Inspirational profiles of women in
leadership roles in the tech scene.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Erica Jenkins, Chief Product Officer at Crayon banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Erica Jenkins, Chief Product Officer at Crayon

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Erica Jenkins, Chief Product Officer at Crayon.


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

I grew up just outside Rochester, NY about an hour from the Canadian border.  As a child I was into several sports, including horseback riding and I loved Summer camp.  My teachers would say I was very bright but a little too social so I probably talked to my friends more than I should have!  My folks would say that I asked a lot of questions which has proven to be a valuable personality trait in my career.  #curiosity 

Spending time with my daughter supporting her passion. We travel often for her shows around the SE US. 

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

Looking back I wish I’d known more about technology and computers but it just wasn’t taught much in the early 1990s, especially to females. Traditional sciences were a big interest to me so I entered college as a biology major.  Once I realized this wasn’t a true passion, I swapped over to business studies with a focus on PR.  If I’m honest with myself, I learn best by “doing” and shadowing others.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to “grow up to be” so I took a break.  After a short self-reflection, I jumped into a real estate career.  It was pre-social media but I quickly learned how to become a marketing lead engine with content and engaging on forums.  This digital transformation of marketing tactics and consumer communication ignited my entrepreneurial spirit.  

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

As I mentioned, in the mid-2000s marketing tactics and consumer communications with social media emerging created a pain point for me as a business owner.  I needed time back and the idea for my startup was born.  I didn’t realize it at the time but social media management to publish, drive engagement and measure the impact was emerging as a big business.  Expion was competing with Hootsuite, Sprinklr, Sprout Social and many others.  Learning enterprise marketing challenges was extremely valuable for me to see how large corporations were in need of so many different types of collaboration tools.  The knowledge I’ve gained from working with large global brands, social media developer partnerships and the many brilliant engineers I’ve had the pleasure of working with has been invaluable. 

Another aspect of what I’ve learned is growing a team and having empathy for employees.  My hope is any of my old colleagues would want to work for me or with me again.  People matter far above building software.  

What is your current role and responsibilities?

Chief Product Officer at Crayon.  We’re growing our team to unlock competitive intelligence to infuse competitive awareness for positioning, sales enablement, and overall stronger business awareness of competitive moves in the market.  

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

Bootstrapping a startup and successfully getting acquired.  

Last International Trip on March 11, 2020- I was the only person in my cabin to London

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

I join a few product management mentoring Twitter Spaces to help share my journey and the executive viewpoint of skills and attributes I value in a product manager.  Volunteering is scattered amongst my daughters' school events when I can.  I need to lean into joining more organizations to learn or contribute my experience to my Personal development goal for 2022. 


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

In season, I love to spend time on my boat with friends.  I’m always reading tech and business news to keep a pulse on the latest and greatest for work and my own knowledge.  Working at a growing series B startup keeps me busy so a quiet Saturday with some Netflix is my time to chill out and not feel guilty for being lazy.

I enjoy getting out on the boat to spend the day on the water and occasionally drop a line! 

How do you manage stress?

Great question, one day at a time!  As a single Mom, I have to really try hard to make time for myself.  Walking outdoors helps me de-stress.  An early morning routine I’ve tried to adopt during the pandemic is listening to a guided meditation for 20 minutes before I start my day.  It helps with centering my thoughts to start the day.

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

2 cups before 10am.  One to get me through carpool, the other to get me through my email backlog. 

Any book or podcast recommendations?

Radical Candor by Kim Scott

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Be curious.  Coursework can only teach you frameworks in technology.  The more you dig into a business problem, the more you understand and generate empathy about how to solve it.

About the
Company

Crayon’s award-winning competitive intelligence platform helps your organization see and seize opportunities so you can create a sustainable business advantage.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Jess Dashner, Director of Media Strategy & Operations at Gupta Media banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Jess Dashner, Director of Media Strategy & Operations at Gupta Media

Open Jobs Company Page

Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Jess Dashner, Director of Media Strategy & Operations at Gupta Media.


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

Growing up in Trumbull, Connecticut, I loved learning: learning how other people think and act, learning new things in school, learning about the way the world works and my place in it. If you asked me my favorite school subject as a child, I would have said “all of them.” I wanted to be free to explore all potential subjects, including the ones I was less “naturally inclined” to excel at (I’m looking at you, gym class).

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

Throughout my four years at Boston University, I explored many different potential paths, eventually landing on Psychology, Advertising, and Statistics. After gaining much-needed perspective from internships that spanned agencies, in-house marketing roles, and start-ups, it became clear that I was looking for a role that would combine the versatility of agency life with the challenges of working at a small company that would teach me how to build a successful business, not just work for a successful business. This led me to Gupta Media, which, at the time, was a recently established Cambridge-based digital marketing agency that primarily focused on managing search engine marketing campaigns for record labels. Believe it or not, I’m still there 14 years later, though my role and the agency itself have both evolved immensely since those early days.

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

I know that my path has been fairly unique in that I have been with the same company throughout my career. When I started at Gupta Media, I was an individual contributor, responsible for day-to-day campaign management. The first critical moment in my career was one that our agency’s Founder, Gogi Gupta, still remembers fondly every time employee annual reviews roll around. It was the first real performance review of my career, and I went into it expecting the professional equivalent of what I’d come to expect from years of straight A’s in school: put in the work, get the top grade. Needless to say, my review was lackluster at best, and I was left confused and disappointed. It was then that I learned effort isn’t enough in the real world. You need to be able to deliver results and self-promote. Keeping that early lesson in mind, I developed my skills and formed deeper relationships with our clients. This led to more autonomy and bigger opportunities. Early in my career, earlier than most, I was given my own team to manage, along with my own roster of clients. I had just returned from a few months working out of Sony Music’s office in London. I’d just crammed a lot of life experience into a short period of time and was about to embark on a completely different type of professional journey. This was another pivotal “sink or swim” moment for me and one that I’m glad I dove into head first, as it was a very important piece of my journey to where I am today.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

Today, I am the Director of Media Strategy & Operations at Gupta Media, as well as an Account Director within our media department. This position allows me to assume two different roles at once. As Director of Media Strategy & Operations, I help ensure that our immensely talented media department has everything they need to deliver best-in-class work for our clients. This spans a variety of responsibilities, from managing partner relationships, to guiding training and career development, from working across departments to determine agency strategies and POVs, to making sure we’re the first agency to test new opportunities in performance marketing. As Account Director, I oversee our relationship with several of the agency’s top clients while also pitching and onboarding new business.

