Our Fairygodboss of the Week is a top Silicon Valley sales executive who prioritizes work-life balance both for her and her team. Alice Katwan leads a team of more than 100 employees and is focused on fostering women’s career growth. She’s paving the way for female tech executives while crushing the stereotypes that have held working women back for too long.
Fairygodboss of the Week: Alice Katwan
Senior Vice President of North America Sales, Genesys
San Francisco, CA
FGB: Tell us about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
AK: I’m Senior Vice President of North America Sales at Genesys, a global omnichannel customer engagement company. What attracted me to sales is that working hard and smart — not long hours — determines your success. Also that you’re judged objectively based on numbers, not on someone’s opinion. I figured this out early on, back when I was selling window treatments at Montgomery Wards in high school, and then bathroom and kitchen fixtures at a home design store in college. After graduation, I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time — Silicon Valley. I’ve been selling enterprise software for 20 years, working at Red Hat, BEA Systems and Network Appliance before joining Genesys.
FGB: What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
AK: Professionally, leading a sales team of over 100. More than a fourth are women, including a vice president and two directors — which crushes the myth that it’s impossible to hire talented women in technology. Personally, becoming a badass executive while raising my three sons, ages 13, 17 and 18.
FGB: What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
AK: Trying to “do it all” as a working mom literally made me sick. To get my health back on track, I had to change my concept of what it means to be a good parent and accept that it’s okay to get help at home. My advice for moms now: don’t bake cookies for classroom parties. Hit the sign-up sheet early and rock the paper plates.
FGB: What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
AK: Speak up. Don’t assume that you will get what you want or deserve by performing well. You have to ask.
FGB: Why do you love where you work?
AK: It’s all about the culture. My team works hard and plays harder. We have fun, collaborate and have each other’s backs — all while generating 70 percent of the company’s North American revenue.
FGB: Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? Why?
AK: Jo Miller, founder of Be Leaderly. Through training, speaking and writing, she has helped thousands of women grow as leaders, especially in historically male-dominated professions. When Jo talks (she has a charming Aussie accent), she’s so inspiring and positive that you can’t help but believe in yourself.
FGB: What do you do when you’re not working?
AK: I cook for my family every night unless I’m traveling. Growing up, the dinner table was the epicenter of family life, and that's what I want for our kids. There will always be more work to do, but being a kid is a one-time deal. Making dinner gives me a stopping point. It’s my line in the sand for work-life balance.
FGB: If you could have dinner with one famous person — dead or alive — who would it be?
AK: Katherine Johnson, one of the African-American mathematicians who inspired “Hidden Figures.” She’s 99 years old, born on August 26 — Women's Equality Day.
FGB: What is your karaoke song?
AK: “American Pie” by Don McClean.
FGB: What is your favorite movie?
AK: “The Pursuit of Happyness” with Will Smith. It’s based on entrepreneur Chris Gardner’s memoir about being homeless with his young son for nearly a year
FGB: What book would you take with you on a desert island?
AK: ”Mindset” by Carol Dweck, a must-read if you’re a manager or a parent. It will change the way you think about success. And if you’re going to survive on a desert island, you definitely need grit.
FGB: What is your shopping vice?
AK: Handbags and shoes. I like to have options.
What would you buy if you won the lottery?
AK: I would buy a beachfront vacation home in Manhattan Beach, CA.
Fairygodboss is all about women helping other women - so each week, we celebrate a woman who made a difference in another woman’s career. Is there a woman who has made a difference in your career? Celebrate her and thank her by nominating her here.