Susanne Tedrick, Sr. Cloud Infrastructure Specialist at Microsoft, on How Today's Go-to-Market Teams Can Advance Their Cloud Marketing Journey

In this episode, our guest is Susanne Tedrick, Sr. Cloud Infrastructure Specialist at Microsoft and author of the book, "Women of Color in Tech".

A titan in cloud sales and strong advocate for diversity in the space, she discusses the intricacies of cloud adoption among professional sports teams, the inspiration behind her book, and much more.


Full Transcript

Sarah E. Brown [00:00:09] Hello, everyone, and welcome to Selling in the Cloud, a podcast about the business of cloud sales and marketing brought to you by Intricately, the authoritative source of digital product adoption, usage, and spend data for cloud sales and marketing teams. I'm Sarah E. Brown and I'm here with Michael Pollack – and we are your co-hosts.

Sarah E. Brown [00:00:39] Michael, welcome to the show.

Michael Pollack [00:00:40] Sarah, thank you for having me. It's great to be here.

Sarah E. Brown [00:00:43] In this episode, we're speaking with Susanne Tedrick, Sr. Cloud Infrastructure Specialist at Microsoft, and author of the book, Women of Color in Tech. Shall we dive in?

Michael Pollack [00:00:52] Let's do it. Susanne, welcome to the show.

Susanne Tedrick [00:00:54] Thank you. It's a sincere pleasure to be here today.

Sarah E. Brown [00:00:57] Can you give us a brief introduction and share a bit about who you are and a background for how you got to be where you are today at Microsoft and also, what you're currently working on at Microsoft?

Susanne Tedrick [00:01:08] Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So in my current role, I work as an Infrastructure Specialist for Azure. And that work, it's twofold where I'm having conversations with my clients about how would they go about migrating their workloads and infrastructure into the cloud – also coupled with the fact that they may already be in the cloud. But how do you further become efficient and innovate and kind of take it to the next step? So depending on where my client is in the cloud journey, I help them to understand both the physical business and technical issues surrounding what they're trying to do. Prior to coming to Microsoft, I was a Technical Specialist at IBM and so there I concentrated more on application modernization and migration. So, how do you become cloud native? How do you build applications that keep the customer coming back and scale when you need them to? My past to Microsoft and tech is definitely not traditional in any sense of the word. I would say roughly six years ago I was working in a completely different industry and doing completely different things, so working in financial services, administration and operations types of roles, and, you know, paid well and it was great, and then I realized I really don't like it and need to do something else. And so I always kind of went back to my love of technology, my love of not only computers and how we use them, but how we use them to solve our everyday problems. And when I went on to this role at IBM, it was the perfect marriage of being in the latest and greatest in technology, but really solving problems for customers and helping them to achieve success.

Michael Pollack [00:02:56] And a part that I think is probably interesting or relevant for our audience – can you talk a little bit about the types of clients you focus on at Microsoft? Because I think that's a fascinating constituency and I imagine, again, our listeners will probably get a kick out of it.

Susanne Tedrick [00:03:09] Yeah, yeah. So I concentrate primarily on professional sports teams and leagues, and it's always a different conversation and it's always very dynamic. So as I said earlier, for for some of these clients, it's really just talking about, OK, I hear so much about the cloud, how do I make this work for me and then it's like, Susanne, I'm already on the cloud, but I want something more innovative. I want something that's really going to capture and experience it or help me cut down on my IT infrastructure. What does that look like for me? And I love my clients. I try to hide my team affiliations, obviously, so I don't piss off the wrong person. But the conversations that are had when it comes to professional sports as it relates to cloud are so diverse and they're so innovative and it's never it's never a dull.

Michael Pollack [00:04:06] On that question, I'm imagining when someone asked you your favorite team, I'm sure the quick answer is all of them. But aside from that for a second and again, I find it interesting, I assume our audience might have a little bit interest here. But, you know, when you think about professional sports organizations today in the rise of strategies like Moneyball and the amount of content I'm imagining, their cloud needs are surprisingly enormous. Right. Between computational resources, but also the amount of content. You've got players who want to watch what was once upon a time film but is now digital content. That's got to go somewhere. I see the Microsoft devices on the sidelines of the NFL and so I assume that's happening in other leagues worldwide. But is the content, the amount of I mean, most professional sports teams are almost like I imagine they look a lot like media companies at a certain level with the amount of content and infrastructure and what they need. Is that fair?

