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The Non-Technical Skills Needed to be an Effective RevOps Leader (with Mallory Lee of Nylas)

Marketing is one of the keys to reaching potential customers and boosting sales. That’s why investing in a great marketing strategy designed by experts will help you get ahead of the competition. How can you use marketing to open up more opportunities for your business? 


In this episode, we have Mallory Lee as our guest. Mallory was a former Marketing Budget and Operations Manager at ExactTarget and the current Operation Vice President of Nylas. With a wealth of experience across both Revenue and Business Operations, she effortlessly juggles leadership duties between the two.


Mallory shares her experiences of learning and improving in marketing analytics and operations. She also shares tips on how to be efficient in marketing, including working in teams, hiring better people, and many more!

01:16    Mallory’s introduction to ExactTarget 8 days after graduation

09:10   How motivation can impact your decision making

10:31    The effect of big brands in giving you a list of opportunities 

14:37   Why Mallory prefers working with marketing teams over solo work

24:04  The importance of hiring the right people to specialize in a certain area 

26:00   How better communication with the sales team can result to a better performance

27:30   The need for higher EQ to become an effective leader

28:25   What prompted Mallory to join Terminus

45:21   Introduction to Nylas

Malory Lee: 20:07

I definitely think that there's a time and a place to just make a big change quickly and like fail fast as they say. But I think one big part of my job in operations is to help people slow down. And it's counterintuitive because I myself don't even love slowing down. You know, like I have to fight the urge myself all the time. But one thing that I've noticed in startups is that we make a lot of changes all at once. We love to do that. So it's the start of a quarter or the start of the year, we're not gonna change just one thing. We're gonna change like eight things, and then we're gonna try to see if we've completely, you know, fixed it all. And that's hard because it's not easy to isolate which change led to the outcome. And so I've struggled with that and I don't have the best approach or the best answer because it's never possible to, you know, literally change only one thing at a time ever. But as much as we can test ahead and try to isolate the big changes and give things time to work, you know, that's really important. So I do try to encourage people to give things time to work. And sometimes I'm successful in that, sometimes I'm not. But it's definitely something that it just makes your measurement harder if you're not giving something time to pay off and show up in your results.

Grayson Faircloth: 21:28

Totally. Okay, and then, so backing up a step, you mentioned Bluebridge. Could you share a little background on them?

Malory Lee: 21:36

Yeah, yeah, so that was my first role where I was leading a marketing team all by myself. I was like the VP of marketing and that was my first time being on the sort of executive staff at the company. So that was a really cool experience for me. Taught me a lot about leadership and being part of an exec team. And that company was based out of Fisher's, Santiago Jaramillo was the CEO and it was a mobile app company. So he created these mobile apps for the Super Bowl when it was in Indianapolis, and they just took off and so turned it into a company and had a lot of fun there for I don't know, at least maybe a year and a half I would say. Then we had our first kid and I decided to stay home with him after that.

Grayson Faircloth: 22:26

That's awesome. And so you took that step kind of from marketing operations to like that VP of marketing was what you said, correct?

Malory Lee: 22:35

Yes. Yes.

Grayson Faircloth: 22:36

And then what kind of change? I often like, think the operations people are very well suited for like a leadership role like that, but I'm sure there's extra things that maybe a marketer that started their career, you know, somewhere else might have been doing differently. Like, how would you kind of describe like the skillsets or like the transition between marketing operations to VP of marketing?

Malory Lee: 22:58

Yeah, I know that it's, it was a big change I remember that. But I was still very data-driven in the way that I approached the decision-making process for the team. So I think that added a layer that worked really well for us. I was not your, you know, highly creative VP of marketing. I was much more of like a demand gen, data-driven VP of marketing. And our CEO, Santiago had a very strong brand especially around, you know, Indianapolis and the tourism space. And so we benefited from that and the branding was not really our biggest focus at the time. It was, you know, demand generation, getting the SDR engine going. So I think I was well suited then to step up into that kind of role. But I learned a lot about leadership and a lot about delegation because I couldn't do the designs myself. I didn't do the writing myself. I had to leave that to the team, and they were way more equipped to do all of those things than me. So it was a good time for me to understand what it means to hire good people that are better than you at something and have them go be specialists in that area. And then try to provide guidance on what's working, what's not, what kind of strategy do we wanna use, where do we wanna spend our budget? And then staying really connected at that executive level with the rest of the leaders of the other departments.

Grayson Faircloth: 24:26

And I'm interested and then maybe they're slightly different scenarios, so maybe we can't really compare the two, but in terms of like ability to just sway decision making as an operations person, so as you're an operations person, you know, maybe look at the data, tells you one thing, but you need to go get buy-in. Was that typical or how did that differ I guess, from you know, you being the VP, like was buy-in just kind of like assumed because you were the VP or did you still have to kind of like bring that up and get group buy-in on certain ideas and projects?

