As part of Primeast’s Women in Leadership series, we interviewed Nancy Mattenberger, Vice President for global consulting services at Infor, New York. Nancy shared with us her journey, the challenges she’s encountered as a female leader, and her tips for those looking to get to the top.
Primeast (P): Explain to us your current role and a bit about your team
Nancy Mattenberger (NM): I’m Vice President for consulting services at Infor, the world’s third largest business applications company, and lead a team of global consultants. Infor provides beautiful crafted software purpose built for specific industries and micro verticals to simplify the way companies work. To achieve this, we have set ourselves a course of disrupting the enterprise application business and we create compelling experiences for enterprise software users, going beyond just the usual look and feel. In fact, we have our own in-house design company in our headquarters in New York City and have been branded “the world’s largest start up”.
P: You didn’t start your career in technology, so tell us about your journey
NM: I started my life as a translator. I moved around a lot in my childhood and have lived in numerous countries. I speak a few different languages and decided to put them to good use, working as a translator in a major international organisation.
I soon got bored and realised that what I really enjoyed doing was managing a global workforce and the challenges that presented, from moving employees and their families from one country to another and ensuring they thrived and adapted to new cultures and environments. Consequently, I went into operational HR, working for a global packaging company with a large mobile workforce and enjoyed assisting staff and their families to move around the world, tapping into my own experience of relocating globally with my family as a child and then an adult. It was during this time that I got very interested in the PwC technology we were using daily to calculate taxes and compensation packages for expatriates and ultimately was offered a job at PwC. They needed someone who actually came from the HR industry, who would be credible in front of HR executives and who could manage an international team. So I moved to London, joined PwC and transitioned from a HR operational role to an IT management role, successfully managing a European team and increasing revenue numbers across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
From PwC I moved onto Australia and a job at Kronos, where I held a variety of roles in pre-sales, sales and consulting in the APAC region. I also helped Kronos launch brand new markets in China and India and successfully grow the company footprint across the whole of Asia Pacific for the next 8 years, it was an exciting time and I learnt a lot about launching, expanding and thriving in new markets. It was during this time that I had my first mentor who championed me and helped me grow tremendously in this new role.
I then moved to Oracle to run their Australian ERP consulting services practice and to find ways to compete against tough, low cost competition from offshore companies. I was successful in that role and increased the scope of my responsibilities, taking on the delivery practice of one of Oracle’s SaaS acquisitions and was instrumental in assisting with the transition of the business from a traditional on premise operation to a cloud focused delivery practice.
I enjoyed working for Oracle but wanted to go back to working for a company that was a true game-changer, in a high impact and high visibility position and so I joined Infor a year ago and took on a global position, for which I had to be based out of the US. I relocated to Florida for the outdoors’ lifestyle but commute to New York or to other States to see customers most weeks. It was a really successful move.
With 13,000 people around the globe, Infor could easily be a lumbering corporate giant but instead, it is branded the world’s largest start-up and it truly is! I really love the energy, enthusiasm and the willingness to take risks to be disruptive and innovative in the marketplace. It’s great to see a company of this size invest in its people and their ideas.
P: What are the main challenges you’ve faced?
NM: I started my career in a junior role and as I worked my way up the ladder I do remember some discussions along the way that were very meaningful. I think people are always trying to put you in a box and so I got a lot of people when I was trying to move from operational HR to IT saying “don’t move out of your lane, it’s not possible”. I even remember a significant conversation with a senior HR VP, who was a woman, saying that as women our careers are limited to female oriented roles such as HR, or being an airline hostess. I couldn’t believe I was hearing that kind of language coming out of the company’s most senior HR representative.
Despite claims that all careers are open to women and men, there is still a lot of discrimination in the marketplace and a belief that once you get stuck in one line of business you can’t move to another. I didn’t listen to what people said, moved industries, tried new things, moved countries, took risks and moved up the chain. For me that risk paid off but if I had listened to all the “no-sayers” along the way, I don’t think I would have gotten very far.
P: Did you notice different attitudes to women in different countries?
