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Episode 11 - Robin Matlock, VMware

Robin is a seasoned Silicon Valley GTM executive with over 30 years of marketing, sales and business development experience in the enterprise software and services market. Currently an Independent Director with Iron Mountain (NYSM: IRM), serving on Technology, Compensation and Risk/Safety Committees. Advisor to, a fast growing AI and Revenue Acceleration company, and Calamu, an early-stage disruptor in the data security market.

She was the former Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of VMware, the leader in virtualization, cloud infrastructure and end user computing. Throughout her 11+ years with the company, Robin played an instrumental role shaping the company’s transformation from software to services, and from a single product to a comprehensive enterprise portfolio in cloud, networking, security and mobility. She has extensive global experience creating new markets, optimizing product/market fit and building modern, scalable GTM models and teams that accelerate growth and drive transformation.

Robin talks about her own career growth and about the importance of not putting limits on yourself and how a fateful lunch totally changed her career trajectory. She talks about how you need to promote yourself in your own mind to lead at a different altitude as you become more senior, and then again when you serve as a board director. Robin also shares a recipe for how to bring culture to life, why you need to get better at failing, and how playing the harp prepared her for her very successful business career.

Silicon Valley’s Ethos

[01:58] Silicon Valley is the world’s innovation capital. This never-ending cycle of innovation makes the technology industry so successful. Someone else will innovate if you don’t, and they will eventually gain an advantage. The tricky part is maintaining momentum once you’ve achieved success and gained clients. That is Silicon Valley’s ethos and the cause for the success of the technology.

Robin’s role model

[03:54] Pat Gelsinger is Robin’s role model. Pat transformed herself fearlessly and upped the bar, setting audacious goals that were at times ridiculed for being so far and beyond. When you have these enormous, crazy goals and encourage others to achieve them, it’s incredible what can be accomplished. Occasionally, your existing install base, your clients, will deplete all of your resources. If you don’t consider the next generation, you risk being accused of not inventing.

A CEO’s Influence

[08:38] There are two aspects to a CEO’s influence, visionary and empowerment. As emerging CEOs, you must empower that organization and its people to do their best work and lead as thought leaders. If you don’t know how to motivate people and encourage them to do their best work, you’ll be severely hampered.

[10:07] Pat Gelsinger empowers the team. He is in charge of by anticipating the outcomes. He continuously focuses on the consequences rather than the road, and he offers you a great deal of influence over your fate. Pat also guarantees that actions are directed toward reaching the required results and makes sure you’re held accountable for your behavior.

How Robin’s career began

[15:41] Robin’s career began in sales and progressed to business development. Her first step into marketing was product management and marketing. Robin had been VP of Marketing for four years. 

[22:28] Moving from leader to executive is crucial for Robin. Start by changing your mindset. And it would help if you crossed it. The worst thing you can do is bridge that abyss while continuing to act, behave, and lead as you did before. You cannot function at the level you demand while holding to what you did at the lower level. 

[26:45] Your level of influence changes when you become a board-level director. Your job is to represent the interests of shareholders. You are not running the company or correcting its malfunctioning systems. You are simply examining to ensure that it operates effectively and performs the responsibilities required to create shareholder value, grow, and prosper. 

[28:29] Robin’s primary role on the public board is governance. Her mentors assist their CMOS by providing pride consultation and other advisory services, but most of her work is focused on control. Whereas on private boards, it’s all about assisting them in growing, and they want and practically require your knowledge, you’re more active. 

[32:43] As a CEO herself, Robin has developed an appreciation for how CEOs do what they do, not just what they do. If she were to compare excellent to outstanding, she would see that the secret sauce frequently distinguishes one from the other. If you’re a motivator, communicator, listener, and good at encouraging others to participate, you can pick out the most significant ideas and galvanize your teams to have a chance to differentiate yourself.

The Importance of Culture

[36:36] Robin sees culture as vital in all facets of a company’s life. You must be extremely cautious to ensure that the desired and existing cultures are equivalent. Your written culture is theoretical if the rules that govern your organization, how you make decisions, how you reward your employees, and the actions you acknowledge do not fit with your written culture.

[40:21] Nobody will trust you if you applaud and celebrate someone’s accomplishment who does not adhere to your beliefs. Your internal personnel will see, and all of this is a waste of time.

[43:34] If you fail the first time, that’s normal. Those who have innovation embedded into their DNA, accept that failure as an unavoidable part of the journey. As a result, you’re getting feedback in real-time. You have clear benchmarks to test against when you have an innovative culture that accepts failure. In general, you can adapt once you have access to information, data, and feedback. 


[46:16] Robin has struggled with imposter syndrome and has had self-doubt and lack of confidence on her path to becoming a CEO. She discovered that faking it until you make it works for her most of the time, as she relies on experts in their industries when something comes up, and she isn’t sure what to do.


[52:48] Robin’s Advice: A successful startup will go through several stages. And if they want to stay with their companies during this trip, founders will have to shift swiftly and often. You don’t have to be too hard on yourself if that doesn’t work out; things happen. Have a growth mentality when it comes to your career. Surround yourself with the best, and don’t be scared to associate with experts in their fields. Recognize that your company should be more about people than profits, and be enthusiastic about what you do.

Know more about Robin Matlock:  Website  | Twitter 

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