Powerhouse CMOs Heidi Bullock, Meagen Eisenberg, and Tracy Eiler sat down with SiriusDecisions’ VP of Research Megan Heuer at this past year’s SaaStr Annual to offer their takes on how to succeed when starting out in your career, share the best and worse advice they’ve ever received, and discuss the ideal skillsets for rising through the ranks in SaaS. Check out the full video and transcript below!
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Announcer: Please welcome our panel. Heidi Bullock, CMO at Engagio, Meagen Eisenberg, CMO at MongoDB, Tracy Eiler, CMO at InsideView, and moderator Megan Heuer, VP of research at SiriusDecisions.
Megan Heuer: Good afternoon, everyone. Now, for the six o’clock news.
Megan: It’ll be snowing in New York where I’m headed back this evening, in case anyone here cares because it’s so beautiful, I really wish I could stay.
With that, though, I don’t think you all came to hear the weather report. In fact, what I’m hoping you’re very much looking forward to hearing is some amazing advice from our esteemed panel, who I have to say, I think might know a thing or two about what it takes to succeed in SaaS.
In particular, what are the things that make that different if you’re a woman? We’ve got some interesting questions keyed up for you today. I’m very much looking forward to hearing what our panelists have to say. I have to say, I have not heard their answers, so I don’t know what they’re going to say. There’s going to be some surprises here.
Megan: With that, I would like to go ahead and do some brief introductions. Then I’m going to have each of my esteemed panelists introduce themselves a bit.
Let me begin with, first of all, Heidi Bullock, who is the chief marketing officer at Engagio. Engagio is a company that helps B2B marketers land and expand target accounts at scale by helping them to create and measure engagement in one tool. Heidi, tell us a little bit about yourself as a person, as a professional. What would you like to share with the audience?
Heidi Bullock: What I’d like to share is just that I’m in marketing now. It’s not where I started. I started my career as a molecular biologist. I worked in a lab for quite a long time. I got involved in marketing because I had good communication skills.
The message I’d like to leave everyone with today, is that you don’t necessarily have to start your career in one place. It can evolve and it’s pretty natural. The other thing I’d like people to know is that I have twins, and I’m here today. I survived that.
Megan: I’ll applaud that one, especially as the mom of an only child. Next up, is Meagen Eisenberg, another Meagen on the panel, although we do spell it differently for professional purposes.
Meagen is the chief marketing officer at MongoDB. MongoDB is the leading modern, general‑purpose database platform that is designed to unleash the power of software and data, for developers and the applications they build. Meagen, I think you’ve got a story to share with us.
Meagen Eisenberg: I’ve been with MongoDB about three years. I also love to advise tech companies. I’m a huge fan of French bulldogs. If anyone has seen the Yappy Lounge, you should go check out some puppies to adopt. We’re excited to be sponsoring that.
Megan: Excellent. That’s simple. [laughs] Every conference needs a puppy lounge. Last, but not least, my fellow lady‑in‑red is Tracy Eiler. She’s the chief marketing officer at InsideView.
They help sales and marketing people drive revenue by analyzing their total addressable market and helping them to select the right companies to target and engage in a relevant way. Tracy, give us a little bit of history on you.
Tracy Eiler: My first paying job at the age of 16 was an SDR. Many of you are building SDR teams, so I have some stories to tell about that one. All of us had the generic name of Chris Kelly, which was gender neutral and we were replaceable because we came in and out over the summer and so on.
Tracy: That has left me with always have an anonymous person in your marketing stack that you can sign to emails because they never quit. The other thing I would say is I’m super passionate about sales and marketing alignment. I have been super involved with sales teams in every company I’ve ever worked for. My advice is get in their brain.
I’ve had the opportunity to write a book about that called “Aligned to Achieve” that Wiley published a little over a year ago. If anyone’s interested in a copy, I’d be happy to give you one. I have boxes in my garage. I have survived teenager‑ism. At least, halfway through. I have a 16‑year old boy and where they do some dumb things sometimes. That’s me.
Meagen: That’s your next book.
Tracy: That’s my next book. Yeah.
