Jeff Taylor

HeForShe: Jeff Taylor | Chief Strategy and Growth Officer, Pega

Jeff Taylor

As Chief Strategy and Growth Officer, Jeff Taylor is responsible for ensuring that Pega has a clear corporate and growth strategy, market validated solutions, the right industry expertise and content, an aligned and effective go-to-market strategy, world-class sales operations and enablement, and the capabilities to bring the message of Pega through pragmatic buyer enablement and client engagement out to individual organizations.

Jeff brings more than 20 years of experience in strategy, building businesses and innovating in go-to-market and sales approaches. He has deep experience in business planning and management, strategy development, and operational excellence, as well as a proven track record of achieving results in gaining market share and sustaining revenue growth.

Prior to Pega, Jeff worked at Bain & Company, where he helped define strategies and execute company-wide and go-to-market transformations for clients in the technology, media, and telecommunications industries. Prior to Bain & Company, Jeff held senior strategy and operational roles at leading technology companies, including VMware and EMC. In these roles, he led transitions to new business models that drove company growth.

Jeff holds an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University with concentrations in Economics and Theology and received a Master’s in Business Administration in Strategy and Finance from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

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

Personally, I grew up outside of St. Louis, Missouri. I hold an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University with concentrations in economics and theology and received a Master’s in Business Administration in strategy and finance from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. I volunteer as a board member for Boys Hope Girls Hope. I have been married for over 20 years and have three children. At the core, I am a husband, father, and friend - work comes second to this.

Professionally, I bring more than 20 years of experience in strategy, business building, and innovation in go-to-market and sales approaches. I have deep experience in business planning and management, strategy development, and operational excellence, as well as a proven track record of achieving results in gaining market share and sustaining revenue growth. As Chief Strategy and Growth Officer at Pega, my responsibilities include defining Pega’s corporate and growth strategy, managing Pega’s three main business areas, supporting teams to develop the account strategies for our most important clients, running key GTM operational functions, delivering key sales enablement, programs, and events, and ensuring Pega has the capabilities to bring the message of Pega through pragmatic buyer enablement and client engagement out to individual organizations. I am also honored to be the executive sponsor of our [email protected] Employee Resource Group (ERG), which is the largest Employee Resource Group at Pega.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not exactly – I think about life in terms of five-year waypoints centered around specific experiential and learning objectives.

My first waypoint was after graduating from college when I decided to dig in to better understand finance. To do this, I spent 5 years working at a bank and a private equity fund. During this time, I realized I needed a broader understanding of business, so I went back to school to learn more about strategy, marketing, and operations. Even with an MBA, there were still things I was eager to learn. Management consulting at Bain seemed to offer that level of breadth and depth of business expertise development. At Bain, I learned a ton, including how to define and develop a strategy for a company, as well as how to set up a go-to-market (GTM) org, including roles, responsibilities, and compensation. Next, wanting to put that knowledge into practice, I took on an operations and GM roles at EMC/VMware. After spending over five years as an operator, it was time for me to re-sharpen my skills, so I took an opportunity to rejoin Bain. After a few more years of consulting, I realized leading operations in software companies is my real passion.  I joined Pega where I currently have the privilege of leading our Strategy and Growth organization.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes, there have been challenges, two in particular. One is managing different personalities and types of people. Understanding what motivates people, gets them excited, and drives a sense of belonging and inclusion was and still is can be challenge for me as this varies greatly from person to person. This is especially important when driving through big change efforts. Those efforts tend to put folks under stress. Over the years, I have gained some wisdom in how to engage differently based on the situation and the personalities involved. But, it takes constant care and attention.

