Hello SOTGC community,
I’d like to introduce you to the wonderful Penny Herscher whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the private book party she hosted for Pamela Ryckman’s Stiletto Network. My first impression of Penny was that she is sharp, friendly, and truly cares about helping others.
Penny is a remarkably diverse lady who has attained that combination of “visionary meets technical.” She started off as an engineer, and throughout the course of her career has changed hats several times. She was the CEO of Simplex, a company in the EDA space, which sold to Cadence in 2001 for $300 million. She is now the CEO of FirstRain which is the world’s leading big data insights solution, helping sales teams better identify their clients’ needs, and positioning themselves to address them. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I’ve enjoyed having the experience to pick her brain and absorb some of her vast knowledge.
Who is Penny Herscher and what drivers her?
I’m a person who is very passionate about leading teams and building companies using deep, complicated technology. I find technology and leadership fascinating and being a CEO allows me to combine the two together. I’m also a very high energy, fun loving, crazy person, but I keep it very professional in the office. However, this doesn’t stop be from being very vocal and impassioned in my beliefs at work. Some would call me competitive, and perhaps even a bit aggressive, which is something I’ve had to learn to temper in my career. I will do whatever it takes to win as long as it’s positive, for the right reasons, and always with a ton of energy. As far as what drives me, I always say: “decide what you want and go at it hard!”
What is your mantra?
Not sure that I have a “mantra” per say, but I’d say my purpose is to give love and seek equality of opportunity. I strive very hard for authenticity in both my work and personal life. Part of this incorporates mixing humor with professionalism and trying to be completely present with the task at hand.
From an engineer, into marketing, and becoming a CEO and building a company from the ground up, twice…tell us a little about this journey and how you went from techy to visionary.
I really enjoy very technical products because I find technology fascinating. I’m not a company founder, but where I’ve set myself apart is that I’ve been able to team up with technical teams to really understand their technology. Then I have been able to go to the customer and work closely with them to define what part of the technology we have that could positively affect their P&L, and blending the two together so that the client gets optimum results from my team’s technology
What are the two most valuable lessons you have learned in your career?
- You have to be willing to work really hard at whatever you want to be successful at. I was always the first in the office and the last to leave. But be aware that when you set your goals to the CEO level, there will be sacrifices along the way. So make sure you are aware of and OK with these.
- Kindness goes a really long way!
What are two things you would advise the next generation of female CEOs to do in order to have a happy career and personal life?
- Marry well, what I mean by this is, pick the right partner. I’ve seen woman trying to have careers with husbands that aren’t supportive and it’s impossible. When you’re a CEO you are working REALLY hard. If you don’t have a spouse that supports you and believes in what you do, you’ll either have to quit your job, or you’ll get a divorce.
- Don’t believe what other people tell you when they say that what you want to accomplish can’t be done. You can do anything you want to do.