When it comes to diversity in the workspace, nobody understands it better than Bita Milanian. As the Senior Vice President at Ribbon Communications, Bita has seen it all when it comes to the various issues that affect women, minorities, and others.
We found her profile interesting and decided to reach out for an interview.
Here is what she had to say, folks!
Please, can you tell us about yourself and your journey into the technology space?
I’ve been working in telecom and technology for most of my adult life. My adventure started in the late 1990s when I began working for one of the largest international VoIP companies based in Canada. When I relocated to Los Angeles, where I continue to live, I continued to work in telecom with a competitive local exchange carrier, then went on to join a global company that built the largest undersea fiber cables, then acquired over a dozen different companies from around the world with various telecom solutions.
Other experiences followed, and after a few years focused on helping build a new non-profit foundation, I was recruited to join a disruptive real-time communications company which we took public on NASDAQ while continuing a steady stream of acquisitions and integrations. I continue to serve that company today, having led rebranding efforts and more, as well as post-M&A integrations and continual disruptive innovation.
How has the technology industry changed over the last 25 years in terms of diversity and Gender?
While we still have a long way to go, with respect to women holding leadership positions and gender equality in terms of pay, I have seen and have had the honor to contribute to opening doors for girls and women, for members of the LGBTQ community, for people of color, for the physically disabled and more. Collectively, we must continue to push these values forward, and individually – what I have learned is that if every person who shares these values is conscious of the decisions and hires they can make does their part to be inclusive – that will truly drive positive change.
What are the contemporary problems that women and minorities face within the technology space? What are the probable solutions to those problems?
Today’s problems have most to do with perception and certain leaders clinging to the past. The solutions include awareness, policy, opportunity development programs, mentoring programs, and organized efforts to start early by providing girls and boys from all communities access to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) programs. It is also very important to celebrate the accomplishments of women and minority leaders, and to reward companies who consciously support them with business.
What are your thoughts on the emergence of new technologies such as cryptocurrencies and their underlying technologies?
Technologies designed to make life more convenient, safe, healthy, happy and balanced should be embraced and accelerated. At the same time, it is important to ensure that we study all aspects, including the darker side of technology, to make sure they are not being weaponized.
What are your thoughts on the lack of encouragement of women to learn STEM courses, especially in developing countries?
This is a process, and we can lead by example, and lead by succeeding. These changes won’t happen overnight, however as more girls and women are educated in these areas and move into the workforce, we will make faster progress. Women who come out of these programs will likely become the “gale force winds” of change tomorrow – they will pay it forward – they are already doing so.
What has your American dream been like? Do you think American greatness in the twenty-first century is a given? What needs to change to allow for this to happen?
I am eternally grateful to have been welcomed to America and to have become an American citizen. I have been part of so many incredible initiatives, and continue to be optimistic despite the years of darkness this country has suffered. Nothing in life is a given; life is a gift, and when every person has the opportunity to be individually great, the collective effect is a greater, stronger America. And a greater, stronger world.
We are so much more global today than we were when I came to this country, and regardless of which way the political or social winds blow here in the US, there is always goodness happening on a grand scale in other countries. I am a global citizen and proud American, proud Iranian American, proud refugee and I will always do all I can to make my American dream count for many others’ dreams.
As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, what trends do you think we should expect, and how can technology aid economic recovery?
There will be more flexibility in the workplace, more innovation given creativity that sprouted during the global pandemic, a greater sense of our global connectedness, and much better preparation for the next virus or global pandemic. My wish is that the experience of the pandemic will also bring a much greater sense of empathy to the world, and appreciation for essential and frontline workers. We’ve all learned different things, and we are now in a position to turn that learning into actionable ideas to create lasting change.
What other projects are you involved with at the moment?
I am involved in many projects outside “work” including producing my cooking show which brings together super interesting and creative chefs into my kitchen, either in person or virtually, so we can learn from each other while cooking healthy, delicious, creative meals.
I look forward to expanding this and integrating it into my love of helping others and networking people, of bringing people together around meaningful meals, and bringing the world a new way to look at and embrace other cultures.
Please, can you tell us more about your culinary skills and why you’re involved in sharing this with the world?
I grew up fascinated by food and surrounded by brilliant chefs, and continue to believe that we connect in very deep and memorable ways when we are around a common table sharing a different food experience. Food – wine – candles – flowers – indoors – outdoors. This is a recipe for how to live and love, not just eat!
As America shifts towards polar opposites, how can the existence of immigrant success stories such as yours help bridge the divide that currently exists?
Those immigrants like myself who have been fortunate enough to reach a certain level of success represent what is possible to others. We’re like the sunshine in the dark places, and when we share our stories – from the painful parts to the joyous parts – we serve as examples and sherpas.
The current polarization is very troubling – racism, sexism, violence, misinformation – these are deep, fundamental problems that will take time to reverse, if we ever can reverse. If we do, this will be because of generational efforts and, let’s hope, the true evolution of the human condition. For now, we must all do our best to be kind to one another, even those we disagree with, while still standing up for our values and personal truths.
Please, can you tell us more about Butterfly Buzz?
I started BFlyBuzz as a way to organize support for artists – musicians, dancers, painters, sculptors, writers, and others – by giving them a marketing platform. I wanted to turn my marketing experience and skills into services for those who don’t always have the financial means to hire expensive agencies. I was completely overwhelmed with clients for many years, many whom I still help informally today. I decided to keep my small business intact knowing the need, and enjoying the process of truly helping creative people thrive.
How do you think Generation Z has adapted to the emergence of technology?
They are hyper-connected and born into a digital world we couldn’t see coming at the turn of the century. What impresses me, however, is the movement of many young people away from always being on, unplugging to enjoy life, wishing to spend time in the wilderness, marching in protest of gun violence, police brutality, racism, sexism and more. I love Generation Z and look to them to see the future and support them in designing the future! We have so much we can learn and apply.
What are your thoughts on how we can make the world a better place using technology?
There are countless ways to do this and my keyword here is ACCESS. With networks and devices, software applications, and social networks, we can give every human on earth access to information, education, services, inspiration, healthcare, career opportunities and so much more.
With innovations in the IoT and AI, we can make our cities safer, we can clean polluted waters, we can measure and reduce carbon emissions. The list is very, very long and growing as innovation grows! At the same time, technology can be weaponized and we must all be very alert and active in finding ways to reduce the impact of bad actors.
How have your journeys across the world affected your worldview?
I see a very unified world is possible, and I feel that we are all travelers at different times. Going to Jersulem, for example, during my first trip to Israel, I was so moved by the beauty and history, and so deeply changed when it came to my lifelong desire to learn about all religions and belief systems.
I have found in traveling to many countries across nearly every continent that children are just children, born into the world as innocents, and worthy of all the love and support we can give them. We are so much more alike than we are different, and when we can spread the idea of acceptance, tolerance, and unification, we can make everybody’s worldview brighter.
What are your thoughts on how developing countries pick and choose technologies?
Non-profit organizations, NGOs and humanitarian efforts have been very important in this regard. We are on the threshold of a much more connected world, required for most technologies to create value, with the advent of more affordable wireless networks, with 5G already moving and 6G on the way. With radio access spectrum and with more affordable satellite coverage and other innovations, at last the developing world can “get a signal” and this can change everything.
Once again – access is key! I am a fan of focusing on critical needs first – for example addressing the global pandemic – bringing virtual healthcare expertise to small villages. I predict we will see what we are used to calling the “developing world” becoming TRULY the “developing world” meaning millions of young people being trained in technology to DEVELOP solutions.This will be the end of Imperialism as we knew it, and bring with it tremendous independence and interdependence models we’ve yet to experience.
What advice can you give to women who are considering taking a dive into the technology world?
Study all the aspects – categories – opportunities – and choose technology that makes a meaningful difference for you! Go for it, and make sure to find other women who have been there and would love to mentor you.