Malory Lee: 25:01

I would say certain ideas. I really wanted to make sure that Santiago's bought in as our CEO and as a big part of the brand. But I mostly had, you know, the freedom to make those decisions. And I would say I also wanted to make sure that the team was bought in as well. Because I think people are going to do much better work when they agree with, you know, the decision process behind what the work is that they're doing. So I focused a lot on maybe the downward buy-in instead of like the upward buy-in because I do think there was a lot of trust on that executive team to, you know, go and make decisions for your own department.

Grayson Faircloth: 25:42

And was there anything that you found worked particularly well when it comes to just like getting your team underneath you bought in and kind of like moving on in the same direction?

Malory Lee: 25:51

Yes. I think with any kind of buy-in, you just need to explain the context and you need to [00:25:00] explain why. So even today, if I'm rolling out changes to the sales team, I always wanna tell them why. Here's what we're doing. Here's why we're doing it. Here's how this helps you and your job. Here's how it helps the business. People need that context, and if they can see the path that led you to a decision, then I think they're more likely to agree with it and buy in and more willing to help you in a sense. Because if you've got an objective you're trying to accomplish and you can't do it on your own, people are coming in and performing their roles. You know, they're helping you bring that idea to life and so you need to be the kind of person that people wanna help, and you need to be the kind of person that, you know, can articulate what those thoughts were and what the decision-making process was.

Grayson Faircloth: 26:44

And I'm just interested if you've not, maybe not ran into specific people, but operations people might not typically be that person who's able to go and kind of explain that in a nice way and get that. Have you ever ran into kind of like those types of, not like people, but what would you recommend to like those types of people in terms of, you know, maybe they're super smart, but if they can't get buy in, like the idea's not going anywhere, like any thoughts around that?

Malory Lee: 27:12

Yeah, I mean, it's tough. I think my only answer to those people is that if they want to grow into a leadership role, they have to figure it out. If you don't, you can still be super successful, but you're not going to be leading the team. Because you really have to have that like higher eq, I think to become a leader in operations, to get that consensus and do the buy-in and figure out. First of all, who needs to have the buy-in, like whose decision is it back to the responsibility versus accountability and consulting, who needs to provide the buy-in and the approval, and then how do you go get it? If you don't have that, I just don't see a great opportunity for leading a team there, because you won't be effective at getting things over the finish line.

Grayson Faircloth: 28:03

Yeah, I think it's probably a common problem, but yeah, definitely super important in my opinion as well. And then moving on to, so you went from Bluebridge, then you, I guess fast forwarding a little bit went to Terminus. What kind of made you, you know, choose Terminus? What led you there?

Malory Lee: 28:20

Yeah, Terminus was, it was the second time that I came out of, quote-unquote, like staying home into a full-time role. So I did this back and forth a little bit. I would stay home with the kids and do consulting part-time, and then inevitably the consulting client would want to hire me and I couldn't say no. And so, I was first consulting with Terminus before I started working there. I really went there because you know, the former ExactTarget CMO, Tim Kopp, was becoming the CEO at Terminus. And so I wanted to work with him and support him, and so I followed him there.

Grayson Faircloth: 28:57

So you'd moved from operations to like VP of marketing and this was supposed to be like a dedicated like operations and I believe turned into like your first revenue operations role, was that correct?

Malory Lee: 29:09

Yes. Yeah.

Grayson Faircloth: 29:10

Was that kind of like by design, like you really wanted to get back into the operations like weeds or was it more just like that was, what was the need at the company at the time? How did you come towards going back to operations?

Malory Lee: 29:22

Well, so I joined Terminus as kind of an analyst. Like I was just an individual contributor, running numbers, helping with the sales pipeline, you know, kind of being deployed where the issues were. And I was perfectly content with that because I had a small baby. I wasn't trying to, you know, overdo it if you will at the time. So I had these grand ideas about being an individual contributor again. And you know, to your point, it just didn't meet the needs of the business at the time. So what we ended up doing was separating our sales enablement function and our revenue operations function. And at one point we had a super strong leader over both, but she just needed that time to focus on enablement so they asked me to lead revenue operations, you know, kind of alongside her. And it worked out really well. It wasn't expected, so it wasn't the design that we all had in mind, but of course, I'm happy it turned out that way because, you know, I found a brand new passion and a brand new field that, you know, grew very quickly. So it worked out for the best, but it was really just us reacting to the needs of the business and the needs of the team.

Grayson Faircloth: 30:36

And I'm interested with like revenue operations being a fairly new past like five, 10 years role. What was the kind of like internal discussion back then in terms of what are we going to call this? Or was it even called revenue operations back then? Or did you kind of like back title at the time? Like tell me about like this move into revenue operations for Terminus?

Malory Lee: 31:00

Yeah. I'll actually go one step back if that's okay.

Grayson Faircloth: 31:03

Yeah, yeah.

