Being a transformative leader means having a unique perspective. That’s how Minette Norman—a liberal arts major with no engineering background—became a high-powered female executive in the male-dominated tech industry. As the former VP of Engineering at Autodesk, Norman led a team of 3,500 software professionals and transformed the company culture from the inside out. Today, she’s a leadership consultant specializing in building diverse and inclusive cultures across countless organizations. Her talks demonstrate why establishing psychological safety is essential for unlocking creativity, collaboration, and a sense of belonging in the workplace.
As the former VP of Engineering Practice, Minette Norman directed collaboration at Autodesk, helping world-renowned engineers overcome silos and work together on common solutions. Norman—who holds degrees in Drama and French, not Engineering—was also serving in a position traditionally held by men. For some, this may have been an insurmountable challenge, but for Norman, having a different perspective was essential to her success. While spearheading state-of-the-art engineering practices, she focused on changing how employees interacted, collaborated, and listened to others’ ideas. Today, she brings her decades of experience leading globally distributed, multicultural teams into her own consulting business, where she helps develop transformative leaders and teams, leverage diversity in all its forms, and inspire the type of truly collaborative culture that leads to break-out innovation. We all have our biases. But by approaching them with empathy and curiosity, as Norman does, we can create an inclusive environment where everyone feels supported and empowered to contribute. Her dynamic presentations and interactive workshops are an invaluable resource for leaders, managers, and employees at every level.
Prior to Autodesk, Norman held a variety of technical communication and management positions at companies including Symantec and Adobe. Named one of the ‘Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business’ by the San Francisco Business Times, Business Role Model of the Year’ by the Women in IT Awards Silicon Valley, Norman is a recognized industry expert with a unique perspective. She often speaks at international conferences where she is asked to share her thoughts on leadership, culture, and collaborative behavior.
Norman has a broad approach to community service, working with local, national and international charities. She serves on the Board of Directors of D-Rev, a non-profit devoted to developing medical technologies for impoverished and vulnerable populations worldwide. Norman holds degrees in both drama and French from Tufts University and studied at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris.
Creating an Inclusive Culture Why Psychological Safety Is Essential for Belonging
Radical Empathy Creating Cultures of Transformative Leadership
No company today can succeed without empathy at the core of its business strategy. But empathy isn’t just about compassion and consideration for customers. For an inclusive, transformative culture to thrive, organizations need to ensure that all employees feel valued, heard, and appreciated. And that takes work.
In this keynote, Minette Norman outlines her approach to ‘radical empathy’: a leadership plan that embraces the challenges of 21st century business and upends outdated mindsets about work. She asks audiences to see vulnerability, emotion, and compassion as strengths—even, or especially, in male-dominated, tech-based industries. Challenging the premise that women must “lean in” with emotional detachment to be successful, she explores how an embrace of vulnerability and empathy can break—and re-write—the rules of business for everyone, men and women included. With reference to personal challenges she’s overcome in her own career, Norman helps us abandon ‘us vs. them’ mentalities, engage in active listening, and make time for the challenging conversations we’ve been putting off. Ultimately, this is a talk for leaders to feel empowered and take action—and embrace a mode of leadership that’s backed by science, economics, and the human heart.
Building a Collaborative Team How to Run Inclusive Meetings
From Drama Major to VP of Engineering Leading Outside Your Comfort Zone
There is no single formula for being a successful and effective leader, even in the world of science, tech, and engineering. And to this point, Minette Norman is resounding proof. At university, Norman studied Drama and French, never set foot in a computer lab or programming class, and eventually taught French in a private school for boys. Eventually, she became the VP of Engineering at a major software company. And instead of being a hindrance, her liberal arts background has been instrumental to her success. Her theatre training helps her speak in public and think on her feet; her language skills make her a better global ambassador, interested in learning about other cultures; and her connection with people and emotional intelligence make her a strong organizational leader. Today, Norman leverages her extensive leadership experience as a consultant to business leaders and their teams. Throughout this inspiring talk, Norman extols the values of a liberal education—how it can open doors, prepare us for collaborative, dynamic workplaces, and give us an edge on the competition.
Forget what you may have heard. It’s smart to be a drama major. And with Minette Norman, you’ll understand exactly why.