Leader Q&A: Noora Laitinen

Post by: Anna Johansson
Published: 22 March 2023

Tell us a bit about yourself and your career so far? What excites you about your current role at Supermetrics? 

I have always been in sales, my first sales job was when I was 15 and I was selling golf equipment. After this I was selling all sorts of different stuff and completed a university degree, in international business and sales management. I knew that after I graduated I knew I wanted to go and find a company where I wanted to work and hope they had a role for me.

I joined a panel discussion and one of the panellists was the VP of Sales at Supermetrics. At the time the company had less than 30 people and he had just been hired to build the sales team and when he spoke about the company and the visions and the plans I knew that I wanted to join the company. I reached out to him, knowing I wasn’t the best candidate on paper but he invited me to the office to have a chat.

Unfortunately they were not hiring at the time, but once a position opened a few months later I went for another interview and in the end was offered a job which was so exciting. I joined Supermetrics when there were about 35 people in the team and there are now over 300. 

I started as an Account Executive in the inbound team. I picked up things quite quickly and after a year, my manager told me they were starting a new sales function – an expansion team – focusing on cross selling and upselling towards the current customer base. I was the first member of this team, building out the strategy around the sales function. It has ended up being a very successful project.

I was leading that team for 2 years before I was offered an opportunity to move to Singapore and start building out the JAPAC side of the team. I moved to Singapore in June 2022, there was just me and my manager at the time. I have been here now for 10 months, we are now a team of 12 salespeople. 

How did you find the transition into a new industry but also joining a founding team?

For the new industry, it was tough in the beginning I was doing a lot of research and reading outside of work to get to know the industry, the product and the customers. After a few months I started picking up things really quickly and once you start talking to more customers you learn something new everyday, which is still the same for today and it keeps things interesting. It is tough but if you work hard, it’s not a problem if you don’t have prior SaaS experience. 

As for being a founding member, I have always enjoyed building things from scratch. When you are building something new there aren’t any limitations; it’s all about creativity. 

What have you found is the biggest difference between the markets in Finland and Asia? How have you tackled these differences? 

In general Finnish people are very straightforward and to the point, which means there isn’t much guesswork. Within APAC itself there are a lot of cultural differences, for example comparing Australia and Japan, which has a huge impact on how people like to do business. Some cultures are more casual and enjoy small talk whilst others are straight to the point and focus on the product discussions.

I find that different countries have different processes to build trust, a lot of learning there. Language is also sometimes a barrier which means you need to be creative every now and then to make sure everyone is on the same page. 

There is also a big difference in price sensitivity – Australia and Singapore for example have a different buying power to some other Asian countries. Sales is always about finding a solution where all parties are happy. Another one of the differences is that a lot of my team here are locals or from Malaysia so it took a bit of time for me to learn how people here like to be managed. It also took me a bit of time to learn how to read people and the situation.

Do you think the martech industry has shifted or changed much over the course of the pandemic? What are the major changes you have seen selling in this area? 

The biggest change that I see is the growth of ecommerce, which is a great thing for Supermetrics because we are solving a problem that the ecommerce industry has. In a sense it has been good, we were able to grow through the pandemic and we were extremely lucky it didn’t hit us as badly as other companies or industries. 

More and more things are going online – which is ideal for Supermetrics. The uncertainty of the current economic situation is something to be aware of and people are slightly more cautious to commit to long term contracts. There are things we can change and things we cannot, you need to focus on finding the right prospects and improving your communication of the value that the product delivers, which are things you can impact.

Are there any leaders that have inspired your leadership style? 

First of all I have been lucky to have extremely good leaders throughout my career and I wouldn’t be here without them. 

If I think about my leadership style the things I have picked up from my managers is, firstly, when hiring people look behind the CV. It’s not always about their personality on paper, you need to know more about their motivation and what drives them. On the leadership side, when I joined the company my managers were hands on and extremely encouraging and empathetic whilst always giving me challenges.

I felt that when they were giving me these challenges it felt as though they trusted me which was instrumental in building my success and confidence. Something I learnt from my first managers here at Supermetrics is the importance of giving freedom to be you and be creative but also giving guidance when needed. It requires being quite hands on to do this. 

A newer learning from my current manager, who is very inspirational, is to always think outside the box. I think when you have been in the company for a while you start to learn the limitations of the product or team or company which can limit your own thinking. You need to actively think outside the box.

What advice would you give to other women who are considering relocating for a job?

Not going to lie, it was a bit scary – new country, new culture, new home, new hobby and new friends. The first thing is to be brave, it’s a cliche but you only regret things you didn’t do. I have been lucky in a sense that I found friends really quickly because I put myself out there. Get out of your comfort zone and take risks. You need to give yourself time to make the place home so you need to be patient. 

What have you been reading or watching lately?

I am a big fan of audiobooks, the two I would like to recommend are Transforming NOKIA: The POwer of Paranoid Optimism to Lead Through Colossal Change and Know your life traps

My final recommendation is the podcast, Call Her Daddy with Alex Cooper.