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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the WOMEN IN SALES Webinar sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales and hosted by Gina Stracuzzi on February 1, 2021. It featured Michelle Hyde of technology consulting firm The Hyde Group. Michelle is also involved with The Cloud Girls.]
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MICHELLE’S TIP FOR EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “There are so few women that are on boards today, be it non-profit or for-profit company boards so there are great opportunities for women in sales to make a difference right now. Cloud Girls certainly has been an amazing endeavor for me. Since it’s a nonprofit, we’re able to give back by impacting the next generation of women in technology. We mentor those young gals with not only education but also scholarships and things of that nature. It’s important right now to get involved in something that resonates on your heart, makes you feel good and also is great resume builder.”
Gina Stracuzzi: Welcome to the Women in Sales professional development webcast. I’d like to welcome Michelle to the program. Michelle, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in sales.
Michelle Hyde: Thrilled to be here, Gina, thank you for the opportunity. Good morning to all of our listeners as well, it’s a great honor to be with each and every one of you. I’m the President and founder of Hyde group and we’re out here in Seattle, Washington, it was established in 2010 so I’m hitting my 11th year anniversary in business. I’m out here as a consultancy and trusted advisory firm to small and mid-enterprise organizations that are finding themselves going through the need for technological changes or migration from legacy systems and also needing objectivity for the marketplace and their planning efforts. Often times these executives are close to the subject and need that objective resource to understand what’s yielding in the marketplace, and I lend that expertise.
Gina Stracuzzi: I know you’re on the advisory board of some great organizations, one in particular is your passion project. As the Director of the Women in Sales program for IES, I really support this organization and love what you’re doing. Please tell us about your involvement with Cloud Girls.
Michelle Hyde: Cloud Girls was established in 2010, so also heading into 11th year of existence and it’s hard to believe because it’s gone by so fast so I’ve done so much, but our mission really has been to educate, mentor, inspire, give back and recognize women in the technology sector. We’ve got two annual awards that we give out every year as well recognizing women broadly in the industry. Often times you see women obtaining awards through their organizations, but being acknowledged by an industry touchstone like Cloud Girls, we recognize Trailblazers, those women that have broken that glass ceiling in the technology environment. Also, Cloud Girl Rising award which is those new youngsters, millennials in 20s and 30s that are really making a name for themselves in the industry and impacting it broadly as well. We’re a pretty small organization as it goes with about 56 women or so, they’re all in senior leadership positions in cloud computing or next generation technologies and we’re made up of a board of advisory committee officers and we run an organization that educates on a bi-monthly basis. Every other month we have an educational program for an hour and a half and we’ve got board meetings on opposite months.
Gina Stracuzzi: Is this a member organization? Can people join?
Michelle Hyde: It’s by invite only, we try to target those women that are selective in some respects. We look and interview those, we’ve got a panel that does interview new candidates to make sure that they meet requirements that we are looking for. We’ve got an array of folks that go from sales, senior management, engineering and marketing so it’s all different walks in that technology ground. We like to have that dynamic makeup of folks that really add a different facet to our organization.
Gina Stracuzzi: A lot of the women that listen to this program and a lot of the IES webinars are in the technology field. I would suggest that if you’re interested, you check them out on LinkedIn. Do you have a website too?
Michelle Hyde: We do, cloudgirls.org.
Gina Stracuzzi: Michelle, when you and I first started talking about having you on as a guest, we really had a great conversation that we probably should have just taped because it could have been everything that we really want women to know. A lot of what you share with me that you went through in 2020 and how you tried to move forward with it and our moving forward with it is really where I thought the lessons and thought process could be of value to other women. That’s what I would love for us to talk about today. Michelle, where would you like to start in terms of how you took 2020 and made it a way to look forward?
Michelle Hyde: It seems like 2020 lasted forever yet went by in a flash, and I think that we’re so grateful that it’s over but it’s not over still. We’re still dealing with much the same in this year but have more hope a little bit with changes beginning here, having a new year generally. Now we’ve got the lessons learned from 2020, how are we going to look forward? I think that’s what we wanted to capture today in our conversation. You deal with the shock of the change in business and for me, there were twofold. One, it got exceedingly busy with clients needing to make the change to a remote workforce, so that rendered lots of conversations, lots of activity and lots of pull-through opportunities as well because of those changes. Also, it rendered fear, uncertainty and doubt in those folks as well, like, “I’m not sure I’m doing it right, let’s just do damage control to get by for right now and take a look at how we’re going to move forward in a much more strategic way.”
