Driving Change with Catherine Blackmore

In this episode of The B2B Leadership Podcast, best-selling author and leadership coach Nils Vinje speaks with Catherine Blackmore, GVP NAA of Customer Success & Renewals at Oracle.
In this episode...

0:42 - Catherine's background - Catherine kicks off the podcast by outlining her role today, who she's working for, and what type of work she's involved with.
3:24 - Management at scale - What kind of philosophy goes into one of the world's largest software companies? Customers are often not just buying a single solution.
5:21 - First-time leadership opportunity - Catherine considers her background to not be traditional for technology, but the early days of the Cloud played a role.
7:35 - Why the transition? - What prompted a shift into the technology industry from a different industry in which Catherine was already successful?
12:53 - Concentrated leadership development - What's an effective way to build and manage a new leader, since there's not a lot of effort put into properly getting people started in their roles?
16:50 - How do you successfully transition? - A lot of people, for some reason or another, would love to make the transition from whatever they are currently doing into the field of software or technology.
19:44 - The common thread of leadership - The important piece elaborated on here is allyship, which is a continual investment of time in supporting and amplifying smaller voices, and sharing the benefits of your position with others around you.
22:52 - Planning for the future - How far into the future should you look when you're thinking about talent development?
27:26 - Walking into a newer, bigger challenge - Catherine explains the challenge of reconciling the customer success model at Oracle after they acquired five companies, unifying their culture, mantras, and goals.
33:09 - Other roles and responsibilities within Oracle - Catherine documents her progression within Oracle and how she evolved moving into new roles, from a leadership perspective.
37:17 - Advice from one leader to another - What advice would Catherine give to another leader regardless of their organization?
 
Connect with Catherine Blackmore: https://www.linkedin.com/in/catherineblackmore/
 
Learn more about your own leadership style at: https://www.30dayleadership.com/
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Driving change is not an easy task but it is something that you can definitely do.

In this episode, we have Catherine Blackmore to share her thoughts on driving change from a leadership perspective.

Continue reading to know more about her leadership experience, challenges, and expertise.

Catherine's background

Catherine Blackmore is the Group Vice President of Customer Success at Oracle.

She is responsible for ensuring the success and satisfaction of their SaaS customers in North America.

She is also responsible for the consistent delivery of customer success and service to their global customers according to Oracle's standards.

Management at scale

Oracle is a very large organization. There are thousands of customers all over the world and they're not just buying a single solution. To be able to manage this size and scale of customers, their systems have to understand the products that they're running and operating.

The leaders have to understand what they're up against in terms of business challenges. They have to maintain the promise of product understanding across their organization. CSMs have been assigned across all regions to be able to deliver customer success consistently by understanding what their customers are trying to accomplish.

The customer success executive-level role has been introduced to take care of some of the largest and more complex customers to ensure that Oracle is delivering the promise of a consistent customer experience.

First-time leadership opportunity

Catherine considers her background to be untraditional for technology. She spent the early years of her career in Consumer Packaged Goods.

She was recruited into the management development track in a Consumer Packaged Goods company after college. She was only starting her career when she was given training and sponsorship to become a future manager in that transforming industry.

Throughout her career, she learned a lot about what they were trying to accomplish within a supply chain transformation and the importance of being a data-driven person.

Catherine's first management role wasn't a people role. She was coordinating analytics across their organization. As she was looking at opportunities within that company she was working with, she found out she needed to have mentors and sponsors who can help her move beyond the analyst role to get into a people management position.

She started building her network and met their regional vice president who was super keen on bringing young talent to develop them for the future.

Catherine started off with managing their summer interns as her first people management role then, later on, managed a cross-functional team.

It's important to have a mentor who has the patience and willingness to invest his/her time to develop you as a leader.

Why the transition?

Catherine had a great career in Consumer Packaged Goods and things were going well, but the last responsibility she had in CPG which was taking care of their entire Costco business globally, changed her mindset.

She learned so much about what Costco was trying to do as a business and that made her think, "Maybe there's a new career for me outside of this." This opened a new door for Catherine and she began her transition into the technology industry.

Concentrated leadership development

The approach of their regional vice president where there is a concerted plan to develop leaders in the fast-paced world that we all live in does not come up very often.

