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Being Radically Curious, with Amy Borsetti

Being Radically Curious, with Amy Borsetti

We sit down with Amy Borsetti, GM of Americas for Asana, to discuss being a queer woman in the tech industry, recognizing social progress, and owning your space in any room.

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0:00:00.0 Maricella Herrera: Where leaders go, learning follows. Harvard Business School Executive Education offers more than 60 in-person and virtual programs. Learn more and apply at hbs.me/go, that's hbs.me/go.

0:00:15.9 Intro: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast, Conversations With Women Changing the Face of Business. And now your host, Maricella Herrera.

[music]

0:00:38.6 MH: Hello, welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. I'm your host, Maricella Herrera, the CEO of Ellevate Network, and I am here with my partner in crime, Megan Oliver. Megan, how are you doing?

0:00:50.4 Megan Oliver: Doing well, it is now the second week of 2023, which is crazy. I don't know how everything is going so fast.

0:00:58.9 MH: It's still not sinking in my brain.

0:01:03.4 MO: No, we just did a whole... Little behind the scenes, actually for you, we just did a whole all-hands meeting at Ellevate, where I did a family feud of top fives from... What were the top Halloween costumes of 2022? What were the top movies of 2022? And the final one was, what are the top resolutions of 2023? And I'm like, "How is it 2023 though?"

0:01:27.2 MH: It is, two weeks in, so yeah.

0:01:30.5 MO: Indeed.

0:01:31.2 MH: I know it's just starting, but how's it treating you?

0:01:38.9 MO: It's treating me well. I am headed back very soon, I've been in Texas, as you know, visiting family for the past two months, but I'm headed back to New York for a few months this next week, which should be fun to go back there for a few months, because before I finally move back to Texas. But I have to sell a lot of my furniture, mail a bunch of my books and clothes home, so that'll be my life for the next few months.

0:02:09.1 MH: Yeah. Moving takes a lot of work.

0:02:11.8 MO: Oh, yeah.

0:02:11.9 MH: I hope I get to see you while you're in New York even if you're gonna be busy doing all that good stuff, but it would be nice.

0:02:20.2 MO: Yeah, I think so. I think, I'll be there for several months before I come back, but I wanna come back a little bit before my lease ends just so that I have time to look for a new apartment in Texas, because I don't wanna stay at my parents house for the whole time. [chuckle]

0:02:32.9 MH: I don't blame you. Just came back from being home and it was a lot.

0:02:39.5 MO: Yes, if you're listening, Mom and Dad, I love you very much, but just as I'm sure you're happier being empty nesters, in general, I think we're all happier having our own spaces as adults.

0:02:49.3 MH: Yeah, that's how you maintain the relationships, it's easier to get into a fight if you're in close quarters.

0:02:56.8 MO: A 100%.

0:03:00.3 MH: So, yeah. I'm actually speaking of family, tomorrow, flying out to London, just saw my brother and his family in EL Salvador, but luckily enough, I got to go see them again and can see my little nephew in January. So, I guess, I'm saying it's good to have space from family, and I really appreciate having a few days off from... [laughter]

0:03:27.7 MO: Yeah.

0:03:30.1 MH: In between, but it's also nice to see them.

0:03:32.8 MO: Yeah, and it's nice... And we had, for those who don't know, Ellevate was closed for the week between Christmas and New Year, which was great, lot of family time, but it was great to get that kind of chill time to spend with family.

0:03:47.3 MH: So, what have you been into while in between the time off and now coming back, anything notable that you're kind of digging into?

0:04:00.6 MO: Oh, yes. So, I'm gonna be real with you, it's kinda nerdy, but that's fine.

0:04:06.3 MH: Nerdy is good, we support it.

0:04:06.7 MO: Well, nerdy, geeky, whatever you wanna call it. But I got for Christmas, the new Pokemon game for Switch, which is the new ones of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet and I got violet. And I have been frantically playing it because it is so much fun. For anybody who's curious, who got it, my starter is Quaxly, which is the little water duck, I always put...

0:04:29.6 MH: To me you're speaking like a different language.

0:04:34.5 MO: Oh, yeah, yeah. He's a very cute little water duck that eventually... See, this one, for the last gazillion of them, they've based among different countries or areas around the world, and this one is based on Spain. So it's really cool, it's the first big open world one, you can explore it on your little Pokemon motor cycle and you're like at a school, and it's very cute, they've blended a lot of stuff that they have been innovating with different Pokemon games into this one. And so, if you want a fun, open world exploring game where you get to catch a bunch of different creatures and make them your friends and battle with them, and it's super easy. I can't recommend Pokemon Violet enough.

0:05:19.3 MH: Oh, love it. I'm not a huge game person, never was, I don't know why, but I never got into it. I think I got into Pokemon GO for like a week, and then I was like, "Nope, not for me." So, I don't really know what you're talking about, but it's nice to have something that's entertaining and makes you happy.

0:05:42.5 MO: Yeah.

0:05:42.8 MH: Yeah. I don't know that I've been into... It's been a weird travel beginning of the year when I was... By the time we were off, I was just a lot of family and a lot of nephew, baby nephew time and going to the beach, so it was pretty chill. Now I'm back in New York and therefore I'm going to start training again because I'm doing the New York City Half Marathon in March, so that's probably what I'm gonna be into for the next couple of months.

0:06:17.6 MO: And so, listening to your iPod, assuming it doesn't die on you halfway through like last time.

0:06:22.7 MH: Oh, I'm getting a new phone.

