EPISODE 589: Success Strategies for Women in Sales Leaders from Katherine Andruha

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This Special Women in Sales episode podcast , hosted by Gina Stracuzzi, featured an interview with Katherine Andruha of Simpplr.]

Find Katherine on LinkedIn.

KATHERINE’S TIP:  “When you walk into a room, be prepared, be ready to say your one piece that you want to share with the org, with whoever is in that meeting. Whether it’s a one-on-one, whether it’s a meeting with your team, whether it’s a meeting with a partner team, come in prepared for that meeting so that you come off even more intelligent than you are. You know what you need to bring to that table, so share it, have it concise and ready to go in a little notebook, and shine. It’s your chance to shine and you have it in you, believe in yourself.”


Gina Stracuzzi: I am super excited to talk to Katherine Andruha today. She is with Simplr. She is Senior Director of Global Sales Development and one of the top women sales leaders in 2022. Katherine, welcome.

Katherine Andruha: Hi everybody. I’m so excited to be here. I have always wanted to be a part of this podcast. I’ve heard Gina speak on many occasions and have always had a little bit of FOMO to get on here. It is such an honor, and I am thrilled to be here. Hopefully by listening to this podcast, you’ll be able to take away a couple of takeaways and some tangible behaviors that you can change or update on your own.

Gina Stracuzzi: That’s how we learn really. It isn’t always expensive webinars or seminars or something. It’s really, what are other people doing? How is it helping them succeed? I’ll tell you what, we are in this period where we’re all just making it up. It all just feels a little weird.

Katherine Andruha: You know what? I will double click on that with you right now because I will say, anytime I hear somebody speak, I always try to jot something down that I can take away and that I can actually action in my real life. Not everything is going to be actionable for you, and that’s okay too, but to your point, it’s not like anybody wrote the tell-all bible of how sales should be, what it’s like to be a female leader, what it’s like to be a male leader. We are just all making it up and sharing our experiences. That’s how you can figure out your own best practices in your own life.

Gina Stracuzzi: In this hybrid world that we find ourselves, some by choice and other by kicking and screaming, it is kind of the Wild Wild West a little bit, just to go back to an analogy from a long time ago. Everybody’s doing the best they can and hoping that it all works out. But before we get into that discussion, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are today and your new company?

Katherine Andruha: It started a long time ago, let me tell you. Dinosaurs weren’t roaming, but it’s been a while since I’ve been in this gig. What’s interesting is that I never in a million years thought that I would ever be in sales. I thought I was going to be a psychologist. I got my degree in psychology, I’m a minor in marketing, and then went into finance, so your life can take many different changes. Then I finally had a friend reach out to me and they’re like, “Hey, do you want to make some money? You can talk to a wall, so you could do both.” I’m like, “Awesome, let’s rock and roll.” That’s how I got into tech.

I started at the bottom, and I was an SDR for three and a half years over at Aruba Networks, and it really laid out my foundation. I still am in touch with many of the people there. One of my top mentors, Andre Anderson, was my first boss there. We had met, and he’s been guiding me through my career, and I ping him whenever I can. But that’s really what got the ball rolling, was I took a chance on myself, tried something new, and then now I’m here at Simplr. I’ve been leading global sales development orgs for I would say over 12 years now, full managing the teams. They range in different sizes. They can be small, and some can be really big. I’m at medium right now over here at Simplr, but we’re definitely paving the way for our customer experience platform and making just business a little bit more human and being able to provide insights to organizations so that they can make their businesses and their employees really excited about coming to work and really making changes that drive value across their internal organizations. That just aligns with my own values and how I manage people, and managing with empathy, and using data and feedback to really pave the way for my teams. I think that’s what’s made me pretty successful in honing in on relationships for the long term, which is awesome.

Gina Stracuzzi: It sounds like a good mindset that you’ve had, and you’re open to new experiences and new challenges, which is really crucial to growth in a career. I’m listening to you talk about being in psychology as a major, which is what my daughter is majoring in. She’s got all these ideas about what she’d like to do, and it’s like, “Yeah, if you don’t go on in that field, you really can’t do those things.” I have always thought psychology really would be a helpful base for sales because you have an understanding on how people’s mind works, and what makes them click and tick, and what’s going to resonate with them, how to dig a little deeper. It could be a great basis. Maybe she’ll come into sales.

Katherine Andruha: No, that’s awesome. Yeah, she’s looking. Let me know. I’m happy to help her find something.

