Inspirational profiles of women in
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Lead(H)er Profile - Suzanne Glick Gilfix, General Counsel & VP at Applause banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Suzanne Glick Gilfix, General Counsel & VP at Applause

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Suzanne Glick Gilfix, General Counsel & VP at Applause.


Suzanne Glick Gilfix ApplauseWhere did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in Central Massachusetts to a family of 3 generations on my street. I was high energy, climbing trees, doing gymnastics and keeping up with my older brothers.

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I studied government (political science) in college. I had some good summer jobs, first in high school at the local car dealership where I learned the value of customer service and in later years at the Attorney General’s office, and in DC for a lobbying group, both of which helped direct my law school career. My first job after law school was at a large law firm in Boston. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

After two years at the firm, I sought more direct experience in court and with my clients. I also cared deeply about the public interest given extensive volunteer work I was engaged in during the mid-90s around civil rights in Boston. Becoming Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division (Massachusetts AG’s office) was a defining moment in my career trajectory. There (among outstanding colleagues), I helped to enforce the state’s civil rights laws and the fair housing and employment laws. Representing the public interest was meaningful and rewarding and led to my becoming a diversity consultant and launching an anti-bullying training effort in area schools in the early 2000s. I remain grateful to the AG’s office for being a flexible employer enabling me to work part-time while I had my 3 children. Being able to grow my family and career at the same time stands out as a critical time in my life. I am fortunate to have a true partner in my husband who has supported these aspirations and career shifts.

I then joined my first in-house counsel role for a sports franchise start-up and realized I enjoyed the diverse work in-house work brought me: employee issues, contracts, compliance. I didn’t purposefully choose tech, but it chose me at EMC (now Dell) where the legal department hired me to fill in for a team member’s maternity leave. The rest was history as it was a natural fit. With my energy and enthusiasm for learning, I asked for various projects and grew my in-house tech career. One opportunity led to another and when EMC launched a new company, Pivotal Software, and I was fortunate to take on a global management position which really accelerated my career and my passion for managing a team. All of these diverse roles best prepared me for my current executive role.

Suzanne Glick Gilfix Applause

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I am General Counsel & Vice President at Applause, the worldwide leader in enabling digital quality. As part of our executive team (where I get to partner with so many innovative and strong leaders), I manage the company’s worldwide legal process, including ensuring compliance with laws, creating and enforcing policies for all employees and personnel, protecting our IP and handling risk mitigation alongside general corporate matters throughout our global offices. My role also includes cross-functional initiatives to improve ESG (environment, sustainability and governance). I enjoy how varied and challenging each day is and the opportunity to tackle important strategic business initiatives along in addition to legal compliance. 

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

I can’t say that it was always my goal to be a General Counsel. But as the years progressed, following my entry into tech, I realized it was an aspiration to aim for. I had been a leader when I was younger (whether on sports teams or in the community organizations in which I was involved), so it was certainly something I sought to attain.

I had great influences early on in my life that helped to establish and nurture my interests in the fields of law and business. My grandfather was an attorney and my dad ran a car dealership, so I was able to see how both could make an impact in people’s lives. From them, I learned the values of fairness and equity, and the importance of customer retention and employee loyalty. These early influences helped to shape my interests and goals of becoming a tech lawyer.

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

Tactically, I think the sooner you can join an in-house team of lawyers, the better. Some say that law firm is necessary to advance your career in-house, but I don’t think it’s necessarily linear nor mandated. Find a way, even if it’s project-based or summer work, to spend some time in a law firm to learn the discipline, rigor, and training it provides. Then, find mentors in-house or through network associations where you can gain a perspective of what a company does and how it operates. Then go for it.

Once you land an in-house role, get to know the product or service the company sells inside out and meet key stakeholders and leaders. Surround yourself with people who share your values. 

Match your actions and your words to your intentions and be prepared. There’s a sports adage – success is 9/10ths preparation. If you put in the hard work and focus on the details your career can build on small initial successes and continue to accelerate. I devote ample time to study up and get ready for big presentations or negotiations or court appearances. Some say I made it look easy but that’s because they didn’t see all the hard work I put into my preparation. 

Along your career path, find mentors and ask them questions; be curious and chart your own path. I strongly believe that direct sponsorship and mentorship is the best way to advance the professional development for women in tech and business. But don’t be surprised if your path is not linear. Mine wasn’t a straight line and where I wavered, I grew. Volunteer in organizations or companies where you think you may want to work. I have always been engaged in the community and there are so many benefits by being active. When you reach a place where you can help others, become a mentor to inspire others.

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

On the professional side, I’ve been involved in the New England Corporate Counsel Association and look forward to serving on their board.

Because I have had some influential mentors who shaped my professional development earlier on in my career I’ve become involved in the Global Good Fund, where I’ve been able to pay it forward and mentor younger attorneys and professionals. 

I’ve also been involved in several non-profit organizations (mostly related to civil rights work) over the last 25 years. One of the most impactful is co-founding and leading a non-profit called the Tyler Foundation, where we partner with Children’s Hospital of Boston to provide financial assistance to families (who have non-covered costs) impacted by neurological disorders such as severe epilepsy. 

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

In law school, you’re taught to question everything in order to understand the facts and apply the law consistently and fairly when analyzing a situation. Being inquisitive is key to this role, but it’s important to inquire with thoughtful attention to elicit the facts and not dissuade people from surfacing issues. In that regard, it’s necessary to be a trusted advisor, and an excellent verbal and written communicator, to understand the core business of your clients, and build trust and empathy with key stakeholders in all parts of the business to ensure that people will be held accountable on general compliance and doing the right thing. I think building those relationships internally has helped me succeed over the years and land at a company like Applause that places such a high premium on doing the right thing and ensuring our executive team leads by example. Finally, I’d say a love of learning is a necessary ingredient as the law and technology continue to evolve and it’s important to stay curious and dig in to do the research to ensure the company is complying with applicable law. 

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

I love how broad my role is: from IP protection and enforcement to complex commercial negotiations, to HR issues to data privacy, no two days are alike. The most challenging aspect is knowing I’m valued as a generalist but that I wish I were an expert at all. I also love tackling large global initiatives to streamline efficiencies in our offerings and make our processes more efficient. Getting into the weeds on the business side and bringing value to our customers is also very rewarding as is seeing our growth and positive feedback from our customers.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

Other than landing this awesome opportunity at Applause, I was very proud to be on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in April of 2019 as part of a small team that helped take Pivotal Software public. It was very exciting to be part of the launch of a new company in 2013, and then play an important role in our growth, IPO, and ultimate acquisition, especially alongside dear friends and colleagues.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy yoga, meditation, reading good books, hiking, tennis, pickleball, spending time with family and friends in the mountains or the beach, or a live music event, and as time permits, engaging in community work.

How do you manage stress?

Yoga and meditation.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

1-2 cups of Decaf. I am pretty high energy so Decaf works for me.

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston area?

I love any view of the Lenny Zakim Bridge in Boston. I collaborated with the great civil rights leader for whom the bridge is named (in his memory) and it brings me back to what really matters – building bridges of understanding among diverse communities. I also love Fenway Park and the North End, for their respective storied histories.

Any book or podcast recommendations?  

Recent books I’ve enjoyed include: All the Light We Cannot See, Untamed, Becoming, American Dirt, The Mandible, Rules of Civility, Mountains Beyond Mountains.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Appreciate that your first job is likely not your dream job, but figure out if it helps you shape what you like and don’t like about the role, company, or field of interest. How can it help develop skills that will best direct you to where you do want to go next? What do you care about? Take those passions and combine them with your career path – then you’ll ensure you’re not “working”!

Don’t worry if you haven’t figured it out as of yet. Find good people to learn from either in your job or outside of it and ask lots of questions of how people got to where they are. As noted above, find mentors that do what you think you strive to achieve and then figure out how they got there. 

About the
Company

The crowdtesting, usability and research company. Helping brands deliver great digital experiences to their customers – from web & mobile to IoT & beyond.

