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How Tableau Leaders are Driving Gender Equality

March 31, 2021

As we honor Women’s History Month and all the trailblazing women that have paved a path for us all – we are also inspired by some of our own leaders who’ve blazed a trail for themselves. Meet Jackie Yeaney, who started out as an officer in the US Air Force and is now the EVP of Marketing at Tableau➚, a data analytics platform. And meet the founder of SWN-Tableau, our Employee Resource Group (ERG) for women and allies, Lauren Penticuff.

Career Journey

Felicia: Jackie, you’ve had a unique journey before joining us at Tableau/Salesforce. Where did you start and what led you to where you are today?

Jackie: Unique sounds appropriate — my journey has definitely been diverse, fun, and a bit unusual for sure! I started my career as an officer in the US Air Force where I was in charge of an intelligence system during Desert Storm. After business school at MIT, I was a management consultant for six years at the Boston Consulting Group. I was consulting with Delta Air Lines when 9/11 happened. The CFO of Delta asked me to join the team directly to help stabilize and re-vitalize the airline.

Fast forward to today, I am now the EVP of Marketing at Tableau and I truly believe that my past experiences have guided me here. It is a privilege working for a company that has not only built an iconic brand but fosters an incredible community (what we call our #DataFam) dedicated to a field I’m most passionate about — the world of data. Tableau is known for our obsession with the user’s experience, culture, core values, people, and beautifully designed software that helps anyone make an impact with data. I’ve been able to take my past experience and immerse myself in the vibrant Tableau community and work day in and day out with an incredibly talented Tableau and Salesforce team as we continue to help people understand and act on their data.

(Jackie Yeaney, EVP Marketing, Tableau)

Felicia: From the military to MIT to now being CMO of Tableau and seeing it through an acquisition — that is quite impressive! I know that you are the Executive Advisor to VetForce➚ — one of Salesforce's 12 global Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or Equality Groups as we call them — and you are also the Executive Advisor of Salesforce Women's Network➚ (SWN)-Tableau. Lauren Penticuff, Senior Manager, Sales at Tableau is also the president of SWN-Tableau. What makes SWN-Tableau important to you?

Lauren: I’ve found belonging through the Salesforce Women’s Network➚, specifically within the Tableau subgroup. I’m inspired and motivated by the women and allies I work alongside and their commitment to creating safe spaces to connect, recognize and celebrate one another. Since its formation, every senior leader who has learned about the group wants to be involved and use their platform as a way to elevate and broaden the conversation.

(Lauren Penticuff, Senior Manager, Sales, and President of SWN-Tableau, a subgroup of Salesforce Women’s Network)

Crafting your Personal Brand

Felicia: I love that! Women lifting each other up so we can grow. So, as we progress through our own careers, it’s really important to consider our personal brand. What advice do you have for women who are thinking about shaping their personal brands? 

“Our personal brands are not something we can turn on and off. They are the culmination of what others think and feel about us. You don't own it. Others define it. We can, however, shape it over time.” - JACKIE YEANEY

Jackie: Our personal brands are not something we can turn on and off. That's because our personal brands are the culmination of what others think and feel about us. You don't own it. Others define it. We can, however, shape it over time. Our brands are always active, even when we're not, especially in our always-on digital world. The question becomes — "What are you doing to manage your always-on brand in a way that allows others to understand what makes you unique and encourages them to listen and engage with you?” Take a few minutes thinking about the coaches, leaders, and mentors that are in your corner and want you to succeed. How do those people make you feel? Now, turn it around. How do you think the people in your life—your team, peers, boss feel when you interact with them? Deeply thinking about how you and others feel is one of the keys to successfully building your brand.

Lauren: I love the freedom and ownership of building a personal brand, and how it helps form our story within the workplace. As I think about making a conscious effort to build my personal brand, I remember back in 2017, when I moved Tableau offices and struggled to orient myself with all the challenges in life. With my head buried in the sand, focused exclusively on myself, a senior leader delivered feedback that my personal brand was permeating with negativity. I was caught off guard and became defensive. I tried to argue my way out, giving examples of why my new environment was causing me to show up negatively. After a couple of walks around the block, I realized two things: First, as much as I wanted to snap my fingers and make changes, there was no quick fix for moving my brand away from one centered in negativity.

“The only way to adjust my brand was to make daily choices of how I wanted to show up and create my own story. While I may not be able to control every facet of my environment, I could control my reaction and behavior to challenges.” - LAUREN PENTICUFF

Second, the only way to adjust my brand was to make daily choices of how I wanted to show up and create my own story. While I may not be able to control every facet of my environment, I could control my reaction and behavior to challenges. Since then, I’ve done my best to choose positivity over negativity and uplift those around me. My encouragement to those on their journey toward shaping their personal brand is to figure out who you are, what you want to be known for, and make daily choices to be that person.

Jackie: To your point Lauren, one of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Maya Angelou: "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." The feelings you inspire and instill in others are your brand, something you've imparted to others whose lives you've impacted, sometimes in the seemingly smallest of ways. I am continually surprised to learn what people remember from an interaction we've had, years later.

One deliberate action you can take is to write out a personal brand statement. When you have the vision of what you wish for your brand, you can use it to guide your everyday behavior and ask yourself if you are living up to who you aspire to be. My statement has remained the same since 2006: "I am a caring and passionate advocate for people and possibilities — allowing others to achieve more than they ever thought they could."

