Libby Duane Adams featured

Inspirational Woman: Libby Duane Adams | Founding Partner & Chief Customer Officer, Alteryx

Libby Duane AdamsLibby Duane Adams is a founding partner of Alteryx, and as Chief Customer Officer is responsible for overseeing and maximising the complete Alteryx customer experience, from engagement to on-boarding, communications, performance, and retention.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

As Chief Customer Officer (CCO) and founding partner of data science company Alteryx, I’m responsible for overseeing and maximising the complete customer experience.

My job is to identify where there are issues or room for improvement in both our technology and service, to ensure we deliver the most superior offering available in the market.  My interaction with customers around the world is the most rewarding part of my job.  Knowing that they want us to improve, their feedback is invaluable as we continue to advance their experience to work with the holistic view of how we’re performing across the board - from implementation to adoption success and beyond.

As a company, the focus of Alteryx has always been the customer. I recognized early on that creating a customer-centric culture went beyond delivering a successful product experience and set out to enable a global community of passionate data lovers. A community where Alteryx users can solve more together, boldly step into the unknown and achieve more than they ever thought possible.

The Alteryx Community has grown both on and offline and is a key factor in the company’s 20+ year success. The community supporting the community servesas an incubator for the workforce of the future, supporting local and topic-focused user groups, Alteryx ACEs sharing their expertise and Women of Analytics are all components of this global community driving growth and support of data driven analytics across their organizations.

Further to my day-to-day scope of work, I am incredibly passionate about mentoring others to be inspired by and follow a career in analytics. In particular, Alteryx is very proud of its Women In Analytics initiative, which aims to help empower and bring awareness to the importance of women in STEM. The initiative continues to grow with the addition of regional chapters across the globe and panels at our Inspire user conferences.

I see huge opportunities for women in STEM fields, and I would like to see more schools, colleges and universities motivating everyone, including women, to understand the opportunities and to demystify them for women. One program I’m particularly proud of is Alteryx for Good, a company initiative launched in 2016 that grants the Alteryx platform to charitable organizations—including non-profits and  academia—and also enables every associate to donate up to 20 hours of their work time to the charity of their choice. It has been very rewarding experience for the entire organization while positively impacting the community. In a recent initiative, we sent 15 associates and 4 Alteryx ACEs to the HHS Challenge: Opioid Symposium & Code-a-Thon in effort to help combat the opioid epidemic with data analytics.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

 My career has been a most rewarding journey.  I wish I could say I had a plan, but quite the contrary.  Upon entering university, I knew I wanted to be a business major and learned very quickly that accounting was not my strength when I couldn’t get my balance sheets to balance!  Marketing was my passion and it excited me.  What was ironic was, while at university, I hated the coding required courses.  Yet, I have been with software companies since my first job. Safely on the business side, not the development/coding side.  I followed the passion I developed for working with customers, first on the support side, then moving to the sales side for 15 years including the early days at Alteryx.  My career journey has been driven by wanting to make a difference. The ability to work with smart people who, like me, have a passion for their work and a focus on making a difference in the lives of who we work for – the customer.  Always follow your passion.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Dean (co-founder and CEO of Alteryx) and I met back in 1990 when we both joined the same company. Dean was leading the western region at the time and I was at headquarters on the East Coast. In supporting his sales people in California, I moved to take a sales role on his team in 1993 and then, in 1996, the company we were working for was sold to our biggest competitor. It was in that transition that we started what is today Alteryx, in January 1997. One of the industries that I did not sell into back in early days of Alteryx was commercial real estate. At the time it was a “good old boy’s network” and not something I was ever going to overcome. Why would I set myself up for failure? Dean took real estate, while I focused on other industries.