Megan: You can see why I’m very excited to have this panel with me today. As the announcer said, my name’s Megan Heuer and I’m head of the research organization at SiriusDecisions, which is a research and advisory company that helps B2B companies grow faster and more predictably and helps their sales, marketing, and product teams do that.
I am also a mom of a brand new 13‑year old. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I, like Tracy, had an unusual first job. I feel quite at home behind the desk here because that first job was I was a receptionist in a dentist’s office when I was 14.
Megan: If you can ask people for money after they’ve had a root canal, you can pretty much do anything.
Megan: Anyhow. I want to lead things off with a nice way to get to know our panelists. Also to share with you that one of the biggest pieces of advice all of us agreed we could share is that really crazy, rotten things will probably happen to you at some point in your career and you will survive.
To prove that point, what I’d like to do is ask each of our panelists to share something just silly, or crazy, or really not so good that happened to you early in your career that you never thought you’d get past, but you did. Tracy, I’m going to let you start.
Tracy: Yeah, I’ll go. I was a newly named VP. I think I was, like, 28 or 29, and this was in the days when we still shipped software in boxes with manuals and other stuff. I was working for an international software company. We’d decided to consolidate all our spend into one vendor. They happened to be in the East Bay.
My job was to go for the final meeting, and look at the final contract, and sign off. It was my first big, I guess, executive moment. It was raining, and I was late, and I was rushing to this meeting. I show up at the meeting, and I’m like 10 minutes late.
The room is full of all of these people who worked at the warehouse, that happened to be men, that could have been my dad. They were all like 56 years old and the hard hats and stuff.
I was there with a couple of my coworkers, and I had on a top that was like a wrap top, not unlike the dress I have on right now. I’m just going to stand up to demonstrate what happened. I walk in the room, I’m taking off my raincoat, and my top had come completely undone, and I didn’t know it.
Tracy: I’m taking off the coat, and my co‑worker Chris is like, “Tracy!”
Tracy I looked down and, you know, I’m in my glory…
Tracy: …and these men around the table that I’m supposed to be negotiating with are just…oh, God. They were so mortified. I couldn’t think of anything to say except, “Well, you’ll never forget me.”
Tracy: Then turn around and button up, and we negotiated the contract.
Tracy: That’s a true story but humor goes a long way would be my lesson.
Megan: You can’t beat that one. Meagen, I think you have something you wanted to tell us in terms of something that happened to you early in your career.
Meagen: Yeah. I think more the net of it is when people have asked me to do things that are not me or outside of my comfort zone. It’s always probably a bad idea, and so when I stay within my comfort zone, I tend to come back to doing me.
Megan: Yeah, absolutely.
Heidi: My story’s a little similar to Tracy’s. I was at my first board meeting and feeling pretty good. I’m prepared, had everything ready, standing up, about to present. Went through everything, looked at my data, everything’s good.
Then went to the bathroom at the end of the board meeting and realized my pants were down. The zipper was 100 percent down. I’m in black pants, and the unfortunate part was I had bright underwear on. I’m sure that was super not great.
Heidi: Similar to Tracy, I was like, you got to just laugh at it. What are you going to do at that point? But I definitely look for that now. [laughs]
Meagen: Wardrobe malfunction.
Megan: I kind of look at this as, if you think about it, all of us have had something happen that is our worst nightmare. It’s one of those things that you have bad dreams about in the night, like you think you’re going to show up with bright underwear on in the middle of a meeting. It happens.
Heidi: It happens.
Megan: It actually happens, and you know what? You still have a job, don’t you? In fact, probably a better one even, right?
Heidi: Probably, yeah.
Megan: So I think for me, what I take away from this and the experiences I got myself all worked up over, is first of all, worry about the right things. Not the wardrobe malfunctions. Not the things where you’re given a piece of advice that’s really not meaningful.
Worry about the right things. Worry about performance. Worry about confidence. Worry about results. Don’t worry about your wardrobe. [laughs] Of course, if you have really, really bad taste, well, that’s a different problem.
Next one, and I’m going to invite Heidi, you, to start with this one, is what’s some advice that you’d offer to women who are earlier in their careers? What are the things that you can begin to do that help you really stand out?