0:06:25.5 MO: Oh, good.

0:06:27.2 MH: That's happening. I already ordered it.

0:06:30.7 MO: Because running in complete silence and just hearing the patter of your feet and other feet around you, it sounds like... I don't even know what it sounds like, but it does not sound fun.

0:06:37.9 MH: No, no, no, no, no, no, I'm not risking it again. So, I'm getting a new phone, and then I'm going to have to see what new podcast and new things are out there, I still am listening to my regulars, My Favorite Murder, Armchair Experts, SmartLess, all good stuff.

0:06:57.9 MO: If you want a fun history podcast, you should listen to Stuff You Missed in History Class, which is from How Stuff Works, just like fun little snippets. The old ones are usually like 10-15 minutes, the newer ones are usually like 20 to 30 minutes of just random stuff from history that you didn't learn in history class that you can know, really fun if you just want bite size snippets of interesting stuff.

0:07:22.7 MH: That's very cool, I like interesting stuff. So, I'll check it out.

0:07:29.2 MO: Oh, yes, definitely.

0:07:31.6 MH: Well, speaking about interesting stuff...

0:07:33.0 MO: And podcasts.

0:07:35.0 MH: And podcasts. My conversation today is with Amy Borsetti, she is an expert in human behavior and a thought leader in the future of work. She is the Head of Revenue and General Manager of the Americas at Asana. So, she has worked with tons of organizations to really imagine how to harness the power of their people and leverage technology. She's amazing, very, very active in her company's ERG, particularly for the LGBTQ+ community and allies, deeply passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion. And we talk a lot about that and creating better workplaces, and I think you will have a real fun time listening to this. Amy is great.

0:08:29.3 MO: Yeah. Yeah, I cannot wait to hear this one.

0:08:31.8 MH: So, let's go to my conversation with Amy.

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0:08:44.6 MH: Amy, I'm so happy to have you on the show today. How are you?

0:08:49.6 Amy Borsetti: I am great, I'm really good today, excited to be spending time with you too.

0:08:55.5 MH: I was saying it before we started recording, but I am so excited to have this conversation, not only 'cause I do think Asana is a great product, but also I think we have a lot of things in common in terms of our thoughts about people, culture and workplaces. So, how about we start with my big old question? Can you give our listeners a little bit of your background and how you got to where you are today?

0:09:29.2 AB: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I agree, I think we've got some wonderful shared interests, I'm excited to explore some of that with you today. So, first, I should share that my pronouns are she, her. I grew up in Michigan, small, small town in Michigan called Paw Paw. City is so nice they named it twice. That's like a thing. So, I've got these pretty strong Midwestern roots, despite having now been in the Bay Area for coming up on 20 years next year, I'm part of the LGBTQ community, a queer parent of two incredible kids, and I get to navigate this world every day right next to, not just both of them, but my fabulous wife Keeks. What else?

0:10:23.0 AB: I am absolutely obsessed with humans, and I can date this obsession back to gosh, early, early years of my life of just being really curious about why do people do what they do? The power of connection, and certainly as I've navigated my career, this has come up more and more and more and continues to be amplified with the infusion of technology and so on. To share a little bit more about my story. As I mentioned, I grew up in a small town. I think looking back, I realize now how small the lens I had that I was looking through on the world, it was a pretty homogeneous community. And I've been really lucky because I had a wonderful sister who's this prolific artist, and she inspired me to leave, leave the nest and not be a teacher in Paw Paw, which was my original plan, which is a great plan for many, but I knew it wasn't my destination.

0:11:34.1 AB: And I went to grad school in University of Nevada in Reno, and that's where it really became cemented, 'cause I got my Master's in human behavior, and that just made that obsession even more, like understanding the science behind it. And that ongoing curiosity has served really as a basis for not just how I navigate the world as a human, as a parent, as a co-worker, as a wife, as a friend, but also how I show up as a leader. So, my career has taken so many different turns and twists, I imagine yours has too. And through it all, I have always really orbited around this obsession with people and doing everything that I can, and my life's work, let's call it, to play a small role in helping them be better. So, happy to dive into kind of how that is manifested in my career more deeply but that gives you a little bit of insight into who I am.

0:12:39.9 MH: Yeah. You said two things that stood out, not wanting to be a teacher or that was your plan, but you're like, "Oh, that's not really it," and then you left, but then you're helping people be better, so you're kind of doing it.

0:13:00.1 AB: Yeah. It's in a different form, right?

0:13:01.3 MH: In a different form, right.

0:13:02.7 AB: It's a different form. I also at the time wanted to marry my then high school boyfriend. So, lots have changed, lots of things changed. [laughter] Things are different these days. Yeah.

0:13:16.0 MH: But I really appreciate it. And right now you're the Head of Revenue and the GM of the Americas for Asana. And how does this passion for people... When you think of revenue and being Chief Revenue Officer or head of revenue or these revenue-producing forms, a lot of people think just... It's numbers, it's a head down, but it's really about people, how do those two come together?

0:13:45.2 AB: Yeah, it's so both of those and other parts of it too. So, I have been in the space of revenue leadership for, let's call it, about five years. Prior to that, I spent quite a bit of time running and being a part of a sales or revenue enablement function, where I was deeply focused on helping revenue teams, leaders, be able to deliver as much customer value as possible, like gaining the right skill sets. And so, bringing that into my... Into now, my kind of sphere and space as a revenue leader has given me a real perspective on how important the people are as a part of serving and delivering customer value. And for me, you don't get great business results without the incredible people on your team.

