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How the women behind our digital HQ forged their career paths

Wisdom and lessons from leaders who drive innovation at Slack and Salesforce

作者:Lauren Johnson2022 年 3 月 18 日绘图:Justina Leisyte

There’s a common misconception that successful people always have everything “figured out”— especially when it comes to their careers. This notion couldn’t be further from the truth. After interviewing several women leaders from Slack, Salesforce and Tableau who help drive our digital HQ, we’ve learned there’s no single road to success, and each route is filled with unexpected turns and avenues to explore. But here’s one thing our leaders have in common: When they see an opportunity to offer their unique skills and perspectives, they jump on it.

In the second of a series of three blogs honoring International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we introduce you to Christina Janzer, vice president of research and analytics at Slack; Leah McGowen-Hare, senior vice president of Trailblazer Community and engagement at Salesforce; and Jennifer Lagaly, executive vice president of sales at Tableau Americas.

These driven, resourceful women discuss how they’ve learned to recognize a good opportunity, find their passions in the workplace, advocate for themselves and others, and prioritize their family while creating a better product, a more pleasant workplace and a more equitable experience for millions of users.

The following interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.

How identifying a solution for a critical need made Christina Janzer an impactful research leader

Christina Janzer never saw herself working in customer service. But shortly after joining the workforce, she was offered a customer service position at Facebook, an attractive company at the time that was doing innovative things. She seized the opportunity.

She wanted to have a meaningful impact at the company, which prompted her to learn new skills, solve problems proactively and earn the trust of her colleagues. Eventually, she became a manager. Her work in customer service helped her better grasp the product and develop a deep understanding of its customers, revealing an opportunity for Facebook to be more proactive about understanding customer needs and pain points by investing in research. Janzer stepped up to the plate.

Christina Janzer, vice president of research and analytics at Slack

“One career coach told me, ‘Every day, you're making a decision to spend time away from your kids. So you better really love your job and you should have a high bar.’”

SlackVP of Research & AnalyticsChristina Janzer

“I just saw this opportunity, and I said, ‘Hey, I can do that. I will fill this hole,’” Janzer says. “I made the case that we should build a research team, and I got a lot of support because I had already proven myself to be valuable.”

These values have served Janzer throughout her career. “At Slack, even our most senior people get into the weeds,” she says. “Being a doer is one of the most important mindsets I’ve carried with me.”

How do you know when it’s time to make moves in your career or pivot?

I think you should take time to reflect on questions like, “Are you happy? Are you engaged? Are you thriving? Are you learning?” Everyone’s scorecard is going to be a little different, but it’s important to consider what matters most to you about work. For me, it’s when I’m learning and when I’m having an impact. When I feel like I’m not growing anymore or I could do the job in my sleep, those are indicators that it’s time to reflect on what I want from my career.

It’s also OK to have points in your career where you do want to go on auto drive, because that’s the right thing for your life, but assuming you want to progress, it’s important to keep an eye on whether you feel like you’re growing.

I’m a mom and have three young kids at home, so I’ve always felt the tug-of-war between my priorities. One career coach told me, “Every day, you’re making a decision to spend time away from your kids. So you better really love your job, and you should have a high bar.” I think about that point all the time, because it helps me consider whether I love what I’m doing and whether I’m getting everything that I want out of my job. I think it’s useful to have a scorecard of what matters to you that you can continuously reflect on.

What are some things people can do outside of work to build more trust in themselves and their strengths?

One is going through an assessment of what your strengths are. Whether it’s StrengthsFinder or Enneagram, there are so many exercises out there that help you explore who you are as a person and what your strengths are. Whenever I go through exercises like that, it gives me confidence in being able to articulate what I’m good at and why. And if you have the ability to work with a coach, I think that is very useful.

I think investing in your whole self is also important. It’s important to invest in the hobbies or things you do outside of work that help balance you as a person. I go for a run pretty much every day. That’s how I stay grounded.

How Trailblazer Community leader Leah McGowen-Hare overcame her inner critic and embraced her calling

Leah McGowen-Hare is a globally recognized Trailblazer Community leader, and she got there by marrying her software developer background with teaching and training. Once she started focusing on education, she realized she had a gift, and people started noticing and opening doors for her. But before that happened, she had to face one of the biggest obstacles in her life: her own self-doubt.

