Who Got Me Here

Mark Anderson: Utilizing Sales Skills to Open Your Horizons

Episode Summary

Mark Anderson is the CEO at Alteryx. In a conversation with Annie, Mark talks about his humble beginnings in retail sales that helped him break into the tech world. He shares stories about working with Jeff Bezos and Amazon in the ‘90s, and how learning from John Chambers at Cisco informs his current leadership style. Prior to his role as CEO at Alteryx, Mark was President of Palo Alto Networks, where he and the team grew the company from pre-IPO in 2012 to become one of the largest security companies in the world.

Episode Notes

Mark Anderson is the CEO at Alteryx. In a conversation with Annie, Mark talks about his humble beginnings in retail sales that helped him break into the tech world. He shares stories about working with Jeff Bezos and Amazon in the ‘90s, and how learning from John Chambers at Cisco informs his current leadership style. Prior to his role as CEO at Alteryx, Mark was President of Palo Alto Networks, where he and the team grew the company from pre-IPO in 2012 to become one of the largest security companies in the world.


"I used to think that asking for help was a sign of weakness… And it wasn't until I noticed people that I respected asking for help and getting the sensation of joy when you provide help or guidance to others that I realized it was really a sign of strength, and that freed me up to be greedy when it came to asking for help.” - Mark Anderson


Episode Timestamps:

*(01:46) - Mark’s background and beginning in sales

*(06:59) - Breaking into the world of tech

*(09:31) - Key relationships from building connections

*(12:22) - Working at Cisco at $600 BN valuation

*(19:48) - Working with Jeff Bezos in the ‘90s

*(23:32) - Leveraging relationships to overcome obstacles

*(30:20) - Working at Alteryx

*(35:01) - Final thoughts



Who Got Me Here is brought to you by Connect The Dots, mapping professional relationships so you can find the strongest connections to the people and companies you want to reach. Visit ctd.ai to learn more.



Episode Transcription

[00:00:00] Narrator: We all have that person in our lives who seems to be connected to everyone. You can be intentional about your network while still being human. In order to build strong connections with others, you really have to be strongly connected with yourself. I believe that meaningful networking has been the single greatest contributor to my good luck. You can't connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. 

[00:00:31] Annie Riley: Welcome to Who Got Me Here. I'm your host, Annie Riley, and I'm joined today by Mark Anderson. Mark is the CEO of Alteryx, an analytics and data science company, and Mark is also currently on the board of Cloudflare and a venture partner at Lightspeed. Prior to Alteryx, Mark built his career in the world of sales and go to market. He held senior revenue roles at Palo Alto Networks, F5 Networks, Anaplan, Cisco, many other interesting roles. And Mark is a graduate of York University in Toronto, and I've heard an avid hockey player and golfer. Mark, thank you so much for joining us. We're thrilled to have you on the show. 

[00:01:10] Mark Anderson: My pleasure, Annie. Thanks for having me.  

[00:01:12] Annie Riley: So this podcast is all about how folks can make connections matter, and we focus on advice from senior leaders based on their own experience, but it's also really, I think, helpful and interesting to dig into your personal story. And so I'd love to get started, you know, at the beginning to explore more about how you got into this world of tech and sales, because my understanding is it's quite. like an unlikely scenario for you from where you started. What was your first job out of college and how did you get into this world of technology and sales?

[00:01:51] Mark Anderson: Yeah, well, you know, I appreciate the, uh, the question, Annie. I think going to college I was like any other, you know, kind of teenage boy, I guess, you know, young man. I, I, We had no clue what I wanted to do and, and to me, it was just going there because my parents would have kicked me out of the house if I didn't go to college.

And thankfully, uh, ended up meeting a regional manager from Xerox at the time. We're talking in the eighties, probably well before you were born. But back in the eighties, Xerox was like the Apple of technology at the time. And, and I was all ready to go into the Toronto Dominion bank. Bank manager trainee program just seemed like something other classmates were doing in the business school that I was in.

And I met this guy in the ski shop that I was working at pretty much the last weekend of winter. And you know, I spent an hour and a half with him, sold him and his wife the best skis that we had. And he asked me what I was doing. And I said, Hey, I'm going into the Toronto Dominion bank manager trainee program.

