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Remember that great ad that recently ran in multiple IT publications talking about the huge international company that kept its site up and running during the largest Webcast event of the year by using Microsoft technologies? No? Well, how about the one where a scantily clad model walks down the runway? Oh, that ad.

When I saw the Data Return branding campaign in our pages showing a Victoria’s Secret model, I had to shake off any knee-jerk reaction I might have had about its prurient approach. After all, it was an advertising matter, and that’s not my department. However, my reaction didn’t stop plenty of you from writing to us with jeers and a few subscription cancellations.

So imagine my surprise when I found out that the technical genius behind Data Return’s hosting services was female. Michelle Chambers, co-founder, president and COO, spends her days doing the kinds of strategic things that anybody does who runs a global operation with a thousand customers like Microsoft, Compaq, Fossil, RadioShack.com, World Bank and Texas Instruments.

Was it possible she was unaware of the campaign? Not at all. In fact, she was “fully behind” it. “We like to promote advertising based on real success stories,” she says.

And it was a success story. In 1999, the Victoria’s Secret fashion show Webcast crashed repeatedly under heavy traffic. In 2000, the show stayed available to millions of viewers, an impressive feat that spoke well of Windows 2000, which powered the hosting solution, and Data Return, which built the solution.

“We didn’t intend to offend anybody,” Chambers is quick to add. “The take on the ad was not to gain sensationalism.”

Chambers—the person who could easily have nixed this branding effort with a single dictate—has succeeded where relatively few women have, as an executive in high tech. In that role, she encourages other women to take this industry by storm—like she did. “Don’t give up. If you’ve got a goal and a dream, then go for it. Find other women in the industry and begin to build mentor groups, buddy groups, to help solve the problems we all have.”

That’s the same idea espoused by the 50-plus women who crammed into a hotel suite during the last MCP TechMentor. This gathering represented every industry, every level of experience and title, the best known and the tiniest of companies, every placeholder on the certification journey. They shared stories—brimming with pride—about how they got where they are. A common thread: Others—both men and women—frequently helped them achieve their goals. It’s that one-on-one effort that makes a difference in the lives of people.

So let me make this a one-on-one effort. Michelle, you’re truly an inspiration. But do me a favor: Next time choose some other success story, please.

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.

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