Lead(H)er Profile - Meg Davidson Parillo, VP Global  Renewal Management at CyberArk banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Meg Davidson Parillo, VP Global Renewal Management at CyberArk

Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Meg Davidson Parillo, VP Global Renewal Management at CyberArk.

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

I lived in Somerset, New Jersey until 7th grade, then we moved to Overland Park, Kansas (suburb of Kansas City, Kansas. Yes, there is a Kansas City, Kansas and a Kansas City, Missouri!) where I was through high school. My dad always says that I still have my hand on my hip like a “Jersey girl” even though I spent a lot of important years in Kansas.

I was a shy kid when I was outside of our house, but I was kind of weird and wacky at home. Kids always assumed that I was nerdy and super smart (it was probably the “coke bottle” glasses that made them think that) to the point of kids often trying to cheat off me. I would assure them that cheating off me wasn’t a great idea. I wasn’t particularly good in school, I struggled with testing and just wasn’t a particularly good student. I plugged thru and did OK but it wasn’t my strong suit. 

Meg Davidson Parillo CyberArk

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

I went to Springfield College in Springfield, MA which is where Basketball and the YMCA were founded! It is a school known for producing PE teachers, YMCA leaders, Physical Therapists, and Athletic Trainers. I went there thinking that Physical Therapy sounded “fun” until I realized it was really a Pre Med program! It didn’t take me long to realize that wasn’t for me, and I probably should have transferred schools at that time. But I liked it there and had great friends, so I stayed. I ended up finding a major closest to business as I could find there which was “Human Services Administration.” This is a degree for running non-profit organizations. I realized quickly that wouldn’t support me in the type of life I wanted.  I am fiercely independent and wanted to live on my own after I left college, so I needed to rethink my career path. The great news is that my BS in Human Services gave me a great foundation in business, sociology and other very relevant people studies. 

I was the first of my friends to have a job and an apartment in Boston. I graduated in May and started working on June 15th. While in college, I was a lifeguard and taught swimming lessons (favorite job ever) at a fancy country club in Weston, MA where many executives happened to play golf. I got to teach many of their kids how to swim. One of the parents asked me if I had ever thought about sales (I hadn’t!) and he said that he thought I would probably be good at it, and suggested I call him if I was looking for a job out of college. Which I did, and he hired me. InScribe Inc. $23,000 a year, job in Boston where I didn’t need a car, I was sold!  I was selling a software and hardware package for stationary stores to print invitations. We also sold a machine they invented that does Calligraphy which looks hand done! The White House and Tiffany Inc used it for their invitation addressing and party invitations. I got to travel around to stores and trade shows selling face to face. Lots of phones hung up on me, lots of conversations which ended with me sliding an order across the table for them to sign on the dotted line. Everyone should have to cold call at least once in their career! 

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

Meeting people and networking, even when I didn’t realize I was networking, proved invaluable to me. Not that I don’t think I would have gotten that first job on my own, but making a connection with someone who saw something in me that I didn’t see at the time, set me off on my career path. You never know who you are going to sit next to on a plane or teach swimming lessons to, so be ready! 

When I got tired of the trade show business, I found a job at an internet strategy consulting firm (later acquired by IBM) and continued selling. This one also gave me the experience of being laid off. I will never forget being walked down the hall to HR. I just knew, just knew this was the end of my job. Thankfully it was the end for about 100 of us, misery does love company. I didn’t sit around for too long. Instead, I worked the “help wanted ads," I called old connections (another woman from that same country club happened to be the CEO of Keds so she hired me as a temp to color drawings of sneakers while I looked for other work!), I wrote letters, and I landed at a software company called MathSoft which was a huge turning point for me. 

I started off the same way I had before, cold calling into engineering firms and universities. I was responsible for both opening new business but also working with current customers to renew their “maintenance agreements” that they had with us to get access to technical support. As we grew, my boss decided to split the job and have some people focus on new business and two of us focus on renewing customers. Being called a Maintenance Representative also meant that I would randomly get calls and letters from people wanting to sell me mops and brooms which was always amusing! I found that I loved working with customers, and I oddly really loved dealing with the escalations. The customer that was mad about a price increase, the one who had a terrible experience with our products or support, the one who got a divorce and sent us a letter saying that his “crazy ex-wife” took all of his stuff including our software and would we give him one for free! All of the letters that customers would send to our CEO would in turn land on my desk to “fix it.” I loved that part, and still do. That little software company was acquired by PTC Inc. where myself and my counterpart were brought into a whole department of 30 people globally who cared only about renewing customers which blew my mind. I spent the next 15 years in various roles at PTC, but all within the renewal organization including helping to merge acquired companies' renewal business into ours which I loved being part of. 

