As we get closer to Advocamp 2017 (this Dec. 6-8 in San Francisco), the excitement is building around our amazing lineup of presenters. Advocamp is the biggest customer experience, engagement & advocacy event of the year, uniting hundreds of marketing, sales, and CS leaders from across the world.

We’re thrilled to highlight some of the amazing female founders and executives who will be speaking at the event. These women have made names for themselves as leaders in the tech industry, and have risen to prominence through hard work, creativity, and tenacity.

We picked their brains about about customer engagement, reaching your full career potential, and overcoming the unique challenges women face in a male-dominated industry.

Advocamp: the biggest customer engagement and advocacy event of the year
Register now!

1. What do you see as the biggest untapped opportunity in customer engagement today?

Cristina Melluzzi, Head of Customer Advocacy at Cisco EMEAR:

Cristina Melluzzi, Head of Customer Advocacy at Cisco EMEAR: The biggest untapped opportunity today lies in your customers writing your content for you. With consumers seeing on average 1,200 pieces of content a day—we haveto find a way to differentiate. If you see 10 infographics on social media in a day and one of them is actually written by a real customer, which one would you likely read and remember? Which one would you share and tell your peers about?

Kelly Caird, Director of Social Media & Customer Advocacy at Just Drive MediaKelly Caird, Director of Social Media & Customer Advocacy at Just Drive Media: To really delight customers. This idea has been ingrained in my brain since I worked as a front desk receptionist at a hotel during college—everyone was encouraged to do whatever it took to truly make a guest’s day in an unexpected way. And I like the idea of thinking in terms of not expecting anything in return–not for the referral or the review, but just for the sheer joy of making another human happy.

Kevyn Klein, Head of Community & Growth at VIPKIDKevyn Klein, Head of Community & Growth at VIPKID: Most people underestimate the power and skillset of their community. We bring our users in to help us solve mission critical problems and they usually have the best ideas. A little ambiguity is okay in the community because your super users step up to the plate and usually execute better than you! I actually find I stifle innovation if I step in too early.

Misia Tramp, VP of Customer Experience Strategy and Insight at MetiaMisia Tramp, VP of Customer Experience Strategy and Insight at Metia: Using linguistic data to drive content strategies and execution. Customers and influencers are generating data for us all the time through the words and pictures they’re sharing online, and through other channels such as customer support and communities. If we find interesting and meaningful ways to structure the actual words customers are using, engagement strategies will improve exponentially.

Samantha Stone, Founder and CMO of The Marketing Advisory NetworkSamantha Stone, Founder and CMO of The Marketing Advisory Network: There is one aspect of customer engagement that most organizations still struggle to address: employee empowerment. Scaling customer experience requires empowering employees to act, not just document concerns.

2. What’s the biggest challenge for advancing women in tech today, and what should the tech industry do to overcome it?

Addy Clark, Director of Customer Marketing & Advocacy at FinancialForceAddy Clark, Director of Customer Marketing & Advocacy at FinancialForce: The biggest issue is that the majority of leadership teams and boards are run by predominantly white males. In any scenario, unconscious bias will play a part in any promotion and hiring strategies. To affect change, what I’d like to see is more positive messaging and promotion where traditionally feminine traits are publicly celebrated rather than seen as a weakness.

Cristina Melluzzi: The biggest challenge for advancing women in tech, in my opinion is not believing in ourselves and questioning our ability to be successful in a world dominated by men.
Luckily, there are so many organizations like Cisco that are developing initiatives to completely transform the tech industry and shake off the perception that a career in technology isn’t for women.

Kevyn Klein: I have always found it particularly difficult to advocate for myself—in negotiations, in meetings, etc. One thing I would like to see is an organization that encourages self-advocacy.

For example, when offering a job to anyone (male and female) and that person comes back to negotiate, the first thing I say is “I think it is great you are negotiating for your value and you absolutely always should.” And then we go into the conversation. This instantly creates a relief on the other end and gives people permission to advocate and step out of their comfort zone. I wish more managers gave people that permission. It builds confidence.

Marie Langhout-Franklin, Head of Partner Marketing at eBayMarie Langhout-Franklin, Head of Partner Marketing at eBay: The two biggest challenges for women in tech right now are getting meaningful advocacy and having a voice. Tangibly, the rules are pretty human and basic: if you think what you’re saying is gender-biased, it probably is; give credit where credit is due; don’t interrupt; speak up if you see blatant or subversive disrespect; be a visible, vocal advocate; introduce women by their professional accomplishments and accolades, not their appearance or personal interests. It seems rudimentary, and it is. But we’re still talking about it because it’s still an issue.

