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Karen Mangia
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Episode 2: Career Nation Show with Karen Mangia, VP Customer Insights @Salesforce

Karen Mangia, VP Customer Insights @ SalesForce and author of “Success with Less” joins us in this episode of Career Nation Show to share some amazing career insights.

Here are some of my favorite parts of the show

1. Karen’s career journey: “I did not choose a high tech career, a high tech career chose me”

2. Customer insights @ scale: how she leverages sales leadership experience to develop customer insights and trends that drive key actions across the company

3. Fueling growth: leveraging customer insights to “test” new concepts in a high growth SaaS company

4. Overcoming personal odds: how she overcame tough personal challenges and wrote a book about success

5. How she developed an authentic leadership style  

(Watch rest of the episode: https://youtu.be/JlhyYwqCsKc)

6. Favorites game: her favorite app, favorite book, favorite quote and favorite restaurant. 

7. Prep techniques for key meetings and workshops

8. Health & diet routine

9. Insights: how to change mindset if you are stuck

Check out Karen’s book: https://amzn.to/2IdemKC

#career #careeradvice #womenintech #salesforce

Transcript of the interview

Karen:              It doesn’t matter who you parents were or where you went to school or who your boss is right now. Success is available to everyone. It’s not reserved for an elite set of people who went to the right school or found the right path or got the right promotion or lived in the right neighborhood. Success is a goal that you can define, and it’s all about finding what matters most to you and spending your time on that.

Voiceover:        Welcome to the Career Nation Show, where you learn the strategies and tools to own and drive your career. Find out more at careertiger.com

Abhijeet:          Today, we have customer insights leader from one of the largest SaaS companies on the planet, i.e., Salesforce. She is a keynote speaker and an author. Please welcome Karen Mangia.

Karen:              Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.

Abhijeet:          Tell us a little bit about your journey thus far from the early days to now being a VP of customer insights at Salesforce.

Karen:              I often say that I did not choose a high tech career. A high tech career chose me, and the reason that I say that is I studied some different things in my undergrad, actually, international business and broadcast telecommunications, and, ultimately, what put me on the path toward a career in high tech was calling off an engagement and deciding that I needed to take a different path and, of course, while unwinding a lot of life choices, I was very fortunate to get a call from someone in my network who said to me, “I have the most amazing opportunity for you. You can get your master’s in information and communications sciences in one year. Think of it this way. If you don’t love it, you’ll be young and have a master’s degree. If you do love it, you’ll be on the path,” and so it was an interesting set of twists and turns to get there, but what I found once I arrived was I loved the environment of the pace and the innovation and the problem-solving, and so, from there, finishing my master’s, I had the opportunity to start my career at AT&T.

Karen:              My theory was it was a household brand, so, in the future, I would never have to explain what the company was or what we did, and also that I could probably take a variety of different roles there without having to change companies, which proved to be true. From there, I had an opportunity to move on to Cisco because, during my time at AT&T, I worked on some customers alongside the Cisco team, so I had a chance to get to know people in the context of winning together, which is always a great start.

Abhijeet:          Yep.

Karen:              During my 11 years at Cisco, I did sales leadership, learned about working with channel partners and building strategic alliances and then, ultimately, worked on customer experience and Voice of the Customer there, and then, at my present time, I’m at Salesforce, and I think back all of those building blocks of learning about customers, learning about different business models and then learning about how to listen to customer and turn that feedback into action created an opportunity to really now see the tech industry from a different point of view working at a SaaS company that’s growing very, very rapidly.

Abhijeet:          This might be a good time to just double click a little bit on that customer piece, and, quite frankly, in your journey, AT&T, Cisco and, now, Salesforce, you’ve been always working with customers, and customer insights sounds like it’s a next level up, which is basically understanding what your customers do, but then also helping educate the rest of the company about what customers are looking for, et cetera. Tell us a little bit about this function and how your role works and how do you create value for customers as well as maybe internally in your organization.

Karen:              One of the aspects of being in sales and sales leadership that I always enjoyed was understanding the customers’ stories, the problems they’re trying to solve, what they’re looking for in a partner, and then really diving into what role we could play as a company in making that happen, and so, when I matched that up with that telecommunications background that I was sharing earlier, what I learned was I enjoy hearing people’s stories, looking for trends and then being able to amplify the story within a company in such a compelling way that people are moved to take action, because I feel that it’s always a different experience when you get a bunch of survey responses, and those are incredibly important because they help you learn about trends and how you’re doing, but, oftentimes, what motivates people to take action to either fix problems or capture opportunities is the story, getting down to the heart of who are you helping, how are you helping them and what does success look like together.

Karen:              I had a lot to learn. If I could go back in time to university, I would pay a lot more attention in my statistics class and my research methods class, but since I didn’t, I had to learn on the job, and so what I discovered over time was how valuable it is to engage customers in a way that helps you discover blind spots, and we all have them. Even the best programs where you ask customers on a regular basis how you’re doing and use that information well, the information that you get is only as good as the questions you ask, and sometimes customers talk to each other or, ultimately, move to your competitors because they’re having conversations in those spaces they don’t have with you.

Karen:              Ultimately, I find really that the value of being able to listen to customers and how you create value is knowing the big trends, how are you doing on those things that matter most in terms of continuing and growing your relationship, but also really being able to dial into the nuances in a way that scales, developing a message so every person in the company has a drumbeat of why customers care about it and what they can do to affect it, so, at the end of the day, the idea is grow customer loyalty and retention and referrals as an outcome of that, but it’s just a really strategic partnership when you can amplify a customer’s biggest challenges or biggest opportunities and then really bring people together at the company to do something about it.

Abhijeet:          That makes sense. I can totally relate to the value it creates because, collecting quantitative data as well as qualitative data from customers, I mean, it could really move the needle, whether it’s product roadmaps, whether it’s a sales approach or whether we’re going to service our customers differently. Do you feel any difference or do you feel that, hey, now the skill set needs to be really put in a more agile way? Tell us a little commentary about being in a high-growth SaaS company.

