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Interviews / Biz Dev & Sales

Balancing the Grind With Johanne Sergeant, Sales Director – SaaS at Oracle

Johanne Sergeant is the Sales Director – SaaS at Oracle and also the Community Leader for Oracle Women’s Leadership.

Having spent ten years at Microsoft, Johanne now holds a senior sales role at Oracle in what has previously been a male-dominated arena and is passionate about retaining and developing female talent in the organisation.

She has seen big improvements in recent years in the number of women entering the interview process and led the involvement of Oracle in Victoria ICT for Women.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I grew up in a very working-class environment. My family wasn’t big on education and I left school in Year 10 to start work as a secretary. My first job after leaving College was with an IT organization, focused on networking.

I then moved to NEC Australia where I had a great manager and mentor who encouraged me to do a Business Diploma at TAFE to help my career progression. After time travelling overseas on a working holiday, I landed my first sales job selling fax machines and photocopiers – which were cutting edge at the time!

Again, I was very fortunate to have a great boss and mentor who helped me close my first sale, which paid the deposit for my house. This was the first step that really fueled my hunger to pursue a career in sales.

I continued to progress my sales career, working in telecommunications and FMCG, until my husband was transferred to Melbourne. With 3 kids in tow, I jumped on the opportunity to work with Microsoft where I stayed for 10 years.

After this, I dipped my toe in the startup world, but quickly realised I didn’t have the same passion for it as I had for enterprise. So, I jumped when I saw an opportunity to join Oracle. I’ve now been with Oracle for four years and was promoted to my current role is Sales Director (Software as a Service) 18 months ago.

2) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Every day in sales is different and is driven by revenue targets and customer outcomes.

A typical day for me is interacting with my team members and customers to ensure we pursue the right activities to be successful. There are many internal and external meetings, strategic planning, forecasting, coaching on driving pipeline and many other fast-paced activities.

Now that my kids are grown up and at uni, I have more time for myself both at home and at work. When my children were young, it was a very different story. My mornings would begin by getting them up, hoping that none of them were sick, and coordinating with my husband who would take the kids wherever they needed to be!

Then the working day would start, and at around 4 o’clock, I would speak to my husband on the phone to see where we were during the day and match up our schedules to see who could pick up the kids from after-school activities.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

My role at Oracle is very accommodating when it comes to flexibility and remote working. When I don’t want interruptions, I tend to work on projects from home. When the kids were at school or if they were sick, I always had the flexibility to work from home if needed.

The good thing with sales is that as long as you’re performing, it doesn’t really matter where you’re doing your work.

4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you manage your workload and schedule?

I live and breathe by my Outlook calendar. It’s funny because when my children were teenagers, they used an Outlook calendar and put in diary notes for what they needed.

I stick by a rule I’ve kept since my secretary days. It’s a rule of three D’s: Delegate, Delete or Do. This applies to everything, even very mundane things like buying milk. It’s crucial to be conscious of time management and be organised, regardless of your role.

For someone who is struggling to balance and manage their time, I’d say, prioritise and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’. I find this is a challenge for many women – we often say ‘yes’ to everything. A lot of the time, we just need to learn to say ‘no’. As I found as I got older, you command more respect when you say ‘no’ with good reason.

5) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Work-life balance just means that you are effective both at home and at work. It means that you are mentally present in both places.

Ensuring that you have some ‘me’ time is really important because you can’t be successful if you don’t take care of yourself. The first thing that I learnt in the leadership course is that you’ve got to be well yourself before you can help others be better.

For myself, I’ve actually got quite blurred lines at home, and that’s something I’m trying to work on. I’m very good at telling others what to do but don’t do it myself.

Even though I know it’s so important to switch off at home, I do find it difficult to completely turn off. The reason is partially the responsibility that my current role entails, but also, it’s become a habit that I need to change.

6) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?

It has always been time management and organisation, as mentioned earlier. They’re the most important habits for anybody looking to do well in their roles.

7) Are there any books that have helped you improve over the years?

Years ago, I read Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. There are a few secrets from that book that I still hold and have stuck by. The key point I still stick by is ‘Be mindful of what you can control and what you can’t control. Let it go.’

When I stepped into leadership, my manager gave me a book called 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. The title makes it sound like a negative book, but it’s actually a very positive book about how to turn the 5 common dysfunctions in a team into positives. It’s built on a framework of trust and values.

Another great service that I’ve subscribed to is Blinkist, because I have a habit of buying all these books and never getting around to read them. It gives you the top takeaways from different books in a short timeframe, so it’s really good.

8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?

I review my calendar before the next day. The last thing I do before I go to sleep is look at what’s on tomorrow so that I am mentally prepared when I start the next day. It gives you an idea of what you’re starting off with, what outcomes I need to achieve, and therefore what I need to prioritise.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Make sure you take some time for yourself. Even if it’s just half an hour to walk away from a situation and take some time to think about nothing or listen to a couple songs. You can perform better in your role when you switch off and recover.

I was fortunate to attend Oracle’s Global Women’s Leadership Summit in 2016, and from then, I knew that I wanted to personally champion the development of women at Oracle and elsewhere in STEM.

It was there I knew I wanted to move into leadership with Oracle. To help advance my opportunities for leadership, I applied with Women & Leadership Australia for their Advanced Leadership course. It was a great opportunity to prepare me for a role in leadership.

Throughout my career, I’ve been blessed with people who have really invested in me and helped me along the way. I think that being a mother at a young age, and having great mentors throughout my career, have helped drive me to succeed.

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.