As Director of OEM Sales at Nutanix, Michelle Sanchez leads a team of sales professionals across North and South America. Despite her busy schedule, Sanchez prioritizes enabling the success of other women. “I see it as my responsibility to share my experiences with other women, and to encourage them to do the same” she says.
In a recent interview with Fairygodboss, Sanchez opened up about her leadership style, how women can be powerful disruptors, the key to acing an interview, and advice on advancing your career.
Tell us a bit about your job. What’s your current role and how long have you been in this role?
I joined Nutanix in 2016 and have been leading a team since 2018. I was promoted to Director of OEM Sales, Americas this year (in 2021).
I have a challenging and fun role. I am honored to lead a team of dynamic sales professionals focusing on Nutanix's OEM and alliance partnerships. We have the privilege to support, enable and drive sales revenue with these partners via our joint solutions. They include: HPE, Lenovo and Dell EMC.
What made you want to join Nutanix? What about your work excites you?
Nutanix appealed to me because of the amazing technology, the culture, and the opportunity to work with a manager who was and is dynamic, respected in the industry, and took the time to understand my strengths and potential. He was and is a true champion, mentor and ally. Nutanix has been nothing short of an exhilarating ride. I’ve had so many remarkable experiences with remarkable people during my time here so far.
How do you prioritize your to-do list each day?
Nutanix moves at a fast pace. While it can be overwhelming having “lots of irons in the fire”, I work to optimize each day by being prescriptive and diligent with time vs. doing tasks. I create a “triage to-do list” and carve my calendar out accordingly. I make a point to complete my top three priorities, no matter what fires pop up that need my attention.
I also begin each day by laying out 3 simple, but impactful, things to set my day up for success:
1) What I’ll focus on
2) What I’m grateful for
3) What I’ll let go of
What are your favorite aspects of the culture at Nutanix?
My favorite aspects of the culture at Nutanix are the inclusivity and trust. Nutanix walks the talk! We hire great people and let them do what they do best. I also enjoy the fast paced, continually changing environment. It makes each day exciting and brings new challenges that stretch me out of my comfort zone. Two of our Nutanix culture principles are “get comfortable being uncomfortable” and “show grit”. I strive to live by these when I’m faced with challenges or big stretch goals that might seem daunting but will make me stronger.
How do you describe your leadership style?
My leadership style starts with taking the time to hire the right people for the role. Many skills can be taught, but certain traits that are ingrained in people are instrumental for the roles that I hire for. At Nutanix we strive to hire great people for the role and let them do what they do best.
My approach in leadership is to respect, encourage, empower and support my team while creating opportunities for them to flourish and grow. I work alongside them as if they are the CEO’s of their regions and we work together to ensure we incorporate and reinforce our top Nutanix initiatives into their strategic plans. Finding their strengths and promoting those, while also challenging them to reach the potential that they may not see in themselves. My ultimate goal is for my team to feel happy and fulfilled with their work and contributions. When that is achieved, it is remarkable how success follows.
What qualities do you look for when you’re interviewing a candidate for a sales role?
While experience is always a plus, some skills and traits are not as easily taught. I look for candidates who show initiative and take the time to do their homework on the company, solution and role. The ability to do the research and go above what is required translates into how a candidate will approach their role. I look for people who are prepared to “pitch to me” as if they were already on the team and able to share examples of the strategy or execution plan they would take, while also emitting energy and boldness. The best salespeople are also skilled conversationalists with the ability to listen and take notes.
How have you used your role to lift up other women?
I advocate for opportunities for women any chance I get. One of the ways I do this is by supporting and getting involved with organizations that are doing great work to advocate for women. Two organizations that I have worked with over the years include Women in Technology and the Hispanic IT Executive Council.
I also see it as my responsibility to share my experiences with other women and to encourage them to do the same. We can learn so much from each other by opening up about our journeys, sharing best practices and being authentic about challenges we have faced. We can inspire, collaborate and lift each other up in many ways.
Last, I challenge myself by putting myself out there publicly and sharing my personal journey and what I have learned with others, whether it’s speaking to my niece’s class about my job or sharing my unconventional career path with our Webscale Women group (our employee resource group for women) at Nutanix.
Who is someone that has been influential in your career?
I truly won the lottery with my parents. My parents are Cuban and Colombian. They immigrated to the U.S. with virtually nothing, facing and overcoming many adversities along the way. They were my best and most influential teachers that molded me into who I am today.
There have been so many influential people throughout my career! I have been fortunate to have had some amazing mentors and to work alongside talented leaders. Not only have many of them taken the time to see the potential in me, push me and provide me opportunities to excel (by the way, always take those opportunities and learn as you go) but they have also been great teachers to observe. I soak up every bit I can and am a constant “student of the game”. I think of them and Nutanix as going to school every day. Never stop learning!
Why do you think Nutanix is a particularly supportive work environment for women?
Nutanix definitely walks the talk with inclusivity. You will find amazing women in all areas and business units at all levels here. I work alongside remarkable women that are driven, resilient and hardworking. In addition, we have an amazing employee-led group for women called Webscale Women. The global initiative is a big force in supporting and enabling the community of women at Nutanix. Three tenets of the group are to drive connection, collaboration and inspiration.
Are there any obstacles you feel women specifically have to overcome working in sales? For the most part sales, especially tech, is still very much a male dominated field.
The tech industry, like many other industries, is majorly male “populated” (I dislike the word “dominated”) industry with an imbalance of power, promotions and wages. While there has been some change, we are just scratching the surface of the work that still needs to be done.
It is important for women to find their supporters out there, whether they are male advocates or female supporters. Every woman, no matter their role or stature, has a responsibility to evangelize, advocate for and support others.
Being a woman in a majority male populated industry, it can sometimes feel like I am one of only a few women in a sea of men. I like to reframe that feeling as a unique opportunity. Women in sales are disruptors — we see things from a different perspective and have a unique approach. There is power in differentiating yourself and value in owning your story and perspective.
What advice do you have for women who are looking to grow their career in sales?
Not all of us consume and approach things in the same manner. Lean in and meet people halfway by understanding your audience and adapting your approach as needed. Do it in a way that feels authentic to you.
As women, we often talk ourselves out of why we can’t do something or why we’re not qualified for something yet. It’s important to put yourself out there and to stretch yourself. Don’t doubt yourself, just go for it. I’ve never regretted taking on a big goal or stretch assignment, even those I didn’t know if I was ready for.
Women can have a tendency to apologize. Instead of saying “Sorry I’m late” for a meeting, what about saying “Thank you for waiting” instead? The book “The Likeability Trap” by Alicia Menendez explores this further.
Last, as you carve a path, remember to take others with you. Lift up and reach back to bring others along. When women support each other, incredible things happen.
What is some advice you live by?
Life is not a dress rehearsal. Show up every day and give it your best. Your next big opportunity could be when you least expect it.
Trust your gut, make big bets and never settle: the unconventional path can lead you to where you were always meant to be. Take on new challenges to help you get better.
Stop being so hard on yourself: your challenges, missteps and failures are the valuable ‘tools in your toolbox for success’.
It’s all about the journey: take a minute to reflect on all you’ve achieved — close your eyes and think of what your younger self would think of your accomplishments.
Anything else we should know that we haven’t covered here?
At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished, it’s about what you’ve given back and who you’ve lifted up or made better. I try to leave everything I touch better than I found it, whether it’s my work, my team, my personal relationships, or my community.
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