Seven Questions with Five9’s Niki Hall
Welcome back to our Women in Tech blog series! As you may know, Aragon is gearing up for its second annual Women in Technology (WIT) Awards, so we are highlighting the extensive contributions of last year’s winners.
This interview with Niki Hall, VP Corporate Marketing at Five9, discusses staying true to yourself, the impact of mentorship, and work-life integration.
1. Please describe yourself in four words.
Passionate, learner, results-oriented, and team builder.
2. What do you find most interesting about the technology field in which you work?
The technology field I’m working in is all about customer experience and what I found fascinating is how AI is enabling a better customer experience. We are seeing customer expectations that are higher than ever before. Even though tech helps us be more efficient, it also seems as if we have less time. Customer service is an area where people expect a near, if not immediate, response now. AI is enabling a better customer experience and empowering agents to be better able to serve where they can provide the most value to CX.
3. How do you find work-life balance, or what do you enjoy outside of work?
I don’t believe in work-life balance. In my experience, balance isn’t a realistic goal—it’s more work-life integration. In today’s work style and focus of always-on (in every avenue of your life), I find myself in a constant state of flow between work, family, personal goals, health, fitness, rest, and renewal. I make sure to get one hour per day to focus on work-life integration by attending Soul Cycle, or by doing yoga, where I can completely zone out and focus on getting out of my head and into my body. Amazingly, when I do this, solutions to work challenges (and life challenges) naturally surface. I get some of my best ideas when I purposefully give myself that one hour to relax and recharge, and as an end result, I find myself being a better leader, mother, and wife.
4. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced has been determining when to transition from a company in order to stay true to myself. One of my mentors told me to create a list of my top five must-have company characteristics that would align with my passions and be a place where I could contribute the most value. A few years ago, I was at a company that was going private, and I took the time to compare where this company was with my list. It was no longer aligned. It was still a great company with great people and I had to find the courage to decide that, after five years, I was going to exit and look for something more aligned with what was important to me at that time.
It wasn’t easy and I particularly disliked leaving people I loved working with, but it was the right choice. I believe it’s always the right choice to make decisions that keep you true to yourself.
5. Are there enough opportunities for women in tech? How would you assess the progress women have made in the tech industry?
There are definitely enough opportunities for women in tech, especially in Silicon Valley. We’re lucky to live here. I do believe there is still a ton of progress to be made in the tech industry though; for example, in some companies, there is still a glass ceiling. Ideally, it shouldn’t be about gender; it should be about who’s the most qualified, but unfortunately, we’re still in a world where there is unconscious bias. It is my belief, we have to help pave the road and help mentor the upcoming generation of professionals. I make an effort to do this—I look to my mentors for guidance and then I pass that learning along to the women I’m mentoring.
6. What are some things you think should be addressed on macro, peer, and educational levels to encourage women to feel empowered in the tech industry?
It’s more about keeping a strong women’s network, learning from those who have already been through the trials and tribulations, and paving the road for others. Whether you are a woman or a man, you control your own destiny. It shouldn’t be about gender; it should be about understanding what you want, where you can add impact, and following your heart.
7. Please provide a WIT call to action.
Learn from other inspirational leaders and make sure you are spending the time needed to invest in the upcoming generation of leaders. It takes time to network and it’s so easy to stay focused on business, but it’s important to invest in your network or tribe and realize that you are becoming a leader for another tribe as you do this. Look up to your mentors and know that others are looking up to you.