EPISODE 425: Women in Sales Leaders from 3Pillar Global and Doodle Offer Strategies for More Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Women in Sales Fresh Voices virtual lerning session sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on October 5, 2021. It featured an interview with Doodle’s Rachel Provan and 3Pillar Global’s Rita Gokhale.]

Register for the upcoming November 5 IES LIVE program with Arnold Sanow now!

Find Rita on LinkedIn. Find Rachel on LinkedIn.

RITA’S TIP: “Being able to share what you’re actually doing to promote women within your company is an important step. That’s one thing that I would recommend for companies that are trying to be more open about that. One thing that I’ve promoted even in our own company is diversity. There’s a lot of women in leadership that are white, expanding that to include women of color and really showing people that you’re doing these things and it’s not just talk. I think that’s really key.”

RACHEL’S TIP: “Just start talking to people. Ask them one on one, what should I do? If you do that they’re much more likely to reach out a hand to you and help you along. If you’re in a company and you want to move up or you want to move in a different direction, just let your manager know or let the manager of that department know. Say, “This is what I want to do. Here’s where I am now. What do I need to do to get where I want to go and can you help me? That makes the difference.”


Gina Stracuzzi: Welcome Rita and Rachel. Rachel Provan is with Doodle and Rita Gokhale is with 3Pillar. I’m going to allow you to tell us about yourself, because you’ll do a much better job than I will. One of the things I like to ask the Fresh Voices people right out of the gate is, when you tell us a little bit about yourself, tell us too what you studied in school and if you thought you would end up in sales. Rachel, you’re on the top of the screen here. Why don’t you go first?

Rachel Provan: Sure. Thank you so much, Gina. That question definitely always makes me laugh because I studied acting in school. I think it’s safe to say I did not expect to end up in the corporate world. I’m currently a Director at Doodle, which is a scheduling tool. Even though it wasn’t quite where I expected to be, it’s the absolute perfect place for me. I’m very grateful I ended up where I did.

Gina Stracuzzi: Wonderful. Rita, you tell us the same thing and then we’ll come back and we’ll talk a little bit about how you got to the point where you are.

Rita Gokhale: Thank you so much for having me, Gina. I am Rita Gokhale. I did not expect to be in sales. I studied Electrical Engineering in school. I had a technical background and I ended up in technical sales, but it’s definitely not the path that I thought I would be taking.

Gina Stracuzzi: Well, it probably lends itself pretty nicely. It’s very interesting, as I interview more and more people, not just on the Fresh Voices segments, but just other women in sales, a lot of them have come to sales from technical backgrounds. They thought they were going to be in chemistry or technology in some other fashion. But they’re really loving what they’re doing, so there’s definitely a close symmetry there. Rita, while we’re with you, why don’t we stay with you for a minute? Let’s talk a little bit about how you got to where you are right now at 3Pillar.

Rita Gokhale: Definitely the technology background helps. I started being an engineer and working in the telecom world and quickly realized that I wasn’t meant to be behind a desk just typing away and programming things. I became a team lead for my small engineering team and from there, I just really loved that. I loved being somebody who could speak to both the business side and convey what was happening and what we were doing. That led to project management and then project management led to account management, and then I was in sales, and I’m loving it. Like you said, I never thought that this was going to be my path but I really, truly enjoy it. For the first time I’m waking up every morning, just really excited about what I do every day. It’s been great.

Gina Stracuzzi: That in itself is worth its weight in gold, to be excited about what we’re doing and constantly looking for the excitement of the challenge. I love that. What about you, Rachel?

Rachel Provan: Mine’s a bit of a circuitous journey. As I said, I started out acting. After getting very tired of waitressing, I was temping. I ended up temping at Vintage Filings where I was for eight years, not temping. But they actually allowed me to keep my position there, fly off and do a movie and come back – I’m not in anything exciting, people. It’s like bit parts in Indies. But they would let me do that, keep my job, keep my health insurance. I was like, “Great, I’ll stick around here.”

Then I ended up going permanent there and just kept getting promoted and started realizing I really liked what I was doing, which was account management. I moved on up to what was like a director role there over time. Once I figured out that I’d done the acting thing and it probably wasn’t going to work for me as a moneymaker, I realized I really liked problem solving and dealing with people all the time, and it just naturally led to what I do now.

