To celebrate Women's History Month, we sat down with Jill Sanders, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at AT&T Cybersecurity, to talk about her unconventional path to the C-Suite, the importance of female representation in leadership, and AT&T's partnership with Palo Alto Networks.
When asked about her career growth in cybersecurity, Jill noted that her journey to the C-Suite started with a lateral shift. Following AT&T's acquisition of BellSouth in 2006, a mentor recommended that Jill expand her network and become acquainted with the leadership from other parts of the company: "While I originally started in a management development program and advanced within the sales organization, I took a risk and made a lateral move from sales to operations."
As you can imagine, that's not a normal career path, but Jill recognized the importance of working and learning from various people in various job functions. "It felt like the right time to start focusing on new relationships, learning other parts of the business and stepping out of my comfort zone," she explained.
While the lateral move didn't mean a traditional promotion, it helped Jill network and develop the skills needed to propel herself up the corporate ladder:
With the lateral transition, I had skip-level reporting. I was reporting
to a VP, my peers at the staff meetings were directors, and my manager
treated me as director. This allowed me to learn to operate at the level
of an executive and to build confidence in my voice.
Over the years, Jill continued to advance based on her experience and relationships with her peers. Now as Chief Marketing Officer, she leads the marketing and sales teams for AT&T Cybersecurity. She's responsible for all business aspects of the go-to-market, from defining the strategy and sales execution to delivering revenue performance and profitability for the cybersecurity portfolio.
The Power in Differentiation of Thought
It's no secret that women face unique obstacles in the workforce (e.g., unconscious bias, pay gaps and uneven opportunities for advancement), often amplified by the unbalanced representation in critical decision-making. For many businesswomen, a seat at the table is a hard-earned symbol of career success, enabling our voices to be heard and our opinions valued.
When asked about the importance of women having a seat at the table, Jill notes that representation is essential to fostering an inclusive work environment. "Representation creates a culture of belonging, allowing for differentiation of thought. By having women at the table, we can embrace different perspectives, influence our business, and create opportunities for other women."
Jill prioritizes differentiation of thought on her team, creating a diverse environment for her peers and leadership team. She attributes that diversity to much of their success, explaining that "it allows us to accelerate innovation and improve the experience not only for our employees but our customers."
Jill offers some advice for those of you embarking on your own journey to claim a seat at the table: "Remember to ask questions and don't be afraid to speak up. We each have a voice and belong at the table. We can all break through that glass ceiling - leverage your network, learn the skills and keep going."
Palo Alto Networks and AT&T: Enabling the Customers' Digital Transformation
For many years, Palo Alto Networks has been a key technology provider within the AT&T Cybersecurity portfolio, combining our industry-leading technology and AT&T's services to address the customers' needs. "Palo Alto Networks and AT&T jointly go to market, bringing enterprises of all sizes managed security offers to help protect the business," Jill explains.
Our mutual commitment to evolve with the market and meet the customers' needs is a key component of the relationship. "It's not just about providing one solution; it's about continuous evolution," notes Jill. "We look at our customers as part of the team, so we need to grow together and evolve the technology and services we offer them."
With solutions for small and large businesses, AT&T and Palo Alto Networks find the right offer for the customer's digital transformation journey. Jill notes that AT&T “Takes the Palo Alto Networks technology, finds the right fit for each customer, and integrates that back through with the other services and solutions we bring to market."
Check back for a new "Women In Tech" profile and meet other inspiring women propelling business into the future.