I recently kicked off a series of Career Q&As with successful leaders. The goal is to provide insightful lessons and practical advice you can leverage to further your career. The second interview is with Derek Pando, Head of Int’l and Partner Marketing at Zoom. I love his advice on how to trust your instincts, seek out mentors, and be bold in sharing your career aspirations.
Derek Pando leads Partner and International Marketing at Zoom Video Communications. He has spent his career at high growth enterprise software companies including Salesforce and LinkedIn, where he helped launch LinkedIn Sales Navigator. He has held a variety of different marketing roles in his career. His expertise is in product marketing, international marketing, marketing strategy and social selling. He also writes and speaks on collaboration, technology, marketing, and professional relationships. He speaks Spanish fluently and can get by in Portuguese. If you a lot of time to kill, ask him about his vegetable garden. You can follow him on his personal blog (derekpando.com) or on Twitter (@djpando).
What’s a book that has influenced your career or life, and why?
This might sound strange, but the book that has influenced my career the most is the Alchemist. In it, the main character has to leave good situations in search of even better, often starting from scratch. Each time he encounters significant struggles but achieves greater success. I think many times in our careers we have to do the same to keep progressing to our full potential. Leaving a job that we like or where we are very comfortable can be very challenging, but thinking about the story and book has given me the courage to take a leap multiple times.
Was there an experience you had before age 21 that shaped who you are? What was it?
After some encouragement from my dad, I started a lawn mowing business where I grew up in Texas at the age of 15. I quickly learned that if you showed up, did a good job and were respectful you would have plenty of customers and more money than a 15-year-old would know what to do with. Creating something, working hard and having it be successful left a lasting impact. That experience set a foundation for me to feel confident in my professional abilities.
How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
In college, I applied to my undergrad’s business school program. I was dead set on it. It was highly competitive and I got rejected. I was pretty devastated but tried to pick myself up as quickly as I could. I chose a different major, ended being the president of a club in the business program that I did not get in, got a scholarship and later returned to the same school to get an MBA. At the time, it felt like my clear path to success was destroyed, but things ended up working out better than I hoped. It was a good reminder that there are multiple paths to the same goal.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?
After you are making $75k, don’t make any career moves based mostly on money. Ignore anyone who does not encourage you to save money in your 20’s.
What’s one of your proudest professional accomplishments?
The most recent professional accomplishment that I’m most proud of is working on Zoom’s IPO. When I first joined Zoom, I asked our CMO that whenever an IPO happens, I want to be involved. She asked me to be on the IPO deal team when the time came, which was something I had never done before. I learned a whole lot and feel proud to have contributed a tiny piece to the most successful IPO of 2019. This was a good lesson to tell your bosses your goals and aspirations, they’ll often help you achieve it if they can.
When have you felt stuck in your career? How did you break out of it or push forward?
Yes. Each time, I consulted with trusted mentors. One time they encouraged me to stay at a job where I felt stuck and just be more patient. At a later job, my mentors encouraged me to leave, both ended up being the right call at the time.
Who is one person, dead or alive, who you admire? Why do you admire them?
Tyler Shultz, the Theranos whistleblower. That guy stuck to his guns and did what he felt was right against an unbelievable amount of pressure from very powerful people, including from his own family. It’s so hard to do the right thing in that situation, but he did.
What habit or practice helps you manage stress?
Exercise. I managed the first two Zoomtopia events that had 500 and 1500 attendees respectively. It was a big project and very high stakes. As strange as this may sound, even though it was the busiest time of the year, I’d make sure to go running 1-2 times a week. Letting out some physical energy always seemed to help me not freak out.
If you could go back in time to when you were entering the workforce and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Trust your instincts. Earlier in my career, it was so easy to default to the opinion of someone more experienced or older and not fight for my ideas or opinions. In hindsight, my instincts were better than I gave myself credit for at the time.
Thanks for reading. If you haven’t already, check out my Career Q&A with Dan Jimenez, Chatbooks COO.