Women in Tech Breakfast and fireside chat, featuring Jennifer Tejeda, CEO of PagerDuty

by | Jul 2, 2019

To celebrate women in technology, SPS Commerce strives to highlight female leaders to describe the challenges and rewards that come with working in the modern tech industry. On June 26, SPS was delighted to present a very special SPS Women in Tech Breakfast and Fireside Chat at our Minneapolis headquarters, which featured Jennifer Tejeda, CEO of PagerDuty.

Hosted by Amy Patton, VP of Technology at SPS Commerce and Peg Mickelson, Director of Engineering at Merrill DatasiteOne, the Women in Tech Breakfast event focused on the trials and rewards that accompany female leadership in technology. Tejeda spoke candidly about her journey to the C-suite in a mostly male-dominated field, her career journey as CEO of PagerDuty and her experience in being part of an exclusive group of women who have taken their tech companies public.

Throughout this sold-out, hour-long event, she touched on the impacts that women are having in shaping the future of technology, challenges unique to working mothers and how women at all levels of their careers can incorporate interpersonal tools, approaches and resources to develop and secure leadership opportunities for themselves.

Women in Tech Breakfast and fireside chat

Specific themes showcased the foundation of her leadership approach and success:

1. Growth means daring to take the lead.

Tejeda didn’t always aspire to be a CEO, stating, “I know that there are people who stage their career based on that goal, but in my case, it was just putting myself in a position where I was open to opportunities. Bigger assignments, more responsibilities. Whenever something new came up that I hadn’t done before, I said ‘yes.’

One of the PagerDuty values is “take the lead” and taking the lead means don’t wait for someone to ask, don’t wait for permission, don’t send it six layers into the organization. Just take the lead, do it, learn something, experiment, and then ask for forgiveness if it blows up in your face. Don’t wait for someone to ask you to take responsibility for something, take accountability, acknowledge that you see a problem and then own solving it. Don’t wait for someone to assign it to you. Don’t wait for the problem to land squarely in your box, your role definition; just get right on it.”

2. Being a CEO is like managing a “dynamic puzzle.”

Although there are more female CEOs in the Fortune 500 than ever before, the numbers are still not in a woman’s favor, but Tejeda doesn’t necessarily see the demands of the role as a limitation. “When you’re a CEO, you get to set the time clock, you get to invent, define the culture. It seems like the perfect job for a working parent because you have control over how you work and how your organization works. It’s the secret that no one tells you. It’s like managing a dynamic puzzle every day. I was fortunate to have a lot of amazing advocates and sponsors on my career journey.

I often remind women that it’s great that we are coming together to support one another but don’t look past the nice, privileged male that’s sitting around the corner –– who has historically been in a power position and can help you build your career path. And likewise, bring other diverse individuals with you when you have that opportunity. The other thing to think about is, as women, how can we all be the nucleus for the network that we want to advocate for? It’s not just what you need from others; it’s what you can do for others –– and don’t wait for them to ask.”

3. Developing others brings joy.

Of the things that matter most, helping others to achieve things they thought were impossible was at the top of her list. Tejeda speaks passionately of the pride she felt at taking PagerDuty public and the joy she felt in seeing the shared happiness among her colleagues in reaching this tremendous milestone.

“As a manager and leader, one of your jobs is to develop people, and the payoff when you get that right is the look on their faces when they realize they’ve done something they didn’t think was possible for them. It’s this look of achievement –– sort of an incredulous look on people’s faces. They are SO amazed at themselves that they got to that point in their career, and that, as a leader, is one of the most rewarding feelings that you’ll ever have.”

4. Interpersonal relationships are everything in business.

Tejeda speaks earnestly about the importance of cultivating strong relationships at work, and with customers, explaining, “People sell things to people, whether you’re selling software or you’re trying to get to know someone, it’s a relationship game. No matter how much we automate, when people decide to be in partnership with you, they’re looking at your past, your history, what your track record is, what you currently do, how you currently behave, what values you currently represent, and also, what they can reasonably believe about your future.

I think in the tech industry, sometimes people over-rotate on the future, or they rest on their past laurels, or the past, they don’t find the balance between past, present, and future. And, they’re also not thinking about the long game –– which is, when things get rough, which they will –– you want to have a relationship with the people who have a relationship with you, just like you want to have a relationship with your employees who bet their career on you.”

5. The value of ‘unconventional’ mentorships.

Mentoring can be as much of a growth experience for the mentor as it is for the mentee, but there tends to be a very traditional concept of how it works. Tejeda said. “I think there is this dated concept in mentorship which is, I have one mentor, and I meet with them for 90 minutes once a month, I come prepared, etcetera, and I check in with them.

That’s interesting, but in a time-starved society I don’t think it suits the way our society moves, so think about having many “micro-mentors” like, many people who have different skill sets that serve various problems that you are trying to solve for, people who have a totally different perspective on the world. So, think about who your micro-mentors are and go to them with particular problems that you are trying to solve, and ask them to help you in a snackable way, like 30-minutes instead of an hour.”

6. Diversity, inclusivity and equability.

One of the first things Tejeda did soon after becoming CEO of PagerDuty was to make a dramatic impact on the organizational culture in a way that addressed inclusivity and equality within the ranks. “People will say that culture starts from the top and when I got there, I immediately demanded to change processes to ensure that underrepresented people had opportunities to access careers in technology, which is very different from saying we are going to go recruit a diverse pool of people.

I see it as our responsibility at PagerDuty to make sure that underrepresented people have access to the tech industry through us, and we are going to do that by operationalizing change in the business. We shifted our focus from promoting from within to making sure our promotions are equitable, and I talk to our leadership about the difference between being equal and being equitable because there is a big difference.

Being equitable is making sure that you’re bringing everybody up to a level playing field at every opportunity that you have. It’s important to me because it’s the right thing to do, ethically, but it’s also the smart thing. Having a culture of belonging means being able to reach into a richly diverse tapestry of humans to drive your business forward. And if you can do that well, it’s also a competitive advantage.”

Watch the full video of our conversation with Jennifer Tejeda here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lV7zvicV1Yg

 

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About SPS Women in Tech

Founded in 2015, the SPS Commerce Women in Tech group focuses on connecting women/non-binary individuals and employees of SPS Commerce both internally and externally with others in the technology space to build an inclusive community that supports/fosters development and provides an open platform to share talents, experiences and insights.

About SPS Commerce

Headquartered in Minneapolis with offices around the world, SPS Commerce (NASDAQ: SPSC) powers over 350,000 trading partnerships between retailers, distributors, grocers, suppliers and 3PLs.

About PagerDuty

PagerDuty, Inc. (NYSE: PD) is a leader in digital operations management, empowering organizations of all sizes with real-time and data-driven insights to drive better business results. DevOps, ITOps, and SecOps teams use PagerDuty’s award-winning platform for real-time operations to improve operations, deliver exceptional customer experiences, and accelerate innovation.

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Michele Kamenar

Brand Communications Content Strategist at SPS Commerce
Michele Kamenar is a brand communications strategist for the SPS Commerce marketing team. She is responsible for building and maintaining relationships that promote the SPS brand through messaging, creative storytelling and thought leadership content that highlights e-commerce strategies and topics related to retail supply chain optimization.
Michele Kamenar

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