Monica Patel: From the IT crowd to RingCentral AVP of Marketing
22 Jul 2019 in Interviews
As part of the “In Conversation With” blog series, we aim to bring you the very best industry insights from top executives, across the globe.
This week, we’re speaking to Monica Visconti-Patel, AVP, EMEA Marketing at RingCentral. Since arriving in London in 1996, Monica has been a tech-mad enthusiast. Heading up her team at RingCentral, she delivers what she calls “mathematical ninja techniques, a feverish work discipline, and a commitment to data”.
Grab yourself a cup of tea, or coffee, and let’s get started.
Let’s jump right in, tell us about your career up until now?
Well, I studied MIS (Management Information Systems) for a period of four years and it was the day of my graduation that one of my professors shared that I would struggle in the field of computing. He said “Monica, you were one of the loudest people in the computing degree. May I suggest a career in marketing?”.
Whilst I was picking up my jaw from the floor, the panic set in. I was gutted. What had I been doing for four years? I couldn’t bear to tell my father - he’d disown me!
Despite my professor’s comment, I love the high-tech space and vowed I would never turn back and persevered. So, when I left university I pursued a role in IT—irrespective of the position or department—as I was determined to put my degree to use. Fortunately, I got picked up by an up-and-coming CRM (customer relationship management) software firm and that’s where my amazing journey began. Someone took a chance on me and in return, I promised I’d work my socks off. It was this very company that sent me to the UK to work on a few projects and the rest is history.
The original scope of the London-based project was three weeks, which then quickly turned into 3 months, and then three years, and so on. In 1996 when I boarded that British Airways flight, I did not know what was in store for me and that my life was about to change forever. I arrived in London and fell in love with the city! I remain thankful for living in one of the most enviable places on the planet. Someone up in the heavens is clearly looking out for me.
What did you do once you got to London?
My career began at this great company called IMA – Information Management Associates – where the leadership team was uber entrepreneurial and ahead of their time. I thank the leaders of that company for shipping me off to London. It wasn’t until 1999 when I was recruited by a company called Remedy, which later became acquired by BMC Software, where things got interesting. Remedy was my first work love. I loved the people, the technology, the company vibe. It was the first California-based firm I worked for and I knew I had a window of opportunity to cut my teeth into true Silicon-Valley innovation and best-practice. And with the BMC acquisition, that’s where I was appointed to run the EMEA marketing team and had the opportunity to work with some of the best marketers in the business.
I now work for RingCentral and love every day of my job. We work like mathematic ninjas here, which suits me down to the ground.
Your professor at graduation had a conversation with you about your future, who is the best conversationalist you've ever worked with?
Without a shadow of a doubt, that’s Elisa Steele. I came to meet Elisa at Jive Software where, dare I say it, I was a bit in awe of her. She joined the firm with a bit of a rockstar status having come from Skype. Her personal and professional network is huge in North America. She even had a photo of Oprah Winfrey in her office as they dined together at one point. Elisa started her career as CMO and quickly rose to the CEO position. This woman made everything appear effortless. Elisa spoke a lot about being your authentic self in every situation, which resonated strongly with me.
Although our time together was short-lived, she made such an impression on me with how she conducted herself with her peers. We would sit and talk and I would be panicking about how much we had to accomplish and complete. She’d make me sit back, be mindful, and say
“What’s your end goal for this? What are you trying to achieve?”
Additionally, I had the pleasure of working for a super lovely gentleman, Jacques Sebag, during my time at Remedy, who gave me the best three words to live by. With his exquisite, thick French accent, there was a time I thought he might be swearing at me.
“Monica, I will give you the advice you’ll need for the rest of your life. Focus. Focus. Focus”
That word to me now is everything. Focus is everything.
During your time in marketing, what's the one thing you’ve learnt that you'll never forget?
I think it happened here, at RingCentral. This company is very well run and the attention to numbers, across all aspects of the business, has been the best education one could ask for.
We’ve got some amazing people in our business, all of whom are mathematical geniuses and have inspired me about how we spend our money, how we approach the market, and how we squeeze every piece of juice out of our marketing activity.
