STB 035 | Sherry Lowe | She's Talking Back

The Importance of Finding a Mentor with Sherry Lowe

Sherry Lowe is an award-winning print and broadcast journalist turned Silicon Valley marketing executive. She has experience in building marketing programs for rapid-growth tech companies. As a professional that served both in sports journalism and tech companies, she was completely used to being the only woman in the room. Today, she shares how she was proactive in searching for powerful mentors and being very conscious in bringing up younger professional women.

The Importance of Finding a Mentor with Sherry Lowe

I am really, really, really excited to introduce you to my guest today. I’ve waited nine months for this interview. It was a hell yes, the minute I met the beautiful Miss Sherry Lowe and we finally found a time that worked for us both to have this conversation. Sherry is a Silicon Valley enterprise tech marketing veteran, and a former award winning print and broadcast journalist. She was one of the first ever female sports casters. I know all of you sports enthusiasts would wish that I talked to her mainly about that, but I didn’t. Sherry most recently served as the CMO of Expanse, a cyber security company.

Prior to that, she was the CMO of Dhruva a leader in cloud data protection. She joined Dhruva after spending six years at Splunk as Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Communications, where her leadership was key in helping to elevate the brand across the globe. While she was there, Sherry built and led a 70 person team that helped drive revenue from 70 million, pre IPO.

If I got that wrong, I apologize. Cause my handwriting, I can’t read it, but I have it down to 70 million pre IPO to over 1.2 billion in 2018. She’s also held senior marketing leadership positions at Mark Logic, Actium, Savion and Business Objects, which was acquired by SAP. She has a Master’s of English from Indiana State University and a Bachelor of Science from Arizona State University. She has been named a top woman leader in SAAS. That’s S.A.A.S. for those of you not in knowing technology speak and her articles have been published in the Huffington Post and Fast Company. You would think she’s looking a little bit old, but she is looking vibrant. She is sounding powerful, and this is a seasoned, generous and authentic leader. And I am so, so, so excited for you to hear from the beautiful Sherry Lowe. So, let’s get started!

Of course, I’ve got some change for you, one or 2 cents, lady. You know, I really believe that this is going to be another one of those interviews where there’s so much in here. You’re going to want to listen to this one, two, maybe three times. You know, I thought I had it nailed. I listened to the interview and I was thinking, Oh, you know, I’ve got it nailed. Do I really need to listen to it again?

And lady, I went back in and I took another page of notes. And so there’s a lot in here. And it’s the small nuances that you’re hearing week in and week out from these leaders that really can make you go aha. And it gives you that one insight or you’re hearing it differently because of the way that Sherry says it. And so I really encourage you to take a listen and then take another listen, because there’s a lot of great things in here.

Let me highlight just a few of them for you. Sherry, having come from two, truly male-dominated industries, especially in her career trajectory, I couldn’t help but have a chat with her about being the only woman in the room. And we even go as far as talking about workplace discrimination slash harassment. And I just really love the conversation that we had around this, in terms of what she learned and how, over time as she grew as her own, you know, self-leader and leader of others, how she approached situations differently over time and what it really means to speak out and how to do that if you’re in the situation.

And it’s really comes from a place of love and groundedness. And that’s why I was so thankful that we dove into that aspect. And, to that topic, I should say in our conversation, you will notice right away that creativity and creating is a major theme for Sherry. And she breaks down some of the ways that she encourages creativity for herself and how that plays a role in fueling not only just, you know, success at work and success with her team, but really fueling herself and how that plays a role in a major theme in her leadership style, which is, I’ll tell you afterwards.

Actually, I’ll tell you now.

One of the major themes that Sherry lays out for her philosophy around leadership and how she leads in herself. First is cultivating positivity outside of work. It makes me think of the interview I had all around creativity with Minette Riordan. And so if that’s something that you want to dig into further, definitely check out that interview as well. I have a couple more thoughts that I want to share with you. I’m going to save them til the end of the show. I think you’re really going to find that there’s a lot of meaty topics in here for you and just what resonates today will depend on what’s top of mind for you. So, without further ado, let’s hear from the beautiful Miss Sherry Lowe.