I think that was also the case with a small business like myself where we’re also in damage control although I’ve been working remote forever and a day. That wasn’t the impact, it was the impact of the world around me that I think was fearful because you don’t have control of that. You’ve got control of your world, you don’t have control of the world around you so at some point you just have to let it be and say, “How can I make sure to keep the plate spinning? How can I just manage and damage control where I need to?” That’s something that was a true pull-through, understanding and learning how to decide and decipher what is controllable, what isn’t controllable, how you can have impact in chaos and then marry that with your client business initiatives and also family dynamics.
Gina Stracuzzi: That has been a message that has been the same for everybody. One of the most profound things to come out of all this is the leveling of the situation for everyone. I too have been someone who’s worked from home for as long as I can remember, so that part wasn’t the adjustment. It’s everything else, the not being able to have in-person meetings or get together with friends, all of that adds, every day it’s a little bit more. If you’re somebody that’s a business owner or you have your slice of business within your company or quotas that you must meet, whatever it is that’s your corner of the world, keeping it going and staying positive and bright. For women, whether you’re single, married or married with kids, there’s a piece of nurturing that goes along with it. If you’re a business owner or a person that has quotas and clients, you’re nurturing those clients in a way to keep them positive and keep them moving forward too. I don’t know about anybody else, but it’s exhausting and empowering at the same time.
Michelle Hyde: Yes, you get to employ your superpowers and I think women naturally have this nurture about them, this mothering element wherein you find that it’s about a care and concern. Getting in touch with your customers, being very real because everybody’s dealing with this new world and the anxieties, fears and changes both personally and professionally. It’s important that the outreach is there, so that’s one of the big things, not that I wasn’t attentive to my customers before but it was increasing in frequency. “Are you doing okay? How are things? How are you managing this?” and doing the diagnostic questioning, the Socratic method where you’re just asking those questions. “How are you doing?”
It comes from the heart, I think at this point we’re all real people and we need to be real, we can’t put on the fake, “I want your business” because it isn’t about that any longer. I think it’s about really understanding people, it’s really understanding what they’re going through personally and professionally and how you can have impact and be that resource for them through thick and thin, and this is a thin time right now. It’s important to be consistent with your clientele as well, to check in with them on a personal and professional basis. Not every conversation has to be furthering the sale cycle, but it does need to be about furthering the relationship.
Gina Stracuzzi: This is probably the most perfect time to be furthering the relationship, whereas previously there was that urgency. The urgency has been replaced by consistency of adding value and, as you say, being real. I had a fabulous guest on a couple weeks ago from WorldStrides, which is an educational travel company. If ever there was a company that could have been in real trouble, it’s that. It’s a service industry, it’s a travel industry, all things that are really being pushed to the side but the company has learned how to give real value to their clients and because of that, they’re thriving. I think what you’re saying is really of value. I want to go back to the Cloud Girls for just a minute because one of the things I think is present in this time that we’re in is an opportunity to do stuff for yourself and your career. That sounds a little self-serving right now, but that’s not how I mean it. It’s learning something new, checking out new organizations, getting involved with a volunteer project, figuring out new things that excite you because now that there’s a little more breathing room, even though it does seem that we’re all working a lot more than we did before, I think there is an opportunity to do something for yourself that isn’t necessarily just the next rung on the ladder. What is it that interests you?
Michelle Hyde: Yes, I have a million things that come to mind right now. Cloud Girls certainly has been an amazing endeavor. One, it’s a nonprofit organization, it feels like I’m giving back, it feels like I’m impacting the next generation of women in technology. We do two fundraisers a year and they’re usually focused on the next generation of women, so high school, junior high and into college as well, and bringing up and mentoring those gals with not only education but also scholarships and things of that nature. It always feels good to do that, getting involved in something that resonates on your heart, makes you feel good and also is great resume builder, it’s highly recommended. I just sat through earlier this week on a women breaking into boards.
