Samantha Zupan of Glassdoor: Why It’s Important To Maintain An Insatiable Curiosity

Maintain an insatiable curiosity. To me, this means always asking the open questions and ensuring I have clarity on what has happened or could happen. To be an effective communications leader, you need to have a strong understanding of what’s at play so you can do your job well on behalf of the company. As […]

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Maintain an insatiable curiosity. To me, this means always asking the open questions and ensuring I have clarity on what has happened or could happen. To be an effective communications leader, you need to have a strong understanding of what’s at play so you can do your job well on behalf of the company.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Samantha Zupan, Glassdoor’s senior vice president of corporate communications. Samantha is responsible for the company’s corporate communications strategy, overseeing a team that includes public relations, executive and internal communications, economic research, government affairs as well as community relations. She is a member of the company’s executive leadership team, and serves as an executive sponsor for Glassdoor’s Women at Glassdoor and Pride employee resource groups. Samantha helped launch Glassdoor out of stealth as a consultant in 2008 and joined the company as its first in-house communications lead in 2010. Before Glassdoor, she held roles at global communication and public affairs agencies specializing in technology, healthcare, travel & hospitality, retail, real estate and more. Samantha holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Samantha! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

What brought me to my career path was a love for the art and impact of language, verbal and non-verbal. I have always had a love of storytelling, and seeing how a story can come together to accomplish a certain goal, whether it’s to help cheer someone up, to inspire or to create a change in behavior.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

There have been a lot of great moments during my leadership at Glassdoor. As of late, I’m particularly proud of how the company has come together to leverage the power of the platform we all support to help job seekers and employers amid COVID-19 as well as to fight racial inequities. Without a doubt, 2020 has been an unforgettable year and employees have united across the company to support the greater good through the power of our company and our product.

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?

An early lesson I learned was that I need to make sure I’m truly comfortable in all ways in order to bring out my best for the job at hand. When I started my career, I interned at a public relations and digital marketing agency in San Francisco and part of the job required me to visit stores throughout the city to get the latest magazine or newspaper where a client was featured. While I worked hard to dress for the job I wanted and to look professional, I quickly realized that a great pair of stiletto heels were not helpful to getting the job done nor did they help me to look professional later on in the day as I painfully hobbled through the office with some very sore feet. My takeaway: Don’t overlook the little things (like shoes!) when it comes to your overall success on the job.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Glassdoor has a very compelling mission: To help people find a job and company they love. Through the power of transparency, job seekers gain valuable insights to help them navigate their careers. There have been countless stories throughout my time at Glassdoor that have been incredibly motivating, whether it’s a story of a young individual trying to find their first job, or a person far experienced in their career looking to ensure their next employer offers an environment where they can truly thrive.

In parallel, Glassdoor not only aids job seekers; employers too gain useful perspectives as to what is working at their company and what is not. In the early days of Glassdoor, there were some employers not sure what to make of the company reviews and ratings on the platform — this kind of transparency about their company had never been so open for all the world to see. Fast forward to today where we find employers hungry for insights about their employee sentiment. so that they can invest in the great aspects of their company and address any areas that need work. Glassdoor has made workplace transparency the norm and in turn created greater accountability among employers.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Glassdoor is deeply invested in bringing greater transparency to employment with the goal of helping people find a job and company that is a great fit. One particular project we are focused on is around diversity and inclusion. The project involves helping Glassdoor as an employer get stronger in regards to its own diversity and inclusion, while at the same time developing its product so that countless others gain valuable insights into the diversity and inclusion efforts of organizations worldwide.

What advice would you give to other female leaders. to help their team to thrive?

Constantly invest in creating valuable business opportunities that inspire, empower and help add to the career experience of each individual on the team.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Be clear on what the priorities are for the team, why they matter and repeat the what and the why often.

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?

There have been many great people who I have learned from — people who have been at varying stages in their careers. The key has been creating an open and safe space so that each person has felt comfortable enough to give me honest feedback throughout our working experiences. In addition, it has required that I continually work to listen and understand the feedback provided to further learn and develop in my career.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Each opportunity I have had in my career has, in turn, created a chance for me to give back and consider how I can be a better partner, advocate, ally, supporter. As a partner to those I work with, I have worked hard to create a working environment that helps to bring out their best and hopefully enjoy the work at hand at the same time. As an advocate and ally to underrepresented groups, I use my voice and our platform to increase awareness around their needs and wants to help drive positive change. As a supporter of the people that use the platforms and businesses I represent, I use my experience and resources to help ensure we deliver meaningful value.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Maintain an insatiable curiosity. To me, this means always asking the open questions and ensuring I have clarity on what has happened or could happen. To be an effective communications leader, you need to have a strong understanding of what’s at play so you can do your job well on behalf of the company.

Be adaptable…within reason. Adaptability is critical as businesses experience significant growth and face any internal or external headwinds. However, it’s important to know when to draw the line and stand firm on your opinions.

Follow your heart. I fully believe you need to be equally passionate about the work itself and the business or organization you represent. You’ll be a stronger and more authentic business leader if you genuinely care about what you do and who you do it for.

Trust your instincts. Whenever I have veered away from what my instincts were telling me, I never delivered as well as I knew I could. If you’re in a position to make decisions, remember that you’re in that position for a reason. Your instincts have credibility too.

Never stop learning. To me, the best leaders are those that are committed to growing and gaining new experiences, pushing their boundaries. When I stop learning, I stop enjoying the work I do and in turn, I don’t deliver good work. That doesn’t help anyone.

You are a person of great 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. 🙂

Trust your worth. I think a lot of people underestimate what they bring to the table and the value of what they bring. I think there are a lot of great ways to build confidence and would like to help all those who could benefit from a boost in their work and personal lives.

Can you please give us your favorite. “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One step at a time. Whether I have a new complex project at work or I’m navigating through the new normal brought on by COVID-19, I get past a sense of feeling overwhelmed by reminding myself to take things one step at a time. This mental mantra helps me break down a project and helps me to keep focus on the things that are within my control.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment 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 🙂

Good question: I’d have to balance this with my love of food and my love of fitness. On the food front, I’d love to spend time with Ina Garten. She’s a phenomenal cook, and has made a career out of doing something she loves in life — what could be better than that! On the fitness side, I’d love to spend time with Peloton CEO John Foley. I’m an avid Peloton user and would love to learn where they’re investing because I love the power of this fitness community.

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