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

I still can’t believe that I’ve been with the same organization since I was 21 years old. To be completely candid, I’ve often wondered if I’m missing out on the more holistic perspective that I could have gained from bouncing from company to company. However, I would have had to sacrifice all of the invaluable experience that comes with growing a successful business over many years of innovating, scaling, and learning. So to answer the question, no this was not where I expected to be in 2022, but it was always my goal to be a valued member of the leadership team at a cutting edge, ever-evolving company.

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?

  • Be hungry, be curious. You can’t move forward in your career unless you’re jumping on every good opportunity that comes your way, and you can’t prove that you deserve those opportunities unless you’re asking the questions and doing the research that it takes to turn those opportunities into success stories.​
  • Start your career at an agency. Agencies allow you to work with a diverse group of clients, industries, and personalities very early in your career. Bonus points if you work at a small agency, where you will also likely work across departments and assume different roles at the same time.
  • Advocate for yourself. As I learned at my first performance review, it’s not enough to work hard and quietly do the job well. You need to make sure your achievements are getting recognized, and you need to stand up for yourself if you’re getting passed over for opportunities that you’ve earned. It’s not always comfortable, but it’s important.
  • Try, fail, learn, repeat. We learn from both our successes and our failures. It’s important to stay nimble and accept that there’s always more to learn.

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

  • Adaptability. Marketing, particularly digital marketing, is an ever-changing industry. If you can’t learn to reprioritize, pivot quickly, and learn without an instruction manual, then you fall behind.
  • Empathy. My job is part client consultant, part team leader. You need to understand where a person is coming from and where they want to go in order to help them on that path.
  • Organization. It might sound like a basic skill, but when you’re part of a team, you can’t afford to be disorganized and unreliable. An organized mind can provide clarity for everyone.
  • Self Awareness. It’s important to lean on your strengths, know how you like to manage and be managed, and be authentic to your own personality. You can fake it ‘til you make it to a certain extent, but at the end of the day, you need to be the best version of yourself to succeed on your own terms.

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

Managing people is the highlight of my work. I love being a part of someone’s success story, helping them tackle a challenge by teaching them how to think through a problem rather than dictating  each step to take to solve it. It’s very rewarding to see someone achieve their professional goals, both while they’re at Gupta Media and wherever life has taken them after.

There is never enough time to achieve everything I want to achieve, and sometimes there’s barely enough time to achieve the bare minimum. The same is true for my team, and even for my clients. I’m always wary of burnout, relationships becoming transactional, and sacrificing what is best for what is fastest/easiest.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

A few years ago, Harvard Business School selected Gupta Media to be the subject of a case study that examined our unique approach to performance marketing. I worked closely with HBS to discuss our work, as the case delved into the projects that I had personally overseen in my role as Account Director. When the case was ready to be taught to all HBS first-year MBA students, I was invited to lead a Q&A session in one of the classes. It was a true honor to stand in front of some of the brightest minds from around the globe, acting as teacher rather than student.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

In addition to spending time with my husband and 2-year-old son, I love to walk and run outside, play board games with friends, and eat my way through whatever city I’m in.

How do you manage stress?

A little stress can help get the job done, but a lot of stress isn’t good for anybody. For me, perspective is important. Sometimes, I need to take a step back, look at the situation from a different perspective, and give myself a moment to react without actually acting.

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

Current answer: 1-2 cups per week. Plus, I love tea. However, ask me again in a couple of months when I have a newborn and a toddler on my hands.

Any book or podcast recommendations? 

I love the Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates podcast because each episode takes a debate topic and invites highly regarded experts and thought leaders to debate their opposing viewpoints with each other. It’s a great way to learn more about certain subjects, while challenging yourself to approach the debate with a truly open mind that can be changed if the case is compelling enough.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Seize every opportunity you can. Say yes to everything (within reason). If it pushes you out of your comfort zone, even better. Some of the best opportunities are ones you need to ask for, so don’t wait for them to be offered to you. And when you do ask, make it easy to get that “yes.” You might not be ready to take the lead on a juicy new account, but you’re ready to listen in on the pitch or help the team with research. These will all be valuable learning experiences early in your career, so be a sponge.

About the
Company

Gupta Media is a performance marketing agency, founded on the idea that advertising creates huge leverage for our clients.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Anna Fisher, Chief Marketing Officer at Spiff banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Anna Fisher, Chief Marketing Officer at Spiff

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Anna Fisher, Chief Marketing Officer at Spiff


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

I was born in Russia and grew up in Andover, Massachusetts. I moved to the United States with my family when I was six, and went straight into first grade without knowing any English. That experience definitely shaped me as a child. Instead of regular English classes, I went to ESL. I didn’t like being separated from my classmates and wanted to fit in, so I was really motivated to work hard and figure things out quickly. I think a lot of that drive came from my parents, and just seeing how hard they worked. They also really valued education, so grades were always super important.

Anna Fisher Spiff

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

I majored in communications, with a minor in education. Growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher. I thought marketing was interesting too, but that was originally a backup plan. My first job out of school was in client services at Brown Brothers Harriman.

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

I had a great career trajectory at Brown Brothers, but just didn’t feel like I was on the right path. I decided to take a risk and join what was then a small startup, ZoomInfo.

I was quickly entrusted with a lot of different marketing channels. Resources were limited, so I had to prove everything, hold campaigns and channels accountable, and have positive ROI. 

If I made a mistake, I had to fail fast. My team had to be nimble, get things done, and build processes and infrastructure so we could scale. I don’t think I would have really gotten to where I am if I didn’t have that experience.

I stayed at ZoomInfo for eight years, through two acquisitions and an IPO.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I’m currently CMO at Spiff. My team’s responsibility is two-fold. We're responsible for generating the majority of the pipeline, whether through digital marketing, demand gen, or our SDR org. On the other side, we really focus on the customer experience with new product launches, and making sure our internal team is aware of the incredible solutions we're bringing to market.

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

This is definitely not where I thought I’d be 20 years ago, but for the past five years or so, my career has been heading in this direction. I’m really excited for the journey ahead and the position I am in. We have the ability to build a great team and bring an incredible product to market. So grateful for the opportunity I have in front of me.

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?

Be data-driven, and focus on initiatives you can measure and replicate. Then you can double down on what’s working, and stop doing the things that aren’t.

Also, focus on hiring. Find good people who care about and understand the end goal, so you’re aligned. Most importantly, treat them well. I don’t think any person in a senior position could have gotten to where they are or at least been impactful without their team behind them.

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

I think being able to communicate clearly with both the internal team and other stakeholders is crucial— like making sure the sales org understands your goals and strategy. Another important skill is being able to identify the key criteria you should be measuring. Hiring and recruiting is also big, you can find the top talent you need for each individual role on your team.

