Lead(H)er: Melissa Campbell, Chief Revenue Officer at Tamr
As someone who worked in large enterprise software companies for much of her career, Melissa Campbell did not expect to find herself at Tamr, a high growth tech company in Cambridge, MA, where she is now a vital part of the leadership team. Tamr uses machine learning to help large companies unify data from multiple silos to enable these organizations to quickly and easily master their data to make it more broadly valuable. As the company’s Chief Revenue Officer, Melissa is responsible for overall revenue from sales and marketing. She manages an international team of more than 40 people.
“Selling technology to large enterprises was a sweet spot for me,” says Melissa, who managed sales teams at IBM, BMC and Oracle before joining Tamr. “But I was nervous about moving to a smaller company because I’d always had the mindset that I was a ‘big-company gal.’” Now, after almost two years, she finds herself thriving in the leaner, start-up-like environment, where “it’s all about growth, rolling up your sleeves, and being hyper-efficient.” Transitioning into the data management sector hasn’t been too tough, she says, as it’s a matter of “learning the product and the messaging.”
Self-reliance comes naturally to Melissa, who considers herself a “lead from the front” worker, someone who isn’t afraid of taking on multiple roles, whether it be negotiating contracts, hiring new managers for her team, or prospecting in a sales booth at a large data conference.
Working with Global 2000 companies such as Glaxo-Smith Kline, Societe Generale, Toyota, and the federal government, Melissa is now laser-focused on growing Tamr 100%, year after year, while ensuring customer success. She loves using her passion and experience as a leader to inspire others. “It’s been especially rejuvenating for me to work so closely with so many smart, young people,” she says. Another thing she loves about Tamr is being able to work closely with its Board of Directors. “It’s different from the bigger companies. We meet regularly, we do strategy work, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know our investors and strategic advisors.”
As for how she got her start “way back when,” Melissa attended Bowling Green State University in Ohio, one of only four colleges in the country that offered a Procurement and Materials Management program at the time. “My father worked for the Government, in quality control, and he told me, Procurement and Materials Management, that’s a hot new area for women.” After studying procurement at the business school, Melissa began her career on the other side of sales — as a buyer, first at Texas Instruments, and then at Lotus Development Corporation, later acquired by IBM. While negotiating licensing agreements and working with lawyers at Lotus, one of her colleagues remarked that with her energy, enthusiasm, and people skills, she ought to consider moving into sales. “So I began negotiating contracts with the sales team, and my career blossomed from there.”
Melissa credits some of her success to mentors who have helped her along the way. “Early on, one of the sales managers at Lotus took me under her wing, took me on national sales calls, taught me the ropes. I’ve always had people I could reach out to when I was looking for new jobs or opportunities, or just advice.” Melissa was recognized as Rep of the Year at IBM, an early achievement of which she is proud. But she was even prouder two years later, when after moving into a management role at IBM, “it was one of my reps who earned Rep of the Year. Anytime somebody on my team is recognized, that’s really what motivates me.”
Melissa now does a lot of informal mentoring herself and hopes to do more. She also hopes she might find herself on a Board of Directors someday, advising others. But she’s also “super happy and super busy being on the leadership team here at Tamr, rolling up our sleeves every day, making important decisions for the company.” One of the keys to getting places in your career is “to be open-minded,” she says. “Walk through the doors that people open for you.”
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
My kids are “launched,” none of them live at home anymore, so my husband and I spend a lot of time together. We love being with our dog, with our friends, traveling. I also like to go for walks, spend time outside. Some exercise. Golf. I bought a new Peloton this year and I love it!
What are your strategies for managing stress?
Well, that’s one of the reasons I bought the Peloton! But I also try to take time off on the weekends, real downtime. If I’m traveling for work I’ll take an evening to go out to dinner by myself, or I’ll walk around whatever city I’m in. A little downtime is important for recharging your batteries.
How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?
Two. One just to wake up, and then another one in the car because I have a pretty long commute. But not much more than that.
What's one of your favorite places in the Boston area?
I work in Cambridge, but I live in Marblehead. I love Marblehead. And I love Boston in general, the Back Bay, North End. I grew up in the midwest, but I’ve been here since 1992. I think I’m a Boston person at heart now.
What do you consider one of your proudest accomplishments?
As I mentioned, I’m all about leading from the front, so anytime my team gets recognition, I’m happy. I was always very well recognized early on in my career when I was a sales rep, but really, anytime anyone on my team is recognized, that’s even better. That’s what motivates me.
Is this where you thought you’d be 10 years ago?
No, not at all! As I said, I’d been working for large software companies pretty much my whole career. My last stint was at Oracle, I had a big job there, with a challenging team to manage. But I didn’t have the aspiration to be the next Mark Hurd from a career perspective (former co-CEO of Oracle whom she says she has learned a lot from while working at Oracle and whom she respected a lot). My husband, who runs a small technology company, said, “what are you doing in these big companies, why not take all your experience and see what you can make of it at a smaller company?” I was a bit nervous, I had this idea that start-ups only want “startup people”. But I hit it off with one of the Founders and CEO at Tamr, and it’s been a great fit. It’s a hot space, the people are super, and even at this late stage of my career, the company has helped shape and challenge me.
What’s your advice for recent college graduates?
Do something you really enjoy. Take advantage of the doors that get opened for you. You might start in marketing, and someone opens the door for you in another area of the business -- go try a few things, see where your passions really lie. Be open-minded, and navigate to what makes you happy. Do this throughout your life!