March Woman to Watch

Marika Sanigorska

Tell us a bit about yourself and your career so far. Any highlights?

I have a diverse background. My career has taken me through various industries and over continents, and Australia is actually the fifth country in which I have lived and worked. I enjoy finding industries which I can use my transferable skills in and having had opportunities to work in different places around the world is definitely my top overall highlight. 

When I moved to Australia I took the plunge to join the tech scene in SaaS sales & account management – which has been interesting to build my own personal brand in the market, and I invested time and effort in networking, to connect with hospitality strategists and tech enthusiasts, and to understand the needs and challenges within different market segments. I had the pleasure to host discussion panels, webinars and to present at industry events, which was challenging at first, as I am not a natural at public speaking. 

In my current role I am also managing a team which I love. Half of my team is based in Sydney and the other half in Bangkok, which presents different challenges. English is the second language for all but one person in the team (myself included), so understanding and appreciation of cultural nuances is very important for effective collaboration. 

I am somewhat of a restless soul, with a lifelong passion for learning so I don’t have a defined and set career path, with one trajectory to follow. If you asked me about my career goals for the next five years, I really would struggle to answer as I enjoy the process of getting somewhere and opportunities to learn, adapt and pivot, rather than chasing a title. I also believe that by continually challenging yourself and stepping out of your comfort zone, your skills become much more rounded and transferable. 

Considering you manage a team across Sydney and Bangkok what do you do to stay connected with your team and promote teamwork across the different cultures? 

It has, without a doubt, been a learning curve. The office shutting down and the whole company being forced into remote work in COVID has helped. At first, considering I am such a people person and I love water cooler chats, managing a remote team was unthinkable. However lockdowns have primed me well for unconventional team dynamics and I consider myself lucky that my boss, who was previously based in Sydney, now lives in Bangkok so he can offer additional support if needed. I am a firm believer in transparency and clear communication, so that everyone feels included and understands the common goals, and we can all focus on the same objectives. To stay connected, we have weekly team calls to start the week and discuss priorities ahead, we set up workshops for ad hoc projects and upskilling sessions and we also use Slack channels for knowledge sharing and some laughs.

To understand how everyone is feeling, we use a company wide tool – a temperature/mood check type application through which you can share anonymous feedback and also show appreciation to coworkers by sending praise. Within my team, we also have recently launched a Subject Matter Expert initiative – everyone picks their areas of expertise to then champion knowledge sharing for that space. SiteMinder has a wide product and services portfolio, so this initiative promotes collaboration but also helps with improving confidence within the team and also accountability, as everyone has their own dedicated area in which they are comfortable being called an expert.

In a down market and with all the noise on LinkedIn with layoffs, how do you stay motivated and motivate your team?

It’s a very good question, given the ground shaking in the tech space. Solutions which SiteMinder provides are customer centric and to keep conversations relevant, remaining super close to what is happening in your environment and how your customers are affected by market dynamics, is of critical importance. Across APAC, hospitality firms in many Asian markets were doing it tough for the past couple of years, however investment and travel activity is picking up, which means more opportunities for the team to get out and about to have more conversations, and build relationships. I think this helps keep you motivated because understanding your customer and having that personal connection, leaning on emotional intelligence, helps in turn with building the long-term pipeline. 

Celebrating wins is also important, transparency on how everyone in the team is tracking and setting aspirational goals aid in fostering high performance culture. And what motivates me personally, is seeing the team flourish and grow, and build their confidence to continually progress through their business conversations.

Moving from client side to SaaS, how did you find the change and what advice would you give to people looking to make the switch with no prior SaaS knowledge?

I’m glad you asked that because I think it is all about challenging your own perceptions around the level of understanding of SaaS business models you have. Think about subscriptions you have to streaming platforms, how you listen to music and podcasts, how you pay to use social media by sharing your data – I dare say you already have more SaaS knowledge than you would probably realise. 

For me it was quite a natural progression. I had previously worked in hotel strategy so it was an industry that SiteMinder solutions are made for, to address the pain points. This helped because I was aware of the ecosystem, partner connections, stakeholders etc. 

If you are unsure about starting out in this type of business, I would challenge you to consider how to pivot your core strengths and think about how your experience applies in context. Ultimately it is all about creating and selling products that customers want and are willing to pay for, and thinking about ways to build the brand fanbase. Whether it’s SaaS or a physical product, it is still about customer centricity and the same underlying principles apply. The hardest part is challenging your own thinking and analysing what transferable skills you already have. 

Being in Enterprise sales for a while, what key piece of advice or tips would you have liked to known moving from a MM sales cycle?

My team at SiteMinder focuses on enterprise deals which are by nature a longer burn but there is also a sales team focusing on smaller size businesses. It is a big change to move from a month-to-month deal to an enterprise level because you have to be prepared to make the investment into your personal brand first rather than expect quick transactions. It takes time to understand the enterprise businesses, how they work, what their pain points are and what strategies they have in the market. It is almost like becoming a detective to understand the customer needs in the longer term, becoming a trusted advisor and taking a consultative approach. I am a firm believer that you have to have a strong code of ethics and if you sell a product with integrity, a product which will have a positive impact on their business, I think you will be successful. Definitely approach it with integrity and be patient in building out new relationships that may materialise over time. And as ever in sales, you need to be able to deal with rejection too, don’t expect quick and easy wins.  

What have you been reading or watching lately?

I am a huge fan of the dramatised series about the history of big startups. I would recommend WeCrashed (about We Work), The Dropout (about Theranos) and Super Pumped (about Uber). I really enjoyed watching the stories behind the super fast growth business model unfold, and draw comparisons to few other SaaS companies out there.