Karen:              Being in a high-growth SaaS company is really building a plan and maybe some [ground 00:07:12] artillery while you’re operating all of it, and so one of the great aspects of Salesforce is that customer success is one of our core values as a company, and so as we’re listening to customers, we are testing everything from the names of products, how we price and package them to onstage keynotes for big events, our go-to-market strategies, every single aspect of what we do.

Karen:              One of the dynamics about how that plays out a little bit differently in such a high-growth company is the range of topics that you cover when you’re inquiring entirely new companies and product lines that might not have existed when you did your new fiscal year planning or brand new products that the company decides to bring to market and wants to test quickly, and so it’s really about striking a balance between doing the check-in about those ongoing relationship aspects that matter, but also being agile and nimble enough to adjust at the moment and say, “We have a new opportunity. We have potentially an entirely new customer base. How do we quickly engage, get proactive and take action on that feedback and then scale that to meet this increased and expanding product line, increased and expanding amount of customers and then the countries in which we’re doing business as well?”

Abhijeet:          Yeah, that’s incredible, and it must be really exciting to work in a high-growth environment like that where the company is pushing in terms of innovation, new ways to work with customers and, on the other hand, customers are demanding more things, different things from the company. It sounds like you’re in a super exciting space.

Abhijeet:          You’re an author, and I got a chance to read Success for Less. It’s just fascinating. I mean, it’s a great account of some of your own personal trials and tribulations. You went through those. You addressed those, you succeeded, and then you realized, hey, there’s a formula to this. Success for Less is just incredible. It doesn’t just help you with your career or your relationships. It’s just about life, and you could apply this to so many different areas in our lives. It’s incredible.

Karen:              Thank you for the feedback and for making time to read the book, and I think what I discovered is really, in retrospect, I did not grow up with a lot of professional female role models around me, and so the people I saw were on a particular set of paths in life where they were happy and successful, but what I found was I ended up entering the workforce and taking the formula that I had learned along the way, getting the gold stars on the chore chart, being easy, pleasing and agreeable, and then added that to just looking around the workplace at other people who I thought were successful.

Karen:              What seemed to happen to me in that formula of successful people was that they said yes to everything. They delivered results and they made it look pretty effortless, and that the reward for that was being trusted with more, more responsibilities, more visibility, more access, and so I thought, okay, it’s like the chore chart mentality stepped up into the work environment, and so I started doing that also, just say yes [crosstalk 00:10:34].

Abhijeet:          Yeah, that is so true because one of the things I hear about in Silicon Valley all the time is great work is rewarded with more work.

Karen:              Yeah. That is great, and I will quote you when I use that. It’s true, and so I thought this must be the path to be successful, and what was interesting was it worked. I got a few promotions, more responsibility, joined some community organizations, and the challenge for me, where it all came crashing down, was what no one tells you about living someone else’s formula for success is that you might end up with somebody else’s life, and that might not suit you entirely, and so, in my case, all those yeses ultimately compounded into major medical.

Karen:              I was so over-committed and under so much stress that it activated a series of very negative, unintended consequences with regard to my health, but it took me ultimately really an eight-year journey of misdiagnosis and then trying to get well, and so the turning point for me really in that story was the time in life when I could no longer do more. I mean, I literally couldn’t do my own formula any longer, and so I really had to confront what mattered most to me, and at that point, I realized my top goal was to get healthy, and if I was going to get healthy, then every yes had to be filtered through whether it was going to move me closer to that goal.

Karen:              That was the first time in my life I think that I had really been crystal clear that I had a very finite amount of time and energy and that unless I could get clear on my top priorities and align my time with that, then I was always going to be spread too thin because there was no filter about why to say yes or no to anything.

Abhijeet:          That’s so true.

Karen:              Yeah, so the reason I wrote the book is, as I talked with other people, I just discovered that it is a challenge to know your top priorities and then have the courage to say yes and no to the things that move you toward or away from those goals, and that we’re all trying to be healthy and well and still have jobs and families and other pursuits, and it helped to share that story because it let other people feel normal also and know that where they were at that moment wasn’t ultimately where they had to be. There was another way.

Abhijeet:          I would encourage everybody to read Success for Less. It’s not easy to be able to share stories that are so personal and being so vulnerable. I mean, we read about this all the time. Hey, you got to be a great leader, but you also have to be a bit vulnerable. We know that, but it’s hard to do and it takes courage. How were you able to do it given that you went through that for eight-plus years? How did you muster up the courage and built yourself and really were okay to share your stories with others?

Karen:              One of the best resources that I had, an encouragement that I had to show up in a more authentic way was an executive coach that was chosen for me by a very wise boss who knew that, if wanted to continue in my career, that it wasn’t always going to be about working harder and proving that I could do more and deliver it. It was really going to be about being an authentic leader who could bring people along in the journey and how realistic is it to work for someone who appears to always have all this plate spinning and everything is moving along really well.

Karen:              I was shocked when I got connected with this executive coach through work because I was expecting this classic, “Talk to your team and your bosses. Let’s pick a behavior. After you do it for a certain period of time, this will be the gateway to getting promoted and so on and so forth,” and I was shocked when she did do those interviews and then packaged the conversation of why do you have these behaviors, not let’s take some feedback and then react to it. It was what is the underlying root cause of some of these behaviors, and that really became a journey to being more authentic, being more open and finding new ways to relate to other people who are having those same challenges, because I think I thought, in the workplace, if I shared some of those things, it would hold back my career or people would think I was incapable of taking on more of leading a bigger team, and it actually wasn’t true. It was the opposite, but it took a lot of work to do that.

Karen:              Now, with that said, as I got to the point of writing the book, I did have a small panic attack right before the book was going to be published because I suddenly realized, oh, my goodness, all these people are going to read the story, and not just people I know, people I don’t know, and I literally called my publisher and said, “I’m not doing this. I don’t want the book to be published,” and he was like, “Excuse me?” The book is written. It’s ready to go to the printer. I’m like, “No. It’s too much. I don’t want the story out there. It’s too much. It’s overwhelming,” and he was like, “Okay, let’s step away from the ledge,” and this is the beauty of having other people in your life who know your circumstances…

Abhijeet:          That’s so true.

