Consistently look at an issue with a 360 View — Look at an issue from as many perspectives as possible — what I like to call a ‘360 view’. This requires a lot of practice and often more silence and thought than speaking. It is imperative to think about an issue from multiple angles. Focus on what your motivations is, what the motivation of the other parties is and also where there are misalignments and potential pitfalls. If you can anticipate moves and the motivation of others, it will help you anticipate practical outcomes and potential emotional outcomes. When dealing with people there is always emotion and subjectivity and by adopting this practice, it will help you anticipate the subjective perceptions of others.
I had the pleasure to interview Mary Clark. Mary joined the Synchronoss team in January 2018 and serves as Chief Product Officer and Chief Marketing Officer. In this role, Mary is responsible for product management, marketing and communications. Throughout her 25 years in mobile, she has held several executive-level positions and serves as a Board member for The CTIA Wireless Foundation and The CMO Advisory Council. Mary is a champion of gender diversity and an active industry speaker on the GSMA Women4Tech stage, moderating the event at MWC Americas, Shanghai and Barcelona.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My journey on this career path began when I was selling phones. I had been in Japan teaching English from 1991 to 1992 and when I returned I needed a job. My friend was selling phones and was making 100% commission on the StarTAC Lite phones. I started working with her as an authorized agent in Annapolis, Maryland and became very interested in how cell phones work. I started to absorb the data around technology and ask questions — and fell in love with the industry. I thought it was so cool.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I’ve had the opportunity to be at Synchronoss during a time in our history when we transformed from a customized software services company to product-focused company. As the company shifted towards a product company, we changed our approach to the market. It has been a time of tremendous change and challenge, and overall, an incredible learning experience.
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’m not sure how funny it is, but early in my product management career, I found myself continuously humbled by having to work with software engineers. Since I did not have a technical background, I was humbled by what I didn’t know and had to face the fact that I didn’t understand all the technology behind the products. However, I learned that I had to make sure that I was learning as much I could. It is an evolving balancing act between business aspirations and making the technology cost-effective, appropriate and best-in-class. This is a lesson that I continuously learn.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
A consistent theme I hear from long-time customers is Synchronoss’ ability to deliver and execute on what we say we can and are going to do. It is one of the greatest things that can be said about a company; you do what you say that you are going to do and your quality is consistently good. I am always humbled by this. It is something that consistently stands out about Synchronoss. A lot of customers mention this to me and I attribute it to our folks on the front line who are delivering the product.
Recently, a customer sent a congratulatory note to our delivery team after we had completed a major data center migration. The note simply said that they wanted to highlight what a tremendous job we did (without customer disruption) and to convey how much they appreciated all of the effort.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
One project that we are working on now involves Rich Communications Services (RCS) and RCS-based messaging solutions — which are becoming a priority for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).
This next generation advanced messaging technology is currently being used by three operators in Japan (KDDI Corporation, NTT DOCOMO, INC. and SoftBank Corp) through a common device client called ‘+Message’. This provides an interoperable messaging capability similar to traditional text messaging between consumers — regardless of which operator they are using. Synchronoss is the service provider for +Message. The three operators in Japan announced the second phase of +Message, making it available to brands and enterprises to offer through various commercial campaigns to consumers. +Message provides a ubiquitous platform for brands to reach those same consumers regardless of the operator through a visually rich experience. +Message is new way to communicate, replacing simple text messaging and is available today to customers on smartphones and tablets, enabling them to enjoy enhanced messaging features such as chat, group chat, video, gifs, file and location sharing, amongst others.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
It is easy to say collaborate but the reality is that takes effort and it takes over-communicating for teams to gel across departments. No team works in a vacuum. For any leader, male or female, it is critical to build rapport and trust with their peers and to make sure their teams are doing the same. It is so important to ensure everyone is moving in the same direction. During challenging times, relationships make a difference and it helps when it is time to solve issues. This is my practical experience and certainly a critical component of building a team for any leader.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Again, over-communicating is critical. However, a large team requires more structured and consistent communications in addition to informal interaction. Taking action is really critical in finding methods by which people will respond to you. A large team can also be international so you need to be able to communicate across time zones. Having the discipline to make constant communication part of your regular activities is critical.