0:14:47.5 AB: The way that you're investing in them, the way that they then therefore impact your customers and the value delivery there. And then, business results come as a kind of by-product or output of that, and I don't know, there's perhaps other revenue leaders that might look at it differently, but it all starts with the people, and that's like, actually, the framework I use. My team now here has heard me say this multiple times, of any decision that we are making, we need to look at the upside and downside across three areas, and that is our people, our customer, and our business in that order. So, we are more informed on the full ecosystem of our decision-making and not just, how can we just bring in more dollars?

0:15:38.2 AB: Because if we are only focused there while that is wildly important, certainly, but if we're only focused there, we may actually sever our ability to bring in long-term revenue and impact because we are making short-term decisions on dollars and cents rather than looking at it through the eyes of how is this, how are we putting the conditions for our people to be wildly successful while also, as a conduit to that, delivering incredible long-term customer value to create the type of affinity that we want to create a sustainable business? It's kind of like some of the ways I think about it, if that's helpful.

0:16:22.1 MH: It is. And I think... I totally agree with you, this is kind of this more of a stakeholder capitalist view, you have to think about your people, you have to think about your community, you have to think about your customer. That's how you do this long-term sustainable business that will thrive, that will last. And I did wanna ask about the revenue side because a lot... And yesterday, I was taping a podcast with someone else, or for another podcast actually. And he asked me something about women in different positions within companies and how... Are women afraid of being in revenue producing or client-facing roles? 'Cause we tend to end up mostly in HR and marketing kind of operational back office stuff. So, I wanted to bring that up because I think you are a great example of someone who is in a leadership position in revenue focus work and cares about the people.

0:17:27.1 AB: Yeah. Well, isn't that... Imagine that, and here's the deal, I have worked alongside some incredible men, many, many of them, and perhaps some that were not so incredible. But I think there's a misunderstanding of what it takes to be a great revenue leader, I think if we get kind of gender-specific, perhaps it's in the eyes of women or those that identify as women out there. And the reality is so much of revenue, while the data and the inputs and the outputs are incredibly important to be very grounded and with a depth of understanding, without the people side and without the focus on customer value, I would argue that's probably not gonna be a great revenue leader. They may bring in plenty of dollars and revenue for the business. But you also see some instances where if that's the only focus, it's not sustainable, and I like the word that you're talking about there.

0:18:46.3 AB: So, I would argue that women can be wildly successful as revenue leaders, I feel deeply about that, and actually it was one of the reasons that I was drawn to Asana because I am surrounded by a bunch of really powerful women over here, and it is inspiring. Revenue leaders, operators, and quite frankly, I haven't ever, to this extent, ever been exposed to women in leadership the way that I am here. My CRO is a woman, our COO is a woman, and so I am, for the first time in my life, sitting in kind of a scenario where my boss and my boss's boss are both women, I've never had that before, even in any of my time as an individual contributor, it's never looked like that.

0:19:40.7 MH: Wow.

0:19:47.2 AB: I think it's a testament for how things are changing, we are seeing more women in leadership, and it's been great, I was just chatting to a friend of mine, former colleague, also Head of Global Sales at a pretty remarkable tech company in the Bay Area, and it's amazing the kind of talk shop. And I think what we talk about might feel a little different if I were talking to a man, so to speak, that has grown up in tech or what have you, over the years. We went deep on people. We went deep on strategy and decision making and revenue, but people actually were the center of the conversation.

0:20:29.6 MH: I think women would be... Are, are, not would be.

0:20:33.6 AB: Yes, they are.

0:20:35.9 MH: Take that back, are [chuckle] really great leaders in any of the positions that exist.

0:20:44.8 AB: That's right.

0:20:44.9 MH: It doesn't have to be gendered, right?

0:20:45.5 AB: No, absolutely, absolutely.

0:20:49.9 MH: And I do think we bring to the table certain emotional intelligence that might be a little bit more useful, and if you're talking about leading a team, emotional intelligence is probably the number one thing you need.

0:21:00.2 AB: Wildly important, especially when times are hard, especially when times are hard. Times are hard right now.

0:21:11.5 MH: How has it been being queer women in the tech industry?

0:21:21.6 AB: That's a great question. How has it been?

0:21:26.6 MH: Like have you felt any, I don't know, difficulties. I feel like the tech industry for what it is, it's... Yes, certainly a bro culture, but it should also be a little bit more open-minded, at least on the a person's sexuality, so I've never been in that industry. So I'm just curious, how it's...

0:21:49.8 AB: You know, it's interesting 'cause I... Prior to coming into tech... Let's see, when did I come in? 2012, formally into a kind of tech. I was serving high tech customers prior to that, but what I would say is, it is so dependent on the people that are around you, on your experience. So let's talk about the Impostor Syndrome for just a minute. As a queer woman, I was the only. Now, I'm a white woman too, so keep that in mind, we're a lot of ands, but I would often... I'm more often than not, still the only queer leader in the room. I very rarely find myself next to other queer leaders in general, this is by the way, not at all an Asana thing, this is just like a perhaps more pervasive in tech thing.

