C-suite Career Advice: Wendy Lurrie, Sinequa

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? “To celebrate what people do well, don’t punish them for what they don’t do well – find ways to address that but honour what they do uniquely well.”

Headshot of Wendy Lurrie, Chief Marketing Officer at Sinequa

Name: Wendy Lurrie

Company: Sinequa

Job Title: Chief Marketing Officer

Location: New York, USA

Wendy Lurrie is a proven marketing executive with unmatched experience in driving innovation, growth, culture, and results. She currently serves as Chief Marketing Officer at Sinequa, a leading enterprise search company. Before joining Sinequa, Lurrie served as Senior Vice President, Global Marketing at Medidata, a Dassault Systèmes company. Prior to Medidata, she spent over 30 years across the full spectrum of marketing disciplines, including brand, direct marketing, CRM, digital marketing, and integrated marketing. Lurrie brings a wealth of creative experience as she also held senior positions at Grey, FCB, and gyro, where she lead the NY office and founded the healthcare practice gyro: human. She also co-founded SPUR partners, a marketing and strategy consultancy.

What was the most valuable piece of career advice that you received? Volunteer for everything. It opens up doors to opportunities and can provide incredible learning experiences.

What was the worst piece of business advice that you received? This was less about advice given and more of a prediction or threat I received early in my career. Someone once said, “You’ll never go as far as a man because you didn’t grow up playing team sports.” I’m proud to have proven them wrong.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in IT/tech? The same advice I’d give anyone starting a new career: Become a student of the field, be fiercely curious, volunteer for everything, find a mentor and build a network.

Did you always want to work in IT/tech? No, my background was in marketing agencies, but I found my way to tech through one of my clients and I couldn’t be happier to have landed here. It is an incredibly interesting, dynamic, world-changing field.

What was your first job in IT/tech? This was during my early agency days working on the IBM account. I had no technical background, so it was a little intimidating. I remember sitting in long briefing sessions terrified to ask a question because I was afraid that certain questions might reveal my lack of technical knowledge at the time. I now ask lots of questions. It’s how we learn and do our best work.

What are some common misconceptions about working in IT/tech? That it isn’t a hospitable environment for women and people of colour.

That you have to have a highly technical background.  

That work/life balance is a white whale.

There’s truth in all of these but the industry is changing and it’s the responsibility of people like me to help drive that change.

What tips would you give to someone aiming for a c-level position? The advice I’d give is this: Shape the role you’re into what you do best. There’s a quote from Andre Gide that I’ve relied on for most of my life:

“What another would have done as well as you, do not do it. What another would have said as well as you, do not say it; what another would have written as well, do not write it. Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself-and thus make yourself indispensable”.

It’s served me well throughout my long (and checkered) career. And I learned a lot from an old boss who taught me to celebrate what people do well, don’t punish them for what they don’t do well – find ways to address that but honour what they do uniquely well.

What are your career ambitions and have you reached them yet? Reached! I wanted to lead marketing for a game-changing tech organisation that has significant impact on the world. I want to build a world-class team and build an admired and enduring brand for a company I believe in. And here I am.

Do you have a good work life balance in your current role? I do. And it doesn’t hurt that I work for a European company.

What, if anything, would you change about the route your career path has taken? As interesting and sometimes strange as my journey has been I think I needed to experience all of its twists and turns. Even the difficult experiences taught me. I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that every experience has something to teach you, and that’s how you grow.

Which would you recommend: A coding bootcamp or a computer science degree? I’ll be a contrarian here – neither. I’d recommend getting a degree in a field that teaches you how to think - and ideally – how to communicate effectively. I told my kids that college isn’t trade school; you go to learn how to think. (They didn’t love that answer but in time came to agree.)

How important are specific certifications? Depends on the role.

What are the three skills or abilities you look for in prospective candidates? Curiosity. Openness. Ability to communicate

What would put you off a candidate? Name dropping. Not listening. Having all the answers. Not doing enough research ahead of the interview

What are the most common mistakes made by candidates in an interview? How can those mistakes be avoided? I think candidates have the same problem as a lot of people in stressful situations; too much time spent thinking about their next answer instead of really listening to the question.

Do you think it is better to have technical or business skills – or a mix of both? Mix of both. Business skills are necessary to understand the problems you’re solving and the value they bring to the business. Technical skills are critical for certain roles, but even highly technical roles can benefit from candidates who understand the business.