Gina Stracuzzi: Well, that’s awesome. It’s like psychology degrees. I think they play a role in good selling and acting probably is right there too because you’re going to have difficult clients and difficult situations and if you can put on that face and just keep showing up, that’s an acting job right there. You’re using both of your interests.

Rachel Provan: I did minor in psych. The thing that a lot of people don’t think about when it comes to acting is the ability to slip into someone else’s skin and their thoughts and that’s especially useful when you’re dealing with clients.

Gina Stracuzzi: Absolutely. Rita, let’s go back to you for a minute. What was the first time you had an opportunity to take a really big leadership role in your work and what are you doing with that now? Are you progressing in your leadership or is there another aspect of selling that you want to go into?

Rita Gokhale: No, I definitely like the leadership piece but I like the selling piece of it too. I think the first time was when I became a team lead, and I was leading a team of engineers. It doesn’t sound like sales, but you have to sell your team to the business. Being able to relate to both sides and understanding the difficulties that both sides face and being able to explain it to each other and being that voice in between. That was the first time.

I also really like people, and so this is a great opportunity for me to bridge that gap for what happens in a lot of businesses where you have your tech side and then you have your business’ side and then you speak two different languages. Then carrying that through my career and just advancing and becoming an account manager and then now we’re not talking about internal teams, we’re talking about what I do for my company to our partners and clients. Just building those relationships, the trust and really being able to be a conduit, I guess, between two sides that don’t really understand each other always on the same level, so translation, really.

Gina Stracuzzi: That’s great. We’re going to stick with you for a second, Rita. Tell us how you got to 3Pillar and where you would like to see things go within that company. I know that from your leadership project – and full disclosure everyone, both women have been in the Women in Sales leadership forum. Part of that is you do a personal leadership project that shows your innovative thinking. Rita, I really loved yours. I’m hoping that that really panned out to be what you wanted it to be and it’s offering you some new opportunities too.

Rita Gokhale: It is. I got to 3Pillar because I followed one of the women leaders in my career path. I worked for a company some years ago, where Elisabeth Beller, I don’t know if you’re familiar, I know you have a lot of contacts within 3Pillar itself. She was my manager and I loved working for her. She was at 3Pillar and there was an opportunity there and I was really thankful for being able to come on to 3Pillar and then moving through. Now I’m not reporting to her but we have a lot of women leaders. It’s something that I really liked about the company.

That’s how I got to 3Pillar. I’m now in the technology portfolio. Like you said, one of the great things in going through the Women in Sales program was the thought that I had, that I shared with you and has taken a little bit of a different path and still working. 3Pillar is growing at such a rapid rate that it had the ebb and flow with what the company was doing. But being able to share, we’re really looking at enterprise companies as part of our partnerships.

In that path, I finally discovered that a lot of what they were looking for is developers that are specific to their niche. Working on a program within the company to see if we can start growing in that niche with junior developers or developers to see if we can fit that niche and then grow from there. It’s been fun. We haven’t been able to do a lot of it yet, just because, like I said, we’re growing pretty rapidly but I’m still excited about the program.

Gina Stracuzzi: That’s awesome. Rachel, tell us about how you got to Doodle and your current position, and maybe something you’ve learned along the way, because you’ve made some good jumps and you’ve had some interesting career moves. Talk to us a little bit about that.

Rachel Provan: My career has had an interesting path. When I went from being that manager position at Vintage, it really became clear to me over my next few years, that I really wanted to be in customer success, which does have a sales angle. It’s more just selling to your existing customers, making sure they’re successful with your product. In order to do that, customer success was just becoming a field.

I actually ended up taking a step back so that I could get into a specifically customer success titled role, and then progress through that chain again. It took a lot of work to move back up to management position. In customer success, a lot of times that means being the entire customer success department for small companies, which I did a bit of, building customer success departments from scratch.

There were plenty of instances of men getting promoted above me with zero experience. What I started to do during and after taking the forum, my leadership project was to start some thought leadership on customer success on LinkedIn. Because at this point, I’d been in the field 16 years. I really knew some best practices that a lot of people, I didn’t hear them talking about it. I started doing that and it’s really amazing how quickly you can develop a following on there.

