French author Marcel Proust once wrote, “The real voyage of discovery consists of not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” The way we see the world, or perspective, is one of Assent’s seven values. Since joining Assent in March 2017, Kelly Barter’s perspective has enabled her to succeed in three roles: Account Executive (AE), Director of Business Development, and Senior Director of Global Supplier Success. As Senior Director of Global Supplier Success, Kelly manages a global team of over 200 people.
Read on to learn more about Kelly’s journey at Assent, and the opportunities she discovered through mentorship and professional development.
Q: What was your first role at Assent?
A: I was an AE. Previously, I had management experience in the pharmaceutical industry, but when I changed industries, I didn’t have experience in SaaS or compliance. I wanted to figure out how to sell the product, which is why I took an AE role. I knew I wanted to get back to managing people, but I needed to understand the product first to help me become an effective leader here at Assent.
Q: How did the transition from AE to Director of Business Development come about?
A: I was talking to one of the company’s founders, Matt Whitteker. I asked him what was keeping him up at night. He said he was looking for a business development leader. I told him I would love to do this job, and I had the right background to take on the role. He took a chance on me and gave me the role.
The team started off with 10 people. In the two-and-a-half years I was there, we scaled it to 40 people, a 300% increase.
Q: How did you move from the Director of Business Development position to the Senior Director of Global Supplier Success?
A: I always thought I’d stay in sales. I thrive on key performance indicators (KPIs), metrics, quotas, and the thrill of the close.
For a few months, I was asked to support the Global Supplier Success team. I quickly realized that all teams need metrics, KPIs, and recognition. There were so many parallel things that I was doing in business development that the Global Supplier Success team could benefit from. And so, I made the move and haven’t looked back.
Q: What are some of the puzzles you’ve encountered in your role as Senior Director of Global Supplier Success?
A: There are a lot of parallels when you’re leading teams. The functions are different, but how you lead is very similar.
The team is global, so I’m learning a ton about understanding different cultures. I’m working with different time zones, which is a challenge. Malaysia [home to one of Assent’s supplier success centers] is 12 hours ahead of Ottawa, where I’m located. How do we make sure that reporting structure makes sense?
The team needs to know the value of what they’re doing and their impact on the organization, just like a sales team does. It’s easier for a sales team to see their impact through bringing in revenue to the organization. The Supplier Success team has impact, too, but it just looks different. Putting in KPIs and metrics was one of the first things that we did so they could see the impact they’re making on the overall organization.
When I came into this role, one of my major goals was to give them a global voice. Different locations were given tasks, they executed those tasks, and that was it. What I realized was that there were a lot of talented individuals that had great ideas to boost efficiency and yield higher results. They just needed to be empowered to voice these ideas.
We launched the Innovation Awards, which lets our leadership team hear these ideas. Nothing is a “no,” but it’s more of a “Let’s think about this.” We need to challenge what we did yesterday. Can we do it differently today?
Is there a more efficient way? Are we adding value to the supplier or to the client with these tasks? If the answer is yes, awesome. If the answer is no, let’s think about how we can do it differently. We pilot a ton of ideas. We look at what the data says. If it saves us time, money, and headcount, we take it bigger.
Having the Innovation Award winner helps the team realize they’ll be recognized and rewarded for their ideas. We wanted this information globally because they’re the ones doing the tasks. They know where there are efficiencies.
We’ve also created a lot of progression opportunities across the globe. We now have a director out of Kenya, David Njeri, who’s leading a global team based in Malaysia, Kenya, and North America. It’s a really cool opportunity. We’ve explored different options to empower people globally to take on leadership roles. We’re the first department to do that at Assent.
Q: Have you received any mentorship at Assent that has helped you navigate your career path at the organization?
A: I’ve been lucky throughout my career here. Mentors have empowered me and built up my confidence. They believed I had leadership skills. Dave Curley, Chief Revenue Officer, has been an advocate for me, and I’ve learned a lot from him on having a strategic plan and not being afraid to move on these plans.
Keira Torkko, Chief People Officer, has also provided a lot of mentorship. She’s helped me define and understand my career goals, and where I’d like to go within the organization and was a key part of me taking on this new role within supplier success.
My current manager, Mike Todd, has also been a huge advocate for my development. Every day, he pushes me to be a great leader and he leads by example.
Sometimes, that’s difficult to navigate on your own. Having internal mentorships, networks, and support is very positive. Mentors and networks can help you navigate that world better.
Q: Because you’ve received mentorship, you understand the value it offers the mentee. You offer mentorship to women in sales — please share more about that.
A: I’m a huge advocate of empowering other females to consider sales as a career path. Sales can be an incredible career with many benefits, but I also think it can be intimidating. It can be hard to navigate with lots of highs and lows. Women ask themselves, “Should I stay?”
I became part of a group called #GirlsClub, an online sales coaching program with a mentorship component. I volunteered my time to give back because mentorship has helped me so much. I wanted to be able to give back to someone else.
It interested me because I think females can be very successful in a sales career. They bring a different dynamic, and energy, and typically sell with empathy. To have a balance of genders and diversity at an organization is really important.
Within Assent’s Business Development team, we launched a mentorship program for women called “The Power of Women.” We provided training and ran monthly sessions when I was Director of Business Development. To attract more AEs, we need to attract more female business development representatives to our organization. Now I help, but I’m less involved.
Q: If you were to give advice to someone starting at Assent, what would it be?
A: Be open to every opportunity. You never know where you’re going to land. Your skillset can be utilized in many positions which also helps you grow as a professional. Care about the work you do and the people that you are surrounded by and people will notice. There will be opportunities to progress your career.
If I hadn’t been open to Supplier Success, I don’t know what I would have missed out on. I work with incredible individuals who are extremely talented. The suppliers are a critical component of our business.
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