Does Influence Have a Minimum Experience Requirement?

The best influencers are the ones who have grown into icons in their industries, spent decades building up an impeccable track record, and have shelves full of accolades sitting behind their desks. Right? WRONG. Tracey Newell explains how and why influence is something anyone can have—you just have to be brave enough to go for it.

You can listen to this entire conversation with Tracey on our podcast, Work, Love, Pray! Listen below or click here to find your preferred listening platform.

How do you influence? 

Influence is all about trying. How do you help people? How do you inspire people? How do you coach or provide direction to help others do greater things? That’s how I think about influence and why I think it matters so much. Influencing is about picking a common goal, not about altruism at all. I can promise you with 100% certainty that every manager, vice president and senior vice president has a list of 10 or 20 things that they desperately want to achieve…and they can’t do it all by themselves.

If you want to contribute or more, call up your manager and let them know that you’re really trying to do more for the company and ask if they have one or two projects they’d like your help on. And that’s influencing! It’s putting yourself in a leadership role, which I think is so important for all of us to do because that’s what drives great outcomes. 

Do you have to be at a certain point in your career to qualify as an influencer? 

Absolutely not. I’ve been encouraging people to influence and lead for more years than I care to count. Many time, I would have folks raise their hand and say that they were an individual contributor and didn’t want to manage people. My answer is always, “God bless you!” Companies and organizations need all kinds of people at all different levels.

Early in my career, I took a job. I was 26 years old and I wanted to be a people manager. I was working for AT&T and the people managers were all around 40 years old. They didn’t know what to do with me. So they asked if I would go manage the accounts receivable team because they had the worst average days outstanding in the company. I was 26—I didn’t know what that meant. So I said, sure.

Turns out that I was managing 20 people that were in a union. They’d been with the company longer than I’d been alive and we had this huge problem. I took a 50% pay cut to take that job, and yet, it was the best job I ever took, because I didn’t know how to do that job or how to use the systems, so I had to rely on the people to just talk through what wasn’t working, which processes should change, and what strategies should be changed. We turned the thing around in a year, and I got one of my favorite awards. That team nominated me for a president’s award at 26 years old. So no, you do not have to be a senior vice president, a president, or even a manager to change an outcome. Everybody can make a huge difference. 

How can someone work toward being an influence without going to battle with imposter syndrome?  

I believe this is the biggest reason we don’t have more women in leadership—this idea of “I’m not capable.” I have a personal example of this. I was in my early thirties and working at a big company. My boss came to me and said, “Hey Trace, I put you out for a VP promotion.” What did I say? “No, no, no, I’m good. I don’t want that role.” Being a VP at this company was a huge deal and it was really hard to get those jobs. My boss said, “You know, Trace, if you get serious about your career, you could really do something.” 

When I tell that story in a live environment, the women all go, “He said that to you?!” And I say, “He was being my friend, because he was really saying, ‘What is your problem?'” At that time in my life, though, I had two kids under five and in my head, if I took a VP job, I was going to travel 80% of my time and I was never going to see my family again. But listen: there is no job description that I’ve ever seen that says, ‘Hey, here’s a VP job with 80% travel and you will never see your family again.’ 

I finally took the job and guess what? It wasn’t that bad. I didn’t travel all the time and I still talked to my girls at least every day. Be a lot less “risk adverse” is advice I give to women all the time. Take the chance. If you are curious about a leadership role, start talking about it and start trying that on a bit. You can always go back to the job you were in before.

Specializing in accelerating go-to-market teams and top line revenue growth, Tracey Newell serves on the board of five high growth software companies, to include Sailpoint, Sumo Logic, Druve, Highspot and DataRobot. Tracey also serves as an advisor for Blackrock Long Term Private Capital.

Tracey is the former president of Informatica, where she served as a member of Informatica’s board of directors for two years, prior to being asked to join Informatica’s management team. As president of Informatica, Tracey was responsible for sales, marketing, revenue operations, and customer success.

Prior to joining Informatica, Tracey was EVP of global field operations at Proofpoint, where she led sales through a five-year period of hypergrowth from 96M to 700M. Recognized as a Top 100 Sales Leader by The Modern Sale, Tracey led Proofpoint’s go-to-market team to became a top five leader in the cybersecurity market. Before Proofpoint, Tracey was EVP of global sales at Polycom. She has also held sales leadership positions at Juniper Networks, Webex, and Cisco Systems. During her tenure at Cisco, Tracey was recognized by the organization Women Worth Watching.

From a philanthropic standpoint, Tracey is on the board of advisors for the University of California, Santa Barbara’s economic department, providing counsel on long term strategy for the department. Tracey has also served in non-profit organizations to include Impact 100, whose mission is to unite women to make a difference in our communities, as well as the National Charity League. Tracey graduated with honors from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and completed Stanford’s 26th Annual Directors College in June 2021.

Tracey is married to Vince Newell, together for 30+ years, and is blessed with two adult daughters, Megan (28) and Brittany (25).