Karen:              … and encourage you and just be the voice back to you to say, “What’s your goal here?” I knew my goal was to be of service to other people, and you can’t do that without sharing your authentic story.

Abhijeet:          Wow. That is so incredible. There are so many takeaways in that, having people around you that can help you, being of service to others, taking lessons from your own life and helping others, because those lessons could be learned by others without them going through the same amount of pain, et cetera. Why don’t we shift gears a little bit and talk a little bit about our favorite things, and this is one of my favorite parts of the show, and this is a part where we ask you questions and you have to tell us your favorite things and why do you like them.

Karen:              That’s exciting. I feel like I’m on a game show.

Abhijeet:          Yes, it is like a game show.

Karen:             Exciting, right?

Abhijeet:         Karen, what is your favorite app?

Karen:              My favorite app right now is an app called Calm, which does all ranges of guided meditation or peaceful music, but it’s designed to help you relax and maybe transition out of a busy day or be prompted to be present in the moment. I’m loving it, and it’s got a whole range of services, but I’m finding that helpful right now with my pause idea.

Abhijeet:          I love it. Yeah, that’s a great meditation practice. Awesome. Okay, let’s go to the next favorite, your favorite book. It could be fiction. It could be nonfiction, business, what have you.

Karen:              My favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird, and it has been for quite some time, and what I love about the story is if you think about the character, Atticus Finch, who ends up advocating with regard to social injustice. What I love about the story, even though it definitely has some very sad aspects and outcomes to it, is that he represents the turning point of not only standing up for a different set values, but also teaching it to his children when it could potentially come at great cost, and, to me, it’s the story about ultimately how you lead social change, which is one person at a time, one choice at a time, teaching and sharing values with other people, so I absolutely love that book for all those reasons. In addition, too, it’s incredibly well-written, of course.

Abhijeet:          Yeah, for sure. That’s one of the best books I’ve read as well, and so one of the other things I like about that story is also the problem-solving that happens within the story, and, yeah, it’s just a great book. All right, next one is your favorite quote.

Karen:              I love Daring Greatly, so it’s all about it’s not the critic who counts. How many times for all of us when you’re trying something new or you’re thinking about taking a risk or something doesn’t work out do you let the voices of other people who aren’t really invested in you or your life matter in terms of your choices? I love that quote so much. I actually have the passage framed in my bedroom, so it’s the first thing I see when I wake up every day and it’s the last thing I see when I go to bed at night, because it’s just such a great reminder that progress comes from being daring and that it does not come without bumps and bruises and having to find ways to get up and rise up again and keep going, so I love it.

Abhijeet:          The last one in your favorites is favorite restaurant.

Karen:              Asking me to choose a favorite restaurant is like asking someone to choose their favorite child, so I’m going to have to break it down just a little bit.

Abhijeet:          Okay.

Karen:              In the Bay Area, in San Francisco, there’s a tiny sushi place called Akiko. Get a reservation. It is stunning. It is perfection. When I read the menu, I’ve never heard of the things, and they’re decadent and fabulous and amazing. If I’m in London, I love to eat curry. London, the best city in the world for curry in my opinion. If I’m in my home city of Indianapolis, and don’t tell my doctor this because I’m [inaudible 00:20:00] a kale salad, there’s this little [tortas place 00:20:03] by my house that does the best queso with chorizo that you can imagine, and I’m sure it’s part of my health and well-being just because I feel so happy when I’m there and eating it.

Abhijeet:          Absolutely. We all need our cheat days once a while, and that’s totally cool.

Karen:              Absolutely.

Abhijeet:          Awesome. Hey, that was great. As we talk about your career journey, and we talked about your favorites, do you have certain routines, techniques that you apply maybe on a daily or a weekly basis? For example, do you have a morning routine? Tell us a little bit more about that.

Karen:              Yes. I have a morning routine of having coffee. That’s probably the one that’s the most consistent, but a few things over time that I have found worked very well for me, so, in terms of my work calendar, I try to choose two to three hours per week of blocked-out work time.

Abhijeet:          Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Karen:              For myself, I like it best at the end of the week so that I can have a mental parking lot of wrapping up everything that needs to be done and making my list for the next week. I find that helps me transition into the weekend a whole lot better and being more pleasant and fun to be around.

Karen:              The second piece of routine that works really well with me is with regard to fitness. I made the commitment to do one Pilates session a week with a trainer, one yoga session a week in a class, and I find that, even if I do nothing else, at least I know I have those two appointments, and they are life-changing just in terms of focus on being well, stretched out, present, mentally clear, those things I’m pretty religious about. Another one is just on the social front, two of my regular traditions, because I believe part of what makes life rich and well are the relationships that we have with people and making time really to enjoy those, so a couple of favorites. I’m fortunate that my 95-year-old World War II veteran grandfather is still living, so Sunday afternoons are my time…

Abhijeet:          Awesome.

Karen:              … with my grandfather. Yeah, and then I’ve been in a book club with essentially the same group of fantastic women for quite some time now really since 2001, and that is my one sacred night a month on my calendar that no matter where I’m traveling, what meetings I’ve been and how my day went, I am there, I’m engaging, I’m having fun and being really anchored and grounded there, and then I would say the last piece, just interestingly on the nutrition front, I learned a lot about fasting, so I do incorporate one fast day a week into my routine because I find it works well for my own personal health and well-being. I know lots of people are starting on the intermittent fasting and so forth.

Abhijeet:          Yeah.

Karen:              That is a great part of my routine. It just resets your cravings, your mindset and where you spend your time and energy, I’d say.

