Just a month ago we published a press release announcing Anne Gretland as FotoWare's new CEO. Today, 11th of December 2017, is Anne's first day in her new role. We sat down with her to give you a little insight into who she is, talking about where it all began, recent projects and why the timing is perfect for her and FotoWare.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How has your life lead you to becoming FotoWare’s new CEO?
I grew up on a farm an hour and a half south of Oslo, but I couldn’t wait to get out into the world! When I was 18, I moved to the U.S. and lived there for many years. I studied and worked there, and got hooked on technology when I started working for Microsoft and saw what technology could do for us.
The power was shifting with technology more and more. Before, knowledge was power and just a few had access to it, but now everybody has power - through technology. The information is for everyone, it’s not just for the privileged, and I think that’s very powerful. With all the tools that software companies make, I think the power has been spread out more and I really like that a lot. That’s why I also think that technology is so exciting to work with, because it's making the world smaller and spreading the power out.
How did you start your career?
I spent one year at Santa Monica College where I took mass communication and then I went to the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and studied Marketing and Art Photography. In my first job, I worked for an English designer called Rachel Ashwell. She started a company called Shabby Chic and I worked for her in the very beginning. I think she was a very talented designer, but she was also a great businesswoman with the way she used PR and alternative marketing tools to get people to know her. Now, Shabby Chic is a worldwide brand, and that is very much to do with her way of thinking outside of the box in business.
I moved back to Norway after 6 years in the U.S. and then I started working for H&M. I learned a lot about leadership and teamwork there and I worked there for a year until I started at BI, the business school in Oslo. I studied PR and Information, and in my second year there I was approached by somebody from Microsoft who needed a part-time person to work with them. I actually thought that working for Microsoft wasn’t for me because I thought there were only hardcore technology nerds that worked there! I said no at first, but then the marketing manager and I had some calls going back and forth as he convinced me to start working there one day a week. I loved it and stayed for 17 years! It was a good thing that he was so persistent…
How did your experience at Microsoft help shape you professionally, and how has it helped prepare you for this new role?
When I started at Microsoft there were only 35 of us in Oslo. I saw how that company grew from being a very technical company, talking only to IT professionals and speaking a lot about features and the product, to making the shift towards speaking to business decision-makers, talking about what the product can do for you and how they can help you work smarter.
FotoWare actually reminds me a bit of Microsoft back then. A company that has strong products with people that are passionate about the product and its development.
That’s what FotoWare has been focusing on, so adding another layer of operationalization and broad-reach marketing, PR and sales will be perfectly timed.
How would you describe your management approach?
I always ask when I’m interviewing someone for a management position, “What is your leadership legacy?” and people have a hard time defining that. I have to say, I have had a hard time defining that myself when put on the spot!
I lead with an empathic mindset, meaning I recognize that everybody’s different and I am aware that what motivates me might not motivate you. What gets me up in the morning might not be what gets you up in the morning. So, my strength as a leader is learning what motivates and drives people, and treating everybody individually in that way.
I also firmly believe in giving people empowerment and giving people the possibility to grow, learn and take ownership themselves. There is a large element of trust involved. I always remind my team that they also have to be good at managing up. We are a team and my job is to make them learn and grow, and make the team great, but it’s also their responsibility to feed on my strengths and compliment my strengths. I always try to hire people that are smarter than me, better than me and that love to do the things that I hate to do!
Most recently, you were COO at Compello. What are your proudest moments from your time there?
I think that bringing the three countries closer together and working across borders as a whole group is what I’m most proud of. People were doing things in each country that nobody knew about and didn’t know how to share it with each other. We would end up doing double work or having that notion of ‘the others never share anything with us’, instead of just talking to each other. What I’ve spent my last six months doing is talking to people and sharing what people are working on. Now, everybody’s keeping each other on the same page and understand what other people are concerned about. People being empathic to others' needs really warms my leadership heart.
I also helped co-develop an app when I first started at Compello. It’s really cool, born in the cloud, multi-tenant and built on an Azure solution. It’s a free invoice approval app that we took to the market with no budget whatsoever. We only used social media, word-of-mouth and the apple store. It now has more than 1,000 users, which I am very proud of. It was an amazing learning experience to work in a really lean way.
What is your approach to cloud technology and your experience with it so far?
I think that some people talk about cloud as though it is a product, but it isn’t. It’s just a way to take a product out into the market.
If we look back, Hotmail was so revolutionary when it launched in 1997. That was a cloud product, which is why Microsoft bought it in the first place. To be able to log on to any computer, anywhere in the world and have access to your account, that was really revolutionary. The fact that it has taken so long for us to put everything else in the cloud is kind of weird!
