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Episode 4: Career Nation Show with Susan Choi, Wellness Expert

“Stress doesn’t happen to us, stress happens by us”.

Stress is so common in the workplace and yet we rarely talk about it.

Susan Choi is a leading Wellness Expert and former management consultant. She joins us to break down workplace stress and ways to address it.

Susan shares many nuggets:

  • Her career journey and a pivot to completely changing her career towards a stress management and wellness expert
  • How burnout is a real and serious issue to deal with
  • What are specific symptoms of stress to watch out for
  • What is the fact vs story that you are telling yourself?
  • Cracking the code: developing the mindset to deal with stress
  • Favorites: Susan’s favorite app, favorite quote and favorite book!

#career #careers #careeradvice #stress #stressmanagement #wellness #worklifebalance


Susan:              Because most people believe that stress happens to us, but the truth is, is that stress happens by us. Until we can understand and manage that root issue, that root cause of what’s actually causing your stress, you’re only perpetuating your current circumstance.

Voiceover:        Welcome to the Career Nation Show where you learn the strategies and tools to own and drive your career. Find out more at

Abhijeet:          Hello and welcome to the Career Nation Show. Today is going to be a very special episode because today we have a very special guest. She used to be a management consultant running projects for some of the largest companies in tech. Now, she’s a wellness coach, and she’s really helping people manage stress in the workplace. Please welcome, Susan Choi.

Susan:              Thanks for having me, Abhijeet. I’m really excited to be here.

Abhijeet:          Absolutely. It’s a pleasure to have you and this is great. This is such an interesting space. Quite frankly, we know so little about that, so let’s just dive right in. Before we get into the whole topic, tell us a little bit more about your career journey. I mean, to go from management consultant in corporate America to being a wellness coach who’s helping with stress. Tell us how did that journey happen? How did it start?

Susan:              Yeah, well, I’m happy to do that and I’m sure people can guess that the reason why I became a wellness and transformational coach is because I needed to be my own teacher. So straight out of college, I started to intern at one of the big four consulting firms, and that was my career for the next 10 plus years. Right? I went into management consultant. That was my life.

Susan:              Throughout that journey, I realized that I had a very unstable relationship with stress. I thought that it was normal. The way that I used to manage stress in the past, looking back now with what I know actually works with stress management, I was doing everything in the most opposite way possible. I see it all the time with other people.

Susan:              As I was doing that, I noticed that certain parts of my life were really becoming more problematic. So there’s things like weight gain, not being able to sleep well at night anymore. Noticing that certain personality traits that I was well-known for such as being carefree, positive thinking on my feet, those were all becoming so much harder.

Susan:              Fast forward 10 years, I moved to a new city, started a new consulting gig, and was serving a client on a really strategic project. Everything just came to a head. There happened to also be mold in my apartment, which I found out three years later. So there was a lot of things that were happening.

Susan:              During that moment, I realized that I was in burnout. I went to a naturopathic doctor, and she essentially diagnosed me with adrenal fatigue. So there goes my life and I spent thousands of dollars trying to see the best doctors, buying all of the supplements and vitamins and medications. I was doing all of the workout routines, measuring myself in every way possible in terms of doing testing on my blood, amino acids, everything in the health and wellness space.

Susan:              While that helped a bit, I realized that there was one thing that I was not paying close attention to and it was my mind. It was my brain, and it was understanding that my brain had been in training mode on the wrong side of the train tracks. I was thinking in a way that was actually causing my stress, because most people believe that stress happens to us, but the truth is is that stress happens by us. Until we can understand and manage that root issue, that root cause of what’s actually causing your stress, you’re only perpetuating your current circumstance.

Susan:              So that’s how I transitioned into wellness, because I had realized, I felt as if I had cracked the code, because I had studied so many modalities, so many methodologies and concepts and practices. I realized that there actually is a certain order in which you can apply to your life to manage your brain and then to manage your sematic emotional system. So that’s how I went into it. It was as if I cracked a code. Knowing this, there was something deep inside of me that said to myself I cannot not share this. So it started small. I started coaching a few people here and there and essentially then you know, started a practice around this.

Abhijeet:          Wow, that’s such an incredible story and it’s also inspiring Susan because you crossed the Rubicon. You actually addressed stress that had built up over the years. I think you mentioned and dropped a lot of nuggets there, but one of the things that I really liked and really resonated with me was stress doesn’t happen to us. Stress happens by us. Tell us a little bit about how do we detect stress that’s building up, because a lot of times this is not a topic that comes up that often. Maybe we may share with our significant other or someone, a close friend and, “Hey, it’s really stressful, et cetera.”

Abhijeet:          For the most part, given that we are all high performance people and want to do great work, stress is something that is usually not taught about as much. Are there certain markers, certain signals, symptoms for stress that we should look out for?

Susan:              Yes, absolutely. I mentioned a few. So if you’re starting to gain weight, if you have a, or even perhaps the opposite, a decrease in your appetite and you’re losing weight, and if you are noticing that you’re short with other people, if you’re short with yourself, if things seem as if it’s a big effort to do, that’s a huge sign. Sleep is another one. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or this is a big one for a lot of people that I coach, if you’re waking up at 5:30 in the morning because you’re thinking about work and all of a sudden you have that adrenaline pumping and you can’t go back to bed, that’s a huge sign that there’s some sort of chronic stress in your life that’s actually disrupting your circadian rhythm and your sleep patterns.

Susan:              The other thing that I want to mention too is are you looking for outside substances to help you manage your day to day stress? So what that could look like is the extra cup of coffee that you normally don’t drink at 2:00 PM right? It could mean-

Abhijeet:          That never happens.

Susan:              Right, never happens. It doesn’t even have to be a substance, it could be food. Are you overing in any way? Over eating, over drinking, over Netflixing? There’s so many ways that we distract ourselves from the thing that actually bothers us the most during the day. So I would always ask yourself, notice the habits that you’re starting to create for yourself because those habits eventually turn into much bigger problems.

Abhijeet:          That’s interesting. As you were sharing some of those things, I could relate to some of that. I think at least I can speak for myself, I’ve been guilty of reaching out for that extra coffee in the afternoon. All of us “deal” with stress in different ways. We may not know it but we may actually be, instead of reducing stress, we may be actually increasing stress for ourselves.

Abhijeet:          Quite frankly, and you know this Susan, our workloads and our work lives have increasingly become more demanding. Work-life balance has become work-life integration, so work has become part of our lives. As people go through these stress cycles, or go through these areas where they find more stress, are there … If we detect stress early it can be addressed better, or do you think that regardless of where we find stress or which part of the cycle we are in, we can still get help? What is your view on this? Are we doomed, or is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

Susan:              I always say that it’s never too late. Unfortunately, the people that ends up seeking my help or seeking some other person’s help, it’s almost too late because now you have too much to lose. You’re at the point where you’re starting to have panic attacks, or you have anxiety now, and that has all built up in your system. The thing about stress that most people don’t understand is that stress is an emotion. It is an emotion and emotions, you can’t just get rid of them, right?

Susan:              We have to think of emotions in terms of physics, in terms of energy, and you can’t just get rid of energy. You actually have to transform energy in order for it to change into a different state. So for example, you can’t take a body of water and just make it disappear. If you want that body of water to change to a different state, it needs to evaporate, turn into condensation, it turns into a cloud. It turns into rain, hail, sleet, snow, that kind of thing.

Susan:              That’s the same thing with our emotions. We just assume that by going for a run, or by talking to a friend, we feel a temporary ease and we think that on some level that our stress is gone, but really it’s not. What you’ve done is you’ve created a temporary pleasure, a temporary dopamine hits, and your body and your brain registers that as, “Oh, I’m safe now.” The next time that something triggers you to feel that stress again, that stress is going to come back and it’s going to resurface.

Susan:              So until you learn how to manage and then and really transform that emotion so that it turns from, it changes to stress, to ease, to joy, and then ultimate peace, right? That’s the transformation it needs to go through, it’s going to keep coming back. To answer your question even further is it’s never too late, but the earlier, the more disciplined you are in understanding the importance of your health of your well-being, then obviously the shorter your track to becoming, you know, going back to high performance is much faster.

Susan:              Because the thing with stress, what I mentioned before is that when you turn to outside substances or things that turn into habits, what that ultimately looks like is the one glass of wine in the evening to just relieve some of that edge may work for a week or two. Eventually what happens in your brain is that you reach a certain level of dopamine, and your brain gets used to that. It registers that as the new normal.

Susan:              Over time, what happens is now it needs a higher level of dopamine for you to feel that same sense of peace. So in another month, you’re actually drinking a half a bottle of wine. Now you are addicted to the wine, like you need the wine to be your new normal. So what I would say to that is what we end up doing when we resist the stress and we deal with it in an unhealthy way, while it seems innocent, because we all do that right? When we do deal with it in that manner, suddenly our capacity and energy that we normally would have to just address a stress is now split into two energy states.

Susan:              Now we’re dealing with a drinking problem and the stress. So we’re multiplying our problems when we don’t address the root issue of stress to begin with. So what I would say to that is, it’s never too late obviously, but the earlier you have the awareness around stress, then go seek your help. Do something about the stress so that it doesn’t turn into something much larger.

Abhijeet:          Yeah, that is so interesting that stress could start to manifest itself in so many different forms and it exacerbates the situation. It sounds like it also has a compounded effect. The more stress we have, the more we start to lean on things. Maybe it’s the next bar of chocolate, the next cup of coffee, what have you, and it starts to build on itself. The monster starts to become even bigger.

Susan:              Absolutely.

Abhijeet:          Now that we know that this is something that we need to address as early as possible, how can I or someone like me start to recognize that and then start to work towards that? Is this something that I need to put into my daily life in terms of new habits? Is it like meditation? Do diet and exercise play a role in this? How does this all come together, especially as you look at your practice Susan, and as you’re helping your clients?

Susan:              Yeah, absolutely. Well, the way that I help my clients is the way that I helped myself, which was the INTJ in me needed a system, a step by step system so that I knew at any point I understood what wasn’t working for me right now and I can just plug and play. So for me it was 50% brain management. So it’s learning to think smarter in any situation.

Susan:              I have a model called the personalization model, and it helps you break down and understand when you are in a problem-oriented thinking mindset versus a solution-oriented thinking mindset. So most people, the reason why they’re stressed is because they’re actually thinking and focused on the problem. The problem is always based on the past, right? Thinking about what could have gone right or what you should have could have done versus also the future. So catastrophizing about the future, freaking out about the future.

Susan:              Solution thinking really helps you to focus on the present moment. What can you do right now? What energy resources? What states can you be in to actually help you overcome your current situation? So, there’s that half of it. Then there’s the emotional management system, which is actually learning how to sit with something that’s uncomfortable and transforming that, whether that’s stress, anxiety, overwhelm, confusion, all of the negative emotions that we feel. Most of us actually don’t know how to sit with it, how to deal with it.

Susan:              I would say for the person who’s, they know that they have some sort of stress in their life and they’re trying to deal with it, I think that understanding what works for you. So that may be meditation, that may be yoga, that may be going for a walk, and really understanding and questioning your hidden assumptions around why you are stressed. Because why you’re stressed is never really about the job. It’s never about your boss, it’s never about your coworker, the partner, the kids. It’s always something much deeper and actually has something to do with you.

Susan:              So anybody that I work with, I actually help them to dig into what is actually the root of your stress so that we’re not putting it out on the job, so that you’re not quitting, or so that you’re not hating your boss and you’re actually forming and strengthening these really strong relationships with the people in your life. If we have time, I would love to share a quick, simple model with you.

