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Profile: Sally Sabet, Head of Consumer Goods Go to Market at Pitcher

Women in Tech: “Innovation is the first factor for companies to grow”

Jean Kiltz

Four years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Sally Sabet, Head of Consumer Goods Go to Market at Pitcher.

research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?

Four years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Sally Sabet, Head of Consumer Goods Go to Market at Pitcher.

Today’s Woman in Tech: Sally Sabet, Head of Consumer Goods Go to Market at Pitcher

Sally is the Global Lead of Consumer Goods Go to Market for Pitcher. She has a career spanning 16 years which includes previously working as a Principal Solution Strategist for Salesforce and at companies such as Service Now and Experian.

She is passionate about not only helping businesses grow and innovate but also championing women in technology. In 2020, Sally won the Women in Sales EMEA (WISA) Award, and was recently shortlisted for the Women In Tech Excellence Award and the Women in IT Award.

When did you become interested in technology? What first got you interested in tech?

I grew up in a family with two incredibly intelligent and successful brothers and a wonderful sister who has a range of hearing, speech, and learning disabilities. Those who are neurodiverse understand the kinds of challenges she faced, and the kinds of pressure she experienced trying to reach the bar set by society and family.

She was unable to finish high school, and struggled to keep internships and short-term jobs. She was becoming increasingly isolated the older we got. Then about 20 years ago, technology just completely transformed her life. She got a laptop and was able to engage with games and programs, and communicate with the external world in a way that had been impossible before, because of her hearing and speech disabilities.

Now, she’s a successful, confident saleswoman, who thrives because she’s authentic and because technology platforms have enabled her to communicate about the product and with customers. Watching her improvement was what led to my interest in technology. I wanted to invest the rest of my career and life in something that can genuinely transform people’s lives, like it did my sister.

At the end of the day, technology is used by companies and organizations to solve problems. I have always been very excited to be at the center of that process, where technology is making people’s lives better, and their working and personal lives easier.

How did you end up in your career path? What obstacles did you have to overcome?

I got my degree in computer science, and my first job was actually as a developer. I found I liked the coding side of technology, but I loved the business side of things – listening to internal stakeholders and end users, and understanding business challenges. It was fascinating to be able to quantify the positive impact of what we were developing for our customers – in their day-to-day lives – and ultimately evaluate how successful we were in streamlining business processes. From there, I became more of a business analyst, charged with communicating between the business and IT teams. This was the stepping stone to my consultancy career. What I enjoy most about my job is being able to help people by listening to their vision and pain points, and translating those into digital solutions.

Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?

My dad has been a major advocate of female empowerment. I grew up in Iran, where many women are denied basic rights. I was incredibly lucky to grow up in a family where my father consistently and continuously empowered me and gave me confidence. He used to tell me all the time that education is more important than bread and butter for women, that education is the key to success and independence in life. I’ve also been very lucky to have some supportive and inspiring female mentors as role models. In particular, Musidora Jorgensen is a brilliant and kind leader. She showed me that you can be authentic, feminine, compassionate, and also successful at the same time. Broadly speaking, I take inspiration from Sheryl Sandberg, Arianna Huffington, and Brene Brown.

Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?

Being a woman, having a quiet voice, sounding feminine and being one of the smart people in the room is not always received well. In corporate environments, there are a lot of expectations around playing the perfect female leader role – I’d say a subtle pressure to do your job but almost do it on mute mode, meaning that you don’t call attention to problems. You’re expected to be quiet, even though there are pockets of men who seem to be mostly calling the shots or even in the face of discriminating behavior. And if you’re the one who actually has the courage to speak up, you face the system. And that’s not always fun.

My job is really fun because it touches on all the key strategic aspects of an organization.

A day in Sally’s life

My vision is to position Pitcher to be recognized as an innovative vendor and solution provider in the consumer goods industry and to expand our global footprint. My job is really fun because it touches on all the key strategic aspects of an organization.

