How She Got There: Nancy Dussault Smith, Vice President Sales & Marketing at Jibo, Inc.

Name: Nancy Dussault Smith
Age: 43
Job Title and Description: Vice President Sales & Marketing at Jibo, Inc.
College Name/Major: Merrimack College/Marketing
Twitter Handle: @nancydsmith
Instagram Handle: @ndusso17

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

NDS: There is no such thing as a typical day. At my current job, where I’m in charge of sales, marketing and product at Jibo - and it’s actually one of the things I love most about my job - it’s something different every day. I never know if I’m going to be sitting in a product meeting deciding what next features are going into the robot or dealing with sales and digital marketing, e-commerce, bringing on new retailers, or thinking of new ways to launch products. It's always something different!

What is the best part of your job?

NDS: The fact that every day is different and the fact that every day is faced with new challenges. I think I would get bored really easily if it was the same thing every day. My whole career has sort of been spent in launching new products - particularly new technologies - and when you’re trying to not only announce a new product but create a whole new category, it's really exciting. It’s also exciting because it’s kind of the only way I could be an explorer, I’m too much of a wimp to be a real explorer, but I’m out there and I’m creating new ways in which people can learn about new technologies, and that for me is really fun.

What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

NDS: I was in sales for a while after school, and sales really helped me understand the big picture – but it wasn’t my love. Marketing was my love. One day one of my sales team members got sick and I covered her for a sales meeting at iRobot. I went and people in there were legit in their jammies. Like, they’re walking around in slippers, they’re writing equations on the wall, people are passionately arguing different scientific facts, and it was the coolest place I had ever been.

It was the passion of the people who worked there that just blew me away. I instantly thought that this is where I want to be. I can add value here, I can do something different. I felt it in my bones and I hounded them for about six months for a job. It got to the point where the office manager had my home phone number and we would chat regularly - she was a lovely lady - and one day she called me and said, “Listen, there’s an opening, you’re not going to want it, it’s a huge pay-cut for you.”

It was basically the assistant to the lawyer, and I went in and I interviewed for it, I took a massive pay-cut, I got the job. The only person who didn’t want to hire me was the lawyer, who to this day is one of my best buds, because he knew that I wasn’t going to stay in this role. I was either going to get promoted or I was going to leave. I got in there and I just started adding value. I literally just took over marketing within about six months being there. Find what you really love and figure out the best way to get in there, and don’t give up.

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

NDS: Be humble, be hungry and always be the hardest worker in the room. You can learn from everyone in the room. No matter who it is, you can learn something from them, so be humble about that. Be hungry and take on more than your job description entails. Show value in lots of different areas, it’s great for learning experience and it’s going to show that you’re important within the company. And always be the hardest worker in the room. People appreciate that and they notice that.

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

NDS: If you’re dealing with the press, you’re never really off the record. I remember early-on when we launched Roomba and I was doing an interview with someone in the media, and they were saying how they really didn’t understand why anyone needs Roomba. Everybody already has a vacuum, there’s already a way to do this.

The interview was done and this was supposed to be in the wrap-up, and I was like, "Off the record, you could bang your clothes off of a rock to wash them, but it’s not the best solution." And that was the headline. iRobot rep says: “Sure you could smash your clothes off of a rock to clean them…” I was like, oh, my god. It just made me sound like a jerk, right? I was mortified.

I think that was a very big learning experience, no matter how comfortable you are with the people you’re talking to, always remember that you’re representing your company. Even if you’re just talking to a stranger about it. I talk about robots all the time, and at that moment, the moment I start talking about the plans that I work with and the company I work with, I’m a representative of that company and need to speak appropriately.

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

NDS: I’ve worked hard but I’m blessed to have had some crazy experiences. Personally, the most surreal was that I was on Oprah after we launched Roomba as one of her “Favorite Things” and it was just completely amazing to be backstage, see how that operation ran and to just be there. And then to get a handwritten note from Oprah thanking me for being on her show - it was absolutely surreal.

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

NDS: It’s really dependent on the job, but overarching across all is personality, passion and drive. So when I look at people, there’s so much that can be taught and there’s no role that I have that someone is going to be a perfect fit for. The things that I can teach people and bring them up to speed on how we do things - there’s a lot that has to do with the technical learning. But I can’t teach that internal passion for the role and their personality. So the personality needs to be a fit with the team, it needs to be polished but proactive and upbeat, and have as much as I can learn about them to see how their drive is.

I don’t like the clock-in at nine, leave at five group. I want someone who’s passionate about driving the company forward - part of why I’ve always worked at start-ups and driving them to their next stage - and I need people who understand that excitement and the amount of work that’s needed in those areas.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

NDS: Don’t be afraid to fail and continue to add value. When people are going into internships, a lot of times you hear them say, “All I’m allowed to do is get coffee, it’s not that interesting, I’m not doing the cool stuff.” I love when interns or people who are new to a company take initiative and look at something and say: “Wow, we’re missing the boat here because there’s this huge opportunity that they’re not seeing.”

A lot of times in a business they’ll kind of stay consistent in a certain area and you forget about the new avenues that are out there. Someone with a young, fresh perspective can come in and say, “Hey, I was thinking it’d be really cool if we did this, I pulled this plan together so you could see some numbers associated with it, here’s what it’d take in my opinion to get it going - what do you think?” That is amazing when you have an intern that takes that kind of initiative or someone that’s young and starting out in the workforce. It’s seen as a value add, it’s huge and you get recognized.

What's the one thing that's stood out to you the most in a resume?

NDS: I really appreciate when resumes are modified for the role that they’re applying for. When somebody just hands a resume that's the same resume that they’ve submitted to 30 other companies, I push those aside. I love when there’s some level of personalization about it. I’ve worked with some designers who have created digital resumes that include some of our brands, some ways in which they think they could improve it and different ways in which they would utilize it. That shows me that these people really put thought and care into each interaction they have on behalf of the business as opposed to just mailing it in.

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