Written By WOM Member: Samantha Iodice
If you were born before 1990, you likely did not grow up dreaming of a career in MarTech, since most of the industry did not yet exist. For many young women, depending on generational influences, their career aspirations may have been driven by parents and aimed toward more “traditional” female careers in the field of education or healthcare. Kimmah Shah, Head of Digital and Demand Generation at Actian, had a few other things in mind when it came to her future professional endeavors. Surrounded, supported and inspired by a family of creatives, including artists, dancers and singers, Kimmah’s idea of her future career was a bit different. As a young girl, Kimmah dreamed of wearing power suits, having her own seat in a boardroom and telling men what to do. A pretty solid dream for a girl of any age.
Creativity Fuels The Journey From Front Desk To Executive
Kimmah’s childhood dreams of being a high-powered professional found her also wanting to retain some creative aspect within her career. After all, raised amid a plethora of creative people, some of that energy was bound to rub off. Marketing became an ideal career path, as it is a place where business, technology and creativity intertwine, making a perfect blend of art and science.
She began her career as many do, in an entry level role where she could get her feet wet in the industry, while always aiming high. Without any technical skills in Marketing, Kimmah had to start at the literal bottom as a receptionist for a security firm in Chicago, IL. Eventually, her perseverance paid off and she landed her first Sales and Marketing Coordinator position. From there, her career journey unfolded, bringing her through various ranks over the course of three years, including the role of Interim VP of Marketing at the award-winning customer data and marketing platform, Clutch. In September 2020, Kimmah accepted the role of Head of Digital And Demand Generation for Actian, a hybrid cloud data warehouse & customer 360 analytics solution.
The Three Questions That Define The Day
The little girl who once dreamed of power-suits and decision-making now has grown to be the woman currently leading the development, implementation, and prioritization of demand generation programs and strategies at Actian.
Kimmah’s teams spearhead a myriad of Martech strategies, including paid search, social, marketing emails and automated nurture programs, lead management, content syndication, SEO, ABM marketing strategies, and customer journey mapping. Her typical day, as one can imagine, is full of priority juggling and problem-solving.
In Kimmah’s words, “I typically start my day by looking at my project list and assessing my priorities against anything that may have happened after I closed the previous day. I attend a lot of meetings… many [with] Shareholders, Executives, Agency Partners. When you are stepping into a digital transformation role, you [need] to have buy-in and collaboration.”
Kimmah noted that when engaging with other leaders and decision-makers across her organization and external partners she relies on the impact of the following questions:
Is it running?
Is it working?
How do we fix it?
The answers her receives ensures if she is achieving alignment across the organization
Diversity Challenges Intertwine
Kimmah’s biggest challenge is one many women in MarTech still encounter daily – being the only woman of color in every leadership room she’s in. According to Kimmah, “There are days when I use the concept of ‘being the only one’ to fuel me, to push myself harder. Then there are days when it calls me to question if there is a seat for me at the proverbial ‘table.’” Kimmah uses her experiences, such as a meeting with a young woman of color. Describing the meeting, Kimmah said, “[The woman I met with] shared how proud and happy she was to see a black woman in leadership in tech, because it’s so rare. She told me she appreciated the work I was doing, creating space for other women of color. I can tell you, nothing filled me with more pride and joy than hearing those words.” Kimmah uses moments like these to help her persevere, support others and reinforce her focus on paving a diverse path for both women and other underrepresented minorities.
Advice For Other Women Seeking Increased Visibility In MarTech
Kimmah’s advice will likely ring true for many women in the MarTech space: know how to analyze data. In her own words, “I know this sounds obvious… but learning how to translate, analyze and act on data is key. Understanding how to interpret data and see a story that is only told in numbers will help you discover patterns, avoid pitfalls, and know when to pivot on strategies when they’re going poorly or reallocate funds to those that are exceeding your greatest expectations.” Visibility in MarTech is not about being the most confident, assertive or loudest person in the room, it is about being the person who is ready and able to solve challenges.
While there are many myths that perpetuate the idea that women are not interested or skilled in math, science and technology, the truth is, we are, we will be and we must continue to inspire other little girls that they can too.