RingCentral Chief Innovation Officer Kira Makagon is no rookie to the C-Suite. Before starting at RingCentral, she was the Founder, CEO and President of Red Aril, an online media technology company that was acquired by Hearst Corporation. And she’s a veteran of being the only woman in a room of decision makers. That’s just one of her motivators for fighting for diversity across the business world.
“As a veteran ‘only woman in the room,’ I know the importance of hiring, retaining and promoting women into leadership positions, in part so that other women can see that there is a career trajectory from where they sit all the way to the top,” she told us. “It is a personal mission of mine to mentor women, both inside of my company and outside of it, as I have been mentored.”
Makagon has ingrained diversity practices into her leadership style and pursues writing and speaking engagements to discuss how diversity benefits everyone. She says RingCentral shares these values, making it an excellent place for Makagon to pursue this work — and for women to work in general.
“We educate all of our staff on diversity awareness, including factors like unconscious bias,” she said. “We have programs and groups specifically designed to support women… It is an executive focus and priority to make sure that RingCentral aims to hire, retain and promote women.”
We spoke to Makagon about how leaders can act on their responsibility to advance gender equality and how she works this priority into her every day. We also discuss the more standard ins and outs of her workday, her leadership style and what women should know about working at (or applying to!) RingCentral.
Describe what you do in one sentence.
In my current role as Chief Innovation Officer, I lead product strategy, product management, design, research and development, engineering and operations. I’m also a regular public speaker and writer.
How do you prioritize and deal with your to-do list each day?
To prioritize my to-do list, I place the most urgent issues at the top, of course. Urgent issues can range from customer escalations to personnel issues and more. Once I’ve given any urgent matters my attention, I turn to any requests that require timely handling, either from the previous day or matters that arose overnight. What follows is often scheduled meetings. I can’t say enough good things about how Glip, our collaboration software, helps me to stay on top of all of my to-do list, meetings, messaging and updates such as industry news. If I need to join an online meeting or place a call, it’s all right there in one app.
How would you describe your leadership style?
My leadership style is goal-driven and prizes diversity. Good leaders know how to set good goals and how to manage them so that their companies stay on-track. Setting common goals and working toward them brings a company into alignment and measuring on those common goals gives clear indicators when things are falling out of alignment.
It is also critical for good leaders to focus on diversity in all of its forms. Combating unconscious bias in hiring, ensuring pay equality and composing teams made up of a variety of voices are ways for leaders to show that valuing diversity is at the center of the company’s culture and mission. As well, I consider myself a gender-neutral leader who values my staff through a lens focused on their talent, experience and value.
What’s one thing you think young job seekers should know about your company?
There are five key things that young job seekers should know about RingCentral:
We care about the people who work for us. We show this by investing in them, aiming to help them be highly successful and to advance their careers.
We are a customer-first company.
We operate like a startup.
We focus relentlessly on execution and results.
FITE are our core values: Focus, Innovation, Trust and Empowerment.
What about those who are in a more advanced career stage?
For job seekers who are in a more advanced career stage, RingCentral would want them to know all of the above, plus they would be among an A-team of highly dedicated senior management. Also important, RingCentral prides itself on its ethics. We execute our business with minimal politics or political wrangling. The key to success at our company is straightforward: strong skills, hard work, a good attitude and the ability to be an effective team player.
How have you used your role to help bring up other women behind you? How do you build time into your schedule for this kind of work?
In my position of leadership now, I make sure that my company considers and combats unconscious bias in its hiring practices so that all of our potential hires are competing fairly on their merits.
In my writing and speaking engagements, I discuss topics like how women can take on sexist comments in the workplace and how to make their voices heard. I also write to point out, for both women and men, the vast value of increased diversity in all of its forms, as well as taking on the “bro” culture that sometimes doesn’t make space for women in its locker rooms. (I also encourage women to make their own locker rooms!)
What’s something you’re especially good at, at work?
I’m especially good at motivating people and getting things done. I manage not through fear, but, rather, through instilling in my employees a desire to excel and build great products. I encourage them to be their best, to focus on the customer, to want to come in first and to beat our competition. As a result, they aim to create delightful user experience and long-lasting value for our customers, something in which they can take great pride.
What are the top three qualities you look for when you’re interviewing a candidate?
I look for a clarity of thinking and communicating, energy and honesty in being able to present their skills and experience.
Why do you think your company is a particularly supportive work environment for women?
There are three key ways in which I feel RingCentral is a particularly supportive work environment for women. First, we educate all of our staff on diversity awareness, including factors like unconscious bias. Second, we have programs and groups specifically designed to support women. Third, it is an executive focus and priority to make sure that RingCentral aims to hire, retain and promote women. We also pay great attention to diversity in all of its forms, as we know the direct benefit to our company that diversity offers.
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