Similarly, transitioning from an investment culture to a corporate culture presented challenges in terms of managing timeliness and culture. During my time in investment banking, for example, getting deals done required intense urgency and folks were very hard-nosed and aggressive. During my time in corporate environments, where folks are managing ongoing businesses and refining existing operating models, the pace is naturally slower and the intensity is less. Learning how to take the good stuff (urgency and drive) and apply it in that new environment took some time to figure out.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

At EMC, we were challenged with solving the innovator’s dilemma, a theory written by Clayton Christensen that demonstrates how incumbent companies can do everything “right” and still lose their market leadership as new competitors enter the market. We successfully deployed a new business model and were able to make a fledgling technology successful without being crushed by existing large storage box business needs. Before this program, we were selling storage into a high-end market (i.e., large data centers) and after the deployment, we were able to move into the mid-market selling smaller storage devices outside data centers. We were able to accomplish this by taking resources from the core business and redeploying them to the new business model. We significantly changed or introduced 14 business functions to make this new model work. It was an inspiring team effort!

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

Curiosity – I am very interested in understanding how and why things work the way they do, including people. Following up this big degree of curiosity with investigation, research, and action has been a major factor for me in achieving success.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Mentoring is absolutely critical. I believe it is important for an individual to learn from people who have gone before them and achieved the career progression the mentee hopes to attain. Mentors can teach from their own experience and this guidance is invaluable as it provides real-world examples. I will say to folks, for example, that “I have lived through the next 20 years of the career you are about to embark on” (if I have 20 years more tenure than they do). It’s good for each of us to learn from experiences like that.

Additionally, a big portion of my belief is that sometimes individuals in newer jobs don’t believe in themselves enough and a mentor can help give them the confidence so that they can fly on their own.

At Pega, I mentored a leader who at that point in her career. I was able to support her and help build up her confidence as she became a trusted leader across the organization. One example of how I did this is by taking the seat at the head of the table and when this individual came in, I would give her the seat to signal to the rest of the team that my full support was behind her and they should support her as well. With encouragement and confidence building, this leader has grown into an extremely well-respected thought leader at Pega.

What can businesses/governments/allies do to help diversity and inclusion?

Businesses, governments, and allies need to recognize diversity and inclusion are necessary to create a fair playing field. It is important to not only over-invest in hiring, but also to invest time in, attention to, and care for these professionals so they are able to contribute their unique perspective to the organization.

If we just hire for diversity or inclusion but don’t cultivate these professionals and help them become successful, then we are not truly supporting diversity and inclusion.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

It is important for me to support gender equality because I am in a position of influence and leadership, which enables me to help create an even playing field and to make the workplace increasingly fairer. As executive sponsor of [email protected], I try my best to encourage other men in the workplace to join and become allies and help ensure we are partnering to make this change together.

To create true equality, diversity, and inclusion we need to use our influence and power base to make this change, and we need to model the behavior so that up-and-coming leaders recognize this is the cultural norm.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

The slow way is the fast way.

I have recently gotten into meditation and have learned that it is helpful to take a breath, pause, and go more slowly through life (more times than we think) and spend more time making thoughtful decisions. This enables you to better understand people and be more effective – it is also more enjoyable.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Professionally, my next challenge is to help Pega achieve its true potential. Part of this includes cracking the code on how we bring the message of Pega through pragmatic buyer enablement and client engagement to large, complex organizations. We want to help them understand what we do and further convince our clients that we drive real, credible transformations that will help their companies and themselves thrive and have interesting and awesome careers as they adopt new technology that helps them achieve their missions

Personally, I would like to continue to grow and learn – this is something I do every day. For example, with the recent expansion of my role to include the marketing organization, I am looking to learn more about certain aspects of marketing so that I can be a good thought partner and leader with the extremely capable professionals on our team.

 

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Paula Milton

Inspirational Woman: Paula Milton | Vice President, EMEA, Specialist Sales, Pega

Paula MiltonPaula has over 20 years’ experience with digital transformation at leading global brands, with a particular passion for customer experience.

Prior to joining Pega, Paula held a leadership position at Oracle and has also enjoyed the non-corporate world of running a start-up business.

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

The ‘private Paula’ is a keen runner, hill walker, and general outdoor enthusiast! My family is incredibly important to me, and I have so much to thank them for.

I have worked at Pega, which develops software that helps organizations personalize engagement with their customers, for almost 7 years. In my current role, I am responsible for our new Specialist Sales business across EMEA.  Pega is approaching the customer engagement market in a very deliberate way, and this team has been created to bring deep domain expertise to guide our clients. This has meant introducing a new business model and ways of working to Pega, which has been both exciting and challenging.

