Sylvana Caridi Coche is a woman on the cutting edge of technology. She is one of the elite who has not only watched but nurtured the shape of the IT movement from its inception. She has vast experience and insight when it comes to STEAM disciplines and is working diligently to not just talk–but to take action.
A highly respected expert who has been featured in a variety of magazines, she has received awards and is a sought-after speaker when it comes to STEAM topics. Coche works with myriad organizations across industries and readily provides her time to mentor others regardless of their discipline to give them the inspiration, insight and guidance they need to excel.
As of last year, the company she founded, Gravity Pro, became the largest SAP reseller in North America competing with big corporations such as the Big Four. She is also the only woman-owned reseller of SAP enterprise software in North America. Despite having risen to such heights in her career, she continues to stay determined to pursue her idea of what diversity should truly look like.
Coche grew up in Europe but has been living in the United States as a citizen for many years and is dedicated to helping this country compete on an international level. “My parents were Italian. They were poor and illiterate,” Coche says. “Just feeding their four children and keeping a roof over our heads was a daily struggle. Then, when I was 14, my father died, and life became even harder.” Having to deal with hardship and tragedy at such a young age could have had a negative impact on some, but Coche’s inner fire had her destined for greatness. In French, this is called ‘Vouloir, c’est pouvoir’–where there is a will, there is a way. And, Coche definitely had the dreams, aspirations and determination to create something bigger. She knew there was much more written in the stars for her.
Her humble beginnings might be what some consider her internal drive to keep going and keep innovating, but it is her ability to look at things from a different perspective and see things in the universe as they are that is propelling her into these uncharted territories and is continuing to help her be successful not only in her career but also at whatever she does.
Her revolutionary thoughts on the meaning of diversity and how it creates an oxymoron prove that her grasp of the concept transcends the accepted standard. Says Coche, “The word ‘diversity’ in itself entails that there is a separation of groups with one group leading and the other ones trying be a part of it. In reality, this concept is really what we are trying to remove. There should be another word, like UNITY, which would be a much better way to describe what we are really trying to do.”
The real pressing question Sylvana is trying to answer is how do we bring back the U.S. economy? “We have to start thinking about entrepreneurship which has always been the fuel of the United States. If we educate and mentor the U.S. entrepreneur and help them grow, they will create jobs we in the U.S. — which we need for our country to prosper — rather than outsourcing this work to other countries.”
But Coche cautions that there are hurdles to be faced. “If big corporations are only buying from other big corporations who invest a large amount of profits back internationally or to their own shareholders, then the money never gets back to our economy. It’s like a never-ending loop that doesn’t help us grow. We need to give suppliers that represent the population and know what different cultural communities need the opportunity to bid and win contracts because they will then invest back into the U.S. economy through their job creation and product innovation. This will answer the different culture and gender needs that will create a new loop, one that will actually help us grow. This is really why there are legislations around diversity. To allow current and future entrepreneurs that represent the population of today and tomorrow to also get a chance to present their innovative ideas and bid against the large corporation. That is the true reason of Diversity, not so much in giving a chance to people who can’t perform get contracts.
Being an international woman entrepreneur, Coche has doesn’t have a jaded view of the issues that can plague an economy. As she explains, “People get so focused in on the little details and there is always going to be a difference of opinion. But, if they could step back and look at the bigger picture and understand that helping these diverse small business get contracts and grow, they are really helping themselves because a thriving economy is what will ensure a thriving future.”
She also foresees, the coming generation, which includes her two young daughters, as our salvation. She believes this generation will be the ones who will save humanity and solve the biggest issues of today, and she and wants to teach others how to inspire this generation to take the tools we have created and think differently and creatively on how to apply and implement them into something that is beyond our wildest dreams — something that could actually solve the issues of humanity like famine, poverty and disease and we now have the means to do it.
Sylvana’s passion and drive are what we need more of in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world. With her commitment to pursuing this avant garde vision along with her experience, know-how and determination, she is carving a previously uncharted path not only for tech entrepreneurs in IT management but for women and all people who want to have an opportunity for true fulfillment in life.
She is opening the doors of tomorrow and giving the next generation a view of what they can truly do or become. She is leading the way for us as a society to not only be inclusive but to really understand the value that comes from UNITY.
The second issue we face is the fact that technology is growing and changing at an exponential rate. In fact, they say that in 10 years we will be a thousand times more advanced that we are today. Coche has been watching this growth and the evolution of her own industry of IT. “First there was programming and getting everyone on the platforms, going paperless and starting to track everything (ERP Era). Then there was all of data that needed to be archived, but luckily the cost of storage became lower than the cost of archiving so we kept all the data available. Then with the boom of the internet, and mobility consumers now have the power to choose who and where they buy products like never before. This is increasing the competition and giving a choice to consumers to buy from many companies and not just the large corporations as well as buying from a world with no frontiers. Today, with the inception of ‘big data’ the fact that we had stored all of the data allows us to look at the last 10-20 years and predict what will happen in the future based on that data. This is changing the dynamics of the companies and the market.”
Companies can now predict future market trends, doctors can predict and possibly even predetermine disease factors based on patterns of the past. Sylvana believes this will cause two things to happen; “Corporations’ functions will now basically all link to IT and we are going to need more STEM talent which we are not producing enough of. Second, the success of a company will be based on how well they can analyze data and how well they can predict what the consumer will need before anybody else. This is actually more important today than the brand and product which was the key to success few years ago.” This type of thinking will take what Coche calls, ‘a new brain’ people who can think differently and outside of the box to come up with a viable strategy for a company and that can ask the right questions and correlation between data and impact on the products, consumers and costs.”
