Donna Moore of LoRa Alliance: “A good leader must be as compassionate as they are strong”

To truly drive an organization and achieve the goals, convincing stakeholders within an organization and its board to follow your direction is key, so being persuasive is a must-have skill. Across my entire career, I’ve found that the skills I learned in sales and marketing positions have been invaluable as I moved into leadership positions. […]

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To truly drive an organization and achieve the goals, convincing stakeholders within an organization and its board to follow your direction is key, so being persuasive is a must-have skill. Across my entire career, I’ve found that the skills I learned in sales and marketing positions have been invaluable as I moved into leadership positions. The persuasive model is helpful not only with external customers, but also with influence within an organization.

As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Donna Moore.

Donna Moore is CEO & Chairwoman of the LoRa Alliance®. In this role, she oversees the organization, its strategy and direction, and drives the global adoption of the LoRaWAN® standard. Moore has nearly two decades of experience launching new companies and growing businesses across a variety of industries and competitive environments. Most recently, she was the co-founder and CEO of SpireSpark, a company that designs, builds and manages worldwide certification, compliance and conformance programs. Before that, Moore served as the executive director of the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), the standard for streaming local video, audio and picture files to each other over a LAN. Under her leadership, DNLA achieved global market adoption, with over 4 billion certified devices deployed worldwide, and established multiple strategic alliances internationally across multiple industries. Moore holds a B.S. from San Diego State University.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Much of my career was spent in health care. I worked my way up to the position of COO of a large health care organization but found myself a bit frustrated and on the sidelines as I watched technology being implemented to rapidly move other industries forward while health care moved slowly. Initially, I moved into the technology space, intending to strengthen my background and understanding of technology to bring that knowledge back to the health care industry. Instead, I found myself truly energized by the technology industry and have stayed in it ever since.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

The most interesting experience I’ve had was witnessing the support and innovation of the members at LoRa Alliance (my current organization), as they united together to collaborate at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Think back to March or April 2020. Covid-19 was ravaging the world and there was so little understanding of the virus and how to combat it. Many governments were reaching out for help — pleading for technology innovation that could help them protect their citizens. Our members saw that LoRaWAN, a low-power wide-area networking (LPWAN) technology for the Internet of Things (IoT), could be groundbreaking in its ability to develop solutions to help mitigate the pandemic — social distancing, contact tracing, cleanliness monitoring, to name just a few. So many members began offering Covid-19 solutions that we created a dedicated page on our website “How LoRaWAN Can Help Fight Covid-19”– which continues to grow to this day.

COVID accelerated the need for actionable information to improve the health, safety and welfare of citizens around the world. It has been inspirational to watch our members rise to the challenge to solve these needs and work together to bring solutions to market faster than anyone thought possible. These solutions have been and will remain critical to getting the economy moving forward as they provide assurance that environments are safe.

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?

When I first started in technology and attended my first board meeting, I came the same way as I had always prepared for similar meetings in health care: I took my seat at the table with my pen and paper, capturing notes and action items, and participating actively. Partway through the meeting, one of the board members from a huge electronics company leaned over to me and said, “You do know you’re running a digital technology alliance and not a pen-and-paper one, right?” I was caught off guard. The lesson I learned is that to be successful in the world of tech, I needed to step up and use its tools. This experience highlighted how different the tech world is from where I had been, and that I too must evolve to be successful.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Two things make the LoRa Alliance stand out — the quality of the LoRaWAN networking protocol and the fact that it is an open standard developed by a collaborative, global ecosystem. The reality is that IoT “takes a village” to develop, deploy and manage due to its complexity and number of moving parts. What’s unique about the LoRa Alliance is that it brings together leading experts from around the world and across the value chain to develop LoRaWAN technology, and many of our members then partner with each other to bring solutions to market. The simple fact is that open, global standards are the only way that this gigantic market can achieve its full potential. It’s been amazing to lead an organization that unites innovators, entrepreneurs, technologists and futurists who are among the most brilliant minds and problem solvers from around the world, and to see them work together to make incredible things happen. Within the LoRa Alliance, all work is conducted by three committees and multiple task forces, each with participants from multiple organizations to drive the LoRaWAN standard, its certification program and marketing activities. The success of LoRaWAN is that it is not about one story, it is about hundreds of thousands of success stories. Every day, there’s news about new products and solutions coming to market to solve critical global challenges and improve businesses’ bottom lines. I couldn’t be prouder of the work the LoRa Alliance is doing on a global stage.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think those will help people?

It is always exciting to work with the board and committees and the projects they’re engaged with. Our current focus as an alliance is about scaling deployments in the millions and billions. Many of the projects the Committees are working on enhance the specification by making it easier to develop, deploy and use LoRaWAN technology. The LoRa Alliance has achieved incredible success and is recognized as the de facto standard for LPWAN. We have reached the stage where the market is ready to scale, and our focus is on how to assist in driving scale, as LoRaWAN becomes an essential, ubiquitous technology that maximizes access to information and automation to support businesses’ bottom lines.

