An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Having diversity of thought and representation in the workplace, in contrast to a homogeneity echo chamber, is good for business. I’ve worked for many user experience teams for products that were so homogenous that when we actually went to market, it didn’t resonate with actual consumers, who had not been represented in the market research sample. So we had to go back to the drawing board.
The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this, as a part of our interview series called “Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Gloria Gavin.
Gloria Gavin, Chief Business Officer, Resonai
Gloria serves as the Chief Business Officer at Resonai, a high-growth AI and spatial computing company based in Tel Aviv, with business operations in the U.S. Previously, Gloria founded and led a consulting practice providing strategic product launch and go-to-market services to high-growth startups, as well as large, public companies such as Google, Facebook, PwC, WalmartLab, and eBay. In her 25+ year career, Gloria has held senior management roles in global sales, marketing and business development at several private and public companies including Palm/HP, Volera, Inc., Yahoo, Inc., and Worldtalk Corporation.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?
I‘m the daughter of immigrant parents, who came to this country as young people from Mexico in search of the quintessential American Dream. I grew up focused on education and striving, and got excited early on about technology. It was the late 1980s, and computers were just coming into play. Macs were this neat, new technology. When I was in high school, my family got a Mac computer, which was both a big deal, and extraordinarily expensive for an immigrant family like mine. Tooling around with that first computer is where I got my first love of technology. I spent many years thinking about studying engineering, but ultimately it wasn’t for me. I was even more drawn to politics and policy — domains through which I could envision myself helping immigrant families like mine, as well as women, and other underrepresented groups. So I ended up studying international relations and political science at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). This shaped me and gave me a love for global issues, while giving me the realization that global business is one of things that connects us.
I was then given the opportunity to do international business development early in my career. I traveled all across Europe, Asia, and Latin America setting up sales, marketing, and partnerships on behalf of Retix, an enterprise-software-for-email startup that had just gone public, and then WorldTalk, a small company that then grew, went public, and got acquired. Both companies were great starting points because many of their senior executives went on to become serial entrepreneurs.
I continued to work with many of them throughout my career in various roles at various companies. Those early postings provided me with tremendous opportunities. It’s where I got my training from executives that had themselves been trained as management consultants or had experience in major corporations.
From Retix, I got recruited to WorldTalk to move from Southern California to Northern California, and was convinced to work for this 30-person company. Previously, I had not planned to stay in the technology industry at all. WorldTalk grew to be much bigger and by staying on, I continued to learn, and went on to have many roles within the corporation. I took advantage of the huge growth that Silicon Valley was going through, and I became hooked on growing companies from startup, to mature corporations.
Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Yes, Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. It’s written by a woman who was raised in the mountains of Idaho, homeschooled, and isolated from mainstream society. The book is about how hard it was for her to get an education and draws attention to the disparities between people who have access to education and the global economy, and the people who don’t. Even in the U.S., that disparity can be stark. It’s an amazing story of human will. To me that resonates and ties back to my own story.
When my parents came to the United States, I have the impression that the country was more open and idealistic, and there were more opportunities for immigrants. Growing up I felt accepted. The world was our oyster. My impression is that it is much harder now. We forget that our immigrant communities have been and continue to be the backbone of growing our country and its economy. The places that immigrants come from changes but the concept remains the same. We need to get back to a time when America was seen as a beacon of hope for all.
Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in the Augmented Reality industry? We’d love to hear it.
My path to a career in augmented reality leads through my career in technology. I am passionate about growing startups into thriving businesses. When I came across my current company Resonai, I had already worked in technology for 25 years. My career includes time working at a startup, in the early days of the internet, that was acquired by Yahoo. I watched the internet grow from nothing into a thing that permeates every aspect of our lives. I remember what it felt like to be part of a major shift in technology and its effects on every part of society. Similarly, as I learned more about Resonai and the AI and mixed reality industry, I came to understand that we are at the infancy of another major shift as our digital and physical worlds are merging to create a new Metaverse. I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join the team and help be part of this new frontier.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?
