March 8 marks International Women’s Day and as we celebrate the accomplishments of dynamic women across the world, I sat across from one such Clouderan, Vicki Zingiris, Director of Value-Based Services. We discussed important initiatives at Cloudera, the influence that Martial Arts has had on how she leads, collaborates, and mentors, and concluded with some valuable advice for women in the workforce.
Meet Vicki Zingiris, reframing customer conversations with Value-Based Services
Joining Cloudera through the Hortonworks acquisition four years ago, Vicki was responsible for leading a team of professional services consultants and delivery managers focused on driving great outcomes for Cloudera’s customers.
As of this year, Vicki leads a new team that focuses exclusively on high-value, business-driven customer engagements. The initiative, aptly named Value-Based Services, includes a framework, methodology, and resources to transform the way customers experience Cloudera’s products and services. Vicki is now Director of Value-Based Services, a promotion that will enable the programs to be rolled out at a global level.
In describing her role, Vicki says, “It’s about reframing the conversation with the customer from focusing on a technology outcome to focusing on the customer’s business goals.”
Incorporating a passion for Martial Arts into company culture, inclusivity, and leadership
“To begin with, the culture at Cloudera is fantastic,” Vicki said as she talked about the company. “The diversity and inclusion programs here are light years ahead of other companies,” she adds. “The company offers platforms like Udemy to improve one’s skills, not to mention educational reimbursement. In fact, I just completed a five-week AltMBA program with 170 people across the globe. There is so much opportunity to grow one’s professional skills at Cloudera.”
Vicki is actively involved in creating a healthy company culture by building rapport between staff and teams. She was the first to take part in the ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Talent’ series which featured ‘Clouderans’ with special skills. In this, Vicki shared her passion for martial arts and Budo, and how this guides her. Starting her journey in the sport in 2016, she is now a black belt in Karate, the virtues, and discipline of the practice have become a core part of her life.
As she explained, “The ancient Japanese and Chinese traditions date back to around the 7th century and include the foundational principles of ‘Kindness, Morality, Respect, Wisdom, Knowledge, and Trustworthiness’ with a view towards seeking self-improvement through the harmony of the mind, body, and spirit.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic set in and lockdowns were extended, especially in Vicki’s hometown of Melbourne, she recognized the need to bring these principles into practice by developing stronger connections and authenticity between people.
This led to the launch of ‘Spotlight’, in which she re-prioritized her team meetings to allow each team member to share their life story and background in whatever creative and personal way they desired.
Empowering people through mentorship and collaboration
With more than 25 years in tech, Vicki has seen first-hand the necessity and impact of being authentic in order to create a safe environment that champions diversity.
Early on in her career, Vicki worked with a senior female leader who was inspiring. “She was larger than life, completely herself and unashamedly feminine, did great work, and made it her purpose to give back,” Vicki says. This inspired Vicki to lead by example and offer herself as a mentor, including sharing her time, expertise, and insight to colleagues and others in the industry. She did this in her unique way, combining her passion for mentoring with martial arts.
Initially, she was motivated to mentor women, and encourage younger women to work towards leadership positions. However, she came to see the importance of diversity across the board and now focuses on empowering young people in every capacity. Vicki is also often connecting colleagues and peers so they can learn from each other.
“My advice is to find opportunities to collaborate with peers wherever possible. This brings everyone together around a common goal, makes you a stronger leader, and benefits everyone’s personal success,” she said.
In closing, we discussed the importance of starting with self-reflection. “I often see women struggle with ‘imposter syndrome,” she said. “They don’t think they are experienced enough; are afraid to speak up in a meeting or back down because the other voice on the line is louder. The antidote to this is to practice being brave. Take risks even though it may be uncomfortable.”
She added, “There is no growth without discomfort, and we need to practice the skill of being uncomfortable until we start to actively seek discomfort. When you get to that place you start to become master of your own domain. There’s nothing more powerful than that.”
An inspiring note to end on. Thank you, Vicki, for sharing your story, leading, and mentoring.