Q&A With Jennifer Tejada, CEO of PagerDuty

08.13.2018

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1. How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

From an early age, my parents showed us how to contribute to our community through acts of service. My siblings and I were altar servers at church. I did my first 50-mile bikeathon at 8 years old to raise money for the American Diabetes Association. Sharing your skills, time and experience to the benefit of others is such a hands-on and impactful way to give back. It’s a childhood learning I really try and carry through into my career. So I’m naturally drawn to companies and teams who share these values. Recently, my team at PagerDuty and I held an event where we brought together female and male leaders of tech companies. We collaborated on developing practical, actionable solutions for increasing diversity and inclusion in our space. We’re planning on replicating this practice across more events through 2018. It’s a way for us to proactively give back to the tech community, which has been so good to us. 


2. How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at PagerDuty?

I kicked off my career at one of the biggest consumer goods companies in the world, Procter & Gamble. It left an indelible impression on me. I learned classic principles around consumer marketing and research straight from the masters. I still benefit from these foundational, timeless lessons—even in the highly technical B2B arena I’m in today. For instance, whether you’re selling beverages or digital operations management software, avoid the common trap of getting too focused on the snazzy new features you’ve just built into your product. (Think added Vitamin D or a new widget.) In doing so, it becomes far too easy to shift away from the core problem you’re solving for your customer. So instead of talking up your client on those awesome new additions, first and foremost, always make sure you’re continuing to serve their primary needs. It’s about solution to problem fit, not product to market fit.


After P&G, I transitioned into the tech industry working for a hyper growth company called i2 Technologies (which was eventually acquired by JDA Software). Then, I took on leadership positions at Mincom (now ABB) and the CEO role at Keynote Systems. By my mid-30s I’d run sales, marketing, product and M&A and led global teams at high-growth tech companies. I’d also sat on eight company boards, which had given me a greater understanding of other areas of business, such as finance and governance. Having functional depth and breadth is a key asset in career progression. By the time I joined PagerDuty in 2016, I felt both prepared and excited to tackle leading a fast growing global tech company in the emerging space of digital operations management. I encourage my team to grow horizontally and experientially rather than focusing narrowly on one particular expertise. Expanding your knowledge and skill set across different disciplines is critical to developing business acumen and empathy. 


3. What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at PagerDuty?

Shortly after starting at the company, I visited London with my daughter. She was wearing her PagerDuty backpack. Someone on the street recognized it, and made a point to come up and say hi. My daughter saw firsthand how beloved our brand is by our user community. This was just the first of many, many such encounters. I can’t count how many people I’ve met since, who’ve come up to me and told me their own story about how PagerDuty “saved their bacon” on the job. It underscores how PagerDuty is helping individuals and teams do their jobs better. 


Don’t just take my word for it either. There’s proof in our numbers. Since I’ve started, PagerDuty brought on thousands of new customers to serve over 10,000 today. Our rapid growth has been recognized in 2016 and 2017 by the Forbes Cloud 100, Deloitte Technology Fast 500 and Inc. 500 lists. 


On the flipside, there are inevitable challenges that arise with scaling fast. Our team has more than doubled in the time I’ve been CEO and spread out to places like Australia and the UK. Continuing to develop and nurture a united global team that is ambitious, fun and diverse, where people can do their best work, is a definitely a challenge we have faced. One way we’re tackling this is by bolstering our results-oriented initiatives around diversity and inclusion. Recently, for example, we were incredibly proud to achieve gender pay equity in our organization. We’ve made headway in other areas as well—we’re still really just getting started. 


4. What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?

Walking into a room where you are the only female, it’s easy to focus on the disadvantage of not fitting in. Instead, focus on how difference can help you stand out and treat it like an opportunity. Remember, a lot of people in their careers are trying to get ahead by getting noticed. So stand up, speak out, take initiative and lead. This applies to anyone who might feel like the odd duck in a work scenario. Leverage your uniqueness. 


Another piece of advice I’d offer is to make it a priority to build connections and a strong support system around you—as early as possible into your career. Often as women we bear diverse responsibility, doing double and triple duty as professionals, mothers, daughters and wives. Attending an after work thing or conference can easily fall to the wayside. But trust me. You don’t get less busy over time. So do it while you can. Plus with digital technology at the tip of our fingers, you can also make professional connections via social media platforms like LinkedIn and even good old-fashioned email. These efforts will build up to become a valuable community for you as you grow in your career. Having people you can tap on the shoulder for advice can sometimes make or break success. And don’t forget to contribute as well. It’s an ecosystem and all members are interconnected. Nourish and strengthen your support system by being an active giver and participant.



5. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

As a leader people will test your conviction every day. They will question your leadership, your vision and your decisions. Throughout it all there’s one underlying force that has helped me strengthen my resolve: a core belief in myself. 


I should point out that this self-belief is not about overcoming obstacles or difficult situations. It’s all about building and maintaining the constitutional courage needed to stay on course. For me, I do this through a combination of doing the work and trusting my instincts. Doing the work means I invest an enormous amount of time understanding the business, testing assumptions, getting feedback, studying the industry and market. I’ll personally meet hundreds of customers each year. I ensure I’ve done everything I can to be primed and prepared for what lies ahead. I’ve also learned to listen to and trust my instincts, to be resolute and not second guess my decisions. 


