5 Questions for EVP & Americas Managing Director Sandy Hogan

Sandy Hogan is a high impact business leader with a customer-first philosophy and proven success boosting sales and market share in technology industries, and we are thrilled she is bringing her talents to Rackspace.

Sandy joins our executive leadership team as Executive Vice President and Americas Managing Director, where she will be responsible for all growth, revenue and customers in the Americas geography.

Prior to joining Rackspace, Sandy served as Senior Vice President and General Manager of North America for HERE Technologies, a global provider of mapping and location data and related services. Before that, she spent 15 years at Cisco, in a variety of strategy and sales leadership roles, rising to become Global Vice President of the company’s Digital Transformation Group.

Sandy sat down with the Rackblog to talk about why she’s bringing her talents to Rackspace, the importance of leadership and customer-centricity, and why her parents remain her biggest inspiration.

What most attracted you to Rackspace? 

Rackspace’s vision of being recognized as the world’s best technology services company really drew me in — specifically, the focus and commitment to customers. Moving to the cloud is a major undertaking, and it’s critical for enterprises to succeed. I love that Rackspace can meet customers wherever they are on that journey, with an unbiased view of how they can accelerate the value of the cloud.

Making sure customers have a Fanatical Experience has been my passion, in every single role I’ve held, so to be part of a company that lives and breathes it is beyond motivating — it’s electric! My opportunity is to lead a world-class team focused not on selling products but on understanding our customers’ businesses, to engage deeply and deliver business value through whichever of our integrated ecosystem of services makes sense for their individual needs.

How did you develop your leadership style?

To me, leadership is really about bringing the best out of people. It’s an entirely different mindset than “being the best,” and understanding that was game changing for me. Having gone through a number of change efforts, I’ve come to understand that transparency and communications are critical. It’s never easy but sharing what’s working — and what’s not — allows people to learn and adapt. Everyone wants to feel like they’re part of something bigger, and they want to contribute. I also encourage curiosity. I see it as a strength, not a weakness. Often people don’t want to acknowledge they don’t know something, but that hurts everyone. The more you ask, the more you learn and the more perspective you gain. And perspective is critical in always having a point of view.

My most significant aha moment happened about eight years ago after I read and began following Patrick Lencioni’s work (“The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team,” “Death by Meeting” and “The Four Obsessions of the Extraordinary Executive,” among others), especially his concept of Team #1. The idea is that the team you serve is more important than the one you lead. It requires lots of work to build vulnerability-based trust and align on the direction, but the organization will see and act on that. This realization is at the core of leading teams for me.

“Competing Against Luck” by Harvard professor Clayton Christensen has also been deeply influential. It’s my favorite book about centering on the customer and focusing on understanding the job your customer is hiring you to do. He says what we really need to focus on is the progress a customer is trying to make in a given circumstance — what the customer hopes to accomplish. He calls it “jobs to be done,” and it completely transforms how to approach value differentiation and ultimately how you engage with customers and how you think about innovation.

What was your very first job?

Well, my first ‘official’ job with a real W-2 was Dairy Queen. I was 14. I remember being super excited — all that free ice cream! After that, I worked through college, in the loan department of a bank, as a phone receptionist at a private golf club and a public relations internship at Six Flags.

But when I was 12, I started doing bookkeeping for my dad’s construction business — writing and balancing of checkbooks, doing contracting waivers, etc. Then my high school summers I had to work every day at the homes my dad was building. I stained a lot of window and door frames — the smell of stain to this day reminds me of those days.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

Without a doubt, my mom and dad. They came to this country from Serbia with nothing, ages 19 and 23. My mom was seven months pregnant with me. After I was born she held two factory jobs, while my dad did all types of trade jobs — truck driver, construction worker, you name it, before starting his home builder business.

They have always been incredibly hard workers, and they instilled that work ethic into me. They taught me and continue to inspire me to this day. The world can get very noisy, and yet their values are simple: work really hard, with conviction. At your job. At life. Treat everyone with respect. Be loyal to those values — in other words, to yourself and being you. They also taught me to be fearless, although I think it was unconscious at the time. Watching what they’ve done and gone through, I have no excuse to not #leanin, in everything I do, and believe in what’s possible.

What do you do for fun?

We are a golfing family. I took it up right before I married my husband 25 years ago. My dad and my husband play, and my 15-year-old daughter plays competitively — she now beats us all! It’s a fantastic sport that teaches patience and focus. It’s incredible to watch my daughter play; her maturity and focus are far beyond me at that age.

Like I’ve noted on my LinkedIn page, golf is a little like business transformation: Every day is different. Weather conditions change.  People you play with change. Some days you feel unbeatable, while other days, you can’t hit anything right. The adrenaline of the unknown is exciting, but ultimately, it comes down to the basics, how much you commit to the game. But there’s nothing more perfect than when the sun is out (the market is ripe), your swing feels good (execution) and you are playing with people you love (culture).

I won’t share my handicap, in case someone wants to wager on a game! I let people make assumptions first whether they think I can be good at the game (and yes, I do a bit of razzing to keep things fun and competitive on the course!).


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