Women in Technology -- Kathy Lord
This summer, we’re kicking off a Women in Technology blog series focusing on some fantastic women in leadership roles here at the Sage Intacct office of Sage. These women come from all walks of life, and are mentors, moms, bosses, and even beekeepers. Their stories and wisdom inspired me, and I trust you’ll find the same.
This profile is with Kathy Lord, Senior Vice President of Sage People, at Sage Intacct.
Brittany Benson: Hi Kathy, thank you for joining me today. Could you tell me about your journey with Sage Intacct?
Kathy Lord: Gladly! So, I started with Sage Intacct 12 years ago when we were about 38 employees. I built out the direct sales organization and customer success function for Sage Intacct. Recently, I was appointed to take on a leadership role overseeing the Sage People organization, which is a sister company under Sage that has a cloud HCM and payroll solution. My motive here was to lead all functions within Sage People to help scale them up in the same way I did for Sage Intacct.
Brittany: Prior to Sage Intacct, what was the beginning of your career like and how did you get involved in the technology space?
Kathy: I went to school at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, to be a produce broker, which happens to be where I met my husband. I moved to his hometown in the Bay Area, and worked for a wholesale nursery, selling trees and shrubs to golf courses, cities, municipalities, etc.
Ironically, I got my first job at Arbor Software, which is funny because who would’ve thought selling trees would get me here. I worked my way up from being an SDR to an inside sales manager, and then moved to another startup company purchased by Ariba called TradingDynamics, where I ran their sales team. Eventually, the dotcom bubble burst in 2001 tolled Ariba, which led to 60% of the company being laid off.
I transitioned to work for Proofpoint for several years and helped build their inside sales organization. Then, my mentor from Arbor Software, Shelly Davenport, was hired by Sage Intacct to build out a sales organization and she brought me on board to build out the direct sales organization. My role has evolved and I’ve lasted 10 years longer than the average two-year tenure for a VP of sales.
Brittany: It’s fascinating that you’ve superseded the average tenure of VP of sales. What is it about Sage Intacct that has kept you here for this long?
Kathy: What’s kept the company from outgrowing me is the fact that it feels as if I’ve worked at four different companies. When I first started with Sage Intacct, my skills aligned with what the company needed at a sub $10 million ARR run-rate. And, as they grew to $15 to $30 million ARR, $50 million ARR, and the $100-million-ARR space, I grew with the company and continually evolved, grew my skill set and took coaching from whomever I could get it from. I was basically a sponge looking to absorb the best practices, skills and insights from as many industry leaders as I could.
The key to success is through leveraging your resources. Fortunately, we had great board members that I was able to get connections and mentorships from. I was also able to gain insight from multiple peer networking groups about what they were doing and what their best practices were. From all the networking opportunities, not only in person, but through the opportunities the Internet offers, I was able to stay excited about my job since all these resources helped me evolve over the course of those 12 years.
Brittany: With the resources that have influenced your evolution, is there any woman that has inspired you?
Kathy: That would definitely be Shelly. She has had a plethora of success; she was the senior VP at Oracle and built out their direct model. She then went to Salesforce.com and was the first VP of sales and held other similar leadership roles at SuccessFactors and several other companies.
She also pushed me to my fullest potential and reminded me, “Don’t undervalue yourself. Know what you’re worth. Understand how you compare to other folks like yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for more.”
I believe at times, we as women are often hesitant, so we tend to undervalue ourselves. Shelly was so strong about making sure that you ask for what you’re worth, and even ask for more than what you’re worth. She always provided that steady career guidance and affirmation that I can do whatever I want to go do, and that’s inspiring.
Brittany: As you’ve been given great guidance by such an incredible mentor, what advice would you give your younger self?
Kathy: I would say, “Be less defensive when people don’t agree with you. And put on the listening hat and seek to understand why they don’t think your idea is good, why they disagree, and why they think there’s a different way to do it.”
Before, I would just get frustrated when my ideas were shut down because I spent so much time and effort on my take for the proposal. But now, I take every incident as an opportunity to learn, whether they agree or disagree with me and vice-versa. It helps you understand the different point of views.
Brittany: What advice would you have for women interested in pursuing a career in technology or a role like yours?
