Prepare! Prepare! Prepare! You will never regret over preparing for a meeting, but you will regret not preparing for it.
As a part of our series about powerful women, I had the pleasure of interviewing Claire Trimble the Chief Marketing Officer at Lastline, an AI-cybersecurity company that detects and contains the most sophisticated threats. Claire is a marketing executive with over 25 years of experience working across both Fortune 500 companies and mid-sized growth companies. Her diverse background includes marketing and selling security, networking, cloud, and enterprise software solutions. She is a top performing, award-winning leader, with a consistent record of delivering marketing programs, solutions and revenue growth for InfoSec Global, Fortinet, Cisco and Oracle. Claire began her career at Oracle, where she continually exceeded her quota in both channel and direct sales positions. Claire has also been awarded CRN’s Channel Chief, Women of the Channel and Power 100 awards.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
As a child I didn’t exactly dream about a career in cybersecurity. I actually kind of fell into it! I grew up in the Silicon Valley. Oracle was like the Facebook of the Valley back in the early 90’s and was masterful at recruiting out of college. Oracle was my first taste of high tech and I loved it! I started in sales contracts, quickly moved into sales and the rest is history. Working for tech giants like Oracle and Cisco early in my career made the transition into cyber pretty seamless.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have to admit, one of my funniest mistakes actually happened a few years ago and it was a rookie mistake. I was working for a small cryptography company called InfoSec Global that is headquartered in Canada. My CEO at the time asked me to meet with an investor, who was retired from Morgan Stanley. He said he probably wouldn’t participate in this round of funding but to go meet him and establish the relationship anyway. It sounded casual. I had a full day of meetings that I was preparing for that day, so I didn’t think much about it. I headed up into the elevator of the San Francisco Morgan Stanley office and entered an office that was clearly the penthouse suite. The executive assistant walked me into a large, beautiful office looking over the SF bay and I’m introduced to a man that hands me a business card that reads, “Jack Wadsworth, Honorary Chairman of the Board at Morgan Stanley.” Mr. Wadsworth opens up our discussion with the question “Tell me why I should care about quantum computers?” I spent the next two hours explaining quantum computers, quantum encryption and crypto agility — it was like an interrogation! I’m not sure that I would have answered the questions any differently, but it was definitely a memorable lesson!
OK, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What is it about the position of executive that most attracted you to it?
The thing that most attracted me to cyber-security leadership are the people that I get to meet and the ability to innovate in a space that is unpredictable and constantly innovating.
Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what an executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
The most knowledgeable subject matter experts aren’t always the ones that move into executive leadership. Executives develop and inspire top talent; they influence decisions whether they have direct control over resources or not and they remove barriers for talent to flourish. Executives are very clear about what the end game is and how the team will get there.
What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?
It’s an executive’s job to develop and inspire people, but also learn from them. I currently have a woman on my team that is managing our marketing operations and technology stack. She is extremely detailed and dives very deep into the technology and systems. She is a bit earlier in her career than I am, but there’s one particular trait I love about her — it doesn’t even occur to her that something might not be possible, which unfortunately is often not a common cultural trait at large companies. I always learn something from Nicole, and her passion is infectious. She is also fearless. She will go head to head on numbers with our CFO, CEO — you name it. It’s learning from people like Nicole Hutchenson that make me enjoy being an executive.
What are the downsides of being an executive?
Sometimes you have to make tough decisions that maybe aren’t popular or impact jobs, but they are the right decisions for the business.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being an executive. Can you explain what you mean?
One myth is that leaders should provide all the answers. Executives should empower others to find answers and solve problems, making connections to the right resources, data and organizations when necessary. When someone from my team asks me what they should do about something, my response is always “Well what do you think you should do?” More times than not, they already know the answer, they just need confirmation.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
I think sometimes women have doubts that they are qualified for a role or promotion because they are missing one area of experience in their background or their resume doesn’t perfectly match the requirements in the job description. When I was working for Cisco, my manager at the time approached me and was like “What are you thinking? Why aren’t you applying for the leadership role on my team?” My response was “I don’t have all the experience outlined in the job description.” He responded, “You have more experience than the 3 men that applied!” For whatever reason, I rarely see the same level of doubt and uncertainty in men.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
The job is actually what I thought it would be; it’s the industry that is hard to get in front of. Cyber-security is so exciting; the threats are always evolving. However, it is also one of the noisiest markets right now, so it’s critical as a marketing executive that you articulate the problem you solve and how your product or solution solves it better than anyone else.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive?
This is definitely subjective, but I’ll answer it. Executives have to be credible, knowledgeable in their field and they have to be inspirational. The ability to lead and inspire people is critical as an executive. You won’t be successful without inspiring the team that you lead. These traits are table stakes, but two additional ones that are critical are the ability to develop a personal network and having a clear voice that influences the decisions of others.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
Bottom line is this: you need to have a voice that influences the decisions of others. Women are often coached to “have a seat at the table,” but I believe it’s having a voice and the tone of your voice that is so important. Individually, you have to decide how you want to influence and what your style is, but you need to be consistent with it, otherwise the people who you are trying to influence won’t know how to read you.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Yes, for many years I worked with Joseph Puthussery from Cisco. Joseph was one of the first leaders to really believe in me and he offered me incredible leadership opportunities on his team. During my time at Cisco, I had three children, two of my children were born while I was working in his organization. Just before my second child was born, he promoted me to a new leadership role, it was a very productive year! To this day Joseph is both a friend and mentor to me.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Those of us in the cyber-security community are all fighting to make the world a better place. I am personally taking the knowledge and experience I have learned in this space and working with youth to educate them on how to protect themselves from cyber threats and “the strangers you can’t always see.”
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Focus on the things you can control and have impact on–spinning about barriers and people that you don’t have any control over is a waste of valuable time.
- Prepare! Prepare! Prepare! You will never regret over preparing for a meeting, but you will regret not preparing for it.
- Don’t worry about others taking credit for your work — people know who does what, they aren’t stupid. If someone wants to hang their hat on work you did, take it as a compliment.
- Treat each individual in your personal network like a valuable, precious gem. A personal network should be cherished, leveraged wisely and continuously diversified.
- Stop worrying about what others think of you — you can’t do anything about it
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is one of Maya Angelou’s,“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The times when I have achieved the most satisfaction and success in my career were when I felt the most empowered and quite frankly was the happiest. I think most people feel this way. As leaders I believe we need to think about the way we make others feel and by doing so, will experience the direct tie that has to business results. I’ve remained close with the male and female leaders that I have worked for over the years that made me feel capable and empowered to stretch myself. I am committed to passing this on to the people that look to me for leadership.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
I am a huge Brene Brown fan. Her work inspires me and makes me laugh at the same time.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
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About the Author
Phil La Duke is a popular speaker & writer with more than 500 works in print. He has contributed to Entrepreneur, Monster, Thrive Global and is published on all inhabited continents. His most recent book is Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention listed as #16 on Pretty Progressive magazine’s list of 49 books that powerful women study in detail. Follow Phil on Twitter @philladuke or read his weekly blog www.philladuke.wordpress.com