As A/NZ managing director of KnowBe4, an integrated platform provider of security awareness training and simulated phishing attacks, Karina Mansfield cut across to a long sales career in the telco space, one piece of advice from a superior has continued to colour her perspective — don't focus on the numbers, as it will take your focus off the customer. In this One on One with ARN interview, Mansfield also shares the challenge of switching from a co-colleague to a managerial role and what's next for KnowBe4 in A/NZ.
What was your first job?
I was a fully qualified hairdresser for eight years before transitioning out of the industry and into a media sales role.
How did you get started in the IT industry and progress to where you are today?
I was in media sales for one of the radio stations based in Melbourne, but didn't really enjoy the job. AAPT was just starting to expand in Australia, and as such were building their physical workforce in Melbourne and Sydney. An opening came up to join them as an account manager, and the rest is history.
I was there nearly a year when the opportunity came up to join Telstra. It was incredibly hard to get into Telstra at that time, and certainly aspirational, hence I jumped at the opportunity. I spent more than 16 years with Telstra before being approached by Optus, where I spent three great years, most recently as a state director, before joining KnowBe4 a year ago.
What are some of your plans for KnowBe4 in the coming months?
We will continue to expand the physical team, along with adding additional functions here on the ground in Australia, such as customer success, marketing and administration roles.
We are investing heavily in activities for KnowBe4 to help build awareness of the need for security awareness training and simulated phishing, improved security culture and our brand and proposition. Our plan is to be actively involved in many industry events in an effort to achieve this.
Collaborative campaigns with our partners will also form a key pillar of this. By partnering with us, our partners have access to KnowBe4’s research and tools, subject matter expertise and resources to which add value for our partners in this region.
Given that the A/NZ region is approximately two years behind the US in terms of security awareness maturity, there is an abundance of opportunity here for KnowBe4 and our partners. The business is doubling year over year, and we can see certainly an opportunity for further acceleration as we move forward.
We are also looking to increasing coverage of our presence in New Zealand.
What has been your biggest business mistake, and the lessons you've learnt from that experience?
When I was promoted into a senior role, all of a sudden those that were my peers one day were reporting to me the next.
My biggest mistake then was spending too much time and energy in trying to make everyone happy. In order for the needs of the business to be balanced with the short-term goals and targets, and what needed to happen long-term, it was incredibly important that everyone was on the same team.
Looking back, I should have pushed harder to ensure that everyone on the team was on the same page and whoever wasn’t, should probably have not been part of that team. It’s a hard call to make but one that is important to the success of any business.
What are some of your ambitions - personally and professionally?
Professionally: To achieve, and exceed, KnowBe4’s growth ambitions across the A/NZ region and consolidate our market leadership position locally, as we have globally.
Personally: To ensure I make more time for myself and my family. Staying on top of my fitness goals, and making time to be there for more of my children’s sporting games.
What has been the best piece of advice you've ever received?
When I first embarked on a sales career, a manager said to me "Don't focus on the numbers, as it will take your focus off the customer. Also, be externally focused, as opposed to internally focused."
This advice has always served me well, no matter the seniority of my role at any given time. With this advice, I’ve always worked towards developing the foundation and building blocks of any undertaking I work on while keeping the customer at the centre of everything I do, without compromising the needs of the business.
It’s so important to ensure you stay customer-centric, and in my case, partner-centric as well. As an executive, it can often be harder to do as you become more removed from the day-to-day interactions with the customer.
However, in my view, a concerted effort needs to be made to ensure a good understanding of the market and the customer’s needs, which are of course always evolving.
Business doesn't exist without customers. We are all here to serve the customer, whether you are the CEO or the receptionist. This has proven to be a very useful mindset to have permeated throughout an organisation.