Abhijeet:          Yeah, please.

Susan:              All right. So this is very, very simple and it’s something that anybody can apply at any point in their day. It’s very simple, I call it F versus S. F stands for fact, and S stands for story. So let’s say that you receive a high priority email, and you get 20 of these from the same person. I’m just exaggerating, but maybe that happens for people. So they get this high priority email, and you’ve just gotten out of a three hour meeting and you have 50 emails plus 20 high priority from the same person and you’re starting to freak out.

Susan:              You’re starting to wonder, “Oh gosh, again? This is happening again. This person always does this.” I want you to understand that you have to first identify what is the fact of what just happens. The fact of what just happened is you have 20 high priority emails. Notice how there’s no emotion around that. There’s no judgment around that. It’s just the fact. It just happened maybe 15 minutes ago.

Susan:              Now, the story that you can tell yourself is where all the magic happens or not. So when you’re not in the magic, the story that you might be telling yourself are things like, “Why does this always happen to me? When is this ever going to end? Why does this person always have to send it high priority?” Notice how when you’re saying that to yourself, right? That’s problem-oriented thinking. You’re thinking about all the reasons of why it could be better, why it happens, why is this person in my life? It really gets you into that stressful state, that anxious state.

Susan:              You’re not actually solving anything. You’re actually just meddling in the problem. For most people they don’t understand that they can actually choose to tell themselves a different story.

Abhijeet:          Interesting.

Susan:              It could be anything from, “I’m the type of person that can handle this. This is no big deal. This is a reflection on them, it has nothing to do with me. I’m going to take a break and I’m going to come back to this.” There’s so many other ways that we can think about it. Most people when they are unconscious of what they’re thinking remain on the track of problem-oriented thinking. When we stay there we’re not actually solving anything, we’re just perpetuating our current circumstance of stress.

Susan:              So that’s just a quick, simple model that you can apply to any situation to help you understand and start training your brain to create that self-awareness of, “What should I actually be focusing on here? Where am I focusing on? Where is my attention?”

Abhijeet:          Yeah, that is such a powerful concept Susan, to go from a problem-oriented thinking to a solution-oriented thinking. I really liked that F versus S, the fact versus story. It really helps us to conceptualize it in our heads and really think about next time we see similar situations, this could be a really nice model to apply.

Abhijeet:          One more thing that came to my mind as we were talking about this is the acceptance and the realization of stress. A lot of times when we are in a workplace setting or a social setting and we just basically bump at each other and say, “Hey, how are things? How is it going?” People are generally, they would say, “Busy or a lot going on, et cetera,” but I’ve not heard a lot about people saying, “Oh, I’m stressed.”

Abhijeet:          Do you see as you work with a lot of executives, high performers, people who work in the corporate workplace, do you see there is beginning to be more acceptance around this? Is this a topic that has started to come up more often? What has been your observations on this?

Susan:              I would say unfortunately it’s not as common to divulge this information as it should be, because it’s a form of vulnerability. Still to this day for some people in certain work environments, they don’t want to lose their authority, or their leadership, or their perception of leadership because it’s still seen as somewhat of a weakness, even though it’s not. Getting help is actually more strength than it is a weakness. So a lot of the people that I see, while I have no idea if they share this to other people in terms of I’m stressed and I’m doing something about it, one of the phrases or words that they [inaudible] is, “I try and keep it all together.”

Susan:              What the often implies to me is that they don’t want to show that they’re frazzled or stressed at work. So they’re seeking help so that they can manage that, so that they can continue to be the high performer that they are. The thing with that is that it presupposes that us as high performers, or as a human being naturally should not go through hard things, that we should not be stressed, but that actually goes against the natural order of the world of life, meaning we go through seasons and cycles.

Susan:              So I’d say that while it’s not that common for people to just outright admit that they are stressed and that they’re seeking help, that people are seeking the help because they know on some deep level that in two to three years this is going to impact their health, in some way or their job. I’ve seen people come to me on the verge of quitting, because they were so stressed out and they saved their job by managing that stress. They understood, “Wow, I actually have it really well, like really good.” So, yeah.

Abhijeet:          I can totally see where people would see a lot of value in getting help to overcome their stress and quite frankly overcome some of the mental barriers they might also have in terms of how these things sort of manifest themselves. Are there also some types of stress that may not be as harmful? Let me just elaborate on that a little bit, which is like we all have some stress, right, and some stress is almost necessary to get work done. There is some healthy tension that’s required in organizations to move the business forward, or move the community forward, or our customers forward, et cetera.

Abhijeet:          That’s some healthy stress, but then over a period of time that could devolve into a lot of stress that starts to create challenges for different people within the workplace, within working in professional relationships, et cetera. What has been some of your findings around this? Yes, there is some stress that’s, I don’t know if good stress is a good word, but is there like a healthy tension that’s required versus there’s a ton of stress which builds up and has creates all these problems?

Susan:              Yeah, so I would say absolutely stress is necessary in our life. We need stress. That kind of stress when you think about in the paleolithic age, we needed stress to survive. We needed stress to evolve and grow. When you think about everything that is a luxury in our life right now, it started because there was a necessary need and desire to continue to evolve past where we are today, and we’re continuing to do that. So I would say stress is absolutely important and necessary in our life.

Susan:              Where it becomes unnecessary is all of our negative thinking and baggage around what’s happening in our life. So again, stress happens by us unnecessarily when we start thinking negatively about our current situation. So when we are stuck in that problem-oriented thinking, that’s where all of the unnecessary stress starts to build upon itself. Then when we are in that loop, when we’re in that negative thought pattern that we can’t seem to break out of because we’re in some kind of trends, when we’re in that states, we perpetuate our current circumstance.

Susan:              So if you have a low chronic level of stress on a daily basis, and it’s getting worse because you just can’t seem to get yourself out of that negative thought pattern, then you’re perpetuating that circumstance and you’re just continuously feeling stressed over a period of weeks and months until it turns into something much larger.

Abhijeet:          A lot of sense. I think [inaudible] would do some introspection every once in a while and figure out, “Hey, yes, the stress I’m feeling right now isn’t heavily stress. Yes, I can manage it.” Versus, “I’m really seeing some of the signs that you had mentioned earlier, lack of sleep, eating disorders, maybe even having very difficult conversations at the workplace, or at home, and all of these things would build up over a period of time.”

Susan:              Right.

Abhijeet:          I think that’s really interesting.

Susan:              Right, yeah and I’m just going to add there too, is you can quickly understand if this is good stress or bad stress by how you feel. Your emotions are a guidance system. So at any point during the day or week, if you want to understand where am I at right now? Am I happy about my life? Obviously if you are happy about your life, you have some good stress there, you have some good stress going, you have a good mindset around your stress.

Susan:              However, if you’re feeling down, if you’re feeling, moody, if you’re feeling anxious, or stressed about your stress, that’s not good stress. You’re causing more unnecessary stress, because there is a hidden thought or assumption somewhere in your subconscious or conscious mind that you’re continually telling yourself that is actually causing the stress to grow.

Abhijeet:          Yup, absolutely. Susan, as you work with clients, et cetera, I would love to shift gears a little bit and talk about some of your favorite things and some of the things that you really enjoy, because as you work with clients, I’m sure there are things that you use on a daily basis or there are things that are your favorites. So let me ask you a couple of things.

Susan:              Sure.

Abhijeet:          One is what is your favorite app and why?

Susan:              Okay, so this is a recent favorite app and it’s not a productivity app, you guys. My favorite app is the Peloton app.

Abhijeet:          Nice.

Susan:              Yes. I’ve just recently started drinking the Kool Aid. So that’s my way of cultivating some quality me time, and I make sure that I get in one session a day, no matter how small it is. It could be 10 minutes up to 30, but I always make sure that I do something.

Abhijeet:          That’s fantastic. Career Nation, I hope you’re listening. The top experts on wellness and managing stress use exercise and me time. She’s currently using Peloton, which is awesome and I’m a fan as well.

Susan:              Amazing.

Abhijeet:          It is amazing. Let’s shift to another favorite, your favorite book. Do you have a favorite book? It could be fiction, it could be nonfiction.

Susan:              I do. This is a book that changed my life, and this is the most recommended book that I give to everybody that either I suggest or I physically give to people. It’s called, The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.

Abhijeet:          Oh, interesting. I have not read that one. I’ll add it to my list. Tell us more. What’s it about?

Susan:              This is an amazing book, because it follows someone’s journey towards mindfulness. He says this in a way, and he shares personal stories in terms of understanding how he got to become the observer of his experience, of his thoughts, while most people are stuck in some version of a story about their life.

Susan:              So when you think about a movie, let’s say you’re sitting at a movie theater and you see a movie on the screen, most people start to become the main character of that movie, and they’re stuck in the movie. It could be an action scene. Maybe you’re at work and you’re stressed, and you’re fighting clients or whatever. That’s an action movie. It could be a drama, it could be a rom-com, but most people are really stuck in the story of their lives.

Susan:              So this book, I love it because it helps you to understand this concept of becoming the observer of your experience in a way that I think is just beautifully written.

Abhijeet:          Oh, that’s pretty cool because I can see a direct application there in the workplace as well. Maybe we can start to look at our sales more objectively and emotionally.

Susan:              Yes.

Abhijeet:          So that we get a full 360 degree view of ourselves rather than our own tunnel vision.

Susan:              Yes, absolutely. What it boils down to is becoming curious about why you’re thinking some some way, or why you’re even feeling something. It’s inquiring within instead of judging and reacting to it.

Abhijeet:          Oh, fascinating. I’ll check that out for sure. I’ll drop that in the show notes as well. Okay, one more favorite. Do you have a favorite quote that you live by? Or if you were to put a quote on the billboard off 101 or my favorite 680, what would it be?

Susan:              Yes, I do. It’s by Einstein. I love Einstein, and I may butcher the exact quote, but it goes something like, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.”

Abhijeet:          Wow, it’s so true.

Susan:              It directly applies to everything in our life and especially stress. So if you’ve been doing something over and over again and it’s not working, it’s not to say that the method, or the vehicle in which you’re trying to relieve your stress is bad or it doesn’t work, but perhaps you need a different understanding of how to apply it.

Susan:              Maybe you need a different teacher to help you see how it should apply to your life. Maybe it’s not the right vehicle for you, but understand by looking at the results in your life, what is not working for you and what is working for you, and focus on the things that do work for you, and focus on finding the solutions to the things that don’t work for you so that you do get the results in your life. So that’s my favorite quote.

Abhijeet:          That is awesome. You are so right, that could be applied to so many places and scenarios in our lives. Susan, this has been great. Any message that you would like to leave with the listener today?

Susan:              I would just say to understand that your current situation, no matter how bleak or how stressful it is, is not permanent. There is absolutely a way towards peace when you find the right solution. So I would just say do not give up. Always understand that there is a way out, and that you are absolutely fine where you are right now, and not to rush the process.

Abhijeet:          Oh, on that great top, Susan, thank you so much. How can people get in touch with you? How can they, if they have a question they want to have a strategy session with you, how can they get in touch?

Susan:              Yeah, absolutely. The best way to get in touch with me is through my website, it’s If anybody is curious about really understanding problem-oriented thinking or solution-oriented thinking or want to see a visual of how personalization actually works, which we talked about a little bit in terms of stories, and identifying with the right story versus the not so good story. You can go to

Abhijeet:          Wonderful. Susan, thank you so much. This has been a great conversation on a topic that usually doesn’t get as much attention as it should. Thank you again for all that you’re doing and we look forward to connecting with you again soon.