One of the things that you had mentioned was being the only woman in the room. So let’s talk about that, cause I’ve definitely been in that position that was common and in my early career, and I know for you as well. So, when do you first remember kind of noticing that you were the only woman in the room and then what did you think about that?

Well, I first noticed it as a sportscaster and as you know, that was my background before I came to Silicon Valley and I was always the only woman in the locker room and I definitely noticed and felt it then when I came to Silicon Valley over 20 years ago. And as I was progressing in my career, I did start to look around and go, Oh, there are no other women around this table. It didn’t hit me as quickly as it did in the locker room.

Strangely, I wasn’t even thinking about it. I was really just thinking about going in and doing my job, but it was probably, you know, I don’t know, I think around about 2009, 2010, that I was like, Oh, I am really the only woman around this table. And I just started looking for others and then wondering why aren’t there more of us?

Yeah. So, I mean, that’s interesting, right? Because you go into a career where you’re pretty much, it’s assumed in a way that, you know, so you’re not thinking anything about it, but then when you’re moving into different places at first, you know, nothing’s going off. So, what did you start to take that on as something you’re passionate on uncovering more or asking about? Or did you just go about your days?

You know, to be honest, I just went about my job, but what I really focused on was mentoring the young woman, women coming behind me because, you know, so you can say, Hey, why aren’t there more women at this table where where’s the diversity, where’s the conversation. But the best thing I think all of us can do is also get the generation who’s coming behind us, ready to fill those seats. Sometimes I think that there aren’t more women, there will one because we just aren’t there and ready for the opportunity.

Probably 10 years ago, 15 years ago, I would’ve said that, but now there are so many talented women who are coming up through the ranks that there really should be more women around the table, but I’ve always taken it on as a personal goal to just do as much mentoring and training as I can to the younger women that have worked for me. So that they’re ready. So they’re ready for their opportunities. And can confidently take a seat.

Yeah, no, that you make a good point. I was just sharing a story on an interview I did about, I thought I wanted to go into engineering actually and ended up visiting a firm in high school and walked in. And, of course, it was all men. I mean, there just wasn’t a lot of women going into it, Engineering.

I didn’t know that, but they were quiet. It was all men. It was very intimidating. And I was like, Oh hell no, I’m not doing this. But just by default, there weren’t a lot. Right. And I I’ve been at some legacy type of industries where just by default, there weren’t a lot of women.

No, it’s very true. My sister is an engineer and she was often the only woman in her college classes at the university. And definitely one of the only women in some of those firms. But I totally hear you. I mean, I’m a person who likes to have fun at work. And I think if I were you and had walked into that environment, I would have been like, yeah, no, no, no, not for me.

I ended up going into finance. So.

I don’t know that their that many models for women either.

Yeah. I was going to say, I don’t know if that was much better, but yeah. I mean, it was in financial services, building materials, like all the kind of the male-dominated industries when I was in corporate, but I didn’t really think about it, either. And so that’s like always a fascinating point of conversation. Just what were people thinking 20 years ago?

You know, it was just kind of part of the deal. I think it just, maybe we just didn’t expect to see as many women cause we knew going in that we were going to be the only one or there would be a few of us.

Ya, so I love what you said about focusing more on helping other women become ready. Do you feel like you had type of mentorship when you were coming along?

I do. I was very, very fortunate to work for a woman named Tracy Eiler and she’s currently the CMO of Inside View and she was my manager along with another gentleman named Randy Karens who actually works at HP still in Silicon Valley. And, I really felt like I worked for people who were getting me ready for my next step. And I learned from them, they trained me. They were very patient. I was coming from the broadcasting industry into Silicon Valley and they really took the time. They took the time to mentor and train.

And I felt very like I was in a very safe work environment, which I think is so important. You have to feel safe that you can make a mistake and it’s not going to end your career. And they let me make mistakes and they let me learn. And I would not be anywhere that I am today had I not worked for Tracy and Randy Karens at Business Objects. It was critical for me and they were great mentors. And I think that’s part of the reason I also became a mentor. I saw what they did for me and I wanted to do the same for others.