0:22:48.2 AB: I had a few folks that I was able to really connect with in my prior company, where I wasn't the only in the room, but for me, over the years, it has become much easier to be authentically me, and part of that is my own growth and the other part of it is being around other folks that created the conditions for it to be safe, and that last part is really important, with impostor syndrome, I've had a couple of little discussions around this. And something that has really popped for me is this concept of who is the impostor, is it the person or is it the conditions that the person that is owning the space in the room creating? If the leader of that space, and there always is a leader of a space, is not creating the conditions for someone to be able to show up and feel safe to express their voice, then I would argue, the impostor is actually the conditions that that leader has created.

0:23:54.0 AB: It's not the person that is having a tough time expressing their perspective or worried if they do share it, they may be ashamed or they worry about their job or what have you. So it's like a little bit of a flip it, we always are like looking inward, I'm the impostor, I have a syndrome. But what if? Yes, perhaps you are the quote "impostor", but the syndrome... Sorry, the syndrome sits with the conditions of the room, so I shared that because that context, as a queer women in tech, I have felt that, I have felt conditions that have been incredibly safe and profound and powerful to bring my whole self and be comfortable with expressing alternative perspectives that perhaps kind of shake the room a little bit, and I have certainly experienced the opposite.

0:24:54.1 AB: I can share this with Asana in particular, since it's where I am at today, and my most recent experience is that it's been incredible to be in space, in spaces where the leadership team around me is not just accepting of, but is encouraging me to bring my voice and my whole self, because it's actually a competitive edge in differentiating me to do it. It's a business thing, it's not just a, it's a great thing to do, it's a... Literally a competitive advantage, if you can bring diversity of thought in that room, and certainly I bring a different perspective, not just based on my queerness, but on all the different kind of experiences and histories that I bring to the table, just like anybody else in that room.

0:25:47.7 MH: You're speaking to my heart. I wish... We're not on video, I wish you could see me. But everything you said about imposter syndrome, I've just been... I'm so on the same page. I've been reading a lot about it and listening to a bunch podcasts and how, of course you feel like an imposter, if the sys... Because the system has been built to make you feel like an impostor.

0:26:23.3 AB: Right, that's right. So who does this syndrome sit with? I would argue in that construct, it's not the person, it's a system that has the syndrome.

0:26:24.8 MH: It's not you.

0:26:25.0 AB: Let's fix the system, and then a bunch of people will not feel like impostors, they will feel empowered. That is different.

0:26:28.2 MH: Yeah, it's not you, it's... The system is built to make you feel like you don't belong, make you feel like you're not supposed to be there, because you're not supposed to be there because it was made for middle-aged, cis, heterosexual white men.

0:26:39.4 AB: Yeah, and those leaders, I do think I have experienced and I have a couple of really beautiful examples where that same persona that you just described recognizes it, they have that moment, they look in the mirror, they're like, oh, I've been creating the conditions for only a certain subset of the population to thrive, if in fact there's other people in the room. And those leaders, I would argue the white, cisgendered, heterosexual men have such power to change the system, 'cause they are, generally speaking, the ones that are kind of in power, but when they see it and when you see that transformation and you experience it, it is absolutely profound. And that's where the allyship story begins.

0:27:30.4 MH: I do believe all of that is rooted in empathy for them too, if they can start seeing or putting themselves in the shoes of other people around that, they start to see, I have the power to change this.

0:27:46.8 AB: And the other thing too, I think here, it's empathy, but to go back to, it's also the best way to get the most out of your people and create the environment for your business to thrive. And that last part is the part that is missing in this story oftentimes, you know?

0:28:09.6 MH: We don't talk... Do you think we don't talk enough about the... So I agree with you in a sense, because I do think we talk a lot about... And maybe it's because of where I sit and in the world I live in, but I do think we talk a lot about the... Oh, the ROI on diversity, but I think what we don't talk about is the ROI on inclusion, because diversity for diversity's sake doesn't do anything, you can have people for all different backgrounds in a room, but if they are not empowered or don't feel psychologically safe enough to speak up, then you're not getting any of the value from diversity.

0:29:09.2 AB: 1000%. I actually, I would argue there is not much ROI for diversity itself.

0:29:15.0 MH: Yeah, I agree.

0:29:15.7 AB: That's just... Those are humans, those are people, those are... But just because they're there doesn't mean that you're creating the conditions for the ROI to actually take shape, and I agree with you, I think it's missed often. I've been in different scenarios where it's like, the leadership team really believes, understands the power of diversity, but then they don't have the other side of the coin, and then what happens? Those same beautiful people that they brought in to part quite quickly, you know? Or worse, they stay and they're disengaged, and now you've created even worse conditions. So yeah, I'm fully supportive of that.

0:29:35.7 MH: Which is what we're seeing now, if you think about it, all these trends on quiet quitting, that's people who are saying they're disengaged and mostly... I've been reading a lot, has to do with isolation, has to do with the feeling of not belonging, and that's the same with the... And I know you wrote a piece on the great reshuffle and the importance of up-scaling and I think... Yes, but I think a lot of the people are leaving again, because of the lack of the spaces that you're talking about.

0:30:06.5 AB: Yeah, yeah, it's like... We've evolved a lot on how we do this. I would argue, Covid, all of the social injustice work that has really been amplified over the last now three years has helped the evolution, and we have so much further to go, but there is progress. The fact that we are even talking about this in the sense of running a revenue org, this probably wouldn't have happened five years ago. So I think the way that I look at this personally is how do I continue to lead from the front on this and not get complacent, even as an underrepresented person, at least in terms of my... In terms of my queerness, certainly not in terms of my whiteness. But how do I continue to move this forward?