Susan:              Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

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Episode 3: Career Nation Show with Joe Pinto, Chief Customer Officer @ Pure Storage

The legendary Joe Pinto, Chief Customer Officer @ Pure Storage joins in this episode of Career Nation Show. 

John Chambers once said (I’m paraphrasing): I have not seen any leader reinvent himself more times than Joe Pinto.

Joe shares some amazing nuggets; 
• How customer experience is all about the lifecycle and how services plays a role in helping customers across the lifecycle
• Creating recurring value for customers to get recurring revenue
• How to build an amazing culture in a global organization
• How to make great hiring decisions
• Moments that matter in your career: how identify them and how to capitalize on them
• Favorites game: Joe talks about his favorite app (its an uncommon one), his favorite book, his favorite restaurant (hint: it is in Sunnyvale).
• His sources of inspiration and energy
• Lastly, he unpacks his favorite career insights for Career Nation!

#careeradvice#customerexperience#Cisco#Purestorage#technicalservicesCiscoPure Storage#subscriptioneconomy#subscription


Abhijeet:          Hey, am I becoming a bureaucrat in a large, let’s say a corporate company and is it time for me to basically dial that back a little bit and maybe get into some career transition?

Joe:                  Forgive the interruption, it’s a great point. People got to ask themselves, have they gone to a place where they’re just reporting the news, or are they making the news? Once they ask themselves that question, they know whether they got to move on and reinvent themselves or whether they’re good.

Voiceover:        Welcome to the Career Nation Show, where you learn the strategies and tools to own and drive your career. Find out more at

Abhijeet:          Today we have a very special guest. He is the father of technical services in our industry. Please welcome, the one and only Joe Pinto, Joe welcome to the show.

Joe:                  It’s great to be here, Abhijeet. Thank you, it’s an honor, I’m looking forward to the next 30 minutes to share some of the experience, some of the insights and some of the many learnings I’ve had out here over the years.

Abhijeet:          Wonderful, Joe, thank you so much for making time for us. Why don’t we just get right into it? Tell us about your career journey. We want to go back to the day of the young, well you’re still young Joe, but younger Joe Pinto and tell us from the early days to now, now you’re the SVP of customer experience at Pure Storage. Walk us through the journey. How was it when you were just starting out to now?

Joe:                  Sure, I started out in high tech when I was 19 years old when my brother sent me to Want Ads, the Want Ads, there’s an old term, of San Jose, California. The San Jose Mercury Want Ads were equal in size to The New York Times. Now you got to remember, The New York Times was serving eight million New Yorkers and San Jose Want Ads were serving 650,000 people in the greater San Jose area. It was not rocket science to figure out that all the jobs were in San Jose, California. I was in the middle of college, I was studying in engineering, I decided I would come to San Jose. I got hired on as a technician because back then, they were really looking for technicians in addition to engineers. I started going to school at night. Interesting fact, at one point, I was earning more in tuition reimbursement than what I was getting paid.

Joe:                  I started off working startups because I got some career advice early on that since I was a young man with no obligation, no responsibility, that even though I could lose my job working in a startup, so what’s the big thing? You got no responsibility, you got no obligation, sounds very fortunate after several startups and small companies that in the beginning of 1991, I landed my job at Cisco as a support engineer at Cisco when Cisco was a very small company.

Abhijeet:          You’re in this area of customer experience and what’s happened over a course of time, and you know this better than anyone else, is companies are moving to a subscription model and they’re trying to figure out a way of providing a better experience for customers. They’re going through maybe adding some customer success capabilities. Tell us a bit about your role at Pure Storage, what do you do and how does creating a customer experience play a part in the bigger work of the company?

Joe:                  Well, first I’ll talk about the industry. I grew up in the industry when technical support was viewed as, “Oh we’ve got to do that”, but over a time, because of the customer life cycle, that’s one of the most valuable things a company can do now. Because it used to be, customers made purchase decisions based upon, best in class technology and on ease of doing business. Both those elements have taken somewhat of a backseat to whose got the best lifecycle for the customer that can give them the best outcome, the best solution.

Joe:                  To me, the customer experience is really much more than what it used to be, which was a customer bought assets, it capitalized the assets, and it took on all the risks. The world has changed where the vendor has to take on much more of the risk around driving to an outcome, the customer consumes on a monthly basis payment subscription, based upon ongoing value that’s created. It puts a lot more pressure on the supplier to create value from the point of sale, that the customer will realize and keep in mind that side subscriptions, although they sound really good, are easy to stop. The old days at Cisco when customers used to talk about, “I might throw this router or switch out the window.” Throwing the physical piece out the window would be difficult to do, it might be harmful to the environment but in a SAS world, there’s a lot of pressure on the manufacturer, on the vendor to create ongoing value.

Joe:                  Too often I hear people talking about reoccurring revenue. Let’s talk about what the customer wants to hear. What they want to hear about is reoccurring value and so that’s one of the things that we’re trying to do here at Pure is to create a customer experience that is second to none. Which I must admit, I was very fortunate that when I got here, the net promoter system score, known as NPS scores are literally second to none from an industry perspective that are incredibly high. I’ll stop there because you can tell I get a little excited about this.

Abhijeet:          That’s awesome. You threw out a lot of nuggets Joe, one of the piece I particularly like was creation of reoccurring value for customers. A lot of times we get into this trap of talking about reoccurring revenue, especially in a subscription business model, and we pay a little bit less attention to the reoccurring value that has to be created for the customer. Is this part of this whole customer success war that’s going on in the industry because I see a lot of that coming into place where in addition to traditional services that are provided to the customer, there’s also adoption and making sure the customer gets the outcomes and is that part of the reoccurring value that you’re referring to here Joe?

Joe:                  Yeah, I think part of it, we started doing this probably about eight years ago at Cisco, we started changing the nature of the capabilities in our offer. For many years, technical service was really made up of capabilities around support for embedded software, hardware spares, access to knowledge on the website and access to [inaudible 00:06:45] class engineering should break, fix, support. Over time that model has changed around education, onboarding, driving adoption, the use of some analytics, this customer wants to know if they’re using A and B, should they be using option C? The nature of this supporting service has changed to be much more of a proactive motion than what I would call a reactive motion of years past.

Abhijeet:          Yeah, that totally makes sense Joe. Cearly, customers and serving customers is a passionate area of yours and over the last so many years, I’m sure you have a lot of customer stories. I’m sure there was not a single story that was crazy, right?

Joe:                  Well I do have [crosstalk 00:07:33] …

Abhijeet:          Share with us some really good customer stories.

Joe:                  Yes. There’s a lot in my head but I will describe one because it’s a wonderful story about people. We had two engineers, and remember folks, this is before there were cellphones. Today, something happens, you can’t find someone, you ring them up. Back then in the stone age, there was no cellphones, we had two engineers working on a bank in a country in Asia and we get up one morning to find out that there’s a coup going down in the country, an uprising. The airport is still open, the engineers are not at the hotel, we call the bank, and they’re at the bank and the bank says, “Wow this is pretty amazing,” they fixed the problems but they’re kind of stuck here because they can’t go back to their hotel and they can’t get to the airport.

Joe:                  Well I had a wonderful critical account guy by the name of Mike who did amazing things for me and I said “Mike, we have two engineers stuck at the bank, they got to get to the airport.” Mike asked me, “Do you care how I do it or what it costs?” I said “No. Get them to the airport, get them home, that’s all that matters.”

Joe:                  Now, you got to remember, this story is probably 20 years old. He gets them to the airport, they get home safely. A couple days later he goes, I hope you don’t mind I’m submitting my expense report for $20,000. Okay, what is $20,000? He goes, “That was the cost of getting the engineers from the bank to the airport.” I said, “Okay, tell me a little bit more so I can defend this expense report.” He goes, “I called an ambulance from a hospital and ordered up an ambulance to take them from the bank to the airport, the bill was $20,000.” I said, “Okay.”

Joe:                  There’s a great story about just doing the right thing for our people. Granted, $20,000 was a very expensive taxi ride, or an Uber ride, right? But you got to do what you got to do to get the people out of harms way and mobs do clear for an ambulance. We got them to the airport, they got into the country safely. It all ended well but that’s one of my better stories. What I love about that story, it revolves around the commitment of people that I work with but also around the commitment of management staff to make sure people were safe. A great story and $20,000 later, they were home safe.

Abhijeet:          That is indeed a great story Joe. I’ve personally seen you build and run global organizations and one of the tenants of your leadership has been about culture and it’s about creating culture or creating an ethos that’s customer first and at the same time, caring for the employees that are the front line of doing the work for customers. How did you go about building this type of a culture where people are really waking up in the morning, they’re really charged up, they want to do the right thing for the customer and for the company. How did you build that kind of a culture within global teams over the years?

Joe:                  Well first of all I was very fortunate, I learned from people that I worked with, especially in my early days of Cisco, John [Mortgage 00:10:52] and John [Chambers 00:10:52] and it was always about employees first because the employees are the ones who were really taking care of the customers. Also it was about managers that were going to spread the culture. Remember, culture is a set of unwritten rules that govern the norms of how we treat each other and so it’s easy to have good culture when things are good but what do you do when things are not good? When people are under pressure, when customers have issues, when employees have legitimate issues about their family. Then are you going to represent the culture by doing what’s right?

Joe:                  Because remember, to do what’s right is easy when things are good, it’s not so easy, not so convenient when things are tough. The best example about culture was not to talk about good culture but was to talk about all the different living examples of what people did for each other. It’s one of the reasons I’m here at Pure. One thing I really was impressed with about Pure is that the Pure culture really is the culture that I really admired and respected around being centered around people, the customers, just doing the right thing in general. Hopefully that gives you a bit of insight about the way I roll about the culture which again, easy to talk about but again, one of those unwritten sets of rules that really govern operate with each other.

Abhijeet:          Indeed, and those are really good nuggets Joe and one of the ways of improving, scaling that culture could be hiring. Well I’ve known you to hire from competitors and hire from the industry so tell us more about hiring because, I’m sure there’s a lot of managers and leaders who are watching this show or listening to this show and they would love to know, how can they make better hiring decisions?

Joe:                  Sure.

Abhijeet:          Because that’s one of the things that really keeps a company going especially in the areas of growth we can scale up our organizations better, provide a better customer experience and that hiring becomes such a critical function.

Joe:                  No, it’s a great question. When I go to hire people, a couple of thoughts, first I was notorious about putting myself upfront in the process because if people feel like they’re talking to the decision maker, they’re more likely to be very engaged early on, and the acquaintance can happen much quicker. I suppose you create this big pyramid that by the time people get to you, they would have talked to 27, and a half people. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s still important that the interviewer would probably have some number between six and eight people to make sure they’re a good fit in terms of culturally, team wise and other, but first it’s about putting yourself out there.

Joe:                  Second, I really worked hard to get to know people as people. Once you get to know people about how they think, how they operate, you’re much better in tune about how would they [inaudible 00:13:50]. It’s probably the number one reason why people make it in the job or why they don’t make it in the job. The last thing is I would also ask people about themselves, about what they’re looking for, how they may find an environment they want to be in, what are some things that make them crazy. Have the person talk about what they’re looking for, but also equally, what they’re not looking for.

Abhijeet:          Yep, for sure, and I think you touched upon this a little bit which is also to bring their own personality to work because at the end of the day we’re all human beings working together and making sure that people are able to bring their whole self and be natural is also important. I think you wanted to make one more point there Joe, go ahead.

