In 2017, Forbes voted Maggie Chan Jones the world's most influential CMO. But when she began her career, she didn't see that coming. She stumbled into the tech industry while struggling to find a job after college. She had moved to the United States from Hong Kong just a few years prior, speaking hardly any english. However, she worked her way into a marketing career — beginning at a small tech company in Seattle and moving through Microsoft, Level 3 Communications before being named CMO at SAP.
Chan Jones realized her ascension to the c-suite as a woman of color was rare, and wanted to work to make it more common. In the fall of 2017, she founded Tenshey — a tech-enabled executive coaching startup dedicated to advancing gender diversity. Since, Tenshey has partnered with the likes of Marketing Academy and Ellevest, and has helped countless women achieve their career dreams.
We spoke with Chan about the barriers she overcame to become a leader in her male-dominated industry. Then, she shared her biggest influences, what sponsorship really means to her and how Tenshey is hoping to change the workplace for women.
Fairygodboss of the Week: Maggie Chan Jones
Founder & CEO, Tenshey
New York, NY
Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
Landing my first job out of college was a lot harder than I thought. I stumbled into the tech industry when a purchasing manager at a small tech company in Seattle took a chance on me. Then, I worked my way into marketing. I worked hard, learned constantly, stayed focused on my goals and went on to hold leadership positions at Microsoft, Level 3 Communications and, in 2014, I was appointed the first female CMO at SAP. In 2017, I was named one of the world’s most influential CMO by Forbes.
I realized that as a woman of color in a male-dominated tech industry, my ascension to the C-Suite was rare, and it shouldn’t be. In fall of 2017, I decided to found Tenshey — a tech-enabled startup dedicated to advancing gender diversity through executive coaching. It’s hard enough for women to climb up the corporate (or startup) ladder; We need a strong support system to help us get there.
What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
Paying it forward. With the support of our coaches, Tenshey is donating over $200,000 in coaching service-in-kind to the Marketing Academy, a global non-profit that aims to accelerate the careers of high-potential and rising talent in Marketing and Communications. We also started working with Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women. I’m so proud of the impactful relationships we’ve made in just over a year of existence.
What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
When I was 14, I was living in Hong Kong and realized that I wasn’t book smart enough to get into one of the three competitive universities there. To give myself a shot at an education, I boarded a plane to New York City alone to live with family I barely knew. I spoke very little English and it was a complete culture shock. The experience taught me that sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and to face challenges with perseverance.
Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? and Why?
My grandmother and my mom — both single parents. It is through them that I learned about compassion, kindness, independence and grit.
What do you do when you're not working?
I love tennis, wake boarding, and hanging out with my husband and our four-legged kid Charlie, a miniature poodle.
If you could have dinner with one famous person - dead or alive - who would it be?
Lightning Round: What is your karaoke song?
None, because when I hear someone say “karaoke,” I run the other way.
Lightning Round: What is your favorite movie?
Ok, I’m going to sound really boring: I don’t have a favorite movie either. I do love watching "Madam Secretary." It's not a movie, I know.
Lightning Round: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
"Grit" by Angela Duckworth.
Lightning Round: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
Designer shoes. When the store brings out cookies or champagne, I know I’m in trouble. If I won the lottery, I would first take my close friends and family on a mega-yacht trip, then invest more in Tenshey and other female-founded startups.
What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
Gosh, it’s so hard to pick just one. I think that women are often over mentored and under sponsored. Mentors are the people who inspire you and build you up. Sponsors are the ones who talk about you when you are not in the room, and open doors for you to opportunities. I’d like to challenge anyone in a leadership role — men and women — to sponsor rising female talents within their network. We need women and men to work together for us to achieve gender equality in the workplace. Let’s pay it forward and use our own success as a platform for the next generation!
Why do you love where you work?
A few weeks ago, I heard back from one of Tenshey’s early clients, Missy. After a few coaching sessions with her coach, she went to HR and asked for the position that she really wanted. And got it! Before coaching, it had never occurred to her that she could even ask for what she wanted. Success stories like this make it all worth it.