“Why It’s So Important To ‘Not Box Yourself In’” with Nancy Mattenberger

Don’t box yourself in. There will always be a lot of people who will tell you why you can’t do something. Don’t listen. There is more than one path to success — in fact, taking and forging your different path is what makes it interesting and that is how you grow. Sometimes that also means […]

Thrive invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

Don’t box yourself in. There will always be a lot of people who will tell you why you can’t do something. Don’t listen. There is more than one path to success — in fact, taking and forging your different path is what makes it interesting and that is how you grow. Sometimes that also means taking a step back or sideways so you can re-invent yourself and launch a new career.

Asa part of our series about strong women leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nancy Mattenberger.

Nancy Mattenberger is Global Chief Customer Officer at Infor. She is responsible for working across teams to shape and ensure a superior experience for all customers. Previously, Nancy led the Asia Pacific, Japan & Middle East Services teams, advising customers on how to successfully roll out Infor industry cloud solutions on a global scale. She calls herself a global citizen, business outcomes focused and passionate about driving customer success.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Iwas born in Switzerland, but my father’s work took him to multiple posts around the world which means that I grew up in different countries around the globe. It certainly was an interesting international upbringing, and I then continued to move around and take on global roles throughout my career. Nowadays, I consider myself a citizen of the world, and home is wherever I happen to be living with my husband and two dogs.

This global background and experience, and the fact that I had to start from scratch with every move, did set me up well to handle change effectively and to push myself to continually evolve and take risks I might not have taken otherwise. It fostered in me a positive outlook that whatever life throws at you, you will come out of it stronger on the other end. I also have a genuine passion for connecting with people no matter their background or culture and have developed a good intuition and understanding of what makes people tick.

I had many interests before I landed in the tech industry, including journalism, media and languages. But what I really wanted was to tap into my international experience, so I joined a multinational company, working in their HR department. There I helped other expatriates and their families to successfully relocate to new countries and to adapt and thrive in new cultural environments.

I started my career in Tech when I joined PricewaterhouseCoopers to manage a team of HR information technology consultants in EMEA. Overtime, I discovered a passion for technology as a true enabler to allow businesses to transform and unlock their human potential.

I can say it’s been a fascinating journey. Over the last 20 years, I have held various leadership roles in Europe, Asia Pacific, and North America, at Kronos, and Oracle. Then, I joined Infor in 2014.

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

I took on the role of Global Chief Customer Officer in April — in the early stages of the pandemic. Understandably a lot of my focus has been on helping customers navigate these difficult and unprecedented times. In the early days we focused on helping customers with their business continuity plans and pressing needs to ensure they could continue to operate. In parallel we had to shift all of our employees to working from home while ensuring we maintained our service levels.

Even more importantly, we had to shift hundreds of customer implementation projects to a remote delivery model. This took a lot of planning together with our customers to transfer entire project teams to working remotely. Activities that would normally be carried out in person or on a whiteboard had to be remodeled so they could be carried out through Zoom or Teams. We spent time with every customer to work out a plan on how we would continue to run their project, providing guidance on how to perform tasks differently, online and, even for some of our less tech-savvy customers, this meant walking them through how to install and use conferencing tools such as Zoom, Teams or Webex. Thankfully, for us a tech company, we were already halfway there, and the pandemic just accelerated a shift of remote service delivery that was already happening in our company and in the industry. I am really proud of how our whole company and our customers embraced a whole new way of working.

It has indeed been fascinating to see how the pandemic has accelerated the rate of adoption of new technologies with companies embarking on complete digital transformation programs to diversify or just catch up with the competition. The innovation that is coming out of these challenging times is just mind blowing.

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 used to be self-conscious about my accent. Since I lived in so many places, it is really an odd mix of several accents and sounds very unusual. I could tell from people’s faces when I first met them and started talking that they were wondering where I am from and trying to figure it out. So when I first started out, I tried to change how I talked and tried to adopt the local accent so I would just sound like everyone else. It just ended up looking like I was trying too hard.

