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Women in Business Q&A: Lisa Utzschneider, Chief Revenue Officer, Yahoo!

11/12/2015 19:08 GMT | Updated 11/12/2016 10:12 GMT

Lisa Utzschneider is Chief Revenue Officer at Yahoo. In this role, she leads Yahoo's sales organization globally to serve the needs of advertisers worldwide. Previously, Lisa was Senior Vice President of Advertising Sales for the Americas.

Prior to joining Yahoo, Lisa worked as Amazon's Vice President of Global Advertising Sales, where she developed the company's global advertising business through product, marketing, sales, and operations strategies, driving consistent revenue growth. Prior to Amazon, Lisa spent 10 years at Microsoft leading strategic and organizational advertising initiatives in product development, sales, and online industry standards that increased customer satisfaction and revenue growth. Her most recent position at Microsoft was General Manager of the national sales and service teams, focused on driving revenue for the company's top online advertising accounts. She also developed the U.S. advertising go-to-market approach.

Lisa is a board member of the IAB as well as a member of the organization's executive committee. She is also a board member for the Ad Council. In 2013, Lisa was honored in the Adweek 50 and Business Insider's "Most Powerful Women in Mobile Advertising." Lisa holds a bachelor's degree from Bates College and a master's degree in public administration from New York University.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

Two aspects of my early life helped shape my approach to leadership. I grew up as one of the youngest children in a large family in the Northeast and quickly learned how to stand my ground, while also working with all my siblings as equals. I think knowing where you stand and how to get a team working together to pursue a common goal are very important for a leader. Then, my first job was a paper route and taught me the importance of customer satisfaction. I went out every morning come rain, shine or snow in the Northeast to make sure everyone on my route received a dry paper exactly on their doorstep and on time. As a leader today, I focus the team's attention first and foremost on delivering for our customers.

Lastly, when I started my career at Microsoft as an entry level Account Manager, I wanted to learn as much about the different aspects of the business as possible. Over the years, I have taken jobs in different roles from strategy to operations and revenue generation. This experience has been very rewarding, because I have walked many miles in the shoes of my team members and I have an appreciation for the challenges they face and how I can help them reach their goals.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Yahoo?

I've been described as an "operational leader" because I pay attention to what's under the hood. Throughout my career, I've had first-hand experience on the importance of running a smooth operational engine and leveraging data to position the business for long term success. At Yahoo, we are focused on the long term. We always want to delight our customers and we realize that is only possible if we continually get better and better performance out all functions within the organization.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Yahoo?

Since joining Yahoo, I have enjoyed working with this very passionate, energetic and smart team. We have a common goal to return Yahoo to greatness, and the team's enthusiasm and loyalty for the company motivates me every day. Our team "bleeds purple". At Yahoo, advertising is core to our business and I see tremendous opportunity as we continue to invest in our advertising technology and offerings -- delivering relevant ad experiences for our consumers and results for brands. I'm a huge believer in setting priorities as a business, and believe that it's equally important to identify what you're not going to focus on when there's so much opportunity!

How is Yahoo transforming the world of digital advertising?

We're heavily focused on four key areas -- mobile, video, native and social -- also known as MAVENS, which we see as key growth opportunities. Yahoo is a mobile-first company and it's an important part of how we're looking at the future of advertising. We've seen tremendous growth in native advertising through Yahoo Gemini, and we're helping advertisers understand how native can be a powerful component of their ad strategies. Additionally, with our recent acquisition of BrightRoll, we're making big strides in video and now reach an audience of 188 million video viewers. Advertisers are excited that we're focused on both sides of the video ad equation by providing a best in class programmatic video buying platform and creating compelling content with premium ad opportunities.

What advice can you offer women who want to build their career?

It's important to define and be true to your personal and professional priorities. One invaluable piece of advice I received very early on was that it is difficult to argue with tangible results. When I speak with professional women I urge them to focus on delivering clear and tangible results that impact the business. Second, I urge them not to shy away from tooting their horn, because that is the expected norm in business. It is not only welcome, but also expected that one shares her success with her colleagues, managers and even clients.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I don't view work and personal life as a balancing act; it's more like a puzzle. I like to start with the corners and work my way in. That is, I try to identify items that are non-negotiable and work around them. Sometimes pieces fall into place more easily than at other times. It's about defining your own strategy, your own parameters and being true to them, with the expectation that some milk will get spilled along the way both at home and at the office. Once you've defined those parameters, you can set clear expectations with others.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

I have seen too many women opt for more "social" roles, such as running events or culture committees, when they seek to round out their professional experience. I would like to encourage more women to raise their hands to tackle core business problems, even when they feel outside of their depth. Identify a key business issue, quantify its impact and design a plan for resolving it. This kind of proactive thinking and problem solving is needed in every company regardless of gender. Be very clear on your goals and deliverables, and have conviction that you have the ability to figure it out. Nobody has all the answers, especially in the beginning.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

I have had a series of mentors and strongly believe in the value these relationships can bring to career development. A mentor once challenged me to do one thing, personal or professional, each day that terrified me. It has inspired me to be bold and push myself outside of my comfort zone. She also encouraged me to raise my hand for the job that no one else wants, and to never become complacent in my role. I've learned to be open to opportunities that don't follow the natural career path, but have enabled me to develop valuable skills. Lastly, I have been inspired by other female leaders who truly support working moms. I remember a one-on-one phone conversation with a previous boss and mentor at the time, when she was also braiding her daughter's hair to get her ready for school. She managed to provide solid, professional counsel and also take care of her personal obligations. It's OK to wear both hats!

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

I have a great amount of respect for strong female leaders like Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi. She is both successful and humble, and rose through the ranks while also raising a family. Indra has also spoken about the importance of her role as a businesswoman, wife, mother, and daughter. She once noted that even in the face of major career accomplishments, our families can remind us to be present and bring home the milk when needed! Just try not to spill it.

What are your hopes for the future of Yahoo?

We're in the midst of returning this truly iconic company to greatness, and I'm committed to setting us on a path that drives long-term growth. I want to create a culture of accountability and build a team that is constantly innovating for our clients.