Interview with Lorraine Hariton, Senior Advisor, Global Business Partnerships, Transnational Strategy Group
“Pursue a big idea, constantly test and adjust, involve the very best people and surround yourself with great mentors.”
Q: How did you start?
A: I was lucky that when I was a freshman in college, I took Calculus and my maths professor took a personal interest in me. He encouraged me to develop my natural talents in Mathematics and analytical thinking. He gave me a teaching assistant job and suggested I learn about computers. Since Hamilton College in 1972 did not even have a class in computer science, I did an independent study course and loved it. My first computer program was the game of “Life” and I got hooked. I ended up transferring to Stanford and changing the trajectory of my life. After college, I became a computer programmer in the operations research department of American Airlines but decided to go into sales for IBM to have more people interaction. My IBM sales training and my computer science training have been the foundation for all that came.
Q: What were the major obstacles to overcome?
A: Balancing career and family has been a challenge and a guiding principle for me all my life. I chose to go back to IBM after business school because they respected family and balance. I prioritized my focus down to what was most important to do successfully in these two worlds. I never tried to do it all, and I had a number of failures along the way. These caused me to introspect and redirect my efforts, but never stopped me from moving forward.
Q: Did you have a mentor or a role model?
A: My most powerful and enduring role model has been my mother, who had a highly successful career at a time when that was rare for a women. She valued independence and critical thinking and had tremendous resiliency. She believed in me and gave me the confidence to be my best self.
Q: How did you develop key partnerships?
A: Partnership are based on friendship and trust. I was once told ‘relationships first’ and I keep that in mind when I forge partnerships. I find partnership opportunities in the most unlikely places. One never knows where a brief conversation can lead. I try to help wherever I can, because I like to and want to.
Q: What was unexpected?
A: I decided to become involved with politics and help Hillary Clinton with her presidential run at 50. It was my passion and became my second act and opened up a whole new world. Who would have guessed?
Q: What has been your biggest lesson so far?
A: “To thine own self be true”. The more you understand yourself - your strengths, your passions, what makes you tick and the more you are able to authentically follow that inner voice - the more successful, the happier and the more able you will be to give to others.
Q: How can we help more women become entrepreneurs or claim higher board positions?
A: We need to build the self confidence of women so they “Lean In” and enable them to be their best selves. We need to be aware of unconscious bias that is just as common in women as men. We need to look for opportunities to mentor and support. We need to demand diverse slates in any hiring process we are involved in. We need to lead by example. Madeline Albright said “there is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women”.
Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
A: Pursue a big idea, constantly test and adjust, involve the very best people and surround yourself with great mentors.
Senior Advisor, Global Business Partnerships, Transnational Strategy Group
Lorraine Hariton spent 25 years in various senior level positions including CEO of two start-ups in Silicon Valley before being appointed by President Obama to be Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs at the US Department of State (September 2009 – February 2014). Currently she is a Senior Advisor at the Transnational Strategy Group. She is doing business development for a number of clients including the New York Academy of Sciences and SRI International and serves on the board of Wave Systems (NASDAQ:WAVX), a data security company and the Wiki Education Foundation.
At the State Department she was responsible for outreach to the business community, commercial advocacy and global entrepreneurship efforts. She worked with US embassies around the world to ensure that support of business was a priority and was instrumental in establishing entrepreneurship as a foreign policy tool.
Ms. Hariton has 25 years of experience in the information technology sector in Silicon Valley. During her business career Ms. Hariton worked in a range of sectors including cloud computing, Internet of Industrial things, retail payment systems, Internet audio solutions, speech applications, mid range computers and PBX's. Ms Hariton previously served on the boards of IODA, Beatnik, the California Board of Accountancy, the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives, the Stanford Clayman Institute for Gender Research and the Entrepreneurs Foundation.
Ms. Hariton has an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a B.S. in Mathematical Sciences from Stanford University. She has two grown children and currently resides in Washington, DC.