Leadership4 min read

Paula Hodgins: Solution Seeker

Title: SVP, global accounts, VMware

Base of operations: Toronto, Canada

Start date at VMware: February 1, 2021

Tell us about your career journey?

I was the first corporate sales rep for Corel when they purchased WordPerfect. I’d fly to Washington, D.C., every week and work with some of the largest corporate customers in my early 20s. It was great to get the chance to do something big, even though I didn't have a lot of experience.

Then, I worked for a startup in the Bay Area called LoudCloud that did Platform as a Service (PaaS) and was started by Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, the founders of Netscape. There I got my first introduction to cloud. After my time at LoudCloud, I joined Microsoft in 2005 and was with them for about 13 years. During that time, I worked for the U.S., worldwide and Canadian subsidiaries, and eventually ended up leading Azure sales for the enterprise market in Canada.

I then made the move to Hewlett Packard Enterprise for a country leader role as president of the Canadian subsidiary. It was a great opportunity to lead all business units and have that overall country leadership experience.

Then, VMware came knocking with this global roll. And for me, it was great to have the experience with the world's top customers, which are some of our top financial services and telecom customers around the world—and still be able to do it based out of Canada. So, when the opportunity came, I jumped on it.

Over the years, I’ve gained valuable experience all the way up and down the stack, running, managing, securing applications and infrastructure in hybrid environments. This has given me a good understanding of the unique challenges that businesses face delivering value to their customers and employees and getting new products and services in the market.

“For me, it begins with culture. We’re responsible for our customers’ success. And when we come with that mindset, we’re better able to solve complex customer problems and help them invent new solutions.”

- Paula Hodgins, VMware

What is your leadership style?

I love the quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” So, for me, it begins with culture. You cannot execute on a strategy unless you focus on culture and developing different behaviors. We need to foster a culture focused on celebrating a growth mindset and sharing best practices. Collaboration needs to be highly valued alongside a strong commitment to continuous learning.

With these types of behaviors, you can approach your customer relationships differently. We are a customer-obsessed organization. Our obsession shows up at all levels. Our EPIC2 values support this.

I tell my team they need to champion customers internally. We each need to drive a solution-focused, value-added approach with customers. We’re responsible for our customers’ success. And when we come with that mindset, we’re better able to solve complex customer problems and help them invent new solutions. Everything stems from the customer. 

How has the pace of innovation changed over the past year or so?

It’s been such an interesting and challenging year and a half. The pandemic accelerated everyone's timeline and forced us all to do things differently. Five-year plans became one-year plans, and innovation and transformation were accelerated. In doing so, we created a new baseline for how and how quickly businesses can and must transform. There is no going back.

Further, because organizations had to find new ways to reach their customers, employees, and partners, they began looking at how they better leverage public cloud. They considered how to scale up as needed, how to support a growing remote workforce, and how to create customer loyalty and experiences in ways they never imagined before. I really think that it's been an acceleration of digital transformation, and in force, a rethinking of timelines.

What is your experience as a woman in the tech industry?

There were many, many cases where I was the only female at the table at internal meetings and with customers. And that brings with it a ton of challenges in terms of some of the day-to-day inequalities and discrimination that women face when they're in these male-dominated industries. 

A champion for equality, Paula Hodgins (middle) shows her support of the book "The Collective Wisdom of Top-Performing Women" alongside her husband (left) and daughter (right).

Twenty-five years ago, this wasn't even a conversation. Now, a lot of organizations are setting clear agendas in terms of equality. At VMware, we announced that by 2030, we’re committed to fostering a more equitable and sustainable work environment. Which means that for every man hired, there will be one woman hired.

I think making those declarative statements is meaningful. As a result, companies must implement different hiring practices, different recruiting practices, and different arrangements on flexible work, parental leave, and things of that nature. Ultimately, these will help women continue to rise up the corporate ladder.

How does your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) show up within your organization?

I believe that a commitment to DEI leads to an environment where we can be successful together. This is a top priority for the entire VMware Global Accounts and Telco Leadership team. We’re fully committed to hiring and retaining a diverse team, promoting an inclusive culture, and creating an environment where our employees feel comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work every day.

I encourage everyone on my team to take action in some way—big or small. They’re able to attend trainings, join DEI events, take part in our Power of Difference employee groups as a member or ally, or refer talent from diverse backgrounds.