Altvia President & CEO Brie Aletto Shares Insights With PreSales Collective

Recently our President and CEO, Brie Aletto, had a conversation with PreSales Collective in a presentation titled The Rise from SE to CEO: In Conversation with Brie Aletto.

The company asked Brie to provide details on her path to becoming Altvia’s leader and one of the driving forces behind our triple-digit growth. That journey involved serving in many roles, from a solutions consultant that helped IQNavigator scale from $10 million to $47 million to co-leading TalentReef $3M to $30M in ARR.

Below are some highlights from that interesting interview. You can also watch it in its entirety on YouTube.

Aspiring Meteorologist Turned Company Executive: Brie’s Career Journey

The presentation starts with Brie explaining that as a college student, she envisioned herself pursuing a career as a meteorologist or another role on TV. “I was never going to go into sales, and definitely never into software,” she says with a smile. But graduating into a tight job market, she got her first job working in customer support for a software company.

While that wasn’t her “dream job,” she can now reflect on how pivotal that role was in her career. It allowed her to learn about all the facets of running a business, from operations and system implementation to sales and marketing.

Ultimately, she gravitated toward sales, and the role of sales engineer “fell into her lap.” Being what she describes as the “entertainer” in sales pitch calls ended up feeling very natural to her. Over time, that role expanded into other sales and marketing responsibilities.

Later, when joining Altvia in an operations capacity, she could see how advantageous her sales engineering background was when it came to understanding the “big picture” at her new company. It also made her an excellent candidate when the CEO position opened up.

Brie’s Leadership “Light Bulb” Moment

Although Brie was involved in student government and other leadership activities growing up, she wasn’t sure that being a decision-maker within a company was for her. But, as she started building a team, she eventually realized that letting her employees spread their wings and take on more responsibilities would be good for them and for her. That’s when mentorship became a passion for her.

Brie shares that she recently read a book that uses the phrases expert leader (the person in the room that people look to because they have the expertise) and spanning leader (someone who is an asset because of their overarching understanding of the business).

She acknowledges that it takes time and effort to relinquish control to others but that it’s an important step for those looking to advance their careers.

Tips for Gaining Visibility Within Your Company

The interviewer also asks Brie how she made herself visible and a viable candidate for taking on added responsibilities and new roles. Brie begins her answer by noting that it’s common for product experts to fear that their expertise will, ironically, keep them from advancing since that means the company will no longer have them as their “go-to” technical person.

To keep from being pigeonholed, she recommends taking action to get involved in other areas. She gives the example of solution consultants getting a seat at the table regarding developing the product roadmap. You’ve got to make yourself the “connective tissue” across your organization, Brie says.

What Makes an Incredible Leader?

Next, Brie is asked about what makes someone a good leader, what advice she has for first-time leaders, and how long-time leaders can energize their leadership style. She laughs about the cliches that come to mind but says they’re true. You’ve got to surround yourself with the right people, empower your people to do their best work, and be willing to offer praise but also have tough conversations, for example.

The last of these is the most difficult for her. But she says the ability to offer constructive criticism is essential and something every aspiring leader must learn.

As for things seasoned leaders can do to inspire their teams, Brie acknowledges that’s a significant challenge. However, she mentions employee engagement surveys as a way to determine what’s important to the people you’re leading.

She also explains a few frameworks like EOS (entrepreneurial operating system) and GWC (get it, want it, capacity to do it) that leaders can use to run their business and understand their employees.

The Importance of Mentorship

In another part of the conversation, the interviewer asks Brie about mentorship—the role it’s played in her career, how to find a mentor, etc. She says that it starts with determining whether the person and company you work for value you and the contribution you make. If they don’t, she says, you should consider moving on. 

But when you find a potential mentor, she points out that mentorship can be a two-way street. If you’ve got something to offer a potential mentor—a task you take off their plate or some other way you can assist them or their team—you’re more likely to establish a relationship that will benefit both of you.

Brie also points out that, in most cases, having one mentor isn’t enough. You’re wise to seek out mentor/mentee relationships with multiple people who are experts in their area.

Insightful Answers to Great Attendee Questions

The interview then moves on to Brie answering excellent questions from webinar attendees. Many of them are follow-ons to the mentorship discussion. For example, how do you find a mentor when you’re already in a somewhat senior role? And, how should you pursue finding a mentor outside your company? 

Others address the challenges Brie has faced as a woman in a male-dominated industry, how she walks the line of being humble yet confident, and others.

The discussion is full of insights for any sales engineer—or anyone, really—looking to enjoy their work and advance their career! We encourage you to check it out. And if you have questions about products and services, contact us today to request an informative demo.