Joe:                  No, I think it’s a great call. Look, we got to all be at ease with each other. Life is difficult enough, so I look for people and I look for an environment where we take the work seriously, we have passion but we don’t go crazy. We control our emotions to be respectful but yet are still passionate about success with that. I think sometimes people get a little confused about being driven and passion, everybody’s in the fact that we’re all humans, we’re dealing with family issues, health issues, illness issues, and other things that make us all human.

Abhijeet:          Yep, for sure. Well Joe, here’s what we’re going to do from taking ourselves seriously, we’re going to go to the other end of the spectrum and we’re going to play a game that we play on the show, it’s called Favorites. We’re going to ask you a couple of questions about your favorite things and you got to tell us what is your favorite thing and why is that thing your favorite. Okay?

Joe:                  Okay.

Abhijeet:          The first question is, what’s your favorite app?

Joe:                  My favorite app? Okay. This is going to be a bit of a strange one, but my favorite app is going to be the Wine Spectator app of how I can keep track of different wines. Being of Italian background, surely I grew up exposed to wine and that is surely part of my heritage, so I’m sure that’s not the typical answer you get, it’s probably some technology app. Wine Spectator app, it’s pretty good, pretty easy to read and lets me know the taste and characteristics of a wine and sometimes I cheat, and I look in advance before I drink a wine and sometimes I drink the wine first and see if I can match up the right taste to the app, but that’s my answer.

Abhijeet:          Oh that’s awesome. I will be sure to look up Wine Spectator app before I buy the next Christmas gift for you Joe.

Joe:                  Be careful, they have a premium market if you want to pay a little extra, a couple bucks a month then you get more information so just like high tech they have a SAS model too.

Abhijeet:          Oh of course. Let’s see, a couple more favorites. Do you have a favorite book, or a favorite quote that you go by?

Joe:                  I’ve got a favorite book. It was a book that I read early in my career at Cisco called Barbarians to Bureaucrats, written by Miller. It’s a book that talks about different stages of management, and that the first stage of a start up, everybody’s a barbarian, everyone’s just trying to get things done. If you’re going to burn down the building, you burn down the building. Then over time you go, we should work in synergy, if we work in synergy, maybe we don’t have to torch so many buildings and we could work as a unified force. The over time you go, maybe we should have a vision, so we’re a little more efficient as we act as barbarians.

Joe:                  The fourth stage is you become a good administrator, that sounds bad, but it’s really not, you’re getting people reviewed, you’re getting people their stock, their pay, their benefits and that’s okay. The fifth stage is the most dangerous stage, that’s where you’ve gone from a barbarian, all the way to a bureaucrat, which, once you’ve gone there, then you have one foot from the grave. Barbarians to Bureaucrats written by Miller, a great easy read.

Abhijeet:          Oh, that’s brilliant, and I like that part a lot where you mentioned the last stages of bureaucrat and then you’re one foot away from the grave. It’s also a very important stage where someone can think about that as, “Hey, am I becoming a bureaucrat in a large, let’s say a corporate company and is it time for me to basically dial that back a little bit and maybe get into some career transition?”

Joe:                  Forgive the interruption, it’s a great point. People get to ask themselves, have they gone to a place where they’re just reporting the news, or are they making the news? Once they ask themselves that question, they know whether they got to move on and reinvent themselves or whether they’re good.

Abhijeet:          Reporting the news verses making the news, definitely I want to be in the camp of making the news.

Joe:                  [inaudible 00:18:59].

Abhijeet:          Indeed, well one more Favorites question, and it’s going to be interesting, I know you love Italian food so this is going to be an interesting question. Your favorite restaurant?

Joe:                  My favorite restaurant for serving Italian food, because that’s where my family is from. Is Pezzella’s in Sunnyvale on El Camino. They’ve been open since 1957, the test of time. They’re shuts Sundays and Mondays so be careful, it’s an old school family restaurant and if you do go there I highly suggest either the eggplant parmigiana for people that are vegetarians, or the chicken parmigiana, which are two of the best dishes they offer. Very reasonable prices because they’ve been around for a long time.

Abhijeet:          Well thank you for the shout out, I’m sure Pezzella’s in Sunnyvale is going to be taken over by mobs of people going in pretty soon.

Joe:                  They will not be disappointed.

Abhijeet:          I’m sure. I’ll try some of the chicken parmigiana there myself next time.

Joe:                  One more quick tip, try the cannoli because they make the filling, and they even make the cannoli shells, which is a crazy amount of work to make a cannoli shell for the people out there who know how to cook.

Abhijeet:          Nice, that’s a really good tip. Any tips on espresso beans, coffee machines, your favorite coffee, Joe?

Joe:                  As long as it’s an espresso or a cappuccino, I am certainly good to go. I must admit, I think [inaudible 00:20:28] is one of my favorites but trust me, I drink espresso of many brands as well.

Abhijeet:          That’s awesome, why don’t we move into a little bit of sort of career discussion Joe, and given your phenomenal experience, would love to know, what have been some of the strategies that you’ve used in your career journey? Things that have helped you, are there some approaches, the way you’ve thought about things that have really helped you. Share with us some of those things.

Joe:                  Sure, a couple of thoughts in no particular order. First of all, you don’t realize the hiring decisions you make really define who you are. That you’re judged by the quality of your team, what the people say that they’re not is just plain reality. I think the other thing is to realize there’re moments that matter, I knew in my early days at Cisco there were several major customer situations where I knew that those were matter that would define Cisco, that would define my career. To know it in the moment, know all matters are equal. You got to know when it’s time to up your game.

Joe:                  I know people say “Well, I always up my game.” No you can’t up your game all the time because quite frankly, it is a marathon and not a sprint. But again it’s about quality of your team, knowing when you’ve got to up your game about moments that matter. The only thing I’ll say is that people are never neutral, I’ve been fortunate enough to get three graduation speeches at three schools and even though each speech was different, there was one common element to all three. The people you surround yourself with are never neutral, people either pick you up and believe you can do more or they knock you down. You got to keep in mind that picking people is a mutual decision, either it was a good one or a bad one, there’s no in between there. Lastly, I look for people that have agility when it comes to learning, they’re naturally inquisitive, they want to learn, they may not have the answer but that’s okay, they’re going to go seek out the information to get the answer.

Abhijeet:          When I look at some of the things you’ve just mentioned which is how it’s a marathon and sometimes it’s a sprint and sometimes you got to do the sprint and the recovery after the sprint and you got to have those times in between where you are recovering because even though we’re all professionals, but we’re also sort of athletes, business athletes and we need that recovery time built in so that we can go to our next adventure in a way that really, we’re all energized and excited about our next adventure. That becomes part of that exercise as well.

Joe:                  It’s a good point because we’ve really got to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves, our families because otherwise we can’t operate at peak performance from a concentration perspective and from an endurance perspective. Being able to reinvent ourselves takes time, we’ve got to give ourselves time to think, time for physical exercise whether it’s walking or whatever it may be, and also time for our families so we have a strong foundational backbone at home which permits us to exceed in the workplace.

Abhijeet:          Yeah, and so let me ask you a slightly different question on that, Joe, you are just a bundle of energy. I mean, whenever you are around there’s so much energy. Like if you are in the hallway, people would know Joe Pinto is in the hallway because there’s so much energy around you. It’s not just that but I think there’s energy in the work, you’re keeping your network alive, your network is always there for you and it’s active, it’s not a passive network that you have. Tell us, how do you go about doing that? Where do you find that energy, that enthusiasm for work and for family as well as for your network? How do you do that?

Joe:                  Well, I think it starts with a couple of things, I had some amazing parents that were simple people that believed that everything was a gift and they treated everybody, regardless of who you were, with respect and kindness. I saw that first hand. Second I’ve got an amazing wife, next month 36 years married, right?

Abhijeet:          Congratulations.

Joe:                  Thank you. Who’s been incredibly supportive. In my heart of hearts, I realize each day is a gift. Why do I say that? High tech, we’re fortunate to work in an industry that has the type of compensation and benefits that it has. A lot of people consider themselves to be smart, I would argue you’re luckier than you are smart because you can be smart, but if you’re born in a village with no hot water or electricity, that’s going to be tough to get out of there. The reason I say each day is a gift is because, like I said, my amazing parents, the support of my wife but also if I just think, personally what my parents had to endure, what many of our grandparents or parents had to put up with. Just as an example, my father was a prisoner of war in World War II. Any time I think I’m going to have a bad day, I just think about his life and the fact that he had survived 20 months in a POW camp, and I’m thinking, this is not bad day. That’s a bad day.

Joe:                  We sometimes live in our own bubble and we forget that sometimes for many others, the job they’re doing is much more dangerous, would be definitely a bad day. Sometimes we have difficult problems we need to solve but sometimes we confuse that with a bad day. That’s nothing but an opportunity to learn and to beat a challenge.

Abhijeet:          That is deep Joe and that is inspiring, uplifting …

Joe:                  Thank you.

Abhijeet:          Let me ask you this as we conclude our session. What messages would you like to give to people who are in various stages of their career? They may be early in career, in the middle of the career or towards late career and they’re really trying to figure out, “What do I do next? How do I get better? How do I deliver better business outcomes?” Whether that’s customer experience or build a better product or do more sales. Any messages for career nation?

Joe:                  Yeah, I think for Career Nation, it’s about the following elements. You have to keep learning. In the old days we used to learn mostly through education, now it’s about experience and exposure in addition to education. You’ve got to keep learning because in the old days you can use the same skill for 40 years, now you better learn a new skill every year over 40 years. Second, make sure you’ve got a job where you’re dealing directly with customers or partners who are actually are in the middle of using the technology. There’s no substitute for partner and customer experience and knowledge. There’s absolutely no substitute for that. Doesn’t mean you have to do it for your whole career but make sure it’s part of your career you get a piece of that, right? I think also make sure you assign yourself with people that are doers, people that are going to uplift you, people that you can confidently talk to who will give you ideas about how to grow or how to develop.

Joe:                  We thought that, you know if you’re stuck. Sometimes it’s okay to be stuck because maybe you got to focus more on your family, maybe you’ve got to love one who is ill, maybe you got to take a pause in your career to take care of yourself, that’s okay. Just be aware of yourself in the moment about where you’re at, where you need to go, and it’s okay to take a pause to work on something personally. But always, in the longer term make sure you’re moving forward, make sure you’re learning new skills and most importantly, realize that the world of careers is very small. Be mindful, be respectful to each other assume good intent, most people really want to do a good job.

Joe:                  As we get older and the world gets bigger, it’s easier to talk about those people or that person wasn’t good, but most people want to do the right thing. Don’t underestimate the impact of reaching out directly. Email and texting is a one way communication, don’t underestimate the power of the phone, talking in person. That’s when you can have a true two-way conversation. I find that too often now, people just rely on a one way communication, maybe I’m an old fashioned guy, but I think people got to think about more of the two-way communication where you’re getting that direct feedback.

Abhijeet:          There were so many nuggets there and I’m going to unpad those and put them in the show notes when we publish this.

Joe:                  Thank you.

Abhijeet:          Thank you so much, the legendary, one and only Joe Pinto, thank you Joe.

Joe:                  Thank you, very kind, take care everybody, hope you got a few things out of this.

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Episode 2: Career Nation Show with Karen Mangia, VP Customer Insights @Salesforce

Karen Mangia, VP Customer Insights @ SalesForce and author of “Success with Less” joins us in this episode of Career Nation Show to share some amazing career insights.

