• The SiriusStars blog series provides an inside look at how select high-performing clients use SiriusDecisions research and analyst inquiry to increase revenue, meet and exceed goals, and transform their organizations
  • In this edition, we continue our conversation with Kathleen Pierce, director of content operations at Illumina
  • We talked with Kathleen about what advice she has for peers facing similar challenges, the future of biotech/healthcare and where she finds inspiration

SiriusStars is an exclusive community of high-performing and highly influential clients selected for their exceptional work leveraging and implementing SiriusDecisions research and advice. The SiriusStars blog series is designed to share the personal and professional world of your B2B peers. In this post, we continue our conversation with Kathleen Pierce, director of content operations at Illumina. Read the first part of our conversation here.

SiriusDecisions: Take us through a typical day in your life.

Kathleen Pierce: I’m not a morning person, but I often get my best thinking done at around 5:30 a.m. when I’m half asleep. Then I start reading the Guardian, the Economist or Foreign Affairs on my phone, and then begin emailing people. Then I get up and go in to the office. Often, I’m preparing for presentations and reaching out to executives to get them on board with certain programs. I’ll meet with the leaders on my team and my colleagues to talk about initiatives. One of the things I love best is meeting with people out in the field. They know our customers and products better than anyone and have great ideas. It’s a privilege to be able to work with them to turn some of those ideas into major programs that change everything.

If I need some downtime and a change of scenery, I’ll do some data analysis. For me, that’s super fun. I love looking across systems and analyzing data to learn what’s happening behind the scenes or to make up new models. It’s not often a good use of my time and I wouldn’t want to do it all day, but when I’m initiating a new program, it makes sense for me to do an exploratory deep dive.

Years ago, I read this advice from Warren Buffet: “Guard your time. The higher you go in the organization, the more important it is to set aside big blocks of time for yourself when you can just think or explore, and you should protect that time as much as you do any other sort of meeting.” I do that on some days. I’m a fan of managing my energy more than my time.

SD: What advice can you offer to other content strategy and operations leaders facing similar challenges?

Kathleen: My first piece of advice is to unite and conquer. It’s like that famous proverb: “To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together.” Every success I’ve had has come from reaching out to other teams who are feeling the same pain or seeing the same need – and getting us all working together. When I’ve done things by myself, my success has been limited. You need top-down support to get a mandate and resources, but people in the trenches – whether they’re in quality, legal, regional marketing, inside sales or technical support – are passionate partners and advocates. Their engagement is critical. That’s why it’s so important to pick a time when a large number of people are feeling the pain acutely enough to act. When I do that initial data analysis I mentioned, I’m going fast alone so that I can see the road ahead and get the vision – but then I step back and go with the team, because we go so much farther and do so much better together.

Another handy operational tip: When data is scarce on the ground, SurveyMonkey is fabulous. You can always conduct a survey and get data. For example, perhaps you can’t measure exactly what’s going on in Salesforce because the data is messy. But if you can show evidence that hundreds of sales reps are saying the same thing, that’s a perfectly valid observation that you can track over time. You’re not completely limited by your systems or maturity level.

SD: Where do you look for inspiration?

Kathleen: I always get ideas from SiriusDecisions Summit and other conferences. And, as I said earlier, I get endless inspiration and energy from talking to service and support, customers, and sales and regional marketing. I enjoy talking to internal groups like legal and quality, because they have needs, too. I love talking to anyone who can see beyond what is to what could be, and I like talking with people who feel stuck and seeing if we can unstick things together.

I keep a pad of blank tabloid-size paper at my desk and at home, as well as pens in different colors – because when I’m feeling inspired, I always want to sketch out information and models. Tabloid paper is like a portable whiteboard. Getting the inspiration going is a very physical thing, and a whiteboard or tabloid paper gives me room to spread out – much more than a little notebook page. Because it’s just printer paper, there isn’t a feeling of needing to get this right like there would be with a bound notebook. My core inspiration is self-reinforcing; it comes from looking at what needs to be done, seeing the opportunities, talking with people, gathering all I’ve learned and coming up with scalable models.

SD: What excites you the most about the future of the biotech/healthcare industry?

Kathleen: One innovation that is very near to my heart is seeing whole-genome sequencing and related technologies moving into the standard of care for oncology. Like most families, my family has been touched by cancer. My dad died in 2010 of a rare cancer that they could barely diagnose, let alone treat. The vision of applying sequencing to help people get a quick diagnosis and identify the best treatment – or know for sure that no treatment is available – inspires me deeply; so does knowing that future generations won’t have to move through such a fog of ignorance, waste so many precious months looking for information, and see a loved one die and never know if there was something more they could have done.

SD: Finally, if you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Kathleen: I’m tempted to say “Ctrl Z.” That would be a very handy superpower sometimes.

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