It's not easy to convince a bunch of old-school businessmen that getting on Facebook and Twitter might be the best ways to boost business -- especially if their business is selling big, expensive networking systems. But Luanne Tierney did it so well while at Cisco Systems that the company's smaller rival, Juniper Networks, just hired her away and made her vice president of global partner marketing as part of a broad effort to revamp its marketing efforts.
Tierney, 47, first found her way to the networking industry as a channel marketing manager for 3Com, now part of Hewlett-Packard. After joining Cisco in 1996, she worked her way up to become vice president of worldwide partner marketing a decade later.
In that role, Tierney convinced skeptical resellers and systems integrators that social media tools would increase the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns. Now Juniper is asking her to do the same for its channel marketing partners.
An athlete who played field hockey for the University of California at Berkeley, where she earned a bachelor's degree in political science, the five-foot-two Tierney describes herself as "kind of scrappy."
We spoke to her by phone at Juniper's headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif., when she shared her thoughts on "personal branding," balancing work and family, and succeeding in a mostly male world.
John Shinal: Why did you choose to make the move to Juniper now, after all these years at Cisco?
Luanne Tierney: I wasn't looking. This was an opportunity that tapped me on the shoulder. It's the chance to build something from the ground up, to bring marketing thought leadership to Juniper. You don't get that opportunity too often. Juniper is the same size Cisco was when I joined them in 1997, in terms of revenue. The only way to get to $10 billion [in annual revenue] is to use the partner community.
JS: What do you get to build? Hasn't Juniper been doing channel marketing?
LT: They haven't served up an integrated marketing campaign that uses advertising, direct mail and events and combines them with social media. My job is to teach our marketing partners how to use social media. It's so important, but you have to have a plan.
JS: You just started. What's the first thing you're going to do?
LT: I'm going to get on the road and talk to the partners. I'm going to have a listening tour. I'm also meeting with my staff, trying to get a sense of what Juniper is all about from the inside. Within a couple of weeks, I'll put together a 90-day plan. One thing it will do is answer the question: "What do I want this organization to be known for?"
The first thing is to teach our partners about social media, to show them best practices and help them put together integrated marketing campaigns. My job is to serve it up to them, to make it easy for them to create marketing that will work for them. We're going to put together co-marketing campaings and also create a global co-marketing engine, so the partners will have the tools they want.
But it's not like I have to do it all on my own. I have a [15-person] staff, and Juniper has channel marketing people in the different [geographical] theaters. And Juniper has very talented HR leadership. There's lots of onboarding help. They've assigned me mentors and buddies. People have told me, "you don't have to kill it the first week."
JS: What were the most important decision you made that got you where you are today?
LT: I don't know if it's decisions as much as things I've learned. The first thing is that I grew up playing sports. I played field hockey at Cal (UC-Berkeley) and played soccer growing up. It made me tough, but it also taught me how to lose more than how to win. You learn more when you lose.
Second, I ask myself all the time: What do I want to be known for? What's my brand? What am I passionate about? If you're clear with yourself, and you write your goals down, you start to see things that align with them, things all around you that can help you attain them. Aspire big, and if you get 75% of it, you're doing well.
Third, you have to work on your communication. It needs to be consistent and thoughtful every time. Before you send an email, leave a voice mail, go to a lunch meeting or step onto a stage, think about what you want to communicate and the best way to do it.
JS: What has made you successful?
LT: I'm an innovator. I'm willing to try new things, and I'm not afraid to voice my opinions, not afraid to take risks. Five years ago, I started pushing social media with [Cisco] partners. That was risky, because there were a lot of skeptics. People would say "that's for my kids." But I didn't worry about what people thought. I was confident I was right. I also listen to a lot of books on tape and watch people in action, just observe them, try to learn from them.
JS: What finally sold you on Juniper?
LT: I got a call from a recruiter who had a great reputation. I called him back to say "no thanks" and we ended up having a great conversation. It was focused on what I wanted to do, not just about this job. He was an adviser, not a salesman.
After talking with him, I decided to meet with Lauren Flaherty [executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Juniper] and was very impressed. Talking with her brought my interest to a whole new level. I started to see how well [Juniper] was doing and thought I could learn from her. I had seen what she had been doing with Juniper as I traveled around and was impressed.
I also met with Gerri Elliott [a former Microsoft executive who's now Juniper's executive vice president for strategic alliances]. I was impressed by how many senior execs at Juniper were women. Once I started talking to people, I started to get excited. There's an incredible energy at Juniper right now.
JS: What advice would you give to young women about their careers?
LT: I have a lot of interns and I coach younger women. I'm frank with them about their attire. I tell them, "we're not in Hollywood, this isn't the movies. If you dress provocatively, that's going to distract from what you're saying."
I have a presentation that I give to young women called "Eight Ways to Have a Rockstar Career." The first and most important thing on the list is to give up the guilt [about balancing work and family]. You can't keep saying to yourself, "if only I didn't have these personal relationships distracting me." You can't be everything to everyone all the time. You have to be in the moment, to live in it and do your best. Letting go of the guilt allows you to start thinking big.
I asked [the late] Ann Richards [former Texas governor] at an event one time for some advice on balancing work and family. She said the best thing you can do is integrate your kids into your work life. On the other side, I heard Anna Quindlen say one time, "don't come home and complain about your job." Nobody wants to hear that.
JS: What else is on that list?
LT: Have a life plan; take time to think, don't just react; get a brand, be the brand; be proactive, not reactive; network every month; and take care of yourself.
JS: What do you do outside of work?
LT: I'm at the gym early every morning. It's me and all the construction guys [laughs]. I'd love to see more women in the weight room. I'm going to try my first triathlon this year. I also work with a group called Students Rising Above. It helps underpriveleged kids get into college. Some of these kids have so many hardships to overcome. I do two hours a month -- that's not a lot of time to give back, when you think about it.
Write to John Shinal