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CEO Spotlight: Janice Anderson, Onyx Software Corporation

By Angel Mehta, Managing Director, Sterling-Hoffman Executive Search

Onyx Software began its re-emergence in the enterprise CRM software market when it named the former head of Lucent’s CRM Solutions unit as CEO in mid 2004. Angel Mehta, Managing Director of Sterling-Hoffman, chats with Janice Anderson about managing a company out of survival-mode, and why there’s still room to grow in the market for customer relationship management software.

Angel Mehta: Was it a given, do you think, in your childhood that you would enter the business or technology world? Did you come from a business family?

Janice Anderson: No. I originally thought I might be a teacher… my dad was a teacher and high school principal and then ran a school district in Toronto for a few years… I also thought I might be a writer or a musician. In my family, there are no business people but there are many professionals including teachers, doctors and educators.

Angel Mehta: What about becoming a CEO? Was it a goal you had set for yourself years ago, or did it just kind of happen to you?

Janice Anderson: I'm not sure this is the politically correct thing to say, but I always sort of saw myself as being in charge, I like to manage from the big picture and always have. When you're five years old, it's called being 'bold" according to my family… when you're 40 I don't know what it's called.

Angel Mehta: Dynamic Leadership? [Laughing…]

Janice Anderson: Maybe. But the point is, I always liked to take on things that didn't exist and to make them happen. I never said to myself, 'I want to be the boss." But what was natural to me is a desire to take steps that I felt had to be taken to make things better. I remember it always being obvious to me that there were new breakthroughs to be made everywhere I looked, and I structured my thinking around taking the steps necessary to achieve those breakthroughs and enrolling people around me to work to achieve those goals.

Angel Mehta: Of the 5 companies or businesses you've been responsible for leading, what has the toughest experience been?

Janice Anderson: One of my first roles was when AT&T acquired NCR and I was one of the Vice Presidents at AT&T Canada. We had multiple business units and after we did this global deal with NCR, about half of the business in Canada, say 300 people, was part of the Computer Division and the other half belonged to other AT&T groups. We actually had to divide the company in half, including the corporate functions that supported all of it. Part of this meant shutting down various parts of the Canadian division… we had to let go of a lot of people, shut down a lot of offices, and turn over a large part of the business to the NCR team, which was a tough process.

Angel Mehta: Let's talk about climbing the ladder from a gender-bias perspective. I get questions from a lot of female executives that I meet and also from students at schools that I lecture at, and they all ask me how it works behind closed doors and whether their gender works against them or not. Did you find this at larger companies like AT&T or Lucent?

Janice Anderson: To be honest… no. Was I not looking or not paying enough attention to notice a bias? Maybe. But I worked at AT&T Canada, which was a small, entrepreneurial division. We were small enough that we were below the "This is a critical division" radar, but big enough so that people in the US were always wanting to know what we were doing. Working with the US was the real challenge, and although it can be frustrating, we found ways to make it work. My view was, they're our parent corporation… let's just think of it as a game to figure out how to get in and get what we need without getting ourselves into trouble. So I just never encountered the issue of gender bias… I never defined myself as a female executive; I'm just an executive. Frankly, when I get an invitation to a 'Women in Business" type of event, I'm always somewhat surprised since I don't define myself that way nor the people around me.

Angel Mehta: Would your advice to women then be to not define themselves as female executives and just see things as 'business problems" that have to be overcome?

Janice Anderson: Not necessarily, I imagine there may be companies where gender-bias is a problem. There's too much noise to simply discard it as a non-issue for some. It's just that I never experienced it. I came up through the ranks with executives above and around me like Pat Russo and Carly Fiorina. I went to Lucent from AT&T because I worked with Pat Russo directly on some acquisitions. She was running the Business Systems division and I was in Corporate M&A, my first US-based position, and we worked on some very large complex deals. The point is, Pat was a world-class leader, and there were never any issues for me. Ultimately, the only advice I can offer is that you have to figure out whether you're in a place where there is opportunity for you to add value, or not. If there is, put your efforts into generating value; if not, go some place else where you can do that although I am thinking of this as gender-related advice. It's more about opportunities in general.

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CEO: Janice Anderson
Company: Onyx Software Corporation

About Janice Anderson
  • Company Tenure: 2 years (June 2004)
  • Experience: Over 21 years
  • Academic Background: MBA in Finance and Strategy from York University and BA in Commerce from the University of Toronto
  • Business Background: Seasoned business executive, strategist and entrepreneur with global operations experience
About Onyx Software Corporation
  • Founded: 1994
  • Co-Founder: Brent R. Frei
  • Offices: Bellevue, Boston, Denver, Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, United Kingdom, Spain, Singapore, Australia, Japan and Malaysia
  • Focus: Customer Relationship Management
  • Competitors: Microsoft Business Solutions, Oracle, SAP
  • Employees: Approx. 245
  • Market Capitalization: $83.66 Million (April 25, 2006)
  • Stock Market: NASDAQ: ONXS

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