Getting a front-row seat to watch the development of technology over time is definitely something I feel lucky to have participated in. One of those moments was 1999, when the internet was really taking off. Another was the unveiling of the iPhone in 2007, and the opening of the App Store in 2008. These are moments in history that I find myself sharing with my children who can’t imagine a world without the internet or their mobile phones. It’s fascinating that to generation Z and beyond, even email seems old school. It’s not something they like to use. I imagine that by the time I am a grandparent, I will be sharing stories about the beginning of the Metaverse.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Early on in my career I fell victim to the bias that was pervasive in the tech world. I was in Germany, for an internet conference, sitting in a room with 20 other people, all of whom were men, all of whom were wearing business suits. A young, casually dressed woman came into the room and I assumed she was a member of the event planning staff setting up for the next speaker, and I addressed her as such. She immediately made it clear, in a kind way, that she was a speaker at the conference, not a member of the staff. In fact, she turned out to be a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who is prominent in the industry. I have to admit I’ve made that kind of mistake on more than one occasion, and I’m still embarrassed by it. What I learned from it is how ingrained biases can become in one’s mind, even if you yourself are an example that proves the bias is incorrect. I’m encouraged that the numbers are changing and that we are seeing more women going to engineering schools and embracing technology careers. And while I’m no longer the only woman in the room in general, we still have a long way to go on management teams and corporate boards.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve been fortunate to have many mentors and colleagues in my career who have shared their time and management skills to help me build my career. One in particular stands out because of the timing. Katie Mitic — an entrepreneur, technology leader and board director — provided me with pivotal help finding a path back into the working world, after I had taken two years off to raise my first-born daughter. Like many career women who take a pause to focus on child rearing, there came a time when I knew I was ready to go back to work but found it hard to find the on-ramp. As a mom and career woman, Katie understood the challenges and provided me with not only reassurance but also shared some of her network to help me launch my consulting firm. Key introductions to the venture capital community led to many assignments and provided a strong foundation for the future growth of my consulting business.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I try to use my professional experience to support the efforts of under-represented groups in technology, such as women and the Latino community. I volunteer with organizations that offer help to entrepreneurs and I help advise them with their fundraising as well as go-to-market strategies, and I’m an LP at an angel investment firm. Examples include Muze Music, a platform for booking and monetizing live music events, where I’m an advisor, and Trqk, a music royalty intelligence startup where I’m an investor.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The VR, AR and MR industries seem so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? Can you explain or give an example?
It’s not one feature of this technology that excites me. It’s how mixed reality helps lead a major shift in merging our digital and physical worlds. Right now, you have to experience internet content and services through your phone or computer. In the future, every building will be a digital canvas with embedded intelligence so that as we navigate our built world, the internet will essentially come to us. It will be all around us providing information exactly when we need it to guide us, inform us, provide more personalized experiences. This Metaverse will create new ways to live, work and play in and around physical structures and will help grow a new set of businesses and revenue models that we are only beginning to imagine.
What are the 3 things that concern you about the VR, AR and MR industries? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?
Instead of three concerns, what concerns me is the fragmentation and noise of the industry, caused by dozens or even hundreds of new market entrants. The noise is confusing and overwhelming to both consumers and businesses. My concern is that businesses will end up adopting technologies that aren’t as useful, that are too expensive, and that don’t provide enough value.
The sooner that the big and small technology companies and new VR, AR, and MR industry leaders can agree on quality standards, the better. It’s important for the industry to regulate itself. Once technology becomes interoperable, it will really take off. It’s important that we employ strong security, data privacy, and content regulation so that consumers and businesses alike feel confident about using and deploying these new technologies.
I think the entertainment aspects of VR, AR and MR are apparent. Can you share with our readers how these industries can help us at work?
There are many examples of business applications that are being used today. Some of the leading examples include AR training. Turnover is a big and on-going problem in many industries, and training is a big expense. Instead of sending trainers around the country, new employees can self-train by getting an immersive AR experience that is shown to provide deeper engagement, while employers can monitor the progress of training and update materials remotely. AR training is also being used in the medical industry to provide an immersive way to teach future doctors how to use equipment and perform surgical procedures.
AR navigation and wayfinding is another example. In shopping malls, airports, hospitals, and large office campuses, businesses are using mobile AR navigation to guide consumers, but also enable consumers to access AR content at critical junctures, like when they do self check-in. Guided tours inside entertainment centers and museums is another wonderful application for AR.
Finally, we are seeing that as entire buildings transform digitally, they become a digital canvas for AR advertising, promotions, and brand experiences. Malls, retail stores and entertainment venues are offering consumers AR navigation apps and guides to engage them, while capturing aggregate consumer data inside their buildings that enables them to provide personalized digital advertising.
Advertising led the way in the early days of the internet, creating a revenue model that enabled companies to grow. By transforming a physical building into a digital canvas and embedding that ability to create new digital media units, advertising can provide an important monetization opportunity for property owners.
Are there other ways that VR, AR and MR can improve our lives? Can you explain?
