March 8, 2020
#InternationalWomensDay: Empowering Lessons from Women in Advertising
This week, Metric Theory is incredibly proud to welcome founding member Amanda Ferrante, previously SVP, Revenue, to our C-level team as Chief Revenue Officer. You can read more about Amanda’s promotion and her new role here.
We’re really happy that adding Amanda to the highest level of Metric Theory’s leadership also coincides with her leading our upcoming event in partnership with Microsoft Advertising: Growing Your Voice: Empowering Lessons From Women Leaders. I’ve been working with and learning from Amanda for most of my career, and was given the honor of being able to interview her on her path getting to this point.
You know, we’ve been working together a long time and I don’t think I’ve ever asked this: What was it that got you interested in pursuing a career in marketing & sales?
I started my career in SaaS sales, for a global PR & Marketing technology company. I had studied PR & Marketing in college, and both my parents had full careers in sales — my mom was actually the first female saleswoman for 3M, back in the 70s! — I always appreciated how much impact they could have on their own careers if they worked hard, and figured that selling PR software could give me good exposure to the marketing & PR industry without writing press releases all day! (that’s what the job was back then – pre-social media!)
Let’s talk about your first real job and how it shaped you.
I was an International Management Trainee at Meltwater, which is basically an Account Executive. I had to prospect my own leads, cold call them, give a demo of the software, and close new business deals. It was super hard, since we had no inbound lead or demand generation program at the time. Meltwater handled sales differently than many other tech companies do – it was very much a high-energy, “roll up your sleeves” mentality. The role wasn’t for everyone, but I enjoyed and excelled at it. Fun fact for the readers: Adam and I started 2 weeks out of college in the same “newbie” class. He outsold me in our first month, and still reminds me about it 12+ years later. It was a high growth time for the company — we were opening offices all over North America. After several successful months, I managed a small team and then eventually helped open up the Canadian market, and worked in 5 offices in 6 years running sales teams.
Do you feel like that job helped shape your trajectory up to this day, either by ruling out any career paths or helping you realize this is what you wanted to do?
Absolutely. The exposure I had when opening offices in new markets and building new teams at my previous company was crucial to building Metric Theory. When we started the company (from Ken Baker’s apartment), we had nothing but a strong team. We knew we could deliver great services if we could sign clients, but getting off the ground back then was a true group effort. My main role at first was to pick up the phone and try to pitch as many new customers as possible. I’m happy to report that my first clients that I signed from that apartment are still with Metric Theory today! Today, my role is very different than those early days, but that ability to dig in and tackle challenges in front of me and come out with a positive resolution is ingrained in me at this point. As we grow as a company, there are always new challenges that we face as an executive team. Our customer base is evolving, which is probably the area that I focus on the most — finding that ideal client experience and making sure our team is delivering at the top of our game.
What was your support system like as you advance in your career? Did you have a particular role model?
At Metric Theory, I find a lot of support from the other mothers. We have a private “MT Moms” slack channel where we share our daily struggles and stories that you just can’t make up! Also, yourself and Ken Baker have always supported me.Whether it was re-defining my role so I felt challenged, trusting me to take on new responsibilities, or supporting a move cross-country so I could be closer to family, you both always listen and help me find the ideal solution that will bring out the best in me.
Inspiration-wise, I am currently riding shotgun on the Sara Blakely fan bus. I am overly impressed not only by her success story at Spanx (#salesgirl to #billionaire) but how she is so REAL and honest about her journey, particularly on Instagram stories. She hustles, she laughs at herself, and just seems like someone I want to be best friends with and work for. (Hi Sara, if you see this, can I take you to lunch? Pretty please?)
Were there moments in your career where you felt you might want to do something different?
I have always been more inclined to care about who I’m working with rather than the tasks I’m doing all day. Are they inspiring people? Are we accomplishing something together that is positively impacting the economy or the world? Whether it is co workers or clients, I think that matters more than chasing some mythical ideal job. The grass is greener where you water it.
There was a point in my career, due to a Metric Theory business need, where I shifted from pure new business sales over to the client services side, building what a lot of companies call a “Customer Success” operation. It’s the best thing I ever did. I love working with Account Managers to make sure they know how to show value and provide the good service that was promised in the sales process. Being a dedicated resource to hear the customer’s point of view, good or bad, is also rewarding; I think it has made us a better agency. I highly recommend that anyone with a career in sales take a trip to the other side of the business; it makes you more empathetic, and cautious about what you recommend to customers.
What steps do you take to ensure you are always learning and improving in your job?
