How Christen Luciano Overcame Enormous Obstacles to Land at HubSpot
This article is part of our Women in Partnerships series, highlighting female professionals in the partnerships space. To learn more about the series and the Women in Partnerships group, check out the series intro.
This week, Christen Luciano, Senior Manager, Strategic Partnerships at HubSpot, joins us to discuss how being a woman has impacted her career in the tech and partnership space.
Christen Luciano was born and raised in Boston, which is also where she started her career. Graduating during the 2009 recession, Christen initially accepted a position editing coupons at a marketing agency before deciding to go off on her own and support her cousin in building his small consulting business.
A few years later, Christen ended up in a traditional marketing position where she was a digital marketing manager for an online travel agency. In her role there, she realized how much she loved understanding the technology behind the platform. Christen shared, “I would bring the engineers homemade cookies in exchange for lessons in different coding languages.”
Her cookies must have been pretty great because Christen eventually understood the platform enough to effectively communicate with the engineers, which ultimately led her to pivot into a tech career in the heart of Silicon Valley.
Graduating during a recession and then pivoting her career was just the start of the obstacles Christen faced early on. In her mid-20’s, while trying to make a name for herself, Christen hit her most difficult obstacle when she was diagnosed with cancer.
Christen, like many of her peers, was focused on excelling in her career and creating a competitive edge for herself, but she also needed her health in a good place if she wanted to experience a long life of success. Christen explained, “This was a pivotal time to ensure I could move forward in my career, and it was the hardest two years of my life. I had to learn at a young age how to balance being super focused on my career while also being super focused on my health.”
Women are often reminded of the sacrifices we have to make to have a career. This was evident early on for Christen, who, even while in the hospital, was scrutinized. “While I was getting support like, ‘Hey, if you need a week off to go to the hospital, I get that,’ it was also, ‘But you better be at the office at 7 am ready to work 15 hours per day.’ Even though there was a verbal acknowledgment, there was still the expectation for me to be there 15 hours per day. There was a question constantly of ‘What was I doing? Why wasn’t I accomplishing the same as my counterparts?’”
Growing Up With Your Mentor
Christen was lucky enough to have a mother who spent her career in executive positions at large companies. Early on, Christen’s mom exposed her to the inequalities associated with being a female executive. Christen shared, “Often, she would come home from work completely distraught after being belittled and undermined by her male counterparts all day. I always assumed going into my career that things had gotten better. It’s not much better.”
Christen elaborated, “I’ve had a mix of both male and female managers. My male managers weren’t advocating for me and would often take credit for my work. I was having the same frustrating problems with my female managers, but I realized it was because they had to advocate for themselves first and couldn’t also advocate for their female team members.”
Finding Her Spot at HubSpot
Christen had her first excellent manager when she got to HubSpot. Christen shared that working at HubSpot has been a breath of fresh air. “One really nice change is the fact that my manager advocated for me, which should be the norm. Even in emails all the way up to the CEO, if credit is misplaced on my manager, he will reply to ensure the team knows it was my work.”
About ten years ago, HubSpot was under the limelight for the lack of a diverse executive presence. In the last 5-10 years, the company has had a significant shift to focus on diversity across ethnicity, education, background, and more. Christen shared that it’s “Great to see a better-balanced board. We now have three admirable female board members and a stacked leadership team of strong female presence. Another great thing HubSpot does is host women’s groups to have transparent conversations about the culture. As a result of these efforts, we were awarded the 2020 Best Company for Women by Comparably.”
Lessons Learned as a Female Executive
Christen shared that her number one mentor is her mother. Growing up, her mother had a very similar career where she was working as one of the few women in a male-dominated industry. Furthermore, she was a female leader at large, multinational companies where making pivots is like trying to redirect a ship — it’s incredibly difficult and takes a lot of power.
Christen’s mom shared lots of lessons from her experience navigating that dynamic. “She was always very candid with me about what that world looks like and how to have successful dialogues with my male colleagues. She taught me that you can’t attack, and you always need to start by asking the right questions and presenting the facts. Not all men in the workplace are terrible people. Often, they simply don’t understand.”
Christen shared that she was afraid to talk about everything until a few years ago, worried she’d get backlash or judged for speaking up. Today, it’s clear Christen has found her confidence, and she credits that to her female mentors and women-led networking groups.
“Women are afraid to say anything for fear of receiving backlash. No one wants to be told they’re wrong. In groups like Women in Partnerships, I can feel comfortable having those conversations. There’s a benefit to having like-minded people who I can talk to and build my confidence.”
Christen recommends other women in the industry, “Seek out their tribe. There are so many women who try to do it themselves. They feel they can’t talk to anyone besides their coworker sitting next to them and don’t realize how many others are going through the same thing. Seek out other women to learn from.”
Christen recognizes how lucky she was growing up with a female mentor at home. “Without my mom, I never would have realized how hard it was. I wish there were more groups like this. Even starting from college, a women’s alumni group would have been amazing.”
Women in Partnerships
Women-led groups are so imperative for the collective growth of female professionals. That’s why we’ve started a new Women in Partnerships group, specifically for women in the industry.
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