Back then I knew little about software technology but I did know a fair bit about client services. During that flight I learned that Evident’s customers were Fortune 500 companies, and client support was more an afterthought. Like so many companies they were more focused on sales, but a substantial portion of their revenue came from their existing customers. Not long after that flight I had accepted a job offer with a unique challenge creating an entire Client Services Division.
A couple years later and shortly after 9/11 I was married and we decided that we wanted to live closer to our families in Massachusetts. I was offered a position running business development at a start-up company called GeoTrust which sounded very promising. It involved streamlining the SSL Certificate process from a very manual 5-to-7-day process (involving) encrypted info on the web just as the web was gaining traction and sites were multiplying – and changed it to a 10-minute self-serve, automated process. They hired me to better understand and develop the market and within six months I was asked to lead world-wide sales, too.
Leading sales was a natural progression for me and I could not resist the challenge. My Client Services experience brought a unique customer focused approach to both the sales and partnership process. While we rapidly grew sales in North America, I was able to drive our international expansion by forming strategic global partnerships in Europe and Asia. Within a couple years I was running global sales and distribution, client services and customer loyalty.
When we acquired a company in Germany in 2005, I was asked to lead the integration as Managing Director. It was a fantastic opportunity and challenge to take the helm of a foreign company in a foreign country and integrate a culture alien to theirs into daily business with success. Those several months were an incredible and rewarding education unto itself.
Within six months of my family’s move to Germany, GeoTrust, was acquired by our largest competitor, Verisign and we returned stateside.
I was good at defining distribution and retention strategies that I then executed, but after GeoTrust, I wanted a more innovative and strategic role. Since I had extensive experience in distribution, Fidelity hired me to define its branch technology strategy. Two years later, I was asked to define and execute their desktop and CRM strategy. Shortly afterwards, I was promoted to Senior VP with expanded responsibility to include personalization and representative mobile platforms.
When I talk to women inside and outside my organization, they ask me to talk about juggling family and work. It might be people I worked with in the past who call and say there’s someone who has a similar experience as mine who they want me to connect with At work, several of my peers have asked me to mentor some of their female leaders, either in long-term relationships or one-off situations. Often my experience resonates with them. It’s a great feeling and very fulfilling to be a mentor. In the business world, with maturity you see things more clearly than when you were younger. With young women, I’m able to help them identify things they don’t even know are on their horizon. I’ll help advise them and give them what it took me a long time to learn. If they are ready for mentoring (and sometimes they are not) hopefully they’ll learn through some of what I share and that sharing will lead to a stronger, more successful, and balanced leader.
Why an EMBA now? I had actually started an MBA program 10 years ago and took a few classes. Unfortunately that institution was not right for me. I was neither impressed with the curriculum nor the instructors, finding it hard to engage. Feeling it a true waste of time I chose not to continue. However, my desire to learn was still strong.
Ironically I have had many mentors who have told me that I don’t need an MBA (most of them held MBAs themselves). They counseled that was at a point in my career where my work experience exceeded the need for it. While that may have been true for my career growth, the reason I wanted it was for my own development – you are never done learning and you can always improve. Another driver was my daughters, whom I felt this would hopefully inspire them and help them understand that learning is a life-long process.
I was ready to commit to a program, but only if I could go to an institution that would rigorously disrupt my thought process and my approach to problems. That is when I heard about the MIT Sloan EMBA program. I researched the curriculum and spoke with current students and finally I attended a one day sample session where I sat through a few classes and met many other candidates. I knew that day the MIT Sloan EMBA was the right program for me: engaging professors, respectful administration, fantastically talented potential students and a rigorous program that would challenge me well beyond my comfort zone.