 

 

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Lead(H)er Profile - Jennifer Armstrong, VP of Engineering at Duck Creek Technologies banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Jennifer Armstrong, VP of Engineering at Duck Creek Technologies

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Jennifer Armstrong, VP of Engineering at Duck Creek Technologies.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in Lake Zurich, Illinois and I would describe myself as a quiet tomboy. I had two older brothers and a younger sister (who was 8 years younger), so I pretty much grew up with boys at a young age. I would play different sports or was running around outside until it got dark. I thought if my older brothers could do it I could as well. Which lead to a few injuries but also a fundamental belief that nothing could stop me if I wanted to do something.

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

When I was growing up, I was always interested in the STEM classes. I knew I would eventually be focused on something in that space. When I started at DePaul University in Chicago, IL, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to study math or computer science, but I eventually settled on computer science, but took a lot of math classes for fun. I eventually graduated with a bachelor and master’s from DePaul in computer science. 

My first job out of college was as a consultant at a boutique consulting company where I worked for a few different insurance carriers over 6 years. This started my long journey in the insurance space. I always like to say that my soul is technology, but I grew up in insurance.

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

The first critical moment was when I decided to take a leap of faith in my abilities as a technologist and move from a role where I felt comfortable, I knew well, and I was an individual contributor with minimal responsibility. To a role that was in a space that was functionally and technically new to me. In addition, I would be leading a team of eight people. The project was an overhaul of a critical system purchased from a vendor that then could be customized for our company. Our job was to learn as much as we could from this vendor to become the experts but also lead this software design going forward. It was a lot of hard work, long hours, but I learned more in one year not only about this software but, more importantly, what I was capable of. I learned that I really enjoyed and was good at understanding the bigger business problem and coming up with the solutions for this problem. It allowed me to grow in mentoring or helping other engineers to guide them in their journeys.

Jennifer Armstrong Duck CreekThe second critical moment of my career was assessing my work life balance and realizing that I couldn’t sustain 70+ hour work weeks and attain the goals that I had both at work and in my personal life. I decided to leave a company that I loved, had great co-workers, and was advancing in my career, to an environment that I was able to truly balance my career and my personal life. After this change, I was able to focus on me, and I got married and now have three wonderful children who are my heart. My family has taught me a lot of good life lessons on compromise, patience, and most of all that you just need to roll with whatever comes your way.  The career change also allowed me to move to a company where I was able to leverage my strong core principles but grow significantly in my overall engineering leadership skills, influence without authority, and customer communication and presentation skills.  

What is your current role and responsibilities?

As VP of engineering at Duck Creek Technologies, I lead teams of over 120 engineers for some of our core products. I am engaged in all aspects of delivering product releases and service ownership of the products.

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position? 

This simple answer is no. When I finished my masters, I had fully intended to finish my PhD in computer science and be a professor. I loved being in the academic world. If I didn’t go into academics, I figured I would be a coder for my career. I was and still am an introvert, so being in a position where I had to interact with people constantly was a very uncomfortable concept. I learned that just because I am an introvert doesn’t mean I have to limit what I am capable of. I always mentor people to take a risk on yourself and don’t limit yourself on your or others’ preconceived notions of what you can do.

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

First, define your brand. Who and what do you stand for as a professional? Whether it is technology, the ability to communicate well, the ability to see the bigger picture, negotiation, etc.  Your brand will change over the course of your career as new interests are found or new talents are honed. Your brand will help you in any career path you take as it is the foundation that you can fall back on and lean on.

Second, find a good mentor(s) that you trust to help you on your career journey. A mentor doesn’t always have to be someone you have a direct mentorship relationship with. I have had people that I would consider mentors that I just watched how they interacted with people or handled situations. Everyone in your life/career can be a mentor informally. It is also important to find advocates for you outside of your direct management chain.

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

The skill that helps me the most is asking questions. Most of the time people will tell you what they want and not necessarily what they need.  I had someone tell me early in my career to ask the 5 whys. If you ask why 5 times, it will get to what someone truly needs versus what they want or think they need. Asking questions allows me to fully understand a situation where I can make the most educated decision I can.

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

The most rewarding thing about my work is seeing an idea come to fruition. Watching a simple idea get designed and built out and users start to use it. In insurance, knowing that things I am involved in have a direct impact on companies that their job is to return a person/company life back to normal after an event.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

One of my proudest moments was when we were able to successfully roll out the overhaul of a major critical software at the company I was working at. It changed everyone’s ability to service our customers. The other moment was being involved in building out a program to foster and encourage innovation. In technology, innovation is critical to continuous improvement. This problem was a catalyst to change the innovation culture.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Spending time with my family, Friday night pizza and movie nights, cooking, reading, traveling, and girls’ nights out with friends.

Jennifer Armstrong Duck Creek

How do you manage stress?

I don’t stress a lot, but when I do, laughter helps. So, I will do something that just makes me happy and laugh and I can usually manage my stress levels.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

Probably around three, but nothing past noon otherwise I won’t sleep.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Find what you enjoy doing. You will spend a decent amount of time doing it and if you really enjoy what you are doing in your career, opportunities will become available to advance in whatever ways you want. The second piece of advice I would say is believe in yourself and it is OK to take a risk or leap of faith. If something doesn’t work out, there are always other options.

About the
Company

Duck Creek Technologies gives P&C insurers a genuine path to the future.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Shital Whitmore, SVP of Finance at SmartBear banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Shital Whitmore, SVP of Finance at SmartBear

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Shital Whitmore, SVP of Finance at SmartBear.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I was raised in Methuen, Massachusetts as a first generation Indian-American. My parents immigrated here from Ahmedabad shortly before my birth along with most of my family. Because they had not yet established themselves in the community here, the family stayed close together, so I was constantly surrounded by loved ones, including dozens of cousins around my age. My family taught me the virtues of hard work, so I can remember my nose being always buried in a book. 

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Finance with a minor in International Studies/International Finance from Bentley University,  as well as an MBA from Babson College.  

My first job out of school was quite interesting. I was an accounting and finance rep for a small company of about 80 people. As anyone who has worked at a small startup knows, you often have to wear multiple hats, but by doing so, you get the chance to learn so much. 

My role allowed me to work on accounts payable, accounts receivable, and financial planning and analysis, but they also needed me to be the front desk clerk and to collect and deliver the mail!  

During the four or five years that I worked there, there were times I would work until midnight, or even overnight due to how busy things were and because I just wanted to crush it! I’m sure that my husband of 20 years is thrilled that I no longer have any desire to work overnight shifts anymore. That said, my first job experience helped make me into who I am today. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

I think being at a small company from a young age gave me the opportunity and experience of working directly with a lot of executives right away. To this day, and continuing throughout my career, I don't get intimidated by titles. I’ve always just treated people like people, and I think that’s one thing that has made my job easier.  

When people aren’t nervous about being around a CEO, a CFO, a Vice President, or a Director, whatever the title may be, it makes everyone’s job easier. 

What is your current role and responsibilities?

At SmartBear, I am currently the SVP of Finance. I oversee and manage the finance and accounting team, as well as the company’s licensing team. 

My day-to-day responsibilities are honestly different each day. Those responsibilities include managing our company’s budget, forecasting financials, and helping strategize how we can become more efficient and effective as an organization. I always want to point out that while these might be “my” responsibilities, they would be impossible without my team. I would not be able to do the work I do without them.  

My days include a lot of working directly with our executive team and others here to make sure SmartBear, as an organization, is always in a good place financially. This involves a lot of meetings and collaboration with a lot of different people to decide where our growth should come from, where we should spend, or not spend.  

Without my team, I would not be where I am. I tell them that all the time. I always try to hire smarter than myself. I think that you should never have a fear of hiring smarter than yourself because it only betters yourself, your team, and your organization as a whole.  

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

Yes. My goal has been to consistently highly perform in this position and to reach the title of Chief Financial Officer. 