Abhijeet:          There’s so many nuggets that I would love to unpack if I had more time. Let me ask you a few more questions in terms of getting ready, for example, getting ready for a big meeting or getting ready for a big workshop that you may have with a customer. Are there things that you like to do before that that helps you put you in a better state or puts your team in a better state? Are there techniques or tools that you like to use to do that?

Karen:              Yes. I found a couple of things that help in terms of getting ready for a big meeting is, first of all, I do like to take a few sessions or even small snippets of time to go through that content or outline with some other people, because what I find is just even a couple of either practice runs or asking someone else, “Is my message coming through?” helps me feel more calm about the conversation and that, even if it shifts, I’m clear up front. If an hour meeting becomes a 30-minute meeting, becomes a 15-minute meeting, becomes five minutes, I know I can hit the two key points and ask my one key question and still walk away feeling like that preparation was time well-spent as opposed to feeling panicked of, “Oh, my goodness, we only have five minutes,” or, “We got interrupted four times. Now what?”

Karen:              The second piece is I try to think of about what does a successful outcome of that conversation look like, because sometimes it’s truly about relationship-building. Sometimes, it’s to resolve a problem. Sometimes, it’s to compel someone enough that they want to meet with you again, but really zeroing in with people especially when there’s multiple people in the meeting what does success look like, because, again, if we get into a time crunch where things go sideways, how do we return to that objective, and maybe even test it with the customer at the beginning of the meeting. What does success look like to you? Those are a couple of things that I think just help make great use of the time and also help you stay focused and not look flustered if things go a radically different direction or the priorities or timeline or meeting attendees changed a little bit.

Abhijeet:          Yeah, that’s great. I think I really like the peer review. I loved asking the customer up front. I think those are great ways to making it more effective, and it makes it a better experience for everybody. Karen, this has been great. As we wrap up our session, are there any key messages that you would like to share with the listener?

Karen:              A couple of things come to mind. The first one is it doesn’t matter who you parents were or where you went to school or who your boss is right now. Success is available to everyone. It’s not reserved for an elite set of people who went to the right school or found the right path or got the right promotion or lived in the right neighborhood. Success is a goal that you can define, and it’s all about finding what matters most to you and spending your time on that, and I would say the second part of it is where you are now is not necessarily indicative of where you have the potential to go.

Karen:              If you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed or unhealthy or whatever your situation might be, just because that’s where you are at this moment doesn’t mean that’s where you’ll always have to be, and it’s easy to lose sight of that I think in really difficult times or setbacks or when you’re at a crossroads. There’s just always an opportunity to choose another path and to engage other people in helping you get there, which is the best way to do it. The support makes all the difference in the world, but your life still is full of potential. You’re still full of potential regardless of what other detours or alternate paths you might have taken.

Abhijeet:          Career Nation, the last two minutes were just pure gold right there. I would highly encourage you to rewind and listen again to the last two minutes.

Abhijeet:          Karen, this has been incredible. If folks want to get in touch with you, if they want to message you, what’s the best way to do that?

Karen:              You can find me a couple of ways. I’m on Twitter, @karenmangia. You can find me on LinkedIn, and also you can drop me a message to my personal email, which is kemangia@hotmail.com.

Abhijeet:          Awesome. Karen Mangia, thank you so much. Wish you all the wonderful success ahead, and we’ll hopefully connect with you sometime in the future.

Karen:              Sounds great. Thanks so much for the time and the opportunity. I appreciate it.

Sheila Jordan
Blog, Career Nation Show

Episode 1: Career Nation Show – Sheila Jordan, CIO @ Symantec

The first episode of Career Nation Show is here!

Sheila Jordan, CIO of Symantec and author of “You are NOT ruining your kids” joins us to share her amazing career journey. 

Here are my favorite parts of the interview:

1.    How a modern CIO bridges business and technology to create value

2.    Why Security is so critical and why it is exciting to work in this space

3.    How she came to writing her book “You are NOT ruining your kids”: a great guide for working moms to manage work and life

4.    Favorites game: Sheila shares her favorite app, her favorite book and even her favorite restaurant!

5.    She shares valuable career tips: how to receive and work on feedback; how to optimize meeting time; how to acquire new skills for leadership trajectory and many others 

You can get a copy of Sheila’s book here

Transcript of the interview

Sheila Jordan:               It’s gonna sound contradictory, but let me explain it. It’s the plan-full but be available. So what I mean by that is you, everyone who’s listening. You personally own your career. Don’t give your career to your manager to your environment, your work to someone else. And don’t be a victim of your career. You own it, you get to decide what you want to do what you want to be where you work, you own that.

Voiceover:                    Welcome to the Career Nation Show where you learn the strategies and tools to own and drive your career. Find out more at career tiger.com.

Abhijeet:                      Welcome to the show. And today we have a very special guest. She is the Chief Information Officer of Symantec. She has been an executive at Cisco, and Disney. She’s on the board of directors of startups. She’s an author. Please welcome Sheila Jordan. Sheila, welcome to the show.

Sheila Jordan:               Well, thank you very much. I’m super excited to be here.

Abhijeet:                      Thank you so much for making the time. You know, we have so many topics to talk about. So let’s get right into it.

Sheila Jordan:               Awesome.

Abhijeet:                      Your career journey is fascinating, you know, right, from sort of the early days to now, CIO of Symantec, give us your perspective on the career journey of what it was like Sheila, just coming out of college, early days to now.

Sheila Jordan:               So I would say I didn’t take a traditional path. Actually, my undergraduate degree, it was in accounting. And I decided the very last semester of my accounting degree, I did not, I took two tax classes. And I decided, oh, I don’t know that I want to be an accountant. So then I went on to get my MBA and my computer science. So then I worked, then I left and I started working. And I went to work at Martin Marietta, which was a great experience and aerospace company and decided that really, I wanted something a little bit more tangible.

Sheila Jordan:               So went to Disney, and Disney, I grew up 15 years at Walt Disney World in Florida. And I would say that I grew up in the finance ranks. So a financial analyst to help and support I was mostly all my experience was on the front of the house. So demands, sales and marketing.

