As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacey Epstein, Chief Marketing and Customer Experience Officer at ServiceMax.
Stacey is an accomplished go-to-market expert with two decades of cloud, social, and mobile enterprise technology experience. Previously, Stacey served as CEO of Zinc, which was acquired by ServiceMax in 2019. Prior to Zinc, Stacey was Chief Marketing Officer at ServiceMax where she helped fuel 5 consecutive years of triple-digit growth. Previously, Stacey was the Vice President of Global Marketing Communications at SuccessFactors where she pioneered the marketing function and was instrumental in the company’s successful IPO in 2007. Prior to SuccessFactors, Stacey held leadership roles at Oracle, Clarify, and ServiceSource.
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?
Yes, I sort of fell into my tech career. I coached soccer camps and waited tables through college, while majoring in English. Though my parents questioned what I would do with an English degree, my goal was to buck a trend and become one of very few female sportscasters (I think there was one at the time.) But I needed a “real job” to pay the bills while applying to broadcast journalism grad school, so I found a post on the job board of a little-known company called Oracle and was hired on as an admin assistant to an admin assistant on a sales team. I certainly never thought I’d have a corporate job, much less in high tech, but once I got inside and saw how dynamic the industry was, and how many great opportunities existed, I was hooked. I stayed at Oracle for 6 years and cut my teeth in several jobs including marketing, sales and alliances. I also built many important relationships during those years at Oracle, including peers and mentors who are still close to me today.
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?
One time I sent a rather personal email to my friend Diane Christoff at Oracle. I had created a shortcut for her email address as DC, but I typed it in wrong and my email went to the entire population of Oracle employees in Washington DC. It was not one of my finer moments. As for mistakes, I’ve made plenty of them, big and little, but when I look back at them, I think of them as a necessary part of the path that I’m on. Maybe I shouldn’t have sold shares of SFSF at $17, maybe I should have been a ski racer, maybe I should have phrased it differently on the phone to that reporter, maybe I should have booked a different keynote speaker, maybe I should have stayed living in NYC longer, maybe I should have gone to Siebel instead of Clarify back in the 90s. I could keep going, but in general I think there are no mistakes, only opportunities for learning, and if I didn’t make the decisions I made, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Earlier in my career I loved Jack Welch’s book Winning (not to be confused with Charlie Sheen’s and then Donald Trump’s use of the term). My two big takeaways were the importance of delivering outstanding service to customers, and that focusing on talent and employee performance can drive the biggest business impact. More recently I enjoyed Trillion Dollar coach, the leadership playbook of Bill Campbell. As a former player and coach, Bill focused on the team and the players, and he showed that the best way to help drive innovation and success is through relationships with people.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
Over decades of innovation, technology has made work easier for desktop workers across all aspects of business. Yet field service workers who are keeping the world running — technicians who manufacture or service the world’s most important equipment in the field — had been left with clunky mobile technology and user experiences that often slowed worked down; or worse yet, left them siloed and disconnected entirely. I believed that keeping these teams connected with a real-time communication platform, Zinc, purpose built for these deskless workers, would make their lives and their work much easier and more fulfilling as they help keep our world running. At ServiceMax I’ve been proud to continue this meaningful work, helping our customers keep the assets you use in your daily life — from MRI machines to electrical transformers — up and running.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
My mother always used to say, “principles rule” and I wholeheartedly believe that. Not only do I rely on my principles to guide me through the ups and downs, but I strongly believe any organization should have a strong set of principles that everyone can align to. At ServiceMax we use two hashtags to concisely communicate and reinforce our principles — #wintogether and #customerobsessed. When we say we are #customerobsessed, we mean our employees should be thinking about the customer first in everything we do. What products will help them, how can we better deliver service to them, how can we help them achieve value from our solution, and how do we best help them hit their goals? These questions should be the core of what we strive to accomplish every day, and if there is ever a question, the answer should be guided by what is best for the customer. #Wintogether means that we are definitely here to compete and win and we should drive a high-performance culture. But that winning spirit should come from team collaboration. An individual is never more important than the team they partner with, including managers, executives, and the CEO.
