Written by Cathie Ericson
As a strong mentor to other women, Cindy Brown loves to share what she’s learned, speaking on panels like “How to Be a Boss Lady.”
Her advice includes staying the course: She sees resumes of women who’ve only been in jobs one or two years, yet she believes you have to remain in a position long enough to learn that when things get tough, that’s an opportunity to add certain skills to your personal toolkit. “When you reach higher levels, you are expected to have skills to handle situations, but you can only acquire those through seeing similar circumstances and the various reactions and responses,” Brown says.
Thriving on Challenge and Accountability
With a career spent in sales and customer success positions, Brown has always found the competitive aspect and absolute accountability energizing. “I’m very competitive, and I love to problem solve and create winning environments.”
Reflecting on her career, Brown feels fortunate to have worked for companies that have had many stages of growth and rapidly changing environments. She started in a large computer technology company in sales and quickly moved into sales leadership. There she was able to build a firm foundation with robust training programs in sales skills, leadership, HR, project management and other disciplines. Her first big challenge came when they were acquired by Compaq Computer, and she played a key role in the consolidation of two huge companies.
Eventually she decided she had reached a bit of a ceiling, so looked for a smaller start-up and joined a consulting firm that worked with companies to create customer-facing web sites. Shortly after, the dot-com bubble burst, and she was let go.
While it was a scary time, the uncertainty didn’t last long; she joined another start-up in the ad tech field as vice president of sales and operations to help them scale. And another challenge—9/11. The recessionary environment again made it critical to produce results, and she was able to show positive growth. Soon after Brown was recruited to join Yahoo! when they were still relatively small. She led a number of sales and support organizations over her dozen years there, including playing an active role in three major acquisitions and helping capture the most value between the combined organizations. One more pivot later, and for four years she has been at her current company, ViralGains, an ad tech company that creates customer-centric video ad journeys.
That adaptability is the professional achievement she is most proud of—the ability to assess needs and figure out how to motivate teams, then coalesce to drive success and scale. With extensive experience in both small and large companies, she can draw on her background to know what might work in a variety of situations.
At ViralGains, they focus on aligning customers and brands with a customer-centric approach that offers viewers a more customized ad experience, related to brands and companies that interest them. “My whole career I’ve been a ‘how can I help’ type of person, so now I’m working on technology that helps advertisers do that at scale,” she says.
Brown finds that marketing technology and advertising technology are not as aligned as they could or should be and is interested in driving a tighter connection between them. She finds that marketing technology is data-centric, while advertising is more prospect blasting, in other words, getting a message in front of millions of people without a deep understanding of whether they are actually real prospects. “There is still a lot of work to be done to seamlessly align the two, which will drive a better experience for individuals and greater efficiencies for brands,” she says.
Taking Chances Pays Off
Brown believes her success has come in part from being “naively optimistic,” pursuing jobs she really wasn’t yet qualified for, but asking for more and not overthinking. However, she has always been self-aware and focused on how her work fits into the larger organization; when she made mistakes, she would reflect on what happened and why. Commute time is the perfect time for that self-reflection, as well as to plan the next day.
While we’ve all been in a situation where a man says something a woman has just said and is listened to, Brown believes it’s important to get past that by avoiding an emotional response. “I’ve changed my verbiage from I ‘feel’ like we should do xyx to compiling facts, data and analytics that support a recommendation so it becomes a solid use case.”
Brown is proud that she has always made it a priority to spend time with her husband with a weekly date night and as a working mom would put the kids to bed and get a babysitter. Now they are grown and she believes that spending time together is the best gift. But it has to start at the beginning. “Having a strong marriage helps develop a strong family, and is a great balance to an active career. A woman can do both.”
This article originally appeared on The Glass Hammer.