Abhijeet:                      Yep.

Sheila Jordan:               And I’ll date myself and at the time, I saw this opportunity to see how you know, when you have databases, and in you know, your guests and you know your people that are coming to your theme parks, and how you can really do what we call now CRM.

Sheila Jordan:               So I actually put together the initial strategy to connect the internet to the call center to when you check in and the whole CRM opportunity for Disney. This was again in the late 90s, early 2000s, then was once you presented that and got rejected a couple times, and he went back and kept presenting it, then finally, this is yes, that’s great. We need to move forward. And this is going to be fantastic for our guests. And why don’t you go run that program. So that was really my first foray into really managing what I call this perfect space of understanding the business problems and pain points and things the business wants to do.

Sheila Jordan:               And what part of that that can be enabled with technology. So I love the bridge. And I do think the modern day CIO is that bridge, like we got to understand tech enough and really understand what’s capable and what the capabilities are. But it’s not technology for just technology’s sake, you have to be driving real value to the company. So since that time, I finished my career at Disney went to Cisco for almost nine years. And now at Symantec.

Abhijeet:                      Wow, what a great journey and so many nuggets there. And especially, I love the point about it’s not just about the technology it’s not about just implementing technology for technology’s sake, it’s about the business value that gets created. Let’s get into your work at Symantec a little bit. What’s it like to work in a company that leads cyber security, right? You’re a global company, you have your like monitoring all of these different security events around the world? You got to be on top of it. You know, there’s so much at stake for your customers, and your partners, and of course, your internal stakeholders as well. Tell us a little bit of how does it feel to be in a hot, you know, at this exciting place?

Sheila Jordan:               Working in IT, for a tech company, whether that’s Cisco or Symantec, you really got to have a little bit of thick skin, because one is not only do you have to deliver the technology for the company to enable the technology and to make the engineers and the entire organization more productive. But you also have, I think, a real responsibility to be customer one. So we’re testing the technology that the engineers are creating, we’re doing an alpha and beta, we’re giving them near real time feedback, think about the IT organization as a Petri dish for our engineering community to see how these products work in a real time production environment.

Sheila Jordan:               So I believe that’s a really, really big responsibility of the CIO, or anybody in tech working for a tech company. So that’s one, two is I would say, you know, I really was one of the hardest professional decisions of my career was to leave Cisco, I love john chambers, Rebecca Jacoby, I mean, just amazing leaders and a great opportunity to work there for as long as I did. But I also when I got the call to work for Symantec, I got super excited, because it really is, security is so hot right now. And it’s such a real issue that every I mean, there isn’t a conversation that I have, whether it’s an interview, or you know, having cocktails with my CIO, colleagues, that security doesn’t come up.

Sheila Jordan:               Like it’s a real, real issue that we’re all grappling with, we’re all trying to stay ahead of it. We’re all trying to make sure that we’re staying ahead of the bad guys, and the threats and everything else. So I think it’s a, it’s a real issue. It’s super important. I love working for a company where our mission and our vision is to make the modern world safe, both on the enterprise side and the consumer side. It’s a lofty vision, but it’s super exciting to be able to deliver. It’s a really, really super important mission, you know, for the world, quite honestly.

Abhijeet:                      I just remember that. You know, last week, Wall Street Journal came out with a major story of how cyber security is the hottest career out there. And there aren’t many people out there, there’s almost no supply of security professionals who know this area. So I totally agree with you, as we talked a little bit about IT in tech. In your opinion, is IT and tech, really at sort of the vanguard of emerging technologies, like let’s say, blockchain, or IoT, or analytics, etc, versus some of your, you know, compatriots who might be in healthcare, or manufacturing, do you think IT and tech is really kind of the one of the leaders, if you if you will, in terms of adopting these new technologies and creating new business value out of those?

Sheila Jordan:               I think, legacy CIOs or legacy CEOs that think legacy, think that’s the IT function id a cost function, it’s here to run the business, you know, keep it as cheap as possible and run the business. And it’s all the transactional systems that you need to run the business. What I think with the changes in technology, a couple things have happened with the changes in technology, with the fact that our workforce is much more mobile, which means they want to work, work is a verb, not a noun, they’re going to work wherever they are not necessarily come to the office.

Sheila Jordan:               And the fact that we have this whole notion, and I’ll say it, but I also think it’s an overused term, but these digital transformation, so I’ll explain that a second, those three things are driving the fact that technology is as important as a lever for companies to grow and change as much as it is to be productive and cost function. So what do you think about as a CEO and I want to grow my company in certain regions, I have levers, I can pull sales levers, marketing levers, distribution levers, but it’s also technology levers. When you think about the digital transformation, every consumer company has an incredible app now on our phone that I also talk about mobile moments of productivity, did I ever think that standing in line, you know, at the grocery store, I could book a multinational flight for a family of four while waiting in line at the grocery store, on my united app, which I like united out.

Sheila Jordan:               So I’m just saying that those mobile moments and micro services that we have on our phone, which is kind of like your PC in your pocket, you can do all the time. So that isn’t just sorry, the marketing function, creating a cool app and putting it on that level of being able to book an multinational trip for my family requires the journey across many functions of the company including technology. So when you start thinking about technology is a lever to grow your company and to make your experiences frictionless for your customers and partners and employees, you have a different mindset than just this cost function.

Abhijeet:                      You know, just thinking about that, which is technology as a lever to create more business value. One of the one of the concepts out there is IT is an equal, not just equal a critical partner in the strategy and execution of the strategy for any company. And it could be, you know, about creating more business value off to use term digital transformation, which is not just the digitization of the workflows, but actually thinking digital with new business models, etc. And I think that’s one sort of concept. The other concept is IT is an order taker, and IT is a cost function. And how have you addressed that throughout your journey? Because sometimes that does come into the fore, in terms of, hey, is IT going to help me with this application? Can you help me execute on my roadmap.

