Posted: 4 Min ReadDiversity & Inclusion

Connecting Across Perceived Boundaries

Symantec CIO Sheila Jordan shares how she and her friends recognized a lack of connection with San Francisco's homeless, and how the importance of connecting within our personal and professional lives leads to removing boundaries.

In today’s fast paced society, I sometimes wonder if we have stopped seeing the humanity that is right in front of us. Recently some friends and I were discussing homelessness in downtown San Francisco, and asking when it became socially acceptable to walk by and ignore people on the streets. We get caught up in juggling the busyness of our everyday lives, and we never seem to find the time to help. 

My friends and I decided to brainstorm ideas on how we could connect with the homeless. We assembled 35 “homeless kits” containing toiletries, clothing, and non-perishable food items, put on our Santa hats, hopped in our cars and drove up to San Francisco. It didn’t take long to find a man sitting on the corner in a wheelchair, who wasn’t wearing any shoes. As I got closer to him, I could see that his feet were bloody. I kneeled wished him a happy holiday and asked what size shoes he wore. We had his size, so I reached into my bag and handed him a pair. It’s said that the eyes are the window to the soul, and as I looked at his deep-set brown eyes, I wondered about his story. I wanted to ask him a question, but I was quickly diverted with the expression on his face as he began to smile. He thanked me with tears rolling down his face, and not soon after, my eyes filled with tears as well.

A simple gesture from a total stranger made his day, and it certainly made ours as we went from person to person distributing the kits. We felt on top of the world, and I began to wonder what stopped us from doing this sooner? Was is just busyness? Or was approaching strangers in hard times just too uncomfortable? Why was it so difficult to get out of the perceived boundaries in our minds? 

We can all think of a time when we’ve met a new friend or colleague and learned something new through that connection. 

As human beings, we want and need to connect with others. From the time we are born, we are conditioned to need a sense of belonging. Whether it’s with family members, teachers, colleagues, or even strangers, we gain a sense of being “a part of something” when we are connected to others. We also expand our minds with exposure to new perspectives. We can all think of a time when we’ve met a new friend or colleague and learned something new through that connection. 

My friends and I stepped outside our comfort zone to connect with the homeless. We need to be more intentional about making connections at work as well. We need to ask ourselves: how we can step out from our functional boundaries and begin to think horizontally across the company to create a more frictionless experience for customers? If we only work within our functional area, we’re missing opportunities to align and collaborate with employees and customers. Our company, our job, our budget is all aligned functionally, so it’s easy to stay within our own perceived boundaries. However, it’s through connecting across all functional areas—getting out of our comfort zones and reaching horizontally into other parts of the organization—where we start to see a digital transformation.

So, how do we do this? We must be intentional in shifting our mindset and actions so that we can understand the connected buying experience. Digital transformation relies on fully understanding our customers and partners and how they want to buy our services. When we understand the connected buying experience, we can surprise them with a frictionless experience and delight them every step of the way. This is where horizontal thinking comes in. 

We must be intentional in shifting our mindset and actions so that we can understand the connected buying experience.

Think of your favorite online frictionless experience: they know you, your interests, and your billing information, and they make it easy for you to place an order in just a few simple clicks. That experience is not the result of one function in that company. It encompasses the product or service, the marketing, ordering team and billing, and many other business units all coming together to provide you a seamless customer experience.   

Symantec is at a pivotal juncture in the company with our digital transformation. It’s an exciting time because we have a significant opportunity to make a difference for our customers by improving their buying experience. A critical success factor for us to win in the marketplace with our customers and partners is to transition from vertical thinking to horizontal thinking. And, we won’t be successful if we don’t engage our customers and partners in conversations and listen to them every step of the way––what’s working and what’s not. Additionally, we have over three hundred thousand customers worldwide. They are global, and they are diverse, so we must understand and incorporate nuances in our localization efforts. We must solve for the customer! Then, once we have their insight and requirements, work with IT to apply the technology, data, and even artificial intelligence insight that will drive a simpler and more intuitive experience.

Just as my friends and I were very intentional about connecting with the homeless, we have to be intentional about achieving our results and exceeding our customers’ expectations. My challenge to every Symantec employee is to be intentional about getting connected with others. Get out of your functional work silos, and think and act horizontally. When you’re implementing a task, ask yourself if you’ve reached beyond organizational boundaries to understand the connected user experience fully. I believe the results will exceed your expectations and together this is how Symantec will win with our customers and partners!

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About the Author

Sheila Jordan

SVP, Chief Information Officer

Sheila Jordan is Senior Vice President and CIO at Symantec, responsible for the company’s information technology strategy and operations. Her goal is to drive increased productivity, better efficiency and intuitive experiences for Symantec's global workforce.

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