The Leadership Value of a Multi-functional Background

It’s always an exciting time at Televerde as we continue to grow and make important contributions to our customers, our employees and our communities.

We’re really excited right now, though, because Cathy Wright just joined the company as our new vice president of product management, an important position at Televerde that expands the value of our products and services for our clients. We put out a press release about Cathy joining the company, but we wanted to dig a little deeper on who she is, what matters to her and why she joined Televerde.

Please take a minute to read the interview below and get to know Cathy a bit – we think you’ll like her as much as we do!

How did you get into product management?

After I graduated from college I was an energy economist. My forte was around economic forecasting and econometrics – I thought econometrics was a science and I loved it. But I found that while we could build the coolest, most sophisticated models and services, if clients weren’t willing to pay for them, there was no reason to create them. I learned early in my career the importance of building solutions that the market needs and not just building things that were interesting or nice to have.

I then spent 10 years working with clients in account manager and sales executive roles at OneSource Information Services, which at the time was a division of Lotus Development Corp.  I gained great experience in listening to the unique needs of my customers, and learning how to solve their problems and delight them. Seeing the importance of delivering value through my sales experience made it a natural choice to move into product management with OneSource where I could have more of an impact and solve the needs of the market. It’s a great feeling to build and deliver products that make a difference for clients.

What’s your approach to leadership?

I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all leadership style. Originally, I thought I should manage and lead the way I liked to be led, but I learned quickly that not everyone operates the way I do. Part of my approach to leadership is to identify what my team needs to achieve their goals and get things done. For some, it might get close to micromanagement, which is not my preferred style, but some people need or want that level of involvement. Others you give high-level guidelines and they can go off and get stuff done and be successful. From a product management standpoint, specifically, I like a highly collaborative environment since we must engage stakeholders early and our work requires significant planning and communication.

Speaking of collaboration, do you have preferred tools that you like to use?

It really depends. In my last position, I managed a global team so I couldn’t meet in person, which is really ideal for me. You use whatever method that’s available. I do think that email can sometimes be challenging because your tone can be lost and misunderstandings can happen. I tend to be a very direct, transparent communicator. When people know that it’s fine, but when someone isn’t as familiar with me, and via email, it can come across as too critical.

What attracted you to Televerde?

Initially, it was around the job opportunity and the subject matter was compelling to me. It has an interesting blend of information services, software, sales and marketing, and consultative services. Having the opportunity to really make my mark on a department and further build up the company’s product management capability was intriguing. Televerde is very customer focused, which the former sales and account manager in me loves.

Beyond the actual job, I learned more about the company’s commitment to social responsibility and its work with women in the Arizona State Prison Complex Perryville. I went to Perryville and was pleasantly surprised at how valuable the social aspects of what we do are, as well. Seeing how smart, happy, dedicated, enthusiastic and committed the women at Perryville were – I knew  I wanted to be part of that.

What was the most transformative experience of your career?

Going into sales with OneSource. I was afraid of sales. I was an account manager, doing demo’s and going on sales calls with a salesperson and one day I finally realized that I could do this job. I also knew I could be a better product manager if I understood sales and the sales process. Being in sales for 7 plus years forced me to get over my shyness in terms of talking to customers and gave me a better understanding of their point of view and what they need. I learned that sales is about relationships and solving problems. I think that shifted my outlook and improved my overall business acumen and it still influences me today. I want to go out and talk to real people who are using our products.  That’s key for me. It helps me add value to them and to my own organization.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

I read a lot so it’s hard to pick just one. One that I wish I had read years ago is called Own It by Sallie Krawcheck. She was a senior executive on Wallstreet and is a chair for Ellevate, a  professional women’s organization that I’m a member of. She was very successful in a male-dominated industry, which resonated with me because most of my career was in a male-dominated industry.  She makes some intriguing observations about how women are different in the workplace than men.  One of her observations that caused me to reflect was that women tend to see things holistically and can manage complexity better as a result. It’s an interesting call-out to me because it highlights a difference in how I think vs. how some of my colleagues think. Because of this difference, she talks about being perceived as risk-averse whereas it’s really about being risk aware and looking at the entire picture for planning. That nugget of insight has been helpful to me to remember as I communicate with others.

How do you spend your free time?

I live in the Tortolita Mountains in Marana, Arizona, which has some great hiking, which I really love. I also enjoy yoga because it’s the direct opposite of sitting at my desk. I like to paint. Most recently acrylics but I’ve also studied oil painting. I paint a mix of subjects – more abstract recently, though I did a whole series on agaves.

What career advice would you give to your 25-year-old self?

Get a mentor.

My career path was about change and not settling. I’ve lived and worked in Washington DC, Boston, San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. I’ve worked for a number of different companies and have traveled around the world for my jobs. So, change and learning are commonplace to me. But, if I could go back, [bctt tweet=”I would tell my 25-year-old self to get a mentor early on ” username=”televerde”]because having someone offering sage wisdom to guide me through that change and to help me understand the competitive, professional environment I was working in.

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