It’s Us and Us, not Us and Them. There is a lot of paranoia in the business world, and an assumption that in order to get ahead, you have to remain highly self-interested, oftentimes at the expense of others. I’ve found that seeking mutually beneficial outcomes for all involved brings more success. Instead of worrying that investors will screw you in a negotiation, assume that they really want you to succeed. Consider your customers part of your team, and do the things to help them be successful. Viewing opportunities from this lens bring about more empathy, understanding, and ultimately better relationships and outcomes.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacey Epstein, the CEO of Zinc. Stacey has extensive experience in generating demand, fueling growth, and building brand name global recognition for technology companies. She brings decades of cloud, social, and mobile enterprise technology experience to her role as CEO of Zinc. Prior to Zinc, Stacey was Chief Marketing Officer at ServiceMax where she helped fuel 5 consecutive years of triple-digit growth leading to a $1b acquisition by GE in 2017. Before ServiceMax, Stacey was the Vice President of Global Marketing Communications at SuccessFactors. Stacey pioneered the marketing function at SuccessFactors in 2005, and was instrumental in the company’s successful IPO in 2007, which led to a $3.4B acquisition by SAP in 2010. Prior to SuccessFactors, Stacey held leadership roles at Oracle, Clarify, and ServiceSource. Stacey holds a BA in English from Emory University, where she was a four-time first team all-conference soccer player. She loves deep steep powder, chasing around her two young daughters, and cheering loudly as her husband coaches basketball. She frequently writes on leadership, innovation, and women in business for Inc, Fast Company, and BizJournals, and her contributions can be found at staceyepstein.com
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 coached soccer camps and waited tables through college, but my first “real” job was as an admin to an admin at Oracle, back in the early 90s when few people knew what Oracle was. I thought I wanted to be a sportscaster and needed a job to pay the bills while I applied to grad school for broadcast journalism. I certainly never thought I’d have a corporate job, much less in high tech, but once I got inside and saw how dynamic the industry was, and how many great opportunities existed, I was hooked. I stayed 6 years at Oracle and cut my teeth in several go-to-market focused jobs including marketing, sales, and alliances. From there I went to my first startup and started moving up the ranks. The rest is history!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Every day at Zinc is interesting to me. When you rise through the ranks of a function, as I did with Marketing, you are exposed to the workings of that department. By the time you are CMO, you have a great understanding of every aspect of marketing. When you move into a CEO role, you can’t possibly have experienced everything. Suddenly you don’t just own the marketing budget, you are running finance. Oh, and you’re running every other function as well. This makes for challenging, but very interesting opportunities to learn each day. For me, the most interesting was raising our first round of funding. I had been part of the fundraising process for numerous rounds both at SuccessFactors and at ServiceMax, but my part had been the marketing part — working on the pitch deck, talking about the go-to-market strategy. Never had I been the one handling the entire process, including the negotiations. I’m no dummy, but I remember being on the phone with investors and lawyers and obscure investment terms coming up that I’d never heard of. The last thing I wanted to do was admit to the group that I didn’t know what they were talking about. But knowing that I may make a decision that had lasting implications. I had to check my ego at the door, and simply ask for a detailed explanation of what the term meant. Now that I’m three years in, these moments of “I’m not dumb, I’ve just never experienced that before” happen much more rarely, thankfully!
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?
When we were launching Zinc, of course, we needed a website. Zinc.com wasn’t available, but Zinc.it was, and it was perfect. A zinc is a message or conversation and we wanted the term to become a verb. “Send me a zinc,” and “Zinc it to me,” are common phrases in our world now, so zinc.it or “Zinc It!” is a great URL for us. The funny part is that literally hours before launching we had a hiccup with our registrar demanding to know our address in Italy. Of course, .it is the domain for Italy so they assumed we were an Italian company. It didn’t seem funny at the time, but we got it straightened out in the nick of time. Still today I’ll get emails or messages in Italian due to our domain name. Hopefully, we’ll have a customer there soon, and maybe even an address someday!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
At Zinc, I think what sets us apart from others is our unique and focused commitment to the “deskless worker.” The deskless workforce are the people who don’t sit in an office or at a desk staring at their computer screen. They are service technicians, hotel workers, and retail staff who are always mobile and there are estimated to be around 2.6 billion of them worldwide. Zinc empowers this workforce with access to a best in class real-time communications platform. One of our customers, DISH, recognized that in order to exceed customer expectations, speed and efficiency are everything. As DISH teams expanded into markets, they are constantly on the lookout for the latest technologies and customer-centric solutions. In order to power real-time connections between field teams working on DISH as well as Samsung, Amazon and Best Buy products, and office-based support teams, DISH turned to Zinc’s All Mode Communication Platform. Today, DISH’s thousands-strong service team uses Zinc to share information, send alerts, and get real-time answers so they can deliver the best quality service. At DISH, success doesn’t just happen — it takes the right connections, powered through Zinc.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Some of the exciting new products that we are working on include Hotline Groups, Broadcasts, and User Properties.
Hotline Groups is a new, simple yet efficient method for employees in the field to quickly and effectively find the help they need to solve problems and move a job forward. Built into Zinc’s All Mode Communications platform, Hotline Groups empowers deskless workers to instantly locate and communicate with designated experts on any designated topic or focus area. Desk support users can easily pull in additional experts in one click so collective knowledge can be tapped to resolve an issue.