Integrating augmented reality into a shopping, museum, or educational experience, will help increase the individual’s level of engagement. It’s one thing to read an article, see a picture, and watch a video. It’s another thing to actually feel like you are there, within the experience. Mixed Reality opens up the ability to consume content in a whole new way, much more immersive and detailed, and do it remotely as well as just at the right time and place. It will give us even more access globally to gain a richer and deeper understanding of global business, entertainment, and culture.
Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in broader terms. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? If not, what specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
I’m thrilled to see more women going into STEM and staying in STEM. My daughter is at Cornell University, at the College of Engineering, and about 50% of her graduating class are women. Where I’m disappointed is how long it’s taken to see women at the senior management level of technology companies and on the supervisory boards. Once that starts to change, you’ll see a more even playing field for women in the field of technology, up and down the corporate ladder.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about working in your industry? Can you explain what you mean?
We are too focused on the Silicon Valley “bro” culture, and not telling the stories of women CEOs and entrepreneurs, and the huge support system and network of women executives that exists in Silicon Valley. While there’s no question that Silicon Valley continues to be male-dominated, the negative narrative discourages women from entering the industry in the first place, which in turn makes them miss out on the incredible opportunities the industry has to offer women as well as men.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in Tech” and why?
1). Because I was a woman in a male-dominated industry, I overcompensated in my style of work by being tough and never revealing emotions. As a result, I ended up not being myself. When hiring, I also judged others by how tough they were, or seemed to be. That didn’t make me a great leader. It didn’t help me to understand my direct reports. And it caused me to bypass many potential hires who would have been great employees, and who ended up being very successful at other companies. I grew my emotional intelligence later in my career and really value the range of personalities that I have the pleasure of working with.
2). I misjudged how taking a career break to have children would have on my value in the working world. I was convinced I had lost my edge. But it turned out that having children, and running a household, actually made me more competent and more efficient at work in many, many ways. This lesson has three audiences: women themselves, their employers, and policy makers.
The message I want to convey to women is that while the technology industry may seem all-consuming and not compatible with having a family, it does not have to be, and giving yourself the grace to return to the workforce can be incredibly satisfying, and definitely worth trying for. To employers I would say we need to make more effort to create on-ramps for women after they’ve taken a step away to have children, because we don’t want to lose these women from the workforce entirely and the technology industry in particular. Finally, I want to tell U.S. policymakers to take some inspiration from Europe, where parental leave policies, more affordable and accessible childcare, and other business benefits, make it easier for women to come back.
3). Always be learning. By starting my own consulting firm, I had the privilege of working with a wide variety of executives, and technology companies, and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. I would work with one or two new key clients every six months to two years. That afforded me the ability (and necessity) to pick up new industries on a continuous basis, and helped me stay abreast of a wide swath of technologies. This gave me the confidence and foundational knowledge to tackle the next project and to take on the next client.
4). Having diversity of thought and representation in the workplace, in contrast to a homogeneity echo chamber, is good for business. I’ve worked for many user experience teams for products that were so homogenous that when we actually went to market, it didn’t resonate with actual consumers, who had not been represented in the market research sample. So we had to go back to the drawing board.
5). Have fun! We work long hours in the U.S. It’s part of our business culture. Connection to other humans, and fun, is not ingrained in the work culture. Observing and experiencing other work cultures, such as in Europe, has brought home to me the benefit of taking vacations as a chance to decompress, and the benefits of creating time to socialize with work colleagues during business hours. I now try to make sure that my team is both building in personal down time as well as making time at work to build stronger personal connections. Teams that get to know each other are more empathetic and collaborative, and it makes work more fun.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could inspire a movement, it would be one focused on creating opportunities and breaking down barriers for upward mobility for a wider swath of people than currently exists in America. I’d like to return the American experience closer to the positive story that both I and my parents experienced. My movement would involve pushing America to deliver on its fundamental promises, as it imagines itself to be at its best. We’ve all heard that the middle class in the U.S. is eroding and that we have bigger disparities than ever between rich and poor. This is not good for our democracy and breeds the discontent that seeds anti-democracy movements.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I’m a huge admirer of Hillary Clinton. Her story is a heartbreaking one. It takes us through the period in American history when opportunities for women were opening up in a big way, but climaxes at a moment of peak divisiveness in this country. I would like to thank Hilary, face-to-face, for paving the way for other women, to applaud her for her incredible achievements, in particular those focused on women and children’s issues, as well as for her life’s work in its totality. And I’m sure her story is not over, and that she will continue to contribute, perhaps in a quieter way than before.
Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!
Wisdom From The Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries, With Gloria Gavin Of Resonai was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.