Padmasree Warrior is not an ordinary blogger. As Motorola’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO), she handles an R&D budget of about $4 billion and defines the technology strategy for more than 22,000 Motorola engineers all over the world. Despite her busy schedule, she started a very interesting blog in September 2006, “Bits at the Edge.” As someone on her staff told me that she often reads my “Emerging Technology Trends” blog, I wanted to know more about her and especially why one of the world’s technology leaders wanted to be present online in such a personal way. She was kind enough to answer my questions. Below are selected excerpts of the friendly and open exchange I had with her last week.
You can see on the left an official photo of Padmasree Warrior (Credit: Motorola).
Roland: First of all, let me thank you for spending some of your precious time with me. I would like to start with something which is at the boundary of viral marketing, which can include your blog, and traditional marketing. Why are you unable to generate the same kind of buzz around your new phones the way Apple is doing with its to-be-released iPhone?
Padmasree: We are doing pretty well with our new product portfolio that launched in May.
Roland: Will you buy an iPhone yourself?
Padmasree: Sure. I’m a tech enthusiast and am curious to see it. I’ll test it out.
Roland: Now, let’s return to your blog. Why did you start it? Did you have internal or external goals for it?
Padmasree: I just thought it was important for me to talk about issues that matter to the industry and also share things that I am most passionate about. I want to build a bridge to connect people inside and outside our company. Of course, it was a personal decision, first and foremost. I want to have a vehicle to generate discussion across and over the boundaries of a large corporation, in a thoughtful yet fun way.
Roland: Were you frightened by the risks of negative or offensive comments and their potential effects on you or your company?
Padmasree: I was not. When I insisted that my blog be readable by the entire world, naturally some concerns were raised within the company, but we were able to work it out.
Roland: By the way, are your blog comments filtered?
Padmasree: Not really: they’re “moderated.” With the help of my staff, we remove what is obvious spam or derogatory comments. Otherwise, all the other comments — even the ones which disagree with my views — are posted.
Roland: On a related subject, as Motorola is a public company, how do you deal with financial matters on your blog, especially during so-called “quiet periods”?
Padmasree: There is a fine line here. My blog is not a channel for new product announcements. I seldom write about financials. I am sensitive to the fact that my blog is read across the globe, by people with diverse backgrounds and interpretations may vary based on cultural and regional nuances. My blog is simply about what I find important in my life.
Roland: What kind of reactions do you receive on your blog?
Padmasree: They’re mostly positive. And sometimes they are surprising. During a recent trip to Japan, I learned that not only all the Motorola employees but everyone I talked to from the media has read my blog.
Roland: This leads me to another topic. How many readers do you have? And where are they coming from?
Padmasree: The readers come from all over the world, both inside and outside the company. You might be surprised to learn that I’ve entirely designed my blog myself — including the sidebars.
Roland: Apparently, you’ve anticipated my next question. Time is often an issue for serious bloggers. And there is no doubt you’re one: the quality and the length of your posts can attest. So how do you handle this? Do you write your posts? Or do you ask someone in your staff to transcribe your ideas?
Padmasree: I personally write everything that is published on my blog. I do not delegate the task of translating my thoughts and opinions to anyone else. I am very insistent and particular about this. By the way, when I present or speak, I write the slides myself. And regarding time, I would like to be able to publish more than I do. So, I mainly write during plane trips — or even at night.
Roland: Of course — and without any puns intended — you’re a mobile warrior. What do you carry in your bag when you take a plane?
Padmasree: Right now, I’m using our Q 9h smart phone. It’s quad-band and I can do everything I need with during trips.
Roland: What did you learn the most from this first year of blogging?
Padmasree: Blogging is stimulating, fun and to be honest, time consuming. But in the end, the time and effort are well worth it, because technology is all about building human connections. For example, I’ve learned so much acting as a Mentor that it was almost overwhelming. I hope to continue this kind of activity and to spread its power with the help of my blog.
Roland: So will you continue to blog for a long time? Or will you write a book?
Padmasree: I would like to write a book, but I definitively do not have enough time for that right now. A blog is easier to handle.
Roland: Padmasree, thank you again for this conversation. And I sure hope to meet you during your next trip to France.
[Disclaimer: I have absolutely no financial connection with Motorola. I don’t even own a Motorola phone. And this interview has been reviewed by Padmasree Warrior for fact-checking.]
Sources: Conversation with Padmasree Warrior, June 12, 2007; and various websites
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