Women in Business Q&A: Lara Shackelford, EVP and CMO of Altify

06/16/2016 03:20 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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Lara Shackelford

As EVP and CMO of Altify, Lara is responsible for driving market leadership, global awareness, demand generation, product marketing, content marketing strategy, and strategic events. Before Altify, Lara served as VP of Marketing at various Silicon Valley technology companies, including Looker, Platfora, and DataStax.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I was lucky enough to be raised by parents who thought I could do anything I set my mind to. From the earliest time I can remember, they taught me that if I wanted something, I should go and get it. When I was young, if I wanted to know the meaning of a word, my mom always told me to look it up in the dictionary rather than just telling me the meaning. My dad did weekend projects with my brother and I, building an incubator and hatching chickens one weekend, building a set of stilts another weekend. They both taught me that there was always a way to accomplish your goal and to do it with kindness and respect towards others. Being raised by them was the best training I could have asked for to prepare a career in the corporate world.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Altify?
I've always needed to be a part of a company where I share values with the leaders and the culture is strong, a company that solves real problems and eases people's pain in some way, and a company where customers are truly happy with the product or service offered. When I met the team at Altify, it was clear this was the case. Our values have remained aligned after over a year of working together. Great marketing can't be done in isolation. It must be done in partnership with a great executive team and infused into the culture. Having such strong synchronous values has helped our marketing efforts tremendously.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Altify?
The highlights have been getting to know the team and learning the depth of their commitment to our shared values, our employees and our customers. It keeps me going during long flights between Dublin, Ireland, where we are headquartered, Ann Arbor, where my fiancé and I have a house, and San Francisco, where we opened an office in September. Keeping it all going amidst so much travel can be a challenge, but it keeps me on my toes. Our company is widely distributed, but we have an incredible culture. A strong culture is difficult to achieve even when everyone is in the same office, and somehow we do it with our team spread all over the U.S. and Europe.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Go for what you want. It is up to you to make it happen. Wake up each day and set your intention to be your best that day, and create solutions rather than problems. You will always run into roadblocks on the way to success, especially if you choose to operate within a male-dominated industry. The key is to see the roadblock and ask yourself how you're going to blast through it. It's also important to build great relationships and ask for help along the way. Some of my dearest friends are colleagues that I met in my early days at Oracle. If I hadn't taken a chance and connected with them, I would have missed out on many opportunities. These friends serve both as a sounding board and support system when I run into roadblocks and when I want to celebrate success.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
I've learned to honor my values and nurture my relationships; they are everything in my professional life. I have been faced with a few tough choices in my career and I've never regretted the choices that have put my values and my relationships first. Even when the choice might have appeared to cost me money in the short term, or might have impacted my personal brand, it has meant more to me to be able to put my head on my pillow at night and feel I'd done the right thing.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I believe it's more of a blend today. I've spent more Saturdays or Sundays on planes for work, or been on calls early with Europe or late with Asia, and it's up to me to set boundaries and ensure I also work in my yoga and cooking (two of my favorite hobbies), as well as friends and family. With so many distributed workforces today, I believe it's essential to make time for yourself:you are the only one who is going to set your boundaries and honor them.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The biggest issue for women in the workplace is our belief in our own limitations. When we believe in our goals, and in ourselves, we will find a way to push through barriers.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentors have made every difference in my career and also helped shape my personal life. Several of the mentors who made the biggest impact on me were the ones I least expected. I didn't seek them out, but had the opportunity to work with them. I connected with their vision and their values, developed a mentoring relationship over time, and in doing so took the risk to be vulnerable. I was fortunate enough to choose wisely and worked with people who helped me blend my professional goals with my personal interests and desires.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
There are so many. My mom is one of the best. She put herself through college with very little support and she raised my brother and I to be curious and compassionate and to strive to be the best version of ourselves.

Also my grandmother because she took herself seriously and lived by her values. She knew what she stood for, was steadfast in her beliefs, and she wholeheartedly supported in her grandchildren.

And Maya Angelou--one of the all-time greats. I take inspiration from her and many other leaders throughout time and across industries.

What do you want Altify to accomplish in the next year?
Altify is in a period of rapid growth so our goals are ambitious. My biggest wish for the company is that we maintain our culture of people-first, and continue our dedication to our customers while surpassing our ambitious growth and awareness goals.