Yeah. So there’s a few things I want to unpack here. The first being mentors. How does someone, because I have mentors too by default, I think because when a company I worked for, you know, they encourage that, but it wasn’t really a program of any sort. So, there’s a woman sitting out there who wants to get to the next level where you are and how does that happen? Do they wait for it to happen organically? Did you approach them? Were you just right place, right time?

I think, you know, to be honest, I think it was right place right time. And I also worked for people that naturally had that mentoring personality, but I didn’t go seek them out. I remember watching them in meetings and thinking, okay, that’s where I want to be. I want to have that confidence to stand in front of the room and present and be as knowledgeable as they both were in the tech industry. So, for me, the mentorship started more with me watching them and trying to learn and then asking lots of questions and then being very open to share with me, you know, it’s interesting.

The mentorship started with me watching and trying to learn, and then asking a lot of questions. Share on X

I gave a presentation one time to a group of interns at Splunk when I was there. And part of the presentation was don’t wait for your mentor to find you go find the person that you want to learn from and approach them and be very proactive about it. I was fortunate that I just naturally became friends with my mentors and it sort of started that way. But I really encourage people to go find the person that you want to learn from. And don’t wait for them to find you because they’re probably really busy and they’re not thinking about it. But if you approach them, they’d be more than willing to share.

You just went right where I was thinking of going, it’s not about a certain program or a certain opportunity. It’s about creating the path that you see for yourself.

Exactly, exactly. And I’ve never been part of a formal mentorship program, but I’m on text and on email and cell phone with dozens of people who have worked for me at various jobs. And we’re really all there for each other. Anytime they have a question or need to run something by me, or I need to run something by them. Now, it’s funny how the person who mentored I now turn to the people I have mentored and I get advice from them. So, it’s turned into a two way street.

You’ve grown your own community by default.

My own advice community.

Yeah. The other thing I wanted to go back to, I thought was really powerful is you started out by talking about helping other women and probably men to become ready for their next thing. And then we went into mentorship and I just love that you talked about the fact that your mentors helped you feel safe, allowed you to make mistakes and not feel like your job was at risk.

I mean, invaluable. I can’t really speak to a time when I felt that way in my career. So how does that, how do you create that? Like how do you identify opportunities? Because I would love to jump into an opportunity like that, right? Like who wouldn’t. So how do you identify that? Not every place is like that is what I’m kind of getting to know.

No, not every place is like that. And I’ve been fortunate that I’ve worked at two or three companies in Silicon Valley that I would say were very safe spaces and safe zones to be creative, try something new, not get in trouble for it. And honestly, the companies that has been like that have been the more successful companies, because they did allow a little sense of freedom and creativity, and a feeling that, okay, I’m not going to lose my job if this idea doesn’t work. And those safe zones, I think, are so important for building teams, because when you build teams, it’s about trust and you can’t create trust. If people don’t feel safe and don’t work and aren’t worried about, well, did I say the wrong thing in that meeting? Did I say the right thing? Who’s looking at me?

So, I think part of just that building trust and building teams comes really from the leadership of the company. And it really trickles down. It has to start at the seat with the CEO and it just trickles down into all of levels of management when it starts at that level. So, when you have a CEO, who’s very, I would say leads with kindness. I mean, obviously they want the business to be successful, but they’re not looking for a scapegoat every single day. And when you have a CEO who’s really leading with kindness and what’s best for employees and the business that kind of trust and safe place, just, I think, trickles through the organization.

Yeah. It’s and who they hire for their executive team and how they’re showing up as leaders.

Exactly. And you know, that you don’t have a culture of fear when you just hire the right people that lead with the right values. And that just creates a safe place for everyone.

Yeah. I feel really fortunate on this show to, you know, one great leader knows another great leader. So, I feel like that is the environment that we’ve created here. And I’m just wondering, I’ve found is most great leaders work on themselves that they’re more stable within and they’re showing up more powerfully in a good way, though. And like a really solid power. What do you do to cultivate that within yourself? Cause I see your head nodding. You’re like, yup. Yup. Absolutely.

