Lead(H)er - Andrea Valente, Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer at ERT
“I find that connections with customers can happen in a lot of different ways. My sales style is much more consultative — I really like to partner with my customers to determine how I can contribute to their success. I think that the relationships I establish with my customers are different than my competitors and because of that it has informed how I lead Product Development,” said Andrea Valente, Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer at ERT.
When Andrea started her career in sales, she had no idea she'd eventually shift gears to a role leading technology and product development. After high school, Andrea attended Georgetown University, where she received her degree in Government.
“I loved college. I received a terrific education that helped me explore new opportunities, build skills to think critically and understand new ideas and new ways of thinking. That experience prepared me for my career.”
Andrea took her first job at a large New York City-based construction firm doing technical support. Shortly after, she went into her first sales role selling local area network (LAN) technology on Wall Street.
“I had the opportunity to learn how to put solutions together for clients who were really at the forefront of utilizing new technology to support their businesses. I think that’s what first got me interested in crafting solutions and supporting clients’ goals. It’s one of the most exciting things about selling technology and building products.”
After this, she sold Apple’s first-generation Macs to architecture and research firms.
“We were a company that introduced Macs into the enterprise and also sold the NeXT computer. I had close brushes with Steve Jobs in that regard. It was kind of cool. As a matter of fact, I still have one of the original operating systems from the NeXT computer — it’s one of those nostalgic things you hold on to,” Andrea smiled.
Armed with this experience, Andrea transitioned into delivering managed services for clients. She started to grow her career leading larger organizations, helping to deliver new technologies to customers on the enterprise side.
Almost three years into that title, Andrea felt it was time to get back into her previous position.
“After working in services, learning that craft and getting good at it, I decided to go back to sales. Having the experience and credibility around delivery really informed my sales process and I ended up developing solid strategic relationships with clients because I had a diverse background.“
Andrea moved to Boston during the mid-part of her career, but she spent most of her early years growing up in New York and Maryland. She now considers Boston home. Switching things up again, Andrea took her next role at a small startup called Phase Forward in Boston. As an early employee, she worked on the service delivery side to help life sciences companies adopt electronic data capture technology for clinical trial studies.
After some time, Andrea moved into sales at Phase Forward and became one of the top sales reps at the company. Then one of the firm’s executives asked her to run the Professional Services organization.
“I really had to think long and hard about it because I was very happy in the sales job, but I decided to do it. What drew me to the opportunity was the challenge to build a high performing team, to be able to serve our customers in very strategic ways, and to deploy our technology to help them meet their goals,” she said. “Aside from just helping them as clients, the mission of being able to help advance human health was very important to me.”
Phase Forward was ultimately acquired by Oracle, and at that point, she joined OpenPages to run its services organization; after a year and a half, the company was acquired by IBM.
“I’ve been through a number of acquisitions,” Andrea laughed. “After OpenPages, I did a bit of consulting for a couple of start-up firms, which was a lot of fun. And, I had an opportunity to learn about many different technologies that were emerging from MIT. Then, I got a call from PHT, which was a provider of electronic data capture solutions used in clinical trials. They asked me to run their service delivery organization. Shortly after I joined, the person I reported to left to go to Oracle. So I took over as Chief Operating Officer.”
Andrea had to quickly adjust and step into a new role, as she now had responsibility for product management, engineering, service, information technology and customer care.
“About a year later, we ended up selling PHT to ERT, which is where I am today. As I mentioned, I’ve been through a number of acquisitions, and they’re always interesting because they obviously involve a lot of change. Helping teams manage through this change, understanding your new role in an organization and learning to participate in a very productive and positive way is what I’ve learned is most important in these situations.”
Today Andrea is the Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer at ERT, a global data, and technology company that supports the Life Sciences industry. She’s responsible for global technology product development and information technology across the entire enterprise.
Rapid Fire Questions
BS: What do you like to do in your free time?
AV: I spend my free time with my kids. Since I travel a fair amount right now, that sort of limits my ability to do some of those things that I like to do when I have that spare time. I’m a musician. I play jazz, so I’ll put a plug-in for the John Payne Music Center in Brookline, where I had the opportunity to pick up my instruments again and get real joy in playing. I’ve had the opportunity to play with some great people over the years. So when I have the time, I do that. I’m also teaching my son the trombone. I’m a music savant, and my colleagues tease me about that quite a bit. If I were to say what my love and deep passion is, it’s music.
BS: How do you manage stress?
AV: I’m a very early riser — 4:30 AM every day. I have a routine: I get up early, I center myself and do some meditation. Then, I have coffee with my dog next to me, and we have our quiet time together. It allows me to think about how my day is going to be and to think about how I’m going to manage through whatever it is I’m facing that day. You know, two kids, a full-time job — all of that stuff tends to create a lot of churn. Having time to myself allows me to just sort of center and start my day on the right foot. It’s a really important thing to have time for myself. I think people should purposely make that time and not forgo it.
BS: How many cups of coffee do you typically drink a day?
AV: I drink two. My husband and I have coffee battles since we invested in a really nice machine. Two to start and then that’s it for the day. I tend to not go past that.
BS: Where is your favorite spot in the Boston area?
AV: I would say that I’m a huge fan of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for a number of reasons. The diversity of that museum allows for such introspection; there’s also a lot of interesting music that plays there, so that draws me to it. I don’t get there as often as I like, but I would certainly say that it is one of my favorite spots. Outside of Boston, but certainly not too far, we have a house up in Maine off the coast of Portland on an island in Casco Bay. We spend a lot of time there. Talk about stress relief! You get on the ferry, and you leave all your worries behind. It’s my favorite place, it really is.
BS: If you had to choose one thing other than family, what would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
AV: When I’ve had someone who has worked for me send a note to say, ‘You made such an impact on me and my career and I can’t thank you enough.’ I can’t think of anything better than that. That’s just thoroughly rewarding — having a positive impact on people’s lives to me is as good as it gets.
BS: Ten years ago, is this where you would have seen yourself?
AV: Yes, I think so, although maybe the place and the situation might be slightly different. I think, in general, this would probably be where I thought I was going to be. I would say running an engineering organization is a little bit of a curveball, but I think in terms of running a business, running an organization, I absolutely do believe this is what was meant to be and what I’ve chosen to do.
BS: What one piece of advice would you give to a recent college graduate?
AV: Well, as we’ve talked this whole time, you can see the world is your oyster to some degree, unless you’re very committed to a professional field, whether it’s medicine or something very specific. But even then, I think you can find opportunities to try different things. Certainly early in your career is the best time to do it. Don’t necessarily think that what you’ve chosen today is what you’ll be doing, three, five, seven, ten years from now. Receiving the opportunity to try different things gives you the ability to really decide what you want to do.