0:31:14.1 AB: I think about this every day. I shared with someone that we had a school meeting, not that long ago, and I was talking to the head of DEIB for one of the high schools. And I was sharing with her, I said, the way that I look at equity work is in life, but certainly at work, is that it's the ultimate horizontal, it's a lens, I look through everything with. It's not over to the side where the entree is the business, and the DIBs work is a side of Brussels. It is the business, it is the work but that's also... It's not like I always thought about that. You know, I've been on my own journey and continue to be since 2016 was like my big inflection point, and have realized I have more work to do than ever before, and that work will continue until I lay rest. That's life's Work stuff.

0:32:17.1 MH: I love that you're saying that it's a lens that you view things through, you view the business through.

0:32:22.0 AB: That's right.

0:32:25.6 MH: And that's so important and it has to be part of it. Just like you said, not a side of Brussels sprouts as much as I love my Brussels sprouts. It has to be together.

0:32:28.3 AB: Yes, exactly. Yeah.

0:32:34.8 MH: Can I ask... And you can totally tell me no, but you mentioned very specifically, you had an inflection point in the way of thinking.

0:32:37.7 AB: Yes.

0:32:38.7 MH: Could I ask what that was?

0:32:50.4 AB: You can. So I was pregnant in 2016 and had had our first little human being, Luca, and now she's seven, and having... Never really had a break from work since my, I don't know, early, early 20s or even, I suppose, before that, but I had a lot of time to reflect. And 2016, if you think back to what was happening, and I would argue 2014, 15, 16, we are seeing black and brown lives being murdered left and right, and the need for police reform, but we weren't really talking about it in those terms at that time. And I realized during that time period that I felt all this empathy, like what could... Not even what could I do, but I felt pain in my heart.

0:33:57.3 AB: Now, this is, what I wasn't doing is putting my hands to work but I felt like I couldn't believe what was happening, which is relatively pretty white of me because things were happening for many, many moons before, but I was having my own personal moment around, I'm not doing enough. I talk a lot in spaces, but those are words and they don't change anything and so when I looked at, what do I need to do? The first was, okay, I need to get smarter. I need to get smarter, not just about this for me personally, although certainly, but having those moments of who am I surrounding myself with? What is my sphere of friends and colleagues, what does it look like? What is it made of? What are the conversations that we're having, how am I failing as a leader in terms of making sure that I do in fact have diverse perspectives in the room? What biases do I have?

0:34:53.4 AB: And that was like... That was a really hard time, I was working with an exec coach at the time, and she was just this Latina firecracker, incredible, put fire under your tail kind of coach, and she's like, "Amy, you're talking a lot about all these feelings, what are you doing? What is your plan?" And so I started to put pen to paper on, well, what does a plan look like? And it was imperfect, but started to think about how I ran my business at the time differently, what my first principles were, where I needed to grow, and how I needed to share that story openly at work, so people could understand kind of how I was thinking about it. So I could get feedback and be put in my place, which I was many times, but I was open to the idea that I needed to be. So that was like 2016, 17, 18, and it's been a journey ever since, and it continues to be.

0:36:01.6 MH: I appreciate that so much, you talking about it, because I think we have all gone through reckonings and moments of feeling impotent. I have all these feelings, but I don't know what to do with them, and I think you said the first step of taking a hard look at yourself. Learning, understanding, I've had to do that for sure. I come from El Salvador, and just like in a small town here where it's very homogeneous, it's the same over there. Like everyone's the same. So it's been an interesting journey, and I do appreciate that you're putting that into action within your organization.

0:36:57.6 AB: Yeah. It's so easy to just... I think for so many, it's not possible for me anymore because of the work that I've done and continue to do, but I think for a lot of leaders that are just... Either they haven't really gone through the reckoning and they're just doing something because they have been told that they need to do something, or those that are earlier in their work. Especially with tough times or headwinds or deep pressures, oftentimes I think that gets put aside. And in these conditions right now, I would argue that this is when the work becomes most important, where it really sticks, but you have to have done the work to believe of the impact, the long-term impact this has to the experience of others at work, to the way that we can show up for customers and certainly on the dollars and cents of it.

0:38:07.7 AB: But it's meaningful stuff, I have no doubt. And I actually have a plan for myself in this area, this type of work, after I am through this time as a revenue leader and on to something else, this will become kind of the bulls eye. This is... I've said this a couple of times, but this is life's work for me. So it's incredible to be able to apply it and also be open to failing 'cause I do that quite a bit. I'm trying to get it closer to right. But to be able to do it at an incredible company like Asana, and certainly other companies before, I feel very fortunate to have had the time and the space and the people around to support me through this process.

0:39:01.4 MH: I love it so much, and I would argue failing is part of growing. So it's part of the process, right? And if this becomes your life work, hit me up. I'm here. This is what I'm all about. Thank you for sharing all of that with me. Is there anything else you wanna touch on that we didn't touch on?

0:39:26.4 AB: Yeah, whatever, I think whatever you believe the listeners might be looking for in the spirit of capturing a revenue leader like me, so I've got some more time, if you wanna go down a different area if that would be helpful.

0:39:42.0 MH: Yeah, I would actually like to ask you two questions that I think will be helpful for people. I tend to go down my equity, D&I thing because it's what interests me, but then I forget, people also wanna learn other stuff.

0:39:56.3 AB: I understand.