Companies started to reach out to me to speak and to do podcasts, and some started reaching out with jobs. That’s how Doodle and I found each other and it just could not be a better fit. I was able to hire an amazing team along with the people who are already a part of it. I’m able to be the leader I want to be there. I can give them so much autonomy, and they’re so smart, and they contribute so much. I learn from them every day.

While I’m no longer customer-facing, I get to be the CSM for them. I help them succeed. I help them make sales. I help them get to where they want to be in their career. My mentality has always been to focus on the people, whether that’s your customer, whether that’s your direct report, I want to be there for them and help them get where they want to be.

Gina Stracuzzi: Perfect. What about you, Rita? We do have a couple of questions and they all seem to be around the same thing. What are some of the biggest challenges you’re all facing? I’m sure Rachel, with a new job, you’ve got somewhat different challenges than you had previously. Rita, we’ll go with you first and you can talk about some of the challenges you might face in your career. It’s not like we’re asking you to spill some tea on your company or anything, but just challenges you might face when you’re trying to advance your career.

Rita Gokhale: I would say, people are very supportive within 3Pillar. The one thing that I’ve faced not at just 3Pillar, but across my career is always believe in what you believe and what you can do. Really stick by that because there are a lot of naysayers, there are some people and Rachel mentioned this, men sometimes that will get positions or promoted when you feel like you really should have gotten that. But don’t let that deter you or think that you can’t do something that you’re already doing or that you can get better at.

I think the biggest challenge for me has just been believing that first for myself. It took a while for me to really believe that, yes, this is something I’m interested in, and that I can do this and just going after it and doing it and proving. I think for women in general, really get to the people who are going to support you and promote you. I found that that’s been really helpful for me in the last year or so at 3Pillar.

Even though we have such a great leadership team and a lot of women, you’re on board. Not in a bad way, don’t brag and be pompous, but at the same time, really share your accomplishments and let people hear them and know them, because otherwise you’re just flying under the radar and doing great things and no one really knows about it.

Gina Stracuzzi: That’s good advice. It made me think of one woman who went through the forum and her project was “get Kate promoted.” It was all about collecting that evidence that she needed and sticking to what she knew she wanted because a lot of people were trying to say, “No, you should really do this, or this is what we want you to do right now.” She had her eye on the prize, and it’s easy to get derailed. That’s really good advice, Rita. What about you, Rachel? What are some of your biggest challenges especially in a new position?

Rachel Provan: With a new position, there’s so much to learn. I’m trying to lead a group, one or two of them who report to me know more than I do about how to use the various tools and things. Definitely being able to step back and be like, “No, this is the go-to person on that and I’m going to listen to them” and for my new hires being like, “I actually can’t tell you that. You’re going to have to talk to this other CSM.” Pushing ego out of the way.

Not that mine’s terribly huge. It’s more that fear that like, oh, if I do this, they’re not going to take me seriously. Being taken seriously is a recurring theme. As Rita said, you have to put your voice out there. Especially in customer success, unless you bring a ton of data with you, it’s seen as a softer skill, but there’s a ton of dollars behind it. Definitely digging into the data and making sure that’s heard.

The one other thing I would say is, it’s the same challenge that I was experiencing, that we all are maybe in the past couple of years. Anyone who has a family, trying to balance school closings and things like that with being someone who works at home and therefore ending up as the default caretaker because you’re there, but still very much working. It’s a very difficult thing. Where I work right now, most people don’t have kids, which is pretty unusual for my past. Just navigating that a little bit. They’ve been great about it, but it’s a little different and it’s a challenge.

Gina Stracuzzi: Irene would like to know, where does one start? Does one volunteer or intern? But at the same time, you need to make money from your current job. How does one balance it or how do you start? I’m taking it she means, if you want to break into a new role or maybe a new field, new company type. Rita, we’ll start with you. Do you have any advice for that? Which leads into the question I was going to ask is, what advice do you have for others coming up in sales and sales leadership? Maybe you can tie the two together.