Malory Lee: 31:04

So at Cheetah Digital, that was the first time that I got exposed to the word revenue operations. And so this was probably in, I don't know, 2017, 2018, and it was brand new. And I was leading marketing operations, but all of a sudden we had this revenue operations team that was uniting under sales. I was like, huh, what is this? And I was resistant to moving marketing operations under revenue operations at the time because I had my own team of like six people. You know what I mean? So I wasn't sure how that was gonna work. And I was under the marketing umbrella and I was just comfortable there. So I knew what revenue ops was because of the way that it worked at Cheetah, and we did collaborate with that team. We had weekly pipeline meetings with that team and stayed connected as best as possible. But fast forward to Terminus, when I got there, they were already doing a centralized revenue operations model.

Grayson Faircloth: 32:01


Malory Lee: 32:02

And the only team that was not in that centralized function was customer success operation. There was one person on the CS team that was doing customer success ops. And so I was lucky enough to inherit the centralized model. They already called it rev ops. It already reported to the CFO, so it's a very like objective place for it to live in the hierarchy. And so I didn't have to make any of those arguments luckily, and everybody was already really bought in on the importance of, you know, the function itself. So I benefited from that quite a bit. I didn't have to go and like plant a flag and say rev ops should be our thing.

Grayson Faircloth: 32:41


Malory Lee: 32:42

So I'm grateful for that.

Grayson Faircloth: 32:44

And do you remember like who got that set up? Or did you ever learn like who was the person that did plant that flag at Terminus? Or how did they choose to to get involved with like rev ops?

Malory Lee: 32:56

Yeah, that's a great question. I don't know the exact answer to that, but I think at the time that I joined, our CFO was a woman named Kathy. And so I suspect it was probably part of her, you know, charter at the time. Even at that point when I joined Revenue Operations at Terminus was much more about managing Salesforce.

Grayson Faircloth: 33:16


Malory Lee: 33:16

And you know, of course, helping the sales team, but there wasn't a big marketing operations function and customer success ops was still separate. So, I think when I took it over and we started to work through some of the details, that was the time that we integrated CS Ops under the umbrella, hired specifically for marketing operations. Those were still some changes that we made and we turned into these like business partners with the departments. And it kind of went beyond, you know, managing the sales force and managing all of the administration and deal desk responsibilities. So, we still changed it up a little bit, but luckily I just didn't have to fight very hard to get it going.

Grayson Faircloth: 33:56

And what was kind of like the breakdown of, you know, responsibilities and stuff like that in a rev op team at a, what was Terminus was probably about 200 employees at the time or was it a little larger?

Malory Lee: 34:08

Yeah, I think about 200 is accurate.

Grayson Faircloth: 34:10


Malory Lee: 34:11

I think about Rev op in three you know, kind of functions, if you will. So the first is managing all of the technology that the teams are using. That's really kind of like Salesforce at the center and all the things that are connected. So that's one big component. And then I think the real reason to use technology is to get more efficient in your process and to create data that you can use to get better. So the data and measurement and analysis aspect is the other, you know, like the second pillar, if you will, of revenue operations. And if you're not using your tools correctly, you're not gonna get that data that you need on the outset to go and create insights to help inform your strategies. And so if you imagine like, on the left, you've got the tech. On the right, you've got the analysis and the insights. In the middle, you have these people that are the business partners, the revenue operations managers that are helping to create that cycle of taking the data, understanding what it says, creating insights, informing the strategy, changing things, you know, getting that change management supported and then whatever you do to change your process, it feeds right back into that technology. I think that when you do it well, you're kind of creating this cycle where you've got someone helping you take the insights, change the tech, change the strategy, change the process, and if you're doing that in isolation, you're just kind of like you know stuck in your own world, not thinking about how your changes impact the rest of the business. And that's what I love about revenue operations is that if you are unified and you've got business partners coming together to talk about the business as a whole, you can stay in front of the way that changes impact other departments. You can make certain changes simultaneously so that you're not accidentally, you know, doing things out of order in a way that confuses the business. You can group things together and do a big sprint that's focused on you know, a theme that's cross-departmental. So, I'm a big fan of that model. I think it works well when you have people responsible for each pillar.

Grayson Faircloth: 36:22

Okay. And so you mentioned this idea of sprints and kind of like cross-departmental themes stuff like that. Are there other like core things that you think work really well as sort of like either cadences or just activities that if you came into a rev op organization and that didn't already exist, you'd be like, okay, first thing you gotta do is X, Y, and Z type of situation. Are there any things like that, that are super just core to a successful rev ops function that you've seen or that you would maybe hypothesize would be the best?