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?
The person who helped me to get to where I am today is Liz Maxfield. At the time I worked at Cibernet, Liz was the CEO. In 1997 the company had a lot of turnover in headcount and leadership and Liz came to me and asked me to do a handful of jobs for the foreseeable future. While a challenge, it was incredible and an opportunity to play a larger role in the company. It showed me that she had confidence in me and I was who she needed. While there is the adage, “right place at right time”, it was an incredible vote of confidence. It was a transformative period in company’s history and she trusted me to make an impact. Liz was an absolute pioneer in the mobile technology industry and a female pioneer in the technology world. She currently serves as the Executive Director of the Wireless History Foundation, and in 2018, was inducted into the organization’s Wireless Hall of Fame. Liz was instrumental in the early development of the cellular industry from working on many of the first FCC license filings to facilitating the establishment and operation of inter-carrier information exchanges which help lay the foundation for seamless roaming.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
During the last several years it has become apparent to me that I need to leverage my own experience to help others, both male and female, learn how to navigate going into the business world. Frankly, until I turned 50 it didn’t occur to me that I had the frame of reference or experience that would be considered valuable to someone else. Over these last years it has become clear to me that the mentoring I’ve been doing has been helping these young executives to find confidence in themselves. They are benefiting from an objective person’s perspective. This is also true in my work with young women including my role with the Global System for Mobile Communications Association’s (GSMA) Women for Tech initiative. This effort to promote women leadership roles in technology is a priority for me.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Have Confidence — At every moment in time when I have lacked confidence it has hindered my ability to be successful. It is when I start to doubt myself that I go in circles rather than move forward.
- Consistently Communicate — On a regular basis I am reminded how important communication, and to some degree, over-communication is. If you are not transparent, someone in your ecosystem may not really have the full picture, whether it is a member of your team or a peer. It is critical to ensure that you are disciplined in communicating what is going on and what needs to get done. I see this all the time. In my company, I see the need for communications across sales and product management to ensure the successful delivery of our products.
- Build Trusting Relationships — I was reminded of this recently in an interaction with a partner. Sometimes avoiding conflict seems to be the fastest route to get things done. However, avoidance and being anything but direct can create complications. Building trusting relationships that give you the ability to be direct, open and honest is imperative for success. In any moment in time that you feel insecure and are editing what you would say, you should ask yourself why you are doing that. Determine if what you are saying will generate the outcome you want. I believe that building relationships is the effective way in achieving goals.
- Focus on the Outcome — Think about the desired end result. So often in leadership we get caught up in blame game and it is a fruitless effort. Don’t focus on how you got there, but on solving the problem first and then do the retrospect.
- Consistently look at an Issue with a 360 View — Look at an issue from as many perspectives as possible — what I like to call a ‘360 view’. This requires a lot of practice and often more silence and thought than speaking. It is imperative to think about an issue from multiple angles. Focus on what your motivations is, what the motivation of the other parties is and also where there are misalignments and potential pitfalls. If you can anticipate moves and the motivation of others, it will help you anticipate practical outcomes and potential emotional outcomes. When dealing with people there is always emotion and subjectivity and by adopting this practice, it will help you anticipate the subjective perceptions of others.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would like to inspire a movement to build self-confidence.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of the things that I long felt is that I have a significant zest for life. There is a movie from the 1950s titled, ‘Auntie Mame’ which stared Rosaline Russell. Her character, Mame Dennis, had a famous quote from this movie … Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death! This quote has always rung true with me. If you don’t find the banquet, you will starve!
Some of the biggest 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 greatly admire Meryl Streep — an incredible talent! Would be fabulous to meet with her! Or from the business world, I would want to speak with Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of GM — the first female CEO of a major global automaker.