2020

B2B Technologists

Vanessa Porter

VMware

Hilary Headlee

Zoom Video Communications

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2020 Innovator Of The Year
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Vanessa Porter

Can you share any particular achievements you are most proud of in your current role? 

As the Director of Demand Gen, I’m proud of my team and our predictable demand gen program. My team is fantastic. They are the best group of people who care about their roles and impacting the organization. I believe in finding their strengths and figuring out how to maximize them. By doing that, they can grow and explore new marketing avenues. It is essential for me as a leader to create a “fail-safe” environment. I don’t want us to do the status-quo; instead, we must strive for better marketing and a more significant impact. Creating a team that trusts one another and feels comfortable speaking up is a cornerstone of our success. We cannot win if we are not transparent and honest with one another.

Of course, this will then lead to predictable growth. My team and I have created a demand gen engine, so you know a dollar in will create X dollars out. We have a 10.9X program ROI marketing contributed pipeline to total program investment despite having a 15% decrease in the budget this year. The team can do this because I set clearly defined campaign themes, and the team is encouraged to develop smarter programs. I remind the team that we aim to become a systematic machine, think creatively, leverage VMware’s scale and re-engage our marketable audience. We’ve improved the program efficiency and become the backbone of the department. When physical events stopped in February, everything turned to digital and I’m honored to lead a team that all marketing and sales functions can rely on.

Can you share any details about how your team, or individuals on your team, have helped drive innovation? How have you maintained your collaboration and innovation despite the current WFH reality? 

My team is composed of six extraordinary people. We are a matrix org comprised of buyer stage specialties, campaign focus and content. People work together across campaigns and stages to ensure we have one consistent voice in the market. This model encourages people to explore and push their teammates, creating the best campaign possible. What’s unique about this team is the ability to be both agile and predictable. I believe in process and that creating an environment where you have stability will foster innovation. We hold a planning meeting every six weeks to ensure we are looking forward and adjusting plans as we discover new findings. I encourage the team to be holistic marketers specializing in many disciplines, not just one. This mantra gives fresh perspectives and encourages the team to seek new technologies and ways of doing something. We regularly meet with our vendors and attend marketing events. The belief is you can only create the best marketing ecosystem if you know what’s out there. My team has a growth mindset to push B2B marketing and make it more human-to-human marketing.

WFH has enabled this more so. Before, we had folks located in two locations: Boston and Palo Alto, and cross-collaboration between the two locations seemed hard. You would have folks in two different conference rooms, and it felt like West vs. East. Now, we have team members worldwide (we’ve added Texas and Canada to the roster), and since we’re all remote, it places us all on the same playing field. That gives people more confidence to speak up and makes attending conferences and webinars even easier. My team can do more and is more connected than ever.

In the midst of Covid-19, what are some lessons you’ve learned that will impact or influence the future of your work?  

Covid-19 has been a good reminder that the only person who matters is the customer. As marketers, we need to get in our buyer’s shoes and see the world from their POV. Do they have time now to read white papers? Are they more suspicious of an email (phishing is a big thing for our security buyer)? Are they tired of webinars? How is Covid-19 affecting the topics they care about? When you put the buyer first, your marketing evolves to reflect that. We’ve been able to do this and reflect on what our audience wants and needs.

Additionally, building processes and planning for scale help during turbulent times. Because the demand gen team created programs that could scale, we could absorb last-minute funding and get a predictable ROI. That’s why you put in the work before a problem, to make your life easier when you need it. Which brings me to another important lesson: work-life balance. I’m a big believer in creating balance in our lives. Work is a massive part of my life and my team’s, but it can’t be everything — mainly when my work life is now in my home. Folks need to take space and even days to recharge. I never expect anyone to answer an email after hours. Or be inflexible about moving a meeting because something with life comes up. I encourage the team to take our 1×1 via phone if they need fresh air or be comfortable to let their kids be on camera. By creating both a life and a fail-safe work environment, people have the tools to succeed.

What sources for inspiration help you stay excited and invigorated in your work?   

My teammates. OK, I know that sounds corny, but it’s true. There are so many smart people at VMware and within our Security Business Unit. I find that figuring out who does what and what everyone’s strengths are to be exciting. VMware is in the middle of a marketing transformation, and I can’t wait to be a part of it!

Thank you to my amazing team: Darius Eslami, Brooke Leslie, Gabrielle Williams, Jackson Larango, Sameen Jiwani and Sheida Azimi. And thank you to all the others (you know who you are) who support and collaborate with the DGEN team!

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Hilary Headlee

Zoom is all about keeping businesses and people connected. With the COVID-19 crisis, however, this mission took on a new level of imperative. The company had been in high-growth mode for the past several years. And as Zoom’s business evolved, the operations team, led by Hilary Headlee, recognized it needed systems that could scale with this growth and be nimble in the face of changing market conditions and new corporate initiatives. Zoom needed an automated lead-management system that could help the company quickly scale to keep up with its rapid growth, and LeanData was the company’s top choice.