I have always laid out career goals for myself. I typically keep the goals to myself and my husband .  Goals of where I wanted to be career-wise at 25, 30, and 35-years-old. Believing in myself and working very hard has gotten me to where I am today. I’ve worked in a number of different roles and in many industries over the years and can say that I absolutely love working for SmartBear. My whole team is excited to be here, which is awesome to be a part of. 

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

Learn as much as you can but know your boundaries. If you do not know something, it’s OK to say that! It’s not even just “OK,” people will generally respect and appreciate you letting them know. Hopefully, they’ll also then offer to teach you. When you start your first career, you really don’t know what you are getting into. I didn’t actually know what finance even meant; I had only read about it in a book. But trying your hardest, and making sure you work for someone you respect—and that they also respect you—is critically important. 

Treat people the way you want to be treated. Titles don’t matter. People are people. Work with people. They will help you, and you will help them.  

I would also recommend stepping outside of your comfort zone and absorbing as much as you can whenever you get the chance. You can often take on more at the beginning stages of your career but try and maintain that same mindset and a strong interest in continuing to learn throughout your career. 

Lastly, I‘ve also gotten to where I am today by having amazing bosses, which I’m so fortunate to have had. Not surprisingly, especially in finance, they’ve all been men, as there are still very few women in leadership positions in this field, but my bosses have all been a big part of helping me achieve my career growth. 

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

A big part of my job is not just running numbers. We do that, but it is more about building relationships. 

I am in finance, but I must acknowledge and always be supportive of the people around me. My team is like a family to me. I know their spouses' names, their kids' names, and I genuinely care about them. To me, the most important parts of my job are caring about this team, bringing them along, and making sure they are always excelling. If I am helping them, it helps us all, and it helps our business to grow. 

So, yes, you’ll need the analytical side, but also make sure to stay customer-centric and genuinely care about your people. Having the business acumen to build strong internal and external relationships will only aid in your organization’s success.  

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

The most rewarding part for me is when people on my team, or people around me, are succeeding. I love to see them grow and climb to the next level.  

It’s also really rewarding when we’re able to come up with different ideas or ways to help the company financially enhance themselves. Our team loves continuing to grow in new and different ways as the result of our own new ideas. Getting that little bit of extra margin is exciting! 

I also don’t just want to be in finance; I want to be a business partner. Not “just” running numbers, but really understanding the business. We can practically run numbers in our sleep. It’s about learning the business, helping the business grow, understanding our marketplace and our customers. How can we change our strategy to continue to enhance ourselves?  

As for challenges, there are all different kinds, and it really just depends on the situation, but whenever there is a challenge, we figure out how to overcome it. 

One common challenge for some women in positions of leadership is around oftentimes being in a board room of only men. I am a very vocal person, and, fortunately, don’t really struggle with that. I just don’t tend to look at people as “man…woman…title…or color.” A person is a person to me.  

At SmartBear, our female leadership is growing, which is great! We continue to diversify our organization and love seeing any and all backgrounds and demographics achieve big things here. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

To date, I would say that my proudest professional accomplishment was when I became a director at a large public organization and managed a $2B budget by the time I was 27. As a young female in the world of business, moving into that level of responsibility was a big moment for me. 

I was learning so much by being a director at a large public organization, reporting directly to the CFO, and managing a budget on my own. During my six years there, I grew personally and professionally each and every day.  

Every time I have moved to a new company, I have not left for a boss. A lot of people leave bosses, but I have left for an opportunity, a different career opportunity. I make sure that if I am leaving, I am checking boxes for my resume and to enhance my personal and professional growth. I recognize every time I have made a change in my career as a significant personal accomplishment. 

Coming to SmartBear, managing all of finance and working for an organization that is growing so quickly has been a huge personal accomplishment. I am extremely proud of all we have done. In the 2 years I have been here, we have tripled our valuation! That and being a part of all the growth, as well as the acquisitions that we have made, are just a few things that are major highlights for me. 

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

My “volunteering” these days largely consists of constantly running after my two children. My four- and six-year-old boys are my life. 


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Being raised in an Indian family, I did not ski or do a lot of sports—I actually hated sports! I would try every sport and I would quit. Having two young boys, I am now learning how to ski at 38 years old. I don’t love it, but I am learning. They do black diamonds, and I am still on the green trails by myself and freaking out.  

I now work out a lot and do so many activities with my two boys. Hiking, skiing, and even though I’m not very good at it, I’d also love to be an artist. I do think I’ll stick to my day job, but for some reason, I’ve always wanted to be an artist (I don’t know why)!  

Oh, and I also love shopping. If I could find a way to shop every day, I would do so. 

How do you manage stress?

I actually tend to work much better under pressure. However, my team can tell when I am stressed out because my voice becomes slow and very calm, which may or may not be calming to them. They know what is happening— I am getting stressed out.  

To manage stress, I take a deep breath in…and take things a step at a time. I get more organized. When I know we are under pressure or there is a lot of stress coming, we’re working around the clock, I just get organized, put a list together and I also make sure I rally my team. If I am feeling stressed, they are likely feeling it too.  

For me, taking that deep breath, getting organized, maybe getting in a workout or doing something for myself—even if for just 30 minutes, it helps me a lot.  

About the
Company

6+ million software professionals and 20,000+ companies in 194 countries use SmartBear products to build and deliver the world’s greatest applications.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Hillary Wyon, VP of Product at EF Education First banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Hillary Wyon, VP of Product at EF Education First

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Hillary Wyon, VP of Product at EF Education First.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child? 

I was born and spent my early childhood in Wolf Point, a small town in northeastern Montana on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. When I was 10, my family moved to Brookline, MA as a result of economic challenges in Montana at the time related to drought and oil prices, and to be closer to my grandfather. It was a major culture shock. Montana definitely defines my sense of home but moving also afforded me so many opportunities I would never have had. I have also never been afraid to move around. In many ways, this experience of moving across country and to a new life reflects the kinds of experiences we seek to convey to our customers in my job. Helping people step outside of their comfort zones, see and experience something new, or learn something new about the world and their place in it. As a child, I was a dreamer and a dedicated reader, an extroverted introvert. Largely how I would describe myself still.  

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school? 

I focused on psychology and creative writing in school, after a pre-med stint. I took a circuitous path through college and worked full time while going to school at night. I was an assistant teacher for Beginners Spanish for high school freshmen. I was the Assistant Head of Facilities at an independent school in the Boston area, involved with event management, building and security management, and maintenance and new construction builds. I worked at a children’s book publisher in operations. All that led me to a “many-hats” office manager role at a tech startup that really launched my current career. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today? 

The varied experience I had in roles and the different types of people who I worked with set me up for a lot of growth. It gave me a level of confidence that I would always be able to figure it out even if I didn’t know how to do it in the beginning.  

My role in facilities included a lot of written and verbal communication with a wide audience of people at different levels and in different roles (teachers, administration, parents, vendors, etc.), which really grew my skills in knowing how to change the way I communicated depending on who, how or where the conversation occurred. The experience also taught me to acknowledge and invest in ensuring that the “do-ers” are not forgotten – in communication and celebration and in providing context around what they are being asked to do. This applied to a team of maintenance workers making a school hum, and in later roles, a team of engineers building software to serve the business and its customers, and everyone in between. My work has also included a lot of crisis management, which I have used in every role since. 

When I landed at my first startup, this was really a jumping off point for me. Startups are built around giving people the opportunity to grow and expand their roles - we’re trying to get a lot out of a little! So I took that office manager role and grew it into benefits management, talent management, customer program management and product management. I worked with an amazing group of people who recognized my natural strengths and weren’t afraid to throw a new challenge at me, and who were willing to answer every question I could ask as I learned along the way. I learned there is strength in being open about what you don’t know and demonstrating that you are eager to learn. The relationships created here have stayed with me throughout my career. 

I have taken all of those skills and used them in each step in my career. The non-linear evolution of my education and career has, at times, been an insecurity for me, but it has allowed me to always feel comfortable with the unknown and not necessarily seeing the path before me. This has helped me at the macro level in my life and at the micro level of approaching projects, organizational change and crises with my day to day. 