Jackie pictured here with her husband, Eric 

Leading with Equality

Felicia: Speaking of advocating for people, we know that when employees feel a sense of belonging at work, they are more engaged and more productive. Lauren, what makes you personally feel a sense of belonging, and what are your thoughts on what more we can do collectively, to create a culture of belonging?

Lauren: Join the conversation! With 12 global ERG’s such as Salesforce Women’s Network, BOLDforce, OutForce, and Vetforce➚, Salesforce is fully supportive and committed to helping each individual employee feel a sense of belonging at work. As people leaders, we can encourage participation in Equality Groups, and create space to have 1:1 conversations with each team member to learn how they feel most connected and seen at work. To me, the desire to be an equality ally is a clear indicator of the commitment this company’s leaders have in creating a culture of belonging. My encouragement is to identify what you need in order to feel like you are bringing your full self to work every day, and then make space to have those conversations with people you trust. 

(Lauren at Tableau DC’s 2019 Pride Parade)

Felicia: That’s so great! Jackie, can you help us expand further on this topic of belonging and explain how you empower your teams to lead with equality?

Jackie: To Lauren’s reference of our ERG’s, I have to admit that as a US Air Force veteran, Vetforce➚ is near and dear to my heart. We often forget how difficult it can be to transition from the military to civilian life and work in ‘Corporate America.’ Vetforce➚ offers a supportive community for veterans, families of service members, and those who are passionate about supporting our military. I think it’s important that we provide veteran-friendly policies and practices—so our veteran employees can be their best selves at Salesforce.

Back to your question Felicia, first and foremost, I always bring my authentic self to work and celebrate others who do the same. But the truth is that in order to truly lead with equality, we need a far more diverse marketing team. We have made equality a cornerstone with specific underrepresented minority (URM) hiring goals and racial equality trainings at both the leadership and individual levels. We are also setting up Inclusive Leaders for Racial Justice Development roundtables quarterly. We center on concepts from the Inclusive Leadership Trailhead➚ module like practicing inclusive meetings, ensuring fair and equitable promotions, being an ally, supporting flexibility, and supporting the growth of your employees.

As these can be personally difficult issues for all of us and there is no easy playbook for how we adapt as an organization, I never have the expectation for anyone to have all the answers. What I do ask is for everyone to be unafraid to reach out to one another and ask for help if they’re unsure of what to do. 

(Jackie taking a trademark selfie with her family and Tableau Sr. Evangelist, Brand Marketing, Ashley Howard Neville)

Welcoming Difficult Conversations

Felicia: That’s the thing though, as Lauren mentioned earlier, people want to have discussions with people they trust. There can be a tendency to avoid difficult conversations because people are afraid to say the wrong thing. How can we create an environment where everyone feels psychologically safe to have courageous, authentic conversations?

Jackie: This is a difficult one. The truth is everyone defines psychological safety for themselves. As leaders, we need to be keenly aware of what type of environment and context provides safety for each person so that the conversations begin to open up. It is not a one-size-fits-all. We need to ensure our workplace is one where everyone can feel they can speak freely without retaliation and/or repercussion and that the conversations spur action. These are certainly challenging times. But we are going to come out the other side as better people — more reflective, open, vulnerable — with a better grasp on what truly matters.

My hope is that we can all be proud of how we show up every day but realize that can be hard as examples of racial and gender inequity continue to linger and systemic change comes slowly. As a leader, I concentrate on providing different avenues and opportunities for deep, important conversations to happen. I strive to be a role model of transparency, empathy, vulnerability, patience, and always try to listen deeply.

Lauren: I’d love to add a personal story as my sister, a first-grade teacher on the Race & Equity team at her elementary school, has encouraged me in a couple of ways. Five years ago, a University of Washington Race & Diversity Professor came to speak at her school about how to create space in the classroom where all children can feel seen and included. After the discussion, a teacher shared that they felt they were not qualified to have conversations about equality. Looking forlorn, the Professor responded, “Why does it always have to be me? I’m tired of it always being me, and I need help.” It brings me to a quote from Beverly Daniel Tatum, in her book “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” She describes the “ongoing cycle of racism as a moving walkway at the airport. [...] Unless [we] are walking actively in the opposite direction at a speed faster than the conveyor belt, unless they are actively anti-racist, they will find themselves carried along with the others.”

Both of these references encourage me to create the space to have conversations I was never taught to lead. I think about that UW Professor whenever I feel I’m not in my element, that it shouldn’t have to be people of color leading all conversations about Equality. I reflect on how easy it is to perpetuate systemic racism and decide daily that if it’s not something I am willing to be apart of, I need to move in the opposite direction. We can create an inclusive environment to have brave, authentic conversations when we ourselves are brave and authentic. When someone else’s experience or someone else’s starting line looks different from our own — our reaction should be to educate ourselves, listen, and understand that privilege is a reality and being an active advocate is the only pathway to change.

(Lauren hitting the slopes with her sister)

Felicia: Incredible. That is a perfect way to wrap up our conversation today. I want to genuinely thank both of you for spending time on this important work. Your leadership puts Tableau and Salesforce on the continued path of growth and opportunity for women everywhere.

At Salesforce, we are committed to advancing gender equality in the workplace and in society. Click here to view the recap of our third-annual gender equality summit, Trailblazing Women, where we heard from inspiring authors, business leaders, and activists. Learn more about our open roles at Salesforce.

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