Heidi: I think from what I’ve seen, and I had a pretty nice‑sized team when I was at Marketo, and one of the things that I observed with some younger folks on the team ‑‑ and I’m going to actually say men or women. It doesn’t really matter ‑‑ and it’s something that I feel like I tried to do.
I don’t know that I was as successful as some people at this, but they actually could anticipate. That’s one thing that I would really advise people.
They could see when I was busy or had a big project, and instead of waiting to be asked to do something, they were like, “Hey. How can I help you out? I get I’m busy. I have a lot that I’m doing, but I’m here to help you and can take on some additional work.”
I felt like that proactive behavior, it just really, really stands out. Again, that’s for a male or a female. It doesn’t really matter.
I think the other thing, too, is being willing to take risks. That’s something I did, and I can tell you there are plenty of times that I’ve felt really out of my comfort zone, or I was asked to do things that I might not have been really comfortable.
My thinking was it’s PR. It’s not the ER. I’m not going to die doing this. [laughs] No one’s getting hurt. What’s the worst that can happen?
I just encourage everybody in here to delight the people you work for. They need help. They might not be good at asking for help. Many of us don’t because we’re just busy. Two, get out of your comfort zone. Do something completely different. It doesn’t feel good, but that’s when you grow.
Megan: Absolutely. Meagen, anything you want to add to that?
Meagen: Yeah. At whatever you’re doing, be the best at it. If you’re babysitting kids, don’t turn the TV on and eat the Cheerios. Play with the kids. Do something with them. Teach them something. Keep the house clean. When you get that first job and you’re organizing something or you’re building something or working with the team, be the best at it. Take pride in your work.
Also, what’s important when I look at people that are growing in their career, not only do they do the best job that they can do. They take everything seriously. You will see the people around you that are just working crazy all hours. I’m so busy. I’m so busy. I’m working myself sick. You all have them. You work with them. They work crazy long hours. They tell you how much they’ve worked.
Those are not the people that are going to get promoted because they don’t have the capacity to take on anymore. They haven’t figured out how to prioritize. They haven’t figured out what’s important. When I look at promoting people and giving them something, I need to be able to give them more responsibilities. I need to know that they can prioritize and that they can take on more.
My second piece of advice would be find a way to add value, but don’t come across as too crazy.
Megan: Absolutely. Sometimes being too busy isn’t a badge of honor. It can be badge of disorganization. There’s a fine line, I think. Tracy, your thoughts on this one. Advice for early on a career.
Tracy: I had two. I agree with Heidi. Be a problem solver. For me, I grew up as a problem solver. My mom was an ER nurse, so someone was always bleeding. I was the oldest of seven. There was always some chaos going on. Be a problem solver and figure out where you can add value to just make things better around you, whatever that might be.
The other thing. It’s really tiny and small, but the bigger our teams get, the more people are often reticent to speak up. Be an ice‑breaker. Even if it’s just to make one comment or one question to get things rolling especially when you’re at a brainstorm or something else. Be the ice‑breaker. It makes other people comfortable.
Figure out how to make people around you more comfortable and then everyone relaxes. Then, you get your best work. It’s unusual in our business because we are so going for performance all the time. Laughter really makes a big difference in lightening the load. All of a sudden, some amazing comment will come out of somebody because they’ve relaxed and they can move forward.
Megan: I’ll share, too. From my experience, coming from the other end of that is I found that early in my own career, and I’ve seen this in other women as well, if you can take a job where your performance is judged fairly objectively, you take any opportunity for bias out of that equation.
For example, early in my career, I was a consultant at Gartner for a number of years. Consultants are judged, quite literally, it’s time is money. How many hours are you billing? If you can keep yourself at the top of that list of billable hours, there’s no one who’s going to argue with the contribution that you’re making to the business.
If you have a sales target and you can make that number, no one is going to argue about whether or not you’re good at your job. They may argue about the way you get to the number, but they won’t argue that you’re doing something good.
But looking for opportunities that allow you to be measured against a standard that has clear impact on the business is a really good way to get started and not feel you’ve got to wonder whether or not you’re going to get anywhere.
What are some skills you felt have been valuable to you? I’ll start with you, Heidi. What do you have?
