Kelly Krumreich-Benny (VP of Commercial Operations) was just named one of the Top 50 Women Leaders in SaaS by the SaaS Report. These awards aim to bring attention to all that women have accomplished in SaaS, and more generally, the technology industry as a whole. The Software Report receives thousands of nominations after which many factors are used to evaluate and determine the final awardees: integrity, intelligence, drive, and company growth and culture. Kelly has achieved excellence in all of these areas, and I spoke with her to discuss how she got to where she is today. 

Tell me about your growth in the SaaS industry. What did you learn and how did you apply it? 

In my first job I was a front line customer order taker for a transportation company. It was a position that required me to think on my feet. Later I joined a staffing services company where I was constantly being exposed to unique and interesting situations. This was where I learned that communication and change management skills are absolutely essential, and I focused on developing those skills throughout my career. I am grateful for having been exposed to those drivers at such an early stage. 

Eventually I was hired as an implementation consultant for a company that had developed an applicant tracking system as a solution for strategic recruiting. It was an interesting time to be in technology because it was the early days of SaaS – this is when Salesforce started as the first multi tenant provider. Being part of a startup, I wore many different hats. I performed as a solution engineer doing demos on dial up, but I also took on a professional services role and came to realize how important it was that we grow those functions. 

Why was it so important to develop the professional services functions?

Typically enterprise software on its own doesn’t provide direct business value. Customers are buying a solution and an outcome, requiring providers to layer on domain expertise and change management to get the most out of the product- technological capability. I came to Coveo because they understand this reality. The senior management team is exceptionally skilled at striking the balance between innovative technology, customer success and exceptional management. 

Beyond your formal job description, what do you do now? 

I am focused on the people, processes, and technology that support the customer lifecycle. This starts with empowering customers to identify that Coveo can make a difference for them, but continues to ensuring a successful implementation geared towards business value outcomes in order to form an enduring relationship. Our customers’ success is a responsibility that I take very seriously. 

My job is all about enabling our brand promise. While we make Coveo work for others, we also have to make it work for ourselves. I take great pride in the fact that we are able to use our own solutions to enable relevant interactions by our field organization in the marketplace.

None of this would be possible without the incredible team that I oversee. Part of that team serves traditional operational functions, such as maintaining data and systems. The other part is tasked with measurement. And our enablement team works with the business to identify, design and deploy new capabilities to drive our prioritized business outcomes. Our goal is to drive the insights to our field organization that will drive meaningful and relevant interactions with prospects, partners and customers.

What motivates you in the work that you do? 

The growth potential of Coveo. This comes from the development of our own people. I am driven to leverage and enable the talent of our people and help them grow in their experiences. 

It isn’t possible to empower people without understanding their strengths and weaknesses. My focus and much of my day-to-day work is spent ensuring that individuals are in the right role to thrive and improve. Just as building relationships with our customers is essential in order to pinpoint and fulfill their needs, the same applies to our own employees. I have been in this industry for a while now, and at this point in my own career I love to help younger people grow their careers and fully participate in this amazing industry where the pace of innovation moves so quickly. 

What do you hope to do in the future? 

I hope to contribute to the further growth and development of this company. Our market offering is second to none in terms of the potential it holds. It really is a lever for companies to up their game and compete. 

While we are innovating rapidly, it never comes at the price of integrity. The human side of what we do is never ignored, and this is a balance that I am committed to upholding. At Coveo, the values are real and I connect to those values. I connect to this company and its leadership because they understand us as people. I have been given the flexibility to manage hyper career growth and also invest in my family. Coveo understands the importance of the individual, and this is a principle I seek to reinforce internally and externally as well. 

What is your advice for women considering or just starting careers in SaaS? 

Do not be afraid to step up to the plate! You must be willing to try new things, especially in an industry that is experiencing rapid growth. The reality of today might not be the reality of tomorrow, and the only way to prepare for what is to come is to participate in new roles and functions even if they are unfamiliar. 

Also, and I cannot stress this enough, you must advocate for yourself. This is something that I learned late in my career, and I hope to help other women avoid this pitfall. You cannot expect anyone else to speak on your behalf or stand up for you on their own volition. Others may be more than happy to listen to you and help you, but you must reach out and initiate the conversation. Learn to help others help you, and you will be amazed by everything you are able to accomplish.