Despite the many terrific wins and high points I’ve experienced as a leader at Glassdoor, what really stands out to me and makes me proud is when I see teams buckling down and working together during moments of adversity. At a hyper growth stage company, any number of obstacles can pop up at any moment — systems can break down, the market can shift and new competitors can pop up overnight. If the team can come together to work through these challenges, that’s how great companies and leaders are made. This teamwork is in Glassdoor’s cultural DNA, and it’s a big part of what makes me excited to come to work every day.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kate Ahlering. Kate Ahlering is chief sales officer for Glassdoor. She leads all aspects of sales including new business acquisition, account management, channels, business development and sales operations teams. She is responsible for driving Glassdoor’s go-to-market vision, strategy, and execution. Previously, Kate held multiple positions in sales leadership at ACTIVE Network where she helped grow the company to more than $500 million in revenue and toward a successful IPO. Earlier in her career, she held sales roles at Blackboard. Kate’s leadership extends back to college, where she was captain of the University of Virginia’s NCAA women’s basketball team. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in education in leadership, social foundations and policy from the University of Virginia.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

For me, landing in sales was a relative inevitability. Both of my parents spent their careers in sales and revenue leadership positions, so I often joke that I was born in a sales petri dish. But even with that background, like many recent college grads, my start in sales wasn’t necessarily deliberate.

During one of my first interviews post-graduation, I sat down in front of a fantastic woman who would end up being my boss for many years. We were the classic east coast-west coast dynamic; I was in my stiff interview uniform, while she was bouncing on a yoga ball in jeans. At the time, I was deciding between pursuing sales or marketing. She asked if I knew the difference between the two, and I’m certain I wasn’t anywhere close to the right answer. She looked at me and said, “I think you should be in sales.” The rest is history.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Despite the many terrific wins and high points I’ve experienced as a leader at Glassdoor, what really stands out to me and makes me proud is when I see teams buckling down and working together during moments of adversity. At a hyper growth stage company, any number of obstacles can pop up at any moment — systems can break down, the market can shift and new competitors can pop up overnight. If the team can come together to work through these challenges, that’s how great companies and leaders are made. This teamwork is in Glassdoor’s cultural DNA, and it’s a big part of what makes me excited to come to work every day.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of my first jobs was an internship at a small hedge fund owned by my college economics professor. On my first day, I was asked to make coffee. Typical intern task, right? Well, this may sound ridiculous to anyone that knows me and my current daily coffee intake, but at the time, I had no idea how to make coffee. Not wanting to admit that I didn’t know how, I gave it my best shot and…let’s just say it didn’t go well. I almost broke the machine.

In the aftermath of the ordeal, my professor asked, “why didn’t you just say you didn’t know how?” That experience was a great learning lesson for me, and I’ve carried it with me since. If you don’t know how to do something, don’t be too proud to ask for help.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Glassdoor’s mission is to help people everywhere find a job and company they love. It’s so rewarding to work for a company that empowers employees and job seekers with insights and information that is not available anywhere else: millions of job listings, company reviews, CEO approval ratings, salary reports, benefit reviews and more.

My favorite moments are when people from all walks of life and career levels tell me how they used Glassdoor to propel their careers — whether it’s to prepare for an interview, evaluate a new job opportunity or compare salaries.

On the employer side, hearing how many companies depend on our reporting to measure employee sentiment and understand how to become a desired place to work validates the work we do and the impact we make everyday. There is real power in employee engagement.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I spend a lot of time thinking about the future of our customer-facing roles at Glassdoor, and how they can provide unique value in our market in the future.

The customer journey is rapidly evolving with increased transparency, automation and the consumerization of B2B. Part of our value system is to embrace a growth mindset. By thinking through what skills and capabilities our team needs to be successful now and in the future, I believe our people are one of our biggest competitive differentiators. This allows us to better support our customers and help them find informed, qualified candidates for their companies.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

I love the saying, “a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” I think part of my life’s purpose is to empower others to do their very best work. That empowerment can come in the form of something as simple as an affirmation to team members that you believe in them, they’re capable, and you trust them enough to take risks. Be generous with your time, your praise and your encouragement. Most of the time, that’s exactly what your team needs.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Trust your gut. It got you this far, most likely it will take you even farther. As a leader, the more your teams grow and your responsibility scales, the less feedback you get and the more you naturally start questioning your intuition. It’s an odd dichotomy — your influence grows but your guide posts get further and further away. Trust in your instincts that got you to where you are.

