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When I first joined Confluent, I just wanted to make an impact. Of course, everyone wants to grow in their careers, but especially as a proud first-generation American from a Hispanic family, being able to get my engineering degree and find a successful role at a tech company has been deeply rewarding. I thought if I worked hard and demonstrated my value here, then promotion would happen eventually. But instead of “eventually,” opportunities and responsibilities have come quickly.
As Vice President of Sales Strategy & Operations, I have two very distinct parts of my role. First, I oversee a small but mighty team that supports the Americas enterprise sales business. I help them with all the behind-the-scenes work that a lot of people don’t realize happens within sales: sales forecasting, planning, designing territories, and setting targets for the sales teams. I also run what we call the Global Shared Services team, which handles all of the quoting and order management, systems design, and booking of deals we bring in.
In Sales Operations, we are the numbers people, so we take on a heavy data workload in order to understand all the trends happening in sales. We use that data to figure out how we continue to capitalize on positive trends in order to grow the business. We identify potential risks and drill down into what the root cause of those might be. It’s also important for us to understand the business processes of salespeople and the challenges they’re working through.
My Path to Sales Operations
A lot of people don’t even know what sales operations is, let alone realize it’s a career path. I certainly didn’t. I graduated with degrees in industrial engineering and operations research, and I thought I was going to be in a process improvement role because the foundation of industrial engineering is around improving processes. However, I knew I didn’t want to work on a manufacturing floor.
When I finished school, I joined a tech company in their professional services division. It was highly technical, and I was on the road for the first four years of my professional life helping install products in data centers. I realized this path wasn’t right for me. I wanted to learn how the business worked internally, so I took a role in the operations department running order management for the Americas, which taught me the inner workings of how companies operate.
I started missing the excitement of being client-facing, and around this time, I heard about a career path in sales operations. The job not only required the operations experience that I already possessed so deeply, but it also had the fun of being more customer-facing. I took the role, and I feel like I found my niche in sales operations. It’s actually what I really enjoy doing.
How I Approach Leadership
As a VP, there is definitely an elevated level of expectation in terms of the way I have to think about how to solve challenges for the business, but also how I need to show up as a leader. One of my core values is to start with trust. Some people will say trust is earned, but I actually totally disagree with that. I think if you don’t start with trust, you can’t actually work together.
I fundamentally believe that everyone wakes up every day trying to do their best. No one wakes up thinking, “How can I mess today up?” If someone makes an error, it is probably an honest mistake, oversight, confusion, or an improper handoff. All we can do is figure out what exactly broke and move forward to fix it without placing blame. I’m definitely not a leader who rules from the top. I’m willing to jump in, roll up my sleeves, and help my team figure out problems together. People stay at—or leave—companies because of their managers, so it’s important to me that we have great relationships. To build a great company, first, we must build a great team.
Sales operations is all about how we can run the business by the numbers, but at the end of the day, businesses are made of people. I’m also a mother, and I have two young kids. Working hard while balancing my home life is so important to me. There are many people on my team who are starting families, have young kids, or have kids that are a little older. Before COVID, it wasn’t as easy to manage work-life balance, but I think this is a really exciting time for women and mothers, and parents of all kinds, to be able to have fulfilling careers while raising a family. If someone says, “Oh, my kid is sick,” my response is, “Go take care of them.” We all know family comes first.
What’s Next for Sales Ops at Confluent
I work hard at Confluent, in part to make my family proud of me because, culturally, we understand every generation needs to do better than the last. I feel so blessed and so happy to be here, and there’s so much we have to build to grow and scale the business.
I’ve been really excited about adding more automation in order to scale the teams. People get scared of automation because they think we’re “automating jobs away,” but that’s not the case. Automation is actually going to help people do their jobs more efficiently. As an example, I hear things like, “If I didn’t have to click these three extra buttons, my job would be a lot easier.” So we’re looking at ways to make sure that data flows through the system automatically. Then those three extra buttons don’t need to be clicked, and people can refocus their time on their core responsibilities.
And of course, we’ll continue to take on new complexities as we sell new products and add new projects. So helping people’s journeys be more rewarding while making their jobs a little bit easier, will remain a priority for me as we continue to scale the business.
When Jade Bowen joined Confluent as an account executive for the enterprise market and 11th employee in the ANZ region, there was only one client for her to work with. Three years later, she’s heading up the entire APAC Customer Success team.
Three years in, Marcus Greer is still excited about the work he does at Confluent. As a software engineer in the Cloud Manageability organization, Marcus helps make customers’ lives easier – giving them insight into the complex systems their businesses depend on.