Here are some of my favorite parts of the show

1. Karen’s career journey: “I did not choose a high tech career, a high tech career chose me”

2. Customer insights @ scale: how she leverages sales leadership experience to develop customer insights and trends that drive key actions across the company

3. Fueling growth: leveraging customer insights to “test” new concepts in a high growth SaaS company

4. Overcoming personal odds: how she overcame tough personal challenges and wrote a book about success

5. How she developed an authentic leadership style  

(Watch rest of the episode:

6. Favorites game: her favorite app, favorite book, favorite quote and favorite restaurant. 

7. Prep techniques for key meetings and workshops

8. Health & diet routine

9. Insights: how to change mindset if you are stuck

Check out Karen’s book:

#career #careeradvice #womenintech #salesforce

Transcript of the interview

Karen:              It doesn’t matter who you parents were or where you went to school or who your boss is right now. Success is available to everyone. It’s not reserved for an elite set of people who went to the right school or found the right path or got the right promotion or lived in the right neighborhood. Success is a goal that you can define, and it’s all about finding what matters most to you and spending your time on that.

Voiceover:        Welcome to the Career Nation Show, where you learn the strategies and tools to own and drive your career. Find out more at

Abhijeet:          Today, we have customer insights leader from one of the largest SaaS companies on the planet, i.e., Salesforce. She is a keynote speaker and an author. Please welcome Karen Mangia.

Karen:              Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.

Abhijeet:          Tell us a little bit about your journey thus far from the early days to now being a VP of customer insights at Salesforce.

Karen:              I often say that I did not choose a high tech career. A high tech career chose me, and the reason that I say that is I studied some different things in my undergrad, actually, international business and broadcast telecommunications, and, ultimately, what put me on the path toward a career in high tech was calling off an engagement and deciding that I needed to take a different path and, of course, while unwinding a lot of life choices, I was very fortunate to get a call from someone in my network who said to me, “I have the most amazing opportunity for you. You can get your master’s in information and communications sciences in one year. Think of it this way. If you don’t love it, you’ll be young and have a master’s degree. If you do love it, you’ll be on the path,” and so it was an interesting set of twists and turns to get there, but what I found once I arrived was I loved the environment of the pace and the innovation and the problem-solving, and so, from there, finishing my master’s, I had the opportunity to start my career at AT&T.

Karen:              My theory was it was a household brand, so, in the future, I would never have to explain what the company was or what we did, and also that I could probably take a variety of different roles there without having to change companies, which proved to be true. From there, I had an opportunity to move on to Cisco because, during my time at AT&T, I worked on some customers alongside the Cisco team, so I had a chance to get to know people in the context of winning together, which is always a great start.

Abhijeet:          Yep.

Karen:              During my 11 years at Cisco, I did sales leadership, learned about working with channel partners and building strategic alliances and then, ultimately, worked on customer experience and Voice of the Customer there, and then, at my present time, I’m at Salesforce, and I think back all of those building blocks of learning about customers, learning about different business models and then learning about how to listen to customer and turn that feedback into action created an opportunity to really now see the tech industry from a different point of view working at a SaaS company that’s growing very, very rapidly.

Abhijeet:          This might be a good time to just double click a little bit on that customer piece, and, quite frankly, in your journey, AT&T, Cisco and, now, Salesforce, you’ve been always working with customers, and customer insights sounds like it’s a next level up, which is basically understanding what your customers do, but then also helping educate the rest of the company about what customers are looking for, et cetera. Tell us a little bit about this function and how your role works and how do you create value for customers as well as maybe internally in your organization.

Karen:              One of the aspects of being in sales and sales leadership that I always enjoyed was understanding the customers’ stories, the problems they’re trying to solve, what they’re looking for in a partner, and then really diving into what role we could play as a company in making that happen, and so, when I matched that up with that telecommunications background that I was sharing earlier, what I learned was I enjoy hearing people’s stories, looking for trends and then being able to amplify the story within a company in such a compelling way that people are moved to take action, because I feel that it’s always a different experience when you get a bunch of survey responses, and those are incredibly important because they help you learn about trends and how you’re doing, but, oftentimes, what motivates people to take action to either fix problems or capture opportunities is the story, getting down to the heart of who are you helping, how are you helping them and what does success look like together.

Karen:              I had a lot to learn. If I could go back in time to university, I would pay a lot more attention in my statistics class and my research methods class, but since I didn’t, I had to learn on the job, and so what I discovered over time was how valuable it is to engage customers in a way that helps you discover blind spots, and we all have them. Even the best programs where you ask customers on a regular basis how you’re doing and use that information well, the information that you get is only as good as the questions you ask, and sometimes customers talk to each other or, ultimately, move to your competitors because they’re having conversations in those spaces they don’t have with you.

Karen:              Ultimately, I find really that the value of being able to listen to customers and how you create value is knowing the big trends, how are you doing on those things that matter most in terms of continuing and growing your relationship, but also really being able to dial into the nuances in a way that scales, developing a message so every person in the company has a drumbeat of why customers care about it and what they can do to affect it, so, at the end of the day, the idea is grow customer loyalty and retention and referrals as an outcome of that, but it’s just a really strategic partnership when you can amplify a customer’s biggest challenges or biggest opportunities and then really bring people together at the company to do something about it.

Abhijeet:          That makes sense. I can totally relate to the value it creates because, collecting quantitative data as well as qualitative data from customers, I mean, it could really move the needle, whether it’s product roadmaps, whether it’s a sales approach or whether we’re going to service our customers differently. Do you feel any difference or do you feel that, hey, now the skill set needs to be really put in a more agile way? Tell us a little commentary about being in a high-growth SaaS company.

Karen:              Being in a high-growth SaaS company is really building a plan and maybe some [ground 00:07:12] artillery while you’re operating all of it, and so one of the great aspects of Salesforce is that customer success is one of our core values as a company, and so as we’re listening to customers, we are testing everything from the names of products, how we price and package them to onstage keynotes for big events, our go-to-market strategies, every single aspect of what we do.

Karen:              One of the dynamics about how that plays out a little bit differently in such a high-growth company is the range of topics that you cover when you’re inquiring entirely new companies and product lines that might not have existed when you did your new fiscal year planning or brand new products that the company decides to bring to market and wants to test quickly, and so it’s really about striking a balance between doing the check-in about those ongoing relationship aspects that matter, but also being agile and nimble enough to adjust at the moment and say, “We have a new opportunity. We have potentially an entirely new customer base. How do we quickly engage, get proactive and take action on that feedback and then scale that to meet this increased and expanding product line, increased and expanding amount of customers and then the countries in which we’re doing business as well?”

Abhijeet:          Yeah, that’s incredible, and it must be really exciting to work in a high-growth environment like that where the company is pushing in terms of innovation, new ways to work with customers and, on the other hand, customers are demanding more things, different things from the company. It sounds like you’re in a super exciting space.

Abhijeet:          You’re an author, and I got a chance to read Success for Less. It’s just fascinating. I mean, it’s a great account of some of your own personal trials and tribulations. You went through those. You addressed those, you succeeded, and then you realized, hey, there’s a formula to this. Success for Less is just incredible. It doesn’t just help you with your career or your relationships. It’s just about life, and you could apply this to so many different areas in our lives. It’s incredible.

Karen:              Thank you for the feedback and for making time to read the book, and I think what I discovered is really, in retrospect, I did not grow up with a lot of professional female role models around me, and so the people I saw were on a particular set of paths in life where they were happy and successful, but what I found was I ended up entering the workforce and taking the formula that I had learned along the way, getting the gold stars on the chore chart, being easy, pleasing and agreeable, and then added that to just looking around the workplace at other people who I thought were successful.

Karen:              What seemed to happen to me in that formula of successful people was that they said yes to everything. They delivered results and they made it look pretty effortless, and that the reward for that was being trusted with more, more responsibilities, more visibility, more access, and so I thought, okay, it’s like the chore chart mentality stepped up into the work environment, and so I started doing that also, just say yes [crosstalk 00:10:34].

Abhijeet:          Yeah, that is so true because one of the things I hear about in Silicon Valley all the time is great work is rewarded with more work.

Karen:              Yeah. That is great, and I will quote you when I use that. It’s true, and so I thought this must be the path to be successful, and what was interesting was it worked. I got a few promotions, more responsibility, joined some community organizations, and the challenge for me, where it all came crashing down, was what no one tells you about living someone else’s formula for success is that you might end up with somebody else’s life, and that might not suit you entirely, and so, in my case, all those yeses ultimately compounded into major medical.

Karen:              I was so over-committed and under so much stress that it activated a series of very negative, unintended consequences with regard to my health, but it took me ultimately really an eight-year journey of misdiagnosis and then trying to get well, and so the turning point for me really in that story was the time in life when I could no longer do more. I mean, I literally couldn’t do my own formula any longer, and so I really had to confront what mattered most to me, and at that point, I realized my top goal was to get healthy, and if I was going to get healthy, then every yes had to be filtered through whether it was going to move me closer to that goal.

Karen:              That was the first time in my life I think that I had really been crystal clear that I had a very finite amount of time and energy and that unless I could get clear on my top priorities and align my time with that, then I was always going to be spread too thin because there was no filter about why to say yes or no to anything.

Abhijeet:          That’s so true.

Karen:              Yeah, so the reason I wrote the book is, as I talked with other people, I just discovered that it is a challenge to know your top priorities and then have the courage to say yes and no to the things that move you toward or away from those goals, and that we’re all trying to be healthy and well and still have jobs and families and other pursuits, and it helped to share that story because it let other people feel normal also and know that where they were at that moment wasn’t ultimately where they had to be. There was another way.

Abhijeet:          I would encourage everybody to read Success for Less. It’s not easy to be able to share stories that are so personal and being so vulnerable. I mean, we read about this all the time. Hey, you got to be a great leader, but you also have to be a bit vulnerable. We know that, but it’s hard to do and it takes courage. How were you able to do it given that you went through that for eight-plus years? How did you muster up the courage and built yourself and really were okay to share your stories with others?

Karen:              One of the best resources that I had, an encouragement that I had to show up in a more authentic way was an executive coach that was chosen for me by a very wise boss who knew that, if wanted to continue in my career, that it wasn’t always going to be about working harder and proving that I could do more and deliver it. It was really going to be about being an authentic leader who could bring people along in the journey and how realistic is it to work for someone who appears to always have all this plate spinning and everything is moving along really well.

Karen:              I was shocked when I got connected with this executive coach through work because I was expecting this classic, “Talk to your team and your bosses. Let’s pick a behavior. After you do it for a certain period of time, this will be the gateway to getting promoted and so on and so forth,” and I was shocked when she did do those interviews and then packaged the conversation of why do you have these behaviors, not let’s take some feedback and then react to it. It was what is the underlying root cause of some of these behaviors, and that really became a journey to being more authentic, being more open and finding new ways to relate to other people who are having those same challenges, because I think I thought, in the workplace, if I shared some of those things, it would hold back my career or people would think I was incapable of taking on more of leading a bigger team, and it actually wasn’t true. It was the opposite, but it took a lot of work to do that.

Karen:              Now, with that said, as I got to the point of writing the book, I did have a small panic attack right before the book was going to be published because I suddenly realized, oh, my goodness, all these people are going to read the story, and not just people I know, people I don’t know, and I literally called my publisher and said, “I’m not doing this. I don’t want the book to be published,” and he was like, “Excuse me?” The book is written. It’s ready to go to the printer. I’m like, “No. It’s too much. I don’t want the story out there. It’s too much. It’s overwhelming,” and he was like, “Okay, let’s step away from the ledge,” and this is the beauty of having other people in your life who know your circumstances…

Abhijeet:          That’s so true.

Karen:              … and encourage you and just be the voice back to you to say, “What’s your goal here?” I knew my goal was to be of service to other people, and you can’t do that without sharing your authentic story.