Malory Lee: 36:53

Yeah, there's definitely a core playbook that I bring probably almost everywhere that I would go. I do think you'll hear a lot of people call it a revenue operations cadence. At this point, I think that I would also like to really make sure that it encompasses business operations too, so I think it's a little bit more of like an operating model. But you basically need to help the business have a good understanding of what they can expect in terms of communications and meetings and insights that are getting delivered at a certain time to help them understand how the business is doing. So, you know, we do like a weekly pipeline council meeting. Everybody knows that that's the time during the week that they're gonna come together to learn about the state of the pipeline and talk about demand gen. And it's a cross-departmental you know, meeting where marketing and sales and partners and whoever are coming to the table to improve the way that we're doing demand generation. And when people start to rely on that meeting, they start to expect, okay, I know that once a week I'm focused on these things. Something simple like dashboards that are automatically delivered to people every Friday, showing them how the week has gone, that's a cadence that you can get people into where you're asking them to review certain pieces of information at certain times. And of course, it's also available on demand, but if your leaders know that every Friday afternoon I need to look back at how my week went, that's a great way to create that predictability and make sure that you're doing, you know, kind of that data-driven decision-making process across the team. I think it extends to quarterly business reviews and planning OKRs and just making sure that you are creating, you know, thoughtful approaches to the way that you're rolling out change.

Grayson Faircloth: 38:40

And I'm interested kind of back into the realm of, you know, important themes and kind of topics in rev ops, but also in terms of buy-in. Sometimes it feels like you know the leader of a certain department wants to be responsible for their own like operations and say, oh, okay, we want to do it X, Y, Z way. How do you kind of handle that in terms of, okay, you know, maybe this is how you want to do it, but this is like the better way. How does that kind of work being like a centralized rev op function where you're supposed to be like a strategic advisor, but some people kind of like try to go and do things like their way or the way that they've done it at previous companies. Like how do you kind of bring that together?

Malory Lee: 39:21

Well, first you have to keep in mind that in the realm of responsible versus accountable, that leader is accountable for their functions to like performance, right? So I'm not the CRO and it's important for me to remember that and understand that, and I can never be a blocker to the way that my CRO wants to sell. Because he's accountable for sales and what happens there. So every once in a while, I think that operations teams need to like, get real and understand that. It's like, yes, we're guiding you. Yes, we're giving advice. Yes, we're helping you not trip over each other when it comes to the way that the business runs. But there are very few times where I will absolutely put my foot down and say, I refuse to implement this thing that you have seen work well in your past.

Grayson Faircloth: 40:16


Malory Lee: 40:16

Because it's not my number, right?

Grayson Faircloth: 40:18

Yeah. Yeah.

Malory Lee: 40:19

And so if a leader feels very strongly about a way that they want to approach their operation, I'm going to listen to that and I'm going to try to, you know, just add components or like mold it in a way that doesn't upset the rest of the business or like doesn't break something or doesn't hurt another process. And there are very few times that I can remember where I was like, I absolutely won't do that for you, you know. I'm sure it could happen, but at the same time, being a strategic partner doesn't mean that you create the strategy for that team. And so that's a hard lesson because operations is still definitely a service-oriented department in the business, and so it's a balance of the two.

Grayson Faircloth: 41:06

Yeah. No, I love that, that breakdown. I'm interested just for time's sake, moving on to Nylas. Nylas is how you pronounce it?

Malory Lee: 41:14

Yep, Nylas.

Grayson Faircloth: 41:16

So you've been there, for now, four months, maybe a little bit longer?

Malory Lee: 41:20

Yep. Three months, actually.

Grayson Faircloth: 41:22

Three months? Okay. Just give us some background on it and what made you decide to move there?

Malory Lee: 41:28

Good question. So the background on Nylas is interesting, at least to me because it's completely outside of the exact target bubble. So you and I talked, I mean, really at the beginning of this conversation about that exact target ecosystem and how prevalent it has been in the Indie, you know, tech community. So every single role that I had before Nylas was either connected or influenced or in the network of that exact target crew up until Nylas. I think that that is one thing that actually attracted me to it because I was excited to kind of almost like go out on my own and work with brand new people that I had never worked with before. That was exciting to me, and the market's totally different. So our buyer is the developer and not the marketer. And all of my roles have been marketing technology up until now. So I think the differences in it made me really excited. They have a very strong board of directors, really great track record, you know, from like a fundraising perspective. And the product has fantastic customer retention. And those were the things that I was really interested in was you know, every time you join a startup, you're kind of like playing the lottery a little bit. And I just really liked the potential at Nylas and so that attracted me. And the fact that I was gonna be able to report to our CEO of glad, I thought that was really good. There were a lot of things that just made it very exciting.

Grayson Faircloth: 42:59

And then, so you joined on three months back, what was kind of the team that you were coming into? Cause I know that there was the existing team and you were kind of being hired to lead the team, correct?