There are so few women that are on boards today, what it means to be on a nonprofit board, a for-profit company board, a scaling company board, public company board, very different dynamics for each one of those and demands accordingly. Those are things that I’m looking to do more of in my career, but getting interested in that, educating yourself on whatever your interest may be. Even if it’s like, “I never was a good cook, I’m going to start doing something for myself that expands my mind, expands my capabilities.” It might be in resume builder, “I’ve been working at Boeing for 23 years.” Build your resume, write it out, write all the great things that you do, reaffirm yourself of what you bring to the table. Take the moment to really refine who you are, what you’re doing, where you want to go. I always say that these are micro steps, it’s not something that you’ve got to sit down and take a week off to do this type of work. This is something that if you’ve got a thought in your head, on your night stand you’re writing down and jotting that out and maybe beefing it up at a later time. Make sure you write those things down as they’re coming to you.
I’m a big fan also of education generally. In 2020 I think I’ve pivoted slightly in my own business and moving from IT infrastructure to looking at business continuity and disaster recovery and security services of which I knew enough to be dangerous but I wanted to be smarter. They’re really big umbrellas, it could be life safety, it could be emergency response, it could be back ups and high availability networks. Security goes on forever more, physical security, logical security, platform security, ransomware, there are so many facets and dynamics to all of our jobs and all of our careers that as you get yourself a little bit here and there, read a series of articles about something you might not know much about and bolster that. What also always happens is the next week you end up having a conversation on that topic that you would never have been able to field before, so education is really key during this time. Especially something like this podcast, you want to do something like this on a daily basis to enrich yourself.
Gina Stracuzzi: There’s so much there that I want to respond to. I had to chuckle because that’s something I say too, “I know just enough to be dangerous” and I used to say of different languages I was learning, “I know enough to get myself into a conversation but not get out of it” [laughs] it started but then I’m lost. There are so many courses now available, you can get them on your TV now just to expand your horizons a little bit and think a little bit differently. Your advice about updating your resume is so true, because I can’t tell you how many women – and I’m sure this is probably true of men, especially people who have been with a particular company for a length of time. I was speaking to a woman the other day, she’s been with her company for 31 years and in order to get this next promotion, it was to such a high level that they needed her resume.
She’s like, “I think it was college the last time I updated this.” She said, “I forgot so much of what I had done within the company, and they don’t keep those kinds of records. It took me a really long time to do something that should have been up to date to begin with.” It’s something to really think about and just periodically, maybe once or twice a year, just take it out and look at it. Does it fully reflect what I’m doing? If an opportunity came knocking at my door and I had to hand it to somebody right away, would I feel comfortable doing that? That’s really great advice, to work on that.
Michelle Hyde: Just as a footnote to that, I would say that there’s a newfangled way of doing resumes, it’s not the same old format. It looks and feels much more like a website or a landing page so be aware of that, there’s color, there’s your motto, there’s your image. You want to make sure that you are connecting on different levels with people, not just about job history and job responsibilities but impacts. I think that in any resume, showing impacts and metrics are going to be where it’s at. Honestly, people are hiring people that are going to be making impacts in an organization. They don’t want to know just that you managed a team of 13, they want to know more, they want to know how you brought them from 0 to 150% month over month, what that looked like, what it felt like, what the risks were and what you overcame. It’s telling a different story in this day and age.
Gina Stracuzzi: That’s the key word, it is telling a story. Everything is about narrative now and storytelling and that translates to your resume as well. That brings up another really good point, whether they’re professional organizations or personal passion projects, if you’re doing something that has real impact in this environment that we’re in and it’s really made life easier or changed something that was very difficult at the start of the pandemic, make sure you’re documenting that in a way that you can put forward immediately. As we come out of this, those memories will start to fade a little bit for yourself even, and being able to talk about them from an in-depth perspective like we’re in right now and with real passion, that’s going to translate in how you write about it. If you try to write about it as a memory, it’s very different. That’s really good advice.
