressive was the awareness, savviness, and determination of this upcoming generation who are so thoughtful about how to use technology to make a positive impact on our communities. I walked away feeling immensely satisfied and confidant in this next generation of leaders.”

But the Summit was not only an opportunity for education and connection for women, allies, and the next generation in the technology industry- it was also a source of inspiration and affirmation. WIC Co-Founder Karen Fassio and Sherlaender “Lani” Phillips, Vice President, US Channel Sales Organization at Microsoft had so many deeply thoughtful things to say about supporting and mentoring team members during the Inclusive Leadership panel that afterwards on the meeting floor I told them we needed an app where we could hear their voices on demand (and there is good news on that front: Ms. Phillips is starting a podcast). For the Taos team in attendance, one of our favorite quotes came from Kim Smith, Global Vice President, Cloud Innovation Services at IBM, during her panel discussion on Co-Marketing with Cloud Hyperscalers: How to Go to Market in the Digital World. She said, “We are all technologists in this industry. We are makers and shapers of the digital future. Any idea you have can be converted through technology to solve humanity’s problems.” This was particularly meaningful and powerful for us to hear at Taos, a company helping others on their journey to the cloud. 

Hats off to the Women in Cloud team for creating a truly inspiring experience. Taos is proud to have had the opportunity to sponsor the Women in Cloud Digital Summit 2021 and to be a part of the collective power creating a new future of economic access and advancing the success of women in technology.