Malory Lee: 43:08

Yeah, yeah, for sure. So they had operations people that just didn't really have a dedicated department leader and that was different for me. I normally have started the team and done all the jobs and then added people to build it out. So it was a great, you know, different kind of approach and learning experience for me to come into a team that was already really strong. And the biggest difference that I've seen is that I don't know all of the details, and I'm not used to that. I'm used to knowing how to do every single person's job because I've done it and then hired them and trained them how to do it. That's definitely not the case here. So it's been a growing opportunity for me to try to stay out of the nitty gritty every single day tedium, because, you know, if I'm spending my time well, I'm much more focused on leading the team and being part of the executive team. So, that's been great. It's been really refreshing to come in and just kind of bring a team together that was already working well and performing. But it's been a lesson for me for sure in not knowing everything, not having every answer, and really leaning on my team.

Grayson Faircloth: 44:20

And it's kind of interesting for a lot of factors, a lot of the reasons you said, but also you came into an economic environment that was very different than probably like what you experienced at Terminus. And so I'm interested in these first three months just in this like, especially Q4 of last year. But what have you kind of determined, you know working with the other executive team and stuff like that. Like what is gonna be the focus for your team, but then also the company for the next 6, 12 months? Just interested what you guys are thinking there.

Malory Lee: 44:52

Yeah, I mean, I think you've hit a really important point which is you do have to be a little reactive to, you know, what's going on around you. And Nylas was on the list of companies that raised a bunch of money in 2021, and they really did have this mindset across the VC world of get a bunch of money, capital is easy to get, deploy it, and grow as fast as you can. And so Nylas was no different. Like they hired a bunch of people and they kind of staffed up without having the operations to help scale. Hence the reason that I joined the company, right? So it's just different right now. We're more focused on making that cash last. We're more focused on doing everything we can to really avoid raising money in this market and that's very different from a lot of things that you've seen over the past few years. You're always thinking like when's our next round? What do we need to do to prepare, or who do we think we're gonna be talking to? You know, we're actively trying to like, not clock raise money. So I think it is different, but it forces you to look very closely at the things you're doing and to understand if they're working and to get more efficient. So for an operations person, it's great because you're very, you know, kind of needed to help make those calls. It's a lot of pressure to, you know, make sure that you're doing that correctly and that you're building things to scale. But I think all companies are gonna come out stronger from this because we really are gonna like, you know, kind of go back to basics and try to make sure that we're very tight on all of our decision-making.

Grayson Faircloth: 46:33

Yeah, no, yeah, I totally agree. Kind of back to business it seems in terms of versus the fake money ecosystem stuff like that so it's really interesting. I want to end off on one last question. So the purpose or one of the sub-purposes of this podcast is for people who are also like early stage in their career wanting to get to that next moment. And so sometimes we'll talk to VPs of sales and say advice for like AEs. They're trying to get to VPs of sales. I'm interested in just like your opinion from like a rev ops leader to someone who's more of like maybe a rev ops analyst or a rev ops specialist or someone on your team that you're having like a career progression conversation with, like what are you looking for from them or what could they be doing now to set themselves up to become that VP of revenue operations in the future?

Malory Lee: 47:28

Good question. So, I would go back to the sort of like emotional intelligence conversation we were having before. I would focus on your ability to build relationships and get buy-in, and really kind of create that consensus with the people that you're working with. So that could be your own internal rev ops team, it could be your stakeholders in sales, it could be a variety of different groups. But having a track record of just getting shit done, I think comes with an element of getting buy-in and really leading through influence instead of leading through you know, like being someone's manager is super important. So if you're known as someone in a business who can get things done, I think that that's a very strong thing to have and a very good reputation. And those are the people who end up, I think, being put into leadership positions because you're showing everyone that you can be effective and get things across the finish line.

Grayson Faircloth: 48:28

Yeah. I love that. Well, I want to give you an opportunity to plug in a LinkedIn, website, social media where should people find you?

Malory Lee: 48:36

Yeah, I think LinkedIn's fine. Nothing wrong with LinkedIn, so we'll go with that.

Grayson Faircloth:  48:39

Yeah, we'll put the link to her LinkedIn and the show description, so want to connect with her there. Otherwise, this was great. Thanks so much, Mallory. Appreciate you coming on.

Malory Lee: 48:49

Thank you too. Good to see you.


Grayson Faircloth: 0:21  

Hey Mallory, thanks for coming on.

Mallory Lee: 0:22

Hey, good morning. Thanks for having me.

Grayson Faircloth: 0:25

Yeah, I'm excited to talk. I know we've talked a couple times, but I'm excited to drill into some of your background, dive deeper into stuff that we haven't talked about before. But I would love to just get started with some general background from yourself and what brought you to Indy, you know, what kept you here just stuff like that.