Look at STEM statistics and realize that the United States is lacking in all categories based on the number of STEM people we will need. For example, they estimate that by 2018 there could be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs and that as of now U.S. colleges are only graduating enough students to fill 30 percent of STEM jobs by 2020. The numbers just don’t add up and that is why we need to get the new generation excited and aware of what STEM will bring about and what it really means to our society. “I believe the next generation is going to be the most interesting part of history,” says Coche.
Her unique approach to getting kids involved is based around two ideals. First, inspiration. “We need to ask these kids, do you realize where you are going and that you really can make a difference in humanity?” We don’t need the next generation to create the tools—that is what we have done, we need them to implement them. We need to stop criticizing the new generation of millennials and stop trying to mold them and make them fit into our views of society. They are the only ones who can actually save us. We need to teach them by inspiring, and we cannot put them in a box or category which will take away from their creativity and having an open mind. We need to give them confidence to do and think differently, and that is what will bring about the change we need.”
Second, we need to change the traditional views on mentorship, and Coche has a different approach to this as well. “We do not need to mentor by teaching technique or experience. The new generation is already more technologically advanced than we will ever be. We need to teach them a new philosophy on life and give them the understanding that they can do anything. We need to ensure that they are allowed to question and change and create and veer from the ways of the past. Keep them positive. Take them by the hand and tell them to forget anything they hear about impossibility of anything. Support them and help them do what they are meant to do. Help them change our old belief systems that don’t serve us anymore.”
This brings up another interesting advance Coche has made to mentorship which is the realization that it doesn’t matter if you and your mentee are from the same field or industry. “We are not mentoring the exchange of skills, but more the exchange on philosophy of life and how to approach this new frontier we are facing. So, joining mindsets from different walks of life and skillsets will instill new values and thought processes and even approach when it comes to addressing the issues facing them in their field. This is a true mentor/mentee partnership — where the mentor learns as much from this new generation that the mentee to adapt to this major transition of generation of thoughts and leadership.” If we can help this generation keep an open mind and come to the realization that we are all just one group, they might be able to come up with the approach necessary to move us forward.
Even with all that she is already doing, when asking Coche what she plans to do with this knowledge and understanding of the bigger picture she already knows the answer. Because as those with a greater purpose usually do, she has a vision of where we need to be and is already taking the steps to bring that vision into fruition. “My goal is to create a center in France where leaders spanning the generations can come together and look at the world differently. To collaborate and really step back and try to solve the real issues of the world and humanity. To get away from the old belief system that has us stuck in this loop. To communicate on how we take all of this STEAM innovation and knowledge and use it to better serve our society and ensure that human rights are in the forefront of everything that we do. We need to remember that money and power aren’t everything and that happiness and fulfillment are our ultimate goals.” The center Coche is creating will give world leaders of different backgrounds a place to meet together on the same consciousness and understand the true value of UNITY within humanity. “My hope is that this will bring about a more cohesive understanding of different cultures and how we can come together through all the advancements of technology and implement them to create a better world where we can all stop fighting for political status and get back to the base of what we all want, happiness and fulfillment.”
For Coche, breaking barriers, pushing boundaries and navigating uncharted territories is something she has done not only her entire career, but though out her entire life. Instilled with the true entrepreneurial spirit of never settling for the norm or being satisfied with “good enough,” she has taken many risks to get where she is today but always stayed true to her vision within and even though sometimes harder, the unknown path that looks more difficult might lead you exactly where you need to be if you trust and believe that this universe had a greater plan for you. “We have pushed too many people to do things based upon what society thinks they should do or not. Listen to your heart and your instincts because only you can know what is best for you. You need to find what inspires you and what you are good at because once you have that, nobody will be able to beat you or take that away from you. I know it sounds so cliché, but it is so relevant Follow your instincts regardless of the society pressure and judgement we are victims of today. And once you passed that, don’t be your own limit by getting stuck in your own beliefs.”
Her message transcends beyond age, race, and social status and is meant for anybody; kids, entrepreneurs, workers at corporations, anybody looking for that joy and fulfillment in life. Her final advice, “Find your spot in society. Stop counting on others and blaming others for your path. This is your job to do. Go out of your way to help others; share and mentor to help the next generation continue to innovate and move forward and compete at our full potential. Money is key because it is the measure of our success in today’s society but giving is the true definition of fulfillment, which contrary to what we think, giving is very selfish: when we give we actually get the most benefit by feeling fulfilled. That is the true secret.”
Coche’s message is one that we should all heed in our everyday lives. It’s very clear to see why she’s come as far as she has. Honoré-Gabriel de Rigueti said it best: “Aucun, mais les gens de forte passion sont capables de relever la grandeur,” which translates to “None, but people of strong passion, are capable of rising to greatness.” If you can find your passion and let it you take you where you’re supposed to be, then happiness and fulfillment are sure to follow. We can’t forget why we do what we do—we have to do anything we can to keep our vision in focus and our passions alive. If we all could only achieve Sylvana Coche’s level of passion for our own visions, we would all be on our own paths to greatness.