Emilia D’Anzica, Founder & Managing Partner, Growth Molecules™

Emilia D’Anzica, MBA, PMP, is the founder and managing director of Growth Molecules,™ a management consulting firm focused on protecting and growing revenue. The company aims to help organizations increase profit while maximizing customer value. Emilia is also on several advisory boards globally and an active contributor to the Forbes Council. She is a part-time Adjunct MBA Marketing Metrics Professor at Saint Mary’s College of California. As an early employee at several successful companies, Emilia has amassed over 25 years of customer experience in customer leadership roles, including as Chief Customer Officer.

Emilia holds a BA from the University of British Columbia and an MBA with Honors from Saint Mary’s College of California. She is PMP and Scrum-certified. Emilia resides with her three children and partner in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. Her first book is Pressing ON As A Tech Mom: How Tech Industry Mothers Set Goals, Define Boundaries, & Raise The Bar for Success.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Magazine, Emilia shared her professional trajectory, what sets Growth Molecules™ apart from other market competitors, the major takeaways from her book, her role model, future plans, words of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Hi Emilia! Please tell us about your professional background and areas of interest.

Professionally, I have a rich history of leadership roles across various companies, including full-time and fractionally as a Chief Customer Officer and Vice President of Customer Engagement. At WalkMe for example, I was part of the company’s growth from sub-$10 million to $70+ million across three years. As well, I have an entrepreneurial spirit that is demonstrated through founding a consulting firm in my mid-20s and again four years ago, Growth Molecules™. The company today is dedicated to helping software-as-a-service companies seeking to retain and grow their clients through tailored customer success strategies across people, processes, and systems.

I am particularly interested in the intersection of customer success and business strategy, focusing on effectively integrating customer feedback into product development and corporate strategy. My passion for teaching and sharing knowledge is also reflected in my involvement in guest lectures and as an author, where I explore topics related to customer success and the challenges tech industry mothers face in balancing career and personal life.

I am actively engaged in thought leadership within the industry, as evidenced by my recognitions, such as being listed among the Top Customer Experience Influencers and consistently participating in discussions focused on Go-To-Market strategy.

How would you describe your real/authentic self?

I am far from perfect. I am not normal because normality is a myth.

People tell me I am intense and serious, and my children call me too strict. I’m okay with all of these descriptions. I like to think deeply, read, be alone for large chunks of time, and write. Getting too caught up with people’s thoughts and how I compare to others is self-destructive. Instead, I work on being my authentic self and choose how to share my more playful side – you can often find it when hiking with a dog, in a good SPIN or HIIT class, on vacation with my children and partner, and out with friends. I recently started playing pickleball and find the sport engaging. Although I bring competitive intensity to the game, I don’t tell my social league!

What was the inspiration behind establishing Growth Molecules™? What sets it apart from other market competitors?

The inspiration behind establishing Growth Molecules stems from a deep and personal history combined with professional expertise, setting it apart from competitors in meaningful ways:

Family Roots and Resilience: My muse originates from my Italian immigrant parents, who, despite starting with nothing and not speaking English, successfully founded and ran a series of pizzerias across 30 years. Their entrepreneurial spirit and resilience in overcoming barriers heavily influenced my approach to business and leadership, instilling a foundation of hard work and perseverance.

Adversity and Moving Forward: The tragic loss of my brother to a drunk driver marked a profound moment for our family. This adversity brought about a determination to move forward and succeed in the face of personal pain, a principle that I carry into my professional endeavors, focusing on grit and the strength to advance despite challenges.

Educational Milestones: As the first person in my family to earn a degree, supported immensely by my sister Josephine and my calculus mentor, Mr. Hooley, I recognize the value of education and mentorship. Growth Molecules embodies this spirit by prioritizing continuous learning and development, helping clients meet and exceed their potential through actionable coaching and education.

Empowerment and Inspiration: My daughters continuously inspire me to demonstrate that gender does not define one’s capabilities or future. Growth Molecules is built on this ethos of empowerment, striving to inspire and uplift all individuals, particularly women in the tech industry, to pursue and achieve their ambitions.

Extensive Experience and Proven Success: With over 25 years of experience in customer success and SaaS globally, my background is rich with proven methodologies and success stories. This extensive industry expertise provides Growth Molecules with a competitive edge, offering clients unparalleled insights and innovative solutions that are both tried and tested.

These foundational elements inspire and differentiate our team, offering a unique perspective and approach to customer success deeply rooted in personal determination, enablement, education, and understanding of what it takes to be successful in customer experience.

Can you please share the significant takeaways from your book, ‘Pressing ON As A Tech Mom?

