Elizabeth Thrailkill: Setting a Striking Example of Resilient Leadership

Elizabeth Thrailkill,VP of Global Marketing, GDS Link

“Often times, organizations do things the way they do them simply because that’s the way it’s always been done. The key qualities in being a disruptor is to have the spirit of an entrepreneur and a knack for seeing past what exists to what could exist. The art of disruption as an executive really comes to life when you can focus a team around something new and embrace a shared vision.” It is this belief that keeps Elizabeth Thrailkill, going ‘on’. Elizabeth is serving as the VP of Global Marketing at GDS Link. She is setting a striking example in the marketing arena through her expertise ranging across the entire marketing discipline.  

Being a highly strategic leader, she often finds herself reaching into nearly every area of the business due to her collaborative and execution-driven approach.  

Challenging the Norms  

Elizabeth spent the first 20 years of her career with IBM, primarily in marketing roles. She traversed a few different IBM categories as a marketer but spent the second half and her executive years leading strategic marketing for its consulting and business services where she worked directly with the C-suite, both internally and externally. It was during this time that she began honing her craft and elevated herself as an executive. She left IBM in 2017 seeking an opportunity to build something new, to test herself and what she learned at IBM, and see her impact on an organization in a much more tangible way. In the discipline of marketing the purpose is to cause change, but that philosophy can extend into other areas of the business as well. Elizabeth has spent the last 4 years practicing what she calls “collaborative disruption” where she takes a very collaborative approach within the company and challenges the norms.  

Understanding the Needs and Delivering Accordingly  

A diverse customer base and an aligning portfolio is key in protecting one’s business and GDS Link serves many different types of lenders across the globe. What is most important is to understand the different needs of the lending verticals we serve. For example, banks and credit unions are still making the move to digital, while marketplace lenders that started online are native to digital. GDS Link recently launched a new offering to help banks and credit unions attract borrowers and offer a complete online digital solution from the loan application to origination. And across all lending markets, its client’s need new sources of data to make smarter lending decisions, fight fraud and protect their existing portfolio while still driving growth. The company’s best asset in attracting new clients is demonstrating the value it is delivering to its clients today, with a deep understanding of their business.  

Innovation for the Future of Lending  

At GDS Link, its vision is straightforward: innovation for the future of lending, for both clients and citizens. This is a constantly changing industry and there are a lot of factors and trends impacting lending as a whole. A couple of examples include the rise of non-banks entering the lending market, as we’ve seen with Amazon offering small business loans and Apple offering credit cards. At the same time, traditional banks and credit unions are struggling with Gen Z expectations and increasing pressure to offer top-notch user experiences. And the borrowing needs of citizens are experiencing change, leading to an increase in lenders that offer specialty financing, such as medical. At GDS Link, its software and analytics offerings serve lenders across all these markets. The company not only looks at the needs of its clients, but also has a deep understanding of the borrowers they serve. Elizabeth believes that with its innovative culture, deep industry expertise and client-centric approach to the market, GDS Link will continue to successfully grow its client base, offering, and hold its market leadership position.  

Adapting Quickly with Technological Trends  

Elizabeth mentions that during her time with IBM, technology changed so fast that she had to adapt quickly to keep up and of course that trend continues. She takes that same approach within her specific discipline and the leadership roles that she has held. In many ways, technology has further enabled and enhanced her ability to sustain her creative leadership spirit. But time erodes all advantages so staying in tune with what is changing, best practices, etc. is part of how leaders evolve and even in some cases remake themselves along their career journeys. “Technology might require you to reinvent yourself. As they say, evolve or die,” she says.  

Building Something from a Blank Canvas  

Elizabeth always wants to be growing along with people around her. She is most inspired by the opportunity to build something from a blank canvas. She thrives on roles where she can create strategies that don’t exist, stand up functions that have not been areas of investment, and create growth. According to her, her future, near and beyond, will also be in a role where she can build. Her last 2 roles have been in companies that had not yet made the leap to invest in a marketing executive or high-level marketing function. Building that was very rewarding for her.  

Enlightening Emerging Businesswomen  

In the opinion of Elizabeth, resilience is one of the most essential traits every leader should possess. According to her, leaders must have the confidence to take risks, challenge the norms, and have a willingness to fail. But most importantly, they must have the resilience to get back up and try again.  

In her advice to upcoming businesswomen, she says, “Be more confident. Lose the uncertainty. The easiest way to begin practicing this is to drop the SOFT words and phrases. We are undermining ourselves in the way we write and speak. Women do this much more often than men. Examples of soft words include inserting ‘just’ into a sentence: I just wanted to check on the status of the project. Instead, we should state we need to check on the status of the project. Another example is asking ‘Does that make sense?’ That phrase screams uncertainty. Instead ask with confidence ‘Do you have any feedback’. There’s quite a bit written about this and I would encourage women to research and learn about the other soft words we use that undermine ourselves.”  

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