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

Our team sets pretty challenging goals— whether it’s generating new pipeline or launching new productions—  so when we hit them, it’s just super rewarding.

Another thing I really love about my job is being able to promote other people— not just their title and salary, but also the work that they put forth. Focusing on the people is so important. How do we take care of one another? How do we support women on our team? How do we build a core culture of high performers, who are still kind and caring? That’s what I’m really excited to be doing.

As for challenges, we haven’t necessarily had the full headcount we’ve needed to achieve our goals. It takes time to lay the foundations in marketing orgs, and I’m always trying to hire the right people, but sometimes it can feel like refueling in the air.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

My team. I’m really grateful to have had so many people follow me when I joined Spiff. Everything we’ve accomplished so far would have taken longer and been harder if we didn’t have such an incredible core team, who put their trust in me before there were any major marketing initiatives here. At the same time, I think new perspectives are so important. I’m just so unbelievably proud of our team and excited to continue growing.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love spending time with my family, and try to get everyone together at least one a month. I also really enjoy trying out new restaurants with my friends and traveling with my husband.

How do you manage stress?

I make lists, identify my biggest priorities, and then try to not to worry about the smaller things at first. Sometimes I have to reshuffle, but it helps keep my focus on what’s most important.

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

I try to limit myself to one Venti, and spread it throughout the day.

Any book or podcast recommendations?

I really enjoyed Essentialism by Greg McKeown. I think a lot of women say yes when they shouldn’t, because they have enough on their plate already. I try to focus on the most impactful things on any given day, and this book has some great guidance on how to do that.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Don’t get hung up on what title you think you should have, or the salary you believe you deserve. Just get in there, do the work, and get your hands dirty. If you work hard, you’ll move up quickly. If you can find something you love, things won’t feel as tedious along the way. Also, learn from others. Being new is actually a great opportunity, because there are so many smart people willing to help if you ask.

About the
Company

Spiff is the leading sales compensation platform that automates commission calculations and motivates teams to drive top-line growth.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Caitlin Reiche, Chief Commercial Officer at Zus Health banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Caitlin Reiche, Chief Commercial Officer at Zus Health

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Caitlin Reiche, Chief Commercial Officer at Zus Health


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

I grew up in Newton, Massachusetts - close to Boston. I loved school but wasn’t particularly athletic, and spent much of my time outside of school with my parents, older brothers, and kids around my neighborhood. 

Caitlin Reiche Zus Health

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

I went to Middlebury College, a small liberal arts school in Vermont. After switching my major three times - from economics to history to poli-sci, I finally settled on Psychology, for no other reason than I realized my psych classes were the ones I was always most excited to attend. In retrospect, I realize that the basic concepts of psychology are probably the most important to understand to navigate all relationships, including those in business contexts. But I didn’t always want to go into business - I thought I would be a clinical psychologist and so followed that “path” out of undergrad, and coordinated clinical research trials in the Psychiatry Department at Massachusetts General Hospital. It was in this role where I was first exposed to the inadequacies of existing HCIT and the opportunity for improved technology to provide efficiencies and superior care. 

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

During graduate school at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health, I did a consulting internship at Deloitte and worked on a value-based care project for Harvard Business School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. I knew that value-based care (as opposed to fee-for-service) was going to change the way we think about and pay for healthcare, but I quickly recognized that very little technology existed to support these new models. 

After a number of conversations with folks in my network, I decided to pursue a role at athenahealth, one of the most innovative and transformative healthcare technology companies during that time. Athena was growing quickly at the time, providing a number of opportunities for someone early in their career, like me. I was able to chart my own course there, holding roles in Product Strategy, Corporate Strategy, Enterprise Business Sales, and Product. I recognized I loved building new teams, launching products, and managing and mentoring people.

I have been lucky enough to continue this work at PatientPop and then as Chief Operating Officer at Buoy Health, where for 3 years I built out the organization from 24 to over 100 people. At Buoy, I also had the opportunity to work with emerging digital health companies as they figured out their go-to-market strategies - and this is when I knew I wanted to help this new era of virtual-first healthcare companies succeed, prompting my move to Zus. 

Tell us about your new role at Zus Health?

At Zus, I oversee our new Commercial Team, which includes building out our marketing and product marketing functions, our business development and sales teams, and our partnerships and developer community. 

As a relatively new company, I also spend a lot of time developing our go-to-market strategy. I love the cross-functional nature of the role, and enjoy having daily conversations with some of the most innovative digital health companies that will truly change the way we receive healthcare over the coming years. 

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

I wish I could say I planned it, but of course much of the evolution of my career happened organically. Early on in my career, I didn’t think of myself as a salesperson. However, over time, I realized that external, strategic, customer and partner-facing conversations were the most invigorating parts of all of my roles - that introspection helped me realize that a Chief Commercial Officer or a go-to-market leadership position is the best fit for my interests and skills.

Caitlin Reiche Zus Health

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 a tendency is to say - I want to lead a Commercial organization, and therefore I need to “grow up” in sales. I actually think another way to be successful in this type of role is to experience different opportunities in other parts of an organization. Time spent in product or R&D will give you empathy and understanding of the product development lifecycle, time spent building out teams in any role will give you leadership and management skills, a marketing role will train you in critical top-of-funnel strategies… the list goes on. Become a well-rounded professional and then pick the area where you want to lead. 

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

Organization - this may be underestimated, but being really organized about our go-to-market strategy and the tactics that will lead us to success is really important at a macro level, and day-to-day organization and deep preparation around customer conversations, presentations, and follow up is critical. 

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

I love this early stage because success (and really, company survival) necessitates that the whole organization puts their energy into go-to-market. This means I get to work very cross-functionally, bringing product managers and engineers into customer strategy sessions and conversations and spending a lot of time sharing insights across the company, 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

The times I was able to help another individual realize their full potential through mentorship or management – these have always been the most satisfying experiences for me. 

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

I’m a member of Chief and also mentor for The Roux Institute, a graduate and entrepreneurship organization here in Portland, Maine. 


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Time outside of work is spent with my family. I have 3 children under 7 and we love our family adventures here in Maine - boating, skiing, and generally spending time outside.

Caitlin Reiche Zus Health

How do you manage stress?

To-do lists and calendar organization, and trying to find some free time during the day when I can take my dog for a walk or go for a run.

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

At least 3… but never after 1pm. 