By adopting LeanData’s solution for lead-to-account matching and routing, Headlee and the team were able to meet unprecedented demand for Zoom’s services, allowing the organization to scale its lead-management systems and processes with the speed and agility needed to respond quickly to the businesses, schools and individuals when they needed it most.

Can you share any particular achievements you are most proud of in your current role?

Like many companies, Zoom has faced a “new reality” the past few months in 2020: We were all sent home to do our work, during a global pandemic and without weeks of notice to plan accordingly. We were also helping to connect the world during the pandemic to their family, friends, school, work, church, hospitals and more.

During this time, Zoom did see an unprecedented demand for our services to support families, friends, schools, businesses, governments, hospitals, churches and more. Almost overnight, our focus shifted and all that mattered was three things: Getting all leads responded to as soon as possible, all orders provisioned for access immediately, and our revenue team informed on the changes to make that happen. On good days, this can be tricky, with such an increase in demand and delivery timeframes, it tests your processes, your systems, your communication, and your change management effectiveness.

Even though we were helping and that is a positive feeling, it was stressful at the same time. I would share the following with my team during some tough moments: We can untie, or we can unite. And every day, we chose to keep uniting and keep helping connect the world. For that, I am most proud of not only my own team, but of every team we partnered with to just keep going.

Can you share any details about how your team, or individuals on your team, have helped drive innovation? How have you maintained your collaboration and innovation despite the current WFH reality? 

One of the positive challenges from having so many more and new customers, meant we had more and new problems to solve and also more and new questions to answer. What I mean by that is, no one had the “answer key” or prior experience on how to do what we needed to do. We were in unchartered waters and this meant that all ideas need to be shared to solve the problems we were facing.

Innovation can be stifled by many things, but we quickly shifted our focus to having ultimate teamwork and trust. Though the clock was against us, we also knew the impact of not solving the problems could impact so many people who needed Zoom. Every day, we would have new problems to solve and we would toss out ideas, bat them around, turn them away, bring them back again, turn them down again, start over and so on … until we could greenlight them — sometimes all in the same call. We always anchored on being honest because there was no time to waste, but always with care, our core value at Zoom.

Much of our team was already in different locations and as such, meetings were always on Zoom before WFH. After we were all at home, it shifted the dynamics to just being in the same size square in a Zoom meeting window. (Ha ha!) What we dialed up was our written collaboration; shared documents to ideate and execute on items. We also use our own Zoom Chat to communicate; it ranges from formal items like critical announcements and updates to GIF wars on what’s the funniest.

In the midst of Covid-19, what are some lessons you’ve learned that will impact or influence the future of your work?  

While I want the pandemic and sheltering-in-place to end, these past few months have been such an overwhelming reminder that (1) customers matter more than anything, (2) teamwork is powerful, (3) good communication is tough, but so key and (4) kindness really, truly matters.

Zoom has always anchored around delivering customer happiness and these past few months are no different. When we ground ourselves around “what do customers need,” it becomes clearer and more quickly on what we need to do for our frontline teams.

Teamwork should be easy, but it can be hard. Leaning in with your team and asking for help can be hard, but it is always worth it. You really can accomplish more, do it faster and better together.

Effective communication is one of the hardest skills to master; not only making sure it resonates but is even read by your teams during such busy times. Finding a way to cut through the noise is critical and best topped off by listening to the changing needs around communication.

It’s a really tough time right now for so many reasons. An extra minute before starting a meeting to see how folks are doing, or to all get water, or even to take some deep breaths (we have done a two-minute mediation on our team before a big meeting) can be simple ways. We have employed “Thank You Thursday,” where we reach out to our interlock teammates who are making a difference. Softening up a chat with an emoji can even go a long way for folks to “hear” you in this typing world.

If anything, getting back to basics has been the best way to keep going in the tough times: Customers first, collaborate, communicate and care.

What sources for inspiration help you stay excited and invigorated in your work?   

Internally, we have a “Women At Zoom” employee resource group and it has been so powerful to connect while we are all at home. We share stories, learn from other experiences, present on superhero powers and simply understand the strengths we bring to the table as women. It has been a true lifeline during this time.

LinkedIn is always a source of inspiration: Such great new content and ideas are coming out every day it seems. The quantity and quality of the operations communities popping up has been amazing as well. Reading solid publications like HBR and listening to SaaS podcasts also help keep the ideas flowing on what to do or how to view things. And just old-fashioned conversations with other operations leaders at companies has been rejuvenating. You can compare notes on problems, learn new ways of how they do things and just find commonality that is sometimes needed in a smaller discipline.

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