Anne Mandler Talks Women and Ecosystems with Watermark CEO Marlene Williamson - ANNE Magazine
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Anne Mandler Talks Women and Ecosystems with Watermark CEO Marlene Williamson

Anne Mandler Talks Women and Ecosystems with Watermark CEO Marlene Williamson

Anne Mandler talks women and ecosystems with Watermark CEO Marlene Williamson for the Spring/Summer 2016 No. 2 of ANNE

ANNE MANDLER: So, everyone on here this is Anne from Anne Magazine, With me is the lovely Marlene Williamson. Thank you for joining me today.

MARLENE: My pleasure, Anne.

ANNE: Marlene is the CEO of Watermark, and she has held a number of technology C-level roles and lots of other roles. I’m going to name a couple but I’m not going to go over your lengthy bio because you’re very busy.

MARLENE: It would take too long.

ANNE: You’re so impressive. You were at Alfresco, BigMachines, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (sold to Western Digital), and then prior to that, you were a VP of global marketing at Ericsson, VP at Symantec, IBM, Polycom, and Acer. You were at Apple prior to that, and I know there is more, but I’m going to stop there. So, Marlene, what a Conference! Thank you so much for giving women a place to share and to voice. I would love to talk to you for just a couple of minutes about Watermark and about the mission of Watermark for people who couldn’t make it to this event. What is the mission? You talked about it, the mission not changing.

MARLENE: Absolutely. About 22 years ago, Watermark was formed in the Bay Area by a wonderful entrepreneur who is with us here today, Denise Brosseau (Watermark), who could not find any other female entrepreneurs that she could share her joys and her woes of building her own business. She formulated the organization. It was known as the Forum For Women Entrepreneurs, and then it became the Forum For Women Entrepreneurs and Executives, and it is now known as Watermark. The mission for the past 22 years has never wavered. It has always been to increase the number of women in leadership positions by helping them, supporting them, building a community, and helping them develop leadership skills and networking opportunities whether they’re an entrepreneur looking to grow their business, looking for business development, looking to raise money, whether they work in corporate environment looking for that next promotion and building their visibility and their ecosystem, that and is our sole focus. Right now, we produce more than 50 events during the course of the calendar year based in the Bay area.

ANNE: That’s incredible. That’s a lot of events.

MARLENE: It is. It is. We do an entrepreneur event. We do an innovation conference. We do leadership conferences. We bring in speakers, and we actually go into companies and deliver gender diversity workshops, as well, to teach leaders, both men and women, how the male brain operates differently than the female brain, how they negotiate differently, they mentor differently—we’re just different people. We also teach how women can adapt their approach, and leaders can create environments where women are supported and can be themselves.

ANNE: I think after listening to that, we should do a whole episode just on the differences in the brain.

MARLENE: Yes, absolutely. I’m in a book club, like many people are, and one month my book club read two books. One’s called The Female Brain and one’s called The Male Brain. They were great books, and you learn so much about how we’re different.

ANNE: Yes we are, and we can work together.

MARLENE: Absolutely.

ANNE: Talk to me about Watermark and about the changes or what you’re bringing to the table as CEO since you’ve been here. Are things different since you’ve been here?

MARLENE: Well, I just stand on the shoulders of the amazing women who have led Watermark before me, and I’m carrying the torch for the next one. We have all grown and developed the organization. When I stepped into the role more than a year ago, even though Watermark is a nonprofit, I feel very, very strongly that it’s important that we pay it forward, that we fill the pipeline for the next generation, and that we support the next generation. As a mother myself of millennial daughters, one of whom is with us here at the conference today, I feel that I want to do whatever we can as the Watermark community to pay it forward. We raise money for girls’ leadership programs. We also have a Watermark scholarship program, where we were able to bring in a lot of junior high and high school girls to the conference today to give them exposure and knowledge. We also are very proud that on our board of directors we have a UC Davis MBA student (on our board) to give her exposure to board activities. So, these are the things that we’re trying to do to fill the pipeline and help our next generation.

ANNE: That’s amazing. Hopefully, we’ll have more companies following the lead of what you’re doing because I think it just needs to be out into the ether a little while it sinks down into companies. Some of our speakers this morning were talking about what happens when you start to implement changes like Watermark is setting the tone for—the results are incredible.

MARLENE: Yes, yes.

ANNE: It’s my daughter’s sixth birthday today and hearing you talk about your millennial daughter, there’s not another place I would want to bring my daughter. She’s young yet, but one day I think just to have that this experience at a conference as something normal that we’d do together.

MARLENE: Maybe one day we won’t need conferences for women. Who knows?

ANNE: Who knows? Something to aspire to.

MARLENE: Absolutely.

ANNE: Marlene, for those people who come here looking for answers to questions in terms of career or leadership, how can they find more leadership roles models and mentors in their organization, do you advice for them? What sort of resource can they take away from this conference?

MARLENE: There are so many people who look at networking or mentoring or building their ecosystem when they feel they need it. When there’s a gun to their head. When they’ve lost their job, they hate their boss. They got divorced. They have to go back to work. Whatever the circumstances are. My advice is to incorporate building your ecosystem from a personal as well as a professional perspective as part of your ongoing DNA. We all know that Dr. Oz tells us that we should workout every day. My attitude is that an organization like Watermark should be part of your 24-hour fitness DNA. It shouldn’t be when you think you need it. You should be prepared for when adversity happens. Good things will happen when you’re not looking for it. Because of your ecosystems, opportunities will come to you because people know you. They like you. They want you, and they say, I have this opportunity, and I’d love for you to join my team. Be proactive is my advice.

ANNE: That’s great advice. I know that we’re limited on time, so is there a way for people to connect with you to find out more about Watermark and how it can impact their organization and their groups?

MARLENE: Yes, you certainly can go to our website, which is We are a nonprofit, and you can follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and we would love to have you attend one of our fifty events a year and have you join the Watermark community. It’s extremely, extremely supportive, welcoming, and nurturing for people’s lives—not only professional lives but personal lives as well.

ANNE: I love how you’re an ambassador at every level so you are leading, and you asked me if I was a member.

MARLENE: Thank you, Anne.

ANNE: It was such a pleasure.

Marlene Williamson

Marlene Williamson is the Chief Executive Officer of Watermark. Previously Marlene was Chief Marketing Officer of a number of technology companies including Alfresco, BigMachines (sold to Oracle) and Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (sold to Western Digital).

Prior to joining Hitachi, Marlene was Vice President of Global Marketing at Ericsson. She has held Vice President of Marketing roles at Symantec, IBM, Polycom and Acer. Earlier in her career, she led Global Consumer Marketing at Apple.

She has been named Marketer of the Year by the American Marketing Association, Partner of the Year by Yahoo, Innovator of the Year by Google, Outstanding Female Executive in Silicon Valley by the YWCA, a Woman of Influence in Silicon Valley by the San Jose Business Journal, and a 2013 Woman Who Has Made Her Mark by Watermark. She is a former board member of Watermark, the CMO Council and the Association for Corporate Growth.

She holds an MBA from DePaul University and is a frequent international speaker on high tech marketing issues.

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