Women in Business Q&A: Danielle du Toit, SVP Global Customer Success, Bullhorn

Danielle du Toit

Danielle du Toit is Bullhorn's senior vice president of Global Customer Success, leading the company's professional services team. She was most recently vice president of Professional Services America at Salesforce, which she joined when the company acquired ExactTarget in 2013. At ExactTarget, Danielle was hired to build out a worldwide network of partners to augment delivery capabilities and later led the global Center of Excellence for best practices and services innovation. Danielle has spent the majority of her career in the SaaS world, both on the agency side and the client side. Originally from Zimbabwe, she graduated with a degree in Physics and Computer Science from Rhodes University.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I was born in Zimbabwe and grew up there. Zim crashed in the 90s, and living there was no longer an option for many people. After that, my direct family and I have lived, and do live, all over the world (16 countries between us). The entire experience has made me highly adaptable to different cultures and people. It engendered in me a big-picture, global approach that will always stand me in good stead as a leader. I was also raised to be very direct, honest, and fair - qualities that I've incorporated into my management style.

Much of what makes me the leader that I'm today has truly been figuring out what leadership looks like and feels like to me and learning as I go. Somehow I've spent most of my career in leadership positions. My first one was managing people who had been working a lot longer than me and were a lot more experienced. In a situation like that, you learn to truly use the strengths of your team and drive through inspiration and influence. I've realized that the best way to have my team generate the best results is by focusing on those strengths, which allow them to flourish. I have also learnt that if you have high expectations of your team members, and you trust them, they always surprise you. They always deliver more than you thought possible.

Watching many leaders around me over the course of my career, I've evaluated which of their traits I've admired and emulated. I've seen that saying "yes" to all that comes from leadership doesn't result in the strongest businesses or the strongest teams, thus I expect and allow people, at every level, to challenge me without fear.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Bullhorn?
From a tactical perspective, my previous employment has helped me understand the entire field of professional services and customer success, especially in the fast-moving SaaS environment, really well. It's also given me the experience of managing a fast-growing staff, build a successful partner ecosystem (so key for true ability to grow and scale a business), work easily with technical and business-minded people, and drive change. I also have had amazing exposure to working with top global brands. I've developed a true love of the enterprise space. Our enterprise clients challenge us on a daily basis and allow us to grow faster than we would without that challenge. I'm really comfortable in the space, and that's important for Bullhorn's continued growth in this space.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Bullhorn?
Seeing my team members transform themselves and their careers is without a doubt the highlight. It's a wonderful feeling watching my colleagues grow into A-team players and pushing themselves to achieve exceptional results for our clients. I've also enjoyed helping my team focus on solutions, and not problems, and showing them how they're part of the solutions. The challenges, on the other hand, have been working to redevelop our Customer Success department to ensure that we're focusing on the right priorities, executing those priorities, and delivering results expeditiously.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
There's no such thing as an ideal career - in this industry or any other. Some really fortunate people, from an early age, know they want to be a doctor, a lawyer, or an entertainer. I wasn't one of those people. I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up (aside from an absolute certainty for a few years as a child that I'd either be an entomologist or a CEO; current career experience shows that it's a lot more likely to be the latter). I'd leave other women with this piece of advice: gain clarity, have no fear, and do what you love. Ask yourself, "What types of people do I like to work with, and what types of work really excite me?" Create that list and continuously fine-tune that list. It should be a live list that you nurture over time. That way, as opportunities and ideas come up, you'll know which ones are good for you, and which ones aren't. And always trust your gut (and that list) when it comes to turning down opportunities that aren't good for you (no matter how wonderful they look on paper).

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
While everyone makes mistakes, the most important lesson is how you recover from making those mistakes. Don't try to hide anything or make up excuses; just fix it and own it. And, of course, you must view criticism as a growth opportunity and not something that's meant to hinder your performance or career. It's the best way to move forward fast.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Everyone has a different ratio and a different percentage for work/life balance, so it's all about having enough positive energy in both your professional and personal lives. To me, it's ensuring that you're doing enough things that leave you feeling recharged and nourished and that you're always keeping the tank full. In my personal time, I like to paint because it allows me to decompress and use another part of my brain.

I listened to an interesting interview Marie Forleo ran with Simon Sinek recently ("How to Be A Great Leader: Inspiring Others To Do Remarkable Things"). His definition of work/life balance is around feelings of safety. To quote him, "Work/life imbalance has nothing to do with how much yoga we do. Work/life imbalance means I feel safe at home, but I do not feel safe at work. That's the imbalance. And no amounts of yoga or free snacks in the cafeteria will solve that." I think this is key: Building relationships of trust, respect, and fun in your work environment are part of that work/life balance.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
We have many challenges. All of the data, which I absolutely believe, is that women have to work harder in order to achieve the same as their male colleagues. However, I also know that I get to answer this question from the highly privileged position of living and working in America. And from here, from this place of privilege, if I could figure out the transition, I'd love for us to truly focus on the fact that we're all human; we all bring incredible and different strengths to our working worlds. Combining the synergies of women and men will lead to a better workplace and a better world. And that wouldn't mean that we need to be "more masculine" or "more feminine," but rather to truly operate as ourselves, and thus, in a place of power, and thus, build the best and most powerful teams and organizations. I was lucky enough to sit next to Daniel Goleman on a flight from San Francisco to New York about two years ago after watching Sheryl Sandberg speak. Mr. Goleman and I discussed the topic in great detail, and I hope that I'm fortunate enough to be part of that much-needed global transformation.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship has unequivocally impacted my professional and personal life. I view mentorship as both formal and informal experiences. Formal mentorship is where you'd work directly with an assigned mentor. For instance, I once signed up to work with a business coach who challenged me to evolve my career to the next level. My coach was philosophical and respectful, challenging me to overcome my weaknesses by focusing on my strengths. This experience was truly transformative for my career, especially for my management style. Informal mentorship doesn't require an assigned mentor, but rather invites us to capture all the philosophy that we can learn from each other. For example, one leader had a strong passion for clients and absolutely no fear for solving the unsolvable. Another leader taught me the power of questions. I can't say enough about how inspiring these individuals were and how I grew by being open to their mentorship.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Someone I used to work for, Mary Kay Huse, because she's crazily intelligent and completely fair. To me, she's a great balance of being human and being an incredible business leader. I strive to follow in her footsteps and can't thank her enough for all she's taught me. Marie Forleo is someone I discovered a couple of years ago. I'm a huge fan. She has built a business and has a following based on something she's truly passionate about: the power of ethical business and following your passion. And no, not just because this is in The Huffington Post, but Arianna Huffington too. I've read many of her books and have seen her speak. I admire her spirit, her honesty, and her results.

What do you want Bullhorn to accomplish in the next year?
I believe our software is transformative, so I'd love Bullhorn to impact as many global companies as possible to create a culture of radical transparency. Openness is key in all kinds of relationships, especially sales, and by breaking down communication barriers, such as opening email and phone conversations, we can unlock the candid nature to transform our culture. As a result, we'll know more about our people, our companies, our industries, and ourselves. That's really cool. I believe we have a big future.