Advancing Life & Work

Human Element: Yanick Pouffary, networking ‘evangelist’ and HPE Chief Technologist too!

Yanick Pouffary is Chief Technologist for IoT and Intelligent Edge Services at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). She leads on digital transformation, innovation, emerging trends, and helps customers utilize disruptive technologies to improve and accelerate their digital transformation journey. An IPv6 Hall of Fame inductee, Yanick is an advocate for the power of networking products and services. We asked her to share her career journey.


How has your career led you to the role of Chief Technologist at HPE?
Funnily enough, computing wasn’t my first career choice; I’d originally intended to become a pilot. Once I discovered computers though, that was it – I was hooked. I completed my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science in Nice, France and my master’s at the State University of New York in Stony Brook, NY. It was while at Stony Brook that I discovered networking (my thesis was on neural networking), and it cemented a passion that set me on a direct path to my current role.

I have always been very technical. After positions with Motorola and IBM, I moved to Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) where I worked as a kernel network stack developer on one of the first peer-to-peer network architectures, DECnet.

In the mid-90s, I moved away from DECnet towards TCP/IP and IP next-generation (IPv6) – technology which is really the basis of the Internet – and it was around this time that I began to reflect on how my work on DECnet fit in with where the industry was heading. I realized that the proprietary nature of some technology, however brilliant, was quickly making itself obsolete as industries moved onto open network protocols. So, for any next-generation technology to be successful, it needed endorsement from within the industry. This is when I began to expand my focus, while staying technical, towards a more advisory role. I became an evangelist for the industry, advocating for the benefits of next-generation networking protocols to governments, customers, and the industry itself.

So, after holding several roles in engineering with DEC, Compaq, and Hewlett Packard, I became Chief Technologist in HPE’s services team in 2012. In the end, although my career path has had many twists and turns, at the heart of it has always been my passion for networking.

What excites you most about your role?
I’m excited by technology, but more so by finding the right balance between people and technology. Technology can augment people’s lives in a positive, ethical way. HPE, along with many of the other big tech vendors, is really rallying behind the conversation around ethics in technology, and at the heart of this conversation is people and partnerships. As someone who has been passionate about collaboration throughout my career, I’m excited about the potential for technology to bring value to our lives and allow us to thrive.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic changed your focus?
My role as Chief Technologist is to help our customers navigate change. In this current climate, companies are having to embrace change more rapidly than ever before. The digital transformation agenda has accelerated enormously and our current focus is on how we can help our customers leverage technology to help their employees work smarter and embrace a new division of labor.

While this pandemic is horrible, we are lucky in that the technology was ripe to be leveraged to address this kind of disruption. We have collaborative technology, virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and remote guidance capabilities. But because of the profound disruption to businesses that the pandemic and subsequent shutdowns have created, there is a sense of urgency and we are having to help our customers navigate through this process at an accelerated pace.

My focus is on how to help our customers succeed and select the right technology to not only survive today, but thrive tomorrow, and be a disruptive leader in the next normal.

Do you see yourself as a role model for women in the tech industry?
It’s true that throughout my career, I’ve worked alongside fewer women than men – when I joined the workforce, there was just a handful of female engineers. But it has never bothered me. I’m an engineer at heart, I’ve studied and worked hard to become an expert in my field and people have responded to that.

When it comes to women in technology and engineering, we do still have work to do. We have to fight as a society and speak out if companies aren’t providing opportunities equally. But it’s also up to women to thrive. I believe that we’ve made huge progress over the last 30-40 years. Companies like HPE are changing the face of the industry because they are showing the “art of the possible” to women.

Companies need to ensure that diversity almost becomes a mantra, a cardinal rule that cannot be broken.

I’m against any sort of quota for gender diversity, but I am fully supportive of positive encouragement. Companies need to ensure that diversity almost becomes a mantra, a cardinal rule that cannot be broken. But to go back to the original question, I know I have helped women through my example, but it was not a conscious statement. Maybe I just didn’t listen when people were trying to stop me and tell me I couldn’t do it!

Outside of work, what do you like to do?
Here in France, I’m actively involved in the Humane Society, something that was born out of my other passion: the fair treatment of all animals. I am also working to help bridge the technological divide within society for two groups: seniors and women. I’ve already spoken on the importance of gender diversity within the tech sector, but there’s also a deep technological divide when it comes to our senior population. The pandemic has accelerated our digital transformation agenda with many e-services becoming the norm. This has inevitably caused huge disruption for elderly people and I believe that a lot of work is needed to be done to address this issue.

Any advice you’d like to leave us with?
Collaborate. No one has ownership of good ideas. Good ideas can come from anywhere, but through collaboration and open communication, we can make real change. I’ve learned that in order to help others to adopt new technologies, you must recognize that you can’t work in isolation. As much as you can become an expert in something, it’s important to also broaden your knowledge, and of course, collaborate.

And choose to do something that makes you happy. Choose a company that you are proud to work with, choose a technology domain that excites you, and choose a career that makes you proud.

Connect with Yanick Pouffary on LinkedIn

HPE Editor
Hewlett Packard Enterprise

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