Despite being 5,354 miles away from San Francisco, Vince Ko’s Bay-Area roots were apparent during his London-based interview with Built In — he wore a neon blue shirt emblazoned with a nostalgic rendering of “The City.”
“I’m in London now, growing a new team and a new region,” Ko said, reflecting on his recent move. “But Lizzy and I remember when the whole team was literally under one roof in SF.”
Ko, the senior director of enterprise sales, EMEA at PagerDuty, has seized the opportunity to accelerate his career while at the company — as have Director of Customer Acquisition Jesse Cournoyer and aforementioned Director of Commercial Sales Lizzy Mcnaney.
“The exciting thing is that it’s still early days for us in EMEA [Europe, the Middle East and Africa],” Ko added. “There will be new regions, new territories, new demands and new opportunities for someone who is looking for growth and mobility in their sales career,” he added.
What PagerDuty Does
PagerDuty’s unique moniker serves as a conversation starter for many of its sales professionals. “Not everyone is old enough to have carried a pager,” Ko said, adding that the digital operations management platform’s name is a nod to the company’s on-call solutions. Additionally, Ko explained that the product-market fit — how well a product satisfies a strong market demand — speaks for itself. “We’ve seen the on-call, ‘wake-me-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night’ problems for digital, cloud and devops clients become more complex over time. Through innovative development and acquisitions, we’ve transformed into a platform that solves operational challenges for all companies. We know what a good customer looks like, but it’s actually really hard to find a customer who doesn’t have a use for PagerDuty.”
In reminiscing about old times in The City, Ko reflected on the lore that has helped PagerDuty grow into the international entity it is today.
“In job interviews, we’re constantly telling the PagerDuty origin story — and one story about product-market fit has always resonated with candidates,” he said. “PagerDuty’s history is that we had a considerable number of paying customers before we hired one sales rep. There’s no more compelling proof around: The company’s solution can sell itself.”
“I feel like I fell into this company,” Mcnany said, shaking her head. “I graduated early from college, was assigned to work at PagerDuty by a temp staffing agency, and, two days later, l started as a recruiter for the sales team — it was the best stroke of luck.”
Representation Still Matters
“Women are less likely to negotiate their compensation than men. PagerDuty makes sure that tendency isn’t a barrier for payment,” Mcnaney shared. According to its Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Annual Report 2022, for all Dutonians doing similar work with a similar scope of responsibility, women globally earn, on average, $1 for every $1 that men earn. McNaney explained that the number of women on the sales team has continued to grow, and that DEI-driven policies like pay equity make a career in sales and tech appealing.
Yet it was PagerDuty’s internal mobility that brought Mcnaney’s career to new heights. She remembers being on the verge of accepting a role at another company when a leader offered her a chance to shake up her career by switching from recruiting to sales.
“I had the chance to earn extra money on top of a salary — I thought, ‘Why not?’” she said, laughing. Mcnaney quickly fell in love with the sales career track, supporting enterprise sales reps before moving into commercial sales, and eventually landing her current role.
“I feel so fortunate to have been able to work through our career architecture quickly and experience so much within that time,” she added. Mcnaney attributes her efficacy as a leader to her previous success in the account executive role, which allows her to intimately understand the challenges of the job for others in the same position — and how to overcome them.
“I feel fortunate to have been able to work through our career architecture quickly and experience so much.”
When Mcnaney posted on LinkedIn for her seven-year anniversary, her appreciation for her journey shone through her announcement.
“I’m forever grateful that helping others find their next sales role introduced me to my own career in sales,” she wrote. “Seven years, eight positions, one IPO, a pandemic … and we aren’t done yet!”
Reaping the Financial Rewards
“Sales is one of those unique roles where you can see the results of the work you put in; in fact, you can see it in many different ways — financially being one of them,” Cournoyer said of the intrinsic motivation that comes with a career in sales.
Mcnaney agreed, noting that money is a strong motivational force for many salespeople. “It’s rewarding to be able to make great money, have work-life balance and get true fulfillment from working with your customers,” she said.
Ko enjoys the dynamic nature of his sales career at PagerDuty. “There’s a natural adrenaline rush that comes with the monthly cadence of the business,” he said.
But it isn’t just professional growth that has kept Mcnaney at PagerDuty for the better part of a decade — it’s the elusive product-market fit.
“It’s a big deal when you can back what you’re selling and feel confident in what you’re telling customers,” she said. “It leads to building real trust and rapport.”
Cournoyer, who came up through a major print solutions enterprise and multiple startups — including his own cannabinoid solution in Canada — knows what he wants from a company.
“I’ve worked places that have ended up being bad apples — they look delicious on the outside, but when you bite into it, it’s rotten to the core,” Cournoyer said. “But PagerDuty looks good from the outside and the inside.”
The airtight market fit and quality culture compelled Cournoyer to trade his entrepreneurial lifestyle for his role as PagerDuty’s director of enterprise corporate sales.
“Beyond company vision, strong executive leadership and culture, product-market fit is probably my number one checklist item,” Cournoyer said. “I want to make sure it’s something the customer base feels as a need, versus a want.”
Ko attributes PagerDuty’s fulfilling culture to an atmosphere of healthy confidence.
“We think of ourselves as defining and redefining the segment that we made,” Ko said. In his eyes, PagerDuty has struck the elusive balance between confidence and constantly working to be even better.
“We think of ourselves as defining and redefining the segment that we made.”
“As a confident sales team, we’re used to winning,” Ko said. “And that translates to doing everything we can to deliver — it’s in our DNA.”
Career Tips from Three Sales Leaders
- Understand the product before the job interview. “You can tell which candidates feel comfortable and really get what we’re trying to do,” Ko said.
- Create your own success. “If you have the desire to do something that doesn’t exist in the existing architecture, ask for it,” said Cournoyer.
- Offer solutions. “I’ve created guides for how to run deals at PagerDuty that get used: You can impact change from an individual contributor role,” Mcnaney said.
- Work hard. “It’s not rocket science, but be the hardest worker in the room,” Ko added.
Having forged their unique paths to the top of the sales organization, Ko, Cournoyer and Mcnaney bring a wide range of sales sensibilities to their work. When asked what advice they would impress upon an aspiring sales professional, the answers wove a tapestry of their combined experiences.
“For someone starting off, it’s all about staying hungry, staying positive and approaching problems with solutions,” Ko said, swiveling lightly in his office chair. “You have to keep that fire burning all the time.”
Cournoyer agreed: A successful salesperson doesn’t rest on their laurels.
“Now, more than ever, you have to have a progressive mindset,” he said. “Change is accelerating — it’s not about what people did five years ago, it’s about what’s happening right now at companies who are leading the charge.”
“The current market shows us how we were a little spoiled for a few years,” Mcnaney said. “It’s a great reminder that success in sales is made with hard work, grit and a willingness to roll up your sleeves to go above and beyond for yourself and others.”
“I don’t want to get on my soapbox, but put in the hard work at PagerDuty, and success will follow.”