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I am currently the Vice President of Global Renewal Management at CyberArk. We are a cyber security software company and I am responsible for managing all of the recurring revenue. I manage a team of 25 people globally who are responsible for renewing all of our customer contracts and making sure they are happy and growing! I have been tasked with transforming the renewal organization to support our growing SaaS and subscription business. This has meant re-creating job models, re-casting how we engage with our customers, systems and process changes and everything in between. 

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

My 21 year old self working at trade shows would have NEVER imagined I would be where I am right now! I have grown in so many ways. My career is much more advanced than I ever thought it would be. I am so proud of all that I have done and all of the experiences that I have had, but I would never have dreamed I would be where I am right now. 

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?

Raise your hand! When something comes along that sounds interesting, volunteer yourself. When you see something that isn’t working as it should be, come up with ideas for solutions and volunteer to lead fixing it. And the old cliché is so true, do the job that you want even if it isn’t the one that you have right now- stretch, grow and show that you can do it before it is yours. 

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

Patience... change is hard, change takes time. 

Zoom in before you can zoom out. For me, I need to get into the weeds so I can understand what is going on before I can think about the big picture of where we need to get to. This can be hard to not get stuck in the weeds, I have to remind myself sometimes to zoom back out.

Priority management - there are so many things that are coming at me and there are so many things that I want to accomplish, but it can’t all be done at once (see above on change!). Understanding the company priorities, and the priorities of the leadership around me is key to helping prioritize what we can and should be focused on now vs. what can wait. 

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

I have had the chance to see change and the impact I am making firsthand. I can see it in my team, and I can see it in the work we are doing every day, but I am also hearing it from peers and other leaders in the company. We are making so many changes as we are growing and evolving, sometimes it is hard to see the progress when you are involved in the day to day. But hearing it from other people and seeing it in the team helps keep my focus on the big picture. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

Where I am right now! For the first time in a very long time, I know with confidence that I am in the right place, with the right leadership, and doing the right job for me. I am so proud of the work that I have done and all the experiences and hard work it has taken me to get here. 

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

I sit on a peer board with other Customer Success professionals which is a great opportunity to bounce ideas and learn from others in similar roles. I also am one of the leaders of my daughter's Girl Scout troop which has been a really fun and rewarding way to get involved with other things in the very little amount of extra time that I have. My commitment to her is that I will keep leading the troop as long as she wants to stay with it. 


What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I am a beach bum. Before having kids, my husband and I would sit on the beach for hours reading, sleeping, and eating! My inner old lady loves doing puzzles and I am now the woman who likes to talk about my plants and flowers! I am not a great gardener, but I am working on it! Reading out loud with my kids is one of my favorite things to do together. They are 9 and 7 so any chance I can still get them to snuggle with me is bonus time.

Meg Davidson Parillo CyberArk

Meg Davidson Parillo CyberArk

How do you manage stress?

Sometimes not very well. It is something that I am trying to improve and most often the stress is self-induced. Like most of us, I put more pressure on myself than most other people do! I have found that exercise does make me a happier person so I am working to get more of that into my week to help. But it is a battle for me.

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

Only 1. Only hot. Only black. Only in the morning. 

Any book or podcast recommendations? 

Every time Barbara Kingsolver comes out with a new book, I read it. I still love her earlier books like “Animal Dreams” best, but her new ones are always an interesting view of a life which is different from my own. I prefer reading books about lives that I don’t have as opposed to books about people similar to myself. She is the first author I remember reading which my mom and her friends read and loved too which made me feel so sophisticated in my book choice at the time.

“Smartless” is a very fun podcast- Ryan Reynolds, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett are hilarious together and they interview fun people! 

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Don’t forget how important people and connections are. These may not just be people you know, but also people who your friends/peers know. Use them, many times they want to help you too. The impression you make on people matters and those people just may be the people who see something in you that can help you see it in yourself. 

Meg Davidson Parillo CyberArk