Cory, who previously served as head of marketing for the Emerging Technologies Division of Dell EMC, has some 15 years of experience developing marketing campaigns. At Bellevue-based BitTitan, she oversees the company’s product, brand and channel-marketing efforts. Read about her career successes and challenges, the advice she offers women who are just launching their careers, and her views on mentoring and leadership.
Tell us about the high point of your career. What do you love about your work? Describe your proudest moment.
I am a believer that the best is yet to come. However, as I reflect on my career and the experiences I’ve had with different tech companies, one of the high points was when I became the first female vice president at Intermec, now Honeywell. During the late 1990s — when I was appointed to this role — female executives were very rare. What made this experience a high point for me was not simply being the first female to fill this role, but that this role gave me the ability to empower and pioneer opportunities for other women at the company to follow.
It was also during this time when I successfully negotiated a large contract with the European Commission that resulted in building a very profitable, patent-protected product that is still sold today. When it comes to my work, I love building and coaching a team that’s simultaneously capable of ensuring personal and company successes. As a mom, my proudest moment was in 2016, when all three of my children graduated from different schools (high school, college and law school).
What challenges have you faced as a woman in your industry? How have you addressed them?
There’s clearly a bias against women across most industries. With the #MeToo movement, we now have unprecedented acknowledgement of the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and discrimination toward women. I think it’s important to separate discrimination from harassment. My guidance from a harassment standpoint is to speak up and get help. Unfortunately, addressing discrimination and the challenges associated with the “glass ceiling” is much more complex. Having spent my entire career in the tech industry, I see that one of the biggest challenges women face is simply being ignored. I’ve been in meetings as an executive where I was assumed to be the assistant simply because I was the only female at the table.
In terms of addressing these challenges, I like to ask questions in open sessions, and I’ve built a reputation for doing so. Depending on the circumstances, I will either diffuse a somewhat volatile situation or move the conversation in a different direction. This ability has made a big difference in how others perceive me, and it’s made a big difference in my career. Other times, I’ve found that innocent inquiries such as, “What are the alternatives?” and “Has everyone provided their ideas around the table?” can be effective in broadening the discussion, resulting in more inclusion. Asking simple questions like these can enable a more collective approach to bringing the best solution forward. It’s not unlike how teachers encourage students to raise their hands and ask questions. Colleagues will often thank me afterward, sharing that they had the same question but were too intimidated to speak up.
Tell us about a person who has inspired or mentored you. What key lesson did you learn from them?
I am very inspired by those I mentor through formal programs at Seattle University, the University of Washington and Delta Gamma. In learning about others’ aspirations and challenges, I feel honored to be in a position worthy of mentoring them. When those I’ve mentored share stories later about career successes, jobs landed and promotions, I am inspired about the small part I played in helping them build careers and achieve goals. Watching their successes teaches and reminds me that connections are the most useful tool in career-building, no matter what your level.
What advice would you give to a woman getting started in her career?
When getting started, I believe it’s important to pursue education, diversify your experience and focus on building a strong network of support. I also encourage young professionals to stay connected by supporting others who might need assistance, and in turn, asking for support when needed. I am a firm believer in reaching out for guidance and being confident in asking for help.
Lastly, everyone should have a longer-term plan. The “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question can seem daunting to someone who’s just starting out. In my experience, even if the plan changes — and it will — having a plan helps prioritize goals for the future, such as pursuing an advanced degree or living and working abroad.
What can women do to improve gender equity in the workplace? What can men do?
We need to treat everyone — not just women — equally. Simple but meaningful actions can improve equity in the workplace. I look for opportunities to challenge social norms. For example, I will hold the door open for men because it is common courtesy, not based on gender. I also think education is imperative to improving gender equity in the workplace. I encourage everyone to be lifelong learners, whether in a formal or informal setting. In my experience, being confident and knowing your product, business and job function is foundational to success. Be a problem-solver.
Helping women build their professional network can also help balance gender equality. As a mentor, I’ve found this to be one of the most valuable assets you can give someone — just allowing them to have access to your professional network and outline how specific people can help them. With men, the conversation starts with helping build an understanding of how they can challenge the social norms and help others — especially women — in much the same way that they would for their wife, daughter or sister.
Tell us about a favorite book/show/podcast and why/how it inspires you.
I’m an avid reader — in fact I’m in four book clubs! I love historical fiction, and I also enjoy reading international books to get a different view of the world. From a marketing standpoint, I would definitely say all the Philip Kotler books are must-reads. I’ve probably read 20 of them. I’ve read David Meerman Scott’s “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” four times — for four different companies — and it remains a great resource.
What are the most important characteristics of a good leader? What leadership traits are overrated?
I consider myself a player-coach. I want to understand what we’re dealing with by being hands-on and leading from the court. I’m also a big believer in defining the difference between a manager and a leader. We’re often required to play both roles in professional environments and some of us are better at one rather than the other.
Managers excel on the operational side of the day-to-day activities, whereas leaders look at the big picture and carry more of a visionary, inspirational spirit that motivates those around them. To be successful, I think we each need to understand our strengths and weaknesses in both areas, and similarly, organizations need to understand whether a situation calls for a strong manager or a strong leader.
In terms of overrated traits, I’m not an aggressive dictator. I believe you can do more with a team that is motivated and collaborative — more than anyone can do alone.
What would you do differently in your career if you had a do-over.
My first reaction is nothing. Thinking about this as a “what if?” scenario, it would be that I had three different opportunities to move abroad and I did not do so.
As I progressed in my career, there were times when I considered pursuing a degree in electrical or software engineering or data science. I ultimately realized the values I bring to the table: I’m a marketer, I’m a writer and I’m a communicator, able to convey why customers should purchase my solution. Therefore, I continually focus on improving my strengths, partnering with those deeply technical peers who elaborate on how solutions work.
What would be the title of your autobiography?
My children and husband might say, “Helicopter Mom,” but I think it should be, “Leader. Mentor. Coach.”
We’d love to hear from more women across all industries who are challenging the status quo. Does it sound like you? If it does, click here and fill out our questionnaire. Feel inspired? Join us for our second Daring Women event on May 21, 2019. Interested in speaking opportunities at the event? Fill out the application here.
Daring Women Q&A responses have been edited and condensed.