Invest in the time it takes to build a culture. In a competitive job market, it’s the little things that can make a difference in loyalty and retention. It doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. For instance, at Workspot (back in the days when we could be in the office), we have a drink cart with lights and music that gets rolled around the office for happy hours. It provided a great opportunity for people to gather and socialize.
Respect balance: I have found that people do their best work when they are allowed the space to balance work with the rest of their lives.
As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women Leaders in Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michele Borovac.
Michele brings 20+ years of marketing leadership to Workspot. She has deep experience building brands, generating demand and driving growth for technology companies. She is passionate about BtoB marketing and connecting the right technologies to the right people. As CMO, Michele continues to develop the Workspot brand, while ramping up marketing programs to further drive and support the company’s rapid growth.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Some of my engineering friends worked for Oracle, and they told me about an opportunity to interview for a position. Oracle’s onboarding program was fantastic for all new employees, and they gave me a chance to really dive into learning about the software. Since then, I was hooked. I found the technology fascinating and the pace exhilarating.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
I had taken a year off between my last role with a previous company to spend some time with my family, and when I was thinking about my next position, I interviewed with a number of non-profit organizations. The opportunity with Workspot was so compelling I couldn’t turn it down.
Workspot’s SaaS platform helps IT organizations provision cloud-based desktops for their employees for many use cases. When the pandemic hit, many our customers were able to transition their employees work from home in a matter of hours. We actually received tweets and emails from a number of our customer’s spouses — thanking us for keeping their loved ones safe. It’s been incredibly fulfilling to work for a company — still in tech — where we are really making a difference!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Early in my career, I had a healthy fear of public speaking (like many people). Just a few weeks into a new job at a very technical startup — we made tools for C++ software developers — I was tapped to do a roadshow with one of our partners. I literally memorized the presentation — which was printed on transparencies in those days that you put on an overhead projector. I was visibly nervous for my first presentation and was completely inexperienced at using the technology. After about 10 minutes into my presentation, a kind gentleman in the front row of the packed room whispered, “You should move to the right a bit, you are completely blocking the projection of your slides.” While I was completely embarrassed, I made my way through the rest of my presentation. From that point on, I made a point in every presentation to make sure I knew the material cold, and whenever possible I’d spend a moment in the room where I’d be presenting — just to make sure I had the lay of the land.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
In my first job at Oracle as an ‘Information Coordinator’, there were about 15 of us — all from great universities like UC Berkeley, Yale and Brown — and we would rotate through various parts of the company. This gave an interesting perspective, as most people we spoke with knew nothing of our educational backgrounds. Suffice it to say, make sure you treat people you meet in these roles with kindness and respect.
We were also given opportunities to temp in various departments to introduce us to many options and after 6 months, you were able to transfer into another role at the company. A common path for women with liberal arts degrees was to become an administrative assistant for one of the VPs.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
During my first job at Oracle, I was lucky to land a role with a boss who became a good mentor for me, giving me many opportunities to learn more about the business and helping me make my way into the tech space.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’m generally not a ‘quotes’ person. However, my grandfather, who I deeply respected, used to always say “How Sweet It Is.” He had a printed stamp he used to use to seal envelopes, but it was really a reminder to appreciate the positive in life. I’ve tried to take that to heart in both my personal and business life.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?
Workspot is a company offering a SaaS platform that delivers enterprise-class, desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) from the cloud. As aforementioned, our technology is instrumental to helping companies support remote work, providing highly scalable, low latency DaaS to facilitate the process of collaborating across geographic regions.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Workspot’s approach is unlike other DIY virtual desktop vendors as it is a SaaS solution — completely cloud-native — which delivers consistency across customers and global locations when it comes to performance, availability, security and operational simplicity. Since Workspot maintains control of all elements of our platform, we are able to quickly deliver the benefits of new innovations and features to all Workspot customers.