And he goes, you should be a salesperson. And I go, I really didn't even know what that was. My dad was an engineer. He only hung out with other engineers that were Scottish, British, Irish, or, or Welsh. And so, uh, I just had no frame of reference and ended up interviewing at Xerox, uh, as a young, uh, 20 year old graduate.

And thankfully. I ended up convincing them to give me a shot, and I worked my first few years at Xerox banging on doors, uh, wearing down shoe leather and, you know, calling on customers, selling them fax machines and early computers and copiers. That's 

[00:03:29] Annie Riley: amazing. I love that story because, you know, you hear people say things like, people come into your life for a reason.

And in this case, it was just someone you met in passing. You were working retail at a ski shop, selling this couple skis. And from there, that launched an entirely new career and life for you, really. Yeah, 

[00:03:51] Mark Anderson: exactly. 

[00:03:52] Annie Riley: How did you turn that relationship from a... Quick encounter at the ski retail selling this guy's skis into a job 

[00:03:59] Mark Anderson: opportunity.

Well, you know, he gave me his card and I, so at least I had an interview and I went in, sat in front of five, what I thought was old people at the time. And I, of course, had to go out and buy a 99 suit, which came with a free dress shirt and tie and, and showed up there and, and, uh, they all kind of laughed and said I was too young.

And that's just kind of steeled my resolve just grown up as an athlete. I had pretty strong determination around trying to succeed in especially sports related tasks. And I called this guy, his name was Dennis Finnegan. I called him back and said, Hey, uh, give me another shot. And, you know, he gave me some cues of how to do a better interview.

And eventually they ended up. You know, taking a chance. I offered to work for free. They didn't actually do that. They couldn't do that, they said, but they gave me a shot and fortunately I was successful out of the gate. 

[00:04:53] Annie Riley: That's incredible. And, you know, you mentioned that this was something completely different from anything you had seen.

And, you know, just to set the context for folks who are hearing your story for the first time, my understanding is that's because your parents were immigrants from Northern Ireland and, you know, working in engineering. Can you just give us a little bit of context for, How new or how different this experience working at Xerox was for you?

[00:05:22] Mark Anderson: Well, you know, it was very different. But what I quickly realized is, you know, listen, my folks and I immigrated from Belfast in the 60s, right? So not a great time to be in Belfast. And thankfully, my dad, you know, got a job offer in Canada, and we immigrated to Montreal. I had no sort of... Frame of reference from my folks, but you know, I had to work growing up to pay for the things that I wanted because family was relatively from modest means.

And so a lot of that was retail. I worked at a bike shop and a golf shop in the summer and a ski shop in the winter, mostly to get discounts on the things that I like to buy to, you know, pastimes I had. And so, so I realized that, you know, retail, you're interacting with people and just like you are in, in, uh, in sales.

And I really liked that. I felt comfortable, you know, interacting with people of all ages and, and trying to sell them a golf equipment or bikes or skis. By the time I got to Xerox, they had at the time, I think a world famous training, sales training course that you, your first three weeks you spent in Leesburg, Virginia, you know, learning their methodology for enterprise selling.

And I found, I found that there's a lot of commonalities of my ability in the retail environment to connect with people. And I, and I really just kind of ran with it. And 

[00:06:39] Annie Riley: kind of relatedly, Mark, what I really love about your background too is you come from York College in Toronto. And a lot of times when people think about who kind of makes it in Silicon Valley, they think of schools like Stanford being a feeder school for the tech world.

And I'd love to know What advice would you give to folks who are coming from universities or maybe even no university where, you know, it's not as common for people to pursue these careers in tech? How can they break 

[00:07:11] Mark Anderson: in? Yeah, you know, that's a, that's a great question, Annie. I think for me, it's just about, you know, having the courage to step outside of your comfort zone and to Reach out to any connections that you have to anything.

So, you know, for example, uh, often I'll have children of my friends that are looking to get an internship or something like that is like absolutely use any connection that your mom and dad might have to any company, any way to get your application to be read by a human being, I think is something that people should take advantage of and, and leverage any, any network that you have.