For our Broadcasts feature, we are rolling out some new updates that include scheduling broadcasts in the admin console to be sent at a later date, adding an image or video to a broadcast, and sending a broadcast to a group based on user properties, i.e. sending a broadcast to everyone with the title “Regional Manager” or location “San Francisco.” Broadcasts are one way messages sent to teams from an administrator to communicate important information such as safety alerts, updated instructions or company communication. Similar to a Push notification, Broadcasts pop up directly onto users’ mobile devices so teams can easily receive the information they need and continue to work. On desktop, Broadcasts will show up directly on the Zinc screen. Broadcasts are limited to 30 characters in the title and 300 characters in the body.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
In my early days, women were encouraged to think, act, dress like a man in order to succeed. The more you could emulate masculinity and blend into the male-dominated workforce, the better chance you had at success. The world has changed, and we are finally waking up to the fact that many traditionally “feminine” traits like empathy and nurturing can be very powerful in the workplace. I thought it was incredibly well articulated in this article, Why Women CEOs Have a Competitive Advantage. So my advice is, don’t wear suits unless you want to. Don’t attempt to be anything but authentic, and embrace the fact that some of your unique traits won’t hold you back, in fact, they might be key to your success.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
In addition to embracing who you are and being authentic, I think talent and hiring great leaders are number one. I made the mistake of assuming I could directly lead and manage much more than I was actually capable of. I had been a successful CMO, so I assumed I could prioritize hiring strong leaders in other functions and manage marketing myself. Marketing ended up suffering from a lack of leadership because I was way too consumed in other areas. To manage a large team, you have to have strong leadership under you in *every* function. This is, of course, true for men and women!
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?
Of course. I’ve had many mentors throughout my career, but the standout was Dave Yarnold, former CEO of ServiceMax. I worked either for or with Dave at five companies since my early years at Oracle, and he always encouraged me to strive high. Later in my career, he constantly impressed upon me that I needed to be a CEO. Typically I pushed those thoughts aside as I either didn’t think I could handle the job and still be a great mom, but also because I don’t think I had the confidence I would ever be considered for a CEO job. Dave’s consistent encouragement gave me the reassurance I needed to take the leap and grab the top function. Now that I’m CEO and he’s moved on to board positions, I still go to him for advice regularly.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Similar to my own experience, I think many women are held back from striving for the top job in their careers because either they lack the belief in themselves that they are capable or worthy of that c-level position, OR because they want to be a present mother to their children, and don’t think they can do both. I’ve been able to surpass both these obstacles, and I aim to aspire many other women to do so as well. I write and speak a lot on these topics, and truly believe that more women in leadership positions will make the world a better place.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Seek input and be coachable. The higher you get in your career, the more experiences you have, and the fewer “higher ups” there are to mentor you and give you advice. Sometimes this can feel like a relief, less people telling you what to do, and more reliance on one’s own skills and judgment. But in the absence of a “boss,” having coaches who will tell it to you straight and point out things you may not see yourself is invaluable. Make sure you have a network of people you can go to, and equally important, make sure you don’t become a “know-it-all.” Stay open to the coaching moments that can guide your strategy.
- lt’s Us and Us, not Us and Them. There is a lot of paranoia in the business world, and an assumption that in order to get ahead, you have to remain highly self-interested, oftentimes at the expense of others. I’ve found that seeking mutually beneficial outcomes for all involved brings more success. Instead of worrying that investors will screw you in a negotiation, assume that they really want you to succeed. Consider your customers part of your team, and do the things to help them be successful. Viewing opportunities from this lens bring about more empathy, understanding, and ultimately better relationships and outcomes.
- Understand people’s working styles. One of the most impactful things I’ve done is leverage a process called Insights to learn about working styles and personalities of my team. Whereas a “red” personality needs fast execution and brief communications, a “green” wants to help and support others and dislikes public recognition. A “blue” wants to see the proof in numbers, and a “yellow” craves social interaction and can light up a room with inspiration. And of course, there are many variations in between. If I’m a yellow, but I’m working with a blue, I know to have my facts and figures ready. This realization really helps both in communication and collaboration across an entire team.
- Take risks, learn from failure. Playing it safe and doing it the way it’s always been done rarely brings results. Especially in the world of tech, innovation and new ways of thinking require risk. I’ve found the best way to encourage risk-taking in myself and others is to evaluate and get comfortable with the worst possible scenario. If you’re going to lose a few bucks in a campaign, but learn a lot in the process, why not go for it? It could be the big game winner that shoots you ahead.
- Practice empathy. Empathy means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and really understanding what it’s like to be them. That understanding can be the difference in a 1:1 work interaction, a marketing campaign to a large audience, or even in designing a feature for a market. If you can understand what the target wants/needs/fears/aspires to, you can unlock the key to mutually beneficial success.
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. 🙂
I’d love to see the empowerment of women continue. The more we can take our fate into our own hands, the more we’ll continue to have opportunities. I’d love to work in a world where women (and men!) feel they can be both great parents, as well as have big careers. We need to start asking both sexes if they’re going back to work after having a baby, not just women!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Do the right thing. My mom had a few phrases she used, and this was the most powerful. It applies in pretty much every tough situation. Usually, when we struggle with the best path to take, we actually know deep down what’s “right.” If we take the time to stop and really analyze, we can usually find the answer. It means, don’t take shortcuts or the easy way out, don’t hurt others in the process, do the right thing and the right things will happen in return.
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Thank you so much for these inspiring insights!
Originally published at medium.com