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Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

This Tech Leader Explains Why Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone Will Advance Your Career

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Laura Gonzalez, Managing Director of Customer Success and EMEA
| Photo courtesy of PitchBook

What convinces an employee to stay at the same organization for nearly a decade? Laura Gonzalez, the Managing Director of Customer Success and Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) at PitchBook, personally understands the factors that influence employee retention. She’s been at the leading tech company for more than nine years and is still energized by PitchBook’s collaborative culture of curiosity.

“I never imagined working at a place where I’d be able to use all my strengths every day and have fun while doing it,” Gonzalez says. “The people make the culture and live our values, and it’s like nothing else I’ve ever been a part of.”

While her work can present an array of challenges, it’s also incredibly rewarding—and powered by supportive team members and executives who are also committed to excellence.

“I’ve been incredibly supported by my leaders and colleagues throughout my career here,” she says. “This has helped me gain the experience and confidence needed to go after the next big role and keep growing personally and professionally.”

Here, Gonzalez shares what she’s responsible for in her role, how PitchBook has encouraged her internal mobility and professional development, and the best advice for women who are striving to become leaders.

Tell us about your career journey. What attracted you to PitchBook?

When I first discovered PitchBook, I was intrigued by the unique product and industry it served, which was all new to me. I knew I would be challenged by the learning curve, but was eager to stretch my skills and build new ones.

I still remember my first interview at PitchBook. I was drawn to the electricity shared between so many driven, intelligent people who were dedicated to finding a better way and serving their customers. The intense focus, the unwavering attention to detail, the commitment to figuring it out—that energy hooked me.

Can you tell us more about your current position as Managing Director, Customer Success and EMEA? What are you responsible for in your role, and what are you working on right now that excites you?

I oversee the London office (280 people strong and growing!) and the account management and customer success teams based in the region. London is our European headquarters; we have 15 different departments represented here. My day-to-day ranges from meeting with various department leads based here or in the U.S., communicating and sharing information with the broader London team, participating in panels on topics like imposter syndrome, growing your career, building effective teams, strategizing on a client win, or navigating our headcount growth and office space needs.

Right now, my team and I are working on effectively regionalizing our accounts to match up native language skills or cultural knowledge with our customers. With an ever-growing client portfolio and dozens of subregions across EMEA, this effort has its challenges but is a fun puzzle for us to solve. Plus, it helps us be more efficient with identifying trends, sharing knowledge, and maximizing the value we provide to our customers.

While at PitchBook, you’ve been able to grow continuously, taking on roles such as a Business Development Associate, Customer Success Manager, and your current role as Managing Director of Customer Success and EMEA. How did PitchBook support you in growing your career?

For people who have innate curiosity and drive, the possibilities at PitchBook are endless. PitchBook is a place that encourages being bold and ambitious when it comes to your growth, and I’m constantly impressed by the career resources that the company is developing for its employees. Whether it’s e-learning, classroom sessions, role competencies, or internal networking opportunities, there have been so many career resources introduced since I first joined.

My career has been shaped by learning, getting outside of my comfort zone, and feeling empowered to raise my hand and make my interests known so I could be kept in mind when the right opportunity appeared. As these came to fruition, what I perhaps lacked in experience or skill I made up for in motivation and attitude, and PitchBook recognized that. Their support and trust have empowered me to reach for more responsibility.

Do you have any advice for other women who are hoping to grow their careers while staying at one company like you have?

Curate your own peer network, whether this is internal or external (or a combination), and lean on them. Career growth is a personal journey. It’s not always linear, and it’s rarely achieved alone. Securing mentors and advocates along the way is equally important, and sometimes this takes time. Don’t hesitate to reach out to people outside of your team, level, department, or office to broaden your perspectives or leverage others’ expertise—especially if you’re looking to take on new stretch projects, build a skill, or enhance a competency. Putting yourself out there is the first step in getting outside your comfort zone.

As someone who has been in a leadership role for years, how would you describe your leadership style? How do you make sure your team is supported?

One of PitchBook’s values is that customers are king, and my customers are both my direct reports and everyone who is in the London office. My priorities are knowing my team and office, building trust, and understanding motivations. My style is transparent and empowering.

