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Elisa Steele, Technology Business Leader, on Speaking Up and Developing Trusted Relationships


A unifying thread runs through the life and career of Elisa Steele: the impact of trusted relationships. In a childhood punctuated by frequent moves, Elisa found comfort in her tight-knit family. In later years, her career was shaped by those who cared enough to help Elisa reach her full potential.

A grad school professor who encouraged Elisa to find her voice and an AT&T executive who offered his mentorship are just two of the many that Elisa credits with helping her unlock opportunities.

She has carried that with her throughout a storied career that started in sales at AT&T and marketing at Sun Microsystems that led to CMO roles at Yahoo!, Skype and Microsoft, and then found her serving as CEO of both Jive and then Namely.

Solving customer problems in a trusted relationship leads to great value and more business.

While Elisa found success by carving out her own territory as a sales rep early in her career, she was intrigued by the far-reaching impact she could have as a marketer. “I discovered I could provide a foundation for the entire sales organization to be more successful.” As she says, she learned every marketing job in the book during her early time at Sun Microsystems.

That and other experiences were part of the inspiration for co-launching the SpeakHer Mind™ podcast that amplifies voices and shares practical steps to help empower women. “You can have big programs with big funding, but the needle really moves between human beings. One micro thing you do today, can have a macro impact on someone’s life or career.”

That same philosophy influenced how Elisa delivered on her mission, whether carrying a sales bag, helming marketing, or leading an entire company. “Solving customer problems in a trusted relationship leads to great value and more business.”

In addition to hosting the SpeakHerMind speaker series, Elisa now devotes her time to serving on the boards of numerous companies including Bumble, JFrog, Namely, Procore and Splunk.

“I sit on the board of companies large and small and the one thing they have in common is a CEO I tremendously respect and admire for their unwavering vision.” Having sat in the CEO seat herself, Elisa knows exactly what she’s talking about – and just what it takes to succeed in leading others to succeed.

Some of Elisa’s other keys to success:

  • Integrating the product experience with marketing. As far as Elisa is concerned, your product design — not marketing — drives engagement and adoption.
  • Focusing on customer problems. Elisa understands it’s a win-win when the company solves real customer problems.
  • Using marketing as a platform. Used effectively, marketing is a platform to make the sales organization more effective and successful.