Um, for me, That network was by happenstance, but for others, a friend of a friend of a friend could always, always be there to at least, you know, give you some advice. And, and, you know, I'll tell you, I was pretty immature as a young man. And I used to think that, you know, asking for help was a sign of weakness, you know, cause just.

Big, dumb, you know, hockey player. And it wasn't until I, I noticed people that I respected asking for help and getting the sensation of joy when you, when you provide help or guidance to others, uh, that I realized it was really a sign of strength and that sort of kind of freed me up to be greedy when it came to asking for help.

[00:08:29] Annie Riley: And I love the example from your story of breaking into Xerox there, where, you know, it sounds like the first interview maybe wasn't that successful, but then you called up that connection, which was not a former boss or an alum from your school, it was someone you sold skis to in a retail environment, and you called him and you said, hey, what advice do you have?

And then it sounds like, You were willing to actually listen to that and follow through on it in order to land that job that essentially launched your 

[00:08:59] Mark Anderson: career. Totally. And determination comes in all different kinds of forms, right? And, and I think, believe in yourself, and that's, that's tough for a lot of young kids to do.

It certainly was tough for me to do, but find that determination and will and, and go for it. 

[00:09:13] Annie Riley: Well, I'd love to talk about how relationships played a role and then, you know, Changing companies and essentially getting you into, I guess it got you out to the West Coast, getting you into the companies and, and the networks that you're a part of today, who were some of the key relationships in transitioning out of Xerox and into some of the, you know, tech companies that you've been a part of more recently in your career?

[00:09:38] Mark Anderson: Yeah, you know, I think back into the nineties and when I worked at Cisco and you know, the decade of the nineties, Cisco was a stock market darling. I think in 2000, they were the most valuable company on earth, something like 600 billion valuation, which I still don't think that they've even come close to, uh, in recent days.

But at that time I'd gotten pretty good at finding the kind of people that are open to helping you in your career. And I, I was just, you know, kind of a, a relentless networker and, and, you know, you, you get pretty good at figuring out the people that are up for it and the people that aren't. And it's fine.

There's, you know, all kinds of people in the world. And I found that, you know, as a sales manager, when I brought out, you know, John Chambers, for example, the CEO at the time, I brought him out to visit my customers, Microsoft and Amazon in the nineties, in the early nineties, John and I used to go visit Jeff Bezos in Seattle.

And I would just stay up all night the night before and I'd stack rank the 20 questions that I wanted to ask John and he'd let me go through as many of them as we possibly could as we prepared to go in to visit my customers. And, you know, I remember thinking, boy, this is, I'll never get to a position like this, but if I do, I want to be this generous and this open.

And, you know, Cisco was the kind of company at the time where everybody. Wanted to understand what was going on. It's kind of like Nvidia today, I would say, you know, where people are marveling at, at how, how much their stock has gone up and, you know, so there's always, always people that you could get into a conversation with.

And that just allowed me to sort of spread my wings into different elements of technology and. Certainly different levels within every customer. I could meet the CFO and the CIO and in some cases the CEO of companies that, you know, by leveraging Cisco's relevance at the time. Yep, 

[00:11:27] Annie Riley: absolutely. How did you get that job at Cisco?

[00:11:30] Mark Anderson: I was working at a, uh, a computer leasing company called ComDisco in the nineties and they relocated me to Seattle from Toronto and, you know, I got recruited. And I went in and met with the sales manager, because I was financing a lot of Cisco gear, I certainly knew that Cisco was kind of like plumbing the world with Ethernet, you know, connectivity at the time, you know, I felt that they were an important company and I It was lucky enough to get recruited and ultimately chosen, I think, because of my sales success and the rest is history.

[00:12:04] Annie Riley: Yeah, so you land at Cisco, which is this incredible company at the time. There was just a standard recruiting process. And I love this example of, you know, getting to know John Chambers, who was the CEO at the time. He's literally just coming on customer visits with you. How many people would you estimate worked at Cisco then?

Or how many people were on the sales team, for example? 

