As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Mychelle Mollot, CMO Solace.
Mychelle loves technology and marketing, and marketing and technology… the order depends on the day. Currently she is the CMO of Solace, a real-time event streaming and management platform company.
Before Solace, Mychelle was CMO and head of Product Management for Klipfolio, a SaaS dashboard company. And before that she was CMO for the Websphere and Business Analytics divisions of IBM where she launched the Smarter Analytics component of IBM’s Smarter Planet. Mychelle started her career as Geophysicist doing gold exploration in the Yukon.
Mychelle has a degree in Engineering Geophysics from Queen’s University. Outside of work, Mychelle loves doing anything outside with her family, particularly kayaking, hiking and cycling.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
After graduating from university with a degree in Engineering Geophysics I worked for a consulting firm in Toronto doing mineral exploration (mostly gold) in Norther Quebec, Northern Ontario, Manitoba and the Yukon. So how did I become a CMO? Well in the words of the famous Bugs, I took a wrong turn at Albuquerque… A year and half after graduating I had a bad knee injury that required reconstructive surgery and 6 months of recovery time. Since I was working on contract my boss told me that he couldn’t afford for me to be out of the field for that long so I looked for and found a “temporary — get the knee repaired” job in the Marketing department of a Software company called Cognos building demo systems, writing market requirements and traveling the world demoing our products. After I got my knee fixed and I was able to go back to the career I was trained in I realized that I had fallen hard for the software business and for technical marketing and I never looked back.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I was as junior as you get and I bumped into the CEO of the company at a local grocery store. The company had about 1500 employees at the time so I didn’t think he even knew who I was so I didn’t engage and started to walk away when he called me by name and said hi. I turned back around and he asked me if I lived in the neighbourhood. I was so nervous to be talking to him that I say yes and then I sang-answered “and these are the people in my neighbourhood” the Sesame Street song… The second it was out of my mouth I was mortified. I turned bright red and wanted to sink through the floor boards. But the CEO laughed and smiled and made me feel at ease.
It was such a pivotal moment in my young life. It got me to see the CEO as a real person and not just a figure head for the enterprise.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Book — Crossing the Chasm. It has been around since 1991 but is still as relevant today as it was there. It helped me think about markets and requirements in a very structured and logical way.
Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Friday video series published on the Moz blog also really helped me keep up on all the lasted Marketing and SEO best practices. Plus Rand was funny, engaging and entertaining.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Stay focused and stay positive.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I don’t remember who I heard this quote from but some wise person said we are all in the same storm but not all of us are in the same boat. I repeat this quote in my head often because we are very privileged. My husband and I both have our jobs. My sons are college age, working on their schooling, and helping around the house so I don’t have to juggle raising kids, homeschooling and childcare. We are all healthy and have a lot of green space and trails outside our door.
Yes, I miss my family, friends and colleagues. Yes, I get stir crazy and sometimes veer into feel sorry for myself territory, but I repeat the quote in my head and it puts it all in perspective.
I also remind myself that never again will I get to spend this much quality time with my kids!
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The biggest work-related challenge I’ve faced personally is struggling to disconnect from work since work is home and home is now work. It was particularly difficult for the first few weeks but I’m now in the practice of leaving my desk when I would normally have left in the office.
The biggest team challenge is video meeting fatigue. To be honest I haven’t figured out how to address that yet, so if anyone has any ideas please reach out on Twitter!
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious?
Can you explain?
I have tried to focus my conversations with family and friends who are fearful, lonely or anxious, on topics that aren’t Covid related to help take their mind off of it, and I have been much more regular in my outreach and communication with them. I’ve also tried to inject bits of joy in their life. Regular flower delivery to my sister and homemade cookies to a friend whose mom was in the hospital.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
I believe there will business sectors that will see an explosion in demand (e.g. Tourism, manufacturing, healthcare) based on pent up demand. I think there will be huge opportunity for companies that are ready to capitalize on that explosive reemergent demand.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I think it will permanently change how we view the office. I think people will return to the office but I don’t think we will return to a 5 day a week, everyone in the office culture.
I think it will permanently impact certain industries like retail. I think it will be unacceptable for a retailer post-Covid to only have a brick and mortar presence.
I also think that after families being so close and having dinners with each other every day that it will actually result in people making better work life balance decisions.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
I think the Covid economy will be around to varying degrees for at least 12 more months and likely 18 or more. Given that we are focused most on the building our business within the Covid economy.
To do that end, we are focused on businesses that:
- Are seeing high volatility like capital markets (trading and FX platforms)
- Are seeing accelerated demand to become a digital business or perish (traditional retailers)
- Online retailers that are seeing increased demand for their services (particularly online grocery)
- Certain government sectors that are accelerating new system development for Covid relief and services.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I would encourage others to take a 1- 1.5-year view of the covid economy and to pivot to what they can market and sell now rather than waiting out the storm and hoping it will blow over in a few months.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A failure to plan is a plan to fail
The times in my life when I have been too busy, too overwhelmed to sit down and to think about what I wanted to do were the times I felt the most disconnected, depressed and out of control.
To me a plan is a way of making my life purposeful and a way to make myself accountable to the things I say I want to accomplish and that includes work, household stuff like cooking/cleaning/organizing, exercise, social outings, and family stuff.
I also get a ridiculous amount of pleasure from checking a box on a to-do list!
How can our readers further follow your work?