Women in Business Q&A: Kristen "KR" Regelein, Head of Global Sales, Pebble Technology

Kristen "KR" Regelein is Head of Global Sales at Pebble Technology, the company behind the Pebble and Pebble Steel smartwatches for iPhone and Android. She is responsible for global sales and channel strategy at Pebble, and has more than fifteen years of experience in consumer electronic sales and operations management. Prior to joining Pebble, KR was the Director of Channel Development at SOL REPUBLIC, and has also held executive positions at Uncommon, HoMedics and Speck.

KR is a member of the Women in CE organization and serves as a strategic advisor to several early stage startups in Silicon Valley. She is also a strong advocate for championing technologies that support the deaf community.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
When I was 3 years old I was diagnosed with severe hearing loss. From a very early age, I had to learn how to adapt to a very noisy world by learning how to read lips in order to communicate with others. It was a very frustrating and challenging process for me which took many years to perfect. I constantly felt left out or not be able to participate in activities just because I couldn't hear properly. I had to work very hard at being aware of my environment, being patient with myself and others. I had to learn to listen and ask for help when I needed it. These same skills I had practiced intensely for many years to communicate with the world have served me well as a leader.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Pebble?
I've spent most of my 15-year career in early stage start-ups in consumer electronics. When I was at Speck Products (a mobile case company), we were at the start of what would become the accessories boom for mobile devices. Apple iPhone and iPod were the hottest devices to launch at the time. Overnight, Speck became a huge success. At the same time, many players started to enter this space thinking it would be easy. They soon realized just how hard it is to build a brand and hold your place in the market. Speck was one of the best learning experiences of my career. It educated me that if you stay true to who you are, learn from your mistakes, roll with the punches -- you will win.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Pebble?
The biggest highlight for me has been working with a team that is very passionate about what Pebble has created. Pebble has opened up a whole new market segment that has now become a category of it's own. It's the first time I've seen a small technology start up launch a product that has companies like Apple, Google, and Motorola now entering the game. We are staying firm in our conviction of what we believe a Pebble smartwatch should be and the experience we want the user to have. We are growing at such a rapid pace and keeping communication clear is a challenge most startups are faced with. It's also knowing when to say yes and when to say no.

What advice can you offer women who are looking for a career in consumer electronics?
The best advice I can offer for women is if you have passion for something, find ways to learn about it and connect with people in that industry. Networking and relationship building, especially with women in this industry is the best advice. You never know who someone might know and you never know what door an introduction can open. I got my first job in CE because of a conversation I had with someone while looking at a C++ programming book at a bookstore. That led to an internship opportunity which later lead to my first job at the age of 18 in this industry.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This concept is actually very new to me. For many years I was on the road three days a week, worked 18 hours a day and I literally slept with my laptop and cellphone on at all times. I never unplugged, I never took a vacation, and I never took time for myself. My family actually pulled me aside and expressed concern that not only was I putting my job before them, I was putting my job before myself. For the last year I've made meetings and appointments with myself that force me to unplug. I've seen a huge change in myself and my relationship with my family since I have embraced healthier work habits.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think the biggest challenge I've seen women face, and even experienced myself, is the feeling that you are being heard and that your voice matters. If you have something to say, or you feel strongly about a direction -- speak up. The worst thing you will hear is no. It's important to express your opinions because saying nothing at all doesn't help anyone. Don't let fear stop you.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I've been very fortunate to have learned very early in my career to surround myself with women in this very male dominated industry that I respect and admire. There is no better person that can guide you than someone who knows what it's like to be in the position you are in. My mentors have given me great advice over the years. They've cheered me on when I have my wins, guided me when I've felt stuck, and also let me fail so that I could learn a lesson that I might not have otherwise been able to see. It's important to have mentors who don't tell you what you want to hear. I've always asked for brutal honesty and I might not like it at first, but when I've listened to it, it has served me very well. I've passed on a lot of the advice they have given me to others over the years and I know it has helped them as well.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
The one female leader I have admired for many years is Jo Waldron. Most people don't know who she is, but in the deaf community she is one of the most inspirational leaders I've ever had the honor of being mentored by. She was born completely deaf and through much deeper struggles than I, has accomplished great things. She was awarded by President Reagan the Lifetime Appointment Disabled American for the Nation. It's the highest honor you can receive appointed only by the President. She was also CEO of Able Planet (a headphone company) which is when I met her 10 years ago. When I met her the best advice she gave me was, fight for what you believe in and even when you fail, get right back up. She showed me that I was letting my personal challenges stop me from achieving that next level.

What do you want Pebble to accomplish in the next year?
I want to see Pebble change the way people perceive smartwatches. Pebble is doing great things for people in many ways most do not realize. Pebble is an extension of who we are and how we interact in our daily lives. I want Pebble to become not only the market leader, but a vital part of people's lives. I want those stories we are creating to be talked about for years to come.