The second piece of advice I’d give is to find leaders for your team that you can count on and trust. That age old adage about only being as strong as your team is absolutely true.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are a handful of people who have played a meaningful role in my career development. Most importantly, I have wonderful parents who gave everything to ensure I had the right opportunities. Any small amount of success that I have experienced is a testament to their commitment, love and patience.

I’ve also been fortunate to have a few unofficial advisors that helped build my career. For example, early on in my career, a senior executive generously agreed to have breakfast with me every couple of months. We never had a formal agenda but I came with questions, he talked about what was happening in the business, and I learned a tremendous amount from him. That small investment of time meant a great deal to me; he was very influential in the early days of my career. I still apply a lot of the lessons I learned from him today.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As a woman in leadership, I’ve come to realize that young women need greater access to role models. I have great leaders in my organization, many of whom are women. Giving them opportunities to step up, take on new challenges, and thrive has been one of the great pleasures of my career.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Get clear on what you stand for and know who you are. Early on in my tenure at Glassdoor, a small group of us sat down to build a set of values for the sales organization. This was one of the most important steps — we were in hyper-growth mode and we knew it was time to codify who we wanted to be and how we would show up for our company, our people, and our customers.

2. Embrace a growth mindset and recognize that you’re always a student of the game. Maybe this is from my background as an athlete, but I believe that there’s always more to learn, understand and improve. This is particularly true for me right now; the HR technology space is changing rapidly and the media industry at large is in uncharted waters. If you aren’t humble enough to recognize that you need to evolve with and learn more about the nature of the changing tides, you’ll be left behind.

3. Work hard and prepare so you can be in a position to win. Sounds simple, but it isn’t always easy. I think part of my secret sauce has always been to go the extra mile. Whether it was climbing the ranks or being a leader, I’ve found that hard work leads to strong outcomes. Ultimately, that’s what matters and what personal brands are built on.

4. Do the right thing, even when no one is watching. At Glassdoor, we hold the integrity of our data very seriously and we work hard to make sure all the content on our platform is as reliable as possible, not because it’s required, but because it’s the right thing to do to encourage workplace transparency. We believe everyone has the right to access the most relevant information possible to make more informed decisions for their careers.

5. Believe in the power of teams. Growing up, I participated in a lot of team sports. These experiences helped me understand the importance and impact of putting the whole ahead of the individual in order to achieve. I think it’s more fun to be in it together, make each other better, and be able to count on each other. At Glassdoor, we call this “playing for the name on the front.” I’m always on the lookout for great collaborators who are passionate about our mission, and who are constantly looking for new ways to make us better.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Studies have shown that women who go on maternity leave or leave the office early for parental duties are passed over for raises and promotions because of time lost.

As a working mom of two, I can’t imagine not having my kids, or not having my career. Unfortunately there are still many women out there who think they can’t do both and need to unfairly pick one, out of fear of judgement. But why can’t women do both? Our country still has a long way to go before the stigma of being a working mom is removed, and I’d love to be able to support women like me more.

From a company perspective, the best way to get rid of this stigma is by instilling the importance of work-life integration in the company culture and having a generous maternity and paternity leave policy.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One message that’s really resonated with me comes from Billie Jean King, who said “pressure is a privilege.” As a type A character that does not like losing, I’ve often felt a fair amount of self-imposed pressure. But once I started shifting my mindset to thankfulness for that privilege, it produced some interesting results: I got out of my comfort zone, I forced myself to react authentically and I got better at dealing with whatever created that pressure to begin with.

I bring that mentality to my teams at Glassdoor. Every year, we have one quarter that has an outsized impact on our performance for the year. Every time we approach that period, I remind my teams that having the pressure to deliver is a privilege.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I’ve been following Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx. She somehow balances being a self-made billionaire, a philanthropist and a mother of four all at once.

What makes her so engaging and relatable is her commitment to authenticity. Her path to success was pretty unconventional and as far as I can tell, she isn’t trying to be anything she’s not. She’s a phenomenal role model and an example for women who are constantly pushing themselves to “have it all.” Sara, if you’re reading this, let’s set up a playdate with our kids some time.

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