Gina Stracuzzi: Well, thank you. Let’s talk a little bit about what it means to really be a female leader in today’s environment. We have noticed that companies are really dedicated and committed to elevating more women into sales, bringing in more diverse sales teams. There’s a lot of pressure on companies for their sales teams to really reflect the customer base, which can be really a wide swath of society, and that’s wonderful. It’s hard though. The desire to do that and the reality of doing that are two different things. Inside those environments, there can be frustrations, still pieces of remnant cultures that haven’t fully gone away yet. Talk to us a little about the real obstacles that you have faced and what you see women in your organization or in your line of business facing.

Katherine Andruha: There’s a lot there to unpack. As you were chatting, and I was listening to you, I’m like, “I’m thinking about this example. I’m thinking about this example.” First and foremost, I think it is commendable that businesses are actually starting to see the value in having female leaders. The unfortunate part, the flip side to that is that there’s not very many of us. When we are applying, they’re looking for 25 years of experience or they’re not willing to take a chance. Well, that’s also hindering us. Not everyone’s going to fit that cookie cutter mold of that female leader that you’re looking for. If there’s something inspiring about someone that you’re talking to, take a chance on them. I promise you, they’ll probably work out best because they’re just looking to cut their teeth and gain that respect too, and they’re probably going to be killer at that role as well.

As I’m interviewing people, especially females, I am looking for that motivation and that passion, so keep that alive, I would say is really important. But one of the obstacles I think is that there’s so many different standards for women out there, and it’s really hard to keep up with them all. I’ve run into this too. I’m a very passionate, positive, motivated person, but man, that door has been slammed in my face. I’ve been let go from companies. It is hard, because sometimes you don’t know where that needle is going or what you’re supposed to be doing. That I think is the largest obstacle. You’re supposed to come in and be empathetic, but if you’re too empathetic, then your numbers aren’t hitting. Then if you try to get your numbers to hit, then you come off too aggressive, or you’re too bossy, and you just can’t ever win with it. Trying to find a way to stay true to yourself, I think that’s the best way to overcome those obstacles.

There’s always three things that I do when I come into a new company. Number one is I always do a listening tour. I make sure that I start with my team, whoever I’m managing, I start with my managers first, and I just listen to them for 30 minutes. What’s working? What’s not working? What don’t you want me to change? I hear them out. Then that way you start building that trust with your team initially. Then I move on to subsequent teams, my lower-level employees within my organization, and then I branch out to the other sales leaders and marketing leaders that I need to establish a relationship with, and I listen.

From there, that’s when I start drawing the themes. Because if you come in and try to change things too fast, it’s just going to backfire in your face. Once again, too aggressive, wants to change everything, doesn’t know what’s going on, blah, blah, blah. I’ve tried to find a way to mitigate that for myself, because I know, I’m assertive. I know what’s right, I know what’s wrong, I’ve seen it done in the past, but I’m also open to hearing how companies do things their way too, because there’s a way that you have to go in to doing that. But I would say really staying true to who you are and finding ways where your communication style can come across so that you’re heard, so you’re not deemed with any of these different adjectives that can be described to female leaders.

Gina Stracuzzi: Friendly descriptors.

Katherine Andruha: Yes, exactly. But I’ll be honest with you, I think probably one of the biggest obstacles I have faced is just the female-on-female hate in businesses. Why don’t we all just get along and help each other out? I’ve met some amazing mentors in my career, and those are the people that I lean towards. But I’m telling you, I have met some pretty tough females that I’m like, “Gosh, I’m never going to please you.” Or “Gosh, why are you intimidated?” Or “Why can’t we just be friends in the workplace at least and have respect for each other?” That’s been my hardest obstacle, and overcoming that, and just gaining that knowledge share with those individuals has been tough. But it’s something we’re working on still and trying to figure out the right path.

Gina Stracuzzi: It’s interesting because when I was in the corporate world, which it was already 15 years ago, and I got out for a lot of the reasons you just mentioned, I really just didn’t have patience for it. If something was an assault, I treated it like an assault, which didn’t always serve me well. But what’s interesting to me is that there are still times when women feel threatened by other women. It used to be because there really was one slot, and quite often women would be pitted against each other intentionally. It’s not to say that it doesn’t happen anymore, but it’s like the mindset is a holdover even when the reality isn’t. I don’t know what that’s all about, except the best I think we can do with it as women is to keep promoting there’s plenty of room if we work together. If we don’t elevate each other and don’t go in as a force, we’re not going to make those big headways.