It is hard not to learn every day in such a fast-paced industry. Digital marketing aside, it is important to be self-aware about where you need to personally improve, and then find help. For me, to grow as an executive I know that I need to get better at reporting. Luckily I am a communicator in a company full of data & math wizards, so I recently booked 2 hours one day with the woman who trains all of our analysts on Excel, graphing and data visualization. I asked her to sit with me in a room for 2.5 hours (sorry, Barbara!) and take me back to basics, with exercises and homework. It is sometimes easy to be “okay” with understanding things at a high level, but most executives don’t know the nuts and bolts of what their people do. I think putting in that effort (where you can, and need to) is what really helps you stay on top of your game.
Do you have any creative outlets, or something outside of your job that helps you balance your work? How do you achieve work-life balance, especially with a family?
My 2 year old son lights up my world. I love taking him to parks, and we are lucky enough to live near the beach so there is usually a daily visit there for a walk and some play time. For “me” time, I like to exercise and paint. When you “talk” all day, it is nice to do things that don’t require talking. 🙂
I don’t think it is possible to feel 100% work-life balance all the time, particularly as a mother. My least favorite saying that is floating around the internet right now is “We expect women to work as if they don’t have children, and raise children as if they don’t work”. It makes me sick. Luckily, I have an employer who really values bringing your whole self to work. We have a maturing company and every quarter, there are new baby photos on the slides in our All Hands meeting. We talk openly about being parents and the flexibility we need, so younger employees know it is possible to love your job and also be there for your family. On the home front, my husband and I share responsibility for our son. We pick up the slack for each other as necessary, especially when we travel. I’m grateful that he’s so supportive – he knows that my career makes me a better person, and a better mom.
Tactically, I’m particular about my hours. Being a mom makes you 1000x more efficient as a human being, and I bring that with me to work. I get more done now than ever before. My boss trusts me to get it all done, which makes starting later or blocking off 5:30-8pm for family time an easy decision to make. If I need to get some work done at night after Cam goes to bed, I’ll do that to trade off taking him to the park for a half hour during the day, when I can.
If you could go back to your early 20s and give yourself any piece of advice, what would that be?
As a young manager, I thought I needed to be this “perfect” person whose team did everything right, and it intimidated people who worked with me. I would tell myself to show more of my vulnerable side. Quirks (i.e. I’m super clumsy) or stories of failure and learned lessons make you relatable. People like working with managers that they know are in the trenches with them, where they can openly work through problems or insecurities together. Those people have loyalty to you and that is where strong teams are born.
When you have engaged in negotiations in your career in the past (whether it was salary negotiation, client-facing negotiation, or negotiations between your colleagues), have you ever feared coming off as pushy or unlikeable or even that there would be repercussions for negotiating as a woman? Any advice for effective negotiating?
One of my core responsibilities at work is negotiating, so I better have a few tips to share!
When you are negotiating for yourself: Tie what you want back to the value you bring. If you ask for a raise or promotion, be ready to cite examples of what you have accomplished for the business in your current role, and what you want to tackle next if granted the opportunity. If you are already doing some tasks (voluntarily) from the job you want, it should be an easy yes. If you aren’t, then you need to be tactful about what you ask for. Negotiating (for yourself, in particular) requires a lot of self-awareness.
When you are negotiating with a client: It is easy to think that you have X objective to meet, and if you don’t go away with that accomplished, you failed. That is the complete wrong approach to take with a client. You should spend 80% of your time listening to what the client wants, and most importantly, WHY, so that you can figure out the best solution for both parties. That said, you need to be clear what is important to you or your business as well. Stand firm on what makes sense and what is in the best interest of the relationship. If you both listen and understand each other, a deal or project should happen.
About feeling unlikeable or pushy: I’m a firm believer that the worst thing you can do is not ask. If you don’t ask, it’s always no. People hate conflict, which is why I think they hold on to the “pushy” excuse as a bit of a crutch. In business, people actually respect you more for standing up for yourself, bringing up a tough point, or asking for something. These days, no one has time to dance around an issue. Will being more forward in your communication potentially bring up some scary or uncomfortable topics? Absolutely. But deep down, you know they are there whether you ask or not. The only way to fix things and move forward is to address them head on.
Have you ever purposely held back from something (sharing your opinion, reaching for a certain type of job, etc) because you think you would be rejected for being female?
I’m pretty sure other members of MT’s executive team would tell you that sharing my opinion has never been an obstacle for me 🙂 I think this comes from my upbringing — I grew up in an Italian-American family in NJ, one of 3 girls, with a strong mother as a role model. Our blood runs hot. That said, I see this happen all the time in business. I always try to give other females the floor when possible, so they feel empowered to speak up and shine. At our company, a lot of our biggest trailblazers are women, and I can tell you they are 100% supported by our male executives.
What additional advice, if any, would you give a woman looking to lead?
Be yourself, and really own your leadership style. Make sure your people understand the why behind your decisions or feedback, so they know you are looking out for their development. It’s OK to be tough, as long as you are fair and people know you are simultaneously in their corner with empathy and a nurturing mindset. Also, don’t apologize so much. A man wouldn’t, why should you? 🙂