I have also been very lucky that I have worked at more than one organization that had a mission that aligned with my own values and views about the world. This is something I have prioritized as I have progressed through my career. It is also a major reason why I am at EF now. EF’s mission to educate and bring people together to foster understanding and tolerance through travel and cultural experiences connects so many important dots from my own experience and values.  

Hillary Wyon EF

What is your current role and responsibilities? 

I am currently the VP of Product at EF Education First. I manage a team of product managers and UX designers. In concert with the engineering team, we are responsible for both the internal operational systems needed to run both our domestic and international tours products as well as our customer facing digital experiences for our student focused tours products. I am always looking at how we can best bring value to the business (understanding our business goals and how we work, so that my team can drive value) and my day-to-day activities include being organizationally focused. We are a central department in an international company, so I spend a lot of time communicating and ensuring that expectations are set, and we have alignment and prioritization across the business. The product managers on my team are driving individual requirements and work so I meet with them regularly to ensure that their work is aligned with cross-business strategy and share whatever context I can to help them drive their work successfully and keep their teams engaged.  

I spend a lot of time thinking about and influencing how we work cross-functionally, supporting communication and strategic alignment with my team and with stakeholders in other parts of the business, and driving a product management culture across the business so that we are always thinking critically about what questions to ask, what we are really trying to achieve and refining our goals and approach as we learn. 

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position? 

My end goal was never a particular position, but to be in a role where I helped bring people together. to work effectively and efficiently, to work with smart people who were excited about their mission and to be in a position to help solve interesting puzzles. And to always feel like there was room for me to grow. Even now, I can see lots of different positions that would foster those goals but my current role definitely supplies all of them combined with interesting challenges. 

Though my career experiences have led me to this role, my life experiences have brought me to EF. Both my personal and professional experiences have allowed me to work and interact with all different kinds of people and recognize the value of different perspectives. This has shaped my personal and career growth and this very much aligns with EF’s mission. I also feel like I am living our mission every day on a much smaller scale by bringing different perspectives together and fostering communication all while serving the larger mission of helping spark mutual understanding by uniting people across borders and culture.  

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals? 

I think there are many different flavors of product managers - some more visionary, some more operational. I think a key factor, whichever way you lean, is elevating your communication skills, remembering that the people on your team are key to your success and that how you talk about things - the words you use - matters. I have often thought of the product manager as the translator – between different perspectives, between the business users and technology or the external and the internal. Elevating your communication skills will help get people to buy in, will build confidence with your team and help you drive both the vision and the execution. Because communication and translation is so important to me, it feels great to work for an organization that is also helping people learn languages to communicate in a different way, and offering free resources to help people on their learning journey. 

Don’t be afraid of exposing what you don’t know. You don’t have to be the person who knows it all and sometimes, even if you think you have it figured out, you should ask questions anyway because you may learn something. 

Do the dirty work. Especially as you start out - but even later - you will learn by digging into the details. You will build camaraderie and confidence if you show that you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty. Pitch in where you can, it will always come in handy in a different way later on. 

Find an advocate. This could be a mentor or a colleague, your manager or a team member. 

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well? 

For my career trajectory, it really goes to the basics: Listening skills. Communication skills. Translation skills.  

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s most challenging? 

The most interesting is also the most challenging. Seeing a cross-functional team hum and creating the right solution for the right problem. Taking the messiness of human dynamics, pressures of hard problems and tight timelines and making sense of them - creating a system that allows for creativity and precision. This includes coaching and (hopefully) inspiring. EF fosters the type of collaboration that is required to achieve the right results for the business. And also empowers everyone in the business to step into their strengths and influence the end result and the process along the way. We are a large organization that values thinking creatively. And we aren’t afraid of trying something scrappy to learn our way into the long term solution. Having spent most of my career in startups this was something that was important to me when I joined EF. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment? 

This is a hard one, but all of my proudest moments are reflected in the teams I have worked with. A recent major accomplishment, here at EF, that I am very proud of has been helping to drive through an (ongoing) series of challenges related to business reaction, customer experience and operational systems in reaction to COVID. We amped up our cross-team and cross-functional collaboration. We maintained laser focus on top priorities and “up-leveled" our communication. We delivered meaningful solutions to the business at lightning speed.  

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work? 

Not currently in any in depth. I have participated with WITI in the past. I am definitely seeking new opportunities for this type of work right now. 


Q&A 

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I have 2 sons, ages 6 and 2, who keep me very busy. I love hiking with them and just experiencing their little brain gears turning. I also enjoy cooking, reading, and have done a lot of DIY construction over many years so I guess that is still something I enjoy :) 

Hillary Wyon EF

How do you manage stress? 

I really benefit from running, or other forms of exercise where I just have to focus by unplugging and getting out in nature whether in the woods or by the ocean. 

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day? 

1 cup of decaf. I love coffee but only have caffeine on rare occasions.  

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston? 

The Arnold Arboretum in Boston.  

Any book or podcast recommendations?  (professional or fun) 

  • I am definitely a true crime podcast junkie. So any and all.  
  • Song Exploder
  • Heavyweight 
  • The A16Z podcast
  • This is Product Management
  • Hidden Brain 

And more. When I was a kid I loved listening to the radio and would find these radio dramas to listen to so podcasts continue this for me. I love podcasts. 

What advice do you have for recent college graduates? 

There is no job below you. You can learn something from everything you are tasked with. You may just have to figure out what it is. Sometimes it won’t be the big cool challenge you are looking for but they are all steps towards that.

About the
Company

Opening the world through education.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Brittney St. Germain, VP of Tech at Forward Financing banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Brittney St. Germain, VP of Tech at Forward Financing

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the Tech Industry.  In this Q&A, we are featuring Brittney St. Germain, VP of Tech at Forward Financing.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in Western Massachusetts. I was a shy kid, studious, but also excited to see the world.

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

In college I started with psychology, then switched almost immediately to pursue a B.S. in Communications, probably because I thought it was a means to travel. After that I travelled through Europe, and then tended bar in Harvard Square before taking a job in tech support for a small software company.

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

I didn’t intend to get into technology as a career, but I always had technically minded friends. I hung out in the computer lab a lot in college. I seemed to naturally align myself with the nerds (Turns out I am one), and that was the beginning of the dot-com era, so that made my entry into a career in technology very smooth and natural. In retrospect that was a critical turning point for me.

For 15 years, I wore all the hats there are to wear, tech support, IT, DBA, software engineering, etc., and then I reached a second critical moment when I turned to what I jokingly call “the dark side,” management. I discovered that I love managing engineers. As it turns out, I intuitively understand the world the engineer lives in, and I get a real thrill from helping them simplify their processes, being their champion, and explaining their challenges and successes to the non-tech world. Great engineers make great products, which make successful companies, so I feel genuinely honored to represent them.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I am the Vice President of Technology at Forward Financing, responsible for the company’s overall tech strategy. That includes Product, Design, and Engineering all responsible for building our core products, as well as DevOps and IT Infrastructure.

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

No, and no.  The short answer is I always aimed to work on interesting projects with interesting and smart people. The longer answer is: I didn’t plan anything, strictly speaking. I followed the path that was in front of me once I discovered what I was good at. It’s not that I didn’t make any conscious career decisions. Of course, I did, but I think, at the risk of sounding corny, it’s a little more soulful than that, less calculated. I get a great feeling from plugging the right solutions into the right challenges, or the right people into the right teams.

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

First, I’d say, “Congratulations! You have goals!”

Joking aside, I think you have to do things for the right reasons. It’s easy to look at career progress as a linear path, but be warned, leadership is hard and not for the faint of heart and shouldn’t be pursued because it’s the “next step”.  Seek out the challenges that light you up and accept where they lead you. Maybe you’ll climb whatever career ladder you think is in front of you, or maybe you’ll just work on a lot of stimulating projects and meet a bunch of great people. I’d say focus less on titles or prestige and more on interesting challenges. The rest will take care of itself.

