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Tara Ryan, on why you need to be your own brand in order to be taken seriously and succeed

Be Your Own Brand. Brands are consistent, trusted, stand for something and last through time. Can you own your own brand? Can you protect your brand reputation, even in today’s fleeting social, mobile world? If you want to be taken seriously and succeed, define your own brand and live it. I had the pleasure of interviewing […]


Be Your Own Brand. Brands are consistent, trusted, stand for something and last through time. Can you own your own brand? Can you protect your brand reputation, even in today’s fleeting social, mobile world? If you want to be taken seriously and succeed, define your own brand and live it.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Tara Ryan, chief marketing officer at Swrve. Tara has over 25 years of experience and success in global marketing for technology businesses and has driven fast growth for multiple SaaS, IPO and public companies. Most recently, she was CMO at rapidly growing startup, Skuid. Ryan works with executives and board on planning, creation and execution of global branding, communications, sites, field programs, public relations, investor relations and demand generation. She was recently named one of the Top Women Leaders in SaaS by the SaaS Report.


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

I started off my career in advertising, and one of the clients we had at an agency was Liquid Air, an industrial gas company. I put print ads in all kinds of publications, like Oil and Gas Journal, manufacturing and even farming magazines. Oracle really liked that I knew SIC codes and how to advertise to industries or verticals. My job at Oracle started off my career path in technology marketing.

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

Skuid is the leading no-code application platform, and it is based in Chattanooga, Tenn. I have been amazed at the innovation outside of Silicon Valley and the focus on relationships and trust with customers that seems to have gotten lost along the way in high-growth startups. I took a total leap when I joined Skuid, as it was an unknown brand, and I did not know the investors and other executives. It has blown my mind to see what some of the world’s largest enterprises are doing with no-code and low-code application customization in front- and back-office business processes, such as Baker Hughes, a GE company; Intuit; Wells Fargo and so many more. I call it the do-it-yourself enterprise, but I think we are onto a huge shift in software, and I found it in Tennessee!

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?

I placed a full-page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal, and the CEO’s name was misspelled in the ad. Someone walked past my desk and told me I should probably pack my things. I called this man’s office and let him know what happened and profusely apologized, owning up to it all. By the time I had come back from lunch that day, there was a HUGE gift basket on my desk from that CEO, Ed McCracken at SGI. I learned a valuable lesson in honesty and integrity that day!

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

My company name, Skuid, stands for Scalable Kit for User Interface Design. It is a very human-driven way to look at business software as anyone can use it to adjust or build their own applications without being a software developer. You can use Skuid to do things that usually cost thousands of dollars, if not millions, and that makes it stand out.

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

I think we will see a time when all people will treat and use business applications the same way we use consumer ones in our personal lives. We will track our department’s success, sales, customer services, etc. the same way we download songs, buy groceries and pay bills. BYOD and consumerization of business applications have been trending topics for some time now, but Skuid is allowing companies to do this in a way they weren’t able to before. With Skuid, businesses around the world are aligning people and process to create software that lets teams and individuals thrive.

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

Don’t lean in, and don’t lean out. Just stand up straight, and be proud of the person you are. Be positive, and be the solution. It will be infectious. Try to create career placements and successes that are ahead of where you currently are in your career. I always try to work with my team members on their own career path. I ask them to write their resume for three or five years from now and bring it back to me.

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

Make sure you have the tools to manage a large team. I got a master’s in leadership from a school of psychology, and after those two years, I had some specific tools for dealing with and managing cultural diversities, change management, scenario building, etc.

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?

Zach Nelson noticed me and opened doors for me at Oracle, Network Associates, or McAfee and Netsuite. He would introduce me to people and then let me grow by working with those people. Mostly though, it was the people that worked on my team that helped me succeed. My success is a direct result of the teamwork below me. Nicole Romoli and Steven Liao have worked with me since the late ’80s, and we still lift each other up, and they put my ideas into action.

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

I am a woman who has succeeded in technology. That in and of itself tells other young women they can achieve the same level of success, or more, in the future, with less discrimination and pay discrepancies, and more open doors because I am pushing boundaries for them. That is my contribution to the business world. I have been able to use my success to carve out an amazing personal life, become a mother, and laugh often with family and friends — that is pure goodness. My goodness is also an insistence on mind-body-spirit approaches to everyday corporate life. Someday soulful goodness will permeate all corporate life.

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

  1. People and groups are only as good as they are managed. Investment and time pays off, but you need to put in the hard work and roll up your sleeves with people and groups. Real and authentic involvement is a must.
  2. Check your pride at the door. Humility goes a long way.
  3. Pick your battles and win the long game. Think of the company as a game board of Risk. You need to move into new territories and fortify them before moving on and make sure you focus on areas where you see the wins. No one gets to conquer the world.
  4. Will you wake up and remember that person in 5 years? Often people are bothered by people, politics and dynamics within a department and company. I ask them to make it relative to our life or career as a whole. I remind them that, literally, I can’t remember some people that I know I lost a lot of sleep over years ago.
  5. Stay in your lane, or “your problem or mine?” I always ask people to stay away from the “adopt a problem program.” When people dig into issues and problems in meetings or programs that aren’t actually part of their job or responsibility, we enter a zone of unproductivity. This can happen a lot in sales and marketing. For every hour a salesperson is focused on marketing, they are not selling and vice versa.

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. 🙂

Be Your Own Brand. Brands are consistent, trusted, stand for something and last through time. Can you own your own brand? Can you protect your brand reputation, even in today’s fleeting social, mobile world? If you want to be taken seriously and succeed, define your own brand and live it.

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

Good work stands on its own. Great work does not require attention because it garners its own. You won’t need to tell your boss about your accomplishments if your work can do that for you. Focus on the work and put your efforts there as the work is tangible, lasting and gives back.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I like to speak in person and share what I like on Linkedin. I try to be the same person in personal life as I am in business so folks will see what I get passionate about — other people, dogs, clarity, beauty and progress.

Thank you so much for these inspiring insights!

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