Jennifer Tejada has been the CEO of PagerDuty, an operations manager software for cloud-based services, since 2016. In April 2019, she led the company to its IPO, where it was valued at $1.8 billion. PagerDuty was Jennifer’s second CEO rodeo; she also headed up Keynote Systems from 2013 to 2015. Jennifer draws on her marketing background to put people and relationships at the forefront of her business strategy. In this episode of the podcast, she tells me what she’s learned as a two-time CEO and how important it is to create a good company culture with diverse talent.
The learning curve
As a first-time CEO, Jennifer says she expected everything to be perfect, from both herself and her team. When things went wrong, she didn’t handle it as well as she could have.
- You can’t make everyone happy all the time, and you can’t win or even fight every battle.
- Your position is a lonely one; you have to be able to regulate your own feelings and inspire your employees even in bad times.
- But don’t be so independent that you can’t ask your employees for help when you need it.
- You have to bring out the best in everything: people, product, and customer relationships.
- It’s better to learn and improve than show others how well you do things.
- Stay on top of what’s going on in your company and how things can be improved. But stick to the important stuff; don’t get bogged down in the details.
Your relationship with your board
How you build and manage your board of directors may determine the direction of your company. For instance, if a private equity firm is your sole investor, you will have to do what that firm wants, and hire people who align with that vision.
- If you’re in a majority ownership situation, try to get independents on your board — people who won’t be acting in your investor’s interests and have relevant experience. You need another CEO on your board who can relate to what you’re going through.
- At PagerDuty, she kicked all the observers out of board meetings and told board members that she was here to manage the business, not the board.
- Just don’t let the board run you.
It starts with talent
This industry places more importance on the product your company produces than the people who produce it. Jennifer thinks it should be the other way around; all about the people.
- You have to recruit good people to work for you, get the best out of them, and give them reasons to stay.
- Don’t hire for the short-term. Hire the people who will add value to your company two to three years down the line.
- A company culture that supports and appreciates your talent is essential.
- Break up the daily grind; find ways to inject fun and camaraderie into the place where your employees spend the majority of their waking hours.
Make company culture part an integral part your business
Each room in PagerDuty’s office has a poster declaring its five values:
- Championing the customer
- Bringing your authentic self to work
- Taking the lead
- Acting and owning
- Running together
Employees know this is what’s expected of them and their co-workers.
A good company culture must come from the top. If you get the culture right, you’ll attract and retain the best talent. Good strategy and product will come from those people.
Make inclusiveness part of that culture
Most Silicon Valley companies struggle to find diverse talent, claiming that there just isn’t any in the pipeline. Some see it as an afterthought and not part of a good business strategy.
- If the “pipeline” doesn’t have the talent you want, find another one. Try different cities and people with different backgrounds that still lend themselves to the skills you’re looking for. Don’t be myopic.
- Make diversity a strategic imperative, not just something that would be nice to have.
- Diversity should be part of the hiring process from the candidates to the interviewing panel.
- Studies have shown that an inclusive team will always outperform a non-inclusive team.
- Be aware of your role not just in your company and its product, but the entire industry. You have the power to change the face of the industry; take it seriously.
You can find the latest episode(s) here or wherever you get your podcasts.
Jennifer Tejada joins PagerDuty
Jennifer rings the NYSE opening bell
Inclusivity as good business strategy