About the
Company

Zus catalyzes healthcare’s greatest inventors by maximizing the value of patient insights - so that they can build up, not around.
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Lead(H)er Profile - Lauren Hughes, Senior Director of Customer Success Strategy and Operations at Forrester banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Lauren Hughes, Senior Director of Customer Success Strategy and Operations at Forrester

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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 Hughes, Senior Director of Customer Success Strategy and Operations at Forrester


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

I grew up on the East Coast of the United States as the oldest of three girls. Due to my dad’s job, we moved every few years. Because we were not tied to any location, we spent a good portion of each summer traveling. My favorite trips were to Kenya, China and the National Parks in Utah, Colorado, and Arizona.

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

I majored in Economics in college and had the opportunity to study abroad in Australia. I didn’t have a job when I graduated from college, so I moved to Washington DC and worked as a temp until I was hired by Arthur Andersen to conduct transfer pricing studies for global companies. 

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

After working for three years, I went back to school to get my MBA. I took Managerial Effectiveness with Chip Heath, who later co-authored Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. This class and this book were pivotal in introducing me to the idea that as humans, we’re not resistant to change. In fact, the rational part of our brain seeks change. And with the right environment and systems in place, the emotional part of our brain can be a powerful proponent of change.

After business school, I worked for Ford Motor Company in a marketing leadership program. This program allowed me to experience different marketing roles, including brand management, but most importantly gave me the incredible opportunity to race a NASCAR!

My next job was as a Total Economic Impact Consultant at Forrester, a role that was foundational in how I solve problems. I learned that everything is measurable and quantifying the financial impact of a decision or investment leads to much better results. I’ve now been with Forrester for a total of 16 years, with a recent two-year hiatus to spend more time with my family. I’ve had many roles, from consultant, to leading the acquisition of a data business, to running organizational design initiatives, to transforming Sales Operations. I love ideas and Forrester, at its core, is an ideas company. Each role has allowed me to learn about a new function, tap into Forrester analysts to explore how to work differently, and then execute on those ideas.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

My current role is Senior Director of Customer Success Strategy and Operations, and my remit is to profitably grow recurring revenue for Forrester. My work is to ensure that through Customer Success we not only on drive client outcomes but also measure the impact for our clients of achieving those outcomes. This is unchartered territory for Customer Success and is exciting work.

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

I’ve never really had a plan for my career so much as I’ve been drawn to solve interesting problems. At Forrester, the culture is one of pushing boundaries and doing things in new ways, so it’s been a great fit. 

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?

Everyone has a set of skills that make them uniquely valuable in the workforce. Think of the work that you are most proud of and consider why you, and not anyone else, were able to get the results that you did. Do you like problem solving, do you enjoy helping clients achieve their goals, do you love organizational dynamics, or analytics? If you can articulate the three things that in combination, make you tick, you can find work that will not only be meaningful to you but also work in which you’ll be highly successful.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

Winning the Chief Sales Officer Award, and a trip to Hawaii, for my work leading Sales Operations.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Travel! Here is my family in Iceland learning how to snowmobile over a very rocky glacier.

Lauren Hughes Forrester

How do you manage stress?

For me, exercise, and time outside are key. I try to run or walk every day and if it’s sunny out, spend some time gardening.

Any book or podcast recommendations? 

On a professional level, I recommend (in addition to Switch): Customer Success: How Innovative Companies are Reducing Churn and Growing Recurring Revenue; Radical Outcomes; and Measure What Matters.

I have two teenagers, so I listen to a lot of parenting podcasts; so on a personal level, my two favorite podcasts are Ask Lisa with Dr. Lisa Damour and Flusterclux with Lynn Lyons.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

I believe strongly in Daniel Pink’s work which states that the key drivers of motivation are mastery, autonomy, and purpose, with purpose as the main driver. Keep looking for the organization where you connect with the why; why the company exists. In that organization, you will find the most opportunity to grow and develop.

About the
Company

At Forrester, we’re bold. We make big moves, transform businesses, and define the future. We’re the people who challenge, who innovate, who dare to discover. We’re a community of smart people and vibrant voices coming together to do what’s right by our clients and each other. Our success is driven by curiosity, courage, and customer obsession. Here you can be bold at work. Join us and build an extraordinary future.

 

With you, we’re not just bold. We’re bold, together.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Sofia Kaufman, Chief People Officer at Aura banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Sofia Kaufman, Chief People Officer at Aura

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Sofia Kaufman, Chief People Officer at Aura


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

I was born in Riga, Latvia and moved to Brookline when I was a little girl; haven’t left Massachusetts since. I was pretty shy as a child, I liked to observe the world around me and catalog my observations. Sports helped me come out of my shell and I quickly found my immensely competitive nature. 

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

I studied Economics in college. While in college I worked at a retail banking branch. Graduated and quickly realized that wasn’t for me and found a job at a comp consulting firm.

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

I’m definitely one of those people that are in HR that never thought they would be in HR. I enjoyed telling stories with data and found my way to compensation consulting. I quickly realized that family and billable hours required to excel in consulting 20 years ago didn’t mix and found my way to the corporate world. 

My first corporate job was on the compensation team at what was then Genzyme.  It opened my eyes to what a great and respected people function looks like. How partnering with the business through creative and effective programs, strong organizational design and an enduring culture help to drive results. After Genzyme, I worked my way up the ladder in the tech industry. First in compensation, then broader total rewards, and then to Chief People Officer. 

I don’t know if there were specific critical moments in my career or just the journey overall that has placed me where I am. I have been and continue to be incredibly fortunate to work with and for some pretty amazing leaders and have hopefully picked up a bit of their strengths along the way. For example, I learn from Hari Ravichandran, the CEO of Aura, every single day. His insights on category creation, deep knowledge of the capital markets, and drive for growth have taught me endless lessons for which I will always be grateful.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I am currently the Chief People Officer of Aura - an intelligent digital safety company. We are on a mission to create a safer internet. I lead a team of amazing people that are responsible for shepherding our awesome people-first culture, attract and retain our greatest resource - our talent, and ensure we are helping our employees grow and they in turn power Aura’s growth.

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

I always thought I would be in leadership, but definitely not in HR. When I first started college I thought I would go into medicine or the sciences, like the rest of my family. Freshman year chemistry was a humbling experience and I quickly pivoted to economics. I found that I love telling stories with data and then using that data to make immediate impacts. I eventually found my way to compensation consulting. When I transitioned to the corporate world I worked for some of the best CHROs/CPOs in the game. I saw the immense impact that they had on organizations and have been inspired ever since.

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?

Two things both equally important:

  1. Never turn down any opportunity to learn about the business. People functions are so critically important to the success of any organization. But if we are not aware of how an organization ticks, the long term goals of the organization and how people and people strategy align to those goals, then there is no point. 
  2. You don’t need to know everything to do the job. Many times people (especially women) think that because they don’t meet every qualification on the job spec that they are not ready. Most people are willing to help you if you are willing to ask questions. 