Susanne Tedrick [00:04:53] It is fair. I think from what I have seen so far, is that sometimes there isn't a recognition of just how much cloud can help them in that capacity. So the way how it's typically been, everything's been on-prem and content creation. Content editing has traditionally been done on-prem. But now it's like, well, how do we get content out quicker? How do we become more efficient in doing that? How do you store all of that without ourselves going through investing in infrastructure that may or may not necessarily meet those needs? And so we come in and we have that conversation. Well, cloud can help you to do that more effectively and more efficiently. We can also talk about analytics getting meaningful insights and data from a lot of the content that you're bringing in or some of the fan experiences that you're having. So, yes, I totally agree that the need for cloud is probably far more pronounced now than it ever has been. But I think there might be a disconnect in understanding, well, how does cloud help me specifically beyond just having a conversation of IT infrastructure modernization?

Michael Pollack [00:06:05] I'm curious just to dig into the CTO at most of these professional sports organizations, I imagine once upon a time this individual was tasked with like making sure desktop computers worked. And now today, again, they've got to be the true CIO or like somebody who comprehensively understands the totality of infrastructure out there. Can you talk a little bit about that individual and how that role maybe has changed? Because I imagine that's a job that didn't really exist a decade ago, that today is a huge job, particularly large organizations, a lot of sports organizations.

Susanne Tedrick [00:06:38] Yeah, I don't envy the CTO. I do not envy the role now, because, to your point, it's not just a matter of making sure that people have desktops or other devices and making sure the systems are in place for software. It's really having a deeper discussion about innovation, what this next step looks like for us. How do we deliver better experiences for audiences? How do we deliver better experiences for our internal constituency? So all of these conversations have to go on, plus the security conversation. Cloud security obviously is a huge, huge topic as it should be, and then costs cloud cost money. I think at the beginning when cloud computing was starting on the adoption kind of wavelength, there was like clouds naturally cheaper for you. Yes, but with an asterisk next to it, like, but only if these things are true. So for the CTO, they're juggling so many different constraints, requirements, thinking about the future. And even though it's not necessarily a role that I envy, I want to try to help them so that they understand that Microsoft is on their side. We know what their problems are. We know what their unique use cases are, and we want them to be successful and not constantly worry themselves to sleep at night.

Sarah E. Brown [00:08:04] I'm wondering how you identify the customers that are ready to work with you at Microsoft. Is there some indicator or sign of maturity that you're looking for, that they're ready for you?

Susanne Tedrick [00:08:15] I'll be honest. We're ready to meet our client wherever they happen to be. So, as I mentioned, for some of these clients, it's. I have an idea of what my cloud strategy looks like, but I'm not quite sure. And so for those clients, we really start talking about the cloud adoption framework where we define what your strategy is. We define what your business plan is. And we help you to develop that execution plan and then there make the clients where. OK, that's that's great. We're on cloud. We're doing a multi-cloud, hybrid cloud, whatever the case may be. But now we want to get to the point of true innovation. We're really kind of, you know, thinking about what the next steps are in terms of our technological innovation. What does that look like? It's going to be kind of broad in the picture there where we talk about data and we talk about app development, we talk about DevOps. So there really isn't that ideal client other than the fact that perhaps there is an interest in cloud leveraging it successfully and just trying to figure out where exactly they are in their journey.

Michael Pollack [00:09:27] You have an interesting remit that potentially is a little different than a lot of folks who come on the show in the sense that you truly have an ABM focus and you have a named account list. There's only so many professional sports organizations worldwide. So obviously you can figure out who all those are. The next step is how do you broach an intro? How do you engage with the ones that may not be using Microsoft products yet? Right. And I imagine the benefit you have on the Azure side of things is most of these customers are using Microsoft products somewhere in their organization and they've got office, they've got Exchange, whatever the tools they have. But I'd love for you to talk a little bit about how you partner with sales and marketing to help get into some of those accounts, because I know for our audience, we talk a lot about the role of data in marketing. And again, it's interesting, and I like your known universe of customers, is out there. So how do you engage them? If you could share a little bit there, I think that'd be great.

Susanne Tedrick [00:10:19] Yeah, I think it's really important that we meet the clients where they are versus them trying to come to us. And so with what we've done for my particular team is that we focus on creating content that is relevant for some of the challenges that they're having right now. So, for instance, the fact that live events weren't happening for much of 2020, but there is still the real need for these teams to bring in revenue. So how do you do that? How do you have that virtual fan experience when you don't have what was normally there? So I think that's one of the ways that we try to market to these particular customers, not just bombard them with like Microsoft, Microsoft, Microsoft. They know that we're here. They know that. But really trying to emphasize that. We do understand that all your industry and your very unique challenges. So I think that's been the biggest approach that we've had with these particular clients is not so much talking about the technology, but really having a read a pulse on the challenges that they're having on a technical level and how we invest them.

