Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?
I grew up in a sleepy suburb outside of Cleveland. I had a traditional family at that time: a working dad, stay-at-home mom, and a younger brother and a sister. As the eldest, I was always paving the way for my siblings -- I loved trying new things and finding adventure everywhere I could. I got into trouble sometimes but was usually able to talk my way out of it. Lots of stories can’t be told here :)
I worked very hard and loved doing it in the middle of all the action so I wouldn’t miss a thing. (I’m an extreme extrovert). I would spread out my homework in the middle of the family room and everyone got used to walking by me carefully, so as not to step on any papers. I have very good concentration so could tune everyone out when working on a challenging problem. I was an avid reader and my mom always had to call me to dinner multiple times as I said, “Just one more page, please!”
What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?
I always loved math and science and knew I wanted to study engineering fairly early on. However, I also wanted a lively social life and the option to transfer out of engineering if it turned out to not meet my expectations. Thus, I chose the University of Virginia and got a BS with Distinction in Systems Engineering and a minor in French.
I love variety and wanted to travel, so consulting was quite appealing to me. I chose IT consulting over management consulting because tech was also a passion. I got what I wished for in an internship with American Management Systems (AMS) (which was later bought by CGI). On my first day, they asked if I wanted to travel to the client site in Birmingham, AL the next day! It was trial by fire and I loved every minute of it. I was a sponge and learned as much as I could, getting promoted to a project manager and then expanding my portfolio to managing 2 projects in 2 different cities.
Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?
Consulting was fun and I was exposed to all aspects of managing and implementing IT systems (I specifically worked on document imaging for healthcare systems). We implemented the custom software in hospital after hospital, and eventually realized we could productize it. This gave me my first taste of product management.
It’s a hard leap to go from project management to product management, so I decided I needed to go to business school to accelerate the process. I was thrilled to get into my first choice: Harvard Business School, and I immersed myself in the full-time experience, working hard and playing hard.
From there I worked at Akamai as a product manager and went to other start-ups, one in which I sat next to the marketer and would listen to her and see what she was doing. I decided to make the leap to product marketing and continued to move from start-up to start-up as they got bought out or folded. I had many different types of managers over the years, and I learned about what works well -- and what not to do. Eventually, I earned the opportunity to run all of marketing at BitSight, a cybersecurity company. I was so excited to take on this meaty role, and manage a growing team.
I ask a lot of questions and try hard to listen closely in order to learn what’s needed to be successful in any role. Then I try things out and course correct along the way. I also network regularly with people outside my organization (currently I’m a part of a local Boston CMO group that regularly shares information via an old fashioned mailing list and gets together in person every so often). I also am on a CMO Coffee Talk group that gathers for a discussion via zoom every Friday and has a very active Slack group. I learn from them every day and can reach out to get best practices, advice, etc., at any time. I also make sure to share my insights whenever I can.
My curiosity, drive, collaboration skills, willingness to take risks, and a growth mindset have led to me where I am today: leading a team of 45 (with lots of open req’s - we’re hiring!) as VP of Corporate Marketing at Dynatrace.
What is your current role and responsibilities?
At Dynatrace as the VP of Corporate Marketing reporting to the CMO, I am responsible for 6 areas:
- Brand & Experience
- Social Media
- Strategic Events
- Digital Marketing
- Marketing Analytics and Operations
- Customer Marketing
Ultimately, my team and I are responsible for driving awareness of Dynatrace and building a strong, differentiated brand. We do this through developing crisp messaging, advertising (mostly digitally but also in print, video, and audio), engaging via social media, partnering with the field and campaign teams to run demand generation programs, and running programs to retain, upsell, cross-sell, and engage our customers to become strong advocates.
Having strong directors in place for each function enables me to think strategically and plan ahead as we grow the organization. I believe in the “First Team” mentality where you spend a lot of time with your peers, exchanging information and supporting each other. This enables you to provide value to the people that report to you, as you’re aware of broader organizational priorities and where they fit in with the overarching business goals. I spend a lot of time with my team, ensuring they are happy, productive, and empowered. I also make sure to address my manager’s needs and keep him in the loop on everything he needs to do. My job is to ensure my team’s objectives and projects will drive Dynatrace’s growth -- and I ultimately want to lighten the load for our CMO so he can focus on his key initiatives.
Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally? Was it always your goal to be in this position?
I was trained as an engineer and now I’m in marketing, somewhere I never envisioned myself. That said, I also thought I would end up in business. Given that marketing has become more and more analytical and data-driven, it meets my math criteria, and the creative side of me loves the artistic components. It is truly an art and a science and requires new and different thinking every day. I absolutely love my job and career and, while it took me a while to find my passion, I learned many things along the way that have proven invaluable to make me successful in my current role.
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?
Never be afraid to take on new challenges and ask a lot of questions. Embrace your mistakes and learn from them.
What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?
The most important skills are centered around 3 areas:
People: Hiring and developing a strong team, and maintaining a healthy culture where people feel empowered to do their jobs is essential for any leader. I also like to hire people who are smarter than I am. I help provide a framework from which to work, based on company goals and what’s important to my peers, and set the strategy (with my direct reports’ input and buy-in), and let them do what they do best. Early on in my career, I found it hard to not get stuck in the details and sometimes micro-managed, but as I’ve grown, I’ve found it easier to let go and know that things will get done, sometimes differently than how I would have done them -- but often better. I also believe in 360 degree feedback, both positive and constructive, in as near real-time as possible.
Process: Understanding how to get things done in your organization is critical to strong execution. You must learn to navigate the structure and figure out who to go to for what. Learning the “norms” is one of the first things I set out to do in a new job.
Technology: Good marketing is grounded in not just strategy but also a solid tech stack that helps automate and ameliorate your team’s work. It’s not just about picking the best tools but perhaps even more important, operationalizing them so that you can use them optimally to suit your needs. I have found that many marketers love tools -- and there are thousands of them available -- and it’s easy to get excited about the next cool tool, but you need to put together a good business justification and articulate how they will fit with your processes and existing tools.
What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work? What’s the most challenging?
I love the variety. Every day is different, and I get to problem solve in various ways. The people piece of my job is the most challenging and rewarding.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
I am most proud of the team that I built in my first VP of Marketing role at BitSight, a Boston-based cybersecurity company.
Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?
I have served on a few non-profit Boards, which has given me the experience I can leverage when I go for my first for-profit Board position. When my children are out of college, I plan to seek a Board position in a local tech company so I can lend my expertise to others and continue to grow professionally.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I treasure time spent with my family, including our 2 dogs (a boxer and a German short-haired pointer). My children and husband and I eat dinner together most nights and always have interesting conversations. I also love exercising and reading (I’m in two different book clubs). I talk to my mom at least every other day while walking the dogs or commuting; she brings me a lot of joy.
How do you manage stress?
Managing stress is essential for everyone. I have learned great tips and put them into practice over time. It’s pretty basic, but sometimes it’s tempting to get off track. If I do, I reset the next day. Exercise, sleep and a healthy diet, in that order, keep me balanced. I love to run, swim and do yoga -- cross training is important to avoid injury. I need 8 hours of sleep, so I try to go to bed and read a bit before falling asleep around 9:30-10pm. And I eat a balanced diet. Pizza and ice cream are my favorite foods, but I eat them in moderation. Oh, and I love a good cocktail!
How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?
After I drink a large glass of water, I “reward” myself with 2 cups of coffee. I love to plan my day and get essential work done in the morning while I savor my Starbucks.
What's one of your favorite places in the Boston/New York area?
Stephanie’s on Newbury because they have the best brunch and seating outside (for great people watching). I also love my back porch, as we overlook wetlands and it’s very peaceful.
Any book or podcast recommendations?
I love so many books, it’s impossible to pick a favorite. From mysteries to love stories to biographies to young adult books, I pick them to match my mood in the moment. The Good Earth is one of my favorite fiction books. For some reason, it gives me great comfort, and I have read it at least 4 times over the years. My favorite business books are “The First 90 Days” and “The Who Book: The A Method of Hiring.”
What advice do you have for recent college graduates?
It doesn’t really matter what your first job is out of school. Just do your best and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions (and take notes so that you rarely have to ask the same question twice). Always think about making your manager’s life easier. If you do that, you will become invaluable. Be proactive in career planning discussions so that you can figure out what your next growth opportunity is, but don’t ask for a promotion. If you are providing value and take the time for some strategic thinking in addition to executing well, the promotions will come.