The Internet of Things (IoT) is creating new customer experiences and unparalleled economic value while improving the quality of life for countless people around the globe. By providing products and services to connect “things” to the Internet, MultiTech delivers a deeper understanding to businesses, governments, organizations, and individuals. MultiTech products have the power to transform the way we live and work. That’s the message Sara Brown, Vice President of Marketing is privileged to share with the MultiTech team, its customers and partners, and the world at large. CIO Look admires work of such leaders and believes in featuring them in Making a Difference issue in order to spread-a-word about their journey on achieving their real-time stature.
Below are some of the highlights of the interview conducted between Sara and CIO Look:
Kindly take us through your journey on becoming a proficient leader.
I started my career as a reporter on Capitol Hill and later in the trade press covering mergers and acquisitions in the broadcast industry during deregulation in the 1990s. After moving “home” to North Carolina, I switched to what my editor liked to call the “dark side”– namely public relations and marketing. I started at the bottom of the electronics food chain, pitching resisters and capacitors and gradually making my way up to computers, servers, and software, before scaling back to critical components and communication systems. I have been marketing technology for more than twenty years, fifteen of which have been focused exclusively on the Internet of Things – having provided either in-house or consulting support for hardware, software, and services across the entire value chain and a wide swath of supported industries.
As for leadership, I’ve been told by doting parents that I was born a leader – but I’m not so sure how reliable their accounts really are. In my experience leadership comes from three things:
- A willingness to ask questions and simply listen to the answers. This skill is essential to the discipline of journalism.
- Knowing what you don’t know and comfort seeking out and building relationships with the people who do and can fill in the gaps for you. I learned this throughout the years of executive communications and public relations work during which the worst bumbles (in my experience) happen when an executive tries to come off as knowledgeable on a subject matter he or she knows nothing about.
- Empathy and its partner respect – You cannot lead people effectively without a) genuinely caring about them and b) respecting what they bring to the table and, perhaps more importantly, how dependent your success is upon that.
How do you diversify your organization’s offerings to appeal to the target audience?
We spend a lot of time researching the marketplace and, more importantly, working directly with customers to understand both their unique needs and the commonalities across businesses and vertical industries. This tailors our offerings to the best fit, regardless of communications protocol, form factor, or carrier or cloud platform preference.
Describe some of the vital attributes that every business person should possess.
Curiosity: I think a natural curiosity is critical to success, particularly in tech. Curiosity about the technology itself. Curiosity as to what’s happening in the market. And most importantly, curiosity about how to overcome the ‘big picture’ problems of our world.
Creative problem-solving: It begins with the belief that even the most challenging problems can and will be solved. From there, the ideal tech individual can draw the “stick-to-it-iveness” to try and try again until a solution is found. As Edison said, “I haven’t failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Business acumen: Technology cannot succeed in a vacuum. It needs to address real, quantifiable needs, deliver true, fit-to-purpose performance and accomplish real results. However, true success comes from tailoring your offering to address the pain points of your target customers and (as a marketer, I have to say) getting the word out that their problem has finally been solved.
Thoughtfulness: All of the previous three can be neatly rolled up in this statement that anyone on my team will recognize: “We think for a living.” Without the brain work, no amount of tactical activity, whether in engineering, marketing, production or finance will be anything more than keeping busy.
As per your opinion, what roadblocks or challenges are faced by women in a corporate business? And what is your advice to overcome them?
First of all, everyone faces roadblocks and challenges in their career, and not just women. That said, working 20+ years in engineering and technology-focused industries, I think the combination of frequently being the only female in the room with my focus on marketing, which is often considered a frivolous discipline, didn’t do me any favors in terms of gaining respect and advancement. Nevertheless, performance and professionalism always breed respect.
If I were to give advice to my younger self, or to any women (or man) of any age in any industry, I’d strongly recommend focusing first on relationships, particularly with people who “get” and understand what you bring to the table. For me, the time invested in that effort alone has been the most valuable investment in my career.
Have you in many ways contributed towards the cause of women empowerment.
This is a big topic. Obvious contributions include multiple women I’ve mentored over the years and women’s educational and professional development programs I have supported personally and through companies I’ve worked for. Still, I think the most compelling contribution lies in the nature of my business itself. The impact of computing and the Internet on global wellbeing (not just for women, but for all), has accelerated the advancement of the human race faster than at any time in human history. The Internet of Things, on which I’ve focused for the past fifteen years, holds even more promise, for women and for all, to improve sanitation and healthcare, feed the hungry, reduce pollution, and safeguard our children. The list goes on and on.
I’m very lucky. There was a time in my life when I didn’t understand the importance of my work to the global economy. Today, I can see that, while I cherish the women whose names I know and whose lives I’ve touched personally– the opportunity to impact the lives of women around the world on a macro scale is its own reward.
What are your insights on the necessity of ‘Women in the position of power’? And, how could it bring out a change in traditionally male-dominated industries?
I’d reframe this question to one of leadership and not power. Leadership can come from any level of the organization and, as I said before, performance and professionalism breed respect. That said, when anybody, in any position irrespective of its gender, race or sexual orientation, demonstrates leadership, there need to be both the right people and the right processes in place to elevate that person into a position where he or she can achieve their potential and bring up others with them. In fact, that to me it is the ultimate power for good: the ability to develop job skills, creative skills and leadership skills for whatever comes next.
How do you strategize your game plans to tackle the competition in the market?
Competitive differentiation requires constant vigilance. It helps a lot to be the first, which we have been able to do more frequently in the past few years. It also requires an intimate knowledge of your customer set – which is really my role – to be the voice of the customer in everything we do. Finally, it is important to acknowledge what your differentiators are, as well as those of the competition. I’ve been known to redirect prospects to competitors who I knew were a better fit for their application. Doing so promotes trust and pays off in the end as both those prospects and competitors come to acknowledge what you’re best at and return the favor.
What are your future endeavors/objectives and where do you see yourself in the near future?
Right now my focus is on MultiTech and our customers’ success. Beyond that, I intend to promote the success of my team and the broader network of industry folks who have become not just colleagues but friends over the years. Finally, I intend to continue contributing to a better future, wherever that future finds me.