Managing international teams can be hard, but at InMobi, Lauren Hughes, Global Head of Revenue Operations, manages to make it look easy. This global group is filled with respect and strives to create meaningful partnerships within the organization.
Quick quiz – what phrase gets plugged into job and company descriptions more than, “great workplace culture?”
If your answer was, “none,” accompanied by a derisive snort, you’re right!
And by then, you’re in too deep and the culture is toxic.
But what if the culture is great? For Lauren, InMobi is that company. It does help if that company is the first global digital advertising unicorn from India to hit a billion dollar valuation, but there’s a lot more to it than just that. At InMobi, people genuinely want to help each other and work together.
“I’ve never really worked for an organization that weaves culture into so many different business conversations,” she says. “This company really, really, truly eats, sleeps, breathes culture.”
Global teams are challenging. Not just because of the time zone differences, but that is certainly a big aspect. With one half of her team of 10 (and growing) in Bengaluru, India and the other in the United States, the teams could be like proverbial ships passing in the night, hardly ever speaking—a true alignment nightmare. Instead, the India-based team has been willing to accommodate more of a US-based time structure. Something that RevOps professionals reading this might be familiar with from working with India-based teams. This is a common setup.
“Most of the India team is willing to work US hours, so we do spend more of the day overlapping each other, which is awesome,” she says. “We have about a ten-and-a-half hour time difference.”
She starts her day at around 5:45 am by checking email, getting her daughter ready for school, then settling in at her desk around 8 am.
“Which is like 5:00 at night in India, so they’re basically finishing their day at that point,” says Lauren. “But, most of them work ‘til 10:30, 11 at night, so we do have quite a bit of overlap.”
The India team is part of the head office and now, as COVID restrictions wind down, everyone is trying to figure out what the new work arrangements will be there.
“We also grew by so many employees during the pandemic that we don’t have office space big enough to house everyone,” she says. “So, we have to book desks.”
It’s chaotic for the India team, but this isn’t her biggest challenge navigating a global team. It’s the push and pull of people that challenges her management skills. With the India team members local to other employees, they often get pulled into “things on the ground” she doesn’t know about. There are definitely cultural and communication differences as well, but her biggest challenge is similar to the kind facing most managers.
“Where I struggle the most is just kind of how to keep them focused on what they need to work on,” she says, “Maybe help them prioritize or push back.”
Having been with the organization for a little over a year now, she enjoys reporting to the Chief of Staff to the CEO, who is also located in India.
“She’s also the head of strategy and operations globally,” Lauren explains.
With this top-down view into operations and other areas, it makes partnering with other members of the InMobi team just that much easier.
But, having a common lead of departments can only do so much – especially during a pandemic. As Lauren notes, it takes effort to ensure all groups get equal attention, no matter where they’re located. For RevOps, cross-functional partnerships are essential and take time to build, so they’re a big focus of her team.
“I spend just as much time with cross-functional partners as I do with my own team,” she explains. “Making a good business partner, I think, is number one, having a very thorough understanding of the business, having a thorough understanding of our go-to market strategy.”
It takes time to prove your value, especially when you’re trying to lead with data.
“It started by me coming to them, understanding the business and giving my opinions about where we are from a strategic perspective,” she says of establishing her best partnerships. “It comes with using data and showing them data and thoughtful analysis to help them inform their strategy.”
InMobi has four sales regions: China, APAC, EMEA and North America, so Lauren has stakeholders in various time zones, but, of course, it’s easiest to be more involved with those in a similar time zone.
“I do find myself gravitating to North America. It’s very easy for me to hop on their weekly team meetings,” she says. “I have to remind myself constantly, I’m in a global role. I have to insert myself into some of the conversations with other regions.”
It can be tough when time zones are up to 12 hours different and when the best ties are often formed after meetings over a glass of wine. With COVID restrictions lifting, she’ll be able to do more travel and that kind of in-person connecting that’s essential to building a good rapport.
While the travel aspect is coming soon, there is another roadmap Lauren pays a lot of attention to—InMobi’s product roadmap. Lauren sees herself as quite involved in the product development stages and ensuring that any product rollout is successfully managed. She’s frequently consulted on the different roles, responsibilities, and ultimate go-to-market designs.
In an ideal state, product and platform teams will show RevOps their 3-year road map and discuss various initiatives. From there, RevOps can craft a go-to-market strategy within the roadmap that considers customer segmentation, total addressable market, existing customers, penetration, and other strategic elements.
“We do plan our strategy for the regions just one year out,” she explains. “We’re in such a hyper-growth business, our business model keeps evolving and changing.”
But they also look to the data for another point of view.
“What are the health metrics of different KPIs of areas that we need to improve on?” she says. “We think about work design. I spend a lot of time on org design.”
So, is it a culture that makes this global team work so well together? Or is it the people who have created, enhanced, and built a culture of collaboration? We’ll never know for sure, but Lauren says if you find a job with a culture as good as InMobi’s, hang on to it!
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