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Anne Pao on Women’s Empowerment, Medallian Values, and Climbing Kilimanjaro

Anne Pao

By day, she’s Director of Decision Support Systems and Integration. By day, night, and on the weekends, Anne Pao also fights for women’s empowerment—and climbs mountains. Below, she explains her complex role at Medallia, what she thinks is unique about the company, and why she’s so excited for the future, at work and beyond.

What do you do at Medallia?

I manage a three-person team within the Information Technology organization that collaborates across the company to support data-driven decision-making . The “decision support” part of my title is about the type of data, reporting, and frameworks needed for better decision-making, but it’s also about people and relationships. I do a lot of cross-functional leadership on enterprise projects, helping engage and coordinate action across different teams around a shared objective, usually data related. The “systems” piece of my role comes in because our team works closely with several different platforms, from Salesforce for CRM, to NetSuite for financial, to Workday for HRIS. “Integration” means a couple of things. On the technical side, it’s helping automate the data we share across systems. The softer side is helping teams work in a more integrated, streamlined fashion through project management, communication, and integrating business processes.

Recently, my team co-led an internal project centered on providing a deeper understanding of customer health to support team collaboration. We partnered with various stakeholders to define customer health KPIs and their respective data sources, then automated the aggregation of these KPIs into an interactive dashboard. We integrated the dashboard into teams’ daily routines and designed it to drive action. It’s exciting to see how the dashboard both aligns various teams around a single truth, and enables them to develop new uses for it.

What were you doing before Medallia, and why did you join?

Before Medallia, I spent five years living abroad in Africa. My last job there was as head of data analytics for a digital marketing creative agency, and one of my last projects was to develop a data-driven CX, or customer experience, strategy for a fast-growing retail bank. One of my recommendations was that they find a way to capture and integrate their CX data with other business data to more relevantly engage with their customer base; I didn’t know about Medallia at the time.

When my husband and I decided to move back to the U.S., I saw that someone in my network, Jess Chen, was hiring a director of productivity on Medallia’s Sales Ops team. I started looking into the company, and it hit me like a ton of bricks—it was exactly what I’d just told the bank they needed! So I reached out to Jess, and the rest is history.

What makes Medallia unique?

I’ve worked at big high-growth corporations, I’ve founded a social enterprise startup, I’ve worked at an all-hours nonprofit in Swaziland—and I have never experienced the intensity and passion with which people apply themselves here. Honestly, it took some getting used to at first, but I think it is one of Medallia’s differentiators. I love coming to work everyday surrounded by these smart, ambitious, and humble people.

Medallia is also very aligned with my personal values. From the customer perspective, there’s a lot of emphasis on empathy. We try to understand and identify with what our customers are experiencing, and what value means to them. Everything we design is with them in mind.

Inclusion is another key value for me. The way Medallia supports parents is just one example, but it’s been crucial to me as a new mom. I have friends at other companies who have to put up screens or run up three flights of stairs to breastfeed. At Medallia, we have two mothers’ rooms and a range of other resources for parents. In the IT organization, we have a lot of parents on the leadership team. And I never feel like I have to ask permission to take my son to the doctor or work from home. A family-first mindset is not just accepted, it’s encouraged. My boss has literally said, “Your priority should be your family. Go home, spend some time with them, and don’t think about work.” I don’t think you hear that from a lot of executives.

What do you do outside of work?

My husband and I both really value being outdoors, and now we’re bringing along our newborn son, Drew. On weekends, we’ll go hiking, trail running, or climb a mountain. Getting out in nature helps me disconnect and remember how small my stresses are in comparison with the vastness of the world around me. It’s comforting.

We also love to travel, and we’re constantly planning our next trip. As soon as we get home, we start thinking, “What next? Banff? Portugal? Croatia?” I moved around a lot as a kid, and my mom loved to explore, which definitely rubbed off on me. I’ve lived on four continents, and I’ve visited 48 countries. I’m planning to hit at least 50 in the next couple of years.

Tell us about your work advocating for women.

At Medallia, I’m on the leadership team for Women@, our employee resource group for women. Last year I also launched a new global mentorship program called WIRED, which stands for Women Inspiring Resilience, Excellence, and Development. We’re in our second cohort now, and working to launch a Medallia-wide mentorship program open to all Medallians.

I’m also on the board of the Silicon Valley chapter of UN Women, which works for gender equality and women’s empowerment. We’re a new chapter, so we’re talking a lot right now about how to encourage real action. We want to bring together the resources and passions of people with privilege and move the needle on actual problems, globally and locally. I believe in engagement—not just giving money but actually taking part.

Looking to the future, what are you most excited about?

I’m ecstatic about the work I’m doing right now, because I don’t think I’ve ever been in a position to make such a big impact. I get to work closely with teams I previously never interacted with—like Solutions Architecture and Product Management—and I’m learning a whole new side of the house.

On the personal side, I have a lot of travel goals. Part of the reason we live in Marin County is its proximity to nature; when we retire, we want to be volunteer forest rangers and travel the world. In the meantime, though, I want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro again. I did it right before I met my husband, and he’s never been. So we plan to go back for my 50th birthday—and will bring our son!

This story was created in conjunction with Job Portraits, a San Francisco-based creative agency that helps teams scale using culture-focused content.