We keep forgetting that delivering a solution or service through the cloud is just a way to sell it. Now you have access to your product though any device, anywhere, but the product features are still the same. We’re so used to having Hotmail, Netflix and all these kinds of services, and we don’t even think about the fact that they are in the cloud. Most customers coulnd't care less about where the products are stored, as long as they have access anytime, anywhere, on any device. We have to stop talking about cloud as though that was a product itself, because it isn’t.
It does , however, enable companies to deliver software as a service - which gives both the customers and us a faster, easier, more reliable and secure way of delivering software.
What made you want to join FotoWare?
I think the timing is amazing for me personally and I think that FotoWare has such a great product. In the past, those products used to be for a select few but now everybody has lots of videos and pictures to manage. There are people whose profession is distributing digital content now – that wasn’t even a job just a few years ago! I actually think that FotoWare is a hidden gem. It’s an amazing product that everybody needs and now it’s time for the hidden gem to come out into the open! I think DAM is such a boring acronym and it’s completely misleading, because it’s actually digital content management and finding your way through a maze of all kinds of digital material. I would say that Digital Asset Management is an essential tool for every organisation today, I think that the future is digital and FotoWare has the solution to manage it.
How do you explain Digital Asset Management to people who are unfamiliar with the concept?
Well, I say that it’s a great software for storing, managing and keeping your digital content safe, as well as sharing it in a safe and easy way. When you have a reliable, smart and easy-to-use product you have a winner, and FotoWare is that. It’s a solution for both consumers and large corporations who have millions of files, and as experts are predicting increases in the use of video instead of pictures, there will be more and more digital content to manage.
What excites you most about becoming FotoWare’s new CEO?
It’s the possibilities in the market right now. The timing is perfect, now is the time for FotoWare to come out of its hiding place. The people I’ve met in the company so far seem amazing, really enthusiastic about the product, really smart and bright. The people are so accomplished and very passionate about taking the product further. I love the opportunity to help build the brand, expanding our partner base, continuing to develop easy-to-use products, expanding the customer base and making a vision for the future.
We need to scale, we need to make our solutions discoverable. We need new partners and new customers to find us, instead of us going out to find them. We need to create a footprint in the market.
What would you like to be able to look back and reflect on in 5 or 10 years’ time at FotoWare?
I like to think boldly. In 5 years’ time, I would like FotoWare to be a name that everybody knows. Maybe we can even be so bold as to say we made FotoWare a verb!
Wouldn’t that be good? Everybody is FotoWare-ing. We need to think big and set some ambitious targets for ourselves. We need to be a strong team with passion for our product, our customers and each other. If we can make each other grow as a company, and make FotoWare a household name, then I will be very happy.
Where can you be found outside of the office – what are your hobbies and interests?
Well, I don’t really have that many hobbies. Work took a lot of my time, as has building a network for women in the IT industry over the last 12 years. But, my husband and I love to travel and take short trips. Our next big goal is getting to Australia.
You helped to establish ODA Nettverk for women in IT in Norway, what was the motivation behind this and how did you find the experience?
In 2005, some Microsoft colleagues and I attended the annual Microsoft conference that’s in the US every year. There was one session specifically for Women in EMEA that we were called into, about how we can get more women to work in Microsoft. They wanted to make Microsoft an attractive employer for everybody. So, we went back to Norway and started to look around for the first time, and realized there weren’t many women in the IT industry. We had been in our Microsoft bubble which had quite a diverse workforce in Norway. So, we did a survey with IKT-Norge asking women and men their thoughts about the industry, and it turned out that women and men thrived in the Norwegian IT industry. However, women felt they were in the minority and lacked a network of other women.
In 2006 we got some women from the industry together alongside some sponsors and Microsoft, and arranged the first women’s inspirational day. About 150 women came and it received huge media attention. It was such a positive atmosphere and women came out from everywhere. We decided to set up a network with the help of a group of volunteers and officially started it in the summer of 2006 and formed a board. I remember we were so excited about getting our first 1,000 members, but it just kept growing. Now, the network has 23 sponsors and 20 people who work with it part-time. We were all doing it voluntarily on the side and I think that has helped it to be a success. Everyone knows we’re not in it for the money, we’re in it because we want the IT-industry to be a great place for both man and women to work. At our last Inspirational day, in June, we had 1,400 attendees (because that’s how much there was room for!) and we have about 8,000 members in total.
Our goal has been for women to step up, to become more visible, and inspire and motivate each other, and I think we have succeed in that.
The whole FotoWare team and partner network is looking forward to working with Anne. Do you have a question or would you like to leave a comment to Anne? Tag or pm on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter with @fotoware.