I am also a global co-chair for Pega’s Persons with Disabilities (PwD) ERG and feel privileged to be given the opportunity to help drive change and raise awareness in this area. One of the things I am proud of is the creation of a community of members and allies who now feel able to be more transparent about their personal disability experiences in a safe space.

In addition, I am a volunteer for the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, a charity that provides information and support services for those affected by rheumatoid arthritis, their families, friends, care givers, and health professionals.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I actually left school at 18 and went straight to work at a tech company for 10 years. One of my first managers told me I should be in sales – so I was fortunate to be afforded opportunities early in my career to practice my craft. It wasn’t until a bit later that I actually paused and thought about how to broaden my experience to help me progress my career. I then did a couple of very deliberate things.  I ran a start-up company for 2 years to prove to myself that I could do business without a large brand behind me. This was tough but a huge learning experience – and pretty successful! The other thing I did was to ensure that in whatever role I took, I would volunteer to do projects outside of my ‘day job.’ This gives you a broader insight across the business, gets you connected to different people, and helps develop your personal brand.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I have never felt that being a woman has held me back in my career, I was comfortable working in a male-dominated world and felt well-supported as I progressed. I do, however, see how much the workplace has improved by creating more diverse and inclusive cultures. Everyone is different and we should celebrate that. I am proud in my new role to have built a diverse team, although I think I could do even better in this area.

Like most people though, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been without challenge in my life! One of these led me to be an advocate for Persons with Disabilities. I was diagnosed with severe Rheumatoid Arthritis at a fairly young age and have had over 20 major operations, including the UK’s first wrist replacement (which failed). To help halt the progression of this insidious disease, I take a powerful immune suppressant drug which I consider a necessary evil. But, I do believe that not giving in to this condition and keeping up my love for sport and exercise, has given me more ‘grit’ than I may otherwise have had – and this has definitely helped me in a work context to stay positive and see the good in tough situations.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Knowing what my priorities are and ensuring the right work/life balance. So much so that my daughter didn’t really realize I worked during her school years, as I was always there to take her and pick her up from school. Having a successful work life and a daughter with the right values who is now thriving herself has been my biggest achievement. I know that being a parent has made me a better leader as you have already learned not to be selfish and that it’s not all about you anymore!

If I am allowed another achievement, then I still have to pinch myself that I am a VP in a prestigious software company that counts the global 250 orgs as their clients. I definitely have imposter syndrome, not having been to university or studied for an MBA – but I guess the lessons of life and rich experiences give you a good grounding in business.

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

My mantra as a leader is to be transparent and empathetic and to celebrate our differences. Achieving business goals is critical, but HOW you achieve them also matters. I aim to lead by example by being kind, collaborative, and consistent – I don’t always succeed, but I definitely try to model this behavior. If I had to boil it down to one thing, then it would be behavior.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I think mentoring is a critical aspect of personal development, and I have been both a mentor and a mentee. It is important to match the right people together since these relationships will only work through mutual trust and respect. It is important to also have goals and outcomes in mind so that you can be clear on progress.

At Pega, we are fortunate to have a formal Mentor program, which provides structure and guidance for those new to this. I am fortunate to have a couple of mentors, who, whilst I do not speak that frequently, do restore my confidence when I am doubting and help me to think outside of my comfort zone. I always feel energized and positive after these sessions, which I think has to be the best outcome I could wish for.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

Gender equality is both a fundamental human right and a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world. Yet, at the current rate of progress, it will take over 10 generations to close the economic gender gap.

If I can play some small part in this, then I will aspire to be the best role model possible and, as a leader, to give a platform and voice to those who would benefit from this support and visibility.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

To be less defensive in situations where I am challenged or criticized. I am highly competitive and a bad loser – which is a strength in many ways, but also a failure when misdirected. Learning from our mistakes is important and having people be honest with you is critical for our development.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Having built a new team and go-to-market strategy at Pega over the last 12 months, my next challenge is to help every member of my team be successful and for them to have a sense of belonging to something special.

 

DISCOVER MORE ABOUT PEGA HERE

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