Putting People First: Why I joined Sigma
Cristina Bravo Olmo
VP Marketing, Sigma
Just hear the guy out, I thought while waiting at The Grove Yerba Buena.
I’d made several attempts to cancel this morning’s chat about a prospective VP of Marketing role at a company called Sigma Computing. After all, I’d only been in my current role for a year. But the persistence of their President, Ryan Ried, as well as Dan Marr from Daversa Partners ultimately won out.
My interest was further piqued as I researched the company in preparation for the meeting. I loved that Sigma’s mission is to bring analytics to the masses with no code, cloud-based data visualization. They have amazing partners like Snowflake, Amazon RedShift, Google BigQuery, and Fivetran. Their board of directors and executive team are a who’s who of successful tech leaders, and they’ve received ample funding from some of the industry’s top investors.
The business opportunity was a no brainer—but that’s not what sold me.
The human factor
I came to my conversation with Ryan armed with the typical questions around market fit, competitor landscape, and exit strategy. Ryan, however, asked me about my family, how I personally define success, and where I grew up.
In other words, he asked me all the questions you’re not supposed to.
A pattern emerged as I did my due diligence throughout my interview cycle. During my conversation with Sutter Hill Ventures and Sigma board member Mike Speiser, we talked about everything from the tough lessons he learned early in his career to balancing love and marriage while raising babies.
When I spoke with Sigma’s co-founders, Rob Woollen and Jason Frantz, they shared with me that they built Sigma on the premise that people are naturally smart, they just need the right technology to unlock the information they need to do their best work.
One question I ask during these conversations is: When the team is faced with a difficult problem and multiple solutions, how do they determine which path to take? The answer to this question reveals a lot about a company’s culture and values. Each time I asked this question during my Sigma conversations, the answer was the same: Choose the path that’s best for the customer.
Everything about Sigma—the product, its leaders, and my interview experience—was surprisingly and refreshingly human.
From helping people do their best work to putting customers first to making an effort to know me as a person, everything about Sigma—the product, its leaders, and my interview experience—was surprisingly and refreshingly human.
People first, team members second
Being an empathetic and approachable leader is always among my top priorities. No matter our title or tenure, we’re all people first and team members second. Failure to recognize and connect with team members as human beings — not just employees — is a recipe for an unengaged, anxiety-ridden, high-turnover culture.
Unfortunately, the true meaning and impact of culture is often disregarded or overlooked in today’s Silicon Valley tech race. Give workers free lunch, install a couple ping pong tables, and voilà! Too many companies treat employees as faceless, interchangeable cogs in a wheel—bodies that are easily disposed of and quickly replaced.
What these companies fail to realize is not only are they hurting their workforce, but they’re also hurting their customers and their potential for success.
In the famous words of Peter Drucker, culture eats strategy for breakfast.
Plenty of studies have emerged over the last several years showing the benefits of cultivating a people-first company culture. Back in 2013, the Harvard Business Review partnered with The Energy Project and discovered that employees are most satisfied at work when four core needs are met: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Fulfilling these needs drives engagement, reduces stress, and improves retention.
Fast forward to 2018, and Gallup’s most recent annual employee engagement report found that companies in the top quartile of engagement achieve deeper customer engagement, greater productivity, and 21% higher profitability when compared to companies in the bottom quartile.
Moral of the story? Companies need to treat their workforces as people first and team members second. Meeting their most human needs, like those for flexibility, purpose, and connection inspires them to do their best, most innovative work. This creates a healthier and more fulfilling work culture, which translates to more successful teams and happier customers.
Sigma gets it and I couldn’t be more excited to be part of a company puts people at the core of everything they do.
Leading with heart
Two weeks into my time at Sigma, I’m happy to report that the company is living up to its values. Despite the need to hit our targets and continue to build on an already great product, Sigma was more concerned about supporting team members faced with potential long-term power outages due to PG&E’s public safety power shutoff. Leadership was quick to not only offer greater work flexibility to those impacted, but also financial assistance to relocate their families temporarily.
The company also supports employees by taking part in personal passion projects that give back to struggling communities. The message being: If it’s important to you, it’s important to us.
I’m both very proud and extremely humbled to be part of a company that leads with heart, and whose center of gravity I firmly believe in and aligns perfectly with my natural leadership style. I encourage you to take a step back and ask yourself: Is your company invested in you, your colleagues, and your customers as whole people? Do you believe in your company’s center of gravity? Are you doing your best work?
If you find you don’t like your answers, shoot me a message. Sigma’s hiring!
Cristina Bravo Olmo
Cristina has 15 years of B2B marketing leadership experience, having shaped strategy and execution for some of the most successful brands in tech, including Zendesk, Marketo, Wrike and Trend Micro.
Cristina loves using her powers of marketing to help people find their inner nerd.