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

I find that I do my job best when I have a team that trusts I have their best interests at heart. Key skills for creating that trust with not just those on my team, but those I work alongside are:

1) Listening - Hear what people are telling you.

2) Empathy - Put yourself in their position.

3) Curiosity - Learn from everyone around you,

4) Discernment - Make good, timely decisions.

5) Transparency - Show your cards, explain why you’re doing something, or why you’re making a decision. 

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

I love being the conduit between technology and the rest of the organization, the one who explains and simplifies the technical details, the product and design decisions so everyone else around my team can get the maximum benefit from what we do. I also love guiding product designers and engineers through their own decision making processes.

The most challenging part of my work is integrating all the personalities into a coherent team, but that’s also super rewarding.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

There are three things: watching the careers of those I’ve managed, past and present, continue to grow, having people that have worked for me reach out to tell me how they used a tool I gave them, or they thought back to how I managed a situation when they find themselves in something similar, and finally, knowing I’m playing a small part in creating some of the best technical leaders out there. 

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

I am a member of CHIEF, a women’s leadership group.  

I also run a neighborhood exercise group, called Suffer Club - we meet early in the morning before the sun rises to get our workouts done and our motto is “We suffer a little more in the hopes that others can suffer a little less”. Every dollar collected to take a class goes directly to a local charity that the group designates.  We regularly raise about $750/month!


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Running, hiking, paddle boarding, walking with the dog.

How do you manage stress?

Exercise and meditation. Spending time with my dog.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

Two, in the morning and that’s it. I’d love to have a cup in the afternoon, but then I don’t sleep.

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston area?

I love to sit on the steps of the Institute for Contemporary Art in the summer and watch boats come in and out of the harbor. I love our local woods, where I walk the dog. And I love the North Shore beaches.

Any book or podcast recommendations?

I nerd out hard on podcasts!

If you want to be inspired as a leader, you can’t go wrong with "Dare to Lead with Brene Brown"  If you only listen to one episode, I would recommend the episode with Abby Wambach and The New Rules of Leadership.

A lesser-known podcast that I totally geek out on is DarkNet Diaries with Jack Rhysider. They’re true stories from the dark web, wildly fascinating and also great for me professionally as I need to stay up on InfoSec trends.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Probably a repeat of what I’ve said above. Focus on finding work that’s interesting and puts you in the company of interesting and smart people, the rest will come together.

About the
Company

We are a Boston-based fintech company with the mission to build a world-class fintech company so that our people and our small business customers can achieve their full potential.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Sue Nolin, VP, North America Sales at Wasabi banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Sue Nolin, VP, North America Sales at Wasabi

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the Tech Industry.  In this Q&A, we are featuring Sue Nolin, VP, North America Sales at Wasabi.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in Chicopee, Massachusetts. I have four siblings, thirty-three first cousins and I grew up in a neighborhood full of kids. There was always lots of activity and competition. Pickup softball, kickball and a crazy version of dodgeball called bombardment were commonplace. 

I have lots of extended family in Quebec and in various parts of the U.S. Annual family reunions were also common. They always involved breaking into teams and playing physical and brain teaser games into the evenings.  Remember the potato-sack race in the movie Meatballs?  Yeah, that was us. 

What did you study in college and what was your first job in tech?

I have an English degree from North Adams State College, now known as the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. I met my husband there and am very grateful for the lifelong friends I also met there.

I was in my early twenties when I landed my first job in technology on the customer service team at Motorola Codex. At the time, I was simply looking for a local job. Luckily, tech is strong in Massachusetts, so I discovered a world that was new to me, and truly challenging. 

Those early days at Motorola introduced me to professionals who I admired and who gave me the opportunity to begin a high-tech career. I learned about networking. I also learned valuable lessons about how tech businesses run. When I left Motorola, I had spent time in customer service, sales, and marketing roles and met the colleagues who would introduce me to the exciting world of startup companies. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

My career path is an evolution of first understanding technology and then understanding startup businesses.

I left college with a solid liberal arts degree, but not a clear understanding of what I wanted from a career. I was raised by parents who demonstrated the importance of hard work, self-reliance, creative learning, and fun. They always emphasized that it was important to be kind, honest, and especially to do my best. Wherever I worked, I was driven to do well. 

The startup world is fast-paced and usually has “just enough” resources. While sales became my preferred role, working for startups afforded me the opportunity to contribute to many parts of the business at once. I especially came to learn that I enjoy understanding complex topics and effectively communicating those topics in simple ways. Also, I really like competing. Emerging startup technology satisfies all those interests well. 

There were various critical moments that made a difference in my career path. 

I’m grateful to the manager who convinced me to leave the stability of Motorola for the riskier world of startups. I was a member of, and eventually led, early stage inside sales teams. I was also very lucky to join several startup companies that succeeded, especially when there are so many that fail. I came to learn about the delicate balance of things needed for successful startups.

Lastly, my career would not be where it is today without the people who have trusted the work I do and who gave me such amazing opportunities. I met, Marty Falaro, Wasabi’s EVP and COO, back when we were a lot younger at a startup called Altiga. Altiga was eventually acquired by Cisco and became their main VPN technology. Marty has trusted my decisions here at Wasabi and he encouraged me to move from the role of Inside Sales Director to VP of North America Sales. I am humbled that Marty and others along the way recognized my ability and are taking me along their journey to success.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I am the VP of North America Sales at Wasabi, the hot cloud storage company. I oversee Account Executive and Inside Sales teams who manage channel and direct sales relationships with Wasabi’s fast-growing number of partners and customers. 

When I joined Wasabi in 2017, I was Marty Falaro’s first sales hire. Marty is growing worldwide Sales and I oversee the rapidly growing North America team. I am extremely proud of how hard this team works. While COVID-19 has changed our day-to-day interactions, the team continues to produce outstanding results. Daily, they demonstrate that they enjoy this crazy, fun and fast-paced startup world as much as I do.

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

Not at all. The younger me thought she would eventually be a schoolteacher. The path that led me here started by chance, but when I discovered emerging technology sales, I was hooked.  This industry allows me to constantly learn. I am never bored.

I recently found a journal from my freshman year of college that said, “I can’t imagine staying in the same job for more than 5 years. It sounds so boring.”  Ironically, startup technology changes rapidly and is never ever boring. So, while this career wasn’t my defined goal, I am very happy to be in the position I’m in today. It gives me the opportunity to educate my team and my customers on new technologies and that satisfies my desire to teach. 

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

For young people looking to get into tech sales, I recommend spending a year or two at a public tech firm that provides formal sales training. A startup will gladly train you on their unique technology, but they’ll want you to hit the ground running and won’t want to teach the skill of selling. Build a strong foundation. It will help you throughout your career. 

Also, do not be shy about approaching people you admire in your networks. These people take pride in helping you succeed and can become great resources later on. 

For those who are considering a career with startups, be sure to research the company you’ll work for. We often compare a startup company to an airplane that is being built in flight. That airplane has a much better chance of flying successfully if the pilot, the engineers, the mechanics, the flight crew, etc. have done it before. I’m blessed to have that here at Wasabi.  

If you’re thinking of joining a startup that’s launching a hot new product (a “fancy new airplane”) and it has a less-experienced crew, be sure that crew is getting loads of advice from those who have done it before. 

For women in tech, or for women looking to break into technology, remember that you don’t need to be an expert before you start the job.  This isn’t a new message but it’s worth repeating. Trust your foundational skills and trust those around you. Your colleagues, your leaders, they want to see you succeed. Your success influences theirs.

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

Communication. It’s such a simple word, but it’s loaded. Now more than ever, prospects and customers communicate by email. So, it is critical to have proper spelling and grammar skills. I recommend taking a business writing course. This will teach you how to write short but effective sentences that resonate. My teams understand that they will never land a meeting if they start an interaction with a poorly written email.  