A learning moment – for any business person is that ability to identify when you do or do not have control over something to change – because nothing would be more frustrating than trying to fight a fight you’re never going to win.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

There are two things I am most proud of: First, is being able to take on the role as CCO at a company that is so focused on customers and knows that without customers, we go home early. This rolls into the second, which is the focus we have on the customer as an entire organization. ‘What is the impact on the customer if we do, or do not, make this change?’ To hear so many people across the organization ask this type of question tells me we are doing the right thing.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I grew up in a family where my dad was self-employed with five children; now, two of my brothers are sole proprietors of their own businesses. Being self-employed with five children, my parents never had a chance to give up or to stop. And, while my mother didn’t work outside the home, she was always moving things forward as my father did. In 1974, when the financial crisis hit, my father was employed as a golf course architect and building was considered a luxury, not a necessity. Although business slowed, he kept the business moving forward.

I learned early on that you need to keep moving. Having a passion for what I do, the will to succeed, to contribute, and the ability to make a difference have been real motivators. You need to be passionate about what you do. No matter what it is, make sure you’ve got passion. When you don’t have passion. What’s the reason for doing it? To me, work is not work, because I love what I do. There’s never an obstacle that is too big because of that passion.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Be creative in the way you think about solving problems. Don’t get stuck thinking you can only play by the rules that are set—you can create and develop new rules.In the tech industry, there is enormous opportunity to think about who the new user will be so it is crucial to remain customer centric. Customer trust defines the integrity of a business, but that trust often takes quite some time to build so make sure you’re doing everything possible to keep loyal customers around and create strong relationships with new ones. Put yourself in the shoes of that user or your customer and deliver a fantastic project. If you can do that, your customers will be committed to giving you feedback and developing that product. Whether the customers are internal or external, don’t ever lose sight of what they need.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

One barrier for success is that women need to get better about looking at their own potential, evaluating if this something they want to take on and then, tackling the challenge. Women need to get over the fear of failure, trying to do things perfectly or doing everything on their plate at 100 percent.

Especially in technology, it is a game of trial and error. Don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes. Identify what you learned, don’t make the mistake again and be ready to move on.

I can’t speak for other industries, but in technology, the possibilities of what you can do are endless. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Stay curious because with curiosity, you will grow and never stop learning. After all, well behaved women rarely make history!

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

I think we should expand the definition of women in technology to also include women in business because we are missing a big part of the audience that spend their days doing their jobs with technology. These women are giving feedback and in turn, are helping the technology providers develop their respective tools and products.

If you’re the leader making that hire, if you find someone that has passion, ingenuity to try something different, that can be your next best teammate. Whether you are on the giving or receiving end, don’t worry about having to check.

Because we are so open to different perspectives, our diversity has helped us grow. Men and women have different perspectives. Different ways of handling project, diversity has helped us to be different than your traditional tech company.

There is currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

The technology industry has seen many changes over the past decade, not least in the significant progress made addressing the gender imbalance. Women in technology and analytics are no longer a rarity. An increasing number of organisations are now either owned by or have women in a leadership role. In the US alone, the number of women-owned businesses has increased by 50% since 2007.

The analytics space is particularly attractive for women – almost half of analytics professionals are women. For example, the female winner of our “Grand Prix” at Inspire 2018—a simulated race determined by efficiency in solving analytic challenges—works in finance. There are plenty of similar examples and a lot more women using technology in their roles, that are not classified as ‘women in tech’ because they don’t work in a hardware, software or cloud. At our 2018 conference, we saw a 54 percent increase in women attendees this year, a clear indicator of the growth of women in analytics and it will be . Analytics is driven by technology.

Companies that focus on empowering the next generation of women to embrace the power of data and analytics are encompassing more talent, more points of view, and often lacking complementary traits.

While there’s a long way to go until we have an equal split of men and women across the technology industry, those who have are gaining a crucial competitive advantage and experiencing significant growth.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Take a listen to our Alter.Everything podcast.  To learn how the key to an amazing customer experience, check out www.cxpa.org and read Jeanne Bliss’ Chief Customer Officer and her podcast, Human Duct Tape Show.  Great materials!