Women in leadership: Nancy Phillips

Chairman of the board, Flexential

Nancy is an inspirational leader of the telecommunications and IT infrastructure industries. Over the last three decades, she has not only started, but led organizations including ViaWest and Shaw Communications Infrastructure Division and continues to serve on numerous local and national boards.

What’s next for this evolving and dynamic industry?

We are on the precipice of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, possibly the most impactful disruption yet. We’ve rapidly moved beyond the Third Industrial Revolution where we saw the emergence of digitization to a new era driven by smart cities, connectivity of humans and machines, and the Internet of Everything. This is having a profound impact on technical infrastructure and data analyzing capabilities of organizations across the globe.

Speed, flexibility, hyper connectivity, improved latency with 5G and software-defined everything will be the new normal. Data centers remain the core destination for IT while providing access and capabilities for multi-platform strategies to accelerate and enable workloads.

Global Internet traffic is forecasted to grow at 23% CAGR over the next few years and that is going to change how companies think about their networks. We are at a paradigm shift in moving from the core to the edge to support customer demand. It is astounding how much data is generated every 60 seconds—156 million emails are sent, 800,000 files uploaded on Dropbox, over 1.5 million songs streamed on Spotify in under a minute.  It’s all about the ubiquity of data and how we transport it, protect it and where it is stored, and that’s at the heart of what the data center industry represents.

What are the top five pivotal moments in your life that have impacted your personal growth?

There have been a culmination of events that have shaped me personally and informed how I approach business. 

Travel the World For three years after graduating from university, I traveled to places as diverse as Tibet and Japan, to Switzerland and the Netherlands. Adapting to change and a myriad of cultures, languages, and navigating travel logistics, as well as ability to land a job in these countries, gave me extraordinary life perspective. I developed a confidence and an appreciation for the importance of building relationships. These experiences were foundational to my thirst for innovation and tendency to look forward – to anticipate what is around the corner. Lessons that have served me well both personally and professionally.

Entrepreneurial Ways I was energized with this confidence and had a calling to build something important with the knowledge that I could take my experiences and ability to motivate people from different backgrounds and successfully lead teams and organizations. Technology is a universal language and a natural fit for where I started my career in the 1980s.  Innovation in telecommunications had begun to surface. My journey led me to an early stage teleconferencing company. We were fortunate to build a thriving company, taking advantage of business trends, and eventually were acquired by a Denver-based firm.

Colorado Bound Life presents you with many forks in the road. My path took me from Canada to Denver, which proved to be significant both professionally and personally. I fell in love with Colorado and fell in love in general. I found my husband, started my family here and launched new businesses. Colorado is an amazing place for living, raising family, attracting some of the best talent in the country, and offers a phenomenal ecosystem that helped form ViaWest. This leads me to my fourth pivotal moment.

Starting ViaWest Co-founding ViaWest with my colleague from telecom in 1999 was challenging and rewarding. We found ourselves navigating through some of the largest sector changes, including the dot-com implosion in the 2000s. Operating with a continuous spirit of adaptability and anticipating what would come allowed us to thrive in the chaos as we took advantage of the economic conditions to build our portfolio. We became one of the largest colocation retail providers west of the Mississippi. After nearly two decades of growth, ViaWest was purchased by Peak10, a GI Partner PE company. This launched my next chapter.

My next chapter, Flexential In 2017, I became the Executive Chairman of the combined entities of ViaWest and Peak10, a marriage of two powerhouses. We branded the new company Flexential—providing flexible and essential IT infrastructure and services. Flexential immediately became a differentiated national platform with robust capabilities ready to support the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

As a “woman in the boardroom”, how are the times changing in your perspective? Would you like to give a message to young women to encourage them to join this industry?

I would love to drive a message: “please participate in what I believe is one of the most dynamic, interesting and innovative spaces in business today”. We are at the heart of how enterprises are looking at embracing technology and looking to partner with companies that are enabling their success. Diversity and inclusion are a must in the boardroom. The statistics tell us that high performing companies are purposefully diverse and see the benefits to top line performance. Increasing the diversity of your leadership team results in enhanced innovation and improved financial performance. It is imperative that we attract more women into the field of technology.

I serve as the Chairman of the National Center for Women & IT (NCWIT), an organization I am deeply passionate about. Our purpose is to change the meaningful participation of women in the influential field of computing and IT, particularly in terms of innovation and development. If you want to build a high performing company, diversity and inclusion needs to be part of your strategy and your culture.

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