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A woman of influence: Teresa Phillips

Editor’s note: This is an interview with one of the outstanding Silicon Valley professionals selected to be in the 2021 class of Women of Influence. The Business Journal will celebrate the honorees at a special virtual event on June 30; get tickets here.

Teresa Phillips

Title/position: CEO

Company: Spherex

Location: Santa Clara

How has the pandemic changed how you lead others? We take for granted the synergies that in-person teamwork affords. When everyone is working remotely, the cost of juggling multiple projects increases.

The first thing we did was reorganize teams around fewer initiatives, which allowed us to work faster, fail faster, scale faster and move on. As a result, 2020 was a very productive and efficient year for us. We delivered on client commitments as well as achieved our technology and innovation goals.

How has the pandemic changed your outlook on life and work? I would characterize 2020 as the year of vulnerability. Family members, friends and colleagues fell victim to the coronavirus. Our healthcare providers and systems, the guardians of our safety, were repeatedly stretched to the near breaking point. And at all levels and in all areas, our government did not meet the moment in dealing with the pandemic.

Yet, through it all, we were not alone — the entire world’s population felt vulnerable in 2020. Nearly 8 billion people, all connected by feelings of insecurity and loss.

Yes, we were gripped by fear and uncertainty, but we were also connected by courage. We showed up for one another. My hope is we remember that it is in the giving that we are filled.

What’s your strategy for getting your business back to normal after the pandemic? We remain agile and prepared to support our clients who are some of the largest brands in the global Media & Entertainment industry. We have always had remote teams and have been operating seamlessly during the pandemic. As with other companies, office hours will be more flexible as we settle back in.

What would you like to accomplish in the next year? Every streaming platform is racing to expand internationally. We will play a defining role in helping global storytellers culturally adapt their film and tv shows to better connect with local audiences worldwide.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received? General Galvin of the U.S. Army once told me, “Great leaders don’t aim to attract more followers. They strive to create more leaders.” I’m proud of the difference I’ve made in many young leaders’ careers and lives. If I could leave only one leadership legacy, it would be “to inspire.”

What is the biggest challenge facing women who want to take on leadership roles? Women in leadership roles often face gender or subconscious bias, no matter the industry. Society rewards men who push boundaries and don’t take “no” for an answer, while women are expected to soft pedal their authority. Women who want to take leadership roles must step into their own power by knowing who they are and playing to their strengths.

A female CEO or business icon you admire? I admire Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle, and Ginni Rometty, former CEO of IBM, because I can imagine the courage and sacrifice that was required of them.

Something about you that would surprise others? I went to clown school so I could volunteer as a clown in children’s hospitals.

A moment in your career you are most proud of? My military service. It was the end of the Cold War, and serving at NATO during such a pivotal point in history was an incredible experience.

How many hours a week do you average at work? I can’t even count! I love what I do, and our team is building something very special.

How do you unwind after work? I play basketball or take a walk with my teenage boys.

What was your first job? During the summer while in high school, I worked for the school district to prepare the schools for the coming year, which entailed a lot of painting and waxing hardwood floors.

What was your favorite pop-culture discovery during the pandemic? Subscribing to all of the streaming platforms.