Additionally, listening is the strongest part of communication. It is important to listen well and prove that you are listening by repeating what you heard and respectfully addressing the questions asked. Your customer’s agenda is far more important than your own agenda. So be sure to listen. 

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

There are several rewarding factors to my work. 

Most of all, as a manager, I love seeing my team succeed and I love to help them grow. It’s a great feeling to see sales representatives close big deals or receive a promotion. It is truly awesome to celebrate these wins with them.

I also enjoy having a strong impact on the success of the company I work for. It feels good to know that the work I do makes a difference. 

The most challenging is that there are not enough hours in the day. I laugh about this because it’s self-inflicted! Wasabi strongly encourages a healthy work/life balance. I love seeing our progress and success, and since my work makes a difference, I tend to do more of it. We’re just a little crazy about doing more around here. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

As mentioned earlier, I am most proud of being able to help young people succeed. It’s a heartwarming feeling that never gets old. I’ve had the pleasure of introducing interns to high-tech; introducing young sales reps to startups; and promoting others to manage their own teams. Each of these have been selfishly satisfying. 

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

At the invitation of Lou Shipley, a Wasabi board member, I was recently a sales coach for the Entrepreneurial Sales class at the Harvard Business School. I was flattered to join the ranks of impressive sales coaches and to also share my knowledge with young and extremely bright graduate students.  That teacher-wannabe in me thoroughly enjoyed the experience.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I find energy and peace outdoors and I’m not picky about where that is! My husband and I spend a lot of summer weekends at the Cape Cod canal. We live in a rural area of central Massachusetts and love having friends over for bonfires. And I can’t wait to be back in the office, walking through the streets of Back Bay Boston. 

How do you manage stress?

I start every day with either a workout or a two-mile walk, powered by classic rock. Nothing says motivation like Bob Seger live. I love ending the workday at the dinner table with my husband and my niece who lives with us while she attends grad school. We laugh a lot.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

At least three cups before noon. Sleep is so important to me, so no coffee after noon!

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston area?

I was introduced to Back Bay, Boston when I joined Wasabi. I had no idea how diverse this area is. Walking throughout Back Bay is like walking through live artwork. It’s got great history, parks, businesses, residential areas, restaurants, and shopping. 

Any book or podcast recommendations? 

Back when I commuted, I was big on audio books. The last one I enjoyed was The Life of Pi. Loved it.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

If a college grad is looking to get into high-tech sales or startups, then I’d refer to what I mentioned earlier. For those who graduate not yet knowing what they want to do for work, explore the parts of your character that aren’t immediately associated with work.  Do you like to socialize a lot or only a little? Do you like to read or analyze a lot? Are you crafty and prefer to design and build things?  Then, see if your work satisfies those parts of your character. It’s ok to move on until you find a place that feels right.  

About the
Company

Wasabi is the hot cloud storage company. 

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Lead(H)er Profile - Kady Srinivasan, SVP of Marketing at Klaviyo banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Kady Srinivasan, SVP of Marketing at Klaviyo

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the Tech Industry.  In this Q&A, we are featuring Kady Srinivasan, SVP of Marketing at Klaviyo.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in Bangalore, in south India during a time when India was rapidly coming into the new capitalistic economy from a previous socialist bias. As a child I grew up seeing my parents and relatives choosing careers that ensured long term employment, pension benefits and stability- primarily in the government sector. As a teenager, I witnessed the complete reversal in terms of the more lucrative opportunities being in the private sector bringing with them the concepts of high growth, high risk that were totally alien to my parents’ generation. So you could say I was a pretty confused child. I had the concepts of loyalty, thrift and value of education drilled into me as a child but as I made my way through high school, it became pretty clear I craved the excitement, hustle and risk taking of being in the “new” economy. Life was a constant balancing act between what I was drawn to and what I was reared to.

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

Like a lot of indians in my generation, I figured studying engineering would give me access to the new jobs being created by software companies in India at that time. I studied computer science and engineering and I have always had a bent towards logic based problem solving, so it was a decent education. My first job out of school was working for Intel as a software programmer. I learnt a ton of languages like C, C++, Java etc that I have come to realize have become the currency of the new world. My belief is that most areas of business, medicine and education, at a minimum will undergo significant disruption fueled by technology and having a conversant grasp of how the language of software works is crucial for anyone wanting to be successful in those fields.

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

I call myself a failed software engineer turned marketer. I was pretty bad as an engineer but even as a software engineer, I was always interested in business. By the time I was 24, I had read authors like Drucker and Stephen Covey which only fueled further interest in business. I decided to go to UNC to pursue an MBA. The only problem was I didn't really know what I wanted to do with an MBA. I tried learning almost every discipline during the 2 years - finance, accounting, supply chain - the only discipline I actively stayed away from was marketing. I was fairly contemptuous of marketing because it seemed to have a lot of big words and big personalities. So I decided to go into consulting because I couldn't make up my mind. I loved consulting because it exposed me to all kinds of altitudes of problems - big and small, strategic and tactical, one project deciding the price of bread for Walmart in the AK region, another deciding how to optimize direct store delivery for Coke. Along the way I had an epiphany that I loved delving into all problems that drove market share, penetration top line growth and realized this sum total of problems represented marketing. I decided to build a career in marketing and deliberately started to take on multiple roles in multiple industries to start rounding out my craft in marketing. Along the way, I have had various responsibilities within various functional leadership roles in marketing in entertainment and gaming, technology and connected devices. Each of them had their special epiphany moment that contributed to where I am today.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I serve as Klaviyo’s head of marketing where I have responsibility over all aspects of how we go to market with Klaviyo’s product and brand. I see my role as three fold - being a custodian of the Klaviyo brand (how we show up, how we align our brand to customer expectations and how we internally align the organization to our brand ambition), driving commercial success of our platform by aligning the distribution models with our messaging (how we advertise, how we create the right value proposition and messaging and how we enable our go to market partners to be successful), and building a high performance team (attracting and retaining talent, providing an environment where people can succeed and intertwining with the fabric of the company so that we make everyone successful).

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

Emphatically no! I never thought I would be in a CMO/head of marketing role. It used to bother me that I didn't know what I wanted to do esp when I saw the clarity my peers had. However, I have realized that not knowing has given me a richer background, and frankly has been more fun. A big secret right now is, I have no idea where I will be in 10 years!

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

Well my path to CMO/head of marketing has been fairly unusual so my series of steps may not work for everyone. However I have realized there are 5 timeless truths that will help anyone who is either looking to get to this role (or whatever role this will be in 10 years time), or generally be successful in whatever they are trying to go after

  • Put yourself in uncomfortable situations - Given the speed with which the world is changing, unless you are constantly learning, you will fall behind. The best way to pack a lot of learning into a very short amount of time is to take on a job where you probably know 50% of what to do. It's highly uncomfortable and very very hard but that's the only way to optimize for long term success

  • Learn some hard skills - I can’t understate the importance of having a net of hard skills, It could be programming, it could be excel manipulation, it could data analysis, but no matter your role, particularly in marketing, this will be more and more needed in the future. 

  • Be totally authentic - Someone famous said don't be the best, be the only. There is literally no point in wasting time being someone else when you can be the best you possible. Again it's not easy to do, you will have constant doubts, you will want to be like everyone else, but realize that being authentic is not only the other option but being anything else will set you back

  • Hold your goals lightly but path tightly - I know of plenty of people who never thought they would end up where they did but almost all of them had discipline, rigor, a deep learning mentality and they never compromised on that. I do believe being flexible on your goals but being really clear on how you spend your day/week/life is important

  • Be additive - Life is a team sport. We can’t go at anything alone. Being additive to people and situations not only makes things fun, it makes things way way more satisfying and meaningful. Add to your employees, peers, your boss, your family, your community - in whatever little ways you alone can

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

There are a number of actual functional skills I need to do my job well. For example, I need to be a storyteller, I need to understand the latest changes in the advertising landscape, I need to understand how to position a product better, I need to understand how to create more inbound demand etc. However, in my opinion there are more strategic, meta skills that will trily differentiate me from others and to be honest will help me continue to grow and develop over time.

  • Constructing a mental model: To do my job well, I need to bring all the pieces of marketing together into a cohesive “system” that operates as one big interlocking system of gears. For that, I need to build a mental model of how everything comes together, what the intersection points are, what the overlaps are, where things are in conflict etc.The faster I can build this mental model, the more nuanced I can make it, the better I am at my job
  • Operating rhythms: I run a large team, I can’t run a team this size without being a good operator ie setting up the operating rhythms, processes and workflows that enable everything to be aligned and rowing in the same direction. This requires putting on my administrator hat at least in the beginning

  • Leadership: My super power is recognizing talent - especially understanding and identifying potential that sometimes people themselves miss. Without investing significantly in people and talent, nothing really happens. This is probably one of the most important skills that I need to do my job well

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

We have a product that is growing amazingly well organically, our customers love us - so much that they take us with them wherever they go. All of this despite the fact that almost no one knows about us. Our product is so deep and complex that half the time we can’t explain what it is truly that we do. That's the most rewarding thing about my work - is figuring out how to tell the world what we do and why in a way that not only resonates but also gets more people to realize what they can do with us. In addition, I am excited about the possibility of creating a social movement about how SMBs, ecommerce businesses can own their own destiny. More to come on that soon :)

The most challenging is the lack of time. Someone more clever than me said, it's not a time problem, it's a prioritization problem. However given what the world needs right now, I do think we are running up against time constraints - so I am working constantly, my team is working constantly and I am worried about burnout on different levels

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

When I worked for a smart baby monitor company, I was 6 months into the job when the pandemic hit us. Our demand dried up, people delayed purchases and we came close to taking big decisions on downsizing. However, working with my team, I started a series of marketing and revenue programs that turned things around. Not only did we do well, we grew 2x during the pandemic, kept our people and their salaries, and continued to give our customers the best quality product and service that they needed to keep their babies safe. I have never been more proud.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I have a ton of activities that I am interested in - bollywood dancing, working out, hiking, surfing and any water related activities. Fortunately my son is also an extremely active kid so our whole family does a bunch of outdoor things together. We are planning a hike to Macchu Picchu in the near future :)

How do you manage stress?

Reading books is my one big stress buster. I love getting lost in the realm of fantasy and imagination. My secret hope is to write a fantasy book someday :)

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

Oh man, At least 3. But I also drink chai and black tea. So my caffeine consumption is through the roof
 

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston/New York area?

South end. A friend of mine took me around and I absolutely loved it

Any book or podcast recommendations? 

The PIvot is a great podcast. I can offer a ton of book recommendations - my favorite ones of all time: Leadership is Language, Sapiens, The Art of Impossible, Smarter, Faster, Better, Daring Greatly
 

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Don't worry :) It will all work out as long as you keep pushing towards your destination. Figure out how to focus on your strengths, shore up your weaknesses with people, technology or time and keep learning every single day. And remember kindness pays back multiple fold.

About the
Company

Klaviyo is the leading Owned Marketing platform, aimed at helping online businesses grow faster.

The only marketing platform that can help a brand launch and scale indefinitely until they are a multi-billion dollar leader of their space, Klaviyo is focused on the ecommerce business sector and used by over 60,000+ innovative companies such as Unilever, Kopari Beauty, and Huckberry.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Lauren Lowman, VP of Marketing at Ordergroove banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Lauren Lowman, VP of Marketing at Ordergroove

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the Tech Industry.  In this Q&A, we are featuring Lauren Lowman, VP of Marketing at Ordergroove.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in a small town in South Carolina. As a child, I was fairly shy and not comfortable having the spotlight on me. But as I approached my teens, I grew out of my shell. In high school I founded our first volunteer based service club, was Senior Class Vice President, and was voted Most Friendly. To this day, I find that while I’m fairly extroverted, I’m not someone who relishes being the center of attention.

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I went to the University of South Carolina and double majored in Marketing and Business Management. I’m not sure I had the foresight at the age of 18 to know that I wanted a career in marketing, but the leadership roles I carried in high school helped me find my interest in business.

When I graduated, I joined a company called Belden as a part of their Leadership Development Program for sales and marketing. My first role was an Inside Sales Representative where I learned the ins and outs of electrical cabling and connectivity. It was great to gain the experience of carrying a quota, building relationships, and learning value based selling. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

I spent four years at Belden. Three of those years I rotated through various individual contributor roles including sales, partner marketing, and product marketing. I spent my final year with the company leading product marketing, content, design, and lead qualification/development. After leaving Belden, I moved to a Product Marketing role at Trustpilot. After a few years, I was promoted to oversee Demand Generation for the US, and with time had global Content, Digital, and Marketing Operations added to my plate. 

I feel very lucky to have had considerable career progression at both of my previous companies.

As I reflect on how I’ve progressed in my career, I attribute a lot of my success to saying “yes” to new opportunities and additional work responsibilities. I’ve always tried to play the long game when it comes to my career, meaning filling in gaps in responsibilities, even if it's not technically a part of my role and thinking of them as opportunities to learn something new. This approach has sometimes come at the expense of appropriate compensation, title, or credit, but I believe it has enabled me to learn new skills and gain expertise in various areas of marketing and beyond.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I’m currently the VP of Marketing at Ordergroove, the leading subscription platform for retail and eCommerce businesses. My responsibilities include developing a high performing team, accelerating sales growth through demand generation and qualification, creating content and messaging that positions our brand as a market leader, and enabling and engaging our partner ecosystem.

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

I’ve always enjoyed all areas of marketing, leading teams, helping people develop professionally, and building things from the ground up. I also really enjoy marketing to marketers and being in the eCommerce space. Reflecting back, the stars seemed to have aligned.

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

The single biggest piece of advice I have for someone looking to lead a department or team is to be open to trying new things, not be afraid of taking on new responsibilities, and take risks. While it’s absolutely important to set boundaries for your workload and mental health, if you have interest in leading a team then getting hands-on experience in the various areas you want to oversee will allow you to better connect the dots so you can create a holistic strategy and empathize with your team.

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

At the moment, the ability to think strategically but act tactically is key to making consistent progress toward our long-term goals. Vision of where the market is going and how to best position the business is critical, along with the ability to analyze and interpret data. I also think the ability to be flexible and resilient is critical for Marketing leaders to be successful. It's not uncommon for businesses to pivot, especially at an earlier stage, and marketing leaders need to be ready and willing to adjust their strategy and plans with it. 

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

Watching my team drive toward critical business outcomes is by far the most rewarding. We’re a new team, but over the last few months we’ve started hitting our stride and setting records when it comes to lead and pipeline generation.

The most challenging part of my job right now is figuring out what we’re not going to do or what we’re not going to perfect. The perfectionist in me doesn’t like launching things that are incomplete or imperfect, but it allows us to learn faster through tests and iterations. 


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Pre-COVID, I enjoyed traveling, exploring new neighborhoods with my husband in NYC, and spending time with friends and family. Nowadays, my free time is spent more on cooking and baking.

How do you manage stress?

Talking through business challenges with my husband, mentors, or members of my network helps me gain new perspectives and crystalize my thoughts. I lean on my network and mentors to turn my stress into solutions. Spending time with friends and family usually helps me stay grounded and refocus on the important things in life.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

Usually just one. If I’m having a second cup of coffee then it’s likely been a long day. 

Any book or podcast recommendations? 

I’m a Kara Swisher fan, so I enjoy listening to Pivot and Sway podcasts. I also enjoy a good murder mystery podcast. And my favorite book that I’ve listened to on tape recently was Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Don’t settle, but also don’t wait for the perfect job. Trying new things and figuring out what you enjoy and don’t enjoy is key to eventually landing a role you’ll be happy and successful in long-term. And failing is a part of the process.