In my role, I aim to share as much information as possible to help others feel connected to our company’s strategy and mission. I lean toward overcommunication; I’m very open and direct. When it comes to empowering others, I find that giving someone the nudge and encouragement they need is what helps them grow, and one of my favorite parts of my job is helping others tap into their potential.

Taking risks and doing something new might not always work out, and it’s OK to fail as long as you’re learning from that experience. It’s taken years to hone my style and figure out the right type of leadership to enable my teams to be successful. Being able to flex my style is critical.

What is your best advice for other women who are considering taking on a leadership role? What skills or traits do they need to thrive at PitchBook and in their careers?

My best advice is to be you. Don’t feel pressured to sacrifice being your authentic self when pursuing leadership roles or being a leader. There is so much value in being genuine and vulnerable.

Another piece of advice is don’t underestimate yourself. I believe women possess a special empathy and intuition that gives us an edge. If you feel out of your depth, remember that countless others (any gender) have also shared that feeling. Embrace the best parts of you, confront the parts of you that need development or improvement, and ask for help and feedback.

Finally, there are many ways to lead that don’t involve a specific title or role. Sometimes it means doing the right thing, acting with integrity, and modeling certain behaviors when others might be hesitant to do so. Ask yourself how you demonstrate leadership today and where you can step up to set an example for others.

What’s been the most challenging aspect of being a woman in a leadership role, and how did you overcome it?

I have a personal motto I ask myself when I’m feeling down or insufficient, which is…“If I was a man, would I be feeling this way?” All jokes aside, the biggest ways I’ve overcome any challenges are by developing an executive presence and knowing my stuff. If you’re credible and have a track record of success, it’s hard to question that. I’m fortunate to have developed my career in an environment, where despite being overwhelmingly male (especially in the industry we operate in), I’ve never genuinely felt like I was at a disadvantage because I was a woman—I realize this may be a unique experience.

I’ve also been fortunate to have incredible male allies along the way. While I may have overlooked being treated in different ways, or perceiving some experiences as actual challenges, that could also be my saving grace: I choose to see or experience things how I want to, not how others want me to. The only person who can make you feel insufficient is you, so be mindful of that self-talk. We’re always in control of how we react or choose to handle whatever is thrown at us, good or bad!

As part of your career at PitchBook, you moved from NY to London to help build that office. Can you tell us more about this move? What’s something unexpected that you learned during this process?

A big part of my experience was hiring account managers to help take on our rapidly growing client base, and there was always this push-pull between keeping up with our needs while the right people came through the door. Building out a team takes time, and it’s crucial to not settle when making early key hires.

Another part of this hiring strategy was keeping an eye out for folks who had future leadership potential and bringing in the right mix of talent. A big lesson learned is that sometimes taking the path of least resistance can complicate things in the future. Be patient to ensure you’re making the right long-term decisions; try not to let the pressure of the current situation cloud your judgment.

Throughout your career, you’ve worked in many different locations, including Santa Clara, Seattle, New York, and London. Do you have any advice on how to best acclimate yourself to a new city? And what’s been your favorite location?

Honestly, I lived in each of these cities at the perfect time for when I was in that phase of life, so they’re all very special to me. Right now, and maybe this is also recency bias, I’d say London is my favorite. Living abroad was not something I ever imagined doing and being immersed in a different culture surrounded by things I would never experience in the U.S. is invigorating.

I’ve loved working in a diverse high-growth office and getting accustomed to the cultural nuances. Uprooting your life and moving cities (or countries) is a big deal. I’m from California, so moving out of state years ago was a big step for me. I wanted to experience seasons and wanted to prove to myself I could start over. (That’s another one of my mottos: It’s never too late to start over.) I consider myself an adaptable person, and this was maybe an extreme way for me to shock the system. Ultimately, this decision gave me the confidence to move to NYC and eventually London as different career opportunities arose.

Landing at PitchBook in Seattle came with the built-in perk of new colleagues who turned into dear friends, so I feel lucky in that regard. This made it easier for me to find myself in new social situations as a 20-something, which led to a more extended support system. This might not be the case for everyone who moves and starts working somewhere new, so I recommend tapping into your network of mutual connections, going on friend dates, finding volunteer opportunities or fitness/hobby groups to connect with like-minded individuals, and being OK with the reality that not everyone you cross paths with will stay in your life. No matter what, you’ll learn something about yourself or your value system from that experience.