Karen Mangia, Vice President, Customer & Market Insights, Salesforce

For most people, a successful career can be measured by the positive impact and energy created around the workplace and people. It is imperative that strong leadership is displayed to enhance team and individual achievements and effective organizational performance. And it is believed that diversity within the administration and workforce encourages new and different perspectives in the organization that inspires innovation, boosts creativity, and enhances productivity. This finally translates to better decision-making resulting in greater success for the organization. This diversity can be introduced through the permeation of women within the corporate environment, a gradual incline we have witnessed over the years.

One such self-built leader with a seat at the decision-making table is Karen Mangia, Vice President, Customer & Market Insights, Salesforce. Her work at Salesforce primarily focuses on devising personal and professional success strategies. She engages with key customer accounts and collaborates to develop innovative strategies that address their critical business challenges. Karen helps translate feedback into actions to increase customer retention, growth, and satisfaction. “Each day, I am fortunate enough to spend time with individuals and organizations all over the globe who are changing the world, innovating in unlikely ways, reworking work, and redefining success. When I have the opportunity to use my platform to showcase their ingenuity and innovation, I feel excited. Sharing thought leadership is core to my role,” opines Karen.

Karen considers maintaining meaningful relationships with colleagues and customers one of the biggest challenges faced in her role. Salesforce now has over 74,000 employees globally, with customers growing exponentially. She adds, “Relationships are critically important, and the more we grow, the more we must be purposeful about knowing who we serve, why we serve, and the greatest good that could come of that service.”

Before Salesforce, Karen held various leadership roles in sales and customer experience at Cisco. She regards one of her most rewarding experiences till today as leading the transformation.  She recounts, “We changed how we listened to our customers – from providing research results to offering our customer listening skills as a service to the organization. ” Karen and her team at Cisco also lead the company through a growth journey to invest more time and money in diverse-owned and operated businesses. Additionally, Karen commenced her career at AT&T, first in project management and then in a variety of sales roles. “Customer engagement and advocacy (giving people a platform and helping to amplify their voices) have been constants throughout my career,” says Karen.

Making a Difference

She has not limited herself to just these roles but instead expanded her reach and knowledge further, having authored four books; Success with Less: Releasing Obligations & Discovering Joy (Marie St. Press, 2016), Listen Up! How to Tune in To Customers, And Turn Down the Noise (Wiley, 2020), Working from Home: Making the New Normal Work for You (Wiley, 2020), and the Wall Street Journal Best Seller, Success from Anywhere: Your Personal Guide to Creating the Future of Work from the Inside Out (Wiley, November 2021). “I’ve been fortunate to write four books, hundreds of articles and blogs, and deliver a myriad of keynotes and workshops. Giving others a platform to share their voices inspires me. I also serve on our company’s Racial Equality & Justice Taskforce, Purchasing Subcommittee, which is the most meaningful work I’m fortunate to do,” says Karen.

Getting Inspired!

For as long as Karen can remember, she has loved stories, from reading them to writing them to discovering them. She identifies stories as her true North Star, personally and professionally. She attributes part of her decision to pursue writing to her college professor, Bob Papper. He was known to be notoriously exacting. Karen would attend his telecommunications news classes and worked as a research assistant for him.

Her job was to administer the annual survey he sent to members of the Radio & Television News Directors’ Association (RTNDA). This would require calling non-respondents to administer surveys over the phone. She would then correlate responses, analyze trends and search for the storyline. “That’s not news,” she can hear him barking in his gruff voice even now. “The first three letters in news are new. And what you’re telling me isn’t new.” Then he would slam the metal desk drawer that contained his shelf-stable stash of Dinty Moore microwave meals. That was his not-so-subtle way of telling me to get back to work,” remembers Karen.

Professor Papper authored six articles each year based on his and Karen’s findings for the RTNDA magazine. Together, they co-authored an article about trends in television internships. That was Karen’s first professional publication. They submitted version 67, which she holds dear to her heart and still has a copy of that magazine. She fondly recollects, “I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve captured and shared since then. I can tell you that if you open the kitchen cabinet next to my refrigerator today, you’ll discover a blue mug with faded yellow stars. Professor Papper presented me with the mug after we shared our research findings with a live audience. He saved the speech. His coaching was his caring. The mug merely commemorated his caring.”

Achieving Milestones

All in all, Karen pens down three of her key milestones, the first one being her first job with AT&T, which shaped her career and gave her a lifetime of good friends. “I’m fortunate that the first opportunity at AT&T resulted in creating some of the best friends of my adult life. My colleagues were kind, caring, considerate, helpful, and fun. That can be rare in Corporate America,” elucidates Karen.

She can pin down her second milestone as the personal ordeal she overcame at 33. Karen faced an undiagnosed illness that prevailed despite referring to a team of five doctors. Despite diet and exercise, she gained weight, lost color in her skin, her eyes changed color, and her energy drained away. Karen continued working through the confusion and ended up sacrificing her health, relationships, and herself in the bargain. In her last-ditch attempt to find answers, Karen visited an unorthodox doctor who helped her face the crossroads she was at in life, identify the childhood reason for her poor health, and ultimately turn her life around. “The key to my success wasn’t tied to my determination, ambition, or relationships. I needed to simplify and adopt a powerful new formula for creating a life without regrets. In my first book, I have detailed the three-step formula that transformed my life, my relationships, and my health, along with thousands of readers. I am living proof you can move from burnout to breakthrough,” advises Karen. And to anyone seeking advice and guidance to achieving success, she adds, “Success is personal, and when you discover and define what success means to you, then you can invite success to show up moment by moment. I’ve discovered that when I’m clear about what success means to me, I’m free of the influence of others’ expectations. When you accept and approve of yourself, others will too. Or maybe not, and you’ll still be OK either way.”

Her third most outstanding achievement is publishing her three books during a global pandemic. She reveals, “When I was grounded from global travel, I leveraged the opportunity to share thought leadership in new ways. Blogs and books gave me purpose and an opportunity to be of service during a time of significant global disruption and transition.” She attributes her focus, a sense of purpose, and relentless time management to generous people that helped her achieve this particular milestone.

The Road Ahead

Moving higher along her growth trajectory, Karen is currently excited about her new show, ‘Success from Anywhere.’ The premise is, what would happen if one could change the game of life together? The series shares strategies to unlock success from unlikely sources of inspiration. Karen signs off with a snippet of her near future, “Also, I’m conducting an ongoing series of one-on-one interviews about how employers and employees are reworking work together.”

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