Genny Konz is Groupon’s VP of Sales Operations and Women@Groupon’s Executive Sponsor. After more than a decade of work in Investor Relations; Financial, Planning and Analysis; and Mergers & Acquisitions at Hewitt Associates (AON), Groupon called. The conversation presented an appealing next step for her career.
“The idea of running Investor Relations for an early-stage tech company, and the challenge of managing some challenging external-perception issues was very attractive to me, and not an opportunity that comes along every day, let alone in Chicago,” she says. In her time at Groupon, she’s had an impact on investor relations, FP&A, and the North American sales team. Today, she’s the VP of our sales operations team, which includes sales operations managers, sales trainers, and analysts who keep our sales team running smoothly and efficiently.
How did your career start?
My passion in college believe it or not, was accounting. After graduating from Bucknell University with my Accounting degree, I was an investment banking analyst with Banc of America Securities. While I learned a lot of the basic fundamentals in banking–how to build an excel mode and an effective presentation, and more importantly, the value of working your butt off–I was interested in something that had more of a communications angle.
How did you make that switch?
Investor relations was the perfect mix of numbers and communication. I took a job with Hewitt Associates as an analyst on their investor relations (IR) team. After 2 years, my boss left the company, and I was given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to run the department. I was about 26 or 27 years old and absolutely terrified about the level of responsibility I was asked to take on. The job nearly killed me (physically), but this was my first lesson in trusting others, and venturing out of my comfort zone.
How did that lesson translate into progress?
After a few successful years of running IR, was tapped on the shoulder by our CFO for a new opportunity. If you’d asked me if there was one job in the entire company that I was not interested in, it was the one that they wanted me to take. The idea of FP&A (financial, planning and analysis) was terrifying to me (notice a trend?), and something I was convinced was not a fit for my skill set.
Others saw something different in me. They saw someone that would be a great fit for the role. So before I knew it, I was running FP&A, and having much success. Here we have lesson number two in taking risks, getting out of the comfort zone, and trusting others.
How is your career different than you planned?
I spent 15+ years in finance, and am now in the business…surprise! I couldn’t be happier with my decision, but I wouldn’t trade any of the experiences that I’ve had.
Why did you transition into the role you’re in today?
After nearly 4 years at Groupon, I was starting to think about what was next. I’ve spent my career in finance, but I do not have aspirations to be a CFO. I do however, have interest in running a business some day. I started to have discussions internally about how I could get closer to the business, and the rest is history. I’m again out of my comfort zone…and loving every minute of it.
What drew you to work at Groupon?
The idea of working for an early stage company forging its way in a new industry was very attractive to me. I viewed it as a place that I could go to really have an impact, and work with some super smart people along the way. I wouldn’t do anything differently if I had to do it all over again.
What is a quality you appreciate in an employee or colleague?
Anyone that has worked closely with me knows that I value attitude above all else. Technical skills are of course important to our day-to-day jobs, but I am so much more likely to want to work with and/or coach someone that exhibits a positive, can-do attitude, and a genuine willingness to learn. I’ll take a positive attitude over a technical skill set all day long.
In your opinion, what is the value of diverse voices in a room and mentorship in a workplace?
Diverse voices bring diverse perspectives. I believe that the best way to make a decision, particularly in business, is to evaluate it from all angles. Whether it be ethnic diversity, gender diversity, diversity of experience, or diversity in some other form, each brings a different frame of reference to test and inform our views. Also, diversity is the spice of life and keeps things interesting. We all benefit from having someone/something different to challenge our norms and our everyday thinking.
A strong mentor/mentee match is a tool that I encourage everyone to take advantage of at some point in their career, whether formally or informally. Like any tool, its usefulness is dependent on its users and how they engage with it. I have always gotten the most out of just having an objective voice by which I can run things when I’m stuck or frustrated. I have found that the most successful pairings can be just as useful if not more so, for the mentor, than for the mentee.
Do you believe there is a secret in rising to the top?
I don’t know that it is a secret, as much as it is a common recipe. A common trait in people that rise to the top is confidence, and trusting that when they fall down, they’ll get right back up. They’re not afraid to take risks, and they’re constantly pushing outside their comfort zones.
What’s the best advice that somebody else has given you?
When you feel comfortable at work, it’s time to make change. Take risks. Trust yourself, you’ll figure it out!
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
There are no do-overs, life happens only once. Love what you do, but make sure it doesn’t define you.