Heidi: For me, the way I’d answer that is I think about my early career in science was a real big one because I approached things in a pretty methodical manner. I really think about the end result first. I always talk to my team about that, too. It’s like, write the press release. What are we trying to achieve before we think about the whole path to get there?
It’s like you’re doing an event. What’s your end-game? What are you trying to get to? You have a product release. You’re developing a product. Ideally, in a perfect world, that product would have these things. Now, work back and what would that path look like?
I often find people don’t start with the goal. I see this definitely a lot in marketing. There’s a long path of getting there. Another kind of skill that I like is when people speak their mind. Nothing bothers me more than when I’m in a room and I feel like somebody might have a different opinion and they’re like “No, this is great. The plans perfect.”
I always push people. I’m like “Really? Do we really feel this is perfect?” I want to hear from folks. I want folks with a voice. I might not always agree, but I always admire people that have an educated comment and share it. I would say those two things. I have more of it.
Heidi: We’ll leave it at that.
Megan: There’s more to discuss. One of the things I heard in what you just said, too, is being comfortable with hearing feedback you don’t like.
Heidi: Yes. That’s a big one. It’s something that’s really hard for a lot of us is getting feedback not always when it’s “Hey, you’re amazing. That was a great presentation. Great marketing launch.” When you have people tell you, “I don’t like how you did that,” that’s tough but, I think again, that’s where we grow and get better.
Kind of one of those take‑homes. If you can encourage feedback from people, it’s a little off topic. Find some people you can trust and believe in your organization and ask them what they think. How do you come across? How do you present yourself? You can get a lot from that. It’s not always everything you want to hear, but that’s how you get better.
Megan: The earlier you find out some things you want to adjust.
Heidi: Right, or you can decide not to do it, too.
Megan: Or to say, “I don’t agree.”
Megan: Tracy, what are some skills you believe are really valuable to acquire early in your career? What are some things that have helped you?
Tracy: This is one that took me a while to learn. In fact, I think he’s in the audience. The guy who taught me how to do this is Dave Kellogg, CEO of Host Analytics. He’s speaking tomorrow morning. How do you red team or see the other point of view or argue against yourself?
That whole mindset was something that was pretty hard for me to grasp and get my brain around because I always had so much conviction about what it is that I thought was right. It was really hard for me to then put that away and then bat the other side.
But when you bat the other side and you come up with what’s going to go wrong? How can that one be a credible statement? And so on. You just polish it so much better.
Also when you are red‑teaming, you can bring out some of the reticence of other folks who are like “I’m kind of worried about that thing but I don’t want to say so because she has so much conviction. I’m afraid of her, so I’m not going to say it.”
You know that’s going on in the room. If you literally say, “We’re going to do a red team exercise,” and if you guys don’t know what that phrase is, look it up on Wikipedia. Secret Service came up with it. It’s a great skill.
Megan: Absolutely. I totally agree. Meagen, thoughts for us.
Meagen: Being a self‑learner. When I’m talking or interviewing with people, I want to uncover the fact that they’ve taught themselves. They’re curious. Whether they’re learning a new technology, they’re reading themselves, development. That’s important because we’re always learning and building on what we’ve learned over the years. I’m certainly drawn to that.
I think the other one is folks that can collaborate and influence others that don’t report to them because I find that it becomes more and more. It’s always important, but even more so to run a business is to be able to collaborate and work with others and influence them when they don’t report to you.
Megan: Absolutely. Especially earlier in your career. I think that’s a great point. You can demonstrate incredible leadership skills without having a title that suggests you need them at that point. I think you can stand out for that. Really, really important point.
Heidi: That’s how you get the title. When people can see that you’re demonstrating that, that’s the great thing to do.
Megan: Absolutely. Heidi, I’m going to switch gears a little bit. You shared with me some really neat information about the work that you’re doing and the way that you’re helping your own team, men and women, develop the kinds of skills that they need.
One of the questions we wanted to talk about today was, what are some of the characteristics of cultures that help women and, really, any leader develop the skills that they need? I really appreciated the approach that you talked about, so I’d love for you to share a little bit about how you guys do that.
Heidi: I think for me, I feel that many of us probably have teams that have different skill sets. You might have some folks that are really early in their careers, some people that are more senior. I always feel like people can always get better. All of us can get better. There isn’t anyone who’s got it all perfected.
