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Powerful influences

Dec 22, 20035 mins

Four influential women in the network industry share stories about the people who inspired them.

Our list of the 50 most powerful people in networking illustrates that the industry is still predominantly male. But women are making powerful strides. How did today’s top female executives make their way? We asked four from our 2003 list to tell us who most influenced them in their professional pursuits.

Linda Dillman

CIO, Wal-Mart Stores

Wal-Mart is an undeniable IT powerhouse. Dillman, CIO since August 2002, replaced Kevin Turner, who was promoted to CEO of the Sam’s Club division.

Who most influenced you?

The person who influenced me most in my career is Kevin Turner.

He always had a strong belief in me, even when I doubted myself. He taught me to never settle for less than the best from myself and those around me. He taught me that doing so was the right thing for me and my associates – it allows people to grow beyond their own expectations. He taught me the value of relationships. He taught me to never compromise my values.

Nora Denzel

Senior vice president and general manager, HP Software Global Business Unit; SVP Adaptive Enterprise

In October, Denzel transitioned from head of network storage to the leader of HP’s $2.5 billion Adaptive Enterprise strategy for utility computing. (See her profile.)

Who most influenced you?

My mother. We had a large family – six children – and she worked full-time. She had little, if any, outside help. She was incredibly smart; she had a degree in medical technology. Also growing up, I clearly admired Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper. These were women that way before technology become popular (or even women working became popular) were in computer science. So reading about some of their struggles and what they went through was inspirational.

What I learned from my mother was perseverance, the ability to prioritize and focus on what’s important. I learned from her that you have to make your way and that nothing is handed to you. She instilled in me the work ethic I have today.

Grace Hopper coined the term “bug” or “computer bug,” because there was an actual moth in the big IBM vacuum computer. She was a very well-respected, early computer scientist. [Ada Lovelace, an unusual 19th century historical figure, was a mathematician who assisted in the creation of the first computer programming language.] Those are stories that you read when you’re young that give you confidence that you too could achieve great things in the technology industry.

I have been blessed to work with incredibly smart people – there isn’t really one that sticks out. There are just so many that you learn from, that you are lucky to be able to sit at the table communicating with them and understanding their different viewpoints.

Peggy Weigle

CEO, Sanctum

In 2002, IDC called out Sanctum as the de facto leader in the nascent security field of Web application firewalls. Heading Sanctum, Weigle represents an endangered breed: the powerful start-up CEO.

Who most influenced you?

There have been several key people in my career, but two stand out: Matt Mandalinci and John Dillon.

Matt Mandalinci was the vice president of sales at Pilot Executive Software. He gave me my first outside sales job. I’d built the telemarketing team at Pilot, but he believed I had the drive to do outside sales. The board vetoed the idea the first time, but after I’d run the Boston Marathon, Matt went back to them, and they agreed I had tenacity, so they gave me a shot. Matt was a great coach and believed 100% in me. I worked my tail off to make sure I delivered for him, becoming head of Eastern region sales.

[Sanctum Chairman] John Dillon, now CEO of Navis, has been a key mentor who believed in my abilities. I ran Arbor Software’s Eastern region under John for years, after which he promoted me to run North American sales as he moved up the ladder to CEO. John gave me several opportunities to grow and coached me as I stretched into new roles. Arbor was a great ride where I learned how to build a large, successful sales organization. Later in my career, John encouraged me to reach for the brass ring by introducing me to Sanctum.

Diane Greene

CEO, VMware

In December, EMC acquired VMware for $635 million, cash. Greene, a serial start-up leader, will stay on to lead EMC’s newest addition.

Who most influenced you?

Alice Harper and Franco Putzolu.

Alice was my seventh and eighth grade band and orchestra leader. Under her [direction], our public school band won the No. 1 title for the state every year. She was clear, set very high standards and was always surprisingly fun.

Franco Putzolu was the chief software architect at Tandem Computers who I had the opportunity to work closely with for about four years. He had similar qualities: clear, high standards, surprisingly fun. In addition, his approach to problems always seemed to yield the simplest and most effective solution.