Michelle Hyde: I was going to reach over here and share that I have this book, this was from last year. It’s one of these ones that you get at a dollar store, one of these little calendars that you have. In here it has a line for every day of the year, this is a great place to jot down successes or the plus delta of the day. “What I did great today” or an achievement you had today or a milestone you overcame, and what you would change on something. It could be just a phrase, “Closed the ABC company deal, brought that to close. What I would have changed is I would have started earlier on contract negotiations.” Something like this where you’ve got your plus delta and it crystalizes a memory on that day, and when you go back and you realize that you’ve got 365 days of achievements, it makes you feel better than like, “2020 was a waste.” [Laughs] 2020 wasn’t a waste, it was actually a really productive time for me both in business and personal. There was some productivity that was noteworthy that had I not had this quiet time or this catalyst, it might not have come. Things happen for a reason, I think in some respects.
Gina Stracuzzi: Mary S. has a question. Mary wants to know if you or anybody that works with you has small children and how you help them with balancing everything that that means when you’re working from home and they’re at school too. Thank you for that question, Mary, I know a lot of my friends are too feeling like they’re hanging on by threads [laughs].
Michelle Hyde: There are times when I tell my kids, “You’re working my last nerve” but the reality is that yes, I’ve got two kids, both of them are home. I’ve got an 11 and a 15 year old and I have a husband that’s also working from home but has the tendency to travel probably a few days a week still. It’s about managing dynamics for sure. My hats are off to those women that are dealing with young kids that you can’t hold up a wooden spoon at and go, “Shush it!” [Laughs] Those women that are dealing with young kids, the 2-4 year olds that are home right now, it’s got to be a true undertaking. It’s one of those things that I had written down, some of the dynamics that you have to garner immediately from your employers. They’re also dealing with changing dynamics and hopefully they have somewhat of an understanding and as semblance of commonality with you that they’ve got kids home as well. It’s important that that open communication with your employer right now is essential because our schedules are not our own in some respects, kids running around or nap times, feeding times and things like this change how we operate. Those dynamics have to change along right with it so whether that’s swing shifting where I’m going to be trading off parent-wise to have periods of work time, those are key.
My kids are old enough at this juncture that they are online with school from 8 a.m. until 2:30 in the afternoon and then they’ve got homework for about an hour, so I have a good swap of time that things are relatively quiet – except for the lunch time like, “Mom, where’s my pizza?” and this type of thing. They know now how to turn the oven on and put it in there [laughs]. Train those kids to be responsible as well. All those dynamics are very fluid and every year that my kids get older I feel like I’m getting 20 minutes back in my schedule, that they’re 20 minutes more self-sufficient this year than they were last year to take care of themselves or get themselves showered or get themselves fed. Some of it is parenting and dynamics, setting expectations and being firm about it, that you’re the parent and not their friend. In some respects I’ve played both of those roles with my kids and the parent works better when you need to have rigidity in the schedule.
I would also say that working with your employer on the dynamics in the household like, “Listen, I’m out between noon and 2:00, with that, I’m working from 7:00 to noon and working different shifted hours, following up in evenings perhaps after the kids are down for the count.” It’s shifting stance and you have to be agile just like I would recommend for my clients to be agile in their network environments, I have to be agile individually. Employers have to be agile as well.
Gina Stracuzzi: I would say that for the most part, the women that I talk to through the Women in Sales programs and in the forum, they feel like their employers have been really great. Their biggest concern is that they are losing ground and that’s a real issue. Not every woman is losing ground but the ones who are trying to balance kids’ needs and work and all of that, as every woman will tell you and every man has heard, I’m sure, kids will beat down a door to get to mom when their dad is standing right next to them trying to get them to stop [laughs]. There’s just something about it, you can’t really get around it so you just deal the best you can. I think women have gotten very good at being very vocal about their needs in this pandemic. There’s no hiding, you probably could before, you’d come to the office, you’d leave situations behind and just deal with them when you got home, there’s no more of that. Honesty and transparency is the only answer and it’s benefitting everyone, I think.
Michelle Hyde: I think that strong communication is absolutely an essential element. It goes with employers and goes with employees, it goes with your customers as well. Having that open dialogue about how everybody’s doing, checking in, being deliberate and having your voice heard and being graceful as well. Being elegant about how you approach your customers, your employees, your employer as well to say, “I’m going through some stuff and here’s what I need from you” knowing what you need and being able to articulate that in a graceful and deliberate way. I would say that open communication is key right now.