Something that we do on my team is we have a check‑in that we do every month. We have one‑on‑ones, that’s pretty normal. A lot of us do that, but every month we have a one‑on‑one where we actually go through a career development plan.
For some people, it’s really simple. It’s like, “I really want to get to this next stage in my career.” I notice for more of the senior folks, they might feel like, “Well, I’m a VP. I’m good. [laughs] I’m done.”
I always feel like there’s always something that we can do. Somebody on my team I noticed had an interest in public speaking but hadn’t done a lot of it, and so we worked on that. I said, “Look, I do quite a bit of it. I’d be happy to take a break and not get on a flight.” [laughs] One of the things, I said, “Let’s do it. Let’s mix it up a little and get you out there and give you that experience.”
I think having that regular cadence where you’re checking in with people, even folks on your team that might be senior and feel like, “I’m good,” all of us have something that we can get better at. Encouraging that makes people feel excited about their job. Otherwise, it does feel like a job, and you want to feel like you’re growing. Having a process in place to do that is really important.
Megan: That’s a key point, is that’s baked into your operating model. To say, not that this is, “Gee, if you’ve got a leader who happens to remember to focus on developing their people and not just delivering whatever the number is.”
Heidi: It can’t be on a whim. You have to plan around it.
Megan: Really critical. What are some things, Meagen and Tracy, that you guys have done to help to share the spotlight with people on your team to encourage them to develop?
Meagen: For my team specifically, we do a system of OKRs, and I ask that each member has at least one development OKR during the year, where they go to a conference to learn or they sign up for a class, depending.
Maybe they’re in creative, they’re taking some sort of digital creative course, but that they continue to do something that further develops them, that self‑learning, and that they take initiative and own that. That’s a big part of it.
At MongoDB we also have a women’s group, but a mentor program, making sure that women and men, whoever wants to have a mentor, is matched up so they can learn and observe. When I look back at my career, there was always a woman at some level in the organization that I watched and looked to and was like, “How did she get there? What did she do?”
It started out right out of college. The VP of Manufacturing IT, Rebecca Jacoby, led our organization, and I just remember thinking, “What did she do to get there?” and just observing her. So making sure there’s role models.
Megan: You just reminded me, I worked for a heavy industrial…actually, they sold industrial gas, which actually ends up being a bit of a punchline sometimes when you explain that you sell industrial gas. It’s actually a Fortune 250 company and an amazing place to work.
I remember there was a woman there who was a chemical engineer PhD, which at this time was not a typical person to have in an organization, who ran a huge chunk of the business, and incredibly intense, making sure that supplies were getting to chemical refineries all along the Gulf Coast. She was also a mother of four. I remember really looking up to her.
She didn’t necessarily have to mentor specifically, but she made a point of involving me in discussions and sharing with me things she was working on. Even something as simple as sending me her daughter’s old Christmas dresses when my baby was born. It’s a way of saying, “Hey, I believe in you.”
I think that kind of activity really is meaningful for women to encourage other women. You just reminded me about that. Thank you.
Tracy: Meg, I have one I was just thinking of to add, which is I have been trying out what I call the “pilot‑copilot model.” In the example that you gave, Heidi, you had somebody who was pretty senior who wanted to do more.
We all have on our teams people who are really just starting to get out in their careers, and they’re trying to figure out how to work on their brand presence, and, “Oh, my God. Someday, I’ll be on that stage.”
Well, why not bring them along? I’m thinking of one particular…I was doing a talk on sales enablement. I did about the first 40 percent of it, and then my colleague, Jo, came up, and she did the rest. Actually, she did the work on the project anyway. She deserved the credit [laughs] in the first place.
We worked together on the presentation, but then I was really there to buttress her. It just was such a boost of confidence for her, and she’s now a go‑to on that subject and so on. All I did was just give her a little boost. I don’t think she would have been asked on her own, but the fact that I copiloted her in worked out really well.
Heidi: I like that point. I want to add to that. That’s really important to do in meetings, too. For the senior folks in the room, pull in some other people on your team, and say, “Hey, we’re going to go into this board meeting. I want to have you present this piece.”