Rita Gokhale: I think part of what you guys teach too is finding your network. Finding your support, and the people that are going to pull you up and pull you along. I think that was something that I knew, but I had never really heard it said that way. I think it’s really important that you might do it when you’re starting and not realize you’re doing it.

But when you consciously think about it, I think it’s really useful to, yes, volunteer. Say that you can take on a little bit more in the direction of the path that you want to go. I did some reading in my spare time on prospecting, and a little bit of sales and learned some of the things that I really wanted to implement and didn’t know how.

I started going to some of the people who were in the positions that I wanted to be in and said, “Hey, can I help you with this? Can I sit down here and make some calls when I have breaks? Can I just listen to see what you’re talking through with clients and partners?” Just really volunteering your time and putting in a little extra to go for what you want.

Gina Stracuzzi: That’s good advice. Let’s say you’re with a company, and you want to do something else. Volunteering to do that job or putting yourself out there saying you’ll put in a little extra so that you have this opportunity is a really great advice. Rachel, what would you like to add?

Rachel Provan: I actually talk to a lot of people who are getting into customer success or looking to get into it as it’s grown. My advice is the same as my advice for if you want to move up in your current career. Let people know. People don’t just pluck you out of the sky because you’re doing well. As women, we have a tendency to work ourselves really, really hard and hope somebody notices. Let people in the community know and take some action.

Take a class that shows that you’re now certified in customer success. Read a bunch of things that get you up to speed on strategy. You can’t leave it to a new company that’s going to hire you to do all your training because at this point, most companies want someone trained at whatever it is. If you have transferable skills, definitely highlight those and connect with people in that community. There are slack channels. On LinkedIn there are tons of different communities that you can get hooked into.

Just talk to people. Ask them one on one, like, what should I do? If you do that they’re much more likely to reach out a hand to you and help you along. If you’re in a company and you want to move up or you want to move in a different direction, just let your manager know or let the manager of that department know. Say, “This is what I want to do. Here’s where I am now. What do I need to do to get where I want to go and can you help me?” That makes the difference.

Gina Stracuzzi: Good advice. Rita, you have something you want to add?

Rita Gokhale: One thing I would add to that is, a lot of people have their quarterly goals or their annual goals, and they think it has to do with everything that you’re doing right now. Another thing that I would advise is, talk to your manager like what Rachel is saying and let them know. Like, hey, I’m really interested in this part of our business, and I would love to learn more. Make it one of your goals so that you’re meeting your goals, and you’re doing something that you want to do. Again, you get noticed. People are talking about it. Your manager’s like, “Oh, well, Rita decided to do this, this, and this towards her path and learning more about sales for 3Pillar,” and maybe use that as an avenue as well.

Gina Stracuzzi: Great advice from both of you, really. I couldn’t agree more too. You have to put your aspirations and your goals out there because people can’t read minds. Even if you say, “Oh, that’s interesting.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that somebody is going to pick up on the fact that you’re interested in doing it. If you make those efforts, as you both pointed out, both in seeking out training, there’s LinkedIn and Coursera, and so many others where you can get the training you need. Then you bring it to them, and talk about your interests and set goals. That’s a real leadership track right there, because you’re taking ownership and you’re making things happen, and people will respond to that.

I always like to leave with a little bit of advice from the Fresh Voices segment on what you all think companies could be doing to help hire more women and what advice you would give them. By the way, Irene wanted to thank you both for that great advice. Thank you for putting the question in there. What advice do you have for companies? Then let’s give the listeners one piece of advice that you would put into play if you were a woman in sales that they can start thinking about today. Which one of you would like to go first?

Rita Gokhale: Go ahead, Rachel.

Rachel Provan: [Laughs] okay. In terms of hiring, what can companies do to try and be better about that? I would say, notice what you’re lacking. If you have a 70% men, if they’re 70% white, you need to look at that, and you need to wait a little bit more. Put a little more weight on diversity, because it’s not about ticking a box. If you look at any study on diversity and inclusion, it shows that more perspectives lead to higher revenue, and more innovation.

