Lead with Confidence: Change as Growth Opportunities

Shannon Fitzgerald-Lussier
April 18, 2023

People take all different types of career paths; how did you get to where you are today?

We’re shaped by circumstances and our environment, and I am a product of the 2008 financial crisis. In times of uncertainty, we are much more calculated with our risks and as a child of immigrant parents, I leaned more fiscally conservative. My undergrad was economics and mathematics but a career in that field would’ve required at least a doctorate. That would’ve meant taking on more student loans for something that felt like a responsible degree, but wasn’t exciting.

My first few jobs out of undergrad were grant writing and consulting for STEM programs, but it still wasn’t quite right. The next big move was leaving Boston to come back to New York, and by happenstance, I landed a role in marketing operations at AvePoint. I won’t say it wasn’t without reinvention or probably several seemingly existential crises, but I spent time with great mentors, trying to figure out what was and what can be for me.

What excites you most about your role today? 

I’m pretty excited that we’re in an era of doing more with less. During the pandemic we’d shifted our focus for more operational efficiency, which is the heart of developing sustainable organizations and teams. But now my focus at AvePoint is activating the revenue generating parts of our business, which is field marketing, and building a sustainable, scalable structure for long-term endeavors. Basically, it’s reworking the building blocks of true go-to-market strategy.

How do you move from being an individual contributor to a leadership path? 

The unspoken expectation is to work hard, which is not the singular determinant of promotions or leadership. I look for are people who want to do better, whatever that means in a role.

Most people are promoted because of their ability to execute, be tactical, and deliver results, but once in management your goals also must be strategic. What’s the direction now? Where are we going? How do we get there? That’s a hard transition for some people to make.

Early in my own career, I was able to get on several high-profile projects. I would raise my hand to everything. And with every new project, I gained visibility and understanding for the different departments involved.

Upper management would send me new issues to deal with, and I’d develop a beautiful plan to execute on. . .  but no one cares about that plan when it’s not integrated with anything. So, you’re forced to be more strategic to align with the 15 different business units just to solve one problem.

Of course, it takes a little pushing. No one is going to push you to be in an uncomfortable position but you. If you want to challenge yourself and gain transferrable skills, you need to take those risks.

Many marketing teams have been impacted by budget cuts recently. What are some things you’re doing now to keep your team motivated when you have to do more with less? 

If marketing is not a revenue-generating team, then it’s going to be under review. This is not unique to the times, but I think there are lessons we see when change happens en masse.

We underwent a reorganization recently that aligned me with field marketing. Now positioned with a marketing operations lens, it means that when we come out of all of this market uncertainty, when we’ve built an infrastructure to support the business to do more with less, we can take the best results from all the optimization efforts.

The decisions that you make during this time are not always going to be right, but a decision is always better than inaction. There’s a cost to staying stagnant. The motivation driving my team is we get to build it, and we get to build it better.

It’s the year 2023, if you’re looking back at your 23-year-old self, what advice would you give?

Everything ebbs and flows.

Change will happen. And it will likely feel uncomfortable at the time. Stay focused on solving the right problems and steering yourself in the right direction.

Sometimes that means meeting people where they are. When you understand the problems that others are trying to solve collaboration helps you move the needle faster and further together.

And for anyone who is looking for their next opportunity right now: be intentional. If you have the luxury of taking a break, then really evaluate your next opportunity. You’ll be more successful taking a job that you love. However, I can appreciate that you need to do whatever it takes to pay your bills as well. So, prioritize for whatever stage you’re at.

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