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

  1. Empathy above all else. Building people programs requires one to be able to recognize that people are ultimately driven by emotions and to understand various perspectives of any given situation/program and its impact.
  2. Growth mindset for everything: self, team, company. It's super easy to get comfortable in past accomplishments, but the best feeling is when you keep pushing to level up. It's contagious and makes everyone around do the same.
  3. Sounds cliche, but being strategic. It's very easy for the People function to just do the HR things because it's what the calendar says to do or because that's what the proverbial HR playbook prescribes. But truly using people and org decisions to drive business outcomes is critical to success.
  4. Being very comfortable in the abstract. People don’t fit into neat little boxes - nor should they. 

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

The answer to all of the above is the people. It is so rewarding to work with the smartest, kindest, most interesting people in the industry. 

Building culture is challenging, hard, and incredibly rewarding work. There is no one size fits all, so keeping everyone happy is impossible. The magic is when most of the pieces start to work together and create a rocketship like the one we have at Aura.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Spending time with my family is tops. I’m a workout junky: hiking, running, yoga, gym sessions. 

Sofia Kaufman Aura

How do you manage stress?

Staying active for sure. Also sleep; I’m famous for my early bedtime, but it truly is important. 

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

Zero. I am trying to break a decades-long dependency and sticking to tea.

Any book or podcast recommendations?

I love the Pivot podcast. Always pick up interesting tidbits of info about the world there.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Network, network, network. You never know when you might find your next boss, mentor, or ally. 

About the
Company

At Aura, we’re making comprehensive digital security simple to understand and easy to use, so everyone can stay safe online.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Anita Peterson, VP of Client Services at InvoiceCloud banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Anita Peterson, VP of Client Services at InvoiceCloud

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Anita Peterson, VP of Client Services at InvoiceCloud


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

I was raised in Winthrop, Massachusetts. My parents immigrated to the United States from Kolkata, India, so I’m a first-generation Indian-American woman. I also have a younger sister, and she’s my best friend—most people who know us call us twins because we have the same mannerisms and look very similar, even though we’re seven years apart. 

When I was a kid, I was a little reserved at school, mainly because of my height—I’m six feet tall, which is pretty unusual among Indian women. The areas where I was more confident were sports (my height was a real asset here) and art. I loved to draw and paint, and I still do. 

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

I went to Bentley University, where I majored in marketing and minored in computer information systems. 

My first job out of college was at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where I worked in the case management department. I handled patients leaving the hospital and helped with researching what kind of follow up care they might require

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

After Spaulding, I worked at Paradigm Properties, where I assisted in managing all aspects of the building's occupancy and maintenance. I was the first and last face people saw as they entered and exited the building. I communicated with tenants regarding property related issues, coordinated with tenants and vendors to address maintenance and facility issues, and helped to resolve any complaints or building violations. My work at Spaulding and Paradigm helped me hone problem-solving skills like prioritization and strategy implementation, which have proven indispensable at InvoiceCloud, where I am today. 

After Paradigm, I moved onto MCC, which was a startup electronic bill payment and presentment (EBPP) company (the same space as InvoiceCloud). Because MCC was a startup, I got to touch every aspect of the business as a marketing and sales manager. It was a huge learning experience—in my 12 years at MCC, I ran our presence at marketing and trade shows and I met with schools and municipalities to learn about their different needs and to see how our software might help solve some of their challenges. I helped with product direction and development, and I became very well acquainted with the municipal space. I really learned what it means to have a SaaS solution for EBPP—in simpler terms, it means a digital payment solution that can be accessed anywhere online. Before MCC, I would have thought that sentence was nonsense.

I recognized that there was a lot of opportunity for growth in the online payments space—there were so many towns, cities, and utilities looking for a solution like what MCC had to offer. InvoiceCloud entered the market a few years after MCC, and I joined the InvoiceCloud team several years later after that.

Looking back, you can see a path that wasn’t apparent at first: working directly with people in a variety of situations, assessing how I could help them and be of service in some way, and honestly, just doing my best to make life easier for the folks I encountered every day, regardless of the job or the company I was working for at the time. InvoiceCloud, and our parent company EngageSmart, both have that ethos of service and impacting lives for the better at the heart of everything we do. 

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I’m VP of Client Services, which means I oversee customer-facing teams and I provide support to clients. When you boil it down, I’m really there to remove impediments and roadblocks for both my team and our customers.

I review caseloads and issues my teams face, I look for trends, and then I take everything I hear from my teams and from our customers and I distill them into a message that I then articulate to the organization—I’m kind of like a megaphone for the needs of our clients and teams. My goal is to make sure we provide superior customer experience, and not just according to the metrics we aim to meet, but also by ensuring that any time someone reaches out to us, they have a positive experience.

At InvoiceCloud, we’re constantly asking, “How can I make this customer’s life easier?” And the answer usually entails making their customer’s life easier—that’s every person who’s ever had to pay a tax or utility bill, which is just about everyone. It feels really good to be a part of something bigger like that. 

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

As a high school freshman, I thought I’d be a basketball player or an artist. I had a basketball coach who worked in marketing and customer success. He was enthusiastic about this work, and he shared what he did and introduced me to that world, and I really started to take an interest in business.

That’s why, when I was deciding what college I wanted to go to, I focused on business schools. I chose Bentley, which opened my eyes and expanded my understanding of what success means in business and what it would take for me to succeed. I knew I wanted (and had it in me) to be successful, and I knew I wanted to be in some position of leadership—growing up, I had always been the “leader” in my group of cousins, taking charge of whatever little-kid things we were doing back then. 

Once I was at MCC, my career goals became pretty clear, and this is exactly where I predicted I’d be.  

But your question is about long-term goals, and I have to admit that I have never been a long-term planner. I believe life is unpredictable and that in order to succeed, you need to be able to adapt and adjust. This is part of the reason I am where I am. In client service especially, you need to be ready for the unexpected. You may have the perfect plan written out in permanent marker, but then something will inevitably happen, and you have to start over again. 

This goes beyond just my day-to-day work and career—I have a general vision of what I want for myself and my family, but I’m not a long-term planner, and this has allowed me to remain open to opportunities, even if they’re not what I had envisioned. As I mentioned above, there are recurring themes in each chapter of my life and career thus far, and a commitment to making people happy is certainly one of them. That brings me joy and fulfillment, and holding on to that, even in times of constant change, helped to define my path in ways I didn’t notice until later. 

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 and foremost, find good mentors that can help you on your journey. It can’t be said enough: every woman’s success is due in some part to another woman’s guidance.

