Today, we shine a spotlight on Sophie Pibouin, who has been recognized for “Dare to Innovate,” one of the ProgressPROUD core values we strive to embody every day.
As Vice President of North America Sales at Progress, Sophie Pibouin leads efforts to expand Progress’ North American footprint and identify new opportunities to accelerate growth. Since joining Progress in November 2020, Sophie’s experience has been invaluable in helping our company reach unprecedented revenue heights. With all her success leading sales organizations, you would find it hard to believe that she never intended to establish a career in sales.
Sophie has led an amazing career. She started her professional career in France as a seller, then moved her family to the U.S. for a new role without speaking a word of English. She climbed the ladder to numerous leadership positions and is now leading the North America Sales organization at Progress, in addition to being a board member in two technology companies. She has had quite the professional journey and she has remained driven since day one. What’s more, she always finds time to mentor and give back to her colleagues.
Learn more about Sophie and her career in the following interview.
It’s interesting—I never planned to be in sales.
I did my studies in international commerce. Once I graduated, I interviewed for a product marketing role at a big pharmaceutical company. At the same time, I was referred to an American software company looking for sales representatives to sell “training” courses to customers. So, I interviewed there. I ended up having two job offers and I was not sure what I should be doing to start my career. The CMO of the pharma company, who became one of my mentors, said, "Listen, go to Computer Associates. It's a great ‘sales’ school. If you can make it there, you will make it everywhere! Then come back to me after two years and you can join us as a product marketer in my organization.”
Long story short, I stayed in sales… and it’s been 32 years.
I've always been extremely passionate about what I do because I choose what I want to do. After I successfully completed three years in my first job, I was promoted to a sales manager to sell software and services in France. I then was asked to go to the U.S. to start a new organization within the company, and I’ve had the opportunity to climb the ladder ever since. I love working, I love leading organizations and working with incredible people. I always had this “fire” in me and so far, it has been a fantastic journey for me. Granted, it required a lot of work, dedication and commitment but I can't be grateful enough for the people who gave me the opportunity to shine and be successful. It allowed me to support my family and to teach my children that nothing comes to you easily. Hopefully I have helped and made a difference for the people I work with.
I’ve just always had that fire in me.
As an example, I grew up in small village in France where everyone knew each other. As a child, I was very fond of cakes and pastries. My mom restricted me from eating too many of those...One day, when I was six or seven years old, I decided that I wanted to buy a delicious cake, but I had no money. I remember walking around the village and trying to sell my drawings from school. I went to the butcher, the baker, the post office and so on, and I sold each one of my drawings. With the money I made, I went to the bakery and bought my cake! I then went back home. When my mom figured out what I did, she had me go back to everyone to give them their money back, but you know what? They didn’t want their money back. :)
So, I was born with that drive, I guess! I always look for ways to get what I need/want!
It was scary, exciting and challenging. I had a 15-month-old baby, none of us could speak English, my husband resigned from his job in France, and we were all shipped to the U.S. by the company I worked for at the time. I didn’t know what my job would be, what my husband’s job would be and how much we would make. But we trusted the company was doing the right thing by us!
It was an interesting and fabulous experience at the same time. We stayed in a hotel for more than two months. My husband and I had to learn English as much as we could in the first three months, so we watched TV with subtitles every night. I had to put my son (who didn’t understand English) at the daycare at the company... yes, it was challenging but again we moved to the US by choice, and we embraced that challenge. The experience made us stronger, and 25 years later I am proud of the fact that we, as a family, have accomplished great things in our lives. So, yeah, it was a unique experience that made us unique as a family…it all worked out.
I’ve been treated fairly in this industry: I got offered fantastic job opportunities and I'm grateful. Granted, I always had to meet higher standards to be trusted and respected, and I always had to perform the best on my team. I fought hard for what I have and sometimes there was unfairness. I know I had been paid less than my colleagues at one point who had the same amount of, or fewer, responsibilities as I had. And sometimes, as a mom, I had to give up a few aspects of my personal life, which was tough at times.
It has never been easy to be a woman in tech. It is better today than it was 25 years ago, but it’s still not easy. You must take your chance, surround yourself with the right people and move forward. You control your destiny, nobody else!
Diversity is everything in an organization and should be part of its DNA. Valuing the differences of others is what ultimately brings us all together and that is the secret to a successful, thriving workplace! I am still shocked by the lack of “diversity” in certain tech companies, and it must change.
Being an effective leader is not something you learn; it's something that you have within, in my opinion. You need to have a strong sense of who you are as a person and be confident in your abilities to lead your business, but more importantly to lead your team/employees individually. And I would say that you need to have abundant positivity, and passion that energizes everyone in the room.
When I started at Progress, in my first three months, I had 145 one-on-one meetings to get to know everyone in my organization. My primary goal when I meet everyone within my team is to get to know them and the challenges they have, to understand their short-term and long-term goals and what success means to them so I can try to get them closer to where they want to be. Meeting individuals on my team and helping them to reach their goals is always so rewarding to me.
I would also say that delegation, discipline, communication, humility and transparency are traits for effective leadership. But if you don’t love your team, your business and have your heart in the right place, you will not be an effective leader...because in the end it is all about your people—without them, you and your business will not thrive!
Focus on where you want to be and develop a plan to get there. Have a clear goal because you cannot just say, “I want to be a sales leader." You have to say, "This is what I envision myself doing in the next ten years. What are the steps I need to take to get there?" Putting a plan together is critical.
I was lucky enough to meet fabulous people who trusted me and gave me the opportunity to shine. Frankly, without them, I wouldn't be where I am today. I would say along the way, you need to find a mentor or find people who truly care about you and your success.
Finally, be your own advocate and trust yourself. Be passionate about who you want to be. And if you do that, you will get there.
To get to know other Progressers like Sophie, read more of our employee interviews here.
Danielle Sutherby is a senior communications specialist at Progress, where she supports Progress’ employer brand efforts, raises awareness of the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) and inclusion and diversity (I&D) efforts, assists in PR activities, and strategizes employee engagement activities worldwide. Danielle is also the co-founder of the first employee resource group at Progress, Progress for Her, which aims to empower women at the company by providing leadership and networking opportunities. When she is not at work, you can find her writing, reading, or acting like a tourist in her own city.
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