Women in Enterprise: Denise Broady at Workforce Software

This series features profiles of some of the top women leaders within our enterprise technology community here in NYC. We hope by highlighting the terrific work, stories, and career trajectories of these women at top venture-backed startups and operating roles will continue to encourage more women to consider careers in enterprise software.

As a follow up to our sold-out Navigate 2018: Women in Enterprise Tech Summit here at Work-Bench with Salesforce Ventures, we are continuing to recognize and amplify these impressive women in NYC enterprise tech.

Denise Broady is the Chief Operations Officer and Chief Marketing Officer at Workforce Software.

What were you doing before this current role in enterprise tech, and how did you get to your current role?

Prior to my current role at WorkForce Software, I was the Industry Cloud COO at SAP overseeing ~$10 billion in software and services. As you can imagine, my role and responsibilities were quite large, so when I joined WorkForce Software as the Chief Marketing Officer, it was a lateral move, but a strategic one for my long-term career path. I took the role because I really wanted to experience end to end marketing and communications. I felt at larger companies, roles were more streamlined, and my marketing experience was not as extensive as I wanted it to be. At WorkForce, my role allowed me to align marketing with sales, rebrand the company from start to finish, drive digital marketing and bring marketing to the forefront as an important stakeholder for overall company growth. It was truly a role that encompassed the journey from brand to demand to customer loyalty as well as internal and external communications.

After 1.5 years as CMO, I transitioned to COO role, keeping all my responsibilities in marketing and communications, but taking on customer success, global support and training & enablement. My area also runs the go-to-market strategy and makes sure our company priorities are aligned across the entire senior leadership team. The COO role in most companies can have a different focus depending on business needs and the skillset of the executive. It has more flexibility to be customized to the strengths of the individual and the priorities of the organization. Thus, in my new hybrid COO role, I learned how to reimage the ultimate customer experience. That’s what we’ve focused on as a company for the last 1.5 years. We want to create a culture where the customer is always first which is a company core value that is integrated into everything we do. This shift of culture both internally and externally has been one of my main goals.

What pain point is your company solving, and what gets you excited to go to work every day?

We’re on a global journey to make work easy for our customers by digitalizing time sheets, leave management and scheduling. When I first started, the company was founder led and was at a pivotable point for growth and scale. We have made some great strides in the last 3 years: going from nonprofitable to profitable as a company, working to shift culture with internal employees by instilling core values and implementing key initiatives but also shifting the customer experience. An integrated customer experience means that we incorporate not just customers but our entire external ecosystem: partners, analysts, etc.

I’m excited to go to work every day because for one, no two days are ever alike. One day I could be working with marketing, another day with customer success or visiting customers to improve our strategic relationship. The variance in my role keeps me on my toes! Outside of my own role, I am excited to be a part of this company because we are providing a solution to our customers that help them tremendously in their daily work. What we do may sound simple, but it is actually extremely complex as there are many industry rules and regulations per region that businesses encounter. The impact we make on our customers with our solution truly helps to make their work life easier every single day.

What do you wish you had known earlier in your enterprise career?

I wish I knew that there was a difference between mentorship and sponsorship. In my 20’s I was a very hard worker, and always kept my head down to work and produce results. I thought my work would speak for itself and I would get a promotion as a result — but boy was I wrong! I did not realize sponsorship from key stakeholders were essential to get to the executive level. I did not start asking for sponsorship until I was well into my thirties for executive positions.

So, let me save you readers the hassle and define the difference so you don’t have to make the same mistake! A mentor is someone you seek for career guidance, a sounding board for ideas and a career coach that helps advise you. A sponsor is someone who speaks on your behalf when you’re not there. A sponsor has worked with you in a certain capacity and can vouch for your skillset and work ethic. They already have a seat at the table when the senior leadership get together to discuss promotions and effectively “sponsor” you for a promotion or a role. As you can imagine, before you get to a certain seniority level, you would never be able to get into these meetings — so you definitely need a sponsor to throw your name out there!

Give us one piece of tactical advice (small or large), as a page from your enterprise tech playbook — that you would give to another woman considering a career in enterprise tech?

My tactical advice is to always keep a pulse and close relationship with your external ecosystem: customers, analysts and partners. No matter how senior you become, never lose touch with the root of your business and there is truth to the saying “put your customers first”. You’ll find that many companies say it but not many companies do it. At WorkForce, we have an “Executive Sponsorship” program where every member of the executive leadership team is responsible for maintaining partnerships with their specific customers. Staying in the know and putting customers first makes everything from creating marketing collateral to solving any support case much smoother. You must have a seat at the table with knowledge about how the customer thinks to make the right decisions for the business.

What do you love about enterprise tech?

Enterprise technology is amazing because we are solving the largest business process problems across the globe. We help our customers run their businesses more effectively. Our software is extensive with room for automation but also user-friendly, so it is an equation for making employees’ lives easier!

I also love that there are many opportunities in enterprise tech and it is only growing with the innovation of society. In fact, my first job was implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems so I really saw the full picture of how complex it is to run a company, let alone a Fortune 500 company! The cool thing is that there is no ONE solution that fulfills all the business requirements but each of us help organizations reimagine their experience in their own way.

What do you wish would change?

I find entering the industry of enterprise tech can be difficult, especially for women, minorities, people who come from different professional backgrounds. It can seem like the hiring process heavily favors those with STEM background or ivy league degrees. However, I’d like to argue that it’s not always necessary to have those qualifications. I find that when I hire people outside of the traditional profile, they are able to add value to the team because sometimes working with the same thing all the time gives us “tunnel vision”. The diversity in the team can be super helpful for a brand to expand or refine their creative voice and give a fresh perspective. However, I do agree that people who don’t come from traditional backgrounds will need to learn the products and make more of an effort to expand their knowledge to be able to move inside their role.

“I find that when I hire people outside of the traditional profile, they are able to add value to the team because sometimes working with the same thing all the time gives us ‘tunnel vision’.”

Also, I think leaders should take their roles as mentors more seriously and be more proactive about it. If you’re going to be hiring someone who won’t have the most experience, it is also our responsibility to help them grow! Cultivating employee growth as a manager will also help you get more things accomplished as a team.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I always say that careers are a marathon, not a sprint. It is never a linear line. Enjoy the process and enjoy the journey. If you think about how much of your life you will be working, you might as well make the most of it. Meet people, create great friendships, inspire youth, learn from your colleagues and make a positive impact on your customers. Time and experience will also help you define what you’re more passionate about and how to create a life around that. A career does not necessarily have to be about chasing your passions but owning your passions. Knowledge is power, because when you know, you’ll can create a plan to achieve it!

I think it is important to continue to grow and never stop learning. In my career, I’ve had the opportunity to sit on advisory boards and witness the growth of companies of all sizes. From a billion-dollar company like SAP to a midsize company like WorkForce to small startups, the diversity of this experience helps me to make better decisions. Outside of just work, it’s essential to keep this mentality in life! Find hobbies, find things that make you happy and keep being curious about the world around you.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations and thank you for reading! I hope this inspires you to chase all your dreams in life. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to tweet me @DVuBroady!

Connect with Denise on LinkedIn and Twitter.

See our Database of Founders of Enterprise Startups (Who are Women) and let us know if we missed someone!

Know a woman leader in enterprise technology whose story we should feature?We’d love to hear from you.