Giving people that exposure is really, really important. I probably should do it more. I feel like when I’ve done that, it’s really helped people. Again, they are the ones that often that did the work anyway. It gives them that chance to try it on and get that experience. It’s really important to do that.
Megan: Absolutely. You just anticipated my next question. We’ve talked a little bit about the skills that you want to acquire earlier in your career, and some of the behaviors that are going to help you get to knock on the door of the C‑suite. I’m not speaking well today.
All three of you have managed to break through that barrier and join the C‑suite. What advice do you have for people who are on that train? Maybe, Heidi, you want to continue your thought there.
Heidi: The first thing I would say is, just making sure ‑‑ this was already said ‑ that you’re doing your job very, very well. What I often see and I hear from a lot people, and again men or women, they’re doing really well, and they’re like, “I just can’t seem to get to that next level.”
You often hear people say, “You do a great job but you’re just not strategic.” If you tease that apart, it’s making sure you’re working on the right things and driving what’s critical for the business. Often, the crappy part about it is often senior people won’t tell you always what that is.
It’s great if you have OKRs or there’s something that makes it clear. Even within that, there’s some initiatives that might be more important to the business than others. It’s getting really good at asking the right questions, finding out where you can help people and really making sure they are successful.
That’s one, and it’s a bit obvious. Two, it’s also aligning yourself with people that actually really want to help you. Something that I’ve really seen as I’ve been fortunate enough to work with people, for me, it’s been male leaders that have been incredible. They’ve been very supportive and wanting me to be successful.
I feel like that I want to give that same experience back. There’s times I’ve worked with people that were honestly crappy. [laughs] You know what you do? You make a call. If you can see it’s not going to work, you’re maybe this amazing seed but you need to be somewhere tropical not a desert, move.
That’s OK and realizing that early is not a bad thing. Not everyone is willing to help or be supportive.
Megan: That’s really important. Tracy, what’s your advice for women who want to break through and get into the C‑suite?
Tracy: This is advice that’s true for anybody, which is the bigger we get in our organizations, and it always seems to be, once you get to be about 100 people, things start falling apart. What I mean by that is, the departments of excellence might be doing a great job but cross‑functionally you’re mess.
You start finding all these things where the ball is dropped between the development team and the sales team, or the sales team and the customer success team. The trainers don’t know what the CSMs are doing and so on.
The more cross‑collaborative that you can learn to be, and lean in and take those projects that are about that. An example that my team took on and a woman on my team was the lead of it, was, “Hey, let’s map our customer journey.”
We’re a 10‑year‑old company. We’ve got tons and tons and tons of customers. It’s about time to redo our journey map. What does that look like? We found all kind of things that were downright broken. Like bad hand offs and weird experiences here and there. Nothing that was going to put us out of business, but made us probably 25 percent better.
That cross‑collaboration is super visible. It’s visible up to the board level. It helps you get your tentacles into every part of the organization and is a path to being more strategic. I hate that phrase, too. That drives me nuts when people say that.
Megan: Just amazing. [laughs]
Tracy: You do have to tease it apart and what that means. Cross‑collaboration’s one of them.
Megan: That’s really good advice. People who are willing to step in and take on hard problems end up standing out. That’s key. If you don’t stand out, you’re not going to be the next one in line for the big job.
You also have to be willing to put yourself on the line and show those results. It’s a double‑edged sword there. Meagen, your thoughts.
Meagen: At the C‑level, one, it’s the command of your domain expertise. It’s your network a lot of times. You don’t always have all the answers, but the ability to go talk to someone, reach out to a colleague, ask for advice. As you mature in your career, you build your network.
You build those experiences and pattern recognition. You start to make decisions a lot faster. As you can accumulate and do that and learn, that’s part of becoming a C‑level exec.
Tracy: If I may jump in, you said something about user network. I know what you mean by that because we are [laughs] in the network. We are in the network with a bunch of other people. I like to call it “the old girl network” just as a joke.
Tracy: My “old girl network” isn’t just women. There’s a lot of guys [laughs] in it too. There’s nothing like being able to call outside three other CMOs, to say, “OK, I’m having this problem. We’re having this issue,” whatever the case may be, “Have you run into that before?” “Yes I have.” “OK.”