Mallory Lee: 0:41

Yeah, so I grew up here. Grew up in Greenwood, went to Center Grove, and then when I was about to graduate from college, it was 2009 and the market was pretty awful. And so I assumed that if I wanted to get a good job, I was gonna have to go to Chicago. And so I had kind of mentally prepared myself for that. I was gonna go look at maybe some logistics companies. There were very few industries that were still growing during 2009. And what ended up happening was that I got connected to some people at ExactTarget. Got very lucky to meet the right people and to have a role get posted that, you know, could suffice with an entry-level person. So, I put all my eggs in the exact target basket and that was the way that I got to stay in Indianapolis was to start there right out of school. So I think my job started eight days after graduation and I was moving my finals around in order to interview. It was just a crazy time, but I definitely didn't have any other Indianapolis options lined up so very grateful for that.

Grayson Faircloth: 01:51

And so ExactTarget, me being from Indianapolis, I'm very familiar with that, but I would love to have you walk everyone else through why that was such a big deal, especially for Indianapolis, and a little bit about like what they actually did at the time.

Mallory Lee: 02:04

Yeah, so at the time, ExactTarget when I started it was mostly focused on email marketing and we worked with big brands, B2B and B2C to help them send out, you know, really personalized and relevant messages. So as a software platform, my first tech company job in, you know, in my career and at the time, ExactTarget was growing quickly. We were on our way to like 300 million in revenue. We'd raise a lot of money. So I would say that it was you know, for a while definitely kind of employer of choice around Indianapolis, and made such good friends there. Got my ExactTarget MBA that people joke about. Just learned so much in that time. And then as we continue to grow and have some really strong partnerships, we acquired a few companies. One of those was Pardot that moved us into marketing automation space. And then, ExactTarget did their IPO in 2013, and a lot of people did pretty well in that IPO process especially you know the longtime employees that had been there for some time. And then after that, Salesforce acquired ExactTarget and Pardot together and that was a big deal at the time. I think it was a 2 billion valuation or something of that nature. And so, really good for the ecosystem and a lot of people went on from that, you know, company and business to go out and start their own endeavors and it just created a really nice ecosystem of people that stayed in touch and networked and continued to work together.

Grayson Faircloth: 03:38

Yeah, it's really funny when I'm kind of looking through some of the Indie network and seeing their background, how many people actually like we're origined at ExactTarget is what it seems like.

Malory Lee: 03:51


Grayson Faircloth: 03:52

Yeah. Starting kind of from when you joined on ExactTarget, could you just take us back to then in terms of like what was the rough size of ExactTarget when you first joined on?

Mallory Lee: 04:01

I think there were about 400 people. I cannot remember what our revenue was at that time. And when I started, I was a marketing business analyst, and so I wasn't quite as familiar with what it meant to have you know recurring revenue and understand the size and scale of those things right off the bat. So, memory is fuzzy there, but we were just getting started in analyzing the opportunity of going into the UK and expanding internationally. So one of my first projects was going to analyze how much demand we were getting from the UK. And we had a partner over there that we worked with to implement ExactTarget and it was key marketing. I remember that from back in the day. So the first thing we did was look to see how much demand existed over there and what the upside could be for ET if we acquired that partner and moved into that space.

Grayson Faircloth: 04:55

Yeah. And so as a marketing business analyst, was that kind of like your main point or kinda like the main type of work you would do, or would you also, or kind of like what else was under your scope?

Mallory Lee: 05:06

Yeah, just all kinds of analysis, helped manage a few of our demand gen programs as you know, a little bit of a side task, if you will. But I worked to report back to sales what marketing was providing for them, what was effective, what's working, what's not, how do we optimize our programs and some of the other, you know, one-off analysis like the UK thing.

Grayson Faircloth: 05:29

And I'm interested if you remember your state of mind, kind of what was important for you back then in terms of goals, like professionally and stuff like that, do you kind of remember?

Malory Lee: 05:42

I would say I've always been like a motivated professional, interested in, you know, adding responsibilities and learning more and growing. I definitely remember coming to work very early and, you know, kind of beating the crowd, if you will, to get some things done. I also laugh when I look back at some of the inefficiencies that we had at that time. So we would do reports and copy things outta Salesforce. We'd have Salesforce pulled up on one screen, Excel pulled up on another screen, and I would be just transposing the numbers into Excel. And we did that for nearly everything, and it was actually Blake Koriath, I'm not sure if you know him. High Alpha's CFO. He taught me at the time how to download the report from Salesforce as a CSV file, turn it into a pivot table, and then turn that into my report in Excel. And when we all learned how to do that, my mind was just completely blown and it took all of my work and chopped it by like 80% of the time that it took to keep things updated and do analysis and everything. So I just remember learning so much and being pretty excited about it.

Grayson Faircloth: 06:29

And was that kind of one of the core things that you think like ExactTarget did particularly well? You stayed there like at least more than a couple years so I'd say they did good things in terms of keeping their team engaged.

Malory Lee: 07:11

Yeah, everybody was engaged. The culture, you know, was kind of one of the bigger, I would say, selling points of the business and just some really awesome people. So never met a single person there that I didn't think was great and hardworking and motivated and smart.