Abhijeet:          Wow. That is so incredible. There are so many takeaways in that, having people around you that can help you, being of service to others, taking lessons from your own life and helping others, because those lessons could be learned by others without them going through the same amount of pain, et cetera. Why don’t we shift gears a little bit and talk a little bit about our favorite things, and this is one of my favorite parts of the show, and this is a part where we ask you questions and you have to tell us your favorite things and why do you like them.

Karen:              That’s exciting. I feel like I’m on a game show.

Abhijeet:          Yes, it is like a game show.

Karen:             Exciting, right?

Abhijeet:         Karen, what is your favorite app?

Karen:              My favorite app right now is an app called Calm, which does all ranges of guided meditation or peaceful music, but it’s designed to help you relax and maybe transition out of a busy day or be prompted to be present in the moment. I’m loving it, and it’s got a whole range of services, but I’m finding that helpful right now with my pause idea.

Abhijeet:          I love it. Yeah, that’s a great meditation practice. Awesome. Okay, let’s go to the next favorite, your favorite book. It could be fiction. It could be nonfiction, business, what have you.

Karen:              My favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird, and it has been for quite some time, and what I love about the story is if you think about the character, Atticus Finch, who ends up advocating with regard to social injustice. What I love about the story, even though it definitely has some very sad aspects and outcomes to it, is that he represents the turning point of not only standing up for a different set values, but also teaching it to his children when it could potentially come at great cost, and, to me, it’s the story about ultimately how you lead social change, which is one person at a time, one choice at a time, teaching and sharing values with other people, so I absolutely love that book for all those reasons. In addition, too, it’s incredibly well-written, of course.

Abhijeet:          Yeah, for sure. That’s one of the best books I’ve read as well, and so one of the other things I like about that story is also the problem-solving that happens within the story, and, yeah, it’s just a great book. All right, next one is your favorite quote.

Karen:              I love Daring Greatly, so it’s all about it’s not the critic who counts. How many times for all of us when you’re trying something new or you’re thinking about taking a risk or something doesn’t work out do you let the voices of other people who aren’t really invested in you or your life matter in terms of your choices? I love that quote so much. I actually have the passage framed in my bedroom, so it’s the first thing I see when I wake up every day and it’s the last thing I see when I go to bed at night, because it’s just such a great reminder that progress comes from being daring and that it does not come without bumps and bruises and having to find ways to get up and rise up again and keep going, so I love it.

Abhijeet:          The last one in your favorites is favorite restaurant.

Karen:              Asking me to choose a favorite restaurant is like asking someone to choose their favorite child, so I’m going to have to break it down just a little bit.

Abhijeet:          Okay.

Karen:              In the Bay Area, in San Francisco, there’s a tiny sushi place called Akiko. Get a reservation. It is stunning. It is perfection. When I read the menu, I’ve never heard of the things, and they’re decadent and fabulous and amazing. If I’m in London, I love to eat curry. London, the best city in the world for curry in my opinion. If I’m in my home city of Indianapolis, and don’t tell my doctor this because I’m [inaudible 00:20:00] a kale salad, there’s this little [tortas place 00:20:03] by my house that does the best queso with chorizo that you can imagine, and I’m sure it’s part of my health and well-being just because I feel so happy when I’m there and eating it.

Abhijeet:          Absolutely. We all need our cheat days once a while, and that’s totally cool.

Karen:              Absolutely.

Abhijeet:          Awesome. Hey, that was great. As we talk about your career journey, and we talked about your favorites, do you have certain routines, techniques that you apply maybe on a daily or a weekly basis? For example, do you have a morning routine? Tell us a little bit more about that.

Karen:              Yes. I have a morning routine of having coffee. That’s probably the one that’s the most consistent, but a few things over time that I have found worked very well for me, so, in terms of my work calendar, I try to choose two to three hours per week of blocked-out work time.

Abhijeet:          Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Karen:              For myself, I like it best at the end of the week so that I can have a mental parking lot of wrapping up everything that needs to be done and making my list for the next week. I find that helps me transition into the weekend a whole lot better and being more pleasant and fun to be around.

Karen:              The second piece of routine that works really well with me is with regard to fitness. I made the commitment to do one Pilates session a week with a trainer, one yoga session a week in a class, and I find that, even if I do nothing else, at least I know I have those two appointments, and they are life-changing just in terms of focus on being well, stretched out, present, mentally clear, those things I’m pretty religious about. Another one is just on the social front, two of my regular traditions, because I believe part of what makes life rich and well are the relationships that we have with people and making time really to enjoy those, so a couple of favorites. I’m fortunate that my 95-year-old World War II veteran grandfather is still living, so Sunday afternoons are my time…

Abhijeet:          Awesome.

Karen:              … with my grandfather. Yeah, and then I’ve been in a book club with essentially the same group of fantastic women for quite some time now really since 2001, and that is my one sacred night a month on my calendar that no matter where I’m traveling, what meetings I’ve been and how my day went, I am there, I’m engaging, I’m having fun and being really anchored and grounded there, and then I would say the last piece, just interestingly on the nutrition front, I learned a lot about fasting, so I do incorporate one fast day a week into my routine because I find it works well for my own personal health and well-being. I know lots of people are starting on the intermittent fasting and so forth.

Abhijeet:          Yeah.

Karen:              That is a great part of my routine. It just resets your cravings, your mindset and where you spend your time and energy, I’d say.

Abhijeet:          There’s so many nuggets that I would love to unpack if I had more time. Let me ask you a few more questions in terms of getting ready, for example, getting ready for a big meeting or getting ready for a big workshop that you may have with a customer. Are there things that you like to do before that that helps you put you in a better state or puts your team in a better state? Are there techniques or tools that you like to use to do that?

Karen:              Yes. I found a couple of things that help in terms of getting ready for a big meeting is, first of all, I do like to take a few sessions or even small snippets of time to go through that content or outline with some other people, because what I find is just even a couple of either practice runs or asking someone else, “Is my message coming through?” helps me feel more calm about the conversation and that, even if it shifts, I’m clear up front. If an hour meeting becomes a 30-minute meeting, becomes a 15-minute meeting, becomes five minutes, I know I can hit the two key points and ask my one key question and still walk away feeling like that preparation was time well-spent as opposed to feeling panicked of, “Oh, my goodness, we only have five minutes,” or, “We got interrupted four times. Now what?”

Karen:              The second piece is I try to think of about what does a successful outcome of that conversation look like, because sometimes it’s truly about relationship-building. Sometimes, it’s to resolve a problem. Sometimes, it’s to compel someone enough that they want to meet with you again, but really zeroing in with people especially when there’s multiple people in the meeting what does success look like, because, again, if we get into a time crunch where things go sideways, how do we return to that objective, and maybe even test it with the customer at the beginning of the meeting. What does success look like to you? Those are a couple of things that I think just help make great use of the time and also help you stay focused and not look flustered if things go a radically different direction or the priorities or timeline or meeting attendees changed a little bit.

Abhijeet:          Yeah, that’s great. I think I really like the peer review. I loved asking the customer up front. I think those are great ways to making it more effective, and it makes it a better experience for everybody. Karen, this has been great. As we wrap up our session, are there any key messages that you would like to share with the listener?

Karen:              A couple of things come to mind. The first one is it doesn’t matter who you parents were or where you went to school or who your boss is right now. Success is available to everyone. It’s not reserved for an elite set of people who went to the right school or found the right path or got the right promotion or lived in the right neighborhood. Success is a goal that you can define, and it’s all about finding what matters most to you and spending your time on that, and I would say the second part of it is where you are now is not necessarily indicative of where you have the potential to go.

Karen:              If you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed or unhealthy or whatever your situation might be, just because that’s where you are at this moment doesn’t mean that’s where you’ll always have to be, and it’s easy to lose sight of that I think in really difficult times or setbacks or when you’re at a crossroads. There’s just always an opportunity to choose another path and to engage other people in helping you get there, which is the best way to do it. The support makes all the difference in the world, but your life still is full of potential. You’re still full of potential regardless of what other detours or alternate paths you might have taken.

Abhijeet:          Career Nation, the last two minutes were just pure gold right there. I would highly encourage you to rewind and listen again to the last two minutes.

Abhijeet:          Karen, this has been incredible. If folks want to get in touch with you, if they want to message you, what’s the best way to do that?

Karen:              You can find me a couple of ways. I’m on Twitter, @karenmangia. You can find me on LinkedIn, and also you can drop me a message to my personal email, which is

Abhijeet:          Awesome. Karen Mangia, thank you so much. Wish you all the wonderful success ahead, and we’ll hopefully connect with you sometime in the future.

Karen:              Sounds great. Thanks so much for the time and the opportunity. I appreciate it.

Blog Career Nation Show

Episode 1: Career Nation Show – Sheila Jordan, CIO @ Symantec

The first episode of Career Nation Show is here!

Sheila Jordan, CIO of Symantec and author of “You are NOT ruining your kids” joins us to share her amazing career journey. 

Here are my favorite parts of the interview:

1.    How a modern CIO bridges business and technology to create value

2.    Why Security is so critical and why it is exciting to work in this space

3.    How she came to writing her book “You are NOT ruining your kids”: a great guide for working moms to manage work and life

4.    Favorites game: Sheila shares her favorite app, her favorite book and even her favorite restaurant!

5.    She shares valuable career tips: how to receive and work on feedback; how to optimize meeting time; how to acquire new skills for leadership trajectory and many others 

You can get a copy of Sheila’s book here

Transcript of the interview

Sheila Jordan:               It’s gonna sound contradictory, but let me explain it. It’s the plan-full but be available. So what I mean by that is you, everyone who’s listening. You personally own your career. Don’t give your career to your manager to your environment, your work to someone else. And don’t be a victim of your career. You own it, you get to decide what you want to do what you want to be where you work, you own that.

Voiceover:                    Welcome to the Career Nation Show where you learn the strategies and tools to own and drive your career. Find out more at career

Abhijeet:                      Welcome to the show. And today we have a very special guest. She is the Chief Information Officer of Symantec. She has been an executive at Cisco, and Disney. She’s on the board of directors of startups. She’s an author. Please welcome Sheila Jordan. Sheila, welcome to the show.

Sheila Jordan:               Well, thank you very much. I’m super excited to be here.

Abhijeet:                      Thank you so much for making the time. You know, we have so many topics to talk about. So let’s get right into it.

Sheila Jordan:               Awesome.

Abhijeet:                      Your career journey is fascinating, you know, right, from sort of the early days to now, CIO of Symantec, give us your perspective on the career journey of what it was like Sheila, just coming out of college, early days to now.

Sheila Jordan:               So I would say I didn’t take a traditional path. Actually, my undergraduate degree, it was in accounting. And I decided the very last semester of my accounting degree, I did not, I took two tax classes. And I decided, oh, I don’t know that I want to be an accountant. So then I went on to get my MBA and my computer science. So then I worked, then I left and I started working. And I went to work at Martin Marietta, which was a great experience and aerospace company and decided that really, I wanted something a little bit more tangible.

Sheila Jordan:               So went to Disney, and Disney, I grew up 15 years at Walt Disney World in Florida. And I would say that I grew up in the finance ranks. So a financial analyst to help and support I was mostly all my experience was on the front of the house. So demands, sales and marketing.

Abhijeet:                      Yep.

Sheila Jordan:               And I’ll date myself and at the time, I saw this opportunity to see how you know, when you have databases, and in you know, your guests and you know your people that are coming to your theme parks, and how you can really do what we call now CRM.