Workspot was designed to fulfill the complex requirements of enterprise organizations, including the ability to naturally plug-in to the existing technology investments IT teams have made for managing and securing the enterprise desktop software stack.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Workspot is constantly working to facilitate the process of remote collaboration for companies — including those in industries such as architecture, engineering and construction, which require heavy computing applications to operate. We recently expanded our platform to support multiple public clouds, giving our customers a broader range of options to deliver end user computing.
With this, Workspot continues to be key to supporting enterprises to continue operating effectively throughout the pandemic, and moving forward, opening to doors for these organizations to continue to work productively — from anywhere.
Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in more broad terms. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in Tech? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
One of the most important changes that needs to be addressed starts with education. While I found my way into technology, it was not the career I thought I would have or aimed to pursue when I went to college. I think the STEM programs that encourage girls to learn and succeed in science and engineering disciplines are critical and they are having an impact. I’m seeing many of my friends’ daughters are engineering majors in college right now. Additionally, those of us already in tech also must make an effort to actively support and encourage diversity in our industry.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?
Women face numerous challenges in technology (as with many other industries). Among these, access to the right education, compensation gaps compared to male counterparts, and having the overall confidence to contribute and compete in a male-dominated industry all continue to be prevalent barriers. I also think that women who have kids are under more pressure to balance being a parent with their work goals — and we need more women in leadership roles who understand this challenge. Progress is being made, but we still have a long way to go.
I’d encourage women to actively seek mentors and a support network when they do land a position in technology. There are independent organizations like Women in Technology, and Women in Revenue that can help with mentoring, networking and ongoing education.
What would you advise to another tech leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?
There is no right way to “restart your engine” but taking a step back and reflecting on your years of successive growth, what components were allowing your business to excel and how these have evolved since is a great place to start. The tech sector is certainly a dynamic one, and ensuring you are adjusting your approach to meet these changes is imperative to continued success.
Do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?
In my experience, it’s really about being an effective educator. If you can understand the steps most customers need to travel to buy your product, it becomes easier to create content that can simplify that journey. At Workspot, we have a customer success team that is second to none. They really become a trusted advisor to our customers — and they are instrumental to retention.
In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?
Again, education is key. If you’re able to get across how your product or service meets the business pain or point of improvement of a potential customer, the journey becomes simple. Being able to effectively communicate this relationship facilitates the process of attracting the right customers.
Based on your experience, can you share 3 or 4 strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?
Most important is to ensure a smooth transition from the sales process to post-sales — whatever that looks like for your customers. Make sure you have a customer support or success leader who is willing to go to bat for your customers and represent their voice in the company. It’s also important to have clear guidelines on how customers should reach out when they need help — make sure it’s spelled out clearly on your website, or on any materials that are included with your product. The last thing would you want is an unhappy customer stewing while they are trying to find help.
As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?
To reiterate, having clear guidelines on how customers can seek assistance quickly and effectively when needed is an essential component to ensuring they are happy. Clarifying these guidelines on your website and any additional materials is important to avoiding adding frustration to a customer who may be needing help or clarification with your product or service.
Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful tech company? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Hire great department leads and let them fill the more junior roles. Great people generally hire great people, and you’ll have a strong leader to guide them.
- Overcommunicate: This is even more important when people are working remotely. Be clear about company goals and make sure your team leads know how to communicate them as well.
- Invest in the time it takes to build a culture. In a competitive job market, it’s the little things that can make a difference in loyalty and retention. It doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. For instance, at Workspot (back in the days when we could be in the office), we have a drink cart with lights and music that gets rolled around the office for happy hours. It provided a great opportunity for people to gather and socialize.
- Invest in marketing: Many tech companies I’ve worked with start because the founders are visionaries with engineering backgrounds. They are brilliant people, but often marketing is not their forte. It’s important to recognize that investment is necessary to build a brand and kickstart demand.
- Respect balance: I have found that people do their best work when they are allowed the space to balance work with the rest of their lives.
Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Kindness. I know it may seem cliché, but if I could inspire people to think about how their actions might impact others, I think it would go a long way towards solving the other problems on our planet.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I would love to have breakfast with Michelle Obama. I would love to hear her perspective on our country, and planet, and understand her strategies for successfully juggling all of the many priorities she has.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!