Kathy: When working in tech, you’re still working in a male-dominated industry. There’s this sense you feel as a woman where you need to be one of the guys. But, don’t succumb to those social pressures. Be true to yourself and who you are, which is being a woman. Embrace it and bring that uniqueness of your perspective to the role. Bring what’s a natural strength for you, and you’ll make a bigger impression by embracing who you are and your strengths than trying to be something and someone that you’re not. Maybe you don’t have the same interests with the network of men in the industry, but that just gives you the challenge of being creative in finding different ways in which you connect. But that’s okay because that is true to who you are.
Brittany: Being a part of Sage Intacct for 12 years, what would you say is your favorite part about your job?
Kathy: What has gotten me addicted to management is the similarities I experience as a mother. I’m not saying managing work employees is like being a mother. However, there is that rewarding feeling of having somebody that come to you, whether they’re a college graduate, very early in their career or perhaps more tenured and being able to mentor, coach, and help them be successful and ideally at some point surpass me. The goal here is to hire somebody better than myself. Sure, they may not have much tenure yet, but they definitely have more potential.
Seeing people grow and develop, for me, is one of the best parts. And it’s just like being a mother. You raise a kid and hope you do a really good job so that they can go off and be wildly successful as well. That feeling you get from seeing that, regardless of their age or tenure, is addicting. It’s not necessarily an adrenaline rush, but nonetheless, it’s very rewarding.
Brittany: As you only wish for others’ successes, how would you define success itself? This may be personally, or here specifically in your role.
Kathy: I believe the most challenging thing about being a manager is that everybody has their own unique goal. For some individuals, it may not be that they aspire to be a senior manager in a company and have a role like myself, but they may just want to be the best sales rep that ever lived on the planet.
I believe it’s about truly understanding what that person’s definition of success is and what is going to make them feel like they’ve sort of hit the pinnacle of whatever they’re aspiring to. That may not necessarily be wealth, but it certainly has to do with happiness. I believe the key as a manager is understanding what motivates that person and what they want to do, and then helping them achieve that goal. And that goes along with personal perspective as well – do you feel successful in your life? Have you achieved what you’d like to achieve?
Brittany: I know on a personal level, you’re interested very much in all things equine. Are there any other off-work passions other than that?
Kathy: In 10 years from now, I’d love to have a string of really expensive horses, that I’d be able to travel around the country with and show them off. But I don’t think that’s likely unless I win the lotto.
The other thing is, I have an 11-year-old, and his passions becomes my passions. So, as we are both passionate about horses, he’s more passionate about hockey. So, my life is at the hockey rink. Just this morning, I was at the hockey rink from 6:00 to 8:00 this morning for his lesson, dropping him off at school. I’ve become involved in that sport, and of all sports I’ve been involved in and experienced, it’s one of the most humbling. The players at all levels, even professional, are great role models. They work hard, they’re good people, and they give back to the community.
I would see myself continuing to get more and more involved in hockey because one, I don’t have a choice. If I’m going to be there 20 hours a week, I should enjoy it. And two, I’m just impressed with the people, the structure, the role model, and the growth opportunities that they give to the athletes of all ages and levels. And it’s unlike what I’ve seen in any other sport.
Brittany: That’s awesome! Do you have a vision for the future?
Kathy: It’s noon and I would be somewhere on the beach with a beer in my hand, and not worrying about going to work now. But all jokes aside, my goal is to build one more great company, and I can do so with Sage People.
What I see for myself after that is really being able to take all the experience and advice that I have gotten from my trials and tribulations, from other people, and work with founders and/or early-stage companies to help guide them on making the right go-to-market decisions early before they end up over subscribing to investment, taking the company down the wrong path, and then having to rebuild it up. I would envision continuing working with a lot of exciting startup companies to help them get on the right trajectory and save them from having to make the same mistakes that the companies I’ve been with and I have made. I want to work to build a wildly successful company with amazing individuals – and that’s where I am right now.
To check out the other blogs in Sage’s Women in Tech blog series, view:
- Women in Technology -- Melody Williams
- Women in Technology -- Stephanie Kleber
- Women in Technology -- Carmen Cooper
- Women in Technology -- Stefanie Maragna
- Women in Technology -- Amy Platt
- Women in Technology -- Aravinda Gollapudi
- Women in Technology -- Meg Deering
- Women in Technology – Wanda Pansky
- Women in Technology -- Nancy Sperry
- Women in Technology -- Nancy Rivas
- Women in Technology -- Tina Wang
- Women in Technology -- Victoria Keeshan
- Women in Technology -- Susan Vincent
Brittany Benson is the Senior Corporate Communications Manager at Sage Intacct.