0:39:58.1 MH: So we talked about it at the beginning, a little bit about how women don't go into revenue, revenue-producing roles enough, and also we know that we have an under representation in the tech industry. And this is a question I do think I get a lot, which is, what would be your advice for anyone who's looking to go into tech? And what would be your advice for anyone who's contemplating a career either? So I guess it's two questions, one, going into tech and the other one, someone who's contemplating a career, either going the more traditional like marketing, back office route versus revenue route.

0:40:39.1 AB: Okay. Let me tackle the second one first, if that works.

0:40:45.1 MH: Okay. Yes.

0:40:46.8 AB: So the most common objection that I hear from women in particular that are considering, or even not considering, and just having a discussion on the idea of going into sales, the biggest objection is, I don't want a quota. I'm worried about consistent income, and I don't want the pressure of a number over my head. And the advice I would give is like, that is so... A, that feeling is real and meaningful, and I do understand it. And it's important to unpack why is it that there is fear there, why is it that you're gonna let that prevent you from perhaps pursuing what could be life-altering? And I mean that in terms of income, I mean that in terms of growth, experience, skill sets, et cetera. And when you unpack it, I think that's when the real exploration begins.

0:42:08.8 AB: Is it really the expectations? Because so many of the folks that I've heard this from are really high performers, they over achieve any expectations of them. It just doesn't happen to have a direct number tied to it to the extent that sales does, like their variable comp, which means their bonus in general terms. And so I think part of it is really exploring that and trying to unpack, specifically what is stopping you, and if you had a "quota" on your job today, would you be crushing it? Most likely the answer is yes, for some of these folks. So I understand if someone has deep fiscal responsibilities for other family members, or for example, they don't have a net underneath them, they don't have a family that could support them, they come from... They don't come from well.

0:43:10.1 AB: They come from, you know, maybe it's like a middle class home like I did. I certainly don't have a net, and other people it's a very different scenario, but I think oftentimes, people stop right there, and I would argue that's like, it's just... They might be missing out on a huge opportunity if they just really explore what's underneath that. It's like, go deeper, go deeper. That's just the iceberg. I don't want a goal, I don't wanna a quota. We all have quotas and goals. We all do. They just feel, look differently, so what if that wasn't the real problem? Now let's get further. So that would be my, honestly, my biggest piece of advice, and that would be for women, under-represented folks, men, whomever. I think this is more of a human thing to consider.

0:44:05.9 AB: And we could explore why it is more populated with men in general, but I think the point of the story is don't let anything that is an iceberg get in the way of your growth, explore and if at the end of it, you go like, look, this isn't why I wanna pursue it, and there's a better reason than I don't want a quota, then cool, let's talk about that. On the under-represented side coming into tech, there's two parts to this story. Maybe even three. One is, there are a lot of folks that wanna break into tech, and I understand why 'cause while that wasn't my intention years ago, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in tech. I've grown tremendously and transformed in ways that I literally never thought were possible, it was out of my bounds of possibilities. And so I understand the concept.

0:45:14.2 AB: I would argue there hasn't been so far a better time for people that are under-represented to explore this opportunity, because the tech industry by large has really had a reckoning over the last five years with how homogeneous it is, how white, cis-gendered, hetero it is. And there have been many real initiatives and goals in place to Ellevate what it means in tech to really thrive as culture, as diverse thinking, all the stuff we were talking about earlier with competitive. So I think the conditions are better. Are they right? I think we still have work to do. But they're definitely better than they were even five, certainly 10 years ago, wildly different. I find that folks often don't have their story figured out. If you're working in, let's say, consumer package goods, and that is where you have spent the majority of time, there are so many relevant meaningful stories from that experience that absolutely apply to tech.

0:46:34.9 AB: Tech is a big word. Let's just talk about SaaS underneath that for a minute. It's not that complicated. I would argue there's other industries that are way more complicated than SaaS businesses, and so while there is a ramp period, I think self-education is really important, there's plenty of opportunities to do that with online learning, boot camps, et cetera, to bet on yourself and make that self-investment. And then that helps you with your story and market, but if you have some folks, connections in tech or connections of connections on LinkedIn in tech, or even if you wanna do a warm outreach or even a cold outreach to someone that is in tech, be thoughtful about how you do it. And this is all about cultivating your stories, so as a hiring manager in tech, I can identify the skills and the translatable skills, the success skills, and some of the hard skills that are absolutely transferable, and I take a bet on an industry change.

0:47:53.5 AB: So I don't know. It's certainly not easy, and there are barriers of entry that are very clear, and I do think there is some investments that are within people's control that they can do to increase the likelihood that someone will make the investment. I think one thing that folks do need to look at is like, what's the type of culture you wanna create or you wanna be a part of? Ask some really good questions. If you have made it to an interview process of how do they support under-represented folks or folks that don't come in with SaaS experience, are there programs around it to ensure that you could be set up for success? As much as you're trying to get in, you also don't wanna get into a scenario where you won't be supported and where you don't feel like you can be successful, which goes back to how we started this conversation. So those are a few things. We could probably have a whole podcast on this topic, but...

0:49:03.3 MH: We'll have you back.

0:49:03.9 AB: Yeah, happy to be back. We should do it. [laughter]

0:49:09.5 MH: We'll have you back and we're just gonna talk tech, 'cause I would... Honestly, I would argue a lot of our listeners, this is something that I've heard a lot, and when we do things about women in tech, it's always the same question. But how do I get into it, or how do I actually survive once I'm there? And one of the things that you're saying, which is so important, it's just like tech is an umbrella, right, it's an industry, you have to dig into the company too.