“I had this negative talk in my head saying, ‘Don’t think you’re going to come here being the top instructor like you were at PeopleSoft,’” she says, recounting her time when she joined Salesforce as a senior technical instructor in 2009. “‘Because you’re not. You’re just a trainer. You haven’t even developed in the cloud.’ Nobody was telling me this. It was all in my head. So I was like, ‘I’m going to need you to take several seats.’”

Leah McGowen-Hare, Sr. VP of Trailblazer Community & Engagement at Salesforce

“I believe we come into this world with all this greatness in us. We just need to nurture that.”

SalesforceSVP of Trailblazer Community & EngagementLeah McGowen-Hare

Six months into the job, she was one of Salesforce’s top instructors. The experience was validating. “I felt like it was what I was meant to do. I am meant to teach. I come from a family of teachers, so I can hang my hat up because I found my purpose in life: Let’s continue teaching.”

Can you share some of the strategies and tactics you’ve used to find your footing along your career path?

I’m grateful that I’ve been able to stay open to opportunities. I think part of it was working hard, always. You can never go wrong doing that. And having a heart that’s open because the heart feeds the mind, so when you’re really open to learning and seeing things differently, opportunities will come to you. But when you’re narrow and closed, then you won’t be able to see the opportunities that are being presented to you. So stay open and be OK with trying something new.

Leah McGowen-Hare and her family

What are some things people can do outside of work to build more trust in themselves and their strengths?

I think you have to learn to be still. Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m running, so my body’s just going, but really my mind is still. The way you connect there is through that inner voice, and you’ve got to quiet all of that other stuff. Building trust in yourself is getting to know yourself. People always talk about being authentic, but you can’t be authentic if you don’t know what really moves you.

Here’s a theory I have: Think about a flower seed. All it needs is the right environment so all that beauty can come out in a rosebush. I believe we come into this world with all this greatness in us. We just need to nurture that. So surround yourself with the right people. When you surround yourself with negativity, low-level thinking, that’s where you’ll dwell. But if you surround yourself with people who are really striving to get better and do better, and do some introspection work, you grow.

How “trade-offs” helped sales executive Jennifer Lagaly balance her career and family life

In 2002, Jennifer Lagaly spent a year traveling and living in Brazil and Chile. After returning to the U.S., her friend encouraged her to apply for a job at Salesforce, which was seeking new talent after the dot-com bubble burst. Lagaly was hired as an account executive at a time when there were only 300 Salesforce employees. Almost 20 years later, her tenure is going strong.

“I generally follow the mantra, love what you do, do it well and opportunities will come.”

Tableau AmericasEVPJennifer Lagaly

During her first four years at Salesforce, Lagaly balanced her burgeoning career with her growing family of five children, including twins. She worked from home part-time while her children were still young and then returned to the sales floor with the support of her husband, who became the children’s primary caregiver.

Over the next 13 years, Lagaly climbed from account executive to executive vice president. “It’s been an incredible ride,” she says. “I generally follow the mantra, love what you do, do it well and opportunities will come.”

What has been the trade-off, if anything, of stepping into a leadership role? Have you had to sacrifice anything in your personal life or compromise what you love doing in exchange for other responsibilities?

There have been many trade-offs, and choosing your trade-offs intentionally is one of the most important secrets to being able to “have it all.” For one, I had to trade off an always-clean house and kids with clean faces and matching socks. I learned to say no to my friends’ invitations, especially those who organized birthday lunches and gatherings during the day. Also, I didn’t make every game and concert, and my husband became the go-to to solve many of the kids’ issues.

I did focus on making the events and moments that mattered the most, and prioritized my time with my family. I have a great relationship with my husband and children, and I love what I do here at Salesforce. I’m also proud to be an example for my daughter and nieces, so they know they have options.

Since you used Slack as your digital HQ, we have to ask: How has Slack connected you to your people, tools, customers and partners?

Great timing! I just started a new role leading Tableau Americas. We are running a March Madness contest with the sales team on how to pitch the best one-minute video. We are using Slack to capture the videos, tag them with searchable categories, have the entire team vote on them and, of course, collaborate across teams. I can’t wait to use Slack in ways we haven’t before.

Like what you read? Check out the full series.

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