Martina Montero’s SAAS NORTH Experience
Crescendo partnered with SAAS NORTH to provide the unique opportunity to one member of an underrepresented community to attend the conference. The contest offered the prize of a ticket to SAAS NORTH as well as $200 for travelling costs.
We are very pleased to announce that Martina Montero was our winner!
Montero is Product Manager at Prodigy Game. Prodigy Game designs math games which reflect the curriculum for students in grades 1-8 to supplement their learning in a way that is interactive and fun. It is utilized by students, teachers, and parents alike.
Martina is also a Venture for Canada Fellow and is passionate about diversity and inclusion in the tech ecosystem.
We sat down with Martina to hear about the highlights of her experience at SAAS NORTH. We dig into topics like:
How to properly diversify your candidate pool
How to get started with D&I
The diversity of conference attendees
How to grow your company by retaining and expanding your current customers, not acquiring new ones
Interview with Martina
Top Speakers & Panels
Stefan: Out of all the panels and speakers you saw, which was your favourite?
Martina: What I loved about SAAS NORTH was the many candid conversations that panelists had. The one about outsourcing versus hiring (which included ZJ Hadley, Liam Martin, Shavonne Hasfal-Mcintosh, Susan Richards) was so open, as opposed to those panels that are more diplomatic.
Hadley talked a lot about what had worked well and where they had made errors. The speakers also explored directions the world needs to move towards. Hadley was blunt and I really appreciated that.
Stefan: Were there some key takeaways that you had from that panel?
Martina: Hadley talked about how as someone who works in diversity and inclusion, you cannot spread yourself so thin, with the aim to cater to, help, and hire from all underrepresented groups at once. In reality, what happens is you are not going to end up helping anyone.
She gave examples of how she had wanted to hire more women, members of the LGBTQ community, and specifically transgender people. When she brought this up to a trans man and mentor of hers, they recommended that it probably wasn’t the right time to focus on all of these, for a couple of reasons:
If you’re a startup and attempt to focus your attention on attracting multiple groups, it is likely that you won’t be able to significantly impact the representation anywhere.
If your workplace is still in the early stages of its diversity and inclusion work, it is possible that it could be a toxic environment for a member of an underrepresented group, and you should ensure that you have created an inclusive culture first.
So instead of trying to tackle everything at once, she discussed how it is better to focus in on one group who you want to improve your representation of at the present.
Having this target involves perfecting the methodology of finding members of this group, speaking to them, understanding what drives them, and really working on removing hiring biases from your entire system.
Once you have gone through this process, you can then move on to using these same strategies but in a way that is flexible and speaks to each individual group. This ensures that the right environment exists at your organization to set the stage for a more diverse and inclusive organization.
Hadley has implemented some great initiatives at Tulip. One example is partnering with Bridge. Tulip is hosting a coding school for women, agender and non-binary individuals. Notably, this program is free of cost. She also recommends looking to individuals who have been trained in bootcamps and not to overlook the potential there.
Something Hadley stressed is to keep diversity and inclusion as a core value in your company as it will then reflect in everything you do. Where you take that is limitless.
The Attendee Experience
Stefan: Were there any interesting people you met?
Martina: There were definitely a lot. I ran into Jeanette Stock who I know personally, but it was great to see her at SAAS NORTH and to witness how much she continues to evolve and constantly grow, while working to make improvements in the world of diversity and inclusion. Another really interesting person I met was an older gentleman,seeing him at the conference to was the epitome of diversity and inclusion. The tech world has largely become dominated by straight young white men, so seeing someone from a different background and different generation was great. He was brilliant - he had really interesting perspectives, experience, and insights.
Additionally, the tech world is often saturated by younger people and you don’t always see someone in the over-50 age bracket. It was amazing to see it go the other way at SAAS NORTH; there were people of various age groups, who were all excited about the tech world. That was really nice.
“Just a couple years ago, I was always one of the only women and usually the youngest person there. It was off-putting. Now it’s not like that anymore - I feel much more comfortable.”
Stefan: What was the impact of the Conference as a whole on the work that you do?
Martina: For me, it was educational on several fronts. First, in relation to my day to day job, our company right now is moving towards a subscription-centric business model with a focus on enterprise sales. Going to SAAS NORTH was perfect timing because I learned a lot more about enterprise sales and different subscription pricing strategies.
To that end, hearing Patrick Campbell's session was incredibly useful. He talked about how in a competitor-saturated market, customer acquisition costs more, and with increased competition, customers are more picky about what they are paying for.
Changing our approach to managing customers in order to retain them means focusing on building lasting relationships with them.
Adopting proactive strategies and providing customers the incentives to continue using your product.
Creating experts or super-users of the product within an organization. This method was used by Calendly. It built reliance on the product, and spread its usage within the company.
For the last point, there has to be a consideration of how to price appropriately. New users should be able to seamlessly adopt the product without it being at a high additional cost to the organization.
The theme is to build customer loyalty - everything is founded on that. Ultimately, this approach this pays off more than constantly exhausting resources in attempting to acquire new customers who may or may not stick with your product long-term.
Secondly, the conference impacted me because I was able to see the inclusivity. SAAS NORTH was a collection of tech companies from around Canada, rather than just from Toronto. It helped me to see that more women are in tech now and it is not just at my company, but on a wider scale. There are also now more people of colour, and I’m really starting to see the shift. Just a couple years ago, I was always one of the only women and usually the youngest person there. It was off-putting. Now it’s not like that anymore - I feel much more comfortable.
Thanks for sharing your experience with us Martina!
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