Always be prepared: Every time you find yourself in front of leadership, treat it as an opportunity for professional growth. I also think it’s incredibly important to take ownership of your mistakes and successes, no matter what level you’re at. 

Adopt a roll-up-your-sleeves attitude when it comes to work—if there’s an issue and my team can’t keep up with a client’s needs, I’ll drop everything to start answering phones and taking on cases myself. There’s nothing more important to me than my customers and my team. Without them, I cannot be successful—and it’s important that I make that apparent to them through my own words and actions. Walking the walk matters.  

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

At the risk of repeating myself, I’d say that the ability to adapt and roll with the punches has been indispensable. I need to be able to make decisions quickly and switch up what I’m doing at a moment’s notice in order to be good at my job. There are some leaders who, in the heat of a crisis, stand above and strategize and assess where people need to go and what needs to happen, and these leaders are certainly needed. And then there are some leaders who charge ahead and lend an active hand fixing what needs to be fixed right alongside their team—I’ve always been that kind of leader.

I also think empathy and emotional intelligence are incredibly important. They’re what allow me to relate to my team and my customers and to really listen to what they need.

Finally, a sense of humor is one of the most unexpected and vital things I need to do my job well. At the end of the day, if you can’t find levity in your experience, if you can’t take a step back and have a good time, it’s probably not the right job for you.

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

The most rewarding part of my work is solving a problem. I get a rush from it, honestly. I’m very gratified by the satisfaction of making my customers and team happy, and by crossing a problem off my list. 

I also think the kind of people we work with in the municipal space are really interesting. I’m working with my neighbors—to be in public service, you need to live in the town itself. That means our clients are active, involved members of their communities. I love working with people who are committed to solving problems so hyper-locally, and to serving real people right in their own backyard. There’s a very tangible satisfaction to this kind of work and it tends to attract people with good-natured, can-do personalities. 

With regards to what is most challenging, I think not being able to give everyone everything they want gets tough for me. I always want to help my client, and I try to see things from every perspective, and it can be really challenging to have to say no when things just can’t work out the way they want. I’m pretty determined to find a way, even if it’s not exactly what they wanted, and sometimes finding a solution that neither of us considered before can be really satisfying.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

Hands down, my proudest professional accomplishment is my team today and the culture we’ve built together. 

We hire well at InvoiceCloud, which matters. I also work to hire and train and promote within the organization. In fact, people from my department have infiltrated nearly every other group at InvoiceCloud—product, implementations, finance, etc.—all because of the knowledge they’ve gained working on my team and because of the kind of dedicated, curious, and service-minded people they are. 

I am incredibly proud of helping create career paths for my team members. I have a track record of finding professional growth opportunities for my people in client services, and it’s what attracts people to come work on my team. 

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

I’ve coached my son’s soccer and basketball teams locally in the past, and these days I help out where I can while my husband is a coach and member of the board. Being a cheerleader for my two kids takes up a chunk of my time, including weekends—it has been really fun to share my love of sports with them, especially because I’ve been heavily involved in athletics from the time I started middle school (again, my height certainly helps!).


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?    

The truth is, I don’t have a ton of free time, between my somewhat hectic job and raising my family. But art always has been and still is something that still brings me so much joy. Take a look at my notepads at work and you’ll find some serious doodles—it helps me pay attention to keep my hands busy, and as a bonus, my notepads are like a work of art!

When I can, I still sketch and paint. And I still play basketball in a women’s league. I also work out quite often and spend time with friends and family. I read a fair bit, as well.

How do you manage stress?

Honestly, I tend to work better under stress. I think more clearly under pressure. But on extra-stressful days, working out or doing some kind of physical activity is helpful. Being with my kids is also a great stress reliever, and I just picked up drawing at night again to help me unwind.

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

I love my Nespresso, and I have two cups of coffee a day. I like really, really dark coffee.

Any book or podcast recommendations?

I love to read! I read every night before I go to sleep to get my mind to quiet down a little. And I will read any book that everyone is talking about, regardless of genre. 

Give me a good beach read, a quick read like Nicholas Sparks, a procedural drama like Jodi Picoult, a heavier historical drama like Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. Right now I’m reading It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover, and I’m enjoying it! I also really liked The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger.

And I’ve recommended professional books or books on leadership to my team—I’ve even done summer reading club for the past several years with them. Last summer’s book club was the classic 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Take every opportunity you get to get yourself in front of company leadership or a department you’re trying to work your way into—be prepared for these moments, because they can change your career. Don’t be afraid to take any entry-level position and work your way up to where you want to be.

And be yourself. I don’t believe in completely separating your work and home life. I want to work with well-rounded people because I think they make better colleagues. Tell me about your family, your hobbies, your favorite book. Let your sense of humor shine through. I want to work with YOU, not some anonymous corporate mannequin. 

About the
Company

Invoice Cloud™ provides Trusted, Secure E-Payments and highest adopting Electronic Bill Presentment and Payment (EBPP) Solutions.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Samantha Sheridan, Head of Talent Acquisition at Cogo Labs banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Samantha Sheridan, Head of Talent Acquisition at Cogo Labs

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Samantha Sheridan, Head of Talent Acquisition at Cogo Labs


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

I grew up in the suburbs of NYC. As a child, I was a nerd. I loved school and reading and writing. Allegedly I would sit in the corner and play word games by myself in Kindergarten while everyone else was playing more fun games. I always loved learning but got more into sports and other activities as I grew up. I’ve always been pretty social too and would rather be around friends than by myself!

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

I was a Sociology major. My first job out of school was selling car insurance on the phone at a startup called Consumer United in Boston– the last thing I ever thought I would do. The insurance industry didn’t end up being for me, but the experience I gained in high volume sales there was invaluable. I was able to take what I learned there into Recruiting and it definitely gave me an advantage.

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

I bounced back and forth between sales and agency recruiting before landing at Wayfair. In my 6.5 years there, I learned so much not only about recruiting but about business in general. I had so many amazing managers there who coached me and gave me opportunities to keep growing. About 2 years into my time there, I was asked to switch teams and build a recruiting process for an engineering team that had been underserved. It was scary, but I was able to work with them to build a process, hire great people, and start managing my own team. This was a turning point for me because I realized that the success I had been having was not a fluke. It was repeatable, and I could work with any set of stakeholders and achieve our goals. I’ve found that those moments that seem the scariest are usually the ones that allow you to grow the most.

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I’m currently leading Talent Acquisition at Cogo Labs, working on building a scalable TA foundation for Cogo and all of our verticals that are incubating now and in the future. I work closely with our leadership team and hiring managers to establish a high and objective talent bar, and make sure that our interview processes are evaluating the right set of skills for each role.