[00:12:26] Mark Anderson: Oh, the sales team was probably at the time, you know, a couple thousand people and maybe Cisco was 10 when I joined, but probably 30 when I left in 2001. So they were growing 40, 50 percent year over year, every year, because the world was really just waking up to the need for people to be connected electronically.

[00:12:44] Annie Riley: And so you're like one of thousands of people and the CEO is coming and you're going to spend like. What was the setup where you were asking these 

[00:12:53] Mark Anderson: questions? Yeah, to and from customers. You know, Seattle is a pretty spread out place and Microsoft is based in Redmond and Amazon was based right downtown at the time in Seattle.

And so I always had, you know, 30, 40 minute kind of jaunts with John. Like one on one. One on one in my, you know, 1998 Lexus GS 300. And I just had a captive audience with John and many other Cisco execs. But, you know, I think back on my time with John is I can remember it like it was yesterday. 

[00:13:24] Annie Riley: Do you remember some of the questions that you prioritize as you?

Stacked, ranked, things you wanted to know and learn 

[00:13:29] Mark Anderson: from him? Absolutely. You know, it was just kind of basic questions around articulating propositions of value to customers, hiring in a competitive environment. And one of the things that I learned back at the time was, you know, at Cisco was growing very quickly is.

This notion of stage experience, you know, hiring people that have experiences and the competencies at the stages that you're going towards, right? As Cisco went from being a billion dollar company to a five or 10 billion dollar company, the requirements of every function, I'd say all the way from CEO down to individual salesperson, those requirements evolve over time.

And you've got to be hiring for the future, not necessarily hiring from what Kind of got you here, uh, in the past. And so I think John was instrumental in kind of teaching me that. Yeah, 

[00:14:18] Annie Riley: that's amazing. And what did that relationship become for you over time? Were you able to stay in touch with him throughout your tenure at Cisco?

What came of that, that relationship? 

[00:14:29] Mark Anderson: I saw John at a friend's 50th wedding anniversary, uh, a few months ago. John and his wife and yeah, I've been on golf trips with him in the past, you know, five or six years. We went to Bandon Dunes together with a bunch of other tech folk and I still think of him as a dear friend and mentor and, and I sure hope I'll always be one.

[00:14:49] Annie Riley: That's so great that, you know, I think there's so many people who would be intimidated to have the CEO in their car and, you know, would be very focused on what can I do to be impressive and in this way. You stood out and made the connection by having that learning mindset. We've heard on this podcast time and time again, our guests say, be curious, ask people about them, you know, and I think that this example really brings that to life.

You made a lifelong connection and you could have blended it in with. The thousands of other employees that he's spending time with in his role as CEO. 

[00:15:23] Mark Anderson: Yeah, for sure. And what a great example, you know, for me to go, uh, strive towards. I mean, I'll never be the CEO that he was, but, you know, what a great example about how to treat people.

And listen, I, I remembered that. And I also remembered, you know, when I got into the car and people, you know, kind of buried their nose in their phones. And I remember how that made me feel. And I thought, again, I'll never get into, you know, this kind of position, but. Gosh, if I ever do, I never want to have anybody feel that way because it's, it's no fun.

[00:15:52] Annie Riley: Yeah. I'd love to come back to that in a minute when I want to dig into your role as CEO today. But before we get there, I think we have a few chapters that I would love to cover that sound really interesting to me. Another relationship that was pivotal in your career was Mark McLaughlin, who was the CEO and president of Palo Alto Networks.

I've heard you talk about how. You got your very big role at Palo Alto Networks because he called you out of the blue. Your profile fit what he was looking for. You were maybe one of four or five people who had the experience that he was looking for and he called you about the position, but I feel so curious.

Did you already know him? Was he given your name by a recruiter? Like, can you give us more context on that relationship and the role that it played in your career? 

[00:16:38] Mark Anderson: Yeah, you bet. I was a CRO at F5 Networks from about 2004 and really enjoyed, uh, great experience with the team there. It was a great team.

John McAdam was a great CEO and we had a product that people were waking up and realizing that they really needed to move into more into the digital age. And so, you know, we had enjoyed, I think, a 10 or 12X increase in valuation. Our revenue had grown every year for, for the eight years that I was there as CRO.

