WWCode Podcast #33 — Elisabeth Kurek, VP of Cloud Marketing at IONOS

Written by WWCode HQ

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Princiya Sequeira, leadership fellow for Women Who Code Front End Track, interviews Elisabeth Kurek, VP of Cloud Marketing at IONOS. They discuss Elisabeth’s journey to VP in a technical role, the importance of inclusion and diversity, and her approach to leadership.

Tell us more about your career journey, and tell us about your role as the VP of Cloud Marketing at IONOS.

I didn’t take a typical career path, so I have not studied marketing or any sort of coding. I got started in tech in 2006 when 1&1, a German company was hiring in the US for their marketing team. They hired me because I speak German. I started out working in HTML. At some point, I made the decision to move into a marketing management role rather than continue down more of a developer path. In my daily work, I’m not developing, but I am leveraging marketing tools. I take it upon myself to self-educate and continue to learn new tools. This also means on the product side, in Cloud especially. I have to be up-to-date.

Looking at what I do at IONOS, I really have a mix of everything. I’m responsible for Cloud marketing. That can be our campaign management, content marketing, online marketing, and partner marketing. I’m responsible for ensuring that the marketing, messaging, and positioning is accurate and that we’re growing. I also manage a team, both directly in the office and also remote, international, team members.

What technical tools do you use specifically for day-to-day business?

Currently, we are using Salesforce.com. This is a way to track our marketing performance and also customer insights. We also leverage Pardot or HubSpot as two additional tools in terms of email marketing. In the past, I’ve dabbled in Marketo and also a bit of Tableau. We have various technical tools that are used in my current role every day.

You’re also a diversity advocate at IONOS. How did you get into DEI?

I would say I was born this way. As a child, I was a very girly girl. I had my Barbie Dreamhouse and everything in pink. I remember when I was in Toys “R” Us, I wanted to look for LEGOs and there were knights and pirates. There weren’t any princesses or houses. So it started at a young age.

When I moved into a technical role, I noticed it even more so. I remember the first conference I went to. There was only one other woman in the entire tech event who wasn’t hired as entertainment. Unofficially, I started with some of the women in our office. We would meet up once a week to kind of have a sounding board for one another.

I hit a milestone birthday in 2015. I thought, “Okay, no, Elisabeth, you’ve been talking about it, you’ve seen the problem, take action.” I reached out to the i2Coalition, the Internet infrastructure coalition. It’s a community of internet infrastructure providers, data centers, hosting companies, and cloud companies. There are members like Google, Rackspace, GoDaddy and Web.com. Rather than starting something as one person, I leveraged the community together. I got approved and established. Over the years, it’s evolved further.

Tell us a bit more about your leadership style and what it is like for colleagues to work with you.

I wonder if you asked my department what they would say? I adhere to the Steve Jobs quote, “I don’t hire smart people to tell them what to do, I hire smart people so that they tell me what to do.” I try to have an open approach as much as possible. I want to create an environment where my team is comfortable coming to me to make suggestions, to have their own ideas, and to share them. I also strive for transparency.

Have you had any instances that you have used your leadership privilege in terms of mentorship and/or sponsorship to other women or non-women?

Yes, absolutely. When we think about diversity and inclusion, there are many factors that come into play. On one hand, corporate factors and corporate policy, there are also societal factors, internal and external, micro and macro. So when looking at this, I think regardless of one’s position, there are always things that you can do to drive change, even if it’s something small. In the past, when I didn’t have a big budget or a large team, I tried to, on the micro-level, change things.

I remember one conference that I attended and there was one woman in the room participating who was not white. I noticed she was sitting by herself and I thought, let me just go over and sit next to her. I said, “Hi, I’m Elisabeth, and I’m happy that you’re here.” On the micro-level, to show a gesture is an inclusive gesture. In my role as VP at IONOS, I actually have a position of privilege where I’m able to influence things on a larger level. We recently produced a partner video. At the end of the video, I realized we don’t have a single woman in the video. I knew it would be a bit painful because the teams had to go back and edit it. But I realized with my privileged position, I could change it, even if it was extra work.

What else are you passionate about apart from work?

One of my passions is travel. Travel and food, I am a total foodie. I enjoy trying new foods from different cultural backgrounds, different types of foods and also traveling to experience that.

What pro-tip do you have for aspiring next-gen directors or VPS?

I would say network and negotiate. Every event you go to, every meeting that you have, even if it’s someone senior to you in the hierarchy, connect with that person. It’s an ongoing effort. I notice, at events, sometimes you get done with the event, you’re like, “Oh yeah, do I want to reach out to follow up with everyone?” So first of all, you can do it on-site, but if you don’t have the opportunity afterwards, within 24–48 hours, write a short LinkedIn request and just say “Hi, it was a pleasure meeting you. Let’s stay in touch.” I can say for myself, that has 100% supported my career to get me to where I am today.

The second part is negotiating. Women for a number of reasons may not feel as comfortable negotiating. Understand where you want to go and know the value of what you’re worth. Do not be afraid to ask for it. Don’t settle.

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