September 18, 2019

Lead(H)er: Allyson Barr, Chief Marketing Officer at Attivio

When you’re working at a startup, the only place you can go is – well, up. It’s one of the many things Allyson Barr, Chief Marketing Officer at Attivio, loves about this particular type of company.

“You go from having zero to five leads to then building an engine, trying new things, and seeing the impact of that happen so quickly,” she said. “You can build your own path and experiment.” 

Barr began her career in publishing after graduating from the College of the Holy Cross with degrees in English and Women’s Studies. When the commute to and from her proofreading and editing job became too long to continue, though, she sought opportunities closer to home and found Kadient, a software company. Her first role there, in content development, gradually led her to become a product manager and later senior product manager, setting the course for the rest of her career.

“The beginning of this journey was not very deliberate,” Barr said. “A lot of it was saying yes to opportunities.”

Many of those opportunities came through mentors that helped her learn about different areas of marketing, from research to persona building.

Those experiences served her well, and Barr moved on to LogMeIn after eight years at Kadient. There, she quickly switched between different roles in the company’s marketing department, ultimately serving as director of EMEA marketing in Amsterdam and vice president of global field marketing in London.

Allyson Barr Attivio

Barr joined several other startups, including Boxever and Crowdynews, before becoming Attivio’s CMO in November 2017. She’s responsible for brand awareness, demand generation and qualification, and business development, among other marketing-related roles, and oversees a team of five marketers who over two products targeted at a variety of verticals.

“We’re focusing on how the marketing team builds and contributes to the pipeline here at Attivio,” Barr said.

That focus comes directly from her own belief that marketing is more than it’s made out to be by so many people. It’s a tool that can impact revenue, and when repositioned as such, the organization is able to tackle different problems that help it grow.

Allyson Barr Attivio

Lately, Barr and her team have been spending most of their time developing marketing strategies for a new Attivio product by creating target personas, getting the product in front of customers who fit that persona, and eventually using the results of these efforts to fine-tune future launches.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing that blossom and getting the information we can use for the next product,” Barr said.

She’s also looking forward to seeing her own career bloom. Barr has high ambitions to be a CEO someday, and while the beginning of her career may not have been perfectly planned, the executive has been working hard to make sure she’s able to make that goal a reality.

“I’ve been talking to people about the experience I need and gaps I need to fill to get there,” Barr said. “It’s nice to have mentors who can tell you what it’s like on the other side and help you prepare. You can’t know it all, but you can take the unknown out of it.”

In addition to taking as much of that unknown out of marketing as much as possible with experimentation and trial and error, Barr also tries to take it out of the experience of being a woman in the tech industry. She and a colleague, Chief Product Officer Dorit Levy-Zilbershot, sponsor a women’s organization at Attivio,called ConnectHer, that started organically as a way to network and share experiences. The group has since grown into a place where women can give advice and support to their counterparts in the tech community as a whole.

“It’s so exciting to be part of that and see people at all points of their career come together,” Barr said.

Quick Q(uestions) and A(dvice)

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I don’t have a lot of free time, but I do like running. I try to do a 10K every year that involves travel, so I’m going to Paris for a race this year. I also volunteer as a dog walker at a shelter.

How do you manage stress?

Running has a lot to do with stress relief. I do it every morning of the workweek. It helps me think through problems and tasks. During the day, sometimes it helps to take a walk with some deep breaths if I need to. And if there’s any ongoing stress, I cook. It’s not unusual for me to start cooking at 2 p.m. on a Sunday to do meals for the week. The process of creating with a goal in mind helps me work through big stresses at a high level.

Allyson Barr Attivio

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

I cut out caffeine a few years ago, so I have one cup of decaf coffee a day and then have water from there.

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

The Harbor Walk around most of the city. There’s a piece not too far from where I live, so it’s a great place to run or walk the dog or people watch. You can go to this little oasis and commune with nature as part of your day, then go back to the city.

What’s one of your proudest accomplishments?

One is having people I’ve hired go on to run their own teams. I’m at a place in my career where I’m able to help others with theirs, and it’s satisfying to see folks who do great work with me and take what they’ve learned to the next company and their own teams.

The second is working on the LogMeIn iPhone app in 2008 or 2009 when the app store was just out. I was a product manager for that and worked with the development team on pricing and rollout. It was a great success and set the tone for the next wave of mobile access apps for companies on the cutting edge, so it was very exciting.

Is this where you thought you’d be 10 years ago?

It’s a little the same and a little different. I had this arbitrary goal of making VP by 35 and shared that goal with people who could help me and keep me accountable, and then I did it and thought “Okay, great, what next?” I’m not surprised to be here today, but this part was not necessarily deliberate. I’m not surprised I’m still in tech. It’s a fascinating place to be, and I’ll probably continue my career in it.

What’s your advice for recent college graduates?

Give yourself a goal. Think about what’s important to you five years in the future and how you want to get there, and get a community to support you. It’s also important to be open to unexpected opportunities – you might meet people who you may not have realized were kindred spirits who can teach you and guide you along a new path. Take the leap and be flexible enough to take those opportunities.

Samantha Costanzo Carleton is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @smcstnz.