Janice Le: Product Eats Marketing

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1.   Tell us about your personal and professional background and about what you do professionally today.

Today, I hold a unique role as both the Chief Product Office and the CMO for Helpshift, a series C startup in the digital customer service space. I am steering the company towards product led growth, driving a product experience that changes the game in B2B SaaS. With product led growth, product will eat traditional marketing and sales.

This is from my LinkedIn profile:

I first came across this quote in one of the first corporate emails I’d received as an intern: “Vision without execution is hallucination.” – Albert Einstein

That was >20 years ago. It resonated with me then and it resonates with me now. Business is my first love, but I’m a closet techie! Throughout my career, I’ve worn many hats (and shoes), from web and app developer, to database designer, to marketer, to product leader, to general manager. While on that journey, I’ve had both successes and valuable failures, but two core values continue to define me—don’t forget where you came from and excuses are for wusses.

Who am I? I am an achiever, a learner, and a fighter. My purpose and mission is to help others reach excellence and to make every day worth winning. For those who are looking to rise above or beat the odds, I am your fighter and trainer who can energize, motivate, and give teams the courage and techniques to win. Words I live by: “Live as if you will die tomorrow. Learn as if you will live forever.”–Mahatma Gandhi

I was born and raised on the banks of the Mekong Delta and escaped Vietnam as a young child after the war. I’ve also beat some medical odds that professionals didn’t think was possible. I’m here today amidst the brightest minds in the world, helping to change lives through technology, with two healthy and thriving daughters who believe they are unstoppable. What’s my take-away? Creating magic and defying the odds only happens when a great vision is equally met with action that gets executed with real heart and soul.

Corporate stuff here: I’m a marketing athlete and product leader with 20+ years of experience in product management, product marketing, and general management in tech domains spanning enterprise networking, cybersecurity, data & analytics, app integration platforms, video, NW infrastructure, and collaboration. I’m a GTM strategist in the Enterprise & Mid-Market, with successes in new/adjacent market entry and global market expansion. I challenge status quo, get the right things done, and can assemble and grow winning teams.

2.   What are your personal and professional goals for sharing your doing-well while doing-right story?

I don’t have professional goals. I consider myself to be a journey person and I don’t get fixated on the destination. My goal is to make each day memorable and worth it and to help others feel the same way. My personal satisfaction comes from “doing the right things well” each day, whether it be in my job or at home, for myself or in service of others.  

3.   How has your personal upbringing helped shape your desire to do well, while doing right?

Because I’ve experienced a number of death-defying moments, I want to make each day meaningful because I don’t know what tomorrow will hold.

I have 5 experiences that I refer to as my 5 G’s: 

  1. Government: escaped Vietnam as a young child when the country fell to the communists. Was a refugee, escaped pirates at sea, survived life-threatening illnesses (malaria, tape worm, etc.)
  2. Gaming: Gaming is how I fell in love with technology. I’m a lifelong gamer who has learned so much from gaming–strategy, knowing your enemy/competition, managing your resources, making allies, thinking 12 moves ahead, knowing the criteria for winning and leveling up, and always achieving your personal best.
  3. Gangs: grew up in east San Jose and learned about the social and political aspects of how gangs operate. Very eye opening and also teaches how to toughen up and not be intimidated by others.
  4. Granulamotosis: rare auto-immune disorder that was treated with 2.5 years of low dose chemotherapy and high dose steroids. Teaches you a lot about being mortal and that you’re not invincible. Being really sick also exposes who your true friends are.
  5. Girls and my guy: having my 2 daughters (despite the odds of relapsing) and my husband. They are my biggest sources of inspiration.

4.   Tell a story about a younger version of yourself and how you were impacted by your early role models.

The younger version of myself was headstrong, believed I was invincible, and had no regard for authority. I was a rebel and a f–k you attitude because I felt I was unstoppable. I still think I’m unstoppable, but I’d rather help people find meaning in their lives. My attitude changed from eff you to help you.

LEARNING HOW TO DO WELL


5. How did your education and professional experience help you to learn business basics around strategy, execution and management?

I have a business undergrad in marketing and a technical graduate degree in telecommunications (security and wireless). I am also a self-taught techie and have worked in IT as a web developer, IT analyst, database admin, and app dev. Because of this, I am adept at working with engg teams, but also have a really strong grasp of marketing, GTM, and running a business. I’ve started a business from ground zero, helping Cisco build a business, taking it from zero to $100M in 4 years. My career is split right down the middle between product and marketing. I am a well balanced product thinker and marketing athlete. 

6.   Who were the star mentors, sponsors and coaches who helped you when things got challenging?

Dan Scheinman

Alan Cohen

Keerti Melkote

Christine Heckart

Thomas Wyatt (my husband)

7.   What did you do to better hone your influencing skills?

As a product leader, empathy is the #1 critical skill that I apply to everything that I do: designing products, interacting with customers, influencing my peers, motivating my team, partnering with our founder, and telling our story.

8.   What are a couple of mistakes you made in your early career which helped you be more successful in your business transactions?

I didn’t take myself seriously enough early in my career. I was the classic hare in the story of the tortoise and the hare. I had to learn how to get my act together and consistently deliver on my commitments. 

LEARNING TO DO RIGHT


9.   How did your early experience and upbringing help you build a desire to do right by others, by the earth, for future generations?

Experiencing mortality in so many different places (escaping Vietnam, surviving a rare disorder, not ending up in jail or dead from guns, etc.)….I feel I owe it to the world to help them make each day amazing. 

10.  What are some examples of what you did as a child to do right by others?

I helped give strength to others who lacked it. I won’t allow anyone to be a victim. I help others build strength from their misfortunes–to experience post-traumatic growth, not post-traumatic stress.

11.  When and why did ‘doing well’ NOT be enough, so that you decided that you must also ‘do right’?

I feel like I’ve been given many opportunities and have beaten the odds–it makes me want to help others find their best fighting chance.

12.  Who has helped you make more impact doing right by others?

I am the president of the board for a non-profit called CALICO. We are a child abuse listening and intervention organization that hepls over 800 kids in Alameda find justice from sex abuse and neglect. Having been a victim of sex abuse myself, I want to help those victims find hope and brightness in their adversity.

Here is my story: https://www.calicocenter.org/single-post/2017/04/24/finding-my-voice

https://www.calicocenter.org/board

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES


13.   What are some of the barriers to making a pronounced impact?

Believe you are unstoppable. 

14.   Who and what could help address these barriers?

 Belief in yourself. A purpose that fuels you. Gratitude for what you have.

AMPLIFYING THE IMPACT


15.   What specific do-right impact would you ideally like to achieve, and why is that the most important objective for you?

I want to help others find their personal strength and purpose in whatever they do. It’s important to me because without purpose and strength, continuation is meaningless.

16.   What is the core message, the core vision of the initiative?

17.   What are you doing today to amplify the impact of doing well while doing right?

 With each person that I interact with and touch, I try to lead by example.

18.   How could we all work together to move the needle forward in specific ways?

 We should each find our value and purpose and lead with that each day.

WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE?


19.     What does success look and feel like?

Success is when you can reflect on each day and say “I have no regrets”

20.    What ONE thing could we each do to make this so? 

Ask the question: What am I proud of doing today?



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