Ep 47: Jenny Coupe: Adaptability Personified

Diva Tech Talk was happy to interview Jenny Coupe, Senior Director, Americas Marketing at Akamai Technologies (www.akamai.com).  Jenny began life as an “Army brat” which meant that she moved 22 times in 18 years, forcing her to quickly adapt to new people, new circumstances and new venues. Constantly “exposed to different cultures, where gender was not a big deal,” Jenny’s father, an Army judge, encouraged her to “be who I wanted to be, irrespective of gender.”  In 5th grade, as an example, after Jenny had qualified to be part of her school’s baseball team, but denied team membership because she was female, her father said “Well, that’s not acceptable!” He intervened to ensure that Jenny joyfully played on that team as the singular girl ---- which made Jenny the first girl in the state of Virginia to play on a grade school baseball team.  To Jenny, “this sort of shaped me, in terms of how I approached the rest of my life.”

Jenny moved to Silicon Valley where she had family, and graduated from The University of the Pacific with a major in Political Science and Philosophy, but “was not really sure what I wanted to do.” She began with an entry-level position at tech industry giant, Silicon Graphics Inc. (www.silicongraphics.com), which she characterizes as having a “gender-blind culture.”  Jenny loved the Silicon Valley culture, “everything from casual dress to ‘gender-blind’ career opportunities to everyone having a ‘seat at the table’ and everyone’s opinion valued.”  She credits her “fantastic boss” during her first 6 years at SGI as instrumental in the development of her career, and skillset. At SGI, she moved into marketing, with the encouragement of her boss, who she then followed to healthcare technology pioneer WebMD (www.webmd.com), where she was employee #10.  There she mightily contributed as Director, Worldwide Corporate Marketing, as part of the team that took WebMD to IPO status. 

From WebMD, Jenny’s career grew exponentially. That early experience and her childhood of swift adaptation has afforded Jenny the opportunities to be Senior Manager, Worldwide Marketing at Peakstone Corporation; Senior Manager, Worldwide Marketing at IBM Corporation (www.ibm.com); Senior Manager, Worldwide Marketing at AirMagnet Inc., acquired by Fluke Networks (www.fluke.com); Senior Director, Worldwide Marketing at AirTight Networks Inc. (www.mojonetworks.com); Director, Worldwide Marketing at Nimsoft, acquired by CA Technologies (www.ca.com); Director, Worldwide Marketing at LogicLogic, acquired by TIBCO (www.tibco.com); Senior Director, Worldwide Marketing and Demand Generation at Nexenta (www.nexenta.com); and Senior Director, Worldwide Demand Generation and Marketing Operations at Tegile Corporation (www.tegile.com).  After Tegile, she migrated to becoming Vice President of Customer Acquisition at Soasta, Inc. now acquired by Akamai.

Jenny’s robust marketing career has also earned her many awards including the distinction of being named by Engagio to the list of the TOP 50 WOMEN IN REVENUE YOU SHOULD KNOW. And knowing Jenny is a revelation.  “The number one value I bring to the table is hustle,” she said. “I hustle 24 x 7. I think because I’ve done so many different types of roles, it has exposed me to a lot of different types of businesses. I come to the table with ‘been there, done that.’  I can come in, assimilate quickly, assess the situation, figure out what to do and what not to do. “

One of Jenny’s favorite quotes is from Sir Richard Branson: “If you get offered a job, but you’re not really sure how you are going to do it, just take it.  Figure out what you need to do, later.”  Jenny also values long personal career relationships highly. “The trust factor has allowed me to take risks that I might not normally take.”  Jenny concedes that she “tends to be attracted to ‘high risk/high reward’ situations. I think you should trust your gut. It all boils back down to personal relationships, and the trust factor that is going to make or break your job.”

As a technology marketing expert, Jenny says that the world of tech marketing has “certainly changed a lot” from the beginning of her career until now.  She sees the role of marketing in technology organizations as evolved from being a “soft skill” (“providing air cover, brand marketing” but nothing measurable) to one that has a “science behind everything that you are doing. You can now tie everything back to the business.”  She characterizes marketers as now being data scientists, which requires “marketing to be much more disciplined, more data-driven.”  Jenny is ecstatic about this since “it has allowed marketing to have a much more important ‘seat at the table,’ and much more input on the sales and marketing strategy.”  She is also an advocate for very closely aligning sales and marketing at every turn.  She discussed CRM tools, paid search tools, digital advertising, and the convergence of the “tech stack” as part and parcel of the marketer’s toolkit.

Seasoned leader Jenny is a big believer in diverse teams.  “I really encourage folks to build teams that are different ages, different genders, different cultures,” she said.  Jenny is highly enthused that Akamai Technologies “has a strong philosophy of just listening. I think leaders have to be open to new ideas, and have to be willing to change if that is what’s best for the business.”  One of Jenny’s favorite quotes comes from Silicon Valley veteran, Jim Clark: “Religion is death in a startup.”  In other words, “if you are wedded to one idea, and one way of doing things, you are not going to grow ---- as a business, or as an individual.”

Jenny recommends THE NEW MARKETING ALIGNMENT as a book that would be one of the ”important reads for anyone in sales or marketing,” and is also an inveterate reader of FAST COMPANY and INC. magazines.   “Everyone is learning lessons, regardless of who they are, what they are, and what they are doing.”  Jenny’s other great lesson is “Don’t forget to have fun.  Don’t be afraid to try it.  Try to minimize your regrets!”

Please feel free to contact at jennycoupe@me.com and on Twitter at @jennycoupe.  

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