Brilliant Women in Technology: Meet Leslie Sobon

Happy Winter-bury – seems like the whole United States is getting a little extra loving from the Winter Gods! Hope everyone is warm and safe. Meet our Brilliant Woman of February – Leslie Sobon! Ms. Sobon is the Vice President, Worldwide Product & Outbound Marketing at AMD. While I have never had the pleasure of meeting her personally, Michael Reyes has, and thinks she is brilliant! He even went as far as to say, she's geekier than him. I find that highly doubtful.

-Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m a Northeasterner living in Texas. So, I long for seasons, diners, and another Boston Red Sox World Series win. But I adore TexMex food, so thank you Texas!

-How did you get started in technology, or at your current position?

I found technology by accident - not by design - but once I was in it I’ve never wanted to leave. I started my career in marketing, working for high tech magazines like Surface Mount Technology, Printed Circuit Board, and Automated Test and Equipment (ATE) magazines. Let me tell you, once you see an ATE do some wafer testing, you’re hooked. From there I moved to Texas Instruments, Dell, and five years ago to AMD. -Describe a “normal” day in your life.

As with most people in high tech, there isn’t one. I travel a lot, because I don’t believe anyone can do a global job effectively while sitting at their desk. In general, though, a typical day for me anywhere in the world means engaging with colleagues, customers, partners, press and consumers about our products.

-What’s your favorite aspect of working in technology?

It’s not guacamole. I have a friend who worked in high tech all of her career, but recently moved to run marketing for a company that makes guacamole. (Delicious guacamole I may add.) I told her to call me in six months, because in that time she will have done everything there is to do with guacamole.

-What have been some of your challenges you faced, and how did you tackle or overcome them?

During my eight years at Dell, I had various product marketing roles. But for one of those years – and for reasons that to this day escape me – I decided to move out of product and out of marketing, into a corporate function. I pretty much stunk at it, and quickly admitted that to myself and to Dell. Dell was kind enough to let me to go back into product marketing. That’s the best part about getting through a challenge – you become more self-aware. I know what I am and what I’m not. And I’m okay with both.

-Have you ever felt like you needed to hide your femininity or that fact that you were a female?

Nope. I’m a girl, and everyone can just get over it. When I was little, my favorite board game was Candy Land. And when my family would play other games – Monopoly, Life, etc. – I always wanted to use the gingerbread man piece from the Candy Land game. I didn’t want to be a peg in a car, or a cannon. And my Dad always let me use that gingerbread piece in any game we played. I’ve thought about that often during my career. We as women have enormous freedom to bring our own individual style without compromise. And we need to do this more. Not just for ourselves, but for each other. We ultimately win when we use the rules our way. While you can’t win the game of Monopoly playing by the rules of Life, you can certainly win either game being the gingerbread piece from Candy Land.

-What advice do you have for females interested in getting into your field?

Do it right NOW! You will never regret it. It’s easy to believe that technology is dry, boring, esoteric. It’s not. It’s fast paced, fun, challenging and enormously rewarding. And we have far too few young women entering the field. Diversity advances every company – every industry – and we need more women engineers, more high tech saleswomen and marketers.

-What’s one gadget you can’t live without?

My Creative Zen. I travel so much, my music and videos keep me sane. I’m fortunate that in my role I have a new PC every few months, so I can try out the new technology. And I keep upgrading my BlackBerry in hopes of a keyboard I can work. Yet, my Creative Zen Vision M is almost 5 years old. That’s ancient in high-tech years! But I love it. Is there a Creative Zen fan club? Because I should join.

-Do you have a personal ‘mantra’ or certain words you live by?

Leadership Courage. I try every day to have it. Some days I’m better at it than others. As leaders – of teams, companies, projects – we have to have the courage to take risks, to manage with meritocracy, to address the politicizing directly. But it’s tough. It’s hard to tell management their wrong. It’s hard to admit you screwed up. It’s really hard to fire people. But it’s the only way to build effective environments and drive success.

-And lastly, what drives you?

The opportunity to make a difference. I’m truly passionate about the work we do at AMD. I’m proud when we can break the rules of the PC industry with ingredient brands like VISION Technology from AMD. And while we are an ingredient brand in an indirect channel, we make some of the coolest technology that has direct impact on people’s lives. Engaging with consumers, and building relationships with female consumers in particular, is an incredible luxury I have in my job. Around the world, the female consumer is a purchasing juggernaut – making the majority of household buying decisions. My blog allows me to engage with these women about the technology in their everyday lives, and what AMD can do to continue improving it for them.