Grayson Faircloth: 07:27

And then, so I was looking back at kind of you know, your progression through ExactTarget and you started off in that marketing business analyst and then very soonly transitioned to more of like a marketing operations role but you said it was very much budgets and financials focused. Does that kind of reflect like that subset of marketing operations in your opinion?

Malory Lee: 07:48

Yeah, there were a few, I would say, interim steps there. So, you know, the marketing operations team continued to grow a bit, especially as we expanded internationally. So for a period of time, I was kind of like a team lead there and I was managing some of our demand gen programs too. I wouldn't say that that was a necessarily strictly marketing operations kind of role, but we were just kind of all tag teaming a lot of aspects of marketing. And then it was at some point, we decided that I was ready to move into something that was a little more strategic. And so by taking on that budget management and helping with the, you know, ongoing ROI calculations, it really gave me a chance to step up and understand the business at a higher level, work with the finance team, get closer to that process and you know, really kind of help make decisions around where should we be spending our money. And that also extended into hiring versus spending money on demand gen programs and branding. And so I taught myself a little bit of that budget management aspect, but I also saw just you know the best leaders, how they were making decisions, and sometimes the numbers would tell you that going to a certain event was a bad choice. But I would watch the way that they would evaluate it. And there was one really specific example where we were looking at an industry event. And from a new business standpoint, this industry event did not appear to be worth it because it wasn't bringing us a lot of new business anytime we went to it. But what we talked through is the fact that all of our customers were there. And so if we did not go to the event, we couldn't engage with our customers. And then also the competition was there, engaging with our customers. And so, you know, that sentiment and that opportunity for customer success impact superseded what the numbers said on paper. And that was very eye-opening to me. It was like, okay, you can't only look at the stats when you're making a decision. Sometimes there are other factors that they're important to that decision-making process, and that was a good lesson for me.

Grayson Faircloth: 09:57

Yeah, I love that. I'm interested, are there other scenarios that like through the course of your career, have came up with similar conclusions where you look at the numbers and it might like financially makes sense but then you're able to do some of that, like diving deeper? I'm just interested, were there other scenarios like that or?

Malory Lee: 10:15

I think it's always an interesting dynamic when you look at branding. It's hard to measure. It sometimes will seem, you know, not worth it. And when times get tough, it's often, you know, pushed to the side. But the reality is that brand does help you drive demand and whether you can, you know, directly prove that with leads and opportunities is one thing. But I think intuitively most marketers just know that and understand. So I remember meeting people and they would say, where are you working? And I would say, ExactTarget. And they'd say, I see you guys everywhere. And it was just this concept of like being everywhere that really I think made ExactTarget employer of choice. And then if somebody needed to send emails, we sprung to mine probably first. And so that's a really hard thing to put a number on, but very important to the process.

Grayson Faircloth: 11:12

And I love the concept of branding and I know like our friends at High Alpha focus really heavy on branding, even at like the startup scale. What do you think of that? Like when should you start really focusing on branding in your opinion?

Mallory Lee: 11:25

Well, I think it's gonna be a little different for everyone, of course, but as soon as you have stellars you know, like dedicated AEs that are out there selling something, I think that's when you can probably benefit from branding because anytime they pick up the phone and tell someone, hello, I work here. Your hope is that they've heard of it, and if they haven't, you have a harder time kind of like getting into that conversation. But if they've heard of it, if they have some level of awareness, then I think it's a little bit easier to get your value prop into the conversation.

Grayson Faircloth: 11:58

Okay, cool. I wanna step back to the ExactTarget days. So I'm interested how was operations teams like structured back then? Obviously, operations is not like a new concept, but it was structured differently in the past. Like what did the operations team look like then? Was it different departments or was it more centralized?

Malory Lee: 12:16

Yep. It was siloed at the time, so marketing ops lived under marketing. There was a sales operations team under sales. I really don't remember how many different teams there were. I think I remember there being services operations because ExactTarget had a pretty sizable services arm. But there wasn't that much overlap and not that much, you know unification I would say. It worked okay for us because, you know, as a marketing analyst, I still went and talked to the sales leaders themselves all the time. And actually, one of my first, and I would say like best mentors was Erin Howell. She was leading marketing operations and she hired me. And then at some point throughout the years, she moved over to the sales operations side. So that was a really interesting situation because we didn't work directly together anymore, but I had that connection. And obviously stayed in touch with her and stayed connected. So it was definitely siloed, but I didn't notice it really, you know, hurting us too badly at that time.

Grayson Faircloth: 13:20

Were there ever scenarios where you did like a month of work or something and realized that the sales ops team was working on something like complimentary or anything like that?