And, you know, I was, I was in a very comfortable position. My children were, were going to great schools in Seattle and. You know, we, we had lots of really good friends in Seattle and, and Mark called me out of the blue and I think he got my name from Ashim Shadna who is a legendary investor at Prelock, one of the venture firms that, uh, was early investors in Palo Alto Networks.

And, you know, he just called me up and introduced himself and, and I was really struck by, you know, his tone and, you know, Mark is an exceptional person, you know, uh, West Point graduate, helicopter pilot in the Army, you know, he's a real life Boy Scout, Dudley Do Right, if I age myself, and just the most impressive person I think I've ever met.

So I went out and had dinner with him in San Jose, and he told me about the aspirations of Palo Alto going public in the next year, and trying to grow from a hundred something million to F5 had experienced, and you know, I just sort of kind of fell in love with Mark, and fell in love with You know, the people that I met at the company and the board was an incredible board, it became too hard to resist.

[00:18:14] Annie Riley: I heard you say that in another interview that Mark swept you off your feet in the interview process. What was it, you know, this leadership experience, when you kind of sat down with him and talked about the role, what was it about him that really captured your interest where you felt like, I really, you know, have to work with this 

[00:18:32] Mark Anderson: person?

Well, you know, I think he's, firstly, he's really, really smart and I think, uh, he doesn't Come across in a professorial kind of a way. He's a very down home, you know, kind of Philly fella that, uh, is very plain spoken, but, you know, really demonstrated a really strong intellect. And I, I really liked his style.

He's, you know, the all American person. Right. And so, and I think he was, he had very strong conviction about. what Palo Alto was going to do in the security space. And the other thing that really, really resonated with me is, you know, the notion of fighting the bad guys. And I think, you know, from his perspective, it means a whole lot more, uh, as, as a veteran.

But for me, as a Canadian experience is like, you know, the Montreal Canadiens fighting the Boston Bruins kind of thing. And I was very familiar with that and hockey. So, I love the idea of fighting the good fight against the bad guys and, and, you know, being able to build something up faster and better than I had done at F5 as CRO.

That was my first CRO job and, you know, I, the only thing I regret about my time there was not going faster to take advantage of what was a great opportunity. And so when that opportunity presented itself at Palo Alto Networks, I jumped at it. I have to ask 

[00:19:47] Annie Riley: about working with Jeff Bezos and having Amazon as a client in the 90s.

How did you build that relationship? Can you tell us a little bit about that? And, and any lessons you might have learned from working with Jeff Bezos about networking, relationship 

[00:20:01] Mark Anderson: building? Yeah, well, you know, at Cisco, I learned very quickly that if you were in sales, you were able to Push the boundaries by enlisting executive help.

And so I brought all kinds of executives in to visit my primary customers up in Seattle at the time. And Amazon was very early times, 1997, 98, it was earth's biggest bookstore, still a very relatively small company. And I really pushed my contacts in the networking team at Amazon to allow me to bring You know, John Chambers and to meet with Jeff Bezos and, and we would do it every couple of quarters for better part of two years that I managed that business.

And so, uh, incredible experiences. Like I, I got to see the very first famous work desk at, at Amazon. This is in 90, 1997, I think it was, uh, Amazon's headquarters was across the street from the needle exchange program in downtown Seattle on 2nd Avenue, right? And so we walk into this building, small, like two story building, and John Chambers in his West Virginia accent goes, Mark, where are you taking me?

Because there was a lineup of junkies around the corner. And so we walk up into Bezos's office and he's sitting there, he's got an old door for a desk that is, the legs are. Two glued together 2x4s in each corner of this desk. So it's just an old wooden door with 2x4s supporting it. And Jeff goes to John, he goes, Hey, I understand Cisco has a real culture of frugality.

What do you think of my desk? And John looks at it and he goes, he goes, Well, I got to tell you, Jeff, you know, I'm the executive sponsor for a new age furniture company. And he goes, how much do you pay for the wood in this desk? And he said, Oh, it's like 15. They go, so who puts it together? And he goes, well, the guys, the engineers downstairs, put them together for me.

