Women in Business Q&A: Elisa Steele, CEO, Jive Software

Elisa Steele

Elisa Steele is the CEO of Jive Software, a leading provider of modern communication and collaboration solutions for businesses. Elisa is passionate about helping businesses embrace technology and creating people-centric strategies for competitive advantage. A Silicon Valley veteran, Elisa's leadership spans her early days spearheading sales at AT&T to the marketing C-suite, leading global marketing at technology companies including Yahoo!, Skype, and Microsoft. Prior to her role as CEO at Jive, she served as the company's CMO and was responsible for its brand vision and end-to-end global marketing and product functions. After being appointed to CEO, Elisa strengthened Jive's leadership bench and orchestrated the roll out of a new portfolio of workstyle apps to meet the needs of the mobile enterprises. Under her tenure, Jive continues to secure customers across verticals and market-size, including Virgin Media, GoDaddy, the Portland Trailblazers, SunEdison, and Sysomos, and is redefining how businesses and people work together for the better.

Outside of work, Elisa currently serves on the Board of Directors for Amber Alert GPS and is an innovation advisor to the non-profit organization, Equality Now. She previously served on the board of directors of RMG Networks, the advisory board to consumer companies CareZone and Eyeona, the Interactive Advertising Bureau board of directors and executive committee from 2009-2011, and the Forbes Executive Women advisory board. In 2009, Advertising Age named Elisa a "Woman to Watch." She is currently a member and volunteer for National Charity League and donates time and resources in her local school community.

She lives in Los Gatos, California with her two teenagers and husband of more than 20 years.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I've always had the desire to do work with people I care about, serve customers and do something meaningful in my career. At first it wasn't about a specific career path necessarily - it was more about performing at my best and being a part of a team with a clear, exciting mission. Whether it was school, work or community, I've always been focused on connecting people and ideas together.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Jive Software?
My best employment experiences were at companies where I truly lived what they develop and sell. Skype and Jive had that in common for me. At Skype, I used the product as part of my everyday life experience, and cared deeply about it. I could genuinely relate to what the brand was all about -- and what it needed to be for people. It is very similar at Jive because I was a previous customer who used the product to connect and unite employees. I already knew the incredible impact it can have for teams, functions and leaders -- and how it truly empowers people to work better together. I felt connected and committed before I even walked in the door.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Jive Software?
The highlight for me is that I use Jive everyday to connect with my employees, talk to my customers and run the company. I can't imagine how we would work without it! We use it to get our work done and constantly push the limits of its capabilities, and how it can fulfill even more for people.

The challenges are the same for any business passionate about succeeding: How do you keep your customers as happy as possible? How do you add new customers who value the same great benefits that you know you can deliver? And, how do you continue to grow with the right team and people in our ever-changing world?

What I absolutely love about Jive is that our customers are the biggest advocates for Jive and what it means for them and their businesses. Of course, our Jivers are committed and passionate about the product, but we really receive our inspiration from how our customers use it, and how they share the amazing results they realize in their companies: The connection with people, the collaborative environment -it's instilled in their culture, along with the ability to simply work better together. We're inspired every day by our customers - such as Cisco, Google, GoDaddy, MapR, NBCUniversal, the Portland Trailblazers, Starwood Hotel & Resorts and the US Department of Veterans Affairs - and how with Jive, they've made their businesses more productive, more connected and more modern.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
I have three key pieces of advice that I've always lived by. First and foremost, be passionate: Don't try to have a career in an industry you don't care about. It just won't work. Next, Listen: Learn from those around you as you develop your own perspective and beliefs. Lastly, I believe it's critical to always do your homework and be prepared. Be the person in the room who is ready; it won't go unnoticed.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
You never stop learning. No matter how many situations you've managed, you have never fully learned all that there is to know. Be flexible, be open and be a great listener.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Ha! I don't believe in work-life balance. Life is just life! Work plays a big part, but so does family, friends, community, and all the other things that are important to you. I'm a career-minded person so work will always be a part of my life.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Opportunity! There is no one way forward - women need more opportunities to be exposed to more options, more choices, more chances.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I think mentorship is the most the most important thing that makes a difference for advancement and growth. It can happen everyday without mass programs, more funding and more time in the day. It can make a difference right now. Any man and/or any woman in business can make a door open for another. And you can do it right now.

It has made a difference to me in my career to have both men and women provide insight, opportunities and roles that have helped me grow and develop as a leader. Without them my path would have been different for sure.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire all female leaders who are pursuing their passions, tackling obstacles and not letting anyone deviate them from the path that they want to take. Hats off to all women who continue to make a difference.

What do you want Jive to accomplish in the next year?
I want the benefits of what our customers report to us to be more widely understood and adopted by other businesses that have not found a better way to work.