Thankfully, I realized I needed to stop focusing on how I sounded and just be myself. Now over time, people have even told me that because I have a different accent, they tend to concentrate more and pay more attention to what I say — which is all a bonus!

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?

At many points in my career I had guidance and support from many different mentors, not just one. But, having moved around a lot, support from my husband is one of the constants that I rely on. It is also essential since relocating to new countries means an upheaval for both of us and need to be both excited by it. We have always approached any career move as a partnership and we discuss openly what each new role will mean in terms of travel, his and my availability and the job’s constraints. Either we are both all in or we don’t do it. His support has been unwavering over the years and he is the backbone that has allowed me to get to where I am today.

In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?

I used to be one of those “last minute” people and believed I did my best work under stress. I usually managed to pull it off but, in the process, I would put myself under a lot of stress — especially when unforeseen things would happen! Nowadays, I really try and plan ahead and put in the effort to get really well prepared for important meetings. When I am feeling ready, I take a break from it and get some fresh air. Then, before the big event, I try and think of something nice or funny, as a smile or laugh is a great stress buster and it means you go into the meeting feeling relaxed. On an ongoing basis to manage my stress levels, I find it also really helpful to run outside, meditate, and get enough sleep. I am one of those people who re-energizes in nature.

As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?

Having a diverse executive team brings much needed different perspectives to the table. When problem-solving with a diverse team, you have access to different skills, different ideas and experiences, different cultures, and different ways of solving things. It opens up options and broadens the discussion and allows for more creativity to problem- solve and often leads to genuine innovative solutions. It is also more inclusive so the decisions you come to will gain a broader consensus once implemented.

Having a diverse executive team just makes sense. The world we live in is diverse, a company’s employees are diverse and that company’s customer base are diverse. It therefore stands to reason that to adequately lead and represent employees, you need diversity at leadership level, ensuring you are creating a working environment that is representative of the world we live in and genuinely inclusive.

So, diversity at executive level should be a given. Of course, having a diverse set of opinions at the table means that as a leader you need to accept that it may take more time to arrive at a decision and that you need to remain open minded, respect other people’s opinions, genuinely listen, and sometimes compromise. Ultimately it is well- worth the effort and leads to better well-rounded decisions, increased buy-in once implemented and all together better outcomes.

As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.

I think change starts at the top, and everyone needs to take accountability. You have to start with raising awareness and education. We all have unconscious biases, stemming from the environment we live in or how we were raised, and becoming aware of them and “un-learning” those biases is a personal growth journey we all have to take. There is lots of training out there available on un-conscious bias, much of it truly thought-provoking.

It then takes a collective, concerted daily effort to be inclusive and foster a “safe” environment where everyone feels like they can just relax and be themselves. It really saddens me when I hear stories about people saying they have one persona for work that they wear like a uniform and their true persona that comes out at the weekend. We need to work hard at creating an environment where people feel able and comfortable to bring their true, creative, and joyful selves to work.

One area I am also really passionate about is challenging myself and my colleagues when making hiring and promoting decisions to ensure we hire from under- represented groups. I also think we all need to take responsibility to mentor a diverse group of employees and get engaged in supporting young graduates from diverse backgrounds. I am the co-executive sponsor for Women’s Infor Network (WIN), one of Infor’s employee networks and also get engaged in various associations, to help promote inclusion and diversity. I have mentored many women and men along the way as well as young graduates and have found it incredibly humbling and rewarding to play a role in helping others to find their voice, nurture their skills. and confidently pursue their career goals.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

I think being a CEO or Executive is much more involved than what people think as you have to be across everything.

You often have to wear many different hats and get involved in decisions across the business — so the scope of the role is much broader and often more fluid. Your thought process also has to change. You need to think and take accountability for the success of the entire business, and you need to continually assess how you are executing against your company’s overall goals and vision, as well as be quick to adjust and change course where required.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?

