In Conversation: Successful Women
Success is a tricky word to define. It means something different to everyone and can only be measured by an individual themselves.
Often, success is seen as being about what an individual achieves, rather than about who they grow to be. However, at Akamai, we believe that success is about growth, whether in your personal life or your career. There is no one-size-fits-all way to measure if someone is successful or not.
We decided to speak to Mahsa Soltani about her career journey, to find out how she got to be Regional Sales Manager, and how she defines her own success.
Hi Mahsa. Firstly, tell us about what you do at Akamai?
I'm a Regional Sales Manager. I manage a team of 8 reps in the retail, travel, hospitality and manufacturing industries. Our main focus is maintaining and growing our customer relationships while driving value and customer satisfaction.
How long have you been with Akamai?
I've been with Akamai almost 6 years.
Tell me about your career before you came to Akamai.
I majored in business at Georgia Tech with a marketing certificate, and I always thought that I was either going to go into something creative like marketing and advertising, or I was going to go to law school.
I was finishing my last year at University when I got a marketing internship at an information security provider. I interned with them my entire last year of college.
Up until that point, I had never considered a career in tech. Tech seemed to me to be very stringent. Which was a massive misconception, right? However, during those 10 months, I fell in love with both IT and security, specifically when I was working as an intern.
I graduated in 2008, when the market crashed. However, I was working for a company that was growing during the recession, because IT was recession proof. On top of that, information security and protecting your assets was actually growing. So, I worked really hard and moved my way over to the sales side, starting from rock bottom.
I worked my way up from there and became a team lead. I got promoted into a direct sales role at the first opportunity, covering small and medium sized businesses. From there I got promoted to covering large enterprises.
I worked there for 6 years and all I knew was security. So, here was this great big world of IT, and the only thing I understood was how to help companies secure themselves.
How did you end up working for Akamai?
I was starting to think about how I was going to expand my knowledge. The cloud was becoming a big thing at the time and I was trying to learn more about that.
Then, a recruiter reached out to me about Akamai. He said, "this is a great company, they're just starting to get into security. You know how you've heard of the cloud? Well, they were the cloud before the cloud was cool. They were the first globally distributed platform. They see more data than anybody in the entire world, and now they're going to be able to use that data to secure their customers." That really resonated with me. They wanted someone who knew the security side of things but had the willingness to learn the performance and the delivery side, and that was me!
I made the move over to Akamai and worked my way up. Eventually, I was promoted to Regional Sales Manager, and that's what I've been doing ever since.
How have Akamai supported your career progression?
Akamai has supported my career progression in many ways. For example - I've worked with the same manager for the last 5 years. In that time, he's not only supported my progression at Akamai, but he's also supported my husband and I deciding to grow our family. As well as this, he and my peers supported me when I wanted to go and get my Executive MBA. So, I would say Akamai has not just supported my career, but also me as a person over these last 6 years. -
I think that growth is really important, especially as a woman. Sometimes, I think we feel that in order to grow in our career we cannot also grow as a person. There's this pressure to always be the perfect employee, which comes as a sacrifice to other things.
However, at Akamai, I have always felt that I can be honest with where I am in life - with my own personal growth, and the steps I need to take to make sure I stay true to my priorities. My priorities being my family, which now includes a 4-year-old, my career and, until last December, school. When one of those priorities has required more of my attention than the others, Akamai has created a safe space for me to be honest and put my focus where I need to. Beyond that I have had wonderful mentors who have helped guide me along the way.
A couple of years ago I decided I wanted to get my Executive MBA, and I wanted to get it before my daughter was old enough to understand that I was gone on the weekends, as it was a weekend program.
My management team and I had a lot of conversations about it because it was a second job - it was 30-40 hours of dedicated assignments and class time each week. I already worked a lot, so they had very transparent discussions with me about whether I could handle it. I thought about it, and said yes, I can, I would love to try.
And they supported me! They supported me so much that they promoted me halfway through that program knowing that I had this second responsibility. Nobody once made me feel like I was betraying Akamai by investing in myself.
How would you define success?
I think my definition has changed throughout my career.
Because I'm in sales, the hard numbers matter. A quota is a very clear definition of success, in terms of how you do against the goals that were set for you at the beginning of the year.
As a manager my definition has changed a lot. The numbers still matter. However, these days, team morale and the individual achievements of my team members are how I define success. As well as this, customer satisfaction and loyalty, whether it be a new relationship or companies who have partnered with us for 20 years - that's success.
From a personal perspective, I want to continue to grow. For me, a title doesn't really define success. However, it's really important for me to grow in any role, to take on new tasks and challenges. Those are the things that drive me.