Michael Pollack [00:11:29] One minor follow up there – the benefit I imagine you have and you've probably had the benefit of having two parts of your career coming from IBM or Microsoft is customers want to take the meeting. You've got an amazing brand name. You've got kickass products. People know who you are. So I'm wondering how you think about for smaller vendors out there. And again, maybe this isn't a problem you directly encountered, but for businesses that maybe don't have the benefit of the amazing brand that is Microsoft or IBM, is your idea around this notion of almost like a safe space for discussion around a technology or something that's kind of daunting or something new? Is that a strategy you think broadly is applicable or is unique solely to Microsoft? How do you think about that? How would you approach that?

Susanne Tedrick [00:12:08] Yeah, that's a fantastic point. I think it's a strategy that regardless of whether you're the Microsoft or the world or, you know, smaller enterprises, I think the central theme still remains the same. It's understanding what the unique needs are of those particular clients and being as targeted and thoughtful about your approach and how you do things than anything else. This has happens to be a strategy that Microsoft employs – but I feel that even without the Microsoft marquee, that's still applicable, just really understanding your clients and really understanding what their problems are and being as authentic as humanly possible when you're developing solutions or a strategy for them on the best path forward.

Sarah E. Brown [00:12:55] Awesome. I'd love to ask what advice would you give to maybe your prospects or even your customers if they're looking to advance in their cloud journey and maybe are trying to assess that next step? What would you advise?

Susanne Tedrick [00:13:07] I would advise don't feel like you have to go it alone. So realizing what my profession is, it's sales. And I think that for some people, there's this natural hesitancy, your tendency to be like, well, that's sales and they're going to sell me a used car. I don't wanna do that. All they care about is quota. And I think one of the misconceptions that I had to tell people is that it's actually in my best interest for you to be successful. It's not in my best interest to sell you a solution that doesn't make any sense or will potentially cause you problems down the line, because it hurts my credibility as an adviser. It damages our relationship between Microsoft and the customer. And this has long ranging implications. So I want them to feel as if at least when you're dealing with anyone, that specialist from Microsoft, when it comes to Azure, you can come to us and we'll give you the honest truth about whether or not your strategy makes sense if these particular products or services make sense for what you're trying to do. Yes, we are salespeople, no question. But your success is our success. And I feel like the sooner that sometimes the clients realize this, that we're invested in them and what success ultimately looks like for them, then they don't feel as if they're alone and that they're not engaging in strategies that actually are counterproductive to what they're doing. It's much easier to pivot earlier in a client migration process than it is halfway through or when you're almost done. And so bringing us into the conversation much earlier helps everybody in the long run.

Michael Pollack [00:14:56] You know, I think there's an interesting point you make in there just around the "we go it together" concept that's pervasive in cloud. That is totally at contrast, I'd argue, to how once upon a time a business like Microsoft even sold software, both desktop software. You kind of grit your teeth, you buy it, you're on your own. Right. You get some support. But ultimately, it's your software. It's your problem. This notion of moving to the cloud of actually we as Microsoft or as a vendor here have a hugely vested interest in our customers, deriving ongoing continuous value. Because if not, you're going to churn, you're going to leave, you're going to go to another vendor. And so it's an interesting concept, I think, for many buyers, particularly people that have been buying software for 10 years or 20 years, it's a bit of a mind shift. And so do you find that there's not there's distrust or mistrust, but it's more that people don't entirely understand the go together strategy. Do you find you're almost educating a lot of your prospects on why this is much more of a partnership than you might think? And is there a fair amount of coaching that's there that you hadn't anticipated or how would you characterize that?

Susanne Tedrick [00:15:56] Well, I think it's different for each client that depending on the amount of time that they've actually spent dealing with specialists or the people when it comes to purchasing cloud services. But there is a little bit of coaching and education. There's no question about that. I think that there's this, to your point, not the mistrust portion, but just, you know, are you really here to help me? What is your ulterior motive? What do you get out of that? I do. I clearly I get something out of it, but but it's much better when we're both on the same page where we can all get something out of it. And part of that, too, is building trust with your client as well, not going in and just selling feature or technology, but really understanding them, understanding what makes them tick, understanding what their hopes and goals are for the future. And building that trust with one another is hugely important.

Sarah E. Brown [00:16:56] To shift gears here, I would love to talk about your fantastic book, Women of Color in Tech: A Blueprint for inspiring and Mentoring the next generation of Technology Innovators. So in addition to being a cloud leader and authority, you are also a leader in authority in the space of inclusion and tech, and would love to hear what inspired you to work on this project and to share this with the world.

Susanne Tedrick [00:17:18] Yeah, thank you! For myself. I've always believed in paying it forward. A lot of people were part of not only my career development and getting to IBM and Microsoft, but just in general as I was making it through my career, people gave a lot of time, lot of energy and seeing me succeed. And I really believe that paying it forward is something that we all just need to do in our everyday lives. I also come from a space of, I want there to be more of me in the space. And if I can give you the things that helped me as well as giving you the things that I definitely don't do, I would love to be that person so that not only the next generation of women of color and technology are successful, but even more successful than me.