Sheila Jordan:               I don’t view them as competing priorities. I mean, again, there’s never there’s always more demand for IT than supply, were always have to manage our budgets. And we always want it we have, we have an obligation to make sure that we’re spending not my budget, but spending the company’s money as effectively as we possibly can.

Sheila Jordan:               But having said that, I also want to make sure I want to be a thought leader in the space that I can go to the business and say, Hey, we just got, you know, bot technology that can automate seven processes and take and reduce our headcount and save some money by automating these tedious processes. So I have a real obligation to make sure, introducing new technology that solves a problem whether that is to be more productive, save money, or to grow revenue. So I really think it’s joint and I will say, I agree with you so much that I don’t think there’s a strategy and someone can challenge me on this if they want.

Sheila Jordan:               But I don’t think there’s a single strategy, not a tactic, but a strategy inside a company that doesn’t have a technology lever right now. And I just think it’s not even a question anymore. It’s just how things are done, and how our customers are consuming all those features, whether you’re a consumer or not, they’re still consuming their interaction with you requires technology. So it’s how our customers are also changing the consumption model.

Abhijeet:                      Oh, for sure. I think the customers have moved on to being digital first. Partners have moved on to being digital first. Quite frankly employees have moved on to being digital first. I don’t think there’s a choice for leaders, whether those are business leaders or technology leaders to do that. And quite frankly, the technology has moved from sort of the back room of the company to the boardroom of the company, where it’s part and engaged in making key strategic decisions. Speaking of decisions, how does it work in your world in terms of making decisions with your stakeholders? I mean, sales has their own roadmap, marketing has their own, supply chain probably does, services, like all of these folks come to you to get help and get engagement. How do you help them? Because you have a finite budget, right? And it’s not like they will de-prioritize some of their own babies in terms of their favorite apps, etc. How do you how do you manage expectations and sort of the priorities that need to be driven?

Sheila Jordan:               Well, it’s a couple of things, I think what happens over time, especially if you’ve got like you’ve been in business for a long time that you build up a lot of costs that you don’t need. So for example, when I in-sourced the IT, I was hired to in-source IT. And as we in-source it, I didn’t just lift and shift the what was the outsource was doing, we scrutinized every single server every single application every single person to determine how I could save and reduce. And I ended up like deleting 400 applications and 4000 servers or something like insane, that really allowed me to spend and reallocate that money somewhere else. So I really do think it’s an important role. And unfortunately, CIOs, we’re so busy, there’s so many demands that there’s not a lot of time to say clean the garage is what I call it.

Sheila Jordan:               But the reality is, if you do clean the garage, it saves money, it frees up dollars, people will move on, and you still have someones applications sitting in your data center, you know, 5000 miles away, and it just sits there. So I would really encourage somehow carving out time to clean the garage, because one it not only saves you cost. But it really, really, really reduces your security risk. And footprint, when you’ve got these legacy applications sitting out there that have been ring fence, that’s like a perfect breeding breeding ground for bad guys to come in. So there’s a benefit to doing that. So I spent a lot of time making sure I’m continually doing that spring cleaning or cleaning the garage. So because that frees up dollars to go off and do more important stuff, and more value driven stuff. So that’s my responsibility.

Sheila Jordan:               I will say that it’s never easy to get cross functional prioritization around the company. I mean, it’s always a challenge, whether it’s Disney, Cisco, or here, I think what the companies do do really well is and I’ve kind of enforced this policy or process is that tell me what the four or five key cross functional strategic initiatives are, as a company and I go back to, those are more important because to do these customer journeys, and to do this digital, it’s cross functional, and it’s not one function that can solve that it’s cross functional. So to me it’s much more important to get our arms around what are those cross functional initiatives we have to do together. Let’s get clear, and you can take on three or four of those a year max, right, then that’s usually my grow budget, like big grow budget, that’s usually got some real revenue associated with that, or some substantial cost savings, then there’s I have to have some amount of budget to change or enhance.

Sheila Jordan:               And that’s like, I’ve got this budget that I’m able to go and do that. And I think what’s super important about that is, it can’t be you gotta have enough of metrics around that, what is this going to deliver, because everyone wants their Christmas wish list, and everyone wants their thing, but we got to make sure that what we’re doing is going to deliver real value to the company, what I would say, one of the most frustrating things that happens sometimes is you’re asked to do this initiative, the business is all and they really want this thing, and then we end up deploying it, and then it’s not used as effectively, because they weren’t quite ready for a change in management or training or whatever. And I think that’s not success in my mind, we got to be all in it together, the business has to want this new capability and function more than I do, you know, they got to really want it because it’s going to help them with their business. And then usually it’s very successful.

Abhijeet:                      There’s so many nuggets there that you just dropped in, I don’t know which one to pick, but so many stuff of value there. I think one of the things that you mentioned was how do you create a budget for growing and changing the business versus just performing are the lights on. And I think that’s a powerful one. The other one was, you know, deleting over 400 applications. And it’s not only reducing costs, but also taking care of security issues, because they have been built for many, many years, they may not have been architected the right way, those are very sort of powerful, you know, drivers for us to move in the right direction.

Abhijeet:                      So thank you, thank you for diving into that. And you did bring up garage, which hits closer to home. And I am really fascinated by your book and on many accounts. One is that it is a false argument that working women have, you know, have these roadblocks, and they’ll have negative impact on their kids. And you came out really strongly in this book, and rightly so which is actually working moms is a good thing for kids. And, you know, and also you touch upon work life balance and all of these wonderful things. So what was the genesis of this book? And sort of what are your sort of favorite parts of the book?

Sheila Jordan:               Well, thank you so much. I have been wanting to write this book for quite some time, it’s been in my head for about four years, I have two children that are now 25 and 23. Graduated college and working. So you know, I’m over the other side of it. But I would say that the book is designed to be a positive perspective of a working mother. Because when I was young, and the kids were young, you just felt guilty, you felt when you’re at work, you should be at home, when you’re home, you should be at work, and it’s this constant guilt, constant guilt, and that you weren’t doing anything right.