You need those people and you need them in the room, and you need to give them a voice. Even though maybe say somebody has two years’ less experience, or they have a two year gap in their employment history maybe because they took time off to be with their family or for whatever reason, you can still add that weight to it to say they are going to bring more than another person who is going to bring exactly what everybody else brings here. Always have data to back it up.

Gina Stracuzzi: Good advice. I’ll come back to you for your tip for the audience. Rita.

Rita Gokhale: Again, I keep promoting 3Pillar here, but they have done an outstanding job with women in leadership. I think the one thing that I would add to that is not just having the individuals but actually promoting some of the things that you do. We have delivery centers in various places around the world and there’s a real promotion and there are programs and things that women, maybe they’re not leaders yet, but that they’re participating in and speaking at different events or putting together programs.

Being able to share what you’re actually doing to promote women within your company is probably an important step. That’s one thing that I would recommend for companies that are trying to be more open about that. One thing that I’ve promoted even in our own company like what Rachel was saying is also diversity. There’s a lot of women in leadership that are white, expanding that to include women of color and things like that and just really showing people that you’re doing these things and it’s not just talk. I think that’s really key.

Gina Stracuzzi: That’s great advice on both of you. It’s important that all of us, as we put together projects and programs and work for companies, that we all do what we can to advance this issue of equity and inclusion. It isn’t just inherent on the human resources people. It needs to be a team effort and we all have to add to it. I applaud both of your thoughts on that. Before you give your one piece of advice, tell us where you think you might be in five years. Rachel, it’s your turn.

Rachel Provan: Oh, what a dangerous question. Whenever I have some sort of plan like that, I find that life knocks me over. But I will say, I do believe in having a direction you want to go in and always aiming to be learning. That’s definitely high on my list. If I’m learning I’m doing something right. Not sitting and being comfortable. I’d love to be a VP or a Chief Customer Officer somewhere in five years, preferably Doodle but it depends.

It really depends on so many factors but I know that in the time between now and then I’m going to spend what little spare time I have focusing on what is between here and there. What do I need to learn? Because there are things I don’t know yet. There are things about data that I need to know. There are things about how Customer Success works with other departments that I need to really hone in on and even how it works with support. These are all things that are on my list of, I need to know this. I’m taking a data course right now for that reason.

Gina Stracuzzi: I like the idea that it’s the progressive learning. Yes, you you’ve got a direction. As you say, life can send you miles from the shore but you get your way back and the more tools you’ve got, the better. Rita?

Rita Gokhale: It’s an interesting question. Where am I going to be in five years? For me, I love being an individual contributor. I don’t want to be at C-level. That’s just not something that I want to do. I’ve learned that that’s okay from the cohort. I used to think I was strange, that I was the only one and I’m not, and so just really keeping in mind your vision. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love leading, I love leading. There are other leadership roles without getting to the very top. I would love to get promoted, don’t get me wrong.

In five years, I would love to have a team of my own and share some of the things I’m learning and things like that. I’m with Rachel. One of my mottos for myself and I would encourage other people is that I really say, always be learning and be the best version of yourself. It’s so key and it’s so good to do that and be able to share that knowledge as you’re learning with other people. That’s what I’d like to be doing is really just becoming the best version of myself in every aspect and being able to share that.

Gina Stracuzzi: Well, and that’s a leadership skill in itself because you’re leading by example. You don’t just get in position and stop learning and stop growing. I applaud you both. I think we’re pretty much out of time. Is there anything last pieces of wisdom you would like to share?

Rachel Provan: Probably just to add to that, to add some color to what Rita was saying, it just added something there to me. You always need to be working on yourself at the same time. You can’t only be learning statistics and job functionality. You need to be becoming the best version of yourself as Rita said because that’s ultimately what’s going to make you happy. Work on something 10 minutes a day, whether it’s something for yourself and how you want to understand people better, or something for your job. Literally, set the timer 10 minutes a day, you’ll be miles ahead of everyone else.

Gina Stracuzzi: That is great advice. With that, we are officially out of time. I cannot thank you enough ladies and it’s always a pleasure to see you both. You’ve added so much to your individual cohorts. I know we have not heard the last of you and you will stay in touch. Thank you everyone for joining us and we’ll see you next week and stay well, everyone. Bye for now.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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