About the
Company

We are marketers, engineers, and innovators creating the future of Relationship Commerce.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Erin Byrne, Vice President of North America Sales at Recorded Future banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Erin Byrne, Vice President of North America Sales at Recorded Future

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the Tech Industry.  In this Q&A, we are featuring Erin Byrne, Vice President of North America Sales at Recorded Future.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child? 

I grew up in Hudson, New Hampshire and would best describe myself as a curious and adventurous child. I had two older siblings who were very smart and athletic so I had no choice but to keep up! If I wasn’t playing basketball, soccer, or tennis, I was outside exploring in the woods or riding my bike. I was used to a fast-paced lifestyle with all the activities that come along with three siblings and we were always traveling to see our extended family in upstate New York. 

Erin Byrne Recorded Future

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school? 

I studied Political Science in college. I was a walk-on for the women’s basketball team at George Mason University in Virginia my freshman year, but decided to transfer to the University of Connecticut after my first year and retired from Division 1 basketball. After graduating from UCONN, I went back to D.C. to earn my Masters in Public Administration from George Mason University. I always thought I would be in the FBI, CIA, or work for the government. I loved learning about history, politics and foreign policy and D.C. was the perfect city for that.

My first job out of college was at Raytheon in their International Division. I started there as an intern while in graduate school and they offered me a job when I graduated. While there, I worked in the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia Region and loved every moment of it! I remember when I accepted the job offer they told me I would be going to Dubai a few months later. There was no looking back when I took that job and I traveled all over the world and got to do some pretty incredible things both personally and professionally.

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today? 

My first critical career move was taking the job at Raytheon after graduate school. The skills I developed and the experiences I went through in the different roles I had there set a foundation for me to think big and understand that anything is possible. I was working with three and four star generals and individuals who were way more experienced than me. Given that much responsibility in my early 20s, I had to learn to swim or would sink fast! They’ve continued to be good friends and mentors throughout my career.

After living in D.C. for six years, I thought I should move back up north and the perfect job became available at one of the companies Raytheon acquired selling their Boomerang product line in the Middle East and North Africa. Taking that job and leaving the network I built up in DC was risky but it was one of the best decisions I ever made. It got me closer to my friends and family and I was working on a sniper detection system that was saving soldiers’ lives in the war. I was also able to continue my travels to the Middle East and North Africa where I developed many professional relationships and friendships over the years, so it was a win-win all around.

The last critical career move I made was joining Recorded Future, a 30-person startup in Harvard Square. I can remember my breaking point at Raytheon and I knew I needed a change and wanted to do something completely different. At the time, I don’t think I really understood how risky the move was but I’m glad it worked out the way it did! Here I am, eight years later running sales for North America. I still remember my first day on the job like it was yesterday. I was coming from a 80,000 person company where I had my own office the size of a bedroom and wore pant/dress suits every day for five years. I showed up for the new gig on the sixth floor of an old building with two other companies in the shared workspace, had my new laptop, was way over dressed, and started making cold calls. I loved every moment of it!

What is your current role and responsibilities? 

I run sales for North America at Recorded Future. It’s roughly a $100M business this year spread across five teams. I’m responsible for our new business and also our existing client base of 600+ customers. The job is so rewarding because we’re arming governments and private organizations with security intelligence to disrupt their adversaries and stop attackers in their tracks. When I left Raytheon, I started to see the shift to cyber warfare and I couldn’t have ended up in a better place to continue the mission! 

Erin Byrne Recorded Future

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position? 

This is not where I thought I would be but I’m very happy it’s where I ended up. I had such a passion for intelligence work that I really thought I’d be working in the government. I loved my role at Raytheon and couldn’t wait to try something new with a small company that focused on intelligence but I never thought I could have such an impact and be where I am today. 

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals? 

Pave your own way. Seek advice from all kinds of leaders, take what you like most and make it your own. Always be ready to adapt and learn, no one has all the answers. Be patient, don’t climb too fast too soon, all those steps along the way prepare you for the roles ahead. 

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well? 

To be an effective sales leader you have to be able to deal with all kinds of people. Communication, empathy, adaptability are all critical but at the end of the day, you have to know how to motivate and lead your team. Be relatable, be humble, be human and that will go a long way. 

Erin Byrne Recorded Future

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging? 

I love the people. I’ve been lucky enough to build a great team that works extremely hard and are passionate about the company and the mission and that’s really rewarding. We win and we lose together, but nothing feels better than winning and helping our clients defend against cyber criminals. The biggest challenge is managing through all the change when you’re growing at such a fast pace.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment? 

Recorded Future. I started when we were doing under $1M in revenue and we’ll be at $200M+ this year. There has been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get where we are today. Every year there are new challenges and opportunities and it’s been an incredible journey that has taught me so many things I’ll take with me throughout the rest of my career.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Running, skiing, paddleboarding, traveling. I love the sound of the ocean and the mountains for hiking and skiing. 

Erin Byrne Recorded Future

How do you manage stress?

Working out!

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

1 strong cup. Coffee is one of my favorite things so I invested in a good coffee machine years ago and it’s the highlight of my morning!

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston area? 

Running along the Esplanade and a weekend trip to Nantucket!

Any book or podcast recommendations?

I’m trying to read more fiction but I always wind up back on nonfiction...One of my favorite books of all time is Shantaram. I’m currently reading “A Woman of No Importance” which is a true story about an American Spy who helped win WWII.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Aim high, take risks and work really hard. Most importantly, earn your keep/respect, don’t be entitled!

About the
Company

Recorded Future delivers advanced security intelligence to disrupt adversaries, empower defenders, and protect organizations. Recorded Future intelligence is ready for integration across the security ecosystem.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Zoe Silverman, VP of People at Yesware banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Zoe Silverman, VP of People at Yesware

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the Tech Industry.  In this Q&A, we are featuring Zoe Silverman, VP of People at Yesware.


Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

Northampton, Massachusetts, in what’s known as “The Happy Valley.” I’ve always been a pretty  equal combo of the blue and gold True Colors personality types. Basically, that means I’m part sensitive and emotional, and part focused and organized. 

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I double-majored in Sociology and Leadership Studies, with a concentration in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies. My first job out of school was as an entry-level inside sales rep for a tech company in Boston that went public while I was there (thanks to me I’m sure). It was a challenging, fun, and exciting environment to be in and a great introduction the tech industry. I’m forever grateful for that experience.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I currently run our People Operations function. We do a little of everything -- from payroll and benefits, to talent acquisition, to DEI, to employee engagement -- the list goes on! I’m also part of the Executive Team. Right now we’re doing a lot of planning for 2021, so my role is to think about things like hiring, compensation, moving to remote-first, things like that. Lots of interesting problems to tackle! 

Zoe Silverman Yesware

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

I think just be open to anything -- there are so many jobs and experiences that could contribute to a future in People Ops, you don’t necessarily have to start there (I didn’t). 

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

Emotional intelligence is by far the most important skill for me. Being able to context-switch/ multi-task different kinds of work is also important since our team works in more of a generalist approach rather than a specialist one. 

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  

It’s always really rewarding when I see people advance within the company or take on new roles in other departments. That’s really the pinnacle of what we’re trying to do in People Ops - find great people and then empower them to grow with the business. At Yesware, we have people who have been promoted multiple times, we have people who have held different roles, and we have people who have been with us for many years -- all of this is what’s most rewarding to me. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

A few that really stick out to me are: when Yesware reached gender parity and became a 50% female organization, when we won our first best place to work award, and when I was invited to join our Executive team. 


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I like to clean and organize things. That’s my gold side coming out! 

How do you manage stress?

Snuggling my dog works every time. It’s the Fritos paws. 

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston area?

One year on my birthday I treated myself to the Tea Room at the Boston Public Library. It was magical and made me feel super fancy. Highly recommend! 

Any book or podcast recommendations?

Books -- anything by Brené Brown. Podcasts -- Hidden Brain with Shankar Vedantam on NPR.

About the
Company

Yesware is your all-in-one toolkit for sales professionals and sales teams.

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