Laina Raveendran Greene is founder of GETIT Inc, an international business planning and strategic marketing consultancy based in Silicon Valley since 2000. Laina’s work experience spans 25 years in the telecom industry with a focus on Green ICT and bridging the digital divide in developing countries. Laina has worked for profit organizations (Singapore Telecom, INTELSAT, Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks); for non-profits organizations (ISC, IDRC, APIA and APNIC); inter-governmental organizations (ITU, UNDP, World Bank, South Pacific Forum); and founded interactive multimedia business in Asia servicing regional high tech customers.
Laina served as first Secretary General of the Asia Pacific internet Association (APIA), Policy Advisor of Asia Pacific Network Information Center and Advisory member of the Asia Pacific Rim Internet Conference on Operational Technologies (APRICOT), founder of Asia Pacific Policy and Legal (APPLe) group, taught International Telecommunications Law at the National University of Singapore, and helped educate and shape National Internet plans for governments in the region through the UN, including Afghanistan, Mongolia, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar.
Laina is currently an Entrepreneur in Residence at Stanford University, teaching a class on Intercultural Negotiations, serves as a Board member of emota.net, a health care startup in the Bay Area and involved in several other related consultancy projects. Most recently, co-produced a documentary called Green Planet on Green ICT and also completed a concept paper funded by the World Wildlife Fund in Sweden to consider developing a Seed Fund to address funding gaps needed to help bring energy and communications to the rural poor.
Over the years have travelled to 47 countries; lived in US, Switzerland and Singapore; lives in a solar powered house; drives an electric car and consider herself a Global Citizen. Married to Barry Greene, President of Internet Systems Consortium and mother of two teenagers. For more information, check out www.linkedin.com/in/laina.
What would you say are the most challenging and the most satisfying aspects of your work?
The most satisfying is working on the field, especially with women NGOS helping empower other women to empower their own lives. I love seeing women with very little education, who are so motivated to bring better lives for their children, work hard to overcome barriers and fears of technology. They learn to use and master ICT to empower their own lives and that of others around them. I once revisited some village women whose project I had visited several years back, and was so happy to see that access to ICT enabled them to find scholarships and opportunities for their children to get a better education. One women had her son pursuing an engineering degree.
The most challenging aspect of my work is working hard not to allow stereotypes that people place on me limit me. Being a non-techie in a very techie world, and being a women in a very male dominated world can sometimes be very intimidating. Being focused on my mission to empower others, helps me overcome the obstacles put on me because of these stereotypes and allow me to continue moving forward. Ironically, women who have worked hard to overcome these gender barriers in the ICT world, are some of the worst offenders. Rather than help other women, they hinder them and that for me has been most challenging. I am thus so pleased to see a network for women to support women in this field of ICT.
What qualifications or certifications did you attain in order to reach your professional goals?
I started off with a law degree from Singapore, and then moved on to do graduate studies in International law focusing on telecommunications. Subsequently I did a Masters of Law and crossed registered to MIT to learn more about technologies. Even today, I upgrade my skills by attending Executive Programs especially around new technologies. In 2007 I attended the AeA/Stanford Executive Management Program and in December 2011 I will be attending the Singularity University Executive Program on biotech, nano tech, ICT, energy and many other related industries.
If there is one message you would like to convey to young women to encourage them to consider a profession in the ICT sector, what would it be?
If you are someone keen to make a difference in the world, think about ICT as a multiplier tool. What do I mean by this. If you want to set up a school in the rural areas, aside from building a school you need to ensure there are teachers and books. This is always a challenge for rural areas. With ICT, you can connect that school with books from all around the world and even teachers from the cities or all around the world. The students are no longer limited to the small collection of books in their school or to one teacher who has to teach all grades.
So remember, whatever you want to do to make a difference in this world, you will have so much more of an impact if ICT is involved. So don't be intimidated that only techies can do ICT, charge forward and give it a try. Don't also let job descriptions discourage you from applying for ICT jobs. Reach out and talk to people, ask for references or just go ahead and apply. You never know- your next break into ICT could change your whole life. My first job at the ITU as an intern back in 1986 definitely changed my life.