Being in a leadership position does not mean that you have all the answers, it’s more about bringing all the right people together and breaking down barriers to get to the right solution. Also, being an executive isn’t a ticket to being liked by everyone, you will often have to set priorities that may not please everybody, and it’s a fine balance you must achieve. Finally, being a CEO or executive does not mean you only get to work on the “cool stuff”, you are involved in the whole business.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

I still find that many talented and successful women continue to battle against their ingrained habit of only speaking up or putting themselves forward when they are certain they know the answer or feel they are a 100 percent fit for a role. I share the same problem, especially when I am faced with new situations and have to remind myself why I deserve a seat at the table. This is interesting because I have observed that, as women, we are often also more open to embracing risks and taking on those big, meaty and tough challenges.

I also find that despite being great networkers, we as women somehow end up being less networked than men. We have to work harder at building up our networks to have access to information, support, and visibility into upcoming opportunities. It gets easier once you have built up your brand over time and you start to get known for a specific business ability. But, sometimes, it does feel like it takes us longer to get there.

I think the most important thing we can do is to take on new challenges, keep an open mind, and continue to be curious, to learn and to grow. Also finding a sponsor who can help amplify your story is key — doing all of this will translate into new opportunities coming your way.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

I have a broad role spanning from being customer-facing to leading numerous teams and initiatives across the company. A significant portion of my current role is being the advocate for our customers. I am spending more time than I thought I would be ensuring that our customers’ voices are heard, and that we continually improve our solutions and services as a result of that feedback. It is a big responsibility, and one that I take really to heart.

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

Be genuinely interested in your team and spend time getting to know them. Understand what drives them and what they are good at. You then need to play to everyone’s strength in how you allocate roles, responsibilities, and new projects but also take chances on people and give them stretch goals so they can grow and learn with your help and coaching. Reward results, not under-performance, and if you are always authentic and genuine with your team, they will take the feedback onboard and grow from it.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

On a professional front, I took my current role as Global Chief Customer Officer having some very specific ideas I wanted to enact. I want to make an impact on customers and help them achieve greater success. When companies are successful their employees benefit. My goal is always to create win-win situations –so that everyone benefits. This contributes to making the world a better place — one customer success story at a time.

On a personal front, I have been actively engaged in charities and various associations to support economic empowerment for under-privileged women or people with disabilities. I am now looking to do more and be involved at board level with a charity involved with the protection of the environment and sustainability as those are also two areas I am passionate about.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Don’t box yourself in. There will always be a lot of people who will tell you why you can’t do something. Don’t listen. There is more than one path to success — in fact, taking and forging your different path is what makes it interesting and that is how you grow. Sometimes that also means taking a step back or sideways so you can re-invent yourself and launch a new career.

Always embrace mentorship opportunities, the more diverse the better. Outgrowing mentors is normal. I connected with people from all walks of life and learnt something from each one of them. It’s easy to get stuck in one frame of mind, and you need to continually surround yourself with people who will challenge your thinking.

Start building up some board experience as early as possible in your career. You can do this by contributing on local committees and volunteering on advisory boards for charities you support. Not only is it great to be able to “give back” and help others and make a difference to worthy causes, you will also broaden your outlook, learn new skills, make contacts, and help advance causes that are close to your heart.

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

My favorite Life lesson quote is “Treat others with respect and the way you want to be treated!”. It’s very basic and advice I received as a very young child from my grandmother whom I admired greatly. She was a class act and treated everyone with the same curiosity and respect no matter what walk of life they came from.

I have lived by that advice ever since. I think being courteous and friendly to everyone has meant that I am very approachable which has led to really interesting encounters over the years. I truly believe you continue to learn every day, and sometimes from the most unlikely people and places.

We are very blessed that some very prominent 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

I would love to invite Roger Federer to lunch as, for me, he embodies true sportsmanship. On top of being truly talented, he is humble, approachable, down to earth and gives back a lot to the community and to charity. I would love to find out what his secret is and how at 39 years old, he has managed to stay on top of his game for so long and still be ranked as the World’s number 4. He must have some great stories on how he has overcome injuries and self-doubt and lined up a record breaking 20 Grand Slam titles.

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.