Women leaders are at the core of the work at UDG. Our founders, Cari and Dana, are two amazing women that do more than just help B2B companies with demand generation and marketing strategy needs, they are also board members of Women In Revenue (WIR), helping to mentor and grow communities and networks of aspiring women in business and technology. The UDG Team connected with long-time friend, colleague, and fellow WIR board member, Tracy Eiler, for a Q&A about women supporting women.
Q: The effort in supporting women in leadership continues to grow. Where do you feel we are today versus 10 years ago, and what still needs to be accomplished?
Tracy: Let’s reframe that to the last three years because until recently, some key things did not exist. As of 2019, legislation in California mandates that every public company headquartered in California is required to have at least one woman on their board, and at least three by the end of 2021. This requirement is becoming more widely adopted in other parts of the country.
There’s also the Me Too movement that, without question, has brought many, many changes to society and workplace culture. This movement just happened during the last 2 years, beginning in media and entertainment and now permeating every segment of our economy.
In addition to that, companies now see that having all white men in executive roles is hindering business. Having a diverse team is key to future growth and profit and diversity is more than race or gender – it’s also diversity of background. For instance, we’ve discovered this awesome organization, Silicon Valley Academy or SV Academy, for recruiting sales development reps (SDRs). SV Academy finds people that are first-generation college graduates who are, in many cases, minorities, and provides them with 300 hours of free SDR training and job placement. This recruiting model or type of organization did not exist years ago, and they’re only 18-months old.
There’s a lot more awareness and intention to put women and people of color on a path to leadership, which is really important to me and why I’m involved in the non-profit, Women In Revenue. Now that companies are realizing that they need a diverse workforce in order to be competitive, filling diversity and inclusion officer roles are becoming a priority for companies in all industries.
Q: Was there a moment or turning point in your career when you knew you wanted to be CEO/CMO? Or was it a natural path and you ended up there?
Tracy: I was on the path to becoming a marketer from the time I was a little girl. I grew up with my Dad working in advertising and PR, and my Mom working as an emergency room nurse. I was always interested in the campaigns my Dad worked on for some famous consumer brands, and there were two instances that made a big impression on me:
I was about 10 when I visited my first focus group. It was one of those old-fashioned ones with the one-way mirror and a group of people responding to an ad campaign.
Then in fifth grade, my Dad was the director of communications for Honeywell Aerospace, and there had been a theft of chemicals at one of their warehouses outside Minneapolis, where we were living. Since my Dad was head of communications, he was constantly on the phone with the media about the situation. I listened to him have the same conversation again and again. The repetition of messages in the media’s story and its influence on the public really stuck with me.
Fast forward to high school, I became a lead development representative at a software company and continued in this role while attending college at the University of Michigan. As I met executives and sales leaders, I discovered my talents in writing, managing projects, and communicating with internal teams, and our customers and prospects. Back then, the VP of marketing was what is now called chief marketing officers (CMOs), and I became inspired and thought, maybe I could do that someday.
Q: Did you have a mentor early in your career that helped you frame your path and hone your skills?
Tracy: I didn’t have a formal mentor but various people gave me advice from time to time. People have a misconception of what a mentor means. It’s not just a dedicated coach over a long period of time, although it certainly can be that way. It’s more common to have mentorship moments with people, and I had those moments with people in my career.
One of my early bosses opened up a lot of doors for me. He knew that I was capable and would always put me in the room and never singled out men and women issues. I’ve been lucky in my career – I never felt there was a glass ceiling – but more often than not, I was the only female executive at the table, which was tough and lonely.
My environment since then has changed now that more women and men are supporting women in leadership roles. This is impacting the “old normal” of companies that were once run by a majority of men. There are almost equal numbers of women and men in leadership and other roles at my current company, and it’s amazing because it’s creating a culture that’s more inclusive, collaborative, and forward-thinking. If companies continue to include more women in leadership roles, we’ll be closer to creating an impactful and positive change to the work culture across all industries.
Q: What advice do you have for younger women or women just starting out?
Tracy: Join Women In Revenue and become an active contributor. It is not just a Bay Area organization. There are 1,500 members from all over the country, we have a very active Slack channel, we distribute insightful newsletters, and we’ve started a new virtual mentorship program.
Q: What women have inspired you over your career?
Tracy: Michelle Obama, without question. She’s calculated and particular in how much time and energy is put into the causes that are important to her and how her family is raised under the media’s spotlight. And most importantly, my Mom. She raised seven kids while working her butt off. When my dad started a PR agency, she joined him. Despite having zero experience in business, my Mom applied her skills in organization and finance to quickly grow the agency to $7 million in revenue. She didn’t let anything stop her – my Mom’s career pivot from ER nurse to operating officer taught me that anything is possible.
We want to thank Tracy Eiler for sharing stories about her career journey and valuable tips and resources that many women in business need. And as our professional and personal environment changes during this current state of the world, one constant that we can count on is the strength and support of our friends and colleagues in our networks – visit womeninrevenue.org to join a powerful community. Members can access mentoring and networking opportunities, insights, and education on expanding careers, and connect with top women leaders.
Disclaimer: This interview has been edited and condensed.