Sheila Jordan:               So I actually put together the initial strategy to connect the internet to the call center to when you check in and the whole CRM opportunity for Disney. This was again in the late 90s, early 2000s, then was once you presented that and got rejected a couple times, and he went back and kept presenting it, then finally, this is yes, that’s great. We need to move forward. And this is going to be fantastic for our guests. And why don’t you go run that program. So that was really my first foray into really managing what I call this perfect space of understanding the business problems and pain points and things the business wants to do.

Sheila Jordan:               And what part of that that can be enabled with technology. So I love the bridge. And I do think the modern day CIO is that bridge, like we got to understand tech enough and really understand what’s capable and what the capabilities are. But it’s not technology for just technology’s sake, you have to be driving real value to the company. So since that time, I finished my career at Disney went to Cisco for almost nine years. And now at Symantec.

Abhijeet:                      Wow, what a great journey and so many nuggets there. And especially, I love the point about it’s not just about the technology it’s not about just implementing technology for technology’s sake, it’s about the business value that gets created. Let’s get into your work at Symantec a little bit. What’s it like to work in a company that leads cyber security, right? You’re a global company, you have your like monitoring all of these different security events around the world? You got to be on top of it. You know, there’s so much at stake for your customers, and your partners, and of course, your internal stakeholders as well. Tell us a little bit of how does it feel to be in a hot, you know, at this exciting place?

Sheila Jordan:               Working in IT, for a tech company, whether that’s Cisco or Symantec, you really got to have a little bit of thick skin, because one is not only do you have to deliver the technology for the company to enable the technology and to make the engineers and the entire organization more productive. But you also have, I think, a real responsibility to be customer one. So we’re testing the technology that the engineers are creating, we’re doing an alpha and beta, we’re giving them near real time feedback, think about the IT organization as a Petri dish for our engineering community to see how these products work in a real time production environment.

Sheila Jordan:               So I believe that’s a really, really big responsibility of the CIO, or anybody in tech working for a tech company. So that’s one, two is I would say, you know, I really was one of the hardest professional decisions of my career was to leave Cisco, I love john chambers, Rebecca Jacoby, I mean, just amazing leaders and a great opportunity to work there for as long as I did. But I also when I got the call to work for Symantec, I got super excited, because it really is, security is so hot right now. And it’s such a real issue that every I mean, there isn’t a conversation that I have, whether it’s an interview, or you know, having cocktails with my CIO, colleagues, that security doesn’t come up.

Sheila Jordan:               Like it’s a real, real issue that we’re all grappling with, we’re all trying to stay ahead of it. We’re all trying to make sure that we’re staying ahead of the bad guys, and the threats and everything else. So I think it’s a, it’s a real issue. It’s super important. I love working for a company where our mission and our vision is to make the modern world safe, both on the enterprise side and the consumer side. It’s a lofty vision, but it’s super exciting to be able to deliver. It’s a really, really super important mission, you know, for the world, quite honestly.

Abhijeet:                      I just remember that. You know, last week, Wall Street Journal came out with a major story of how cyber security is the hottest career out there. And there aren’t many people out there, there’s almost no supply of security professionals who know this area. So I totally agree with you, as we talked a little bit about IT in tech. In your opinion, is IT and tech, really at sort of the vanguard of emerging technologies, like let’s say, blockchain, or IoT, or analytics, etc, versus some of your, you know, compatriots who might be in healthcare, or manufacturing, do you think IT and tech is really kind of the one of the leaders, if you if you will, in terms of adopting these new technologies and creating new business value out of those?

Sheila Jordan:               I think, legacy CIOs or legacy CEOs that think legacy, think that’s the IT function id a cost function, it’s here to run the business, you know, keep it as cheap as possible and run the business. And it’s all the transactional systems that you need to run the business. What I think with the changes in technology, a couple things have happened with the changes in technology, with the fact that our workforce is much more mobile, which means they want to work, work is a verb, not a noun, they’re going to work wherever they are not necessarily come to the office.

Sheila Jordan:               And the fact that we have this whole notion, and I’ll say it, but I also think it’s an overused term, but these digital transformation, so I’ll explain that a second, those three things are driving the fact that technology is as important as a lever for companies to grow and change as much as it is to be productive and cost function. So what do you think about as a CEO and I want to grow my company in certain regions, I have levers, I can pull sales levers, marketing levers, distribution levers, but it’s also technology levers. When you think about the digital transformation, every consumer company has an incredible app now on our phone that I also talk about mobile moments of productivity, did I ever think that standing in line, you know, at the grocery store, I could book a multinational flight for a family of four while waiting in line at the grocery store, on my united app, which I like united out.

Sheila Jordan:               So I’m just saying that those mobile moments and micro services that we have on our phone, which is kind of like your PC in your pocket, you can do all the time. So that isn’t just sorry, the marketing function, creating a cool app and putting it on that level of being able to book an multinational trip for my family requires the journey across many functions of the company including technology. So when you start thinking about technology is a lever to grow your company and to make your experiences frictionless for your customers and partners and employees, you have a different mindset than just this cost function.

Abhijeet:                      You know, just thinking about that, which is technology as a lever to create more business value. One of the one of the concepts out there is IT is an equal, not just equal a critical partner in the strategy and execution of the strategy for any company. And it could be, you know, about creating more business value off to use term digital transformation, which is not just the digitization of the workflows, but actually thinking digital with new business models, etc. And I think that’s one sort of concept. The other concept is IT is an order taker, and IT is a cost function. And how have you addressed that throughout your journey? Because sometimes that does come into the fore, in terms of, hey, is IT going to help me with this application? Can you help me execute on my roadmap.

Sheila Jordan:               I don’t view them as competing priorities. I mean, again, there’s never there’s always more demand for IT than supply, were always have to manage our budgets. And we always want it we have, we have an obligation to make sure that we’re spending not my budget, but spending the company’s money as effectively as we possibly can.

Sheila Jordan:               But having said that, I also want to make sure I want to be a thought leader in the space that I can go to the business and say, Hey, we just got, you know, bot technology that can automate seven processes and take and reduce our headcount and save some money by automating these tedious processes. So I have a real obligation to make sure, introducing new technology that solves a problem whether that is to be more productive, save money, or to grow revenue. So I really think it’s joint and I will say, I agree with you so much that I don’t think there’s a strategy and someone can challenge me on this if they want.

Sheila Jordan:               But I don’t think there’s a single strategy, not a tactic, but a strategy inside a company that doesn’t have a technology lever right now. And I just think it’s not even a question anymore. It’s just how things are done, and how our customers are consuming all those features, whether you’re a consumer or not, they’re still consuming their interaction with you requires technology. So it’s how our customers are also changing the consumption model.

Abhijeet:                      Oh, for sure. I think the customers have moved on to being digital first. Partners have moved on to being digital first. Quite frankly employees have moved on to being digital first. I don’t think there’s a choice for leaders, whether those are business leaders or technology leaders to do that. And quite frankly, the technology has moved from sort of the back room of the company to the boardroom of the company, where it’s part and engaged in making key strategic decisions. Speaking of decisions, how does it work in your world in terms of making decisions with your stakeholders? I mean, sales has their own roadmap, marketing has their own, supply chain probably does, services, like all of these folks come to you to get help and get engagement. How do you help them? Because you have a finite budget, right? And it’s not like they will de-prioritize some of their own babies in terms of their favorite apps, etc. How do you how do you manage expectations and sort of the priorities that need to be driven?

Sheila Jordan:               Well, it’s a couple of things, I think what happens over time, especially if you’ve got like you’ve been in business for a long time that you build up a lot of costs that you don’t need. So for example, when I in-sourced the IT, I was hired to in-source IT. And as we in-source it, I didn’t just lift and shift the what was the outsource was doing, we scrutinized every single server every single application every single person to determine how I could save and reduce. And I ended up like deleting 400 applications and 4000 servers or something like insane, that really allowed me to spend and reallocate that money somewhere else. So I really do think it’s an important role. And unfortunately, CIOs, we’re so busy, there’s so many demands that there’s not a lot of time to say clean the garage is what I call it.

Sheila Jordan:               But the reality is, if you do clean the garage, it saves money, it frees up dollars, people will move on, and you still have someones applications sitting in your data center, you know, 5000 miles away, and it just sits there. So I would really encourage somehow carving out time to clean the garage, because one it not only saves you cost. But it really, really, really reduces your security risk. And footprint, when you’ve got these legacy applications sitting out there that have been ring fence, that’s like a perfect breeding breeding ground for bad guys to come in. So there’s a benefit to doing that. So I spent a lot of time making sure I’m continually doing that spring cleaning or cleaning the garage. So because that frees up dollars to go off and do more important stuff, and more value driven stuff. So that’s my responsibility.

Sheila Jordan:               I will say that it’s never easy to get cross functional prioritization around the company. I mean, it’s always a challenge, whether it’s Disney, Cisco, or here, I think what the companies do do really well is and I’ve kind of enforced this policy or process is that tell me what the four or five key cross functional strategic initiatives are, as a company and I go back to, those are more important because to do these customer journeys, and to do this digital, it’s cross functional, and it’s not one function that can solve that it’s cross functional. So to me it’s much more important to get our arms around what are those cross functional initiatives we have to do together. Let’s get clear, and you can take on three or four of those a year max, right, then that’s usually my grow budget, like big grow budget, that’s usually got some real revenue associated with that, or some substantial cost savings, then there’s I have to have some amount of budget to change or enhance.

Sheila Jordan:               And that’s like, I’ve got this budget that I’m able to go and do that. And I think what’s super important about that is, it can’t be you gotta have enough of metrics around that, what is this going to deliver, because everyone wants their Christmas wish list, and everyone wants their thing, but we got to make sure that what we’re doing is going to deliver real value to the company, what I would say, one of the most frustrating things that happens sometimes is you’re asked to do this initiative, the business is all and they really want this thing, and then we end up deploying it, and then it’s not used as effectively, because they weren’t quite ready for a change in management or training or whatever. And I think that’s not success in my mind, we got to be all in it together, the business has to want this new capability and function more than I do, you know, they got to really want it because it’s going to help them with their business. And then usually it’s very successful.

Abhijeet:                      There’s so many nuggets there that you just dropped in, I don’t know which one to pick, but so many stuff of value there. I think one of the things that you mentioned was how do you create a budget for growing and changing the business versus just performing are the lights on. And I think that’s a powerful one. The other one was, you know, deleting over 400 applications. And it’s not only reducing costs, but also taking care of security issues, because they have been built for many, many years, they may not have been architected the right way, those are very sort of powerful, you know, drivers for us to move in the right direction.

Abhijeet:                      So thank you, thank you for diving into that. And you did bring up garage, which hits closer to home. And I am really fascinated by your book and on many accounts. One is that it is a false argument that working women have, you know, have these roadblocks, and they’ll have negative impact on their kids. And you came out really strongly in this book, and rightly so which is actually working moms is a good thing for kids. And, you know, and also you touch upon work life balance and all of these wonderful things. So what was the genesis of this book? And sort of what are your sort of favorite parts of the book?

Sheila Jordan:               Well, thank you so much. I have been wanting to write this book for quite some time, it’s been in my head for about four years, I have two children that are now 25 and 23. Graduated college and working. So you know, I’m over the other side of it. But I would say that the book is designed to be a positive perspective of a working mother. Because when I was young, and the kids were young, you just felt guilty, you felt when you’re at work, you should be at home, when you’re home, you should be at work, and it’s this constant guilt, constant guilt, and that you weren’t doing anything right.