The team is still very small, which means I get exposure to more of the HR and People Ops side of Talent as well. It’s been a great opportunity to become a more well-rounded talent leader.

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

To be honest, I didn’t have a northstar for where I’d be professionally until fairly recently. I knew I loved recruiting early on and that I’d most likely spend my career in the talent space, but there was never one job I was gunning for. Along the way, I started to get more involved in talent strategy and realized how much I loved building teams- both my own and those that I was recruiting for. That’s what I want to continue to do, regardless of what the title is.

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 from the people around you who do their job in a way that you admire, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or admit you don’t know something. Focus on delivering results above all else. Once people see that you can do the things you say you can, it’s easier to influence, build trust, and get more accomplished alongside them. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and do any job required to get your team to their end goal. The most respected and effective leaders are the ones who don’t think any job is below them and who are willing to do whatever the team needs.

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

Communication, empathy, critical thinking and hustle. In recruiting, you’re responsible for delivering results for human beings on both sides of the equation- for candidates and hiring managers. When people are involved, overcommunication is key. I never want a candidate or a hiring manager to have any doubt about where things stand or what next steps are. Empathy allows you to really understand where people are coming from and advocate for them effectively. In this ever changing, fast moving market, sharp critical thinking skills allow you to keep your end goal in mind and make quick, data-driven decisions along the way to help you get there. 

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

The most interesting and rewarding part of my work is building the absolute best team possible for Cogo and managing/mentoring my own team. I love developing and coaching recruiters and working with them to help them achieve their career goals. The most challenging thing about my work and TA in general is also one of the things that makes it the most rewarding- you are dealing with people. People have different and changing needs along the way and not everyone is motivated by the same thing. It’s never black and white, so you need to constantly communicate and make sure you’re on the same page with both candidates and hiring managers.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

Seeing both the engineers that I’ve hired and the recruiters I’ve managed continue to be successful and grow in their careers. A lot of the recruiters that I managed who came in at entry level are now senior managers, running teams of their own. Same goes for engineers. It’s really awesome to feel like I might have played a role in helping them accomplish that.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love getting outside as much as possible and hiking with my dog Charlie! It’s not all active though, I love a good netflix binge just as much.

Samantha Sheridan Cogo Labs

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

Usually 2-- 1 on my way into the office and 1 around the 3 pm slump! 

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

It’s ok if you still don’t know “what you want to be when you grow up.” Take opportunities as they come and you’ll be surprised when you end up right where you are supposed to be. The road can be windy but every experience you have is one that you can learn from and that can make you better at whatever job you have next.

About the
Company

Located in the heart of the Kendall Square Innovation District, Cogo Labs has been successfully growing and launching startups for over a decade.

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Lead(H)er Profile - Thuy Hill, Vice President, FP&A at PrismHR banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Thuy Hill, Vice President, FP&A at PrismHR

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PrismHR is proud to be a tech company comprised of 50% women!

Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Thuy Hill, Vice President, FP&A at PrismHR


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

I was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States when I was five years old.  I grew up in Kennebunk, Maine.

As a child, I was hardworking, always had a drive to do well, and very athletic.  Some might have described me as a tomboy.  Growing up with seven brothers, I grew up playing sports and being outdoors.  There was always a neighborhood kick ball, wiffle ball, or basketball game going. We challenged one another and enjoyed it at the same time.

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

I studied International Affairs with a concentration in Economics at the University of Maine, Orono.  After college, I moved to Atlanta and got my first job at Premier Technologies as a billing specialist.   

Can you share the details on your career path?

At the start of my career, the job found me more than I found the job.   As I progressed in my career, it was important for me to grow into my roles, to learn new skills, and to stay relevant.  I always made sure to note what I liked and didn’t like about my job.  As I advanced in my career, I focused on what I enjoyed.  By doing this, I was able to find a job I enjoy.

What is your current role and responsibilities? 

VP of Financial, Planning and Analysis at PrismHR.   I lead a team of financial analysts at PrismHR, a SaaS software and services company for the human resource outsourcing and staffing markets. My responsibilities include managing the corporate planning and forecasting process for all of the company's business units, and working closely with the executive leadership team on corporate strategy.

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

No, early on in my career the job found me.   From there, I found the career.  It is important for me to be challenged and to enjoy what I’m doing.  There are things we do that we do not like to do, but if most of what you do on any given day is enjoyable, you build a career around it.  This is what I’ve done with this position.   

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? 

Understand the data you are working with, ask the questions, and at times challenge others.  Understanding the business and using data is important for an Analyst.   I enjoy working with data and organizing data to help answer questions.  You want to ask the “why’s.”       

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

Being able to work with large amounts of data and using the data to tell a story is the most important part of my job.  Another important skill is being able to build relationships.  We need to work together to achieve our goals and targets.  We are more successful when the people around us are successful.  We need to build each other up and bring each other along.

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

The most rewarding part of my job is being able to build a plan or strategy from the bottom up.  Once the model is built, it’s making sure the plan is managed and achieving the goals and targets that were set.   At the same time, it’s also the most challenging.  The challenge is making sure everyone is on board to achieve the plan and targets.  We have to work as a team.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

Most of my free time is spent at a soccer field, a gymnastics event, or on an indoor cycling bike.  I also volunteered as a costume designer for an elementary drama club dressing over 150 children for each production.  I enjoy watching my children do what they love.  Mostly, I enjoy being able to create and craft, which is very different from my job.  

A person standing in front of a crowd of peopleDescription automatically generated with medium confidence

 

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How do you manage stress? 

I manage stress by working out.  Pre-pandemic, I was attending bootcamp.  Now, I enjoy being able to get on my indoor cycling bike, being outdoors, and hiking.

A group of people posing for a photoDescription automatically generated with medium confidence

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

I drink 1 to 2 cups of coffee a day.  In the summer months, I will switch to matcha lattes as an option in the afternoon.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates? 

Don’t let your first job define your career.  There are many graduates who know what they want to do coming out of college and it works for them.  If you’re like me and not sure what you want/wanted to do, explore.   You can refine your career along the way.  

About the
Company

PrismHR creates exceptional software and services for HR service providers and their SMB clients.

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Lead(H)er Profile – Holly Knights, VP, Digital Marketing & Analytics at SmartBear banner image

Lead(H)er Profile – Holly Knights, VP, Digital Marketing & Analytics 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 Holly Knights, VP, Digital Marketing & Analytics at SmartBear


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

I was born and raised in Marlborough, Massachusetts. Growing up, I was very interested in space and jets and always thought I would be a pilot or astronaut. To this day, I still love going to airshows! I was always curious, an avid reader, and loved learning new things. My high school years were spent working hard both inside and outside of school. I was very active in school activities and sports, often taking leadership positions in clubs like drama, chorus, and yearbook.   