Sarah E. Brown [00:18:10] Awesome. And I will give a plug, we'll link to buy the book in the show notes. But, the section on cloud is absolutely incredible. I learned so much about the cloud from what you. So regardless of your cloud knowledge prior, you will have a lot more after so highly recommended reading for many reasons, but particularly one highlight that section. So great.

Susanne Tedrick [00:18:29] Thank you.

Sarah E. Brown [00:18:31] You've talked a little bit about advice you'd give to your prospects, your customers. So for something maybe that you wish your prospects knew about you and what you offer at Microsoft that you would love to tell them if they're listening to this, almost a direct line to that audience, what would you say?

Susanne Tedrick [00:18:49] So many, so many things. I think the important thing is realizing that your cloud journey is going to be different and it's not necessarily going to be just an Azure conversation. It may be an Azure plus AWS conversation, it may be Azure and Google. There's no one size fits all strategy when it comes to cloud adoption and architecting a cloud framework for your organization. So just making sure that when you're coming in reproach, us having that open mind about what the possibilities would be versus having a very narrow definition and viewpoint of what it is and focusing solely on costs. I feel that when the conversation is focused on cost, not that it isn't important, but when you tell me that all of these other things are important, too, we have to have that conversation. So just being open minded, when we engage in these conversations and realizing that, per my previous discussion, we're really here to be helpful to you. I cannot stress that enough.

Michael Pollack [00:19:59] Yeah, I understand that. You know, it is an interesting thing that, again, if you've been buying technology or software for a long time, historically, it's felt that you, the buyer and the vendor are on opposite sides of the table. But you're right to point out that in cloud your arm in arm, right? If it doesn't work for you, it doesn't work for the vendor. It makes for a very interesting configuration. And I would agree with you. We find ourselves talking to customers a lot about that. We sell recurring revenue products. We have similar challenges around, we desperately need our customers to be successful using our product, and we're prepared to do whatever we can to make that happen. So I hear that comment and I think that's a fair one and a good one. I'd love to ask maybe one last question here, and I'm just curious if this lands well, but you work predominantly with professional sports organizations. Can I ask what's the coolest thing you've learned, the most mind blowing experience you've had the home run, you got the chance to hit from some field somewhere. Was there anything that because you work with this kind of unique, wonderful constituency, anything that you're like, wow, this is so cool, I got to do this or I saw this or I experienced this. Anything jump to mind for you there?

Susanne Tedrick [00:21:04] Yeah, well, unfortunately, because I just started at the beginning of the year, I came at the tail end of some of the awesome, awesome stuff. Like the thing that comes to mind is like the NBA bubble and the amazing work we were able to do there. And I was like, man, I just missed that. But that is not to say that that's where the innovation starts and stops. One of the things that I've been really, really happy to see is we've been very integral along with our partners and getting people physically back to live games and playing with one partner in particular. We were able to use our data and A.I. products and services to help the venues make sure that they're enforcing social distancing at all times based off of the ticket that you have and being able to do that and do it confidently and I might add on incredibly short notice because they're like, OK, we're going to do this like, oh, OK. It's just been amazing. And it just speaks to how, again, we are committed to your success, but we want you to be successful. We want you especially after the year that we had last year where everyone has suffered in some way. We want to help get you back on the road to revenue or the road to being with fans. And us being able to do that has been, you know, from what I've seen so far, it's just been amazing,

Sarah E. Brown [00:22:43] Fantastic. So for people who are listening, who'd like to learn more about you and your work, where should we direct them to?

Susanne Tedrick [00:22:48] So if you're really interested in trying to learn more about Azure, that would be Azure doc Microsoft dot com. We offer a public cloud platform, a number of free services that you can try. If you would like to learn more information for me specifically, you can reach out to me on my LinkedIn. I'm more than happy to engage in a conversation.

Sarah E. Brown [00:23:08] Fantastic. Thank you so much for joining us.

Susanne Tedrick [00:23:10] Thank you both. It was a pleasure.

Michael Pollack [00:23:12] That's it for us. And this episode may be over, but we can continue the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #SellingInTheCloud. On Twitter, I'm at @MRPollack.

Sarah E. Brown [00:23:22] And I'm @SEBMarketing.

Michael Pollack [00:23:22] Thank you to everyone for joining us for this episode of Selling in the Cloud, brought to you by Intricately, the authoritative source of digital product adoption, usage, and spend data for cloud sales and marketing teams. If you like the show, head on over to iTunes, or wherever you listen to podcasts, and please give us a review. We appreciate it. Until next time.

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