6. How do you maintain a work/life balance?

In a CEO role, you’re always on call and accountable for whatever happens—across the entire business. Realistically, work-life balance isn’t always achievable. However, over the years, I’ve devised a fun little tactic that helps me maintain balance. I call it “the plate-spinner.” How it works: In my life I am constantly spinning a variety of plates, trying to keep them from falling and breaking. Sometimes, there are just too many plates and some have to fall. When that happens, I let the (less expensive) Pier 1 and Target plates go—but not the fine china or family heirlooms. Those stay up at any cost.  


So I set a clear list of top priorities from the get-go. These are my “fine china,” in order of priority: 1. My family (my husband and daughter) 2. My health and 3. My customers and employees (tie). My cheaper, replaceable “plates” are things like a quick weekend trip or a phone catch up with an old friend. Those can drop if things get too crazy. I can reschedule them. I can’t reschedule motherhood or good health. For example, one “plate” I never drop is taking my daughter to school every morning. These mornings together are magic time for us. If I don't take care of my family, none of this is worth it. 


7. What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

Child care costs in the US are double those of France, Germany, Greece and Sweden. The average cost of full-time care for children aged 0-4 here is $9,589 a year—more than the average college tuition. It’s as astounding as it is disappointing. In the US, a lack of good, affordable childcare presents a serious obstacle for professional women (and men) in the workplace. 


On the flip side, the business world also suffers the consequences. US businesses are estimated to be losing approximately $4.4 billion annually, due to lost productivity and absenteeism linked to child care issues.


To top it off, many professionals at their peak of their careers today are of the “sandwich generation.” This is the generation of people aged 40 to 60 who are having to support both their growing children and aging parents. This is going to become a bigger problem as the baby boomer generation—that comprises much of the sandwich generation now—gets older and requires support and care themselves. As a country, we need to explore and implement wide-scale solutions now. We need to enable parents to thrive in their careers so they can continue to make an important contribution to the economy and progress of the nation. 


8. How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

A lot of people think mentors are going to be cheerleaders or sounding boards for them. 


In my case, my best mentors have actually been the hardest on me. They’ve called me out on my own misguided narratives. They’ve pointed out my weaknesses outright and helped me find ways to work on them. We have a tendency towards people who make us feel good about ourselves. That’s what friends and family are for. Good mentorship throughout my career has made me feel uncomfortable at times, but that discomfort pushed me to become better and stronger personally and professionally. 


9. Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

Mary Barra is the first female CEO of a major global automaker, General Motors, which in itself is amazing. I also admire how since taking the helm in 2013, she’s driven the 100-plus-year-old company to transition into the tech space, by embracing things like driverless car technology and creating an electric vehicle (the Chevy Bolt EV) that rivals Tesla. It can’t be easy to bring innovation into such a legacy industry, but she’s doing just that, and quickly and effectively. It’s inspiring. 


We’re currently experiencing an Oprah Winfrey renaissance, after her powerful 2018 Golden Globes speech. But I’ve “known” Oprah for a long time. I grew up with her in my living room. Oprah rose out of extreme poverty to become one of the most powerful women in entertainment—she’s an entirely self-made business phenom and leader. I admire how she’s trail-blazed her own, unique path to success. She continually strives to be her best self in a real and relatable way, whether about her ongoing struggle with weight loss or her troubled past. She gives people permission to be themselves on the way to becoming the best version of themselves. She’s simultaneously a force to be reckoned with, and beloved. 


10. What do you want PagerDuty to accomplish in the next year?

With the rapid proliferation of technology, we’re seeing businesses in all industries becoming increasingly complex. All the time, there are more applications, partners, tools being layered into company operations, which then need to run smoothly together. Our ultimate goal, moving into the next year and beyond, is to help our customers navigate this changing landscape by leveraging our product, team and unique expertise. We already have over 10,000 customers, including global brands like Lululemon, IBM and Panasonic. To meet their growing needs we will need to continue growing our company. We have just opened two new offices in London and Sydney, and are on track to continue expanding further in the next year. I foresee that this continued growth will result in PagerDuty shifting from a single product company to the defacto platform that solves challenges companies face in running real-time digital operations. It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity. 


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Bio

Jennifer Tejada is CEO of PagerDuty. Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen described her appointment to the fast growing company as “adding octane to jet fuel." She has led the global expansion of the business, opening offices in Australia and the UK and overseen significant growth in its workforce. PagerDuty has been named a fastest growing company by the Inc 500 and has been included in the Forbes Cloud 100 and Deloitte Fast 500 lists in both 2016 and 2017. 


Jennifer is a veteran software industry executive and business leader. Her 25 years of experience is unique, spanning mass consumer products to disruptive cloud and software solutions. 


Prior to her role at PagerDuty, Jennifer was the CEO of Keynote Systems where she led the company to strong profitable growth before its acquisition by Dynatrace in 2015. Before Keynote, Jennifer was Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at the enterprise software company Mincom leading its global strategy up to its acquisition in late 2011 by ABB. She has also held senior positions at Procter & Gamble and i2 Technologies (acquired by JDA Software.) She currently serves as a board member of Puppet, Inc. and previously sat on the board of oOh Media. 


Jennifer was named one of the Top 25 Women Leaders in SaaS by The SaaS Report in 2017 and Stevie Awards Silver Winner for Female Executive of the Year. She was also named Best DevOps Solution Provider Exec by the 2017 DevOps Dozen awards. She is passionately invested in driving collective, actionable, metrics-driven strategies to increase diversity and inclusion across the technology industry.


Company Website: https://www.pagerduty.com/

Company Twitter: @pagerduty

Personal Twitter: @jenntejada

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