Not having to wait for the SaaStr Conference every year to talk to other people like you. Use those connections. In my mind, always give when you get. That’s a very important thing. If all you are is an asker and you just call people when you have a problem, you’re going to get super annoying.
Think about how you can give at the same time and then that will pay dividends.
Megan: That’s really important. There are so many different ways that you can contribute to networks as well as benefit from them. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that. I’ll say too, one of the things that I’ve noticed for our executive team is, you need to be in command of your facts.
You need to have the data on your side. You need to have the full story. You need to have done your homework and go in prepared. You may use a tenth of all the information that you’ve gathered, but if you don’t do your homework, it’s your own darn fault if it doesn’t go well.
I found that definitely having your facts in order and doing your homework is really, really critical.
With that, I’m going to wrap things up with a question that ended up being a little bit controversial. I have to share with you, with my esteemed panel here. That is, what is the worst advice you’ve ever received?
Megan: What was just flat out bad? [laughs] Thank heaven you didn’t listen. Perhaps you did and learned the hard way. Tracy was the first one to raise her hand, and say, “Me, me, me. I want to answer that one.” This, I got to hear.
Tracy: I’ve gotten this advice twice. I don’t know what’s up with that. The first time in my 20s, I was told that I smiled too much and I laugh too much.
Tracy: I took the advice because I was 24, 25. I thought maybe I’m not being serious enough. I just couldn’t help it, so I went back to my old ways. Fast forward 15 years later, I had a boss who told me to diamond down. I don’t mean dumb it down. I mean diamond down as in sparkly diamond earrings that I bought for myself when I got divorced. I wear them with pride.
Tracy: I wear them with pride and I’m not going to diamond down. To me, the message underneath that, when I look back at what those messages were, was, “We don’t know what to do with you. You’re kind of a peacock. You’ve got to tone it down a little, lady.”
I can’t do anything but be me. I think that every time, I think both of you said this, any time where I tried to do something that wasn’t me, it was just a disaster. If you don’t like the red dress and you don’t like the laughing, then we don’t have to be friends. It’s OK.
Megan: Before I put Heidi on the spot for this one, I’ll share. Years ago there’s a book called “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office.”
Heidi: So read that book.
Megan: I like to think of myself as a nice girl. It’s kind of my thing. I’m not a mean person. It doesn’t work for me. Back to the be‑yourself. I’m reading. I’m like “Oh, dear. I’m really in trouble then.” I’m reading this book and thing number one is don’t feed the people. Don’t bring cookies. Don’t bring candy.
Megan: What’s my hobby? Baking.
Megan: What do I do all the time? Bring food. What have I had on my desk since I was 24 years old? A giant jar of jelly beans. I have to personally say that I have that giant jar of jelly beans to thank when I worked in a building that was a whole rabbit warren of tiny offices.
Unless you had a reason for someone to come see you, no one would talk to you if you were new. Unless you had jelly beans, it turned out. I have to say I ignored the advice about not feeding people for which my team is still thankful, I believe. Also, the jelly bean jar lives on and has started many an excellent and often very funny conversations. Ignore that one. Heidi, what’s your worst advice?
Heidi: I feel like I’ve received so much bad advice [laughs] it’s hard to pick one. I’ll share two. One was I actually was in college. I remember you go to see your counselor. I was pre‑med at the time. The advice given to me was I would be better off marrying a doctor than becoming one. I almost couldn’t process it at the time. I’m like “Gosh! It’s not like this is 1960.”
We’re in California, what’s up with that? That was a little discouraging. I bring it up because it was so early on and things like that can be formative. Again, I think you just have to laugh it off. Everyone’s got an opinion and we all know what those are like.
It’s important to be able to take in input but also filter it out. The same thing happens when you’re pregnant. You get a lot of comments like, whatever. Then I’d say that…
Megan: You’re never coming back. We’ll never see you again.
Heidi: The second piece of bad advice I received was a little bit similar to Tracy’s. I actually am an incredibly funny person. It’s kind of my thing, too. I make myself laugh frequently. I don’t know that everybody else always thinks that I’m that funny. Somebody was like, “You should probably be a little more serious.”