0:49:34.9 AB: That's right. Yeah. Dig into the company. Yeah, and there's also tech for certain things, there's tech for other industries, and so you can find these adjacent connections that then bring your set of experiences and your strengths to the conversation in a way that would be very helpful for that tech company. Like a simple example, if it's tech for finance or ed tech, ed tech, great. If you have experience in the educational system and you understand what it's like in these public entities or what have you, there's a real subject matter expertise that that tech company likely needs in you and it's your ability to be able to tell that story. Do a little homework and see where can you add value and where will you be able to get value?

0:50:36.5 AB: So there's looking at it instead of like the tech umbrella, and it's so hard to penetrate, but I could spend so much of my time in talent and learning and custom learning and e-learning, and lo and behold after being able to do that type of work at LinkedIn, I became a sales leader. And what was I selling? LinkedIn Learning. Selling my expertise. Even though I wasn't a sales leader and someone took a huge bet on me to do that, what I did have is I had a ton of experience being on the other side of the table as a customer who was purchasing tech, and I was running a learning business, and I had a 100-person learning team or sales enablement team, and so I understood what it was to be a customer, I also understood what it meant to lead through change.

0:51:33.0 AB: I had built large teams, I had dealt with a lot of interesting people, things. What I didn't have... And also with my sales enablement background, I had this core expertise in investing in sales people to make them better. Right now, I've covered three very important pieces of being a sales leader that's selling a learning product. The only thing I didn't have was actually being a sales leader. I figured that part out because I had someone that actually put me through a two-year clinic around it too, but I think those sorts of moves in your career, you try to find the things, the areas that you can attach yourself to where you know you can add value and you have confidence in that.

0:52:13.0 MH: I love it. Thank you for that. I think that's... This is gonna be very, very relevant for our listeners.

0:52:19.4 AB: Wonderful.

0:52:21.5 MH: We're gonna go into our lightning round, a real quick one. So if you could time travel, where is the first place you would go?

0:52:32.5 AB: Oh, time travel.

0:52:34.1 MH: I know it's a hard one.

0:52:34.2 AB: It's supposed to be lightning. Okay, I would... You know what I would do? I would go back in time and get to know who my grandfather was on my dad's side. I never got to meet him, but people told me I have his soul.

0:52:47.6 MH: I love that. I love that. Does pineapple belong on pizza?

0:52:55.3 AB: No, it does not. [laughter] It does belong with cayenne pepper though, I do like the little sweet hot.

0:53:02.3 MH: I've never tried that. If you could have any super power, what would it be?

0:53:16.6 AB: To be able to... Man, when you say it out loud in your life, do I really want this super power? I was gonna say to be able to be a bit of a mind reader, although I would argue that is kind of what I do, because of my obsession with humans. But I think it's like a super power to even amplify further my emotional intelligence, which I would argue is like a super power of mine, but what if it were super powered? I don't know.

0:53:49.6 MH: Wow. I can see how that would help, but I could also see how reading people's minds could be so scary.

0:53:56.2 AB: Could be scary and distracting. And then all of a sudden you don't like them as much as you thought you did.

0:54:04.0 MH: Could be the end of many, many relationships.

0:54:08.2 AB: Many relationships. Yeah, so scratch that. Maybe I just wanna fly.

0:54:12.5 MH: [laughter] And finally, what's one thought you'd want to leave with our listeners?

0:54:22.8 AB: This will be a note out to all the people leaders out there, if you haven't looked in the mirror lately to see how you are or are not creating the conditions for everyone in the room to provide their perspective, to actively call upon them, to be radically curious about what they have to say, then you are... You likely have work to do in front of you that you may not be aware of today, and it could be some of the best work that you ever do. You've hired incredible people for a reason, and the worst thing you can do is create the conditions to not tap into the potential and the skill set and the experiences and the backgrounds that you actually hired them for. And so you are literally like short-suiting yourself as a leader and likely, likely having a negative impact on your people, on your customers and your business. So think about that.

0:55:38.1 MH: What a powerful thought to end on. Thank you, Amy.

0:55:41.7 AB: Yeah, thank you for the wonderful question and time. This has been... I knew it was gonna be fun. And well, you were right.

[music]

0:55:54.2 MH: And we're back. She's really cool.

0:55:58.6 MO: She is. She's so cool. And you know, as the host of the LGBTQ community circle for Ellevate, my love always goes out to members of the community, so this one made me happy.

0:56:11.7 MH: Yeah, and our community circles, thank you for mentioning them, are actually getting quite the expansion this year. I don't know if you're familiar with, listeners, but community circles are how we celebrate intersectionality and the beauty that personal identity brings to our story in our workplaces. So at Ellevate, we host these every month, each one is a safe space, it's compassionate, where members from a specific identity come together to share their stories and recognize you're not alone. And our experiences as people from specific intersectional identities are different and complex.

0:56:57.3 MH: And it's wonderful to have the space to show up as yourself and be able to talk to someone who understands. So we're currently offering community circles for 40-plus age professionals, Asian and Pacific Islanders, Black women, Latinx women, LGBTQ+, parents and caregivers, and remote and hybrid professionals. Like I said, they meet once a month for each of these groups. You can find information at ellevatenetwork.com. And if you identify with any of these groups, please come and join us, you'll see it's a great space for us to chat about our experiences and get that, I don't know, just burst of energy and support we need.