From the top funnel, I work closely with the marketing team to raise our brand awareness. From the middle to bottom funnel, I help the sales team create a strategy on how to go to market, how to sell, what messaging to use, and how to engage with our customers. And the most fun part of my job is actually demonstrating Pitcher’s industry expertise – creating content, going to conferences, hosting webinars, and really telling the story of how Pitcher can help consumer goods organizations within the sales enablement space to innovate and grow faster.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I consider myself very passionate and adventurous, so earning industry recognition for what I’m trying to do is something I’m extremely proud of. Being named the 2021 Women in IT Innovator of the Year, and being shortlisted as the 2021 Enterprise Innovator of the Year for the Women in Tech Excellence Awards were all major honors for me as it meant people get me and what I’m trying to bring to the table.

Why aren’t there more women in tech? And what challenges do they face?

I’d say there are three key elements. There’s been a lot of effort in bringing more women into tech in the past few years. While that’s progress, if you look closely, the majority of these women are still at low and mid-level roles and the top-level leadership positions are still predominantly men. As a result, decisions are still made primarily by men. As a woman that bothers me because you can’t be what you can’t see. There are days when I think, “Let’s look at the leadership teams around us. How many women do you see? How can I achieve that and how can I get there?” If there aren’t any role models, it’s hard for women to envision what that success looks like.

Secondly, imposter syndrome is a real epidemic among our female workforce. If you think about our upbringing, we tend to educate boys to be brave, and girls to be perfect, and that absolutely escalates up to our career. You see it when women generally wait to feel as though they are worthy before asking about a promotion or pay raise. Often women wait to be “perfect enough” to apply for a new position, or are delayed until they feel “confident enough” to speak up without trying to take responsibility for everything.

Lastly, as you rise to the top, your peers are mainly men who often have a more solid supportive structure at home, one that allows them to dedicate time and be more focused at work. Women often manage work and the majority of home-based responsibilities of children and keeping the family together. Women are more regularly involved in more social and community causes, which makes it difficult to compete with the same level of energy.

Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM? What would be the (social, economic and cultural) impact?

This is probably stating the obvious, but diversity enhances creativity. It’s proven. One of my favorite studies is from Harvard Business Review, which showed teams with diversity are 45% likelier to report growth in their market share, and also 70% likelier to capture new markets. So it’s not just a case of claiming lip service, it’s proven that by having more women in technology, you will see a greater economic return along with societal and cultural benefits. Empathy, which women tend to bring into work, helps us to be more innovative. It helps us build longer-lasting relationships with our customers. People buy because they like people, people trust people, and empathy creates that cycle of trust.

We’re on the right path. But in my opinion, for us to see true results, we need to think about implementing a “bottom up” as well as “top down” change.

The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current debate?

We’re on the right path. But in my opinion, for us to see true results, we need to think about implementing a “bottom up” as well as “top down” change. A lot of corporations are investing in expanding the female workforce and increasing diversity which is amazing. But the problem on the shop floor still exists. My mentees, colleagues, and friends – who have worked in tech and also other sectors – the majority of them have shared they’d faced some sort of discrimination or bullying, or even outright sexual harassment at some point in their career. When it happened, they didn’t have the right skills to deal with it. So for me, the bottom up change needs to be put in place so we can upskill our girls from school age, so they know how to compete to play the long game. This way, they can develop the courage to speak up in a powerful way. I think that’s what’s needed for us to get real momentum.

What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career? What should they know about this industry?

Again, you can’t be what you can’t see. Aim high and know that you can serve as a model for countless others after you.

When I talk to girls who are deciding whether they should get into technology or not, I find the common misconception that tech looks like an office where people are sitting in dark server rooms, where everyone is geeky and they don’t talk to each other. While the technology itself is fascinating, for me, the majority of my days are actually spent with business leaders, CEOs, CFOs, and commercial teams. It’s exciting. It’s solving customers’ cutting-edge problems and helping them to be innovative. Innovation is the first factor for companies to grow and be more profitable. It’s amazing to be at the center of it.

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Jean Kiltz works as an editor at S&S Media since March 2020. He studied History at Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz

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