NM: Absolutely, some countries are more open to female leaders in the workplace however the Technology sector as a whole is still very much a male dominated industry and it’s harder for a woman to take on certain positions past the glass ceiling and when they do, there are lots of people watching and lots of critics, more than when a man takes the same position. I have found that it is often true what they say that men are judged on their potential whereas women are judged on what they have achieved.
P: How do you balance personal life with career?
NM: Despite the fact I don’t have children, it’s still a balance you have to make. My husband and I approach everything as a partnership. He has been one of my biggest fans along the way and it’s great to have that kind of support.
Every role I’ve taken we’ve talked about it and what it would mean to us. We’ve discussed what each role would mean in terms of travel frequency and my availability to do other things. We talk openly about the job’s constraints. Either he’s all in or we don’t do it. Otherwise it becomes an extra pressure that you have to deal with if your partner is not on board.
P: Have you ever needed flexible working or given it to other female team members?
NM: I’m very conscious of flexible working and the importance of fostering a positive environment where female – and male – team members can balance their work and family commitments. Many of the companies I have worked for supported flexible working environments and I’ve always tried to make certain accommodations for staff to do more work from home or facilitate moving staff into different roles with less travel or less extended hours when their circumstances required it. We are always conscious of giving people with young families more family time and more time off the road. It takes a little bit of juggling and it’s not always perfect but I try to make it happen otherwise those people end up leaving the company and you lose talent.
P: What are your top tips for women who are aspiring leaders?
NM: No matter what stage of your career, embrace mentorship opportunities, whether it is internally or externally. Outgrowing mentors can happen very fast and is a normal process. I connected with lots of people along the way and the value I got from my mentors was new skills, more confidence, networking and new job opportunities. My external mentors helped me challenge my assumptions and got me thinking about opportunities in a totally different direction. It’s easy to get stuck thinking in the same old way and you need to make sure you surround yourself with people who will continually challenge you and question your thinking.
Also, know who you are and what values you stand for and don’t let others talk you out of it. I learnt the hard way that it’s not worth landing that big job if the company culture isn’t the right fit and you need to work in an environment that goes against your personal values. So make sure you chose the right corporate culture fit in a company that is genuinely supportive of its women leaders.
Think long-term. It was a real eye opener for me talking to a careers executive coach a few years ago who got me thinking about not just the next two years but the next ten or fifteen years. She pushed me to think about what I would want to be doing after my corporate career which got me interested in building up my company Board experience. I then attended a course to be certified as a non-executive director and landed my first board position as a non-executive director in a small start-up and am now well on my way to building some valuable board experience.
It’s also important to talk to the next generation and let girls know they can do anything they put their mind to. In Australia I used to participate in an initiative that was aimed at high school teenage girls to educate them on careers in IT and it was sponsored by Oracle. We would have these 14-15 year old teenagers come in and they would say things like “it’s not cool to be a geek” and “a woman needs to be sexy and have a sexy career”. We would really try to talk to them at their level and let them know that technology can be cool: you can move around the world, you meet a lot of great people and as a woman you can achieve great things.
P: What does the future hold for you?
NM: I am fascinated by the complexity of managing global operations; I understand different cultures intimately and have done business around the world. I would like to continue working for Global companies and become a CEO someday for an international company. I would also like to continue down the non-executive director path and sit on different boards, do charity work and continue to contribute and give back to the community, as I think I get as much satisfaction out of that as I do in my corporate career.
Lots of women don’t know about board opportunities or underestimate their ability to participate or give advice as a board advisor. By sitting on a charity’s board you can help thousands of people by giving that organisation better advice about how to run their company as opposed to helping just a few people when you volunteer at your local charity – you can make so much more of an impact in the world.
Infor is a leading provider of business application software helping 73,000 customers in more than 200 countries and territories improve operations, drive growth, and quickly adapt to changes in business demands.
For more inspiration from women in leadership, see the interviews with “Women in Leadership interview, Andrea Cartwright, group HR director for Supergroup” and Pauline Yau, Director of Central Government for Microsoft UK’,