Katherine Andruha: What I like to do in a lot of my meetings is if there’s another female in the room, I always like to somehow, if they’ve said something, and then I wait my turn to say something of importance, I don’t like to just speak to speak. I’ll always go back and say, “That was a really great point that you made, Sandra. I’d like to highlight that and double click on that a little bit more and piggyback on what you’re saying,” so that there is some comradely in the boardroom. You also, number one, feel like you’re heard. Number two, you have now established a positive relationship between that other individual, whether you know them or not. But it allows you to almost take your guard down a little bit and realize, “Cool, we might be on different teams, but we’re actually on the same team, and that’s okay.” Even if your workplace doesn’t allow you to work together that often, knowing that, “Cool, I’ve got this meeting coming up with Sandra. She’ll have my back again,” is really helpful with going in with a positive experience.

My life coach, this guy, Eric, he told me that one of the most important things that you can do when you go into a meeting is ensure that you have one solid point that you want to make in that meeting. Write it down, think about the meeting before you go into it, write it down, have that solid point so that you’re not just known as, unfortunately, the female leader that likes to talk a lot. You go in with your solid point and have some points in there that you want to make. But then when you’re listening to other people speak, write down the one point that you want to make in regard to what somebody else said, so that you have in concise, there’s no emotion behind it, there’s no aggressiveness, and you can find a way to lower your tone as if you come a little bit more prepared.

Gina Stracuzzi: You brought up a good point where really if you’re trying to build comradery and rapport, highlighting what someone else said is a great way to do it. Another piece of advice that I really love is if you see a woman being talked over or interrupted, to stand up for that person. “Bob, I know you always have such great things to add. Can we let Mary finish? and then we’ll be happy to listen to what you have to say.” Usually you only have to do that once.

Katherine Andruha: Then they know.

Gina Stracuzzi: For sure. Nobody likes that part. Let’s talk a little bit about mentorship and mentoring female leaders, and even what advice you would give women in terms of finding a good mentor.

Katherine Andruha: In finding a good mentor, I’m really blessed because in a way I fell into it. I consider Maria Pergolino, my old boss from Apttus, and we worked together at Anaplan, and we’re still good friends, I can text her anytime. She might be slower to respond, but that’s okay. I know she’s a very busy CMO out there, but I fell into her. She gave me a chance to be a strong leader in her organization and she guided me. She told me how to think about things. I think what’s important about finding a mentor is not only are they guiding you, but you have to listen to them. Because if you don’t listen to the advice that you’re getting, you’re never going to change.

She was firm with me. She let me know, “Hey, this is how, you should do it this way. Start thinking about things that way,” and it really helped me click. Then just meeting other female leaders, she exposed me to other people and introduced me to other people. I think what’s important is that your mentor is willing to give you advice that you maybe don’t want to hear, but also wants to introduce you to other people in their network so that you can start creating your own network. That’s what I look for in a mentor. Lori Harmon, one of my past bosses as well, she’s introducing me to other networking opportunities outside of Silicon Valley, because that’s part of my new metamorphosis for my New Year’s resolution, is to find other networking means and meeting new people, not just in my Silicon Valley bubble. She’s taking me under her wing and teaching me about that, and that’s really advantageous for me as well, but I fell into those two.

But when I am looking for people, it’s somebody that’s going to be there, I recommend, for you no matter what. It’s somebody that’s going to tell you maybe something you don’t want to hear. It’s going to be somebody that actually guides you down the right path but can find a way to have you look at things from a different perspective. I think that’s really important when you’re looking for a mentor. It’s not just somebody that’s going to blow smoke every time you see them at a networking event and you’re cheering with champagne, because these people are going to be there for you when you’ve hit zero, and they want to lift you back up. That’s what you’re looking for.

Gina Stracuzzi: Let’s just say that you are somebody that’s a little discouraged right now, especially a woman in sales. Maybe your company is just not being very flexible or friendly, or maybe you’ve even got other people in your sales organizations that are not playing nice. What advice would you have for some key actions that they could take that could change their outlook? Because you can’t change other people.

Katherine Andruha: No. You can’t change other people. I think that’s number one, Gina, is realizing you can’t change other people. My mom always told me, and this is an irenism, she’ll be so proud that I’m bringing this up. They’re showing you their true colors, believe them. People don’t change. You have to realize the situation that you’re in. The first thing I always do is I make a pro and con list. I know that sounds so old school, but I get out a notebook and I make a pro and con list. What’s so great about this organization? What’s not so great about this organization? What’s great about a leader? What’s not great about a leader?