And he goes, well, how much do you pay them? And, and I remember thinking I was a little mortified because sometimes back in the day, you know, I'd bring some people in to visit my customers and maybe they would. Come across as, uh, you know, overindulgent, you know, tech people and embarrass me and I, here I am, you know, having a who's more frugal contest with, you know, Jeff Bezos and John Chambers.

So, you know, I think Bezos was extremely focused and I'm sure he still lives on his many endeavors, but he was super focused and he really had a broad vision for where the company was going to go much, much more than you could ever have read about in the nineties and you know, that just really struck me as, you know, again, thinking big is a good thing.

And failure, you learn from your mistakes and it might allow you to think even bigger. And so from a networking standpoint, you know, Jeff was real, um, avid interviewer and recruiter, and he would often talk about people that were coming to join the mission at Amazon in those days. And he strived for the best and the brightest taking a ton of people from Ivy League schools and putting them to work, uh, and unshackling, you know, their horizons on what they were trying to do.

[00:22:56] Annie Riley: That must have been really cool to see then Amazon rise to what it is today. Are you still in touch with Jeff Bezos? 

[00:23:05] Mark Anderson: I'm not. No, no. I think our world's sort of split away, but you know, I'm definitely a big time fan. Yeah, 

[00:23:11] Annie Riley: well, maybe, Mark, we can dream that he'll listen to this episode and you guys can reconnect, you know, and spark a new chapter in that relationship.

Okay, so kind of looking at your resume, I think it would be easy to think that all of this just, it just happened, it just flowed, right? One thing led to the other. But I've also heard you talk about Setbacks and obstacles that you had along the way, speaking of that Cisco chapter that you were just referring to, my understanding is that that came to an end in a round of layoffs.

Could you tell us a little bit about what that experience was like and specifically how you leverage relationships to move forward from that? And I'm particularly interested in it because we're recording this in September 2023. There have been a lot of layoffs this year in the tech world, and many people probably find themselves in that same situation.

[00:24:02] Mark Anderson: Totally. Yeah. In early 2001, Cisco did their, a really big layoff. I think 5, 000 people, they wanted to cut really deep so that they didn't have to do it over and over again. And, uh, I was, uh, kind of mid level manager of VP managing, unfortunately managing the telco business and the telco business in that time kind of was, was really upended.

But I was also a really harsh critic about how we were going about things. And so when I stopped getting invited to the VP calls to decide who's going to get laid off, I, you know, got, got a knock on the door and was told that, that I wasn't going to be included in the layoff. And yeah, it was very, very uncomfortable feeling, you know, Probably the biggest failure that I'd had in my life at the time.

I had a young family. We just moved into a new house on Mercer Island and two incredible little girls that are now adults. And they were generous, uh, with the process, but I just felt my equilibrium was way off, almost like the floor underneath my feet was kind of taken away. So I can certainly empathize with, you know, how people are feeling.

For me, it ended up probably being the best thing that could have happened. It sort of pushed me out of my comfort zone and really forced me to kind of take stock of where I was in my career, what I thought I was good at. And it opened my horizons to, you know, to really, you know, look for things that I may not have considered before I ended up.

You know, getting a couple of different job offers. Uh, one of them at a startup that, you know, taught me in pretty quickly in 18 months that I wasn't a startup person per se at the time. But, you know, that ended up getting me in front of the folks at F five when they were about a hundred million dollars business.

And, you know, I, I managed to relate to the, the CEO at the time, John McCadden, a fellow United Kingdom, uh, citizen. And, uh, he was from Scotland. We got along really well and, and he took a chance on me, which I thought was, was fantastic. So I can really sort of, you know, empathize with what people are going through and, and for me, uh, that fear and the panic, I, I tried to channel it into productive tasks that would ultimately get me.

Reemployed and back into the workforce and back, you know, making mortgage payments. 

[00:26:12] Annie Riley: Yeah, it makes sense. I think a lot of people take that fear and anxiety and can sometimes feel like that's an obstacle to reaching out and activating their network and say, I'm looking and, and the fact that you kind of took that and harnessed it into that activity.

