This summer, WashingtonExec is reaching out to successful leaders in government and government contracting to learn more about their habits, experiences and perspectives.
Lisa Marcus is vice president of North American government at Nuxeo Corporation. She has more than 25 years experience in public sector marketing and sales leadership for technology companies. She has also worked at Microsoft, Oracle and IBM.
WashingtonExec: What is on your summer reading list?
Marcus: The following books are next on my summer reading list. These are outside of my book club reading:
- “CIRCE” by Madeline Miller. This New York Times bestseller is a twist on the story of Circe, the Greek sorceress from the Odyssey. This retelling casts Circe as a heroine who made tough choices on when and how to use her powers of witchcraft. This book is an escape to the ancient world of Greek mythology with a new twist – a feminine hero. Aside from a fun read, I suspect it will help me explore the line between the use and abuse of power.
- “Thrive – The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder” by Arianna Huffington. This autobiography looks at Arianna Huffington, the co-founder of The Huffington Post, and her achievements thus far. The book explores her success and approaches for leading a balanced life. This has been on my bookshelf for a while, and I’m finally carving out time to read it. This book is said to be well written and entertaining. As a lifelong learner, I’m looking to see how Arianna Huffington has approached work-life balance and what lessons I might glean from her example.
- “The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos” by Christian Davenport is about two of the best-known and most prominent explorers of our time – Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Davenport details their journey and the race to the next frontier. I find both of their stories fascinating and exciting. Both men have strong visions and the natural ability to execute. “To infinity and beyond” as Buzz Lightyear says in “Toy Story,” but why, and how? What’s that deep motivation and vision? What can we learn along the way from these successful visionaries?
- “Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More” by Morten T. Hansen discusses productivity and improving work practices, based on research. It also includes self-assessments and quizzes which suggest areas for self-study. To me, it seems like it is this year’s “Good to Great,” a quick read with some useful ideas and approaches to put into practice and share with my team!
- “The Woman in the Window,” a novel by A.J. Finn, is a thriller. It reminds me of a mix between Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” and “Gone Girl” – both stories hold a place in my list of thriller favorites. I highly recommend this as an airplane read or for a long trip. I love finding books with storytelling techniques that keep me so fascinated that I can’t put them down, and this is one of them!
WashingtonExec: Tell me about a time in your life when you had to really stretch yourself in order to learn and grow.
Marcus: During my career, I spent about five years at IBM. I took on a role that forced me to apply my skills in a new and different way that I hadn’t in previous positions. Prior to IBM, I was an accomplished sales manager and salesperson accustomed to working in a typical hierarchical structure in fast-evolving software companies. The role I took at IBM focused more on leadership and strategy in a highly matrixed organization. The teams I led were responsible for the entire IBM software portfolio, some 30,000 or more SKU’s, for our designated client sector. This was the largest organization I had ever worked for. Well, for that matter, it was one of the largest corporations, with over 400,000 to 500,000 people at that time.
The matrix was so complex that the normal transition typically took two years to fully understand it. The teams we led did not report to us in a hierarchical way, yet we were tasked with setting the strategy and helping exceed all company goals, even if some were contradictory. To win the hearts and minds of all the stakeholders, my approach was to provide value. I found that in order to keep the teams’ attention and deliver on our strategy, we needed to provide tangible value.
To do so, we focused on delivering time-saving techniques such as transforming the latest relevant company, product or client information into consumable action plans able to meet key client objectives. We also concentrated on providing methods that would expedite contracting actions by leveraging our internal and external relationships to ensure effective interactions between the client and the IBM team.
Although this was one of the most challenging jobs of my career, it was beneficial in that I was constantly stretching myself and learning to evolve as a leader. At IBM, I learned to lead not by virtue of my position, but instead by providing value and hopefully some thought leadership. I was also surprised in how much my colleagues respected my opinions and wanted to be led. To me, this approach was in stark contrast to my earlier roles where I was in managing or directing positions. It is no question that my time at IBM helped me learn the critical difference between being a manager and being a leader.
WashingtonExec: If you could go back and give your younger self career and/or life advice, what would you say?
Marcus: I’d tell myself a few things. The first would be to find a few reliable mentors. I do not really recall having strong mentors early in my career. Later, I started working with a variety, and I became a mentor, too. Women in the technology field who broke through glass ceilings early on had tons of talent, as well as strong mentors who helped them along the way. Having a solid network is also important, and I’m grateful to all of those in mine.
Secondly, I would tell myself to stretch into the next role and to always think bigger. What limits you the most is often you and your imagination. Many years ago, one of my mentors advised that women frequently want to master a skill or set of skills and be fully qualified before they accept a new role and to NOT be that person. Don’t be afraid to reach for that next rung – be encouraged. This is something that has stuck with me, and it’s advice I will continue to pass on to both men and women.
WashingtonExec: What is your favorite city to visit? What do you enjoy doing there?
It’s so hard to pick just one, but I’ll go with my hometown, Chicago. Mostly because it’s such a friendly and fun city. Besides seeing family and friends, I enjoy music at Millennium Park, making faces at the Bean, watching the Cubs at Wrigley Field, shopping on the Magnificent Mile, seeing mummies and dinosaurs at the Field Museum, and sharing laughs at Second City. Exploring Chicago foods is also one of my favorite things to do. We don’t go for the thick pizza, but we love gourmet Chicago hot dogs – don’t forget the celery salt – traditional Frango Chocolates, caramel corn and going to Greektown. Lastly, my dad was an architect, so I have to recommend the architectural tour, especially the riverboat tour.
WashingtonExec: Tell me about an app, device or type of technology you personally love and why.
Marcus: My guilty pleasure or occasional addiction currently is WordBrain. I love puzzles. This game starts easy but gets harder as you increase in levels. You have to find words within a matrix that match the blank spaces. I play with my family and friends, and it’s fun to see how we get stumped in different ways. Some are silly, and a few totally perplex us since we try to avoid using hints or answer websites.
Nuxeo is great about using easy-to-use and mobile friendly productivity applications. Expensify makes expenses a breeze as you can simply take photos of your receipts and it uploads and categorizes them. You can tie it to your business credit card and pull in those expenses too. It almost makes doing expenses fun!
Slack is also up there in my list of key apps. If I could get rid of email, I would. This app is an easy-to-use mix of instant messaging and email where it allows for team members to communicate and collect documents –– enabling 21st century teamwork. At Nuxeo, we use it both internally and with clients. Slack also has some fun features that add humor and personality. For example, many of us Washington Caps fans changed our icon to the Stanley Cup when the team won.