The changing dynamics in some of the business practices that I think that women deal with or at least I’ve been having to deal with is trying to get really creative. It’s different working with people over Zoom or over a social media environment versus in-person. Obviously you’ve got body language that’s not conveyed as appropriately on a collaborative workspace versus in person. Getting creative in that approach, being deliberate in those conversations, making sure that you’re articulating clearly and your voice is being heard helps aid those exchanges. There’s a changing focus to meet demand right now for customer, clientele and employer demands. We have to flex with it.
Gina Stracuzzi: I think that was really good advice too, knowing what you need and being able to articulate it before you speak to your employer is really crucial because you have to be able to say, “This is what I need and this is how I think we can achieve what I need.” Give them the solution along with the problem so that they don’t have to figure out what it is they can do to help you, necessarily. At least give them an idea, they may say, “That doesn’t work for us, let me think about how we can make this happen.” Coming up with an idea is going to make it easier for them to say, “We can make this work.”
Michelle Hyde: Getting creative and articulating that things have to change but it’s not going to change my output. The dynamics have to change but it’s not going to change the productivity that I have. I think there’s some sort of crazy misnomer that when you work from home you’re not getting more done. The reality is that we’re available now 24/7, I feel like I’m working and I’m living in my workspace is essentially what’s happening at this juncture so I’m on the horn round the clock with customer requirements. It’s not uncommon I’m still on a call with a client at 8:30 at night and my kids and my husband are tapping their toe like, “Are you going to be done with the day?” and I’m like, “Nope, my customers have needs, I’m here for them.” But then when I’m on a conference call that I don’t have to contribute to or if I’m not camera, I can unload the dishwasher while I’m doing other things too [laughs] truth be told. You have to get dynamic and change that.
Gina Stracuzzi: I’ve taken calls while walking the dog, it gets me some air, it gets the dogs out and I can still take the call. We’re getting towards the end of our time, is there any one actionable item that you would tell the women on this call – and sometimes there’s men too – that you think would be a really good thing they could start doing today that would be a benefit to them?
Michelle Hyde: Some of the things that I’ve incorporated into my world more deliberately and more concentrated is keeping active. Get up from your desk, go out for a walk, get some fresh air, I don’t care if it’s sideways rain like it’s here in Seattle often times. You’ve got a GORE-TEX jacket, put it on, go for a walk around. It does a world of good and it allows your brain to think while you move and clear out the things that you were anxious about that should not have been there. It helps you think creatively about solutions, so take time to clear your head with a walk around the block. Literally even if it’s just a walk around the block, move from your desk, get some fresh air, get a fresh perspective, say hi to a neighbor and keep your mind active always with reading and educating. Read for escape, read fantasy books, learn a new craft, do something that elevates and changes up your rhythm and makes you know that you can be creative and accomplish something new and different.
Reach out to others for sure, because people are feeling isolated. Even after we think we’ve got the hang of this COVID thing and that we’re home for the whole day without leaving their quarters, reach out to somebody because they might not be doing that well today. Today is a hard day, your voice, your enthusiasm can really take people to a new level and break their cycles of worry. Breathe, that’s another one. One of the things that I’ve been learning to do and I do this when I get on a flight because I’m a nervous flyer is to breathe in for 6 seconds and hold it for 7 seconds and then exhale for 8 seconds. This is a way to calm down and when you’re uptight, those things become very difficult, breathing in for that long seems like an eternity when you’re in a fight-or-flight mode or you just got off a call with somebody that rattled you up. Take time to breathe. That little 15 second endeavor can really change your heartbeat, your presence.
Last but not least, I think that we should all know that self-care is not selfish, that’s one thing that’s floating out there a lot but I think it’s really true. You shouldn’t feel bad for reading a chapter in your book while the kids are bellyaching about not going to bed. Do something for you, your self-care, washing your face at night, making sure you floss, whatever it might be. Those little nuances that you can get through in a whole day, self-care is not selfish for sure.
Gina Stracuzzi: I want to make sure to remember, those are all great things, easy to do and can change perspective tremendously so thank you for that. I didn’t want to forget to tell people that there are a couple of handouts in the handout section. I will make sure that they get out to the people that are registered because I failed to mention this earlier, it has Michelle’s contact information on there. If you would like to reach out to her on LinkedIn, I’m sure she’d love to hear from you. Michelle, thank you so very much for joining us, I loved this conversation.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo