Julie Bauer is a name familiar to most corporate innovators. Since joining Panasonic, she has been making waves in the technological world for her creative and unique ideas. We recently had an in-depth discussion with Julie following International CES 2015.
By Lisa Lunney
I&T TODAY: Can we start with formally introducing you to our readers? How long have you been with Panasonic, and in your current position?
JULIE BAUER: I joined Panasonic about eighteen months ago as the president of the Consumer Division. I also have taken on responsibility for all of North America marketing, and digital. This year at CES, we showcased a blending between both consumer and B2B. If consumers like a product, they are going to want it with them in the car and on the plane—promoting both the automotive and aviation sectors. That is the heart of what we are trying to achieve. For the last year, I have been working on transforming what was a TV-catered business into vignettes of consumer lifestyle.
I&T TODAY: Can you expand on one such product, Virtual Mirror?
JB: We received Best in Show at CES for that particular product. It is both a consumer product, and one that retailers will benefit from. Like Sephora and Nordstrom, people can try different makeup and hairstyles, and it will actually project what you could look like if you applied these things. We think it will be both a consumer and retail product for businesses to help boost sales of other products within their stores. A lot of interest has been expressed from retailers at this point.
I&T TODAY: How is the company working with gender balance in the hiring and management areas?
JB: If you have a diverse workforce, you are going to have a diverse set of products, which makes sense for a diverse consumer base. We have quite a bit of diversity in the consumer division. I can speak to that primarily because that’s what I manage. Diversity is much more than male/female or a race discussion. The more different viewpoints that are voiced, the more best-of-class products and ideas come.
I&T TODAY: How has Panasonic’s aggressive move to go direct to consumer through social media and other programs changed the face of the brand?
JB: A lot. Before, we were viewed as almost inaccessible. All the information we would get back was sales data, which doesn’t tell you who your customers are. It became important for us to have an online channel for communication, not to compete with our brick-and-mortar partners, but to listen directly to customers’ feedback through Facebook/Twitter. We take this feedback in addition with customer comments and know what ways to change our products to better benefit our customers. This is the science and methodology behind these changes.
I&T TODAY: As a young woman, were you driven towards a career in technology?
JB: I didn’t like technology! I thought I was going to be a lawyer. I did like to lead people. I always tell the story of when I was six years old and my grandfather had given me a chalkboard and some old teaching chairs that kids could sit in. I would have my friends over and I would always have to be the teacher. I knew whatever I did, I would end up leading something. It was an odd trade into technology, but I am very glad it worked. What I brought to the table was an ability to understand what the problem was and lead teams to implement the technology to make the necessary changes. Some of the skills are non-technical, but having now been in the field for years I am technical—it just didn’t start out that way.
I&T TODAY: Can you share your mentoring work?
JB: I do a lot of mentoring internally with the company. I mentor both men and women in ways of how to get to the next step. In terms of particularly women, I also belong to a non-profit board called Royal Neighbours of America. It is based out of Iowa and they help the impoverished woman get financial and insurance resources to build their own small businesses. It is very fulfilling.
I&T TODAY: Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for the next generation of women in technology?
JB: Work hard! Tenacity is a critical skill set, whether you are a man or a woman. If you’re interested in doing/being something or have an idea and work hard, you will get where you need to go. You need to be dedicated to it.