CMO to CEO: If it's not fun, it's not worth it

Jennifer Tejada talks PagerDuty and her passion for enterprise digital transformation

Imagine standing on the podium at the New York Stock Exchange about to ring the bell to take a start-up public, something a woman has not done for over a decade, with your 13-year-old daughter standing next to you.

This is a dream few women will ever realise; yet Jennifer Tejada, who started her career in marketing, just realised as the CEO of PagerDuty, which launched its IPO on April 11 this year.

Tejada was recently in Australia to champion the growing demand of customers for real-time data in an era of digitisation, and the PagerDuty Digital Operations Management platform. As a digital operations management company, PagerDuty’s cloud-based platform manages real-time operations for any type of business with digital services. It leverages over 10 years of machine and human response data to understand and pinpoint issues, such as outages and slowdowns, and spot opportunities.

Using machine learning, the platform automates the response in real time across teams like developers, IT support and security, so they can take action immediately on the critical incidents that matter.

Tejada has had a varied career, to say the least, but it is a career progression that has enabled her to reach the kind of heights few CMOs, if any, dare to dream about.

The marketer-turned-CEO started her career at Procter & Gamble (P&G), before moving to a marketing role at i2 Technologies, something she said stirred a passion for enterprise digital transformation.

While serving on multiple boards, as well as CMO for AAPT, and holding multiple positions across Keynote Systems, Mincom, and Merivale, Tejada actively pursued horizontal career progression, something she says is key for those CMOs looking to sit at the CEO’s table.

“I started my career at P&G, which is still one of the best business schools on the planet in terms of leadership and classic sales marketing training,” Tejada told CMO.

“At the time, the market was changing, it was the early 90s and the internet had just started and I wanted to be a part of that change. So I left P&G after five years and went to B2B. I found I loved working on a tech-centric platform, because when you make significant changes it’s usually highly quantifiable, whereas B2C is more fickle.”

It is this ‘quantifiability’ which has lured Tejada to stay in enterprise technology all this time.

“I moved to Australia to get into offshore yacht racing and ended up working for a private equity firm before taking a job as CMO for AAPT. I realised being in a telco was a much slower pace than I liked, so went back into technology for Mincom. At that time, it was second largest Australian enterprise technology company in the market.

“This was a pivotal job for me, as it expanded my remit from marketing to include product. I owned M&A there as well, and we ended up selling the company (to ABB) for a big profit in 2011.”

It was around this time Tejada was pushed by a friend and mentor to start putting herself forward for CEO roles, to get her out of her comfort zone.

She did, and has never looked back, starting at PagerDuty in 2016 as its CEO. For those looking to follow in her inspiring footsteps, Tejada recommends taking leadership positions in different functions of business, and gaining sponsors and champions to help push you forward.

“What really helped me make the transition from being a function leader to a top leader, is board work. I’ve been sitting on boards for the better part of 20 years and it exercises different parts of my brain. Through boards I learn about regulatory, finance, employee law, etc. It’s definitely made me a more well-rounded executive. Being on a board also helps me think about long-term strategy – it provides a different lens than as a day-to-day operator.”

Tejada has sat on the boards of Puppet Labs, oOh Media, Foundation 9 Entertainment, Gizmo, Cantada and, most recently, was appointed to the board of Estee Lauder.

“I’ve been lucky, I’ve had so many career highlights, as I won’t do anything unless it’s fun. It is the board work that has set me apart. I have a liberal arts degree, I don’t look like the next big CEO, but I’ve been able to gather experiences by being open-minded and taking opportunities allowing me to build skills sets across functions. By taking a lot of horizontal moves, I’ve built a rich skill set.

“I was looking for a board role in consumer digital transformation at a large consumer brand going through digital transformation, which is how I got introduced to Estee Lauder. They didn’t have someone with a software and tech background, so that’s how I got involved.

“The board experience has been invaluable, it has helped me to build out the PagerDuty Board, and how to build a diverse and capable board to help us see ahead.”

She sees unique opportunities for CMOs at the CEO and board level moving forward, because ultimately, digital transformation is about customer experience, something marketers are intimately familiar with.

“The CMO role is shifting, many are like me and have grown up within an organisation touching every part of the business. However, as marketing becomes more technically-centric to automate, the CMO has had to become far more technical, and more understanding of the broad base of business.

“But if you think about digital transformation and what it means - it’s consumers preferring to engage with brands via technologically-centric means. Consumers don’t want to talk to people, they want a bot or an app, they don’t want the friction of getting on the phone to a person, and they don’t want multiple clicks to purchase. From a CMO perspective, we aim to build and design a delightful CX, a seamless CX, which works every time. That journey has become the tailwind for PagerDuty.

“Even though you can’t control all the technology that underpins an app as a CMO, you do have to be responsible for it. The days of consumers ringing up to complain are over. They are on social media and this is very dangerous for a brand. But we can’t escape this omnichannel digital world we are in.”

It is also this CMO experience which has helped Tejada immeasurably during her time with PagerDuty, due to the fact she is applying a B2C mindset to acquiring customers; something, she says, makes all the difference in the B2B world.

“One area in which we were an early leader is leveraging digital marketing to acquire customers. PagerDuty has more like a consumer-facing digital marketing front-end, we use word of mouth, online, social media, and offer the opportunity for potential customers to try online without ever speaking to a human if they don't want to. They get from discovering, to trying, to purchasing without the usual sales involvement, and this has created a lot of opportunities for us to acquire customers and discover interesting use cases.

“Consumers are consumers, why are they somehow a different kind of buyer at work suddenly? They expect the same ease of use at work as they do in the private world. We are an early leader in this; the apps need to be easy to use and acquire. As such, customers can be off and running in minutes, which is very different to traditional business software, which takes weeks, if not months, to implement and use.

“Our metrics are our customers’ successes. As a result, we are very high in net dollar retention, which is considered best in class at 140 per cent. What this speaks to is the ongoing loyalty and expansion of our customers. It comes back to trust, so we focus on user success, as opposed to company success.

“We’ve also leveraged data very effectively, as we’ve been collecting for 10 years - in a transparent way of course. We now know behaviour, signals, workflows and business outcomes. This mean we can help customers manage unplanned challenges and learn from those challenges so the platform gets smarter.

For those CMOs looking to make the jump up, Tejada offers some advice:

“First, surround yourself with people so bright and capable it scares you. These people need to challenge you and push you. Second, people get hung up on vertical advancement in careers, but you create depth through horizontal advancement. Third, stay focused on your customers. A lot of businesses get distracted with competition or personal goals. But if you know your customers and understand what they need, everything else will fall into place. If you get it right for your customers and employees, then your score will end up in the right place in terms of shareholders.

“Finally, if it’s not fun it’s not worth it.”

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