Article by Deborah McGinn, Chief Marketing Officer at Radiant Logic

Deborah McGinnBecoming a female leader in the tech industry is no mean feat, but it is something that more women must feel they can achieve.

There are endless opportunities for women from all walks of life to start and build careers in a rapidly growing and incredibly rewarding field. With this in mind, I made a very conscious decision back in 2010 to move from working in consumer companies, to working in the tech sector.

I always knew I wanted a career in marketing because of creative aspects like advertising and design. As a UC Berkeley undergraduate, I created my own major and studied mass media, business and journalism to learn how to pull different aspects together and help set up a career in marketing. Some of the best advice I ever received was during my MBA admissions interview at NYU— a Marketing MBA should be considered a four-year program: two years of theory, then two years of practical learning at a Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) company.

I gained my field experience working at CPG powerhouse Johnson & Johnson as an Assistant Brand Manager. Working on some of the most iconic household brands, I gained practical knowledge of marketing and how instrumental it is to a successful business—from learning about forecasting and supply chain management to customer research, product development, business planning, advertising, PR and more.

This experience gave me the foundation for how to think about a business holistically, craft compelling go-to-market strategies tailored to meet customer needs, and how to deal with challenges efficiently and effectively.

I left the CPG industry because I knew I needed to build my skill-set in digital marketing, or risk being left behind. Back then I really only had two consumer-driven tech company choices in Silicon Valley – Apple or the Norton consumer division of Symantec. I chose the one best suited to my personality and drive, and enjoyed five and a half years at Norton, starting as a Product Marketing Manager and ending as Senior Director of Global Product Marketing. Product Marketing is a highly strategic and technical role, providing an opportunity to translate the product, and its benefits, into something that resonates with customers.

In the tech industry you’re at the forefront of what’s happening in the world today—from the hottest trends to devastating cybersecurity threats. Every day is different, if not downright scary when dealing with a zero-day threat or customer data breach. As a marketer you may not be the most technical person in the room, you are surrounded by people who are, and by listening and absorbing what you can, you may surprise yourself by becoming an expert in your own right. Don’t be afraid to dive into technical conversations and ask questions—it builds credibility and there’s value in combining technical knowledge with business acumen!

I then took another leap to the B2B and Enterprise space. Although the market segment is different, the focus is still on listening to the customer and meaningfully responding to their needs. What I’ve learned is: don’t be afraid to change your remit —there will always be opportunities to use your skills elsewhere and provide value to another organisation or industry.

One of the most daunting challenges can be getting the job in a crowded and competitive field. It takes hard work, effort, determination and relationships. I’m lucky that I genuinely love what I do, and after working for multi-billion dollar companies, I’ve found my niche working for smaller Enterprise organisations that solve a big customer problem but needs market awareness to break through. In larger companies your voice can be lost, but working for a smaller one allows me to directly impact the company’s vision and direction. When I see the impact I am making, it inspires me to get up, be better, and push the envelope every day.

I became the CMO at Radiant Logic because I had worked with the CEO previously. A highly respected company with a 20+ year history of helping customers solve complex business problems stemming from identity data issues, a primary business challenge came down to modernising the marketing approach and messaging. I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to work with an amazing team and be part of an innovative company experiencing rapid growth and challenging the status quo. This is one example of how my previous work helped land me the role I’m in today— I have secured every position in the past 20 years because others have recommended me. It’s a testament to the benefit of building a solid reputation for performance, creating mutually respectful relationships, and surrounding myself with people that recognise the value I bring to the table.

As women, we can struggle to have our voices heard in a typically male dominated industry. Often we juggle the demands of parenting with work. When do I start a family? Will taking time off impact my career path? The answer is no— not unless you let it. I was five months pregnant when I was approached to become the VP of Marketing for Arxan Technologies. It was the next logical career step, but was I crazy to start a job with more responsibility at the same time I was becoming a mother? Not at all. We made it work. Two years later I was promoted to CMO. Arxan was then sold and merged into where I became CMO as I found out I was expecting baby #2. Being pregnant in the C-suite is an uncommon phenomenon, but I was surrounded by a capable and empowered marketing team who could handle everything while I was on leave. You should always have a succession plan, as it gives you space to do the things you want and need to do both professionally and personally.

My final takeaway is: don’t compromise. You CAN have it all! How? Be heard. Be transparent. Share your goals. Trust your gut. While there may be moments that haven’t gone to plan, or where someone has taken credit for your work, use these experiences to drive you and prove the naysayers wrong. There is nothing better than getting promoted ahead of someone who tried to keep you down! By building relationships with those around you, using mentors and seeking advice, you will build a network who believes and trusts in you —which ultimately creates an environment that builds you up for success.