Oh, well I think positivity is huge because when you’re positive about yourself and the things you’re doing outside of work to grow yourself and to feel stable and to feel confident, you naturally bring that into your job with you. And, I often get asked the question, what kind of leader are you in the workplace? And I always say, well, I’m a very positive leader. I’m really the same person at work every single day. And I’ve worked for people who are not like that, where you kind of go, Oh, are they in a bad mood today? Should I maybe not go into their office? How are they feeling?

And that when you have that kind of leader where you’re not sure what their personality is that day, then you don’t feel safe. But if you have leaders that are really, Hey, you’re going to get the same reaction from me every day, whether it’s Monday or Friday, so never be afraid to walk in the office that really cements a place of trust. But I think it starts outside of work, are you doing the things you love outside of work and then bringing that positivity into work?

Yeah. That’s such a good point. I mean, you can’t have your home life be a hot mess, even if you’re single or you’re raising 10 kids, it doesn’t matter. You can’t have that be a hot mess because then when you walk into that door, you gotta like put something else out.

Well, yeah. Or you bring all the baggage in with you and you don’t have time to put the face on.

So, let’s get to like the real nitty gritty tactical stuff? What does that maybe look like for you, just to make a light bulb go off for any person?

Well, the first thing I will say is I have a lot of support at home. I’ve always been a working mom and I have two kids and I do have a husband who is great, who, does his share around the house and makes it okay that I have to spend these hours at work and focused at work. So, I’m not at work worrying about everything at home. Cause I know I have somebody there and I’m lucky.

I know that there are a lot of single parents who just don’t have that support network. So, for me, support network was huge in my career. And I’m hoping that if folks don’t have a support network, there’s a way to build it through friends, through knowing people who can help you so that you really can come into the workplace with your mind as clear as possible.

So, I think that really helps also, I think just getting away from work. And we are in a 24/7 environment, especially now with COVID and everybody working from home. There’s no workplace home, life separation. You know, our laptops are on our kitchen tables and we’re cooking dinner with one hand and we’re on the phone with the other. And it’s really important that to find that separation, even though we are a 24/7 culture and you really have to be online all the time. And I’ve always been online all the time.

Don’t wait for your mentor to find you. Share on X

It’s important, though, to try to block those hours where you can go take a walk, read your book and get away from the office. Pre COVID, I used to really love my commute, even though it was long, I had some of my best ideas in the car while I was driving into work or driving home because I had some time that was sort of my quiet time to think. So, I think just really getting that space around yourself, where you have time to think and create, it is very important.

There was a word that you have said like more than any other word so far, which is create and creativity. So, I’m really sensing that this is a foundational component to just who you are as a leader.

You know, as a leader, I give people lots of room to go figure out how they want to do it. What’s the best way. And I’m sure that comes from my journalism background and I do have a creative streak in me and I don’t feel like there’s just one way to make a company successful or to make a team successful. And I’ve been just simply amazed by the people I’ve worked with. Who’ve worked for me that come to the table with just these ideas. I’m like, wow, that sounds great. Let’s go, let’s go do it. I get really excited and behind that. So no, there isn’t just one right path to getting something done.

I love that. You said that you miss your commute because a lot of your ideas kind of come in the car. I’ve talked about this before. I get a lot of ideas in the car too specifically when I’m talking to myself out loud.

Yes, I do. Yeah. The same thing. You know, you have that time, which is your personal space in the car. I will say I rode public transportation for the last year and I don’t think I was as creative on public transportation as I was in my car besides the car.

Are there any other places where you’ve noticed that creativity creeps?

Walking, I’m a big exercise walker and I love to be outside walking. So, that’s another place where the mind is wandering. You’re not distracted, you’re just walking. And that helps a lot. I’m also though I’m big on brainstorm when you’re running a team and getting a lot of different voices from across the team together. Some of the most amazing things can be white boarded. And if you have the opportunity and I know we’re all remote now, so white boarding in a room is almost impossible. But zoom brainstorms work too. So yeah.

That’s a good point. I hadn’t thought about the brainstorming aspect of it in the sense that there’s something energetically getting everybody into a room, but where there’s a way there’s a way.

