Visible Impact’s new Managing Director, Rebecca Thorburn, reflects on change, challenges, and how to avoid being burned at the stake as a “technology witch."
Rebecca Thorburn is a straight shooter. When asked what gets her out of bed in the morning, she confesses it’s most often her chocolate lab, Jack. The real story, however, is what keeps her from going back to bed. “I definitely have a huge sense of responsibility,” explains Thorburn. “If I agree to do something or meet someone, I’m gonna get up and do it.”
That dedication, along with plenty of hard work, talent and a knack for organization, has fueled a fascinating professional journey. Thorburn received her MBA from UT-Austin's McCombs School of Business, and launched a career that spanned five years at IBM and twelve years at Dell. But after nearly two decades of steadily ascending the mountain of global technology marketing, Thorburn was ready for something new.
Follow the Bouncing Ball
She took a few months off, channeling her creativity into a blog reflecting another passion of hers: tennis. Even while working on a career pivot, however, Thorburn couldn’t put her marketing skills on hold. She developed a series of social media campaigns for Tennisesssities that garnered a 10x increase in blog readership.
She also concluded that while she was tired of technology, she still loved marketing, and wanted the freedom to work from anywhere. (For an in-depth look at the journey Thorburn undertook to assess her strengths and needs, check out her insightful LinkedIn article, Changing Direction).
That period of self-discovery eventually led to her next career move, into the world of mortgage lending. A few months later, M. Lee Sellers – a former colleague of Thorburn’s at Dell – reconnected with her over a mortgage question. After a few conversations, he made her a standing offer. If she ever wanted another career change, she had a place at his newest venture with Britton Manasco. That company was Visible Impact, and this past September, Thorburn came on board as Managing Director.
“I love operating behind the scenes and making things work smoothly. It’s a great opportunity for growth, good people, good clients and a great alignment of needs and skills.”
Like everything she does – in her career, or on the court and slopes (she and husband J.R. are both avid skiers and tennis players) – Thorburn dove headfirst into her new position.
With growth a major company priority, she focused her initial efforts on implementing strategic, sustainable process technology. She also learned the most important lesson of her first 60 days on the job: change is really, really hard. “It’s interesting, because people know they need to change,” she muses. “They even want to change, because they know they need to in order to get where they want to go. But when they’re actually confronted with it, they totally freak out. You know change is hard, but you kind of forget how hard it is for other people.”
Owning Her Process
Thorburn is not easily daunted, though. In her first move at Visible Impact, she implemented Office 365 across the organization. By aligning all key personnel on the same email system, server and calendar, she increased both efficiency and productivity. Her next step is even more ambitious – introducing a new project management tool to support the expected increase in staff.
By streamlining communication and collaboration while enhancing accountability, Thorburn is empowering every member of the organization to deliver their best work. This time around, though, she promises not to go too big, too fast -- a lesson learned from her initial project. “I made the mistake of trying to be like ‘Ok, we’re using this’, and people were like ‘Whaaaat?!’,” she admits with her typical candor.
While she excels at process management, marketing is still her primary passion. Only two months in, she is already about to close her first customer contract. Leveraging a chance reconnection with a former colleague, Thorburn skillfully opened the door to a new group within a very large corporate client. And she promises that door will be the first of many. Spreading the word about Visible Impact’s unique value to organizations that sell products or services is a key goal.
“We’re small, but we’re growing. We’re really focused on sales enablement – from getting product marketing and sales teams together to really work through what the right messages are for a product, to actually building the slides, battle cards and other sales support tools.”
Visible Impact isn't the only one to see benefits in Thorburn’s first 60 days. While her schedule is admittedly more rigorous, the new challenges she’s solving have gotten her fired up. “I have much more energy, and I’m much happier,” she reveals. Still, she likes to keep it casual as much as she can. Visitors to her home office will likely find her dressed in tennis clothes, building a presentation with Jack nestled at her feet. It’s a rhythm that, given her early results, obviously suits her work style well.
So what does success for the remaining 305 days of her first year on the job look like? “If we could achieve 25% growth in revenue, that would be incredible,” she declares. With a nod to her role driving change, she adds laughingly, “And if we still all like each other.”
Speed Stats: Rebecca Thorburn
Superpower job title . . . process and marketing ninja
I’m all about . . . fun, learning and seeing the big picture.
I hope others . . . are kind and open-minded.
My spirit animal is . . . a cat. If past lives are real, then I think I was one.
Charity of choice . . . Emancipet. Low-cost pet care helps everyone have happy, healthy pets.
I can’t live without . . . my husband, my dog, tennis and chocolate.
No one knows that I . . . have to physically or mentally correct a typo or grammatical error before I can continue reading something.