Misia Tramp: I have a constant ‘filter’ on as the world of tech is littered with rituals that have historically been very male-dominated. This is particularly true the more you advance. This is not to say that the world of tech is necessarily always unfriendly to women, but it’s not intuitive and can feel aggressive at times. I would like to see EQ being as valued as IQ in organizations to overcome this. Many companies are adopting these principles, but creating greater empathy will make any workplace better for all.

Samantha Stone: The challenge for women in tech is the same as it is in other male-dominated industries—finding a way to let a diversity of voices be heard. From my own experience women who are comfortable being “loud” can rise to success alongside their male peers. But many women (and men for that matter) are not comfortable being a dominating voice so they give up—yet they have much to offer. Organizations that are truly committed to diversity need to find ways for ideas to be heard—loudly and in a whisper.

Shristi ShonkaShristi Shonka, Director of Client Experience at ADP, Director of Client Experience at ADP: Be part of a company that values diversity, inclusion, innovation and creativity as much as you do! There have been giant leaps forward within communities focusing on STEM events for our younger generations. Companies can support STEM within their own organizations which may invoke a new found passion in their employees  and provide different opportunities for women.”

3. What’s your advice for women who aspire to leadership positions in tech?

Addy Clark: That you need to get used to a lot of rejection and need to be persistent. Things like pay raises, and job titles will be harder to get. Taking ownership and putting a voice behind achievements and accomplishments is just as important as giving those around you recognition.

April DunfordApril Dunford, Founder of Rocket Launch Marketing, Founder of Rocket Launch Marketing: Run your own thing where the broken power structures of tech matter less.

Cristina Melluzzi: My best advice for women who aspire to be in a leadership position in the
tech world is to dedicate time to your professional development. My top tips are to become an expert in your chosen area of interest, and dedicate at least 1 hour per week to yourself and seek out professional development opportunities, like speaking at an event. Also: network, network, network: The most amazing opportunities in my career have not come out of applying for jobs online.

Kelsie SwensonKelsie Swenson, Marketing Manager of Client Engagement at Egencia, Marketing Manager of Client Engagement at Egencia: Find diverse channels to expose yourself to various learning opportunities. Identify a mentor who supports your career aspirations, and try to get involved in any opportunities offered that help you to excel.

Marie Langhout-Franklin: Ask more questions. Always be learning. Network like it’s your job. Leverage mentors within your workplace and outside across the tech industry. Invest in your EQ (emotional quotient) as much as your IQ. The smartest person in the room can’t win without an equal dose of emotional intelligence. And for God’s sake, stop apologizing when you don’t have to.

Misia Tramp: Finding your tribe in my experience can make a huge difference in realizing ideas, being able to stay authentic and staying true to your goals. It can be hard to not be intimidated in an environment that doesn’t feel completely natural.

Remember, as Kasia Gospos said “Amazing things happen when women help other women.” Think about what you’re willing to do for others, the chances are they’ll do the same for you.

Samantha Stone: You don’t have to work the longest hours to be successful; you have to exceed expectations. You want to be the person who says yes. The person who takes on new challenges. The teammate who’s ready to lend a hand when a peer needs help. So say yes. But don’t forget to do an assessment of your time. Say yes, and be ready with a suggestion of what needs to come off your plate to get the new task done. Something like this works wonders. “Thank you for thinking of me for this project. I’m very excited to take on the challenge. In order to give it the attention, it deserves I recommend we push off the ABC campaign until July.”

4. What’s one lesson you’ve learned the hard way in your career?

Addy Clark: That no one will sell my value to peers and leaders unless I’m able to sell it myself. I spent a few years where my efforts were either attributed to other people or not appreciated. It wasn’t until I developed a healthy sense of entitlement and pride in my accomplishments that I was able to start getting recognition and quicker career advancement.

April Dunford: Every detail in a written contract matters and those details are worth fighting over. Agreements that aren’t in writing are wishes.

Kelly Caird: Early on in my career, I wasn’t quick to speak up when I didn’t agree with something. I didn’t want to cause conflict, especially if it was with someone who was higher up in the company. It took me a while to realize that my ideas are valid, and diversity of thought almost always makes the end result better.

Kevyn Klein: Micro-management can destroy a community or a team, for short term gains. Early in management, I learned that the hard way. Be constantly reflecting on your ability to empower others.

Marie Langhout-Franklin: A lot of people can manage teams, but good leadership requires an investment in cultivating relationships, navigating personal interests and goals in order to achieve results. Authenticity goes a long way in building trust and transparency so people feel free and supported in doing their best work.