Yeah, exactly. Hopefully we can all figure that out and keep those virtual whiteboard brainstorms going. Cause I think they’re key. Yeah.

Yeah. It made me think of something I haven’t chatted with anybody about. So, I have this strong passion for how you show up, especially in a virtual environment. Over the years I’ve really discovered that people are paying a lot more attention to this then even right.

And I would be in a room with them and I think it’s just cause we’re staring a screen basically. But, I also recognize it’s a fine line. Right? We’re at home, running around. Stuff is going on crazy behind us. And also there’s time to brainstorm and get casual and sit back with your team like you would, you know, in the office.

So, do you have thoughts on and like showing up and you’re representing a brand you’re in a virtual environment, how you look matters. People make opinions, whether you like it or not. While at the same time, cultivating a relaxed, brainstorming creative environment.

Yeah. I read your article on this that you wrote about how you show up in meetings. Because it was interesting to me. I’ve thought about it and I always, you know, make sure, okay. A little makeup goes a long way, getting your hair together. And then of course thinking about your background, what’s behind you now, are there, is there anything strange or distracting?

So, your article was really good on this, but when we went into lockdown and started working remotely, those are things that I hadn’t really thought about because people saw me in the office. So, I didn’t worry as much about what I looked like on zoom. Sometimes I’m like, Oh, they know what I look like. They know it’s work from home day or whatever.

And now, every day I do think more about, okay, this is the only way anyone is seeing me. This is my brand. And you do need to look like you have it somewhat together and just look like you’re ready for work. And then, in addition to all of that, you have to start thinking about lighting and background and some of the things that people never had to worry about. But it is important. It’s important to look your best as you go forward and people are only meeting you this way.

Yeah. I really think it’s going to be interesting to watch how it unfolds because people aren’t used to it. And, I do understand the element of, Hey, you know, I live here, I don’t have it all set up and ready to go. And I used to do that too until I didn’t do it anymore.

Yeah. You know personally, this is just a personal thing for me. I’m a little more on my game if I’m dressed. Like I have tried to do zoom calls in pajama pants, believe me, we’ve all done it. There’s a casualness to it that I think my inner soul recognizes, and I’m not as maybe professional or on my game as I am when I just put the pants on and have my have my self together. So it’s more personal than anything else.

I love that you said that because I think there is an element. So, what I talk about and what I write about, because I have my lens to how it makes me feel, too. Right. I clearly am a preferred dresser upper kind of girl. I will admit, though, I don’t necessarily always have fancy shoes on anymore.

Okay. I will admit that, too. I am wearing my Birkenstocks, but yeah.

One of the things when we were meeting before and then I even saw it on some of the comments you made before we got together on the intake was just around workplace discrimination. And I was curious to ask you about this. I mean, the sports industry. Starting in the sports industry, I just don’t know if you have a special lens to this. If you have any specific thoughts around this, if you have any experiences.

Yeah. You know, I think it’s interesting. Cause I’ve been thinking this and I know you and I’ve talked before, but I’ve actually managed to be in two of the most bro-centric industries by accident. I didn’t even think about it. That I was joining these. My first experience as a sportscaster, very male dominated, lots of things happened there and then I transitioned to Silicon Valley. And again, there are places where it is very bro like, and very discriminatory and women are kept to a certain place. I think it’s gotten a lot better in the 20 years that I’ve been here, but it’s still out there. And I’ve had experiences in both environments to be honest. The interesting part is in sports, the discrimination and the comments were more to my face.

Like, somebody threw a jockstrap at me once. They definitely would stand a little too close when I was interviewing, you know, there were those kinds of things going on and they were very obvious. But I was a sportscaster in the nineties. And at that time, I felt just fortunate to have my job and I never complained to anybody. I just was like, okay, I just need to go get my interview, get out of there. And I’ll, you know, this is just what it is. I wanted this for a career, so I guess I just have to accept it. And then when I transitioned to Silicon Valley and I started seeing some things that certain, you know, at one company in particular that was, you know, unpleasant and very bro like behavior.