It is a quality over quantity game. We don’t just churn out endless pointless campaigns. I teach my team that we do not need a “more is more” attitude. Less is truly more.
So by teaching your team that “less is more”, that must involve a lot of communication between both of you. How do you handle conversations that you’d rather not have?
Oh dear, awkward conversations at work. My mother used to tell me that it’s all in how you deliver the message. Let’s take poor performance as an example, although it is not awkward, it is delicate and it can get a bit tricky when you have someone who has interpreted their deliverable as wonderful, and then you turn around and deliver a counter-message.
We’re adults and we must have the conversation, but it is very important to me that the individual does not interpret the information as a poor personal reflection of themselves. I don’t want anyone to go home and feel bad about themselves.
But sometimes that happens, you just can’t always stop it from happening, right?
It does but whenever I have to deliver a poor feedback message I say “I’m about to deliver you the facts. I’m not going to tell you about the feedback, I'll send you the facts about what actually happened”.
By doing this, it helps the receiver to realise it’s not personal against them. We don’t have to make a song and dance about this. I can take my team out for a coffee and discuss it in detail with them. I’m happy to do that. When you work for me, you’re a part of my family. I’ll always aim to help you as best I can.
What makes conversations between businesses and customers so important?
For me, the conversation is everything. It’s fundamental. But it has to be open and transparent. That’s what truly matters. I think the art of misinterpretation and translation can go bad if things aren’t talked through from the beginning.
What I’ve found that, and I think this is more common in the US, is that it leads to better results. When you give a strong, clearly communicated brief to a vendor, you’re telling them exactly what you want and the result you want. This means collaboration, co-operation, and healthy relationships.
Think about it? When I say “Apple”, what do you think of? Do you think of an iPad? An actual apple? An apple store? It’s a clear example of how things can be misinterpreted.
That’s why I like to get on the phone. By using the phone, my tone and point come across as stronger because I’m clearly communicating what I need.
With so many digital channels available, where does directly speaking with your audience fit in with brand communications?
You just can’t beat voice. Voice rocks! It helps to cement a relationship and I feel we’ve forgotten about that. All of the Facebook streams, Instagram likes, can make you forget that sometimes.
I think the world is becoming a little bit too self-absorbed. Pick up the phone, have a conversation, and get better results. Being your true authentic self is a virtue in 2019.
According to Adobe, the digital customer journey is one of the most important challenges that CMOs face, how can brands start to get a handle on it?
That’s a tricky one because your customer is everywhere. If you’re not keeping up and being competitive, then what’s the point? The way I converse with my bank changes every day. I’ll call the contact centre, send a tweet, or I’ll pop into a branch. It depends on what people are doing in their life at those times.
Whilst at RingCentral we’ve always focused on getting people to ring. We’ve done that now but now that same customer can be in different places, both online and offline, at the same time. If you aren’t there to respond, you can lose their custom.
You have to be consistent. You’re there to answer the phone, respond to tweets, and answering to emails all within the same time. It’s going to be tough for CMOs to grasp and to get on board with.
Perhaps the largest takeaway from our time with Monica was her feverish commitment to excellent work. We can see the “Focus, focus, focus” mantra bestowed on her has deeply rooted itself to everything she does.
If you need the quick takeaway guide, look no further. Just remember;
- Never forget to be mindful of why you’re actually doing something at work.
- What’s the purpose of your responsibility?
- Less is truly more
- When delivering feedback, give the facts. Leave the emotion till afterwards.
- Interpretation is rife in every communication channel. The one channel that has less of a chance of being misinterpreted is the telephone call.
- If you’re not available everywhere your customer is, you’re missing out. Life is in a constant state of flux. So, make sure you’re the constant in your customer’s lives.
We recently sat with Miya Knights, co-author of the best-seller "How the world's most relentless retailer will continue to revolutionize commerce. Check it out here.
Stay tuned for another of Infinity’s "In Conversation With" when we speak to “The Phone Lady”, Mary-Jane Copps.
Alex is a digital expert specialising in creating copy that engages, entices, and excites our clients. Usually found poring over past issues of Vogue and playing paparazzi to his dogs.