How Women in Marketing Are Making a Difference: Q&A With Kirsten Allegri Williams, CMO, Optimizely


In my career, I have found that female marketers are especially skilled as natural collaborators.

– Kirsten Allegri Williams, chief marketing officer, Optimizely (Episerver)

Kirsten Allegri Williams, chief marketing officer, Optimizely (Episerver) is responsible for the global marketing and communications strategy, where she takes a digital-first approach to elevate Optimizely as a brand. Allegri Williams accelerates pipeline growth and delivers differentiated customer experiences through the company’s digital experience platform. Through experimentation, she brings the entire digital team together including content creators, web editors and product innovators.

In this edition of MarTalk Buzz Women in Marketing series, Allegri Williams discusses how female marketers can be a strategic partner to businesses and lead the way for company’s digital transformation journey. She also talks about demanding the creative process to be diverse and inclusive for the brand to reflect its customers. Allegri Williams also shares why she is no longer acceptable to separate the employee and customer experience from one’s brand promise.

Key Takeaways on How Women in Marketing Are Making a Difference: 

    • Go beyond the role of marketing to become a strategic partner in the brand’s decision-making process.
    • Foster empathy to create breakthrough ideas that represent the needs of underserved communities.
    • Be armed with data to experiment and connect with your own experiences to business outcomes.

Here’s the edited transcript from our exclusive interview with Kirsten Allegri Williams: 

1. The shift to digital business is paving the way for women in marketing to rise to be a CMO or CDO. Which essential skills and tools will prepare more female leaders for a digital transformation journey?

As the world moves away from static websites, we are seeing an imperative for companies to achieve hyper-personalized experiences to attract, engage and retain customers. And with the seismic changes in the economy, environment and society, marketers must understand all levers in the digital ecosystem that can be pulled to constantly react to customer demands. If marketers can anticipate customers, they can anticipate the future for the whole business, and become the lynchpin of the innovation process.

For women specifically, being a strategic partner to the business beyond the role of marketing will set you up for success when it comes to making key business decisions and leading the way in your company’s digital transformation journey. Forging a strong collaboration with the CFO, CIO as well as sales, product and customer success are paramount to devise cross-functional initiatives that can scale.

– Kirsten Allegri Williams, chief marketing officer, Optimizely (Episerver)

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2.There is a strong need for diversity and gender equality in STEM education. In what actionable ways, can the martech community benefit from the growth of women in STEM and those pursuing STEM-related degrees?

As part of the Martech community, we can help shape future generations of leaders by providing meaningful entry point roles that demonstrate how digital connects us in the workplace, but also unlock limitless potential to create new digital business models to solve major global challenges that will fuel the next chapter of economic growth. Taking diversity and inclusion into consideration, we hire interns on a regular basis to provide opportunities to early talents to gain exposure to what a career in high tech can look like and for many, it is eye-opening to see that it is a very creative field.

Moreover, we are deliberate in our hiring practices to include diversity and inclusion and female representation across the board. In our work with our agency partners, we insist on diversity within the account teams servicing our business.

We are also committed to increasing the number of women holding tech related positions and, to show our commitment, recently joined the WIT (women in tech) network as a corporate member, to encourage all women and girls to study STEM and pursue careers in tech and attain leadership positions and career advancement later in life.

– Kirsten Allegri Williams, chief marketing officer, Optimizely (Episerver)

3. According to ANA MarketingOpens a new window , businesses made strong progress with women but have much more to do with racial and ethnic representation? In what ways, a diverse and inclusive talent in marketing will have direct impact on customer experience?

As a Filipino Asian American, I am shocked by the acts of racial injustice rising in the U.S. Resilience is a core trait that I am proud to inherit from my grandmother. It is no longer acceptable to separate the employee and customer experience from one’s brand promise.

As marketers, we have a unique vantage point to ensure we keep the voice of the customer at the forefront of strategy development.

– Kirsten Allegri Williams, chief marketing officer, Optimizely (Episerver)

Diverse and inclusive teams foster empathy to create breakthrough ideas that are more likely to represent the needs and resilience of underserved communities. By tapping into this strength, our work can become a force for good.

Also read: The Future of Voice Search Is Open & Accessible Voice Recognition Tech: Q&A With Mozilla

4. What are the top 3 takeaways for brands who are creating a diverse voice? Can a focus on understanding the special challenges that all women, and especially women of color, face in the workplace in the marketing function enable brands to connect with consumers better?

    • Know your customer in an agile way that moves at the pace of change: Customer insight will be what drives innovation and unlocks productivity, which is no small thing.
    • Insist on diversity and inclusivity in the creative process: This helps us ensures our brand reflects our customers. What marketers share with artists is the ability to curate and edit, to make something simple and sophisticated. An artist might make sure that every brushstroke contributes to the overall vision, while a marketer might make sure that every bit of creative and every dollar spent does the same.
    • Open the doors to women and diverse talent to unlock potential focused on initiatives that can create the greatest impact: In my career, I have found that female marketers are especially skilled as natural collaborators and by providing opportunities for diverse leaders to solve big problems and provide platforms to gain exposure, the path to advancement is cleared.

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5. In your opinion, which are the key drivers of growth for women in marketing that will outlast beyond 2021?

    • Ensure data is in your toolkit: A primary part of our job is to decode the world to anticipate future business growth and it is no secret women dominate global consumer spending. By using data science, experimentation and connecting our own experience to business outcomes, we can reflect the customer that can shape strategic product and business direction where roles are predominately occupied by men. But we must be armed with data.
    • Digital-first: Take a leadership in technology decisions for the company – not just within the four walls of marketing and forge the strategic connection in creating a hyper-personalized customer experience to outsized business growth.

About Kirsten Allegri WilliamsOpens a new window :

Kirsten Allegri Williams is chief marketing officer of Optimizely (formerly Episerver) where she leads global marketing and communication strategy. Optimizely empowers growing companies to compete digitally with its customer-centric digital experience platform. Prior to Optimizely (Episerver), Kirsten was chief marketing officer for SAP SuccessFactors, the world’s leading provider of technology solutions for Human Resources.

About OptimizelyOpens a new window :

At Optimizely (Episerver), the mission is to help people unlock their digital potential. With the digital experience platform (DXP), Optimizely equips teams with the tools and insights they need to create and optimize in new and novel ways. Now, companies can operate with data-driven confidence to create hyper-personalized experiences. Building sophisticated solutions has never been simpler. Optimizely’s 900+ partners and 1100+ employees in offices around the globe are proud to help more than 9,000 brands, including Toyota, Santander, eBay, KLM and Mazda, enrich their customer lifetime value, increase revenue and grow their brands.

About MarTalk Buzz:

MarTalk Buzz is an interview series where marketing leaders and marketing technology companies that are making a difference, connect with us and share their stories. Join us as we talk to them about their product journeys, insights on the categories they serve, what works for them, and some bonus pro-tips.

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