But at that time, my viewpoint had completely changed and I spoke out immediately and I think that’s what I’ve learned through two of my careers. My first one, I didn’t say anything because it just felt like I’m so lucky to have this job. I just need to keep my job and just do my work. And then coming as I grew up and moved into Silicon Valley, now I said something right away because over the years you learn, if you see something, you have to say something and you really have to put a stop to it in the now. And I’m trying not to wait a year or six months or whatever it might be. You need to try to put a stop to whatever you see right now.

Oh, that’s so insightful. I’m so glad I asked you about this because you probably weren’t even, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I’m just thinking now that you’re telling your story again, you probably weren’t even really thinking of where are you calling it, harassment in your mind and the very beginning or just thinking this is part of the package. This is just part of what it is. Just keep going.

Yeah, no, I wasn’t even thinking of it as harassment. I figured, look, I signed up for this. I wanted to be a sportscaster. I put this target on my back.

Clearly, I’m a woman and there’s all guys here, so it’s going to happen and I just gotta deal with it. And, who am I going to complain to? It just didn’t feel like there was even anyone to complain to at the time. And I just decided, and it didn’t end. Like you said, I didn’t even connect it as harassment. I just was like, Oh, this is just the way it is. I guess I got to put up with it.

Part of the package of being in this role.

Yeah. And in a male dominated field.

Yeah. But I love what you said. I just feel like that’s so insightful and high integrity, by the way, that you have to say something otherwise no one is going to know. We can’t walk around being like guessing.

But it’s hard to speak out. And I know that because I’ve had to do it. And you know, it is hard because you do immediately kind of put another target on your back because then you’re the person who spoke out and complained. But I still think it’s important to do it. And I don’t regret having done it the times that I’ve had to say, Hey, something’s going on. I’m seeing something that’s not right. Because otherwise it’ll just keep going.

Getting space around yourself where you have time to think and create is very important. Share on X

And the person who’s the bad actor doing the bad behavior will just keep going and find other victims. So, whatever price you pay and you do pay a price for speaking out, you do, it’s worth it because hopefully you’re stopping this person from continuing bad behavior with other people.

Yeah. And you know, what do you think it is? Is the fear of losing the job?

I think it’s losing your job. I think it’s losing, in some cases, some companies are doing very well. Their stock prices are high. And if you speak out, you might lose your job and not have this great stock that you have. And also in some ways I think women are still like, they still sometimes want to be perceived as nice and getting along with everybody. And so when you, and you don’t want to be the complainer because you want to be, you know, the cool person who, Oh, everything’s fine. You know, you want to be that person and you don’t want to be the complainer. So yeah, I think it’s financial. And I also think sometimes we still just want to be liked. And so we don’t want to say anything.

Ingrained in us. I know that comes from the playground for me, because one day walk up to the group of girls and they’d be like, Hey Michelle. And then the next day I’d walk up and they’d be like, don’t talk. We’re not talking to, you were like, Oh, I just want to belong.

Yeah. It starts very early for all of us.

I feel like your energy is so grounded in this. I want to ask you one more thing in this area because it’s you’re just a great model. I think for other women, you acknowledge it is hard. It’s scary. And so what is the first step you recommend someone take? If they feel like something is not right?

The first step is to put it in writing. Write down everything that’s happened or everything you’re seeing so that you have documentation. And then normally most companies do have a way to report it through code of conduct, email, or through your HR person. So, I would love to tell everyone to just verbally go have a conversation with the person who is harassing you. But I think you have to be a little more formal when these things are going on, because what happens, and this is where companies have a lot of evolving to do, but what happens is everyone will go into protection mode and try to save the company or try to protect the company.

And if you see something and you decide, you want to say something, you need to go into protect yourself mode first. And that’s why I always say, write it down, document it and send it to the appropriate person in HR who is listening to these complaints and who can potentially resolve it. But it’s a hard decision to make. And you have to decide that whatever is happening is so egregious and shouldn’t be allowed to happen that you need to step forward.

Big decision. It is.

Yeah. And a lot of folks don’t want to because they’re feeding their families. Maybe they’re the only income and it does put you out there. So, I do understand why people don’t come forward more often.

Yeah. And so we’re acknowledging that too, like creating the space. What I hear you saying is, ideally you will, and we appreciate you because there is a domino effect, but you got to do what’s right for you.