Sheila Jordan:               And so I wanted to write the book not that I’m the perfect mother. But I wanted to write the book in the context of here’s some tips and tricks that I got through it. I never made a choice. I was never for, I’m so blessed because I was never forced to make a choice. Do I want to be a mother? Or do I want to work. I’ve picked companies that have let me be me and have allowed for me to do both. Now, what I would also say is that this whole myth around work life balance is a myth. And I just think it’s crazy. There’s no such thing because when I think of balance, I think of the perfect scales being in balance every day.

Sheila Jordan:               In my life. Even today, that’s not true. Some days require more of your focus on work, some days it’s the kids now some days it’s my elderly parents. And it’s always in balance. But in general, it’s in balance. And I think, you know, I think sometimes women put so much pressure on themselves that I got to be the head of the perfectly clean house, I’ve got to look manicured, I’ve got to have everything done, I got to look beautiful, I’ve got to show up at work, I’ve got to be the perfect Mom, I didn’t make the cookies for the kidsq event at school.

Sheila Jordan:               And I just think that we put so much pressure on ourselves that the book is intended to say, ask for help, take shortcuts, do what you can leave the laundry in the basket. If it’s not folded, it’s clean, have the kids go get the laundry in the basket, it doesn’t have to be folded and put away. I mean, taking that pressure off, really helps you enjoy life, enjoy the kids enjoy every moment when they’re younger, and just takes away some of that guilt and pressure that we sometimes put on ourselves.

Abhijeet:                      Oh, that’s wonderful. And I would highly recommend anyone listening to this, to actually grab a copy. Because if you’re a working mom, this is huge, because it gives you the ways you can actually address some of the stress in your life. And it kind of builds up because you feel guilty of not taking care of certain things, whether it’s work or life. And quite frankly, even as a dad, I found some of this to be useful. So thank you for that.

Sheila Jordan:               Yeah, and it’s called you’re not ruining your kids. That’s the name of the book. So thank you for that.

Abhijeet:                      Yeah, absolutely. With that, I do want to shift gears a little bit, we play a game on the show. It’s called favorites. And I’m going to ask you some rapid fire. And so I would love to know your favorite thing. And why do you like it? Right, so let’s start with your favorite app.

Sheila Jordan:               My favorite app from a work standpoint is now Slack. And the reason why it’s Slack is because it literally I think it’s gonna be the platform of the future. It does all the chatting. And all the people can have that persistent chats channels are important. You can have different channels and different groups that you want to have a conversation with. But I think they’re just beginning to explode micro services and applications within chat. So instead of you going somewhere else, you can begin to solve problems in Slack.

Sheila Jordan:               So like reset your password, for example, if you’re it’s time, I could use AI machine learning to send you a note to say, hey, it’s time to reset your password. While you’re in this little chat discussion or channel. Let’s hit reset right now and you can reset your password. So the whole notion of being able to be frictionless in consumer is now moving into the enterprise. And I think Slack is going to be a big winner in that deployment. Long term. Social apps I love all I’m very social. I’m on Facebook to connect with my family and friends, LinkedIn and Twitter for professional reasons. So I love all the social apps.

Abhijeet:                      Outstanding. Let’s move to your to the next favorites topic, which is your favorite book. And it could be fiction, nonfiction, business, anyone?

Sheila Jordan:               Well, of course, I’m going to say my book, you’re not ruining your kids. You should read it.

Abhijeet:                      For sure. And that’s double like for that. And the next one is your favorite quote.

Sheila Jordan:               You know, I think I’m really, really super active. And again, I feel obligated to make sure that I’m a role model, a positive role model for women, especially in STEM and people beginning their careers. And what I find is that, especially in my generation, younger women aren’t always nice to women. And I just think it’s ridiculous. I don’t know if it gets competitive. I don’t know if people are jealous. I don’t know what it is. But I have no tolerance for that. So I go back to Margaret Thatcher once said that there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help women. And I really believe that. We have to help each other.

Abhijeet:                      Totally, totally. That is such a profound and powerful statement. And I totally agree with that. Okay, next topic. And the last one is your favorite restaurant.

Sheila Jordan:               You know, I’ll have to say Tao, it’s in New York. It’s in Vegas. It’s in probably four or five places. It’s Asian cuisine, and they have just incredible sea bass. So Tao.

Abhijeet:                      Totally. Thank you very much. Yeah, that’s one of my favorites as well, I went to the one and in Vegas. And it’s really good.

Sheila Jordan:               It’s crazy good. And the atmosphere’s fantastic, too.

Abhijeet:                      Yes, they’ve got the like the large Buddha right in the middle. It’s so cool. Well, thank you for being a sport and playing the game. A couple more questions, Sheila. And, you know, as you navigated through your career journey, were there, you know, strategies, techniques that you picked up on the way, things that really helped you move forward? Would you like to share some of those with us?

Sheila Jordan:               It’s going to sound contradictory, but let me explain it. It’s be plan-full but be available. So what I mean by that is you, everyone that’s listening. You personally own your career. Don’t give your career to your manager, to your environment, to your work, to someone else. And don’t be a victim of your career. You own it, you get to decide what you want to do what you want to be where you work, you own that. Now, and so what I do, I’m a big I celebrate every holiday, I go over the moon with Christmas, and I love Christmas. But New Year’s I don’t celebrate in the traditional way. New Year’s I spent a time and it’s become a real practice with my family that we spend that time to do deep reflection like how’d the year ago, what am I proud of? What am I not proud of? What’s a do over? What do I want to be? What’s the perfect job for me? What do I want to do the next three years from now?

Sheila Jordan:               So it isn’t one year and it isn’t five, but I consciously make a decision. Every new year’s I go check, you know, what’s my goals for the next? What’s my job goal for the next three years? So let’s say that job is to like when I was at Cisco, I wanted to be a CIO. So okay, let’s think about what am I missing in my resume? One could say I didn’t have direct infrastructure experience at the time, I ran a lot of the apps and collaboration. But okay, I work for Cisco, an infrastructure company. It could be you know, one of the things when I first joined Cisco, I was terrified, terrified early in career on presenting.