0:57:50.4 MO: What happens in them stays in them, but I can tell you that there was a joke on going in the last community circle where we only... It was like two or three days before Christmas. So we had a smaller group. And also it was right after that big storm had hit, and so we... Even some of the people that were like, oh, I'm still planning to come, they said in advance like, I am so sorry, but either I don't have power or I'm having to go out to prep for the storm or having to finish outside. And we were like, that is fine. Please take care of yourselves. And so we had a smaller one, so almost everyone in the group had the joke of saying like me, that we were single and thus we were bi in theory, but not in practice.

0:58:35.9 MO: So if that resonates with you, feel free to go join the LGBTQ circle or if you're anywhere on the LGBTQ spectrum, come in, enjoy. We also do have... Every other month, we invite allies to come in and just kind of listen and learn, so whoever you are, come on by, we would love to have you. And speaking of meeting and making connections, no matter who you are or what you identify as, anything across the spectrum, we do invite you to come to this week's Ellevate Round Table. Maricella, do you wanna talk about what we're gonna be talking about there?

0:59:08.8 MH: Yeah. So first off, it's Thursday at noon, and we will be talking about setting achievable goals, not lofty resolutions. I don't know about you, Megan, but I've been thinking a lot about that in the last week of what my "resolutions" are, and I don't know, I really like for this idea of making it goal-oriented and in a way that's not gonna make me feel bad by the end of the year.

0:59:38.9 MO: 100%, yes, definitely.

0:59:42.2 MH: One of Megan's... I think you mentioned it at the beginning, but one of the questions at our Family Feud was people's resolutions. And first one was being healthy, and that's on my list for sure.

0:59:57.0 MO: Oh yeah, definitely on mine. And don't think we didn't notice you because some of the other ones were about making more money and being happier in your job, and if you're looking to do any of that stuff, we can help you out at Ellevate, and our round table is definitely a place to go.

1:00:11.0 MH: Yeah, absolutely. This is where you'll find your people and the people that will help you make those resolutions, and if you want accountability buddies for those, our Squads program and applications for our Squad program are opening up on the 15th. So just a few more days from today, you can go to ellevatenetwork.com to apply for a Squad. A Squad is a group that we set up, it's for you, tailored for you, for your career and what you're doing. It is five to eight people and you get to meet with them once a week for 30 minutes to really dig into what you're trying to achieve, they serve as kind of that personal board of advisors who can give you diverse opinions and at the same time help you with next steps, and how to cultivate that confidence that you need to make thoughtful decisions in your career. So Squads, a great place to get your accountability buddies for the year. Cool. So let's talk history makers.

1:01:27.3 MO: Whoo hoo. Okay, so I am going first this time because I'm really, really excited about the first one. Amna Nawaz became the first Muslim, first Pakistani American, and first first generation American to anchor PBS NewsHour. PBS NewsHour is my news network of choice. I love it. She has been Judy Woodruff's back up for when Judy Woodruff was out or sick or she's all kinds of other things, and then she does plenty of reporting, she would do plenty of reporting for PBS NewsHour. I always loved her. And so Judy Woodruff announced that she was gonna be leaving at the end of the year, and they announced Amna was gonna take over, as well as another man whose name I can't remember, I'm so sorry. Still getting to know him, but I didn't really know him as well, but I'm sure you are wonderful, and what I've seen from them so far, I've really liked their chemistry, and I love PBS NewsHour, and I think it is in amazing hands now.

1:02:26.6 MH: Amazing. Claudine Gay became the first Black President of Harvard, which is extremely exciting.

1:02:32.3 MO: Very exciting. Patty Murray became the first woman Senate pro tempore.

1:02:38.0 MH: I don't know what that means.

1:02:40.5 MO: It's a very big deal.

1:02:44.1 MH: Dina Boluarte became the first female president of Peru.

1:02:45.3 MO: Valerie Amezcua became the first woman mayor of Santa Ana, California.

1:02:51.0 MH: And Mariah Carey became the first woman to have three songs top the Hot 100 Charts for 10 or more weeks.

[overlapping conversation]

1:03:00.6 MO: And unsurprisingly given the time of year. She did that with All I Want For Christmas Is You.

1:03:08.3 MH: [laughter] Yeah. It was that time of year Mariah rings.

1:03:10.3 MO: Oh yeah.

1:03:13.7 MH: Well, thanks for joining us and have... Again, I know this is the second week of the year, but it's not too late to say it one more time, Happy New Year, and may all great things come to you in 2023. Join us next time, I will be talking with Maria Villablanca. She's the co-founder and CEO of the Future Insights Network, which is for leaders in manufacturing, supply chain and digital transformation. She's also the host of the Transform Talks Podcast. We had a great conversation about what's happening with supply chain issues and the disruption through COVID and what we're seeing for the next year. So I hope you can join us next week.

1:04:00.0 MO: Yeah, joins next week, very topical conversation.

1:04:00.7 MH: See you then.

1:04:02.6 MO: See you then.

[music]

1:04:08.9 MH: Join an exceptional peer group to sharpen your leadership skills and advance your career, Harvard Business School Executive Education now offers in-person and virtual programs. Learn more at hbs.me/go, that's hbs.me/go.

1:04:29.8 Outro: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out, subscribe to the Ellevate Podcast on iTunes, give us five stars and share your review. Also, don't forget to follow us on Twitter at ellevatentwk, that's Ellevate Network, and become a member. You can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website, www.ellevatenetwork.com. That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E, network.com. And special thanks to our producer, Katharine Heller, she rocks, and to our voice over artist, Rachel Griesinger, thanks so much and join us next week.