Jenn Steele is the VP of Product Marketing at Bizible, the leader in the marketing performance management space with revenue attribution and planning products that connect marketing to revenue. She’s previously worked for Amazon and HubSpot, and holds degrees from MIT and Simmons School of Management. Jenn is passionate about operational strategy and has applied this to bridging gaps in digital marketing, product management, customer success, information technology, and sales.
How did you break into leadership?
I’ve journeyed into leadership in two different careers now.
In my first career, I was asked, “Where do you see yourself in our organization?”
I answered, “I can run the department.”
Six months later, I was doing exactly that.
After having 8 years of leadership experience in a different career, it was natural to transition to team and department leadership in marketing.
What unique obstacles or challenges have you faced as a woman in a tech leadership role?
Vendors presenting to junior men rather than presenting to me, the decision maker. Not being “allowed” to say no and then getting criticized for poor prioritization. Receiving feedback on the same annual review that I was both too aggressive and not aggressive enough. Being made to twirl in my dress by a VP when I was a senior director.
And so, so much more…
How do you secure buy-in from leadership?
In securing buy-in (or even simply being heard at certain companies), I’ve learned the value of hallway conversations and pre-meetings. By making it a point to discuss my position with key stakeholders before large meetings, I’ve been able to easily get buy-in. By asking certain people to help bolster my points (by saying, “I agree with what Jenn said…”), I’ve eventually been heard even in the toughest organizations.
Another way I’ve overcome this struggle was—believe it or not—to drop my voice pitch. When I speak in a lower voice than my natural soprano, people have definitely taken me more seriously. The lower voice has even become my natural voice in most cases.
If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
I would learn to fight more for myself. I’d do a better job of understanding company culture before barreling ahead. (I watch and learn first now—so much easier!) But, most of all, I’d be less intimidated by going to a mostly-male college and would have become a mechanical engineer.
What’s been the highlight of your career thus far?
Rising to leadership roles in two different careers: information technology and marketing. I’ve also held executive roles in both careers and now multiple companies, reinforcing that I belong in executive leadership!
What’s your advice for up-and-coming marketers?
My #1 piece of advice to up-and-coming women is, “Own the bitch.”
In other words, you will likely face a choice: be strong, sometimes be considered a “bitch”, and get ahead; or, be nice, have everyone like you, and stay stagnant. It’s not a choice we should have to make—and, thankfully, it’s getting easier—but it’s a choice that we must consciously make in order to control our own careers.
Thanks to Jes Kirkwood who conducted this interview in February 2018.