Sheila Jordan:               And so I wanted to write the book not that I’m the perfect mother. But I wanted to write the book in the context of here’s some tips and tricks that I got through it. I never made a choice. I was never for, I’m so blessed because I was never forced to make a choice. Do I want to be a mother? Or do I want to work. I’ve picked companies that have let me be me and have allowed for me to do both. Now, what I would also say is that this whole myth around work life balance is a myth. And I just think it’s crazy. There’s no such thing because when I think of balance, I think of the perfect scales being in balance every day.

Sheila Jordan:               In my life. Even today, that’s not true. Some days require more of your focus on work, some days it’s the kids now some days it’s my elderly parents. And it’s always in balance. But in general, it’s in balance. And I think, you know, I think sometimes women put so much pressure on themselves that I got to be the head of the perfectly clean house, I’ve got to look manicured, I’ve got to have everything done, I got to look beautiful, I’ve got to show up at work, I’ve got to be the perfect Mom, I didn’t make the cookies for the kidsq event at school.

Sheila Jordan:               And I just think that we put so much pressure on ourselves that the book is intended to say, ask for help, take shortcuts, do what you can leave the laundry in the basket. If it’s not folded, it’s clean, have the kids go get the laundry in the basket, it doesn’t have to be folded and put away. I mean, taking that pressure off, really helps you enjoy life, enjoy the kids enjoy every moment when they’re younger, and just takes away some of that guilt and pressure that we sometimes put on ourselves.

Abhijeet:                      Oh, that’s wonderful. And I would highly recommend anyone listening to this, to actually grab a copy. Because if you’re a working mom, this is huge, because it gives you the ways you can actually address some of the stress in your life. And it kind of builds up because you feel guilty of not taking care of certain things, whether it’s work or life. And quite frankly, even as a dad, I found some of this to be useful. So thank you for that.

Sheila Jordan:               Yeah, and it’s called you’re not ruining your kids. That’s the name of the book. So thank you for that.

Abhijeet:                      Yeah, absolutely. With that, I do want to shift gears a little bit, we play a game on the show. It’s called favorites. And I’m going to ask you some rapid fire. And so I would love to know your favorite thing. And why do you like it? Right, so let’s start with your favorite app.

Sheila Jordan:               My favorite app from a work standpoint is now Slack. And the reason why it’s Slack is because it literally I think it’s gonna be the platform of the future. It does all the chatting. And all the people can have that persistent chats channels are important. You can have different channels and different groups that you want to have a conversation with. But I think they’re just beginning to explode micro services and applications within chat. So instead of you going somewhere else, you can begin to solve problems in Slack.

Sheila Jordan:               So like reset your password, for example, if you’re it’s time, I could use AI machine learning to send you a note to say, hey, it’s time to reset your password. While you’re in this little chat discussion or channel. Let’s hit reset right now and you can reset your password. So the whole notion of being able to be frictionless in consumer is now moving into the enterprise. And I think Slack is going to be a big winner in that deployment. Long term. Social apps I love all I’m very social. I’m on Facebook to connect with my family and friends, LinkedIn and Twitter for professional reasons. So I love all the social apps.

Abhijeet:                      Outstanding. Let’s move to your to the next favorites topic, which is your favorite book. And it could be fiction, nonfiction, business, anyone?

Sheila Jordan:               Well, of course, I’m going to say my book, you’re not ruining your kids. You should read it.

Abhijeet:                      For sure. And that’s double like for that. And the next one is your favorite quote.

Sheila Jordan:               You know, I think I’m really, really super active. And again, I feel obligated to make sure that I’m a role model, a positive role model for women, especially in STEM and people beginning their careers. And what I find is that, especially in my generation, younger women aren’t always nice to women. And I just think it’s ridiculous. I don’t know if it gets competitive. I don’t know if people are jealous. I don’t know what it is. But I have no tolerance for that. So I go back to Margaret Thatcher once said that there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help women. And I really believe that. We have to help each other.

Abhijeet:                      Totally, totally. That is such a profound and powerful statement. And I totally agree with that. Okay, next topic. And the last one is your favorite restaurant.

Sheila Jordan:               You know, I’ll have to say Tao, it’s in New York. It’s in Vegas. It’s in probably four or five places. It’s Asian cuisine, and they have just incredible sea bass. So Tao.

Abhijeet:                      Totally. Thank you very much. Yeah, that’s one of my favorites as well, I went to the one and in Vegas. And it’s really good.

Sheila Jordan:               It’s crazy good. And the atmosphere’s fantastic, too.

Abhijeet:                      Yes, they’ve got the like the large Buddha right in the middle. It’s so cool. Well, thank you for being a sport and playing the game. A couple more questions, Sheila. And, you know, as you navigated through your career journey, were there, you know, strategies, techniques that you picked up on the way, things that really helped you move forward? Would you like to share some of those with us?

Sheila Jordan:               It’s going to sound contradictory, but let me explain it. It’s be plan-full but be available. So what I mean by that is you, everyone that’s listening. You personally own your career. Don’t give your career to your manager, to your environment, to your work, to someone else. And don’t be a victim of your career. You own it, you get to decide what you want to do what you want to be where you work, you own that. Now, and so what I do, I’m a big I celebrate every holiday, I go over the moon with Christmas, and I love Christmas. But New Year’s I don’t celebrate in the traditional way. New Year’s I spent a time and it’s become a real practice with my family that we spend that time to do deep reflection like how’d the year ago, what am I proud of? What am I not proud of? What’s a do over? What do I want to be? What’s the perfect job for me? What do I want to do the next three years from now?

Sheila Jordan:               So it isn’t one year and it isn’t five, but I consciously make a decision. Every new year’s I go check, you know, what’s my goals for the next? What’s my job goal for the next three years? So let’s say that job is to like when I was at Cisco, I wanted to be a CIO. So okay, let’s think about what am I missing in my resume? One could say I didn’t have direct infrastructure experience at the time, I ran a lot of the apps and collaboration. But okay, I work for Cisco, an infrastructure company. It could be you know, one of the things when I first joined Cisco, I was terrified, terrified early in career on presenting.

Sheila Jordan:               And I knew when I got to Cisco, it was, you know, presenting was a competitive sport, like you had to get really good at it lights, camera, action, I mean, it was something expected of all executives. So what I would say is decide what your job is that you want to do in the next three years, do a really deep self assessment. So SWOT, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats on yourself. Share that with your trusted advisor who’s not your mom who loves you and loves everything about you, but someone that’s going to give you lots of feedback, and then decide how do I go fill those gaps. So for me, if I wanted to do if I wanted to do presentation skills, maybe I go join Toastmasters, or practice that if I don’t like finance and budgeting, maybe I become the treasurer of my church.

Sheila Jordan:               So look for ways to fill your gaps at work by taking on more responsibility or outside of work. So you always want to make sure that you’re doing something with a purpose and with a mission. So you’re working towards your plan. Now, this is where it’s going a little bit contradictory. But somebody inevitably in your career will see something in you that you don’t see in yourself. It’s happened to me four times in my career where they tap you on the shoulder and they say, I think you should go do this thing. Our first initial reaction, especially the women in the audience will say, Oh, my God, I’m not qualified, I can’t do that. There’s no way. Stop. Don’t do that.

Sheila Jordan:               Leadership is always looking for athletes and talent that they can move around and build and grow and develop. And so when someone asks you to do something that may initially feel outside of your comfort zone, you say yes, vigorously and go do it. So that’s where you’re available, it might not be on your plan, but it’s going to help you get to your end goal without you necessarily knowing it all. So that’s my advice on that be plan-full but be available.

Abhijeet:                      You have this process of reflection. And it is not only for you personally, but also family and also professionally. That’s a great tip right there. Also, I think this spirit of if somebody taps you on the shoulder and says, Hey, you should do this, because I think they’ve seen something in you that they think could be so much valuable to the company to the organization to the team. And you may not see it, because you may have some blind spots. And having that foresight and trusting that that feedback that yes, this is something that could open new doors. Yes, I may have like, seven of the ten things that are required out of that, and I will have to learn three things. But I think that’s totally something that’s part of someone’s like a growth plan and can grow into that role.

Sheila Jordan:               Right. Totally agree.

Abhijeet:                      That’s awesome. So are you do you have like a morning routine? Or things that you prepare? For example, you got a big meeting coming up with let’s say, a customer or stakeholder? Or you’re going to be a speaker somewhere? Do you have like certain routines that you go through to kind of prepare? Give us some of the Sheila Jordan secret.

Sheila Jordan:               So no, there is no routine in the world of a CIO, there are some days that, you know, I get the 5am there’s a P1 going on, or there’s, you know, a $20 million order to go approve. So no, there’s no routine in my job. What I will say, though, that I don’t take meetings lightly. So I think what happens sometimes is people let their calendar run them, versus you run your calendar. So what I do do on Sundays is I literally go on Sunday night and look at my next few weeks ahead.

Sheila Jordan:               And I think sometimes too, organizations get to a point that everyone wants to be in the room, and everyone needs to be part of every decision. And I actually think that’s counterproductive. So I’ll look at my calendar and say, if I got some members of my T team in a meeting, and the topic is something that they’re experts on, I don’t need to be there. I mean, I consciously look at Sunday nights and say, Where am I personally going to add a lot of value? And where do I give my team an opportunity to grow and develop that I don’t need to be there.

Sheila Jordan:               So you go and adjust that. And it’s amazing how much time you can free up by those things that you don’t really need to be in the room, let other people handle it or you know, it’s not that significant of an issue. So that’s one. The second is I think it’s really important that the meetings you do take that you do get prepared for it. Like so many meetings, you know, the topic of the meeting, to walk in cold and not know what the decision is or the issues are, or to not have an opinion about what your perspective is, especially if it’s contentious.

Sheila Jordan:               It’s a waste of everyone’s time. So when I know there’s a meeting going on, I like to be as prepared as possible, whether that’s a formal presentation, or, you know, I’m really, really excited about this one thing that I don’t really care about five other things. But this one issue, I got to make sure that the room understands my perspective, because it’s meaningful, and it’s going to have an impact on the company, making sure you think through that making sure that you think through that position you’re going to take, how you’re going to deliver that message matter sometimes. So I get really, really I spend time preparing not only for the big, big presentations and the big interviews, but for really important conversations I spend time preparing.

Abhijeet:                      Don’t need to be in every meeting, but in the meetings that you are going to be, being prepared, having a perspective, taking a position, addressing contentious topics, being prepared. I think that’s it’s huge. And I think a lot of people will take that away as one of the things that they can put into their daily schedules, quite frankly, and think about how they want to, you know, approach engaging their stakeholders in their next meeting.

Sheila Jordan:               The other thing the one more point on meetings, I’d like to just emphasize, to challenge everyone, if you are go to a meeting, and it’s a routine meeting and you go, let’s say you’ve gone now three times, and you haven’t spoken or added any value, you should ask yourself, do I need to be at that meeting? I mean, you think about the time you’re sitting at a meeting, just listening and observing. That’s not that for your own personal brand. That’s really not what you want to do is to listen and listen consistently and observe. You want to participate. So if you find yourself going in the same routine meeting and not having an opportunity to participate, then I would challenge yourself to say should I go to that meeting? Like maybe I’m more productive doing something else.

Abhijeet:                      Absolutely. Another great point. Sheila, thank you so much as we wrap up here. Where can one find you? If someone wants to send you a message? Someone wants to get in touch with you? How can they find you?

Sheila Jordan:               Oh, I’m super social. So Twitter and LinkedIn. For sure.

Abhijeet:                      Awesome. Sheila, this was such a fun and rich conversation. Sincerely appreciate your time. Thank you so much for being with us.

Sheila:                      Thank you. It was absolutely fantastic. I appreciate the questions. It was fun, and I loved the game!