Lead(H)er profile - Kim Simone, Chief Operating Officer at Constant Contact
Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?
I grew up in the small town of Brighton, Michigan and even as early as my elementary school years I was dedicated to doing my best. I’ve always enjoyed learning and I spent a lot of time studying. In fact, when I wasn’t studying for my own classes, I was tutoring others, including special needs children.
What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?
Growing up I had always envisioned myself as a doctor and I started with the intentions of being a pre-med major at the University of Michigan. That vision took a big turn when my grandmother suffered a serious accident. During my time caring for her, I realized that being so close to near-death experiences was ultimately not for me. Without a clear plan for what might lie ahead, I changed my major to economics and landed my first job out of school as a programmer trainee at a company called Systematics. It was an interesting leap for a new grad without a background in computer science. To my surprise I got a great score on an entrance test they administered. Turns out there’s a high correlation between people with musical tendencies (I played the organ) and programming skills. My unexpected career in tech was launched!
Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?
My career started at Systematics and progressed even as the company experienced a sequence of acquisitions, first by AllTell, then Verizon Communications. Prior to Constant Contact, I served as Vice President of the $50 million IT Sales Support organization for Verizon Communications, where I led large-scale, global corporate information systems.
It’s not easy to advance a career within the same organization for over 20 years, particularly when that organization is acquired twice. I believe I was able to thrive because I always focused on working hard and doing my best. I’m known as a person who gets things done and that trait has served me well. While I’ve never had a specific career plan, I’ve always found that if I work hard, opportunities come to me. And I’ve always welcomed new opportunities. That’s translated into a total of six moves, including states like Arkansas, Indiana, and Iowa. It can be challenging to pick up and move to a new state but that flexibility gave me opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. All but two of my moves happened prior to the birth of my two daughters so, of course, professional considerations can change as your personal life evolves.
What is your current role and responsibilities?
As COO of Constant Contact I lead the collective effort to help small business owners launch and grow their business through the use of our online marketing platform. Most small business owners are not professional marketers. Our job is to simplify the marketing process so they can focus on their passion. We do that not just with our streamlined technology, we also have marketing experts on hand to help guide them. Our customers know they don’t have to do it alone. My job lies at the intersection of people and technology, with responsibility for Sales and Customer Support, Engineering and Product Management organizations. My primary focus is on driving revenue growth through customer value. While some days are tougher than others, I can’t begin to tell you how proud I feel when I talk to our customers and hear how using Constant Contact has helped them grow their business.
Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally? Was it always your goal to be in this position?
Given that I’ve never had a formal career plan I can’t say that this is where I thought I’d be at this stage of my career but I can say I’ve never been happier. I enjoy learning new disciplines as much as I enjoy building great teams, so my role at Constant Contact has been extremely fulfilling. To pivot to a new industry at this point in my career has been a tremendous opportunity and the team is made up of the most smart, fun-loving and dedicated people I’ve ever worked with.
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 committed to learning, work hard every day and be open to the opportunities that come your way. And don’t be afraid to take calculated risks. If you’re not making some mistakes, you’re probably not working hard enough.
What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?
Working well with others, being an open and honest communicator, and taking an analytical approach to problem-solving.
What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work? What’s most challenging?
The most rewarding aspect of my career has been helping others grow their careers. I truly value the opportunity to mentor people and help them realize their goals. At the end of the day, we are remembered most for who we are and how we’ve treated others.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
Stewarding my team through the last acquisition at my prior company. Many of these people had worked for me for their entire career and I did everything in my power to keep them employed. I’m proud to say that I was able to keep the vast majority of my team intact.
What’s next for you and your career?
I plan to stick with my go-to strategy of working hard, doing my best and being open to what comes next!
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I spend most of my free time with my husband and two daughters taking advantage of the outdoors. We enjoy scuba diving, hiking and rock climbing.
How do you manage stress?
I’m a runner and use exercise to manage stress.
How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?
This is one area of my life where I’m pretty inconsistent. I’ll go from completely abstaining from coffee for months at a time to downing two cups of coffee a day.
What's one of your favorite places in the Boston/New York area?
The Shawangunk Ridge in New York, also known as The Gunks.
What advice do you have for recent college graduates?
Don’t worry about having a career plan! Think about the kind of person and employee you want to be and do your best everyday. College grads seem to think they need to have their careers plotted out but it’s so difficult at a young age to know your best path. Have some big goals in mind but don’t worry about the specifics - you really don’t know where your life and career can ultimately take you. I also recommend learning from the leaders around you. Observe their management style and incorporate any traits you admire into your own work style. And be sure to support the leaders who support you in your current role. Build a rapport, and a sense of trust, with them. Having them as an advocate can be a big advantage as you look to secure your next role.
Want to learn more about Constant Contact? Check out their BIZZPage.