“Pressing ON As A Tech Mom: How Tech Industry Mothers Set Goals, Define Boundaries, and Raise The Bar for Success” is a book that addresses the unique challenges faced by mothers working in the tech industry. The major takeaways include:

  1. Goal Setting: The book emphasizes the importance of setting clear and achievable goals. For tech mothers, this can involve career objectives, personal development, and include intentional family time. The book offers strategies for prioritizing and managing tasks effectively, helping mothers focus on what’s most important at work and home.
  2. Defining Boundaries: Establishing boundaries is crucial for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. The book explains how tech industry mothers can define these boundaries. This can include setting specific work hours, managing expectations with colleagues and supervisors, and ensuring dedicated personal time to focus on mental and physical well being to prevent burnout.
  3. Raising the Bar: This aspect focuses on how mothers in the tech industry can excel and lead by example, pushing the boundaries of what is traditionally expected. It discusses ways to seek leadership roles, advocate for workplace changes that support parents, and use one’s position to influence the tech culture positively.
  4. Navigating Challenges: The book covers common challenges mothers face in tech, such as gender bias, limited networking opportunities due to family commitments, and the pressure of being a minority in a male-dominated field. It offers advice on overcoming these challenges through resilience, support networks, and leveraging legal and organizational policies designed to protect and empower women.
  5. Empowerment and Support: Finally, the book underscores the importance of seeking and providing support through formal programs like mentorships, sponsorships, and mom groups within the industry or through informal networks. We encourage the reader to build a supportive community that includes family, friends, and colleagues.

*The five takeaways above are only a few shared in the book.

Please consider buying a copy for someone you care about to further our mission. It is meant to inspire tech industry leaders of all genders to enable mothers and provide them with practical tools and strategies to succeed professionally while thriving personally.

You are a part-time Adjunct MBA Marketing Metrics Professor at Saint Mary’s College of California. Tell us about the course/topic you teach and its relevance in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape.

Working with people who are interested in advancing their careers in graduate school is rewarding. I remember each professor who helped me when I returned to school in my mid-thirties, with three children at home and a full-time VP role at a hot tech company in Silicon Valley. It was one of the most challenging years of my life, but I graduated with honors in Business Administration with a focus on strategy and global competition. I have my professors and my partner to thank for all the support they gave me, especially when my company was far from supportive of my decision to go back to school Part-time to gain my MBA.

I studied at night and went to school on the weekends and paid for the program myself. The worst part is my company was paying for men to get additional training in engineering. Their training was seen as more important than mine. That didn’t stop me. I left the company soon after I graduated and never looked back.

I am most passionate about teaching any course related to go-to-market strategy in software-as-a-service. Understanding the customer journey map and the different elements, including emotion, pain points, economy, budget, and others that impact the top and bottom line, is critical to succeeding in a recurring economy.

Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that’s the case?

Yes! My co-author, Sabina M. Pons, and I wrote a book on this topic, focusing on the mass exodus of women, especially mothers in tech, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our book, as discussed above, Pressing on as a Tech Mom, focuses on research we did globally and includes findings from surveying 300 women. We also share candid stories of 12 mothers leading tech organizations, focusing on how we, regardless of gender or title, can support and keep women in tech.

The good news is that more women are returning to work and tech. If we want to keep this positive momentum, we need to take three steps:

  1. Insisted of Equal Pay: Take a hard look at what your company is paying people of equal experience and education and close the gap. Age, gender, color, and political views, for example, should not be reasons one person is paid more than another.
  2. Acknowledge that Tech has a gender problem and do something about it. More women are graduating from college than men, and there are plenty of female engineers and professionals seeking positions in tech. Make it a priority in your organization to hire an equal number of men and women and provide an inclusive workplacenot a Brotopia culture.
  3. If you are in a position of power, mentor and sponsor women. The rewards for both the mentee and mentor are tremendous, and they can improve the likelihood of a woman staying and rising in tech.

Looking back, which women have influenced your career most?

My mother, who raised six children while working alongside my dad in their Pizzeria for 30 years, is the most significant influence in my life. She has always been there for me and encouraged me to attend school and fulfill my dreams. She is an example of being steady and dedicated no matter what challenge is ahead. For example, we moved between Italy, the US, and Canada a total of five times in her life with young children) and was the strongest when she lost my brother Emilio to a drunk driver at the young age of 11 crossing the street. Her smile, love, and kindness have pulled us through difficult times. Today, at 85, she still travels, lifts weights, practices yoga, and rides her bike around Kelowna, British Columbia, where she lives.

What does the term Authentic Leadership mean to you?

Personal Integrity and Consistency: I value being true to my ethics and principles in and out of professional settings. Authentic leadership for me includes leading by example, ensuring my actions consistently reflect my values.

Transparency in Communication: Given my extensive experience in customer success, where clear and honest communication is crucial, authentic leadership includes emotional intelligence and open dialogues with team members and stakeholders. Transparency includes sharing successes and being upfront about challenges and failures.