And I also find it really interesting that the first job you got after the layoffs. It wasn't the job, you know, it was one that you learned, oh, this is maybe not the right fit for me. And then that was the springboard and the intro to the company that you then stayed at for how many years? Many years.

Eight years. Yeah. So I think sometimes things can look so tidy when we look back on them, but it's important for people to. See that that, you know, was a journey for you. I want to spend a little bit of time talking about how you approach this now that you are in the CEO role. You sit on many boards, you know, you mentioned being the middle manager salesperson, accepting these executives, even the CEO of Cisco at the time, into your car, driving from customer conversations, and seeing when people.

We're closed off, didn't want to talk, kind of hid behind their phone or maybe their Blackberry at the time. And so how have you channeled some of these lessons into how you pay it forward and approach networking today? 

[00:27:32] Mark Anderson: Yeah, well, listen, I think, um, my daughter Alana is a venture capitalist and she's like, she's an Uber networker.

And I think maybe she picked up, you know, some cues from, from, My days in sales. Cause in sales, you know, really networking is a means to an end, right? Uh, if you're trying to, you know, help a business solve a business problem, there isn't just one or two people you have to talk to, to understand how best to do that with technology.

You know, there's people up and down the organization that you need to, you know, engage with and kind of earn the right to go talk to their boss or their boss's boss or whatever. And so I found, especially as, as a CRO at F5, we'd started making some acquisitions at the time. And so I became pretty active.

You know, engaging with the venture community in the Bay Area, uh, in Silicon Valley and met many people like Hashim Shandna and Jim Goetz and some early, you know, very famous investors today, but they were in their early days back in, you know, 2008, 9, 10, 11. And you know, I, I wanted to be plugged into their network of either innovators or companies that we might, might think adding to the portfolio at F5.

It also helped me understand that. I took advantage of some early private company board opportunities to be on the board, you know, like in my 30s, uh, at F5 and thinking, you know, what do I have to offer to a board? Well, you know, as a successful sales leader, there's a lot that you have to offer.

Recruiting and, and helping position product market fit and helping build out the, you know, that go to market team is really important for early stage companies. And so being on, on some of those boards, you know, kind of really helped me sort of understand You know, the unique value that, you know, people like me had, had to, to bring.

And, you know, I, I got past the imposter syndrome right around there as well. Uh, you know, where I, where I, I stopped worrying that somebody with a clipboard would, you know, knock on the door one day and go, Mark Francis Anderson. Oh, sorry. You're in the wrong spot. You should be digging ditches back somewhere in Canada or Belfast, right?

You know, so I think just sales really teaches you to open your horizons and really start to build a consensus for what you're trying to do. And I think those relationships have really been mutually beneficial for myself, but also these folks in the venture community that, you know, that had the ear of, of an executive at a company that was, was pretty active at the time.

[00:29:57] Annie Riley: The VC world, it seems like it just comes up. So often when we have these conversations as really great folks who are hubs of information and connection and they want to be helpful to the companies that, you know, they're serving in their portfolio. So jobs, customer conversations, you know, they're, they're a wealth of opportunity for so many of these things.

I'm curious in your role as CEO at Alteryx, how many employees are at the company now and how do you signal to them? That you, you know, are open to mentoring, support, networking with them, because I would imagine everyone wants your time and attention. How do you manage that? 

[00:30:39] Mark Anderson: Well, you know, I think you want to make sure that you are approachable and, you know, from the get go at Alteryx, you know, for me, being able to spend time, you know, there's a gentleman named Rishi in the UK that asked for, uh...

A half an hour slot and it was a great opportunity for me, especially during the pandemic to do engage with him over video because I could really learn what's happening in the field with our sales engineers in, in London. I got a lot of my conversations with him. I still talk to him, you know, once a quarter and there's a handful of people in the organization and typically middle of the organization that I have just.

built relationships with that I, I continue to engage with, uh, like Rishi. I think I'm talking to him tomorrow and they get a chance to engage with me and, and share their worlds, but also kind of try to walk a mile in my shoes as well. And, and I think it's mutually beneficial and, and I just try to encourage everybody.