Exactly. And it does get back to creating a safe space. If you’re in a space, a safe work zone and a company that cares about its employees’ happiness, and won’t tolerate the asshole. I mean, I don’t know how many people have read Robert Sutton’s “The Asshole Survival Guide” but if you need that to get through your day, you’re at the wrong company. So, hopefully your company has that policy. Or they just don’t put up with that kind of behavior.

You know, you’re making a really a great point again on something I haven’t really dug into on this show, which is, I think a lot of people, you know, they’re in their jobs. They’re like, it’s not all doom and gloom. They’re making great money. It’s a hot company, it looks wonderful on the outside, but maybe they are in this kind of situation, year after year after and they’re thinking, Oh, this is how it is everywhere. Have you heard this story?

Oh yeah. Yeah. And it’s sad because it is like this at a lot of companies, but there are a lot of companies where it’s not, you’re lucky if you can find the ones that it’s not like that.

So how do you find the ones? Do you have any tips, tricks, questions to ask something on the website that you find that gives you a glimmer of hope that you’re onto a right company for you?

Well, it’s hard in the interview process. It’s funny you’re asking me this, because I just had this conversation with some friends of mine a couple of weeks ago. We’re like, what are the questions you asked to sniff out a company that has these problems? Like, how do you know what to avoid? And when you’re interviewing, they’re selling you to come on board.

So, you really have to try to figure out what’s real and what isn’t. I would always recommend that as an employee, as someone thinking about joining a company, back channel, as much as you can find people who used to work there, who can tell you what it’s really like and try to get an unvarnished view of the situation that you’re going into.

So that’s the best thing. It’s hard. What kind of questions can you ask? Everyone will answer them very similarly. Yes. We have great diversity and inclusion. Yes. We have a program for that. Oh, we sponsor Grace Hopper and you know, all these other diversity type events, but you know, you gotta find the company that actually walks their talk and that’s the key. And I think you can do that if you really do some basic digging and some talking to people who still work there talking to people that did work there and really see what’s going on.

Yeah. I like your point that they’re putting their best foot forward as much as you are. And so, they’re trying to dig away at who you really are and you’re doing the same.

Yes. Interviews are two-way streets, you know, really, they’re interviewing you, but you should also be thinking about, do I really want to go there? So that you make the right choice.

Yeah. I know when I had my first jobs, I would just think, Oh, yay. They hired me.

I know me too. I was like, Oh great. Or I followed a leader into a company who I really trusted and was assuming, okay, they’ve done the due diligence. They’re there. They like it. I’ll be okay too.

But sometimes they’re just trying to get the hell out of where they were. Where does intuition play in this world for you, whether it’s selecting a company, working with your team, where does intuition fall?

I’m a huge go with my gut person, and I’m pretty intuitive even during the interview process or when I’m working with people. So, I really try to listen to what my gut is telling me. And the couple of times that I haven’t, it’s always been a mistake cause I’ve always known, Oh, I saw that red flag and I should have listened to it, but I didn’t. I thought that I could turn it around or make the situation positive. So for me, intuition and gut is super important. It doesn’t mean that you don’t look at data and look at metrics. Obviously, I run marketing teams and it’s all about the data and you have to see what’s performing and what isn’t, but from a people perspective, if you have EQ and you have that intuition, it’s really important to listen to it.

And you say gut. What I’ve discovered in talking to all of you, beautiful ladies, is it’s a little bit nuanced for people. So, what is it when you’re like, that’s my gut telling me, is it a little voice? Is it a little stomach feeling? Is it both? Something else?

Well, I’ll give you an example of a company I interviewed at within the last few years. I was in the interview with one of the senior male executives. And he walked in the room. I hadn’t met him before. He walked in the room, sat down, put his notebook down and said, so what do you want to know? And I was like, this is going to be someone I have to work with daily. And my little flags just went up. I don’t know if it was the skin crawling up my neck or what, but I was like, Oh, I don’t think I, you know, that alarm bell went off.