Empathy and Understanding: I emphasize understanding and addressing the needs and concerns of people you work with. Authentic leadership recognizes the individual strengths and weaknesses of team members and mentoring them accordingly.

Empowering Others: As a tech leader and an advocate for women, I champion a leadership style that allows others, particularly underrepresented groups, to take on leadership roles and voice their opinions freely. It starts with mentorship and sponsorship early in a person’s career so they have the best shot at growing alongside their male peers. Too often, men advance faster earlier in their career and studies show this sets women back in Corporate America.

Commitment to Growth and Learning: My dedication to continuous professional development requires a commitment to lifelong learning and self-improvement and I encourage the same to my colleagues and students.

Can you highlight your success habits enabling you to meet your goal?

  1. Start each day with a purpose. Many people jump out of bed with the sound of their alarm and go about life without intention, like robots functioning in a predictable way day after day. That life is not for me. I like to wake up, set an intention, and wiggle my feet, thinking about how I feel in the moment and how I will live that day. This practice only takes 2-5 minutes before I get out of bed, but skipping it is not an option. It’s like leaving my house without making my bed or brushing my teeth. It’s just not going to happen. Those few minutes help me remember how precious life is and how I want each day to have a meaning and a way for me to make this world a better place.
  2. What can I plan and hold myself accountable for? No one can answer this for me, except me so I take this question seriously. If I add too many ‘to-do’s to my plate, I will not hold myself back from doing any of it or doing several things poorly. As a result, I only focus on 1 to 3 urgent actions a day. The rest of my list is moved to another column that I schedule with their own deadlines. The distractions that hold me back are not part of the accountability list: social media, television, negative people, and lack of a gratitude practice.
  3. I believe in myself and what I am capable of: While some imposter syndrome is humbling, it is self-destructive mainly, especially for women starting at an early age. My dad’s life reminds me that if he came to America with a grade three education, couldn’t speak English, and yet managed to serve in the US Army, qualify for the Olympics in cycling twice, and become a successful entrepreneur, raising six children alongside his wife of 63 years, I can do anything I set my mind to. So, when I see a mountain in front of me, I see it as a challenge I will conquer.

What is your secret behind striking a work-life balance?

I don’t believe in a one size fits all work-life balance. Focus on what matters with this lens:

  1. Block at least an hour daily for an activity you love (For me, it is usually a physical one). There are only so many hours in the day. I am in charge of how I want to spend them. If I put an hour on the calendar to exercise to hit my 12,000 steps a day, then the likelihood of me achieving the goal is 100% higher. Protecting time is vital to work-life balance.
  2. Accept there is no work-life balance: This acceptance is challenging but necessary. When I travel or have tight deadlines, I know my hour workout will likely be shortened, and that’s okay. My kids are always throwing surprises my way, most recently a broken ankle, and they take priority in the balance game right now. I know that my priorities will change when they go to college and continue to do so as my life progresses. Knowing there isn’t a secret formula and not sweating the small stuff is fundamental in keeping sane as a working mother.
  3. Surround yourself with people to support you. I knew early on that if I was going to be a CXO, I needed a village to help me, and I am thankful for each of them. I am lucky – I have a partner, now together for 19 years, who has supported my career goals, passions, and outspoken views about gender equality in tech. I also provide full-time support to our children. My family has also helped us throughout our childbearing years. When I travel or can’t do all my usual activities, I schedule a neighbor or friend to do the pickups or watch our dog. Knowing the balancing act is a team sport will help any leader sleep better at night.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

Working! My father died doing what he loved to do at nearly 86 – working on his farm, buying and selling real estate, and being surrounded by his family. I never plan to stop working or filling my life with people and activities I love (I also love planting and playing in the soil, so I will continue growing crops!). Like Warren Buffet, Jane Fonda, and others living prolonged lives, they are working to improve the world not because they have to but because they want to. I want to be like my dad, Warren, and Jane. I don’t think about work and being a decent human as a ‘have-to-do,’ but instead a part of life that brings meaning and purpose, regardless of age.

What is the one piece of advice that you can share with other women professionals in the tech industry?

Don’t wait. If you are passionate about something, start with one step and build momentum. When I was 35 and had just had my second child, I was living in a city that didn’t feel like home. I announced to my partner we had to leave and moved to The San Francisco Bay Area where I feel I can be myself and do the work I love. Two years later, completing my MBA completely changed my life and the future. Yes, because of my intense career, I have missed events in my children’s lives, but so has my partner in his career. Why are moms penalized for this, and we never hear about dads missing special events? Not all career women have the privilege to build a company AND say no early on. Your kids WILL forgive you.

Too often, people think they can’t leave their homes, jobs, toxic relationships, or safety. You can and will be better for it if you know in your heart that the path to your serenity and success requires a more challenging road.


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