Holly Knights SmartBear

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

I studied Communications in college, focusing in on television production. I loved the coordination it took to put a show together, so many moving parts and the creativity of it all. My senior year, I interned with Hearst Media (parent company of WCVB), working at their Needham facility. While it was exciting being in the TV industry, I quickly learned that was not the career I wanted for myself. I ended up taking a job in the telecommunications sector right after graduation, in customer service. While there, learning the business, I moved up into project management, eventually coordinating large scale data networking projects nationally, keeping them on time and on budget. It was such a learning experience. I feel very lucky to have been able to understand the technical side of the business with IP addressing and the foundations of data networking, while also being able to build my business knowledge with understanding project costs and margin. I credit the people there, from my strong female boss to the engineers, with helping me round out those important skills. 

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

A key moment in my career path came when the tech bubble burst in the early 2000’s. I was laid off from the telecommunications company I had been at for over five years. I ended up taking a job with a small startup called iProspect. It was a very small agency focused on a new concept at the time called search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). That was a turning point for me. I was able to learn the inner workings of Google, which was in its early stages at that point, how to get websites ranked in the engine and how paid search worked. I managed a number of clients from B2C to B2B, and it was so exciting to see how much search marketing could do for a business. Looking back now, those years were the most impactful of my career and the start of my career in Digital Marketing. I’m still very close to those people I worked with then, and we’re scattered all over the world. What we didn’t know then is we were working in a part of marketing that would become one of the most important drivers for any business. 

After that, I worked in-house for a few companies doing Digital Marketing for both startups and enterprise companies alike. Each one afforded me the opportunity to keep my search engine marketing skills sharp while also taking on more responsibilities from Social Media Marketing to Analytics to Web Operations. I was also leading larger teams and having P&L responsibilities. My technical and business knowledge both came into play across all of those roles, helping to drive better business outcomes and reduce costs. 

What is your current role and responsibilities? 

Today, I am VP of Digital Marketing and Marketing Analytics at SmartBear. This was a net new team I was able to build from the ground up when I started over two years ago, and we continue to grow and evolve as the needs of the business change and mature. My team and I manage all of the digital marketing activities as well as the marketing reporting and tracking across all of the SmartBear product suites. That includes paid advertising, (our biggest channel being paid search), search engine optimization, conversion rate optimization, A/B and multivariate testing, and marketing analytics. We work cross functionally across the business, closely partnering with Growth Marketing, Product, Product Marketing, and Web Operations to ensure our sales team and ecommerce business are receiving the right amount of leads and trials, at the right cost, to achieve our business goals. 

Holly Knights SmartBear

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

To be honest, I was always more opportunistic in my career path, versus deterministic. Saying yes to stretch my skills and learn new things as they came to me was a big factor in where I am today. As I said before, I am a very curious person by nature and love to acquire new skills, so that helped me move forward in every position I had. In a way, being rooted in search engine marketing helped me become an expert in any business I was in, because you have to put yourself in your customers’ shoes to understand their search behavior and intent. I credit that mindset to helping me get up to speed quickly and uncover new opportunities. 

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? 

  1. Start at a marketing agency. I have spoken with many grads and always encourage them to start there. Being at an agency gives you the opportunity to work across many different clients and industries in a short period of time. It helps you understand what you like and don’t like - trial by fire. You are also able to try different marketing activities and learn the ins and outs of them all. Then, you can move “in-house” and focus on one industry, business type or discipline. I would not be where I am today without my hands-on agency experience. 
  2. Be versatile. Be open to going outside your comfort zone and try new things, and learn about those new things. It sounds cliché, but you need to be flexible and willing to get uncomfortable to stretch and grow. Say yes, and don’t ever pass up those opportunities because you’re comfortable in where you are. 
  3. Be yourself, be authentic. I think people are at their best when they are fully themselves in their work. You’ll want to think you need to be more like other people, but then you aren’t being true to yourself and that eventually will set you back.  
  4. Take a presentation skills course of some kind. I was lucky to take a Dale Carnegie course early in my career (thank you, iProspect), and I still use those skills today. It was hands down one of the best courses I have ever taken. We all need to learn how to explain our thoughts coherently and with enthusiasm. It becomes more important as you speak with leaders who have limited time. 

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

Empathy. To be a good leader you need to start by being a good human, and caring is at the heart of it. I need to understand what’s going on with my team not just in work, but outside of work as well. I care about each of them and what they’re dealing with personally and professionally in order to keep us moving ahead. 

Adaptability. Both marketing and analytics are constantly changing. You have to be able to move, pivot, and adapt. That skill is a hard one for me, but I have gotten better at it over time. Practice not getting upset or troubled by change. I learned to take a breath, dig into what’s happening, and move ahead. 

Have a north star. A vision. A good team doesn’t need to be told how to get somewhere; they need guidance on the end point. Knowing what you want to accomplish is key, and communicating that vision to your team, involving them in the development of that vision, making them part of that vision, helps the team all be invested in the outcome. 

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

Seeing the fruits of our labor. Achieving, or better yet, surpassing the goals we had set and knowing what we did to influence those achievements. I also love challenges, knowing we have an issue that needs to be solved and trying to solve it. I like to get my hands dirty and dig into the data to see what’s happening. 

On the flip side, the most challenging thing is lack of time. My team has so many things coming at them and things they want to work on that we’re always trying to prioritize and then reprioritize. They do a great job, it’s just a constant challenge of trying to be efficient. 


Q&A 

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

My husband and I have two small children, 7 and 5, and we love to spend time with them. Whether it’s playing outside, jumping on the trampoline, going to the park, riding bikes, or our annual beach trip to the Cape, we try to be present when we’re with them. 

Holly Knights SmartBear

How do you manage stress? 

Sounds funny, but I actually work better under stress. I tend to get hyper-focused and can block out the noise that way. 

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

I usually have one large one every morning. 

Any book or podcast recommendations?

I don’t have a ton of time so I like The Pivot podcast. I also just started Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin. 

What advice do you have for recent college graduates? 

Don’t be too picky about finding a job. When you get one, use it as a learning experience and get as much as you can out of it. Learn the business, and always ask questions. If you start at a marketing agency, try and understand your clients’ businesses. It’s a unique opportunity to have a broad perspective across industries to see what works and why. 

And don’t forget to take a presentation skills course of some kind. You’ll learn skills that you’ll need throughout your career.  

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Smartbear's tools are built to streamline your DevOps processes while seamlessly working with the products you use – and will use

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