And, so it’s those kinds of things. It’s mannerisms. It’s how they interact in an interview. It’s the questions they ask you. This particular person sat down and didn’t want to ask me any care, like what to ask me a question, expected me to do all the work in the interview. And so, there’s things like that that are flags and that’s your gut going? I think, huh? Think twice, you know, or ask to talk to that person again, to see if they’re a little bit different the next time.

And when you ignored that little voice and those flags going off, you said it always comes back around.

Yes. I ended up joining that company and I wasn’t very happy there. And, I knew it a few months in, and I’m like, Oh, I knew this person was a problem. And why didn’t I listen to myself? I generally listen to my gut. I really do. And I didn’t that time. And I should have.

I like to say that sometimes once you think you have that little intuitive hit figured out, it shows up in a new outfit. So you can’t see it coming and it tried to to trick you.

That’s a good point. Yes. That’s a good point. Then they seem okay. The next time around, you’re like, okay, maybe I was off on that, but no, normally if you look back as you run yourself through intuition and gut, but like many of us do, if you look back, usually your first impression was right. You know, and normally my first impression on someone it’s pretty spot on and I need to, just got to listen to that as much as you can.

Really well said. Thank you so much for your insights and wisdom and for being on the show today.

Oh, I loved it. Thank you so much. I’m glad we could do this.

Wow. Am I right? Or am I right? You know, there were a couple other major categories that stood out to me. One you’ve heard on the show before Sherry talked a lot about mentorship and something really stood out to me because I talked to Chinwe Esimai. Her interview and her career growth. Her career trajectory, I should say, was really fueled by mentorship and Sherry identifies the same for herself. What stood out to me this time that hadn’t before, if you really listen for it, the aha moment for me anyways, is that over time through mentorship, through having mentors and then through providing mentorship over time, what was cultivated was a really a tight knit community for Sherry around giving and receiving advice. And I thought that was really, really beautiful.

It just goes to show you that every time you show up to serve others and in an authentic way, that that can only cultivate positivity, to use Sherry’s words. Positivity that comes back to you in ways that you will not expect. And last but not least, I really loved in this conversation with Sherry, a different spin we talked about and spent some time at different stages in this conversation around creating a trust based, values driven and safe space for your company, for your organization, for everybody within your organization.

And Sherry clearly has worked for companies along those lines, as well as not along those lines. So, I really felt like she brought a strong perspective around the importance of cultivating that and allowing for learning and making mistakes and taking risks within your organization. And I really thought Sherry had some insightful ideas that towards the end of our conversation, around finding great companies that are a fit for you, I certainly did not do that in my career.

I wasn’t thinking about that during my time at corporate. And honestly, when I look at part of my entrepreneurial journey, I also wasn’t looking at growing and creating businesses that were a fit for me. And I’ve talked about and shared that in different interviews. So, I really encourage you, beautiful lady, to think about and not be afraid to identify what you’re looking for and to really go after and find the places, whether that’s an organization, the communities. Whether you’re looking for network or creating the business of your dreams.

All right, that’s what I have for you today. You know, what I’m going to ask is one by one, we make a difference. So, I would ask of you to take a moment and think of somebody in your life who could benefit from one piece of information in this interview or the interview as a whole and give it a share. We’ll talk to you soon.

About Sherry Lowe

STB 035 | Sherry Lowe | Chief Marketing Officer

Sherry Lowe is a Silicon Valley enterprise tech marketing veteran and a former award-winning print and broadcast journalist. She was one of the first-ever female sportscasters.

Sherry most recently served as the CMO of both Expanse, a cybersecurity company. Prior to Expanse, she was the CMO of Druva, a leader in cloud data protection. Sherry joined Druva after spending six years at Splunk as Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Communications where her leadership was key in helping elevate the Splunk brand across the globe.

While there, Lowe built and led a 70+ person team that helped drive revenue from $70M pre-IPO to over $1.2B in FY18. She’s also held senior marketing leadership positions at MarkLogic, Actian, Savvion and Business Objects (acquired by SAP).

She has a Masters of English from Indiana State University and a Bachelor of Science from Arizona State University. Sherry has been named a top women leader in SaaS. Her articles have been published in the Huffington Post and Fast Company.

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