What do you think was the source of that?

Catherine said it's part of who he is as an individual. He's paying it forward in terms of the organization that he wants to develop for the future. His philosophy was to hire people that he could maximize their individual potential in two to five years without trying to keep them.

You have to spend a lot of time grooming people to become good leaders. You should not push people in a manager job because they were great individual contributors. Give people time to be able to develop towards the future.

Catherine thinks this is a call to action for all of the people at software. The industries that have been around longer than software went through all these pains 100 years ago trying to elevate, learn and evolve.

How do you successfully transition?

It is important to have someone that believes in you and pushes you to do things greater than what you think you're capable of.

A lot of people, for some reason or another, wanted to make the transition from whatever they are currently doing into the field of software or technology.

Catherine's regional vice president back then who mentored her in that first leadership assignment saw that she was capable of doing more than what she saw in herself because he had been there. He had seen other people and he had perspective.

That experience helped her decide what she wanted to do next and what pushed her to make the transition was another leader who she got to know and was also willing to invest in developing her as a leader, the CEO of Jigsaw.

The common thread of leadership

Catherine said one of the most important elements in leadership is allyship, a continual investment of time in supporting and amplifying smaller voices, and sharing the benefits of your position with others around you. This had a transformational impact on her career.

As leaders, you have to challenge yourselves to give your people the opportunity to be able to build their own personal brand and be able to be visible to help grow their careers.

Planning for the future

How far into the future should you look when you're thinking about talent development?

With the speed of change, you need to have the ability to look in different ways because you don't know what technology is going to be needed.

Catherine thinks that in the next two years, the future is more proactive than it is today. The tasks and things people do today need to become more automated to up-level themselves, not to replace the work they're doing.

Invest in people to make sure that they can take insights to be more data-driven as they think analytically about the business that the customers are working with.

As leaders, you need a framework to be able to execute against your real people-roadmap and make sure that you are holding yourselves accountable to deliver against this promise of being people-centric.

Walking into a newer, bigger challenge

When Catherine joined Oracle, she faced a big leadership challenge in forming Oracle Marketing Cloud where she had to reconcile five different customer success models from five different companies that have their own mantra, culture, and goals.

How did she get everybody aligned to that?

She had to establish the purpose of the marketing cloud. Once that purpose was nailed, everything else then became clear.

Other roles and responsibilities within Oracle

How did Catherine evolve as she moved into new roles within Oracle, from a leadership perspective?

Catherine thinks living in the future is exciting. The tough stuff is around change management of getting everybody to join you on this road to the future and not everybody's going to be there for every twist and turn.

Transformational change is not easy. You have to always be in an agile state because you're going to be making modifications to serve the needs of your customers. However, if you have a purpose and a mission of what you're trying to accomplish which serves as your North star, it will help in your journey.

As leaders, you have to consider and understand the way how your people consume change. Try to figure out how to make it easier for them as you're driving change. Not everybody consumes change the same way but it is important to know that's a huge part of what you as a leader, driving these types of huge charters, have to be thinking about.

Advice from one leader to another

What advice would Catherine give to another leader regardless of their organization?

Catherine said skillset is key. As leaders, you need to realize that driving change doesn't mean, you're going to change the people, and you're going to change what you own and what you're going to control.

It's knowing how to execute and get things done with teams that don't work for you, and knowing how to work with different organizations and help them see your charter and have it be a part of their charter.

It's not easy to do, but it is something that can be done and you have to figure out how to develop skills there because more often than not, you're measured by what you can accomplish.

The skillset is of paramount importance to your ability to succeed as a leader in the future because things are just going to get more complicated.

If you are someone who's trying to level up your leadership career, take control of your future. You can control the outcomes. It doesn't matter who you're working for. It's about not falling victim to your circumstance but really seeing that you have the power to do something about it. You have the power to change. You have the power to grow.

Seek mentors that you can call your own personal board of directors. Think about the people who are going to push you out of your comfort zone. People who will believe in you and will make you do bigger things than you're doing today. People that will challenge you and will set you up for success.

You've got the power to do something about it. Take advantage of that power. Start interviewing your own personal board of directors. That team is going to help you develop for your next job or even future jobs down the road.

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