But it’s not all about business. To the colleagues and friends who know and love Joan, she’s a vibrant, passionate, fiercely intelligent woman. As an avid jetsetter who loves to travel, Joan leads like she lives, with a focus on openness, inclusivity, and fun. To celebrate her recognition as one of the Top 50 Women Leaders in SaaS of 2020, I sat down with Joan to chat about travelling the world, leading with purpose, and what it was like coming up in tech 20 years ago.
Technology can be a tough place for women to thrive. How did you rise to the top in what many still consider a male-dominated field?
The world has changed significantly in the last 20 years since I was a hopeful up-and-comer. When I was coming up in tech, most of my colleagues were men. Today, women make up at least 50 percent of the workforce. In my opinion, the technology sector has been more progressive than most in the last 10 years in recognizing the beneficial organizational impact of a workforce that reflects the communities in which they operate. When people are measured by their capabilities, contribution, and capacity to learn, we all win. At Adlib, I’m proud to have female colleagues that share a seat at the leadership table, including you, Kathryn, and Catie Siri, our VP of Business Operations.
How has Adlib supported your growth as a leader?
I feel very fortunate to work with the Adlib team. We’re currently undergoing a massive transformation as an organization. We just launched an amazing new platform, we’re in the midst of a corporate rebrand, and we’re aggressively pursuing category leadership in the Contract Analytics space. The opportunity to serve and guide my team while holding a seat at the leadership table gives me a chance to sharpen my skills every day.
When you were growing up, who were the women you admired most?
When I was growing up, I admired my mom more than anyone. She’s a rock-solid human being. My dad was in the Navy for almost 25 years and spent most of that time at sea. My mom taught me to be bold but remain humble, to be kind and to see value in others. Maya Angelou also inspires me. Her writing is real and full of purpose. Her writings showed me the value of self-awareness and the power of vulnerability. In Angelou’s words, “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it's having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.” To me, that’s inspiring.
Who do you admire now?
I’m in awe of the entrepreneurs of today, especially female leaders. The courage it takes to turn an idea into a business—with all the risk, sweat, and sacrifice that comes with it—truly inspires me. Reshma Saujani (founder of Girls Who Code), Lisa Skeete Tatum (Black entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and visionary), and Heidi Zak (co-founder and co-CEO of ThirdLove) are a few of the women I look up to.
If you could go back in time and give your younger self advice, what would you say?
If I could go back, I would tell my younger self to see the world sooner and to make travel a priority. Before the pandemic, travel was a big part of my life. Every country, every culture, every experience has enriched my life and opened me up to different perspectives and ways of living. Travel has the power to expand one’s mind and horizons in a profound and memorable way.
What advice would you give to young girls and women coming up in tech?
I would tell them to choose a company that aligns with their values. Never lower your standards, and don’t allow others to lessen your expectations of yourself. It’s important to show your commitment and dedication, but not at the expense of your happiness. When you work hard and add value, expect to be compensated fairly, regardless of gender. Give it your all, but don’t give it away.
Thanks for blazing a trail in SaaS, Joan. Our future female SaaS leaders have big boots to fill.
About the Author
An accomplished executive with a track record of exceeding expectations. A leader who builds respect with business partners and facilitates team collaboration in the planning and delivery of technology and business solutions. Client focused with excellent interpersonal, organizational and communication skills.