I was like why? Life is so short. Again, what we’re doing is not rocket science. I can have fun during my job. If you don’t, what a bummer. What an unfortunate existence. [laughs] I just ignored it. It hit me as wow, that’s the core of who I am and that’s a shame. Again, I would just say, if people don’t like who you are, then too bad.
You don’t have to be with them. [laughs]
Megan: That’s going to be my new line. You don’t have to be friends.
I’m going to close things up with the flip side of this, which is what’s some of the best advice you’ve ever received? I’m going to have Meagen start with that one.
Meagen: A couple things come to mind over the years. One was we both know Mr. Dan Drucker gave me advice early on when I was in product marketing, to partner very closely with your sales organization and your leadership team, that a lot of your success and go‑to‑market and execution will be if you’re aligned and partnering together versus pointing fingers.
I really took that to heart over the years, making sure that there was a strong partnership, that we built models together, that we had constant communication, and that we were very transparent in the results. I think that served me really well with that advice.
Megan: Absolutely. Tracy or Heidi, I’ll let you decide who wants to go first.
Heidi: I completely agree with that, by the way. I think it’s really understanding what the larger business objective is. All of us in our day jobs have…You’re worried about your website traffic or your CAC or whatever it may be, the thing that you’re maniacally focused on, but I think taking a step up and realizing the bigger picture.
The best advice given to me was not always thinking about your immediate group and your immediate…if I’m the marketing team, just our objectives. Think about the entire business objectives and how you can help other people be successful. I think if you can do that, you’ll win.
It’s partnering. It’s just making sure that you’re communicating regularly, and again, really thinking about not just was this one event or this one program, or this one initiative successful? But, did we hit the goal that we were all really trying to really achieve? That was good advice. I have one other one.
Heidi: This is actually a real tactical thing, and I notice a lot of people do this, is really saying, “We were able to do something.” It’s not the, “I achieved this,” or, “I did this.”
Especially if you’re looking to be in a more senior role, not taking credit but saying, “As a team, we were able to do this amazing thing,” and raising people up is a good thing. Just your language and choice of words that you use is important.
Megan: Absolutely. It’s not just about you. I think the mark of a leader is that it’s not just about you.
Tracy: My favorite one is get close to sales, no question, and crash their meetings if they don’t invite you.
Tracy: Just go sit in the back and listen. Eventually you’ll earn their trust. In addition to that, is talk to the customer. Why are they buying? What are their problems? I know that any time I’m sitting in a room with a bunch of other colleagues and we’re trying to figure out a problem, it’s like, “What do the customers say?” “What do the customers want?”
Half the time we’ve got good information. The other half of the time, it’s like “Not really sure.” Just go call 10 customers and find out what they say. That’s always safe ground.
When you’re trying to speak with authority, if you’ve got customer data with you, whether it’s anecdotal data, whether it’s data from a survey, that will really carry a lot of weight.
Also, opinion leaders matter through SiriusDecisions, Forrester, others like that, what are those folks saying? What is Megan Heuer here saying about ABM and so on makes a lot of difference in bringing authority, so I would say those things.
Megan: Absolutely. I think some of the best advice I’ve heard is ‑‑ it’s old, but it’s true ‑‑ be passionate. Don’t be afraid of your enthusiasm about something. Don’t be afraid to show that you really do care.
In fact, earlier today, we were at a luncheon. Tracy and I were there. One of the neat things is one of the people there said, “I saw you speak at this event.” This event was eight years ago.
I’ll never forget it because I was nervous. Obviously, it was a big speaking engagement. I still do get nervous when I do that.
It was one of those situations where I was so excited about what I had to share that I thought I got off the stage and it was a total disaster. This woman remembered it eight years later. I remember being told after that event that I got the highest score. I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Then I thought, “You know what? It was honestly just enthusiasm and passion for the topic.”
Don’t be afraid of that. Don’t be afraid to just love what you do and show it. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Of course, the absolute best advice I’ve ever received, hands down, Doctor Seuss. [laughs] The man knows what he’s talking about, and that is…
Megan: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can take them in any direction you choose.” Incredibly empowering, a little scary, but the best advice ever. Anyway, thank you so much to all of you for sharing your lives with us.
Tracy: Thanks, Megan.