Women in Business Q&A: Loretta Jones, VP Marketing, Insightly

Loretta Jones is the vice president of marketing at Insightly, a San Francisco-based SaaS CRM application for small businesses. With more than 15 years of experience in marketing, including marketing strategy, communications and lead generation, Loretta has grown marketing programs for both SMB and enterprise customers at Coveo, Adobe EchoSign and several other companies. She holds a bachelor's degree from Brown University.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Growing up outside the U.S. in India, Kenya and Spain, among others countries, taught me a lot about how people operate in different cultures. This international experience helps me with tolerance and patience, and also gives me a real sense that there are more commonalities than differences between people.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Insightly?
I've been lucky in that I've worked for companies that have marketed to different audiences - both enterprise and small and medium-sized businesses. With such broad marketing experience, I've been able to adapt to businesses' needs and market shifts pretty easily. I started my career at Lotus, and then moved to several positions at growing startups. Making these transitions made me realize how much discipline there is at larger companies. Early-stage startups can sometimes be like the Wild West; people are playing multiple roles and they don't always work efficiently. As startups grow, sometimes they are a bit loathe to implement processes because they fear it will inhibit creativity and make the company lose its startup feel. The trick is to spot the places where processes improve efficiency and work life and not over-process everything just for the sake of process. The benefit of some processes is that they also set expectations and often people work more effectively when there are clear expectations. With multiple marketing roles under my belt, it's easier to draw on my experience and identify which areas in marketing require a process and when there should be more creative leeway.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Insightly?
The biggest challenge at Insightly has been carving out a niche within the crowded customer relationship management (CRM) space. There are millions of small businesses out there, and we're trying to differentiate ourselves. It's a process of positioning and refinement. We're continuously working to get to know our audiences, and learning how our audience views us as different from competitors. What's made the challenge easier is that our strategy and programs - including public relations, content marketing and demand generation - work in a synergistic way so this has helped us gain market momentum.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking a career in marketing and the IT industry?
Marketing in tech, like most other industries, is like alchemy - there are many pieces that can indicate success or failure. To be successful you need to have a curious and investigative nature. You also need to be patient because many programs don't work on the first try, so be prepared to tweak and change. Also, know when to recognize something isn't working and cut your losses. You can't be afraid to make mistakes. Action is better than inaction because even if your action didn't meet your expectation, you learned something, and learning from your mistakes makes you a better marketer.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I truly separate my time at work and my personal time. When I come into the office, I'm laser-focused on getting work done. I try to have as little distraction as possible. This way, when I leave the office I don't have to think about things I need to do or what I didn't finish, making it easy to maintain a work/life balance.

In general, tech companies have a casual atmosphere and offer daily services that blur the line between work/personal life - onsite dry cleaning services, or three catered meals each day, or on-premise yoga. These are all great services, but they do send a message that there is no difference between your work and personal life. So the upside may be greater productivity because people might spend more time at work, but the downside is that a more casual atmosphere and daily distractions don't send a message of focus. If people aren't self-disciplined, it's easy to get distracted at work and allow social media monitoring or personal text conversations to seep into time at work, making it difficult to effectively balance the two lives.

Another way I keep my mind clear and focused is by exercising. I'm a firm believer in exercise, and any stress from the workday gets worked out and is easily put into perspective through exercise.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Women, especially younger women, often want to be liked by their colleagues or tend to be extra accommodating. This can sometimes makes it difficult for them to balance the desire to be well liked with the ability to make hard decisions.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I haven't had a lot of business mentors in my life. I did have strong support from my mother. I come from a family of seven girls, and my mother always encouraged us to stand up for ourselves, and to make sure that we could support ourselves financially. I think a strong, solid network is key, and I firmly believe in the adages "opportunity is when luck meets preparation" and "everyone is connected." In order to get ahead, it's valuable to have connections that, when combined with your own determination and intelligence, have the power to make things happen.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I think the CEO of PepsiCo., Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi, Beyoncé and Madonna are all women with good heads for business. They have created themselves as icons and have shown they can re-invent themselves if required.

What do you want Insightly to accomplish in the next year?
I want Insightly to continue to grow exponentially, yet not lose focus on delivering a product that delights our users. Insightly was launched with the goal of being an easy-to-use CRM, and as we add more features, it's always a challenge to stay close to this DNA without complicating the user interface. From an internal perspective, continuing to constantly improve and refine is important as we meet the next phase of growth.