Sheila Jordan:               And I knew when I got to Cisco, it was, you know, presenting was a competitive sport, like you had to get really good at it lights, camera, action, I mean, it was something expected of all executives. So what I would say is decide what your job is that you want to do in the next three years, do a really deep self assessment. So SWOT, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats on yourself. Share that with your trusted advisor who’s not your mom who loves you and loves everything about you, but someone that’s going to give you lots of feedback, and then decide how do I go fill those gaps. So for me, if I wanted to do if I wanted to do presentation skills, maybe I go join Toastmasters, or practice that if I don’t like finance and budgeting, maybe I become the treasurer of my church.

Sheila Jordan:               So look for ways to fill your gaps at work by taking on more responsibility or outside of work. So you always want to make sure that you’re doing something with a purpose and with a mission. So you’re working towards your plan. Now, this is where it’s going a little bit contradictory. But somebody inevitably in your career will see something in you that you don’t see in yourself. It’s happened to me four times in my career where they tap you on the shoulder and they say, I think you should go do this thing. Our first initial reaction, especially the women in the audience will say, Oh, my God, I’m not qualified, I can’t do that. There’s no way. Stop. Don’t do that.

Sheila Jordan:               Leadership is always looking for athletes and talent that they can move around and build and grow and develop. And so when someone asks you to do something that may initially feel outside of your comfort zone, you say yes, vigorously and go do it. So that’s where you’re available, it might not be on your plan, but it’s going to help you get to your end goal without you necessarily knowing it all. So that’s my advice on that be plan-full but be available.

Abhijeet:                      You have this process of reflection. And it is not only for you personally, but also family and also professionally. That’s a great tip right there. Also, I think this spirit of if somebody taps you on the shoulder and says, Hey, you should do this, because I think they’ve seen something in you that they think could be so much valuable to the company to the organization to the team. And you may not see it, because you may have some blind spots. And having that foresight and trusting that that feedback that yes, this is something that could open new doors. Yes, I may have like, seven of the ten things that are required out of that, and I will have to learn three things. But I think that’s totally something that’s part of someone’s like a growth plan and can grow into that role.

Sheila Jordan:               Right. Totally agree.

Abhijeet:                      That’s awesome. So are you do you have like a morning routine? Or things that you prepare? For example, you got a big meeting coming up with let’s say, a customer or stakeholder? Or you’re going to be a speaker somewhere? Do you have like certain routines that you go through to kind of prepare? Give us some of the Sheila Jordan secret.

Sheila Jordan:               So no, there is no routine in the world of a CIO, there are some days that, you know, I get the 5am there’s a P1 going on, or there’s, you know, a $20 million order to go approve. So no, there’s no routine in my job. What I will say, though, that I don’t take meetings lightly. So I think what happens sometimes is people let their calendar run them, versus you run your calendar. So what I do do on Sundays is I literally go on Sunday night and look at my next few weeks ahead.

Sheila Jordan:               And I think sometimes too, organizations get to a point that everyone wants to be in the room, and everyone needs to be part of every decision. And I actually think that’s counterproductive. So I’ll look at my calendar and say, if I got some members of my T team in a meeting, and the topic is something that they’re experts on, I don’t need to be there. I mean, I consciously look at Sunday nights and say, Where am I personally going to add a lot of value? And where do I give my team an opportunity to grow and develop that I don’t need to be there.

Sheila Jordan:               So you go and adjust that. And it’s amazing how much time you can free up by those things that you don’t really need to be in the room, let other people handle it or you know, it’s not that significant of an issue. So that’s one. The second is I think it’s really important that the meetings you do take that you do get prepared for it. Like so many meetings, you know, the topic of the meeting, to walk in cold and not know what the decision is or the issues are, or to not have an opinion about what your perspective is, especially if it’s contentious.

Sheila Jordan:               It’s a waste of everyone’s time. So when I know there’s a meeting going on, I like to be as prepared as possible, whether that’s a formal presentation, or, you know, I’m really, really excited about this one thing that I don’t really care about five other things. But this one issue, I got to make sure that the room understands my perspective, because it’s meaningful, and it’s going to have an impact on the company, making sure you think through that making sure that you think through that position you’re going to take, how you’re going to deliver that message matter sometimes. So I get really, really I spend time preparing not only for the big, big presentations and the big interviews, but for really important conversations I spend time preparing.

Abhijeet:                      Don’t need to be in every meeting, but in the meetings that you are going to be, being prepared, having a perspective, taking a position, addressing contentious topics, being prepared. I think that’s it’s huge. And I think a lot of people will take that away as one of the things that they can put into their daily schedules, quite frankly, and think about how they want to, you know, approach engaging their stakeholders in their next meeting.

Sheila Jordan:               The other thing the one more point on meetings, I’d like to just emphasize, to challenge everyone, if you are go to a meeting, and it’s a routine meeting and you go, let’s say you’ve gone now three times, and you haven’t spoken or added any value, you should ask yourself, do I need to be at that meeting? I mean, you think about the time you’re sitting at a meeting, just listening and observing. That’s not that for your own personal brand. That’s really not what you want to do is to listen and listen consistently and observe. You want to participate. So if you find yourself going in the same routine meeting and not having an opportunity to participate, then I would challenge yourself to say should I go to that meeting? Like maybe I’m more productive doing something else.

Abhijeet:                      Absolutely. Another great point. Sheila, thank you so much as we wrap up here. Where can one find you? If someone wants to send you a message? Someone wants to get in touch with you? How can they find you?

Sheila Jordan:               Oh, I’m super social. So Twitter and LinkedIn. For sure.

Abhijeet:                      Awesome. Sheila, this was such a fun and rich conversation. Sincerely appreciate your time. Thank you so much for being with us.

Sheila:                      Thank you. It was absolutely fantastic. I appreciate the questions. It was fun, and I loved the game!

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