Liquid Web’s Vice President of Marketing on finding her way into tech, saying yes, and leading with a generous spirit.
Terry Trout wants to know how she can help. “We make a difference in the world — allowing our customers the freedom to create,” Trout said. “The Most Helpful Humans in Hosting is our Liquid Web character. The fact that our vision for Liquid Web aligns with my personal values is a gift as the marketer for the company.”
The path to Terry Trout’s career in technology has been paved with the desire to give, to enhance the work experience for employees, and better the service experience for customers. “My first job was building a Personnel department for an appliance parts distributor. I just aged myself… we didn’t call it Human Resources back then.” She loved meeting with employees, discovering ways to improve their lives at work. It sowed the seeds for a career spent looking for ways to help, ways to make things smarter, faster, better. “I loved enabling employees to serve customers in a way that grew our brand and drove our success,” Trout said.
She credits Liquid Web CEO Jim Geiger with her entry into the tech industry. After meeting at church where they served together on the Communications Committee, she went to work with Geiger at Intermedia, leading the company’s marketing communications, then followed him to build Cbeyond, the world’s first 100% VoIP local telephone company. As an early employee in a start-up, she had the gift of many roles (“Translation: utility player,” Trout says) and the opportunity to help build a brand, create a culture, and design a customer experience they could take pride in.
Though not the direction she had anticipated her career would take, she was excited by the opportunities presented to her. “Jim pulled me into roles beyond what I would have done myself. He had higher expectations of my capabilities than I had myself.”
Turns out, Geiger was onto something. Trout’s passions for service and communication have lent themselves beautifully to a career in technology. “I’ve learned that I can be a highly effective leader in technology even though I wasn’t a technologist,” Trout said. “Technology companies need the highly skilled engineers who make this stuff work and they need the process driven, communicative, facilitative, strategic partners to help them execute.”
Her approach to work is shaped by a motto: brutal on process, gracious with people. “I’ve learned to be maniacal about the process, because when things go wrong, most often it is because something needs to be fixed – not because people aren’t trying or don’t care.” She has also learned that how something is done matters just as much as what is being done. “My teams will thrive if the environment is one that is stable, encouraging, and free from backbiting and politics. I may beat the heck out of the process, but I work to remember that people who feel empowered by my leadership will become kindred spirits.”
Trout’s leadership style marries that rigorous work ethic with relentless optimism (her favorite song is The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun”), and a commitment to saying yes. “Most of the greatest successes in my life have come from people who had greater confidence in my abilities than I had in myself. I have now learned to just say yes. I am embarrassed at the number of projects, jobs, and opportunities that I have been pulled into reluctantly because I did not think I could do it— only because I had never done it yet. I know now that all that separates achievers from others is that achievers start by saying yes. With age and wisdom, I have come to recognize what a fake obstacle fear can be. Ordinary people get to do extraordinary things generally because they raise their hand.”
She has come to recognize that those who see an opportunity to make a difference and seize it are infinitely promotable and endlessly valuable. “If I always do what I say I will do, people will rely on me. I need to achieve results and I need to it with a generosity of spirit. And if I embrace challenges with less regard to the title and money, I will be the recipient of opportunity that I could never have planned for when I started my career.”
As her career has progressed, Trout’s goals have shifted. She says this has why it has been so important to be at a company where people are good to each other, to their customers, and to their communities. Her ambitions now have little to do with title, salary, or position. “I’m more interested in doing work I love with people I like, which encourages me to find how I can help and where I can make a difference in my world.”