SocialChorus is a workplace communications platform on a mission to ‘help companies work as one’.
Nicole Alvino is co-founder and CSO, and tells us about what her role entails, who inspires her, and what she has learnt from her career (including some dramatic stuff in her first job at Enron).
Please describe your job: What do you do?
I’m Chief Strategy Officer at SocialChorus. I oversee the strategic direction and growth of our Fortune 500 customer base – including 10 of the Fortune 50. I am grateful to spend my days with leaders of the world’s largest brands, both in the US and across Europe, who are passionate about transforming the employee experience.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
As one of the Founders of SocialChorus I work with my peers in the senior management team and report into Gary Nakamura, our CEO.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Building a business from the ground up means that the entrepreneurial streak runs deep but as the business grows you have to evolve with it. My background is economics and I’m a graduate from Stanford Business School so the business skills I developed back then continue to help me in my role as Chief Strategy Officer as we continue to scale our business.
For any leader, and especially a founder, transparency is critical to building a foundation of trust. Trust is key to culture and necessary to build a committed, high-performing team. I personally find that authenticity is part of transparency, so I bring my authentic self to work and encourage all of our employees to do the same. At the end of the day, business is people. And people want to work for people they trust, who listen, and who inspire them.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Is there such a thing as a typical day? I’m like any working mother and have to juggle the balance between nurturing my three young boys through to attending board meetings, meeting with customers, partners and analysts, whether in the US or across Europe to presenting to large audiences either face to face or via webinars.
No day is the same but the focus is – enabling leaders across the Global 2000 to use direct, authentic, personalised communications – and the insights and intelligence from those communications our tech platform delivers – to run their business effectively.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
I love helping leaders transform their business and put into practice a new way of working, communicating and using data in an innovative way. I am passionate about innovation and transformation, especially when leader authenticity and transparency is at the core.
What sucks? The global travel and being ‘always on’ is taxing at the moment. We are at an inflection point with the importance of workforce communications in driving the business – and getting leaders to fully embrace the potential. At the moment, this is best delivered in person and with a conversation around critical elements of the business.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Our company goals are my goals – revenue growth, customer satisfaction, product innovation and leadership and top talent acquisition and retention.
We are very data-driven, so we report on all these items in addition to the leading indicators for each.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
It would have to be our own tool! It doesn’t matter where I am in the world I can keep up to speed with everything and everyone in the business as if I were sitting there in the office. I can easily find the latest news from the team, from customer success as well as complete the day to day tasks such as booking holiday time, and check my payslips, for example, without having to use multiple logins. It saves time and allows me to get on with my day. I also use our analytics suite as leading indicators of the main drivers of our business.
I am also a big fan of Accompany, which gives me information into the people and companies I am meeting that day and across my contacts – including customers, partners and competitors. It helps me stay up to date on their businesses – successes and challenges – so I am well-informed ahead of my meetings.
How did you end up at SocialChorus, and where might you go from here?
I started my career in structured finance and corporate development at Enron. Straight out of college I learnt a lot about ethics—the hard way!
As a member of the CFO’s SWOT team, my bosses gave me power of attorney and asked me to fly to the Cayman Islands to buy a $400 million Turkish power plant. As far as I knew, it was all part of my company’s mission; to be the engine for change and capitalise on the new opportunities that change created.
Watching all my bosses go to jail, I quickly recognised transparency and honesty have to be core to your culture in order to have an aligned workforce. After Enron I took five months off to clear my head, travelling in the South Pacific. I ended up drafting business plans and returned to grad school knowing I had the opportunity to influence culture and ethics so that history doesn’t repeat itself.
In 2005 I founded Dermolounge, a pioneer in using new technologies to engage and empower customers and employees to be advocates. I realised that connecting and aligning employees was critical to transforming businesses and that communications sat at the very heart of that process. And in 2008 I co-founded SocialChorus and it’s been one of my greatest achievements in business, building the company into a global technology leader used by millions of employees at the world’s largest companies across the Global 500.
Where do I go from here? We still have a lot to accomplish at SocialChorus – so I am focused here for the moment!
Which advertising has impressed you lately?
Although I am not a huge fan of some of the bad behaviour in leadership, Nike’s campaigns around crazy dreams are incredible inspiring. To me, advertising is all about creating a deep, visceral connection, best when it is deep in the soul. Crazy dreams and truly making a difference in society connects deeply to my soul and motivates me to do incredible work.
What advice would you give a marketer starting out?
My most important business role model was one of my first bosses at Enron. She remains my only female boss in my career, and she was the only woman in a very male-dominated, aggressive culture. She was also one who did NOT go to jail, and always maintained her sense of ethics. She was authentic and transparent, strong and wise, and always fought for what she believed in.
So this applies to everyone, not just marketers. Be the true version of yourself, every single day. Be transparent, stand up for what you believe in and don’t be hoodwinked by the ‘fake news’ or the ‘digital water coolers’. You will make mistakes during your career but learn from them and move on. Don’t be afraid to take time to pause and refocus on what you want.