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 feel very privileged to have health and job stability during the crisis, but I worry tremendously about the macro situations of health and economy for our world. My husband is a teacher and has been home with our young daughters while I sit on zoom calls all day. It’s been a great break this summer, but when he’s back to teaching in the fall we will be struggling again to make sure our kids are keeping up with their schoolwork and staying sane at home.
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?
Like any organization, we have been faced with the challenge of how to maintain business continuity in the time of COVID. We’ve been having lots of dialogue with our customers and the heads of service and manufacturing at many of the companies ServiceMax works with, and the focus of these conversations is how field service workers are, by nature, not stay-at-home or able to shelter-in-place. So, we really have to think through how to keep field service technicians safe in a world where they’re not even really supposed to be out.
To help address some of these challenges, we’ve rolled out new offers to our customers that address specific needs we have been hearing from the field — including offering Zinc, our real-time communication platform, for free to help keep teams connected in these uncertain times.
COVID has put many companies in one of two extremes. At one extreme, you have companies such as those in the biotechnology and medical device fields, ramping up operations and scaling production to battle COVID-19, while others that produce non-essential items that people aren’t consuming are forced to sideline or reduce staff. Other companies are shifting their focus entirely, demanding a new set of skills from their workers. COVID has really exacerbated a historic talent gap that we’ve seen in the service industry, which is why we launched the ServiceMax Field Service Finder to help organizations reach qualified workers for open roles, and allow people seeking work or volunteer opportunities to apply for jobs or respond to calls for short-term assistance requests.
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 certainly been left feeling uncertain and worried at times. As I work to shut down these thoughts, my mind goes to dark places. So many sick, so many dying, and so many affected immensely by the economic impact of COVID-19. But one thing that I’ve found helpful is thinking about what positives may come from this challenging time.
The past several months of remote work has given the world a closer look at the juggling act that parents — and especially working mothers — are expected to take on. I feel optimistic that this new level of understanding will lead to increased empathy and more realistic expectations on the part of businesses, which in turn will make it easier for women to thrive in leadership roles.
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?
COVID-19 has also exposed a major digital gap in organizations across industries. Those that were furthest along with their digital transformation are reaping the rewards and are able to use technology to understand the health of their equipment and manage it remotely. Others have been caught flat-footed as they struggle to maintain business continuity in a remote world. Going forward, those who are able to continue to innovate will be best prepared for the next unknown.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
This new normal could have a lasting effect on how we think about roles and the messages we give our kids about their future choices. No one, regardless of gender, should ever be made to feel they have to choose between pursuing a big career and being a good and present parent. As we are all juggling together during this time of COVID-19, we have an opportunity to collectivity work to create a mindset that allows for both — forever.
I also believe that we have learned to do many things remotely, and this online interaction will continue. Many will continue to work from home, and service workers will continue to leverage ways to communicate virtually and remotely to help keep the world running. With technology to help in these areas, people and companies can expect even higher levels of service and performance from their vendors across all industries.
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?
At ServiceMax we are 100% focused on helping our customers in the field service industry. We will continue to serve our customers who are by nature not stay at home and work tirelessly to keep operations up and running. Internally we will continue to focus on our people and understanding the best environment and working model to help them thrive as the world continues to evolve.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Don’t forget that people are behind everything you do. The more you understand your people, how they feel, what they need, and how they work best, the better collective performance you will achieve.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have many, but one of my favorites is “Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak,” by Thomas Carlyle. Life will continually throw challenges our way, and right now it’s thrown major challenges at the entire world. We should never sit back and whine or give in, we must take responsibility for how we respond to adversity and find ways to not only make it through, but to learn and grow from each challenge.
How can our readers further follow your work?
You can follow me on Twitter @StaceyEpstein and LinkedIn. And to keep up with ServiceMax follow us on Twitter (@servicemax) and LinkedIn.