Malory Lee: 13:31

No, not that I can recall. I think that they were so focused on sales. It's different than revenue operations today because revenue operations today I think if you're doing it correctly, you do have a broader company-wide, you know, cross-departmental focus. And so if you've got that going on and then a different team is off doing something on their own, you have a higher chance of replicating it. But back then we really did kind of like stay in our lanes, I would say and so it wasn't quite as likely.

Grayson Faircloth: 13:20

Okay, cool. And so I'm interested, you've been in marketing sales rev ops at you know, larger companies and also a few smaller companies as well. I'm interested in kind of your thoughts around the differences and responsibilities in terms of maybe at a larger company you've got multiple people. At a smaller company, you're like a solo person. I just love like some of your ideas and thoughts around the differences there.

Malory Lee: 14:26

Yeah, I don't think I've ever been a totally solo person, so that's something to point out. I've been lucky to have teams pretty much anywhere I've gone. I don't think that I would do very well as a solo person or like a marketing team of one. I just need that like team aspect, I think, to have fun. So even when I went to Bluebridge, which was my smallest company, there were a handful of marketers that I was working with on a team, so that was better for me personally. You know, at Cheetah Digital I was leading a marketing operations team, but it was a bigger company. It was, you know, more than a thousand people. We had a presence in just so many different countries. So I would say even though the company itself was not all that complicated, my role being global in nature added a lot of complexity. So it wasn't just, you know, one report, how's demand gen performing? It was, you know, multiple steps to understand which region was doing well, which region needed help in certain areas, and what the differences were across the globe, different strategies. And so that was a role that wasn't broadly focused. It still was focused on just marketing, but it was still definitely a big job.

Grayson Faircloth: 15:46

And I'm interested, I've mostly worked in like these smaller companies and it still seems like buy-in and change management still is a large like percentage of my time is what it feels like. Is that only get harder and harder with the more and more people you add and like, do you end up spending like half of your time just getting buy-in and kind of managing change or how does that kind of experience scale to some of these larger companies you've worked with?

Malory Lee: 16:13

I think you have the potential of that getting harder as you get bigger in scale, but you also have the potential of doing it, I would say well and giving people a really clear understanding of what is your lane of decision making. And if people really do have a good understanding of how decision-making should work within their company, you can still move a little faster. Once you get big enough to have just so many teams and so many people at the table, it inevitably does slow down and it will take a year to do something big for sure. And I remember a funny story when I was an intern, I actually worked at Carrier, the heating and cooling manufacturer. And one day it took me eight hours to change the printer ink. I was trying to print some things for a meeting and we ran out of ink and so I had to go downstairs to the, you know, printer place that was like a third party, but in our building and they were out of the ink and we couldn't go buy it ourselves. There were like unions involved and all kinds of interesting guidelines and policies and I just remembered thinking, you know, when I get a job after school, I never wanna be in a place with this much red tape. And so I think I've kind of purposefully avoided environments like that. Some people operate fine in that environment, but I do like to move quickly and I try to, you know, fight that wherever I go.

Grayson Faircloth: 17:42

I wanna dive into this lane of decision-making idea cause it's interesting. I'd heard it in a different way. I don't know if you're familiar with the book Principles by Ray Dalio, but he talks about something similar in terms of like believability, weighted decisions, and kind of how they did that at their company. Have you like, this lane of decision making, have you done things like, or is that more of like an unspoken type things? Or have you actually written out like, here's what we're gonna be responsible for deciding, here's what you're gonna be responsible for deciding because I think, yeah, that could save a lot of time. Yeah.

Malory Lee: 18:15

It does save time. If people have confidence in what they are capable of doing on their own, then you just slow down the, you know, quagmire of going around and round trying to make a decision. So the best way that I've seen this executed is using kind of like that racy framework where you're outlining specifically who's responsible for something. Who's accountable for that decision? Who should get consulted when you're making a decision? And then who just needs to be informed of the decision afterwards. And I first learned that at Cheetah Digital, we went through and we did a big racy project for everything that happened in marketing. It takes a lot of time and it's hard to maintain it, to keep it, you know, up to date perfectly all the time, but it really does help people see, this is what I'm responsible for and this is what I don't really have a lot of saying. If you are just like marked as the person getting informed in something at first, that can be off-putting. You're like, oh, I don't get to be consulted here, but then you start to see how it makes sense and you start to see how it helps other people go faster in their roles. And I think that we all have this addiction to like being consulted and myself included. I can't count myself out from that, but it's definitely a way to help people see, you know, where they're supposed to be right in the middle of it and maybe where they're not.

Grayson Faircloth: 19:34

And one thing kind of in the realm of just decision making, I guess I'll call it decision switching, and it happens more and more often at like smaller companies in terms of you make a decision one week, the decision is completely changed that week. How do you kind of deal with that as like the rev ops leader at your company in terms of like, you know, you're trying to maybe set a roadmap of things that you wanna accomplish cause there's so many things, but things that were previously decided or switching, like how do you handle if when people want to change their minds about certain things that they've already agreed to?

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