I think, you know, back at my time in the nineties at Cisco is if you're a salesperson or marketing, get your executives involved because. Usually not going to hurt and gosh, and they're free. They're free resources to you. They're not resources that you have to pay for and assign them, you know, tasks that will help your campaign for success.

And so just trying to be a normal person and open to, you know, engaging with folks and I'd be genuine and real. I think it's been certainly different. During the pandemic, certainly no playbook around, you know, how a first time CEO, you know, should work. And, uh, I certainly made lots of mistakes along the way, and I'm sure I'll continue to do that.

But, you know, giving it your, your best and being genuine and open. You know, I, I think what I've learned here in the last three years is. You've got to be going to do a better job of communicating when there isn't the opportunity to gather people in groups in person, you got to like force fit ways to communicate better.

We had a, an ask us anything session yesterday where half the company showed up and we were just going over some strategy, uh, items to the team and. We've got to do that more often, uh, especially during economic times like we're in right now, you know, the environment for tech isn't optimized, it's, uh, you know, people are, are slowing down spending and they're applying more discretion to every dollar and maybe the mistake I've made recently is just not doing more of these, uh, during these times and, and certainly, uh, Learn from 

[00:33:02] Annie Riley: that.

Yeah, opening up all those pathways for communication. And I love this example with Rishi because it kind of brings me back to that image of you in a car with John Chambers and now, you know, Rishi is reaching out to you saying, Hey, can we have 30 minutes? And kind of the same thing is happening, but you're in a different seat.

And I am curious, I know we have to wrap in a second, but what was it about that first call with Rishi? What did you observe doing in that call that made? Them someone you wanted to talk to again and again and really build a relationship with because You're busy, you know? What made them stand 

[00:33:38] Mark Anderson: out?

Firstly, he's an awesome guy, and he's super intellectually curious, and intellectually curious about what's going on at HQ, but also very open about what's right and what's wrong about his world. And I think Really helpful. And there's plenty of others out there that have done the same thing. And, and gosh, I feel honored to have probably hundreds of people at the company today that I've worked with in the past that they're not experts in analytics or data science, but they're people that have become expert at operating in a high growth environment where you have great products and you're trying to.

Help customers realize the business value of using our products. And so I think of all of them when I'm having a good day. I'll think of those relationships and really be grateful for them. I'm certain that these will survive my time at Alteryx as CEO down the road. Anybody that has worked for me, and I do this most days.

I get hit up on LinkedIn or people will text me and ask me for a referral or a reference. And I'm more than happy to do that. I feel. It's an obligation of duty. I mean, they, they put their, their family on the back burner to come and work at, at a company 10, 12 hours a day for me. And that's the very least that I can do.

[00:34:50] Annie Riley: It's, it's sounds like you've been able to work with some really amazing people and have some really terrific, interesting experiences in your career. Mark, anything else that we didn't get a chance to cover in the last couple of minutes here that you were hoping we would? Talk 

[00:35:04] Mark Anderson: about... No, I think you covered all of it really well, Annie.

I, I really appreciate the conversation and uh, you know, enjoy your podcasts and, and hoping that this one turns out well because, you know, listen, I think when you're in a position like I am, it's a privilege to be able to, to lead people and, and be the kind of role model and example that you really want to be.

And some days you do a good job of that, some days you don't, and careers are built over a long term and, and I love the idea of helping, you know, coaching leadership for as many people as possible. 

[00:35:35] Annie Riley: And if people want to learn more about you and your work, where can people find you?

[00:35:38] Mark Anderson: They can find me on LinkedIn. I've got 15 or so thousand followers. You know, hit me up on LinkedIn. And if you want to buy any Altrix software, we're always open for business. You can hit me up at manderson@altrix.com.

[00:35:49] Annie Riley: Great. Ever the close, always be closing Salesperson at heart. I love it. Well, Mark, thank you so much for joining us.

It's been such a pleasure. Really appreciate you sharing your time and your lessons with us. And I'm sure folks will really enjoy this episode. So thank you so much. 

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