Samantha Stone: Success is a team sport. Early in my career, I was a classic obsessive achiever. I worked long hours, said yes to everything, and somehow managed to get it all done. I had earned respect from very senior management. But I hadn’t yet proved I could lead. I had to switch from an “I” to a “we” mindset and show I could also coach, mentor and collaborate.

Shristi Shonka: Your voice matters! Use it and ask questions; don’t assume anything.

5. What are your tips for women hoping to raise their professional profile, or gain prominence on the speaking circuit?

Addy Clark: Don’t be shy—nominate yourself, follow up with organizers, and get your voice heard. And don’t listen to that little voice inside that says you have nothing other people want to hear. Of course you do. Any business professional can learn from another.

April Dunford: The more you speak, the more you speak. At the beginning you just need to get on as many stages as possible both to hone your craft as well as to raise your profile as a speaker.

Cristina Melluzzi: The first step is to get very comfortable with presenting internally. The more you do it, the easier it becomes and you won’t have to think that much about what you’re talking about. When you start to build your internal brand as a subject matter expert,
the next step is to seek out advocacy opportunities.

Kelly Caird: Just do it! Network and seek out opportunities that seem scary—like speaking at Advocamp.

Marie Langhout-Franklin: Be intentional about building your personal brand—what sets you apart? Start publishing. Shamelessly self-promote—but make it meaningful. Attend events, and partner with other industry leaders to pitch panel ideas. The more visibility you have, the more people will associate your personal brand with a platform to share.

Misia Tramp: I honestly find that good work speaks for itself when presenting. Make yourself available for people to ask questions and have a chat—that further amplifies your message if people meet you outside the context of the presentation. Also, give folks a way to engage more with the content, whether it’s access to more research, a downloadable or something else.

Samantha Stone: Say important things. Projecting things you feel passionate about to a small group will do more to boost your profile than sounding like everyone else to an audience of thousands. I also recommend joining Innovation Women. It’s a speaker’s bureau dedicated to promoting women. I’ve found several valuable speaking opportunities through their newsletter.

Shristi Shonka: Lift as you climb. Share your experiences with other women, make introductions to help others strengthen their network.

6. What will you be speaking about at Advocamp?

Addy Clark: Empathy is key when building advocates. Understanding what motivates people to participate in advocate marketing programs will drive more success.

April Dunford: I’m talking about Context Setting for Products and how Context can make our value intuitively obvious for customers. I’m also going to talk about how customer advocacy can help set context for your offerings. Marketing fertilizer is a whole lot easier than marketing poop and it’s context that transforms one into the other.

Cristina Melluzzi: In my talk I’ll be uncovering the 7 lessons I learned in scaling a European advocacy program at one of the largest global tech organizations and how to stop doubt from holding you back.

Kelly Caird: I’ll be talking about the advocacy program we launched for eBay’s affiliate partner community, and where we are with that journey today. We’ve gone from uncovering advocates we didn’t know we had, to working with this group of passionate and engaged customers to help solve real business challenges.

Kelsie Swenson: I’ll be discussing the Influitive use case for Egencia and how we were able to enhance our customer advocacy program “Egencia Connect” by introducing an online community. We are planning to extend this advocacy program to various user groups on a global scale.

Kevyn Klein: Everyone seeks to have an empowered community, but what does that really look and feel like? It starts with making the community a consistent part of the customer journey—from onboarding a customer to engagement to power users. Putting community into each part of the process will make advocate marketing feel natural for everyone and give everyone a sense of belonging. Then you have to give them problems to solve together.

Marie Langhout-Franklin: Today, there are multitudes of means for real-time audience feedback and engagement—how do marketers consolidate and focus that feedback so it’s meaningful? Specifically, how can businesses leverage customer feedback to meaningfully impact business outcomes? Voice of customer doesn’t require extensive investment—it’s a matter of asking the right questions in the right channels.

Misia Tramp: I will be focusing on how to think about driving customer advocacy across the end to end journey in addition to mapping specific content and reference experiences at each touchpoint. Quite often content is produced and published in silos. To drive mutual value between customers and brands, we think it’s important to explore not only the content that is resonant a certain point in the journey, but how to ensure the business knows how to relate the content journey to the broader customer journey.

Samantha Stone: Only a fraction of employees advocate on behalf of their company. We surveyed hundreds of individuals to understand what holds them back, and how you can motivate change. In my session, we’ll reveal the four essential elements of effective employee advocacy programs.

Shristi Shonka: Sarah Schreiner and I will talk about how an advocacy program can improve a company’s employee engagement and the perks we’ve gathered!

Subscribe to Influitive's advocate marketing blogEnter your email address now to receive the latest advocate marketing resources delivered right to your inbox every month! You can withdraw your consent at any time.