I recently had to make a change in my own life. One of my previous bosses wasn’t great, and I loved my team, and I was stuck between this conundrum of what’s making me happy and how can I be a good leader. The first thing I did was I made a pros and cons, and then I chatted with family members, I chatted with my mentors, but I also started seeing what could be my path within that organization, because I love the company and I love the people. Was there another place that I could go? I didn’t run from the company because I liked it so much. When I realized there wasn’t much happening within that org, I knew I’d have to look elsewhere, and I took a chance on myself.

But the number one advice I can give to you too is don’t leave a job until you have another one. That is huge. I guess that’s called silent quitting now or whatever, which I think is silly. To be honest with you, just do your job. But keep doing your job until you find another one. It’s okay to interview, even if you are happy. Keep your wheels greased, ladies. You want to go in and always be number one when you hit that interview docket. But don’t leave your job until you have another one in place. If you still have your job, don’t settle for another one because you’re running from something. Find something that really fits what you’re looking for, and if it doesn’t work out after a couple of months, that’s okay. You know you, so you can move on to a different company. Guess what? You can explain it that way too in interviews. I’ve had to do that before. “You know what? It just wasn’t the right fit for me. I knew that, I’m moving on, and I’m being mature about it. Awesome.” That will pay.

Just have that confidence in yourself, but really look for those outliers of what makes you happy and what doesn’t. Because if you don’t know what doesn’t make you happy, then the next company’s going to do the exact same thing. You’re just not going to be happy. You’ve got to reflect on yourself. Remember, these are just jobs. They don’t define who you are, they pay you to do a job.

Gina Stracuzzi: It’s something that we talk about in the forum a lot, because it’s very easy to get frustrated. One of the things that comes up quite often is, are you someone who stays too long or leaves too soon? Sometimes you have to give things a chance, but it is so easy to just imagine that something’s going to be different over there, and it’s not different. As they say, the grass is greener, and I say, it’s just a different shade of green. That’s all.

Katherine Andruha: That’s true. You bring up a really good point about whether people run or stay, and I’ve found myself I run sometimes because I typically know within the first 90 days if I’m like, “Oh God, this is not going to be good,” or, “This is going to be really good.” That’s when I know. My advice, and this is just because of me personally, if you know it’s not going to work out in the first 90 days or 100 days, just go. Just go, because it’s not going to get better for you.

Gina Stracuzzi: If you’ve really given it the old college try as they say, and you don’t know until you get into a company what they’re really about, unfortunately. Part of a recruiter’s job is sales, and they’re selling the company. It’s one of the reasons that we’ve started the PWISE designation, to help women be able to look and see companies that have the Premier Women in Sales Employer designation. That means that they’ve gone through this rigorous process to prove that they actually are flexible, that they have policies and practices in place that are beneficial and helpful to women, and that they put their money where their mouth is, which you don’t know until you get into a company. That’s one of the reasons we did that. But this can happen for men too. You get into an organization and somebody who seemed great when you were interviewing, you realize they just put on their best Sunday suit for you when you came in, and the reality is something very different. Life is too short to hang around forever, but it’s really being honest with yourself.

Katherine Andruha: It’s their job.

Gina Stracuzzi: Yeah, exactly.

Katherine Andruha: I know that sounds terrible, and it’s your livelihood, but I also think another thing that women tend to do is chase logos on the best companies to work at. Like, “My friend works at this company and has been there for five years. I should go work there too.” No, but your friend could be in a completely different department than you, and who cares about the logo? It just comes down to, can you do a good job at that company? Are you going to have people there that support you? Do they have these best practices that you’re speaking about? Do they treat women fairly? Are you going to have a voice and are you going to get paid well? I think that’s a lot of what people are, they’re willing to take the logo over their pay, and I’m like, “I could be a manager and you could pay me the same amount of money. I’m still going to do my job well.” As long as you are happy and you feel good about coming into the office, you’re going to do well.

Gina Stracuzzi: We are at that point in the conversation where we like to ask our guest for one piece of an actionable item listeners can put into place today that will help them take their career or their sales efforts to the next level.

Katherine Andruha: I’m going to preface it with change doesn’t have to be negative. Anything I recommend today is going to be a change for you, because you’re probably not doing it yet, and it’s going to feel a little uncomfortable at first. But change doesn’t have to be negative. You can spin it into a positive. My number one takeaway that I can say is that when you walk into a room, be prepared, be ready to say your one piece that you want to share with the org, with whoever is in that meeting. Whether it’s a one-on-one, whether it’s a meeting with your team, whether it’s a meeting with a partner team, come in prepared for that meeting so that you come off even more intelligent than you are. You know what you need to bring to that table, so share it, have it concise and ready to go in a little notebook, and shine. It’s your chance to shine and you have it in you, believe in yourself.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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