What’s sensational about LoRaWAN is that it helps people, communities and companies in so many ways. We’re just beginning to serve all the potential opportunities in the market. A few examples to highlight LoRaWAN solutions include reduced risk for employees and improved efficiencies for businesses by remotely monitoring equipment and environmental status. Cities are safer through smart lighting, waste management, and less congested via smart parking. Farmers are rapidly adopting LoRaWAN because cellular infrastructure isn’t often available where farms are located or doesn’t provide the needed flexibility to enable their needs, such as water management and improved crop yields to ensure sustainable access to global food supplies. Smart buildings benefit from LoRaWAN by managing room occupancy, monitoring air/water quality and ensuring facilities are cleaned — a necessary step in the re-opening of the world post-Covid-19. Another logistics application relates to keeping the food supply chain safe through temperature monitoring and tracking, reducing spoilage and related illnesses. The impact LoRaWAN can have on our lives, businesses, and environment is unprecedented.

OK, super. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

It’s been refreshing to see the status quo shifting in recent years, granting that there is still work to do. I live in Oregon, where we have a female governor and strong programs to support women in STEM. Other programs like Girls, Inc. and Technovation, and business initiatives are also increasing access to STEM. The more conversation there is about this topic, the more commitment to STEM-related activities will increase. It’s important that, across the board — from business to government — that awareness, investments and support continue so that we will have more women in STEM generally, and in STEM leadership specifically.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM or tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address that?

Unfortunately, women in tech often have to overcome unfair perceptions or biases about their gender based on factors, like the pitch of their voice, or “showing emotion,” which have nothing to do with their ability to successfully perform their job. I mentor a lot of women and I am very honest about how these things are perceived in the business world so that they project themselves more confidently. I look forward to the day when everyone is respected and judged on their qualifications and contributions. I know we will have arrived when we are not afraid of our differences but embrace them as strengths.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a woman in STEM or tech. Can you explain what you mean?

I don’t know that it’s a myth per se, but I’d love to never hear again, “Oh you’re a woman CEO?” In this day and age, it really should come as no surprise that anyone can become a CEO. I look forward to the day when women aren’t called out as special for their gender when they hold senior roles. No one would ever say, “Oh, you have a man for a CEO,” so it’s time for women to move beyond that too.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in STEM or tech,” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

To truly drive an organization and achieve the goals, convincing stakeholders within an organization and its board to follow your direction is key, so being persuasive is a must-have skill. Across my entire career, I’ve found that the skills I learned in sales and marketing positions have been invaluable as I moved into leadership positions. The persuasive model is helpful not only with external customers, but also with influence within an organization.

A good leader must be as compassionate as they are strong. Take the time to understand your employees and communities, and leverage that understanding to build a strong corporate culture.

Mentorships will make or break you. No one can give you better advice than someone who has been in your shoes. A good leader has their own mentors and serves as a mentor in turn.

You have to trust your team to be trusted. Leaders cannot run entire organizations on their own. Hire people you trust and trust them to do their jobs, so you can focus on yours.

Finally, I’ve found that autonomy, mastery and purpose are the three factors that consistently allow my team members to achieve better performance and satisfaction in their roles. I believe everyone needs these to flourish — including me.

What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their teams to thrive?

I’ve found the most critical aspect of managing large teams is to build a core team that has similar beliefs, philosophies and culture; and then have trust in them that, as the company grows, your team is supporting that culture. However, I have learned that culture is actually more strongly influenced by who you fire than who you hire. If you let people remain who are not aligned to a company’s culture, have poor work ethics or morale issues, it tells the rest of your staff that you tolerate this behavior, which is the fastest way to lose the confidence of the rest of the team. It is also one of the key reasons why good employees resign.

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 definitely been helped along the way by having bosses who didn’t have an issue with women leaders. I’ve also been in organizations that recognized my strengths and ability to lead, and bosses who supported me as I transitioned into positions of more responsibility. One person who stands out is Rick Miller, the CEO of Avamere Health Services. He saw my drive and talent and brought me into his organization to start up and run new companies under the organization’s umbrella. Eventually, I became COO of the entire organization. Rick recognized my strengths and gender was not a factor for him. Without his support, my entire career may have taken a different direction.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

It’s very exciting for me that my current role at the LoRa Alliance is focused on a technology that can have an incredible impact on the world. I’ve also directly focused on building trust with and mentoring my teams. Having trust as the foundation has allowed for very frank and honest discussions, because they know I have their best interest at heart. One person I mentored now runs her own company; another is running a startup to change plastic to diesel fuel; and another is now running sales for a large technology company. These are people with whom I’ve had relationships over years. We continue to stay in touch, and now we’re in positions where we can support each other. It’s genuinely rewarding.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” — Anaïs Nin

I’ve taken this quote to heart. Any time that I contemplate a hard or risky decision, I use that quote to remind myself that the only way to grow is to be more courageous so I can move forward. All growth depends on getting out of your comfort zone. If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S., with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂

I simply do not admire anyone more than Oprah Winfrey. Knowing where she came from, the life she built for herself by making hard decisions, running her businesses, starting her own networks and achieving massive success — all while constantly looking to become her highest self, listen to the world around her and learn from others. Ms. Winfrey is an amazing example of a woman living life on her own terms despite all of the obstacles in her path. I’m just in awe of how she continues to inspire, evolve and grow, regardless of her success.

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