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Women in Business: Q&A with Deb Esayian, Co-President of Marketron Interactive

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Deborah Esayian oversees the sales and business development operations of all three of Marketron's product lines including radio traffic, mobile and interactive. A former product manager with Procter & Gamble and Novartis, she guided the growth of several popular consumer brands in the OTC and packaged goods industries. In 1994, she founded Next Generation Radio, a new business development enterprise that returned millions in lost business to the industry. She has managed radio stations and sales teams and, over the past 10 years, trained and developed over 4,000 salespeople, publishers, editors and managers in local media across the globe in using creative engagement solution techniques to monetize their websites. Deborah holds a B.S.N. from the University of Virginia and an M.B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis. Recognized as one of the Most Influential Women in Broadcasting, she is the recipient of many industry awards recognizing her crossover skills and experience in sales, marketing and software technology.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. Wilmington is a unique place because it is home to DuPont, a global chemical company, along with several other corporate companies. Growing up there, the DuPont Family story and its legacy had a profound impact on me; even at a young age, I had a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and was drawn to this idea of creating something out of nothing.

As I grew older, I continued to take risks. When discussing a job opportunity with the radio industry, I asked the hiring manager to first bring together some of his colleagues to talk about my ideas for how to meet the company's objectives - it was a huge risk, and I thought, "If it doesn't work, I can stay in product management or go back to nursing!" At the end of my presentation, the execs came back with a job contract, and the risk paid off!

I have continued to take risks, and encourage my peers to do the same.

How is your nursing experience helpful in your position at Marketron?
Being a good nurse requires emotional stability, empathy, flexibility, attention to detail, interpersonal skills, problem solving, and quick response, and, while it may sound like a crazy parallel, all of these same skills are required when selling software.

In both positions you must be a very capable translator. You have to simplify complicated concepts and applications into workable, practical, day to day solutions. Software should solve a problem. To accurately diagnose the problem, you must do a proper assessment, ask questions, read non-verbals, listen well and empathize with the business owner - feel their pain in a genuine way. Finding the right treatment, or in this case, software solution and application, is the key to a happy customer.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I have to confess, I'm not great at that - especially as I start this new role. But, living in Florida, the outdoors is a big part of my life. When you are on the road as much as my position requires, it's important to live in an environment that allows you to easily recharge and refresh during down time - Southwest Florida is part of my secret sauce to keep energized and creative.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Marketron?
Throughout my tenure, first at Emmis Interactive, then, after Marketron acquired us, I've worked with hundreds of radio stations - of all sizes and in all kinds of markets - helping them expand their brands beyond broadcast to online and mobile, or move their backend operations online for traffic and ad sales and, generally, help the radio industry progress into the digital era. The most challenging aspect for me is making the client's perceived risk of approaching the business differently less intimidating. But it's all worth it because watching our clients succeed and grow in ways they never thought possible is the most gratifying feeling you can have in business.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking to narrow the gender gap in technology?
Technology can sometimes be seen as an arrogant industry - women are brilliant at counteracting that impression with great communications skills, genuine and warm style and empathy for the end user experience.

I think the most important lesson I've learned has been that anything, within the technology industry or otherwise, can be solved by thinking differently and fostering creative solutions. There's always a way to handle an obstacle as long as you approach it with compassion and resourcefulness. I'm not much for playing the gender card, I believe that when you simply produce results and always try to do excellent work, you will earn natural respect and erase any prejudices that might exist. So for me, it's all about creating positive impact - not about gender distinctions.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think that the biggest issue for women in the workplace is women not believing in themselves. Female empowerment needs to be practiced and preached in the workplace. Along those lines, women need to take control of their own lives and work towards situations that make sense for them - job sharing, working remotely, sabbaticals, etc. These are more possible than ever before, and women need to take advantage of those opportunities.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and the movement?
I agree with Sheryl Sandberg, that women should not be afraid to "lean in", no matter their industry, whether male-dominated or not. Women share the responsibility of encouraging themselves as well as each other. We bring tremendous strengths to the work environment, and we all should embrace those strengths and use them to our optimal advantage.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I've had some mentors that have had a profound affect on my life, in both the personal and professional aspects. I learned a lot from Doyle Rose, former president of Emmis Broadcasting, as well as Judy Ellis former Vice President and New York City Market Manager of Emmis Broadcasting who went on to an even larger role as Operating Officer for Citadel Communications. Both gave me enormous opportunities, tremendous freedom to achieve my goals and rock solid support. My most precious memories, however, are of our many trips and business meals together where we talked about how to successfully implement change in an organization that needs to reinvent itself.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Among the female leaders that I admire is Ellen J. Kullman, CEO of DuPont. She graduated from the same high school that I did in Wilmington, Delaware. She has helped to pave the way for women in executive-level jobs, and is the first female to lead the DuPont Company in its two hundred-plus years of existence. Ellen was ranked fourth on Forbes' list of 100 Most Powerful Women in 2011.

What are your hopes for the future of Marketron?
I hope Marketron will continue to thrive and revolutionize the broadcast industry, offering products and services that will redefine broadcast radio as a cross channel medium - and introduce the power of cloud-based data solutions that bring huge advantages to thousands of broadcast stations - radio and TV - across the country.