A traditional crm was built for general ‘customer’ scenarios

Software platforms have made the world a better place by making work a better place. Indeed the world is better off when people enjoy their jobs even marginally more, and workplace applications on big CRM platforms like Salesforce.com have done that and much more.

But the potential that platforms like these offer presents diminishing returns: once the platform provider has engineered too many industry specific components into its platform, its usefulness for other industries begins to be threatened, and with that so do the usefulness of the component tools built into the platform.

So it is with the CRM category that Salesforce.com has defined: it is generic enough to work for many industries, and yet still offers the potential for others to round off the edges and nail more vertically-oriented and extremely tailored software solutions.

Private capital markets are actually a great demonstration of this dynamic. Where generic CRM platforms simplify — appropriately so — to assume there’s a business, a customer, a sale, and service of that customer, there are a few industry-specific pieces that are missing.

Take for example, that investors become customers by investing through legal entities the GP raises. It’s a subtle but important nuance that just doesn’t make sense at a platform-as-a-service level (because it’s overly complicated for a simple one-time sale that many industries require), but which can easily be added without 10 years or software engineering. Once provided, the rest of the platform’s components become tremendously powerful again and you’re set to take over the world.

As a traditional CRM in our pillars methodology, these nuances must be present to properly account for investors in these legal entities, potential target companies and which are owned by these entities, the context of all interactions with these parties (as well as the appropriate overlap, ie co-investments), and how you’re arriving at finding these opportunities on both sides of the equation, such that you’re able to piece together what’s effective and what’s not. Not just because we say so, but because these are the very relationships and data that are key to the motivation behind a CRM in any industry.

It’s critical, too, that the valuable publicly-available information that helps to enrich CRM systems and save users painful steps of entering it themselves is fully-integrated at the platform level.

Again, look no further than the 3,000+ pre-built integrations that Salesforce.com — the creator of the CRM platform concept — has at a platform level to do so, and which only exists by way of holding just short of overly-specifying certain industry workflows that would present challenges to properly integrate.

Stakeholder reporting and communication (investor relations) draws on a range of datasets

The traditional “customer service” model of CRM systems once again makes overly-simplified assumptions about the customer relationship when applied to private capital markets.

In fifteen years I personally have yet to hear the terms “warranty” or “service call” in this market because it’s just not the same. But make no mistake, as uncomfortable as it may be to say aloud, customer service is more important now than ever and it’s constantly happening; the industry is, after all, considered to be a financial “service”.

As it turns out, that service is primarily information-based — it’s driven by data and takes the form of reports and analysis that drive decisions, and then end up again in investor-facing reports and analysis.

The foundational elements of a private capital markets CRM must be built such that they accommodate this data (like we discussed above), but so too that it can accommodate additional supporting data that investors (customers!) need in the context of service.

Oftentimes this supporting data — financial metrics and time-based values, for example — is believed not to meet the traditional definition of CRM and the natural thought is “well, better do this in Excel!”.

While I happen to believe Excel is still the greatest software application ever built, its introduction to this value chain we’ve discussed herein actually creates the problem many firms suffer from: key data needed to provide customer service (again: effectively the entirety of a firm’s reports and analysis) is now in disparate systems and detached.

Both of those dynamics are important and distinct: not only is this supplemental data disparate, but when brought together there is no logical association that can be made between the two data sets.

Allow me, then, to make the point very simply: not only can this financial and time-based value data (you may be thinking about is as “portfolio monitoring” or “accounting”) be a part of a CRM, it is arguably the most important part of a CRM because it’s at the core of what providing service to the customer entails — information that comes out of data!

Firms need a digital method to engage stakeholders (ie investor portals)

Investor portals are not new; in fact, for many of us — including myself — they conjure up horrifying nightmares in which we’re aimlessly guessing at folders to find the newest document we need.

So in lies the opportunity: not only have the portals we’ve come to hate not simplified the process of acquiring information, they’ve failed to create an entirely new experience that is “customer service” driven.

To be fair, this is not a B2C market where you’d be long out of business for not having focused on customer service and thus the customer’s technology-driven experience. But don’t expect to be around too much longer if you aren’t thinking about this shift.

Today’s institutional investors increasingly expect this same consumer-like experience, and a massive opportunity is being missed by not providing it. It’s not about providing them the experience they desire; it’s more about the ability to measure engagement that is had in return.

Put simply: what’s keeping the market from providing this experience is the availability of the information that’s required to create the service that provides the experience.

If you’ve hung in this long, you know that